Several nights a week, as many as 30 people from Waterloo Region, assemble at a local restaurant, grab a drink and some food, and then collectively get their paint on. They are there as part of Social Art KW.
Over two hours, Social Art curator Rachael Rector teaches the group how to create a single painting, breaking down the steps to help everyone create a similar final product – a 16 by 20 canvas they get to take home and proudly display in their walls.
“Each evening, people connect with other interesting people while we all create a beautiful masterpiece,” says Rachael. “It’s a fun evening where arts and culture collide in a casual, social setting.” And it is a recipe that the region has embraced with some serious affection. Her events sell out quickly and she has repeat “social artists” who jokingly say they see her more than they see their families.
Part of the success comes from Rachael’s attentive approach to the evening. Quaint mason jars filled with water sit beside the easels, soft cloths are handy to dab any messes, and her encouraging manner, alongside her selection of interesting places where “there is a great food and drink vibe,” makes her events popular. Plus the fact people are drawn to the paintings they will get to recreate.
Mindful that people will want to hang their art on their walls, Rachael creates paintings that will appeal to a broad range of tastes. She offers seasonal themes as well as accessible images that people like such as owl s or birds. However, it’s her dandelion painting that is by far the biggest hit. “I think people are drawn to the title, Letting Go,” says Rachael. “The imagery of a dandelion blowing its pods in the wind resonates with people at many levels.”
While the subject matter she paints for the Social Art events are lovely and fun to create, the work that really feeds her creative soul are streetscapes, as well as interesting windows and doorways. These are places that remind her of previous adventures or would-be gateways to places she’d like to be. Her eyes sparkle as she talks about this work and how the world around her melts away as she paints these images.
Unfortunately, this kind of art does not translate well to the two-hour art sessions she leads. While certainly grateful for the early success of Social Art KW, this busyness has prevented her from painting the things that really feed her soul.
But Social Art KW is feeding her in a different way. “I like to see those first few brush strokes people make on the canvas,” she says. “I can tell pretty quickly if they will trust me and the process of the evening – then I know things will go well.” And seeing the connections between people, friends or strangers, and how art and the right space can help facilitate that is very rewarding for her.
As a self-taught artist she appreciates how the right environment can help you explore your creativity. After returning with her husband and young children from the Czech Republic, where they taught English, her husband helped create the right environment for her to explore her inner artist. After some early encouraging feedback and positive reception at art shows, she discovered that painting was the thing that made her happiest. And by May last year, she found an interesting way to blend her experiences teaching and her passion for painting: Social Art KW. And she hasn’t looked back.
You too can get in on the social art action. Keep up-to-date with upcoming events on Facebook and Twitter. You can see from the comments that people quickly become big fans of the events and of Rachael herself.
P.S. Favourite topic of conversation: Czech Republic.