PopUp Painting‘s mission is to “bring art out of the classroom and gallery and into the places where people meet on an every day basis”. We believe that with a little guidance and the right materials, everybody is capable of unleashing their creativity and creating something they can be proud of. And even if a painting doesn’t go to plan (as has happened to me when I’ve taken part many a time!), art can and should be enjoyable.
Perhaps one of the most important contributors to the PopUp Painting ethos is the fact that none of our founders have a background in art. For instance, when PopUp Painting was set up in early 2013, I was in the second year of my degree in Politics and History. Phyllissa, our managing director had just left a career in the health sector. And Rick had recently launched Cocktails and Creations in the US after a career in the US Air Force. If we could enjoy these events and create some half-decent paintings with a little guidance, then surely so could anybody!
Something that we believe important to learning is that it should take place in an environment that is safe and friendly. Our events take place in a strictly-non-judgmental environment. We have themed playlists which both reflect the painting of the night, and which help the mood of the night. You’ll find songs to sing along to with high energy to ease you in; songs which are calming in those bits which need some concentration; and some more high energy tracks towards the end. Painting can be hard – and if you’ve never done it before – intimidating! That’s why we go to the effort of creating our playlists to make the guest experience more comfortable. We’re also very proud of our team of practicing artists who lead the events! Many of them have experience as tutors and teachers, and they’re wonderful at breaking down paintings and guiding people through them. The best way to learn is when you’re comfortable and happy. People should always feel safe to the truth, and that it should be safe to make mistakes. Mistakes don’t need to be fatal. Whether it’s in the world of work or on a canvas, mistakes can be a very effective way to learn.
One thing that I certainly believe is that art is a verb. As I said above, none of the company’s founders have a background in art – my degree was in Politics and History. During my degree I stumbled into epistemology – the philosophy of knowledge – and discovered Karl R. Popper. Popper was a philosopher of science and logic, and his views on science had a big impact me and subsequently on my thoughts about art. Popper argued that it wasn’t certainly that made science science. It was the process. Science starts with a tentative hypothesis. Then it tests that hypothesis. Then it subject findings to peer review. And then the process starts again with a new tentative hypothesis. Science is a verb. I think much the same of art. It’s not what you end up with. It’s the experimenting with colour, with technique and brush strokes. You don’t need to be certain of what you’re doing or do everything perfectly. Every brush stroke is a little experiment – and they’re valuable even if you don’t get what you expected to.
PopUp Painting is now in 30 venues and we have painted with approximately 6000 guests. I hope that we’ve managed to make clear our ethos with each of them. Art doesn’t need to be just for the highly skilled and those that dedicate their lives for it. Art can and should be fun and accessible.
-Gareth is a co-founder of PopUp Painting. He will be starting an MSc in Political Economy at LSE in 2016.