At a laid-back art studio in Williamsburg, participants need not bring a paintbrush, easel or even a bottle opener. They only need to bring their imaginations…and of course, their beverage of choice.
“We have the alcohol to help set the tone,” said Kevin Tarasuk, owner and creator of the Painting Lounge, which provides beginner-intermediate art sessions. “It makes things less serious. We’ve got a social, casual atmosphere.”
The classes, located in a cozy, brightly-lit studio, are designed to be straightforward, fun, and “accessible to the average person,” Tarasuk explained. You don’t have to be a Van Gogh to attend the Painting Lounge, only possess a desire to emulate him.
During each session, a famous painting or image is replicated. Genres are varied so anyone can find an inspiring painting, whether it to be of Van Gogh, Picasso or Warhol. “It doesn’t even have to be a painting, sometimes we choose images that are famous culturally,” said Tarasuk. “For example, we’ve painted copies from a Wizard of Oz poster.”
Sessions at the Painting Lounge are designed so that aspiring artists can complete their work within 2-3 hours. “We usually draw the image before class, then people trace over it. That gets the drawing out of the way quickly, so we can get to the fun part, the painting!” Tarasuk laughed.
During a session Friday, September 28th, several students bearing wine and high spirits came in, donned paint-splattered smocks, and set to work copying Warhol’s Flowers.
Some started off with self-deprecating jokes: “Good thing this was drawn for us beforehand ”and“ This flower looks like meat blob!” However, the students’ tones were good-natured. After the class, they were quite proud to pose with their paintings and take them home.
“People get leave the class with a finished work, which is very gratifying,” Tarasuk said. “I’ve lead art classes before which were much more intensive, 5-6 sessions long. We learned a lot, but it was time-consuming. Then I started these [shorter] group painting sessions and realized how rewarding they are.”
The BYOB element is an added bonus; it loosens the mood and “frees” up students’ paintbrushes, a dose of “liquid courage” adding to their artistic courage. Painting workshops that incorporate the social lubricant have become recently popular; there are several in Manhattan, but the Painting Lounge is the only one of its kind in Brooklyn.
In addition to their Williamsburg studio, The Painting Lounge also offers mobile classes throughout the city. “We’ve done corporate events for 40+ people, and are thinking of visiting schools, too,” said Tarasuk. They also host birthday parties and team-building workshops, as a good way to bond with a friend, family member, or co-worker…or to meet someone new.
“The classes are perfect for a first-date night,” Tarasuk explained. “We’ve even paired with [dating site] OkCupid to host events here.”
Tarasuk is also thinking of bringing kids to the Painting Lounge, since the session’s short length and accessibility is perfect for children. Indeed, many adults at the Painting Lounge feel the years drop away at the Painting Lounge. During one session, many could be heard exclaiming, “I feel like I’m a kid again!” and “I haven’t worn a smock since elementary.”
“We’ve been taught as adults that it’s ‘not good’ to be not good at something, so we don’t bother trying,” said Tarasuk. “Kids don’t feel that way, they just want to have fun.”
Tarasuk added that he loves hearing his students say they feel like they’re in fifth grade again. “That’s what we want!” he exclaimed. “We want to get people back to that type of enthusiasm.”
The Painting Lounge
438 Union Avenue