Editorial Review

Painting is no solitary pursuit

ArtJamz is all about opening yourself up, both socially and artistically.

The evening get-togethers where attendees paint and mingle attract lots of 20-somethings in a laid-back setting, so it's an easy way to meet people.

"It's the best opening line ever: 'What are you painting?' " said Michael Clements, who founded the events to help people connect with their inner da Vinci. "It's like an instant icebreaker. What else does a single guy need?"

Inside the Crystal City office building that occasionally hosts sessions, the space itself - a vacant floor - is a blank canvas. Easels line the windows on each wall of the building. Strings of white lights and sheer fabric are the only decoration. The room's concrete floor, exposed pipes and white walls beg for the imaginative flair that takes over the room.

Before the painting starts, people gather on colorful cushions to enjoy wine and hors d'oeuvres, while loud music with fast rhythms blasts the corner of the room. The drinks get the creative juices flowing, said Clements.

"People are nervous to paint," he said. "Having a glass of wine and a beer helps loosen things up a bit."

Once newcomers find that wine-fueled inspiration, they begin to wander over to the canvases on the easels. They fill paper plates with acrylic paint, which dries quickly enough for everyone to take their masterpieces home that night.

"It's a nonjudgmental atmosphere, where you can just come and do whatever want," said D.C. resident Susi Carpenter, who came with a friend. "And there's plenty of alcohol to grease the wheels."

When and where is it? Younger artists can attend the next KidzJamz to paint and draw with their families. To find more events, follow @ArtJamz on Twitter. According to Clements, "we're like the food truck of creativity -- you don't know where we're going to be necessarily -- you have to follow us to find out."

What's the crowd like? Most people are in their mid-20s and come with a group of friends, a single friend or a date. Some older, more-experienced artists attend, too. Anyone younger than 21 must be accompanied by an adult.

The best part: There's no schedule and no one telling you what or how to paint, but Clements does walk around to offer suggestions.

The price includes all-you-can-drink beer and wine, plus hors d'oeuvres. You can also get a 15 percent discount for a group of five or more.

- Kristen Boghosian (Dec. 3, 2010)