Photo by Kelly Trom
[follow id = “kttrom”]
You could hear the paintbrush strokes hitting the canvas, the clinking of wine glasses and laughter as the creative bug swept the room. The swish of paintbrushes being cleansed in the water jars, the mesh of different musical styles to inspire and the chatter of admiration as each painting was applauded for its individuality. These are the sounds of Art Bar SLO, housed in the Granada Hotel and Bistro on Morro Street.
This 21 and over workshop mixes a social, bar atmosphere with an art class that teaches, step-by-step, how to create a unique painting that was originally done by a local San Luis Obispo artist.
“It is a widespread concept but the idea is to expose and incorporate local artists,” Art Bar manager Sheridan Bohlken said. “So at other venues you will see that they do van Gogh or Monet but this is really capturing the essence of San Luis Obispo and supporting the local arts.”
The featured local artists brought in to teach different Art Bar sessions pick one of their own works to teach the participants to recreate. There are many different ways that artists are chosen, but they all are from the San Luis Obispo area.
“We are part of Art After Dark, so there is access to many different artists that way,” Bohlken said. “People have heard about our venue and actually contacted us. Friends of artists that have started with us have been intrigued and brought on board that way as well.”
Participants are able to interact with the local artist to understand the complete process of creating a painting as well as to see what they are inspired by in the surrounding area.
Local San Luis Obispo residents and those visiting the Central Coast come to Art Bar to learn art techniques and take home a completed masterpiece that was inspired by the natural beauty of San Luis Obispo and the surrounding cities.
“I try and do a lot of local, geographical stuff. Things that I think would be attractive yet simple,” an Art Bar featured artist Skye Ravy said. “It is a balance of attractiveness and do-ability.”
No art experience is required before a visit to Art Bar. All art supplies such as paints, canvases and aprons are available at the venue.
“I think that it is a really fun and really casual way to just get your feet wet in the creative world without devoting too much of your life or time,” Ravy said.
The leading artist goes through each part of the painting step-by-step and makes sure everyone is comfortable moving on before teaching the next step.
The artist uses non-technical terms to describe the different techniques and brushes so anyone can follow along.
“You learn a lot too by going through the whole process of a finished painting,” Ravy said. “Rather than going through color theory, composition and all that stuff, you actually learn every single step of a painting.”
Every painting that comes out of Art Bar is slightly different, echoing the different perspectives and experiences that each participant has had.
“People come out of an Art Bar session proud of themselves,” Ravy said. “I love finding creativity in people that didn’t think they had it.”
Not only do the different points of interest in San Luis Obispo that the participants paint serve as a source of inspiration, but the venue lends itself to creative expression. Art Bar is located in the former manager’s office of the hotel, and used to serve as a lounge in the original Granada Bistro.
“The restaurant and the hotel taking off at the same time was a lot, but this was kind of the last piece of the property to put together,” Bohlken said. “It just lends itself to artistic expression, because that is what it was before.”
The space was also used for Brianna Deveraux’s free painting with Art After Dark as well as other community painting projects. The exposed brick walls, large bay window looking out into downtown and the different sculptural pieces in the built-in cabinets gives the venue the feel of an artist’s loft.
“It is one of those experiences in SLO that you can repeat time and time again because we have the different artists so every night is a different experience,” Bohlken said. “Every night you can take away something different even other than your masterpiece.”
Not only does every session feature a unique artist and painting but the group dynamic and social atmosphere is also different. No matter what, however, it is a comfortable, safe space where encouragement blossoms into individual creativity.
“I loved it actually. I didn’t know I could paint,” Art Bar participant and Santa Maria resident Kimberly Mullins said. “Our group was probably the best they have ever had. I would do it again and again.”
Art Bar is open Wednesday through Saturday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. each night. It is $40 for each participant, which includes the art supplies and a complimentary beverage. Reservations are encouraged and can be made through the website.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Brianna Deveraux’s name.