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Lynette Martin feels confident everyone has a hidden artist inside, no matter how submerged by the hustle and bustle of daily life. She also believes that a glass of wine, a palette of paint and a room full of fellow dilettantes might just help to find that artist.
Ms. Martin is the proprietor of Bottle and Bottega which hosts art-related parties for a variety of occasions – or for no particular occasion at all. A bottega is a master artist’s studio where apprentices or students learn by participating in the work. Such studios, dating to medieval times, were places where apprentices learned the craft and often helped the master with parts of a painting that were not thought to require the master’s expertise.
The vast majority of Bottle and Bottega patrons have virtually no art experience. The business is about bringing the joy of art to the masses. There is no intimidation factor; a Bottega party is just a chance to be creative in a relaxed atmosphere, to get to know people and learn a little at the same time.
It begins with some introductions and a drink in the central lounge area. The space at 1016 Davis St. is much deeper than one would suspect from the street, with exposed brick and dozens of paintings lining the walls, an array of tables and a rack of colorfully splotched aprons.
Once everyone settles in with a drink, the main program begins. A professional artist selects a painting to be reproduced. It could be an intriguing work of a relative unknown or a recognized masterpiece like Van Gogh’s “Starry Night over the Rhone.” Each participant receives a canvas and set of paints. Then, to the accompaniment of background music that ranges from mellow to lively and sips of cabernet or pale ale beer that gets the creative juices flowing, the artist goes through a step-by-step explanation of how the painting can be recreated.
The process moves from rough sketch to a finished version of the piece. Landscapes, with their broad, familiar shapes, seem to be the most popular. Fast-drying acrylic paint is used so participants can take their work home.
There might be a little gentle competition among friends, but the point is not about finding the next Monet or whether a painting winds up over the mantel or squirreled away in the attic. It is more about having a good time, and by all accounts, this is what people do – singing, dancing and expressing themselves in this most visual of ways.
Ms. Martin has a corporate finance background, but she often made jewelry and pottery when she could. She sees Bottle and Bottega as “a marriage of both sides of me, left and right brain.” She adds, “Happiness comes from having creative, fun experiences with friends and family, and this is one way to do that.”
When she started the business, Ms. Martin had no permanent venue for her parties. She sometimes rented space at nearby Creative Coworking and still sometimes does “mobile” parties such as corporate “team building” events. At these, participants usually delve into a joint project, a large mural or mosaic, requiring that they find ways to collaborate and see their individual style as part of a whole.
While events are often organized around kids’ birthdays, baby showers or bachelorette bashes, one regular feature is couples’ night. Typically, each partner recreates half a painting on panels that ultimately fit together to form a whole called a “diptych.” For some, this may represent a kind of Rorschach test with some interesting results.
Another variation on the theme is “Naughty Night,” when nude male models are the artistic subject. A bit more tame are the “paint your pets,” where, from a photograph, an individual’s dog or cat, parakeet or guinea pig can be immortalized in a favorite pose. For those who prefer something other than a flat surface, glasses, ornaments or vases can also be painted.
The gatherings can be public or private and are always on a BYOB basis so folks can drink what they like. Ms. Martin is proud of supporting the local artists who conduct the sessions on a rotating basis. To her knowledge, no Picassos have emerged from the bottega, but some patrons return to hone their skills and enjoy the company. For the faint of heart, perhaps some advice from Van Gogh will help, to wit: “If you hear a voice within you say ‘I cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”