LivingSocial and the Budding Artists

Every day, my inbox in inundated with “deal” emails – the Groupons, LivingSocials and Fabs of the cyberworld. Most days, the 20 or so emails get dumped in the trash without me even reading them so I don’t feel the slightest inclination to spend money on things I don’t even remotely need. Some days, however, I scroll through the deals, click through the links, and every once in awhile, I even buy something.

Last week, four friends and I took advantage of one such deal. Living Social has an office in DC where they host events and experiences, like sushi rolling, mixology and dance classes. Our deal of choice: a two-hour class dubbed “Sipping and Painting” that included all the supplies needed to bring out our inner artist and a half bottle of wine to get the creative juices flowing, all for $29.

918 F Street NW. Photograph by Benjamin R. Freed, courtesy of suitandartist.com

918 F Street NW. Photograph by Benjamin R. Freed, Courtesy of suitandartist.com

“918 F Street” as LivingSocial calls it, is a cool, multistory brick building with big windows in downtown DC. It has that exposed brick, industrial-chic loft vibe that seems to be popular with the twenty-something crowd. After checking in, I was sent upstairs to the lounge to wait for my friends to arrive and for us to then be fetched for our class. I plopped down in a comfy leather sofa and my friends joined a few minutes later. We did a brief life catch-up and then started speculating what the class would be like. 6:00 came and then 6:15 and we still hadn’t been fetched, although the class was supposed to start at 6:00. We could see a room across the loft with drop-cloths and easels set up that we assumed had to be for us, so we (along with a whole crowd of other people waiting to be fetched…we’re such trendsetters!) ventured over to see what was up. The girl collecting our token seemed oblivious to the fact that she had forgotten to collect everyone, or perhaps she didn’t realize the folks checking us in had told us we’d be collected. Either way, we set aside our annoyance and flooded into the room, picked up our individual half bottles of wine and plastic cups and claimed a group of five easels.

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Our inspiration: Windmill at Zaandam by Claude Monet

Taped above each easel and canvas was our inspiration for the night: a drab Monet of a windmill, shed and boat, all in various shades of brown, not to mention it looked difficult to paint. To say I wasn’t super-psyched about our inspiration is an understatement. I knew my first attempt at art may not turn out that great, but in case it did, I wanted something colorful and cute like a Van Gogh (who happens to be my favorite artist) that could be displayed in my apartment.

As I stared at my “inspiration,” I brooded and was quite glad to have my bottle of wine. The instructor, “Gavin,” started to “teach” us how to recreate this masterpiece, and my brooding grew to outright frustration and huffs and maybe even a foot stomp or two (of which I am not particularly proud) when he raced through the steps and refused to slow down when asked by various people in the class. When he did walk around with his cup of wine to “help,” he stayed close to a particularly flirty and cute bunch of girls, more or less ignoring the rest of us. Gavin was so terrible that one girl in the class filed a written complaint because she’d been to another of their classes with a great instructor but said this time she’d overpaid for wine and had to teach herself. The only useful advice he gave the whole night was to start with the farthest back point of your painting and layer other colors over that [i.e. start with the sky and then add the ground, and then the mountains and then the waves on the sea and the grass and then the people, etc.], and if you screw up you can always wipe your canvas down and start again. I used both pieces of advice when I got fed up with his lack of instruction and attempted to teach myself how to paint a colorful painting that had caught my eye when I walked in.

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My new inspiration…I think it’s a version of another Monet, Houses of Parliament, Effects of Sunlight in the Fog I (if it has anything to do with England, no wonder I was drawn to it!)

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The artist at work

Even though it was difficult to start over and attempt to teach myself color mixing and technique while rushing to finish a painting – and my wine – in half the time allotted for the class and, most importantly, trying to remember to dip my dirty paint brush in the water and not my wine cup, I finally loosened up and really started to enjoy myself. One of my friends followed my lead, as did a couple other people in the class [to be fair, at the outset of the class, Gavin did say we could pick anything we wanted to paint, but I think at that point we were all naive to the fact he wasn’t actually going to teach] and agreed that once they stopped trying to follow Gavin and did their own thing, they had a lot more fun. The girl who complained actually made a really awesome splatter painting…something that is now on my Pinterest craft list.

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Sipping & Painting

All in all, it was a fun night. I enjoyed some good laughs with good friends and even discovered some potential artistic ability that just needs a little nurturing. From talking to others who have taken similar classes, we just had the unlucky draw of a crappy instructor, so I’d definitely give it another try, or maybe try a different deal vendor [I saw another deal site today had a similar class that takes place in one of the actual bars in DC].

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So glad we got to do this!

If you’re looking for something other than your typical date night or after work happy hour with friends, I’d definitely recommend checking out some of these experience deals. My first experience may have been a little rocky, but it was definitely fun to mix it up! And if you hit up the 918 F Street location, may I suggest Ping Pong Dim Sum just up the street after your class? We had a big table with lots of bench space for everyone to admire our drying artwork 🙂

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