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Not Just A Paint Night

Glen Hartle November 28, 2022

Back in early November, Lisa Coles, from the Pontiac Agricultural Society (PAS), attended a paint night at the Clarendon Street Cafe in Quyon. She enjoyed it so much that she spear-headed the inaugural paint night hosted by PAS at The Ladies Exhibit Hall on location at the fairgrounds and this took place on Wednesday Nov. 30.
Now, these nights aren’t new and we all likely know someone who has attended or we’ve seen one of the multitude of images on social networks where a large group of people stand holding very similar pieces of art.
But until you actually attend one of these, you don’t realize that the final photo is but an itty bitty part of the magic equation that is – paint night.
Stephen Young, from Luskville, started his version of these themed gatherings some three months ago and calls his fledgling “Cool Canvas Paint Night.” And while this was only his fifth time hosting such an event, the two short weeks lead-up between advertisement and event was enough to fill almost every seat. Word of mouth is clearly an asset and his reputation seems to have started things off on the right foot.
Young is that high school teacher we all had who is so overly enthused about the topic he is about to teach that he leans toward being bubbly and you can’t help but sit forward in class, almost hanging on every word. Before one class is done, you’re already looking forward to the next.
Within moments of starting, he had the attention of all 23 participants and had already set them at ease with the activity they were about to undertake. “We’re going to paint these snow persons and a tree,” he said, pointing at the sample painting on the easel before them. “I’ll show you generally how and you can follow along or you can go rogue – it’s your night!”
And this is likely where the magic started. Within moments, you saw brushes being raised, hesitantly, all around the room. Furtive glances side-to-side confirmed that everyone was doing the same and, emboldened, they began. Slowly, and following the simple almost non-instructive-and-yet-helpful-hints coming from Young, paint started to appear on every canvas and at different speeds. The room was almost silent save for the sound of brushes making large strokes on blank canvases and, if anticipation has a call sound, it was there.
Once the proverbial ice had been broken, the laughter began, and, like the singing of the Whos down in Whoville, kept growing and growing, making obvious the joy taking hold. Even the Grinch himself would have sat up to take notice of the mounting spirit.
While brushes found confidence, Young strolled from participant to participant offering encouragement and tips, salting things with the occasional quip: “you want the brush strokes to go from skinny to big, like some of us through covid.”
Young teaches at Algonquin College in Ottawa, himself an alumni from 1991, and his ability to approach each participant as both a student and an equal was apparent. There was no pretense and his somewhat shy demeanour endeared him with broad appeal simultaneously empowering participants with a sense of commonality.
There was a side-board stocked with a grand supply of sweets in the form of cakes, cookies, squares and candy canes as well as water, hot beverages and a bottle of Bailey’s, should a whim need release. Participants self-administered freely throughout the evening although at one point, Mavis Hanna, Coles’ helping hand for the event, pleaded “we planned for each participant to have a few treats each but I don’t think that’s happening. Help yourself – please.”
The Christmas music playing over the PA system kept pace with it all and provided a seasonal backdrop to the already seasonal atmosphere.
All the while, you could see art progressing on each canvas and without a doubt you knew that each was slowly gravitating toward a representation of the piece Young had earlier shown. There was laughter, constantly, and smiles, everywhere. Enthusiastic chatter and sharing filled the air and there was no doubt that this was fun over and above anything else. And that’s exactly what drew Coles to bring Young round to the fairgrounds in the first place.
And so, while the motivation to attend paint night may have been broadly sourced, the resulting fellowship was magic and you could sense that something new had just begun. This will surely not be the last paint night for either the PAS or the participants.

Joan Rusenstrom and her daughter Heather Rusenstrom-Sally shared a night out by attending the inaugural Pontiac Agricultural Society Paint Night.

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