Last Friday, artist Jolie Dennison invited me to bring a friend and take part in the launch of her new Wine, Dine and Design evenings. She hosted it at the Bigg Life Arts centre in Belfast, which is on Commercial Court, opposite the Duke of York.
The idea is to show up with a bottle of vino, have a bite to eat and a bit of craic while she talks you through creating your own “masterpiece”.
If your artistic skills are at a similar level to mine, you should take her use of the term “masterpiece” to be very loose. I present Exhibit A – my finished effort.
She’s a great artist and an engaging teacher, but sorceress is she none.
However, not only was this a fun kick-off to the weekend, but great for me as an aspiring canvas-botherer too.
OK, it’s not going to win the Turner Prize any time soon, but the act of beginning, working on and actually finishing a painting was such a useful exercise.
It really didn’t matter how it turned out; not only has it got me over my fear of putting paintbrush to paper, it will always serve as a reminder of a fun evening with my mate and the lovely people we met.
And that’s the whole point, really. Jolie cranked up the tunes on the CD player, we cracked open our wine and helped ourselves (several times) to the delicious, freshly prepared buffet by Whoosh. (Really tasty, imaginative veggie options too – major brownie points!).
We all displayed varying levels of artistic aptitude, (some paintings were pretty impressive!) but nobody cared if their creation resembled a sugar-high toddler’s finger painting (refer again to Exhibit A).
We arrived at 7pm and by 10pm, we had completed our artworks, marvelled/guffawed at each other’s efforts and were preparing to head to the pub to round the night off.
It was a nice, non-cringey way to meet new people and there’s great potential to diversify the concept. It could be perfect for the likes of singles nights or tweet-ups, with a shared activity putting people at ease and helping conversation flow.
A life drawing evening was even suggested, maybe with a hunky model for hen nights, but that would need to be one very brave, very secure, very well-paid dude.
Jolie hopes to hold the next few evenings at the Bigg Life Arts centre before bringing it to other parts of Northern Ireland as well if everything goes well.
Visiting Bigg Life Arts was an unexpected highlight of the night. Run by Biggy Bigmore, it’s designed to give creative people a space for all sorts of activities – with rooms, rehearsal spaces and recording equipment available.
Biggy wants to help the arts at what he calls the “grassroots” level. It’s run as a charity and receives no grants or funding – the plan is to be self-sufficient. Check out the project on Facebook here.
Jolie’s website is here if you fancy finding out more about Wine, Dine and Design.
Now to dust off those abandoned tubes of acrylic and finish that painting I started nearly two years ago…