Painting with Ketchup

I recently wrote about my aspirations to be a well-known artist in New York City. I picked back up on this dream by enrolling in Paint Nite. Well, three Paint Nites if we’re going to be accurate.

Paint Nites, if you don’t know, are events held at local restaurants and bars where a painter walks you through replicating some painting to the best of your ability while you sip on a cocktail. You sign up based on which painting you want to replicate. I recommend enrolling via Groupon vs. the actual Paint Nite site ($25 vs. $45, respectively).

I went to art school for a whole year in fifth grade. I don’t paint on any regular basis, but I do have creative bones in my body. There’s this one 3-D painting I created three years ago that I used to hang over my fireplace in my apartment until my mom visited and asked why I had it on display.

The first Paint Nite I went to took weeks of planning, i.e. six of us were trying to go, so finding an available day and painting we all wanted to do took multiple emails and group texts. We finally decided on “Blue Moon Cherry Blossoms,” which was rated easy. The night before the painting, I could hardly sleep – I was that excited. Meanwhile, I think my other companions were more excited for what type of wine they could order.

When you arrive, you find there is a mix of characters. Some people are there for the alcohol, as in they’ll probably dip their brush into their drink. Others are there for the masterpiece, as in they’ll go rogue and ignore the instructor’s guidance and create an underwater scene when, hey, aren’t we painting a tree in the moonlight?

You’re set up with minimal elbow room. Like, get to know your neighbor. Or don’t and just drink a lot. And hope your neighbor isn’t a good artist who will make you feel insecure about your brush stroke skills. You’re given a canvas, three brushes of differing sizes, a plate with four or five colors (usually black, blue, white, and red, sometimes yellow), and a cup of water. And then you follow along as the instructor does the painting in one-tenth the time she gives the audience, and hers still looks better.

I wanted to ask, “So how many times have you done this painting? Do you have a wall in your house devoted solely to the Blue Moon Cherry Blossoms?”

Before you wet your canvas, you have to take some hokie pledge with your hand on your canvas about not getting frustrated, not hurling your canvas onto the floor, and acknowledging this is not paint-by-numbers. Heck, if this was paint-by-numbers, I would save my $25 and go to Michael’s.

My two roommates and I hung our three paintings up in our living room. Sara’s is on the left. Sara did not enjoy paint nite whatsoever due to the stress of perfection. Aka it won’t be perfect. She told us on the drive home she would never do that again. I’m not sure she likes the fact we have her painting hanging out in public, but we’re all about roommate (misery) bonding.

On the left is my other roommate, Liz’s. Liz is a graphic arts and design person. She does watercolor as a hobby. She does not like how hers looks, and I want to slap her. I try to convince visitors that mine is hers. But Liz loved Paint Nite, so we’re going back on her birthday. Sara will probably stay home.

My gorgeous painting. Contact me with bids.

My gorgeous painting. Contact me with bids.


I loved my first Paint Nite, too, except everything has gone downhill since. The very next night after Blue Moon Cherry Blossoms, I returned to a separate location with a new friend to paint a “Fall Road.” I saw the painting and thought, “I just have to paint with all the colors of pumpkin spice!”

Note: The painting is supposed to be a fall road. Why is my road blue? This is a “Fall Stream.”


My most recent Paint Nite was last week. Liz came back with me along with two other friends. We were supposed to paint a sunset reflected on a lake aka the bottom and top of the painting are identical. I don’t know why they labeled this painting as “Easy.” I wondered if we would paint the top and then somehow fold the canvas in half to get a perfect reflection.

Here is what the painting is supposed to look like:


Here is mine:



1.)     I added a moon to distract from my other failures. No other painting in the room had a moon. But I’ve had several people comment on the orb in the sky.

2.)     I also added ketchup because my blue bled into my yellow and made green, and this isn’t a medieval fantasy. Sunsets shouldn’t be green. I only stopped using ketchup once I realized it might attract ants in the future.

3.)     I purposefully flipped my painting upside down and intend to keep it this way, because I decided the bottom looked better than the top, and a reflection is not supposed to be perfect, so this makes sense.

Next time I go to Paint Nite, I’m just gonna drink more.