If you’re shy, or a little worried about the first stroke, “Electric Elaine” DeCunha will take your hand and help you make a full swoosh across the entire canvas. It’s just the way she rolls.
Elaine wants your painting to be, simply said, remarkable.
Elaine DeCunha owns and operates Spirits and Splatters, a uniquely Canadian art-activity company based in Millbrook. Her company, celebrating its first birthday this spring, is already taking the region by storm. In fact, Elaine can — almost — not keep up with the demand.
The retired criminology professor of 23 years orchestrates private, public, non-profit, and corporate painting parties for those interested in a creative, social experience.
“We bring the supplies and we bring the fun” is her motto.
The whole idea started with awful weather in February 2014. Elaine was visiting her brother in Florida and, with nothing to do, suggested he hold a painting party. Wine and art, what could be a better mix, she thought? She brought the idea home, and has spent the last year developing it.
Her first public party, held at The Venue in Peterborough on June 25, 2014, drew 45 participants.
“They’re people who want to get out, want to try something new, want to have fun, want to laugh and be creative,” Elaine says. “It’s particularly good as a digital detox. One woman who was grieving the loss of her husband said she found it particularly rewarding to be in a social situation but able to focus on something other than talking to other people.”
Participants arrive to find the location, public or private, set up with easels and painting supplies. All those present will paint the same painting, chosen ahead, but the results will be as unique as each individual in the room.
Elaine or another one of the company’s instructors — “paint slingers” with fun nicknames like “Key Lime” Kasio Sobilo, “Magneta” Maria-Elena, and “Hot Pink” Holly Young — begins the party by laying the foundation of the evening with the basics. Then, with snacks and spirits in one hand, participants take the plunge into the world of acrylic painting.
Worried you won’t be able to do it? Elaine says she has had participants who’ve had that fear, but it’s easily overcome.
“I take the anxiety out of it,” she explains. “We guarantee you will be happy with your painting.”
Even though her first acrylic painting was just a year ago, Elaine is no slouch at either painting or teaching. She has a degree in fine art and pursued a doctorate in adult education. She’s run art workshops with young offenders and with inmates in correctional settings — she can get a 250-pound benchpresser who says he “can’t do nothing” to paint a sunflower.
She knows what she’s doing, but, as she puts it, she’s simply facilitating a unique social experience.
“We’ve never had anyone rate the experience as anything less than eight out of ten,” she says. “Most tell us the entire experience exceeded their expectations.”
“It’s immediate gratification,” she adds. “You don’t have to wait two years to earn a diploma — you see and feel the success that night.”
The Spirits and Splatters experience provides a form of therapy as well.
“Art is therapy,” she says. “There’s no getting away from it. Painting is an outward expression of an individual’s uniqueness. There’s something therapeutic in that expression.”
Some of the experiences are particularly poignant. Elaine did a private party for a large family in Oshawa as part of their family barbecue. The painting they chose was of their childhood family farm.
“They went away with something to keep those memories alive long after the Spirit and Splatters party,” she says.
If you want to give it a try, the next public event is Wednesday, February 25, 2014 at Riley’s Olde Towne Pub (253 George St. N., Peterborough). Simply visit www.spiritsandsplatters.com to see the painting that will be completed that night — a popular one — and to get registration details.
The fee to register for the event is $45 per person, which covers the cost of the venue, supplies, and instructors (food and drink are not included). Elaine says she’d do every party for free if she could.
“Meeting so many people, seeing so much creativity, and being around such positive energy is so immensely rewarding,” she says.
All photos courtesy of Spirits and Splatters.