22 Feb 2022

Family Friends | Couples

When I enter Brush By The Vines the music is upbeat and pumping; Mayuri, Jamie and Natasha, the owners of this studio, are determined that their guests have a great time. I am offered an Espresso Martini. As I sip it, I look around the venue and it’s an impressive sight.

Large windows look onto the street and mirrors line the walls of this brand new space. A wheelchair accessible ramp leads guests to the main studio. Instagrammable neon signs light up sections of the wall with uplifting messages and set the scene for what is to be an afternoon of fun and creativity.

Mayuri shows me to the table I’ll share with five other artists. Today’s session will be teaching us how to paint the ‘African Lady’ so a canvas with the sketch of the portrait is attached to an easel. A palette of paint and a set of brushes is laid out for the artists of the day. I tie on my apron and look at the sketch on the canvas in front of me, wondering how on earth I will ever get it to look like the one she has at the front of the room.

When Mayuri introduces herself she tells us that she’ll be our guide for the painting but she can also be our dance partner if we need one. Jamie is in the paint station, refilling palettes and wine glasses as needed.

The class itself is a well oiled machine, from the professional sound system to the flawless teamwork. Mayuri stands on a raised platform, headset on so that her voice carries clearly to all parts of the studio, and gives the first instruction. She’s confident, funny and clearly loves her job.

The crowd is varied. There’s a mother and daughter having a day out, a young couple on a date, a hen’s party and pairs of friends. Women at my table have ordered a grazing platter and nibble at cheese, crackers and sweet things as the class progresses. The business is licensed so people can bring their own beverages or purchase from the drinks list. Jamie stresses, though, that this experience is about art, not drinking. It’s not a bar, it’s a workshop.

Despite Mayuri telling me that there is “no pressure to be Picasso or Frida Kahlo” I get stressed the moment I mix my first colours and put paint on my canvas. I feel a little like a Year 8 kid, trying to do my best work, but soon enough I relax and enjoy the experience of being a painter for the first time since I was in high school. I beam when she comes past and tells me that my piece has a “very smooth finish”.

Participants are quiet for the first hour, concentrating on painting within the lines and following Mayuri’s instructions to the letter. Once the techniques become more challenging, the conversation and peals of laughter start to ring out across the room.

As a group we learn how to mix colours, create light and shade on the canvas and use brushstrokes to blend colours. Mayuri demonstrates how to add highlights to one side of the subject’s face. Once we start shading, I do what I’m instructed but I still don’t have the confidence that my masterpiece will be something I can hang on a wall. Mayuri, a natural teacher, makes an effort to reassure the class. She steps calmly around the room, blending colours, making adjustments and boosting everyone’s self esteem with her encouraging comments.

A short time later, I continue to follow her very clear directions and I’m thrilled when I swish a thin line of black paint on the canvas and create my lady’s chin. By the end of the three hour session I am extraordinarily proud that I have created a painting that is easily recognisable as a woman wearing a brightly coloured headscarf.

A range of artists have designed the sketches for the paintings and each one enables students to learn different techniques. If you have a penchant for animals, choose a class where the subject is a lion, a peacock, a panda or monkey. If landscapes are more your thing, paint a Japanese house, a tropical island sunset with palm trees or a seascape at night. Cleopatra, the Eiffel Tower, Aladdin’s lamp and even a bright picture of donuts are other possibilities.

Brush By The Vines is conveniently located next to Against The Grind cafe, giving parents an opportunity to enjoy a break while their kids are in a children’s session, or the chance to grab a fresh hot coffee on their way into the class.

With sessions occurring from Friday to Sunday, and more timeslots opening up soon, Brushed By The Vines is making a big difference in the Whittlesea community, adding creativity to the list of things you can do in this wonderful area.

Danielle Norton, Travel Writer

See their website for opening hours and to make bookings.