Not a very pretty picture

April 3, 2014

By Pat Detmer

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You might come to believe by reading this column that my life consists primarily of going to parties, drinking, and then doing something that I regret, and honestly, you would pretty much be right.

This particular column has to do with a recent “Paint and Sip” adventure. You may have heard of these: “paint and sip” or “paint and pour” or — my favorite moniker — “Arts & Carafes,” where a group of people recreate a painting under the tutelage of an artist and under the influence of alcohol.

For Christmas, my nephew gifted my sister Barb with tickets for one of these evenings, paying also for myself and our other sister Susie. It had all the elements for potential fun/disaster: my sisters, alcohol and a task best done sober, Jackson Pollock notwithstanding.

Our goal, along with 20 or so other artist wannabes, was to recreate an impressionistic-like painting of a field of tulips. Each of us was provided with an easel, canvas, brushes and a paper plate filled with pools of primary paint colors. Music was playing in the background, the wait staff was quick and attentive, and the food was good.

Our artist-in-residence began with instructions. Unfortunately, I’ve always had a problem with authority figures and following directions, which explains why nothing in my house works the way it should and why nuns and CEOs eventually tire of me, so when the instructor said to mix the paints on our paper plate to create green and spread it all over the canvas or use a pointillist method, everyone followed his directions.

I was surrounded by green-washed and dotted canvases, while I — true to my contrary nature — chose to daub. Then, he told us how to create the tulip shapes. I ignored him and did something else entirely.

“Hmm,” he said when he made the rounds. “No one has ever done anything like that before. Never. No one.”

I couldn’t tell if he was impressed or if he was thinking that I would be well-served by spending some serious money on a Freudian analyst.

Several glasses of champagne later, we were done, and as I looked at my sisters’ efforts I once again wondered if Mother had cheated my father. Could we possibly be of the same bloodline? Barb’s was a lovely wash of pastels, Susie’s was packed with busy tulips vying for attention and mine … mine looked like the opening frames of a horror movie about bivalve mollusks capturing and torturing each other a la’ Vlad the Impaler: clams stuck sideways on a stick, frothing white and bleeding blue. It scared me, and I’m the one who created it.

But, what the hell … I’ve hung it on my office wall anyway. It’s behind me when I’m on the computer.

Uh … I think it’s watching me …

You can reach Pat Detmer — who does not fear painting, but does fear what she produced — at


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