ANCHORS AND SAILS: Becoming an accidental artist

Brenda Kelley Kim
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‘Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.’

Pablo Picasso

When my kids were little, I never wanted to do art projects or anything like that because it was just a big mess to clean up, with glitter and paints all that. What I realize now, all these years later, is that working on art can be a way to let go of stress and embrace the calming effects that art will bring. 

My good friend, local artist Michelle Jones Brown, has created works of art with a poured paint technique, and she invited me to her studio to see how she makes the magic happen. I need a little magic when it comes to art because while I love having paintings and other works of art around me, especially those from my friends, making anything with paint and canvas never goes well for me. It’s not just painting; anything that involves any level of creating something with glue, paint, clay, or other craft supplies is a non-starter for me. I’m pretty good with Play-doh, but that’s where my ability ends. I was chatting with Michelle about how clumsy I can be, and that painting isn’t a talent I possess, and she said, “We’ll see about that!” 

Michelle’s studio is up on the second floor above Mookie’s, and it’s a great space to get away from it all. There are paint splatters on plastic drop cloths and tons of great art on the walls. Michelle is an established artist, and in addition to paintings, her creations are available on a line of clothing she created from some of the work. 

The class began with Michelle explaining how the paint we would use would have a bit of silicone so that small “cells” would appear as the paint spread. She also told us how the colors would mix and what to expect when adding colors together. It pays to remember that blue and yellow make green, blue and red make purple, and too much paint of any color makes a mess. Oh, and here’s another fun fact: you don’t need a brush to paint. Seriously, it’s true. As the paint spreads out on the canvas, it just goes its own way. Tipping the canvas one way or another creates little rivers of paint that meet and mix. As the colors run, the tiny cells that look like bubbles appear, and the next thing you know, boom, you’ve arted! The best part of this technique is that you can’t tell how the end result will look. You mix, pour, and tilt, and the next thing you know, you’re an accidental artist. 

There is a reason that experts recommend art therapy for stress. The time spent in Michelle’s class was the first in a few weeks that my head wasn’t exploding every fifteen minutes with anxiety-fueled nonsense. It’s been quite a time for me lately, and the calm that came along with pouring paint was a gift. It’s a little like the videos they show on YouTube that are “satisfying.” These videos show clips of a painting in progress, wet clay on a wheel, or other creative pursuits, and they’ve become quite popular. They are peaceful to watch, but honestly, being in the studio is way better than just zoning out to someone else doing the work. What’s great about Michelle’s classes is that she holds them in groups, so there is that connection. Everyone around the table is pouring paint, mixing colors, and laughing together about the results. 

It wouldn’t be a Brenda experience if at least one small thing didn’t go wrong, so here is a pro tip. If you are having a wee bit of wine while painting, make sure you don’t pick up the wrong cup because while paint can create some beautiful works of art, it tastes like dirt. Despite a few mishaps, at the end of the class, I had two paintings that I never thought I could create. While I love having pieces of art around me, whether in my home or going to museums and galleries to see what I can’t own, creating art is a whole other matter. Painting, especially the technique that Michelle teaches, lets us slow down. The work blooms right in front of you, and it’s an experience everyone should try. It would be fantastic if we could all take a few hours to leave everything but some paint and a canvas behind. Check out Michelle’s work on her Facebook page (, where you can see the designs on clothing or sign up for classes. 

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