Painting With Pizzazz

DANIEL A. MARSH Staff Writer Published February 26, 2012 at 2:32 a.m.
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— Each Friday evening, 15 to 20 people gather at the Smithzonian Art Center in downtown Arkadelphia to learn to paint with pizzazz.

Painting With Pizzazz is the brainchild of Stephanie Smith, who owns the Smithzonian at 612 Main St. She said she thought it would be something educational for people to do on a Friday night - and fun.

“People mingle; they bring something to drink and snack on and have a fun time,” she said of the parties, which start at 6:30 p.m. “The concept is painting as entertainment.”

Smith said she provides all the necessary supplies. Canvases, brushes, aprons and acrylic paints are given to the participants, who then follow Smith’s instructions in creating a painting.

“They don’t even have to have held a brush before,” she said. “They go home with a painting they have done - what I call a masterpiece.”

Smith said she does a “painting of the week,” which is used as the example for her Pizzazz students to follow. Pictures of the paintings are posted on Smithzonian’s Facebook page. Whimsical flowers in polka dot vases, the Little Rock skyline, and nighttime street scenes are a few of the works the party goers have created.

“I take them through it step by step, showing them how it’s done,” she said. “They all turn out really good. They are actually shocked when they’re finished, they do so well.

“It’s a social event. A lot of people bring friends. We start together after everyone gets seated, and I’ll pass out what they need. We do these little relaxing exercises first so they can kind of forget the day. It’s stretching, getting rid of the tension. You have to be relaxed to paint well.”

Smith said she also gets “kind of silly” with her party guests.

“I’ll even act like I’m doing disco. We listen to music the whole time - ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Everybody sings along.”

She said the key is teaching participants how to first draw and then paint.

“A lot of people kind of asked me to do it,” Smith said of how she got the idea. “It’s about having fun, but it’s also about exposing the community to a new kind of entertainment. I also think it’s increasing the awareness of art in Arkadelphia.”

She said she started Painting With Pizzazz last May.

“The response has been great. I hear a lot of ‘thank yous.’ I’ve heard people say it’s the place to be on Friday nights. People will stop me in Walmart and tell me that,” she said with a laugh.

Smith opened the Smithzonian a little more than 2 1/2 years ago. She taught art at Ouachita Baptist University for 10 years. She received a Bachelor of Science in Art degree in studio art from Miami University and a Master of Liberal Arts degree in art history from Henderson State University, and is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in illustration through the Academy of Art University.

“I’m a painter,” she said, “but I taught all mediums at Ouachita.” Smith said her artistic interests also include photography.

Darla Neel Givens said she enjoys Painting With Pizzazz.

“When I started back in June, I didn’t think I could draw a stick person, much less ‘paint a masterpiece.’ I was proven wrong. That first night, I left with a fabulous, funky peacock,” Givens said.

She said meeting new people in such a relaxing environment was something she wanted to do again.

Givens said she’s only missed two Friday nights since June.

“I have really grown and learned so much from these classes,” she said.

“My 15-year-old daughter comes with me, and it’s a great way for us to spend time together.” She said Smith makes painting fun.

“She makes it very easy to paint,” Givens said. “We have refreshments and good music. I’ve met new friends and gained more confidence in painting. I even sold my first ‘masterpiece’ of a guitar a few weeks ago.” Givens called Painting With Pizzazz “a great opportunity to do something fun right here on Main Street. There are a lot of different paintings to choose from as well. I’ve done a few of the paintings twice, using different colors. It’s fun to see how there can be 10 paintings of the same thing, but they are all different.” Nat a l ie Ad a i r of Arkadelphia said she attended the first Painting With Pizzazz class offered by Smith.

“It’s not a regular, stuffy art class,” she said. “It’s laid-back and fun.”

Adair said she had never painted anything before.

“I am not artsy, and I don’t do crafts, and I figured it would be a complete disaster,” she said. “But I liked my first painting so much that I hung it in my office. I was very surprised.”

She said Painting With Pizzazz is “definitely” a good thing for Arkadelphia.

“A lot of stuff [in Arkadelphia] is geared toward the college students,” she said, “but this is geared more toward moms who just don’t have enough to do on a Friday night!”

For more information, visit www.smithzonianart.com.

Staff writer Daniel A. Marsh can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or dmarsh@arkansasonline.com.

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