Paint Republic at RedBank, Manchester

I used to love art in high school.

I mean once I got past the first two years of being completely unable to draw anything, not understanding anything, and receiving sarcastic comments from Mrs Woollett. 

I had friends with natural talent. Mine wasn’t quite natural. I had to be nursed along a bit. Eventually, there was a breakthrough. I drew a mushroom cut in half. Sure it wasn’t brilliant, but for the first time, something I drew actually looked like the thing I was looking at. Even Mrs Woollett looked surprised, but it was good enough to make it to the wall. 

After that it felt much more natural. I developed a bit of an intense style, going over images, even inked images with heavy 2b pencils. I liked the overexaggeration of the shades and colours. No change there then.

I tried to do it for GCSE – and it was a mistake. Different teacher, completely uninterested, it was like going back to first and second year again – but with the added pressure of trying to get good grades in everything ahead of exams. So, after much frustration, I dropped it. Stopped. 

I don’t think I picked up anything crafty again until my late twenties, when I grabbed a pair of knitting needles. Sure I don’t do it as often as I’d like, but when I do, it lets my mind wander, and after a properly shitty day at work, I can let go. 

Does any of the above sound familiar – even a little bit? You do art in school because you have to. You build up a bit of skill maybe, but the real world bites, and you have to make some vague decisions about where you want to be in twenty years career wise. So you stop. 

And every so often, you see an art programme, or a viral video of someone drawing something beautiful, or you grab one of those adult colouring books and it’s just not quite the same, but you don’t trust yourself with a pack of pens and an empty page. 


Let me introduce you to The Paint Republic. Now I admit, I too was daunted and a little doubting as I walked down the stairs at RedBank, gin in hand, and was greeted by this slew of easels. In two hours, we were going to turn ourselves into artists. 




But the idea is straightforward. Think of paint by numbers, but instead of there being bits you fill in and don’t think about, you have someone guide you to colours, and the scene, but the paintstrokes are all yours. And because it’s yours, there are no right or wrong ways to pain. You want to go off piste, go off piste. Your tree doesn’t look like someone elses? Fine, that’s actually kind of the point. 

Oh and did I mention there’s wine? Wine makes everything better (research shows that if you want to be productive, hit the coffee, but if you want to be creative, hit the booze). 

Or in my case gin. Note before you do this, don’t put your brush in the wrong container. That ruins your booze. 

So, here I was, Thursday night, gin in one hand, paintbrush in another, and we were going to paint this.



So, first a sun and some yellow. So far, so much looking like a five year old’s painting on the front of a fridge. More gin. 


Some reflection going on. 

Orangey bits. I mean it is a sunset. 

And an island. Honest, it’s an island. Sunset, remember?

DRAMA. My blending went a bit wonky here. Also, my table wonked, and paint splattered. 

TRIES NOT TO PANIC. I can cover it up on the next bit right?

Yes. Phew. Good. More drama. Lots of purple. A bit of aubergine.


BLACK. I don’t like painting with black. Too much drama. Can we go back now? No? Shit. Trees? OK. 

Trees. Still don’t like my island at the front. Too much black. DO NOT LIKE.

I like my tree though. Fancy. 

Still don’t like my island. 



OK, it’s no masterpiece. My island is wonky AF. You can’t see the reflection of the island much in this snapshot (it’s clearer on the picture itself), my tree in the forefront is a bit too fat, and my blending needs a helluva a lot of work. 

But, I did it. I painted for the first time in 25 years (not even kidding) I painted something that wasn’t a wall or a skirting board. And sure, I may no be investing in an easel and blowing my gin budget on paints and brushes, I love knowing that I can still kind of do it. It was great to head into the zone and concentrate on what was in front of me (like you do when you knit, or crochet or create anything else), in a room with other people who were doing the same thing. 

I might need to do this again. 

Anyone fancy the next one with me? 


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Leave a Reply