Years ago in Sydney, I saw graffiti on an otherwise non-descript red brick building that simply said: "DO NOT FROLIC." It puzzled me for ages. Why weren't we allowed to frolic if we pleased? Who had painted it on that inner-city wall? And what is frolicking anyway? I wondered if graffiti is meant to be thought-provoking and unexpected. Whether you consider it "uncommissioned art" or illegal vandalism, it has morphed into a movement known as street art.
I was invited to the new Montana Art Project's inaugural night of painting "Two Kombies" on a Friday night. If you're not a big fan of those classic Kombi Vans (like me), there are a variety of workshops where you can paint other iconic images. Frida Kahlo and Audrey Hepburn classes have been going since October. Or perhaps you would prefer a class in which you can hand paint your denim jeans and jackets. Fancy '70s retro flower power? Or try your hand at painting your own beach towel.
Tutor Stewart Shuker (May Cross)
Flamboyant artist Stewart Shuker greets you on arrival at the Montague Hotel foyer with a glass of bubbles. You can order further drinks from the 'Monty' and also platters of food to share such as chips and pizza. My mate and I shared halloumi fries and nachos. The class was small, almost intimate, so there was plenty of opportunities to ask questions and get one-to-one tuition. The class I attended was a mixed bag of clientele; participants of all ages and types, men and women, from waiters to architectural students to complete art newbies. Stewart told me that he has held a class for Billabong staff as a team building exercise/Christmas party with 70 people. Yes, the studio is big enough (read very spacious) to hold private functions and different class sizes.
Ratty Graffiti (May Cross)
Stewart began the class with a brief history of graffiti, stencils and street art. Most people have heard of the anonymous 'Banksy" (if you haven't, check his art and story online). But you may not be aware of the culture and extent of the street art movement. Stewart Illustrated his talk with images of his work and other artists, projected onto the white painted brick wall of the studio.
He then introduced us to colours and background methods and demonstrated his ideas/information. He even explained what paints and brushes we would use e.g. Matisse paints are local from a lab in Bardon and the spray paints by Ironlak, another local Brissy Co. (I was disappointed when this wonderful company closed their Queen Street Mall art shop - but you can still buy from them online).
As well as using his original three-colour stencil, we learnt dripping, streaking, smudging and blending techniques. Don't worry, you don't have to have any previous art knowledge or experience. Nor do you have to take anything. Everything is provided for you, from the row of black Montana aprons when you enter (which looked like an art installation on the wall) to your PPE (personal protective equipment) for spray painting included gloves and eye protection.
Aprons Provided (May Cross)
Stewart tells all his participants that if they don't like their own finished product, they could swap it for one of his. And you can't get fairer than that. He wants all his students to leave happy and he also gets examples of students' work to display if they choose to swap. "And some of it is wacky," he said. Although I really, really wanted one of Stewart's beautiful paintings, I was more than happy to keep my own masterpieces, as were all the others in my class. How good is that?
Art on Display (May Cross)
Stewart played music throughout the class and had us bopping around as we painted. Artists (musical, not visual) included Bob Marley, Bee Gees, Blondie, Queen and some I couldn't identify. Tango anyone?
Budding Young Artist (May Cross)
One of my favourite old-time movies, It's a Wonderful Life was inexplicably played on the studio wall. Maybe because it was pre-Christmas? Anyway, there was always plenty of inspiration for all senses.