Julia Flynn started drawing and painting in public about a year ago. She’d go to local coffee shops and settle in, spreading out her supplies.
At first, it was a bit nerve-wracking. Flynn was terrified that people would judge her, she said. But she was driven to try something new. “It’s really hard for me to work in solitude alone, because I get distracted,” she said.
Flynn recalled a moment when she heard some folks whispering nearby while she was working. Later, they came up to her and confessed, “We’ve spent this whole time watching you paint and it was so relaxing to us.”
Touched by this moment, Flynn was encouraged to keep creating in public. Sure enough, she continued to receive warm responses from others.
It was these experiences, along with her time spent at previous communal art events, that led her to organize Drink and Draw Chico, a free monthly gathering for artists of all abilities to create together and learn from other local artists.
“It was just such a good exercise for me to do art in public, and I wanted to give that to other people, too,” she said. “It gives people a chance to share ideas, share what they’re working on and connect with their community.”
At the June Drink and Draw meetup, hosted by the Winchester Goose bar and grill, artists chatted, sipped cocktails and worked on different projects. One woman used her finger as a brush, spreading bright hues across a page. Another person sketched a beetle in a spiral-bound notebook. One artist worked on a painting of a beautiful woman surrounded by roses. Another brought along a Chill the F*ck Out coloring book.
That day, participants were joined by Jess Cross, an art educator, realist painter and print maker, who provided guidance on how to combat artist’s block. She led everyone in an exercise to create their own “Picasso dog.” They drew one body part at a time, rotating the page after each was completed to gain new perspectives. The result was an amusing variety of colorful creatures and abstract faces. The artists then roamed around to admire each other’s work, marveling at the differences in styles, colors and visions.
Exercises like these can “jump start” an artist when they are struggling to begin creating, Cross said, adding that they can be useful to repeat whenever the artist feels stuck.
“You make this thing that you don’t plan ahead, and once that’s there, your brain opens up,” she said. “Letting your brain work through drawing can help open it up to the creative process: thinking, looking and doing. And it doesn’t always happen in that order.”
Since Drink and Draw Chico launched in January, about 200 people have attended, with an average of 40 artists at each event, Flynn shared. Meetups are held every first Tuesday of the month at the Winchester Goose (824 Oroville Ave.) 4-8 p.m., with guest presentations/group activities taking place 4:30-5:30 p.m.
The Winchester Goose held similar events years ago at their former location, which Flynn attended. Owner Rob Rasner and she were chatting one day and expressed a desire to bring them back. Flynn volunteered to facilitate, and knew she wanted to go “all out,” she said, adding an educational component by inviting artists to give brief presentations, demonstrations and talks.
Artists specializing in a variety of mediums have presented on wide- ranging topics. Lori Escobar, who spoke at the first event in January, shared tips and tricks for doing art on the go in unconventional places. For example, Escobar used watercolor crayons and a brush while traveling through Europe to create one-of-a-kind postcards to send home. Another presenter, Meadow, spoke in May about how to preserve and respect nature through art. They create jewelry featuring natural materials, including pearls and bones.
Flynn hopes to host more Drink and Draw Chico events at other locales, such as coffee shops and local parks, to include artists under 21. She is applying for grants, seeking funding and accepting donations in order to expand her programming.
It’s important to her to keep events free to welcome artists of varying financial means and skill sets, she said, from “napkin doodlers to professionals.” Folks are just asked to bring their own art supplies.
Rod and Mimi Gray have attended every Drink and Draw Chico event. It’s a special date on their calendar that they never miss, they said.
“We have such a great time,” Mimi said. “It’s so fun, it’s so relaxed. Julia’s great. We meet new, interesting people every time.”
During the June meet up, Rod worked on his drawing of an owl, while Mimi used pencil and soft pastels in vivid blues and oranges to create a scene depicting a scrub jay in flight.
“It’s really a gathering of people doing whatever they want to do and creating community,” Mimi said. “Creating art can be so insular, so it can be so nice to see what other people are doing.”
Rod added: “I spend so much time in my shop. Sometimes the dog visits, gets bored and leaves. It’s nice to come out and talk to people and feel the vibe of everybody creating art.”
Indeed, Flynn said the most rewarding part of the experience is being able to witness artists making meaningful connections.
“I think that people have felt seen as artists,” she said. “People will message me and say, ‘Nobody has ever called me an artist before. Thanks for appreciating my art.’”
Drink and Draw Chico hosts a free event every first Tuesday of the month, 4-8 p.m. at
the Winchester Goose, 824 Oroville Ave.