30 June 2023

Stroke of genius turns Paint and Sip events into expressive art experiences

| Kellie O'Brien
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Michelle and Tiffany Springett

Michelle Springett (left) is encouraging people to express themselves through art, with the help of her daughter Tiffany (right). Photo: Supplied.

Budding artists sit in restaurants and breweries sipping on cocktails while painting masterpieces, thanks to an explosion in the Paint and Sip concept.

Often known as Paint and Sip, Pinot and Picasso, or Monet and Moscato, most companies run their events as creative and social functions to attend with friends.

However, Kiama Downs resident Michelle Springett has taken the popular concept and is instead using it to inspire people to use art as therapy.

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Michelle spent most of her career in graphic design, but left it to become a funeral director.

“I came to the realisation that there was really nothing I could do for those who had passed over and nothing was being done for those who were still living,” she said.

“That’s really where this whole journey then took me in a different direction.

“I studied life coaching and, as I started getting involved in that, I found people just didn’t have the words to really be able to explain what they were feeling.”

Michelle then studied art therapy, which led her to form her business Expressive Art Experience.

“Basically, I’m doing art therapy with a different title,” she said.

women painting

Participants during one of the Expressive Art Experience events that encourages art as therapy. Photo: Supplied.

While people often shied away from doing art therapy classes, Michelle said art was therapy.

The business was started in 2019 on R U OK? Day, and has morphed into everything from big events with a canvas in the middle of the community for people to make their mark, to intimate private groups, and one-on-one art therapy sessions.

“What we do is allow everyone to paint what they want to paint,” she said.

“Not everyone is going to go home with a picture of a giraffe.

“Everybody has their own painting.”

Michelle said giving participants the same picture to then compare with others sometimes transported them back to high school.

“We might do a palette knife subject, for example, so everyone uses palette knives but they can palette knife whatever they want.

“We also don’t have much emphasis on the ‘sip’.

“Obviously, we do it in venues like the beautiful Georgia Rose, which is an adorable, very creative space.

“The girls get a drink on arrival and then that’s it.”

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She originally called her events Paint and Sip due to people easily associating with the name, but now does Brushes at the Brewery, Paint ‘n’ Graze, and even Paint and Pizza with children during the school holidays.

“I’ve built it up to this point now where it needs to tap into wellbeing more and doing it for the goodness of our health, as opposed to just the Paint and Sip fun side of it,” she said.

“It’s about having some serious fun and using art as therapy.”

She said the word shift from “art therapy” to “art as therapy” also shifted people’s perception of the events.

“I feel really honoured to be able to make a difference and I feel like I’m accomplishing my goal of helping the living,” she said.

One of her upcoming events, Splatters and Platters at Bush Bank in Kiama Heights on 29 July, is a great example of art as therapy.

“I’ve got the outdoor easels and we thought we could have people stop on the way home from work and take out all their frustrations by splattering paint onto a canvas,” she said.

“Come in and have a drink on the way home from work, enjoy the sun going down and splat the canvas, which I think will be really fun.”

Michelle Springett talks to a woman while she paints

Michelle Springett (pictured) says her Paint ‘n’ Graze-style events were encouraging many to start painting for the first time since high school. Photo: Supplied.

Michelle believes the other benefit of her events was a chance for people to return to art.

“I would say probably 90 per cent of the people who come to these things have not picked up a paintbrush since they were in high school,” she said.

“I met a lady the other day and it was 50 years since she’d been in high school, so she’d be in her 70s, and it (not painting) was often because they had a bad experience at school.

“We did a collage day at Shellharbour one day and we popped over to the shopping centre to grab something to eat and out of Kmart came two of the girls that were in the class with canvases and paint brushes.

“They went into Kmart and bought all the creative stuff they could possibly get their hands on.

“That’s what I feel I’m doing now, I’m inspiring people to get back to their creativity.”

Upcoming events include:

Paint ‘n’ Graze – Tropical Botanical at Georgia Rose, Shell Cove on 15 July at 3 pm.

Brushes at the Brewery at Stoic Brewery Gerringong on 21 July at 5:30 pm.

Splatters and Platters at Bush Bank, Kiama Heights on 29 July at 6 pm, along with a host of school holiday events from 4 July and regular after-school events during term time.

To find out more about Expressive Art Experience events, visit the website.

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