MONTROSE – When architect Renie Dela Cruz happened to ride his bike by the Pickled Painter on East Main Street last week, he had no idea it would change his life. Not in a drastic way, he says, but he’s overcome his insomnia and discovered a talent he didn’t know he had.
Dela Cruz had taken only one painting class before, a watercolor class in college, which he flunked. When he got home after his first visit to the Pickled Painter, and told his wife he’d done a painting, her response was something like, “Yeah, right. Let’s see it,” he said.
His first painting was of a sunflower, bright yellow on a brilliant blue background. His second painting, which he did just a few days ago, is of yellow sunlight shining through an almost iridescent aspen grove.
The owners of the Pickled Painter, Eileen DeJulio and Michele Jeffrey, think so much of Dela Cruz works that they’ve displayed them in their window and told him they think he could sell them if he wants to.
But that’s not the point of the Pickled Painter, they said. The point is just to get people to paint. Or better still, have a beer or a glass of wine, relax and listen to the music, and then paint their hearts out.
The brightly colored studio, with about 24 easels and stools, is open every day except Sunday and Monday, and offers aprons, painting supplies and easels for $25 a session during the day or $35 at night with artist in residence June Estep on hand, not so much to teach, but to give advice and encouragement.
“I can just sit and watch them, and I see them relax as they shift from left brain to right brain,”
Too much left brain work had left Dela Cruz tense at the end of the day, he said, and painting helps him relax.
“I’m working with a construction company and it’s bid season,” he said. “It’s high stress with numbers and specs, so I’m tired at night and it’s hard to sleep, but after I did my first painting I went home and took only 30 minutes to get to sleep.”
Painting is a release, DeJulio said.
“You let everything out and you feel relaxed,” she said. “It opens your imagination in some way.”
This is the first time either of the women has been in business, and they got the idea from a similar business in Louisiana that was selling franchises. They decided to go out on a limb and start the Pickled Painter on their own, and the name, an original, says it all.
According to their website at pickledpainterllc.com, the women met at a personal training session and got into conversations about being “empty nesters” and wanting to start a business.
You don’t have to be an artist to paint, the website declares, and you can create art with no pressure.
“Grab a drink and a paintbrush and have fun while making art!” the site states. “This is not an art class. It’s a painting party!”
But some people just want to come in and hang out, Jeffrey said, and the prices at the small bar are reasonable, with wine starting at $4, domestic beers at $2.50 and microbrews at $3.50.
And people can also drop in just to paint, Jeffrey said.
“We use acrylics you can wash with water, and mistakes are easy to cover up,” she said. “But we emphasize that there’s no right way or wrong way, anyway. We want you to express yourself.”
Suzette Owen and Janie Wible did just that on as they worked on their interpretation of a peace symbol on a recent evening session with Estep in attendance.
“She gives them the first steps and then we turn up the music for 20 or 25 minutes,” Jeffrey said. “There’s no critiquing, and she (Estep) only gives advice if asked. We don’t care if you just fling paint on the canvas.”
The Pickled Painter is great for parties, DeJulio said, and a Kids’ Day is being planned for alternate Saturdays, with more information available on the website. Jeffrey and DeJulio are also in the process of contacting local nonprofits about holding fundraisers, she said, with “a big chunk” of the proceeds going to charity.
The unique business is gaining appeal as word gets out, DeJulio said, and both women are enthusiastic about the future.
“We figured great things happen to those who go for it,” she said.