Miley Li Qinxin
It’s Friday night with soft light, music and champagne: perfect time and place for a party. Jeff did not order a drink or wail heavy-metal tunes into a microphone; instead, he put on an apron and grabbed a brush. Standing in front of a blank canvas, he had no idea what and how to paint.
But no worries. All he needed to do was to paint at will, banter with friends and enjoy some red wine. Because it’s a party in Art Jamming, one of the art jam studios in Hong Kong.
Art jamming is a way of improvised painting for leisure, rather than a serious art production. Provided with all the painting tools and a cozy environment, customers stretch their imagination and unleash their own individual creativity on the blank canvas in the studio, regardless of gender, age, language or profession barriers.
As a combination of art and amusement, art jamming has inspired some people to find their own style over the past eight years in Hong Kong. And now it continues to receive more and more attention for its multiple functions such as expressing one’s feelings, socialising, relieving stress or simply seeking fun.
“Do you know what I’ m painting? I don’t know either,” Jeff, who refused to give his surname, teased himself as he was sponging blue colour onto his canvas.
Like Jeff, most of the art-jam-goers are amateurs. “There are also some professionals, but 90 per cent of our customers are dabbles.” said Mr Calvin Chan, one of the staff at Art Jamming.
But amateurs can also do well without any professional training. It is the process, not the result, which marks the ultimate value of art jamming.
“When it comes to art, the nonprofessionals tend to take an observant role to appreciate it. Going to exhibitions is an example,” Mr Calvin Chan said.
“But why not try your hand at it? Art jamming is a way for you to create a piece of art on your own,” Mr Calvin Chan added.
A year ago, Mr Cheng Chungkit tried art jam on his birthday for the first time and took a fancy on it. He now goes art-jamming nearly once every month. At the same time.
On his 35th birthday night he drew a self-portrait with two faces: one is looking backward while the other is looking ahead.
“I like planning ahead.” Mr Cheng explained. He enjoys painting alone to express his own views about himself and life.
Art jamming is also a choice for socialising with people. Ms Claudia Whitney learned about art jamming four years ago from her friends. Every couple of months, she goes art-jamming with friends.
“It is a great way to socialise with friends without going out to a bar”, Ms Whitney said, “I think everyone likes painting even if they don’t know how. It feels amazing to be creative.” Art jam provides a platform for conversations between families and friends.
All pictures of art jamming have to be taken away by customers. Mr Michael Chan, one of the frequent customers, gave one of his picture to his friend as a wedding gift, making his present one of the most special ones. He also painted one for a friend in hospital.
Some other studio owners, such as Mr Charles Hui at Studio 83 who does not make the takeaway compulsory, are looking for places to store them.
“Charity is one of the best.” he said. As the pictures accumulate, Mr Hui is planning to donate the pictures to some hospitals and schools.
Art Jamming is warmly welcomed by some psychology experts.
Prof Henry Kao, Honorary Professor of the Department of Psychology at University of Hong Kong, said that the emergence of art jamming is an encouraging art development.
“It offers a new, dynamic and expressive way of self-revelation, self-action and self-satisfaction through a creative art form of expression”, Prof Kao said, “I think it is a good thing-being relaxed and fulfilling; and it’s a good deal of fun in a highly stressful city like Hong Kong.”
Art jamming is still far from becoming mainstream, but it has been flourishing over the past few years. Besides Art Jamming and Studio 83, MYART is another studio which serves art jamming in Kowloon.
“Though this studio has only been open for half a year, I can see it’s progressing. I’m rather sure it’ll become more and more popular.” Mr Hui said.
Art Jamming is visited by about four to five hundred customers every month. “At the beginning, most of our customers were foreigners. But now more and more locals have accepted art jamming in recent years,” Mr Calvin Chan said.
Acrylic paint is the most widely used paint in art jam studios. It does not require much technique. It’s user-friendly: water-soluble, non-toxic and insipid. The cost of art jamming depends on the size of the canvas chosen. The average expense ranges between $300 to $400.
Edited by Wendy Cheng Hoi-ling