Artbar: Let’s Get Creative, Tokyo!

It’s no secret that Shibuya neighborhood Daikanyama is one of the trendiest in the city, and a place foreigners flock to for boutiques, specialty shops, and hidden gems. It’s then no surprise that the same suburb would be the chosen location of Artbar Creative, the just-landed “paint and sip” studio.

Nicole Ciliberti and Bryce King are calling Daikanyama their newest muse, and are looking to gain enough “painters and sippers” to turn their studio into a permanent addition to the suburb. Both work well as a team; King is the leader of the majority of the classes they offer, having studied art in school and for subsequent year, while Ciliberti handles the marketing and business side of things – although she admits to hopping in to help out every now and again. Together they create the class content. Usually pulling inspiration first from the current season, then doing a bit of research on cultural-Japan images that may fit well. King will do a mock-up, then they deliberate about the process and how they would teach each color or stroke, and if it would be too complex for a particular class. “At the end of the week, I will likely have done the sample image three or four times, and each one with a differing outcome.”

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Currently, they hold a few regular classes on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, each of varying lengths. They’re striving to find the balance between kinds of classes offered, time allowance, and level. King elaborates, “…typically we don’t go into strong academic-type of courses, but our Thursday workshops focus most on color theory and dabble in stroke types and artistic techniques.” Ciliberti’s favorite classes to hold are the “mommy and me” courses for mothers with young children, held a couple of Saturdays a month. They also hold Japanese-language classes with help of local artist Ami Ichikawa, for those looking for an added challenge or differing style. Their entire team is three strong, with recurring and announced guests acting as stand-in teachers a few times a month. They’re looking to expand and connect with other artists in the area who could teach their own techniques and share their own perspectives with those interested – even photographers and other artists are welcome to rent the space from them in the mornings to hold their own specialty workshops.

For a nominal fee, the studio is offering quite a bit in return: a couple of hours of solace during a quiet afternoon, just you, a blank canvas, and a soft buzz of other excited participants. The studio is bright and welcoming, with minimal decorations keeping the atmosphere clean and chic. Their art supplies and complimentary treats are both well-stocked. Painters may help themselves to champagnes, juices, tea or coffee, and bite-sized snacks that are carted in to be snacked on in between strokes.

King has his two easels at the front of the room, ready to go. Ciliberti admits she keeps her phone quite close by, in case of last-minute students dropping in, whom they both happily welcome and are prepared for. Although many of their classes fill up, there are dips in attendance, but Ciliberti explains that “even if there are just two students, we still hold the class.” Oftentimes, the ones who wind up scoring the surprise private course turn into returning painters. “There is a slight change in feel and approach to each group of students, so we get unique results in our paintings every time.” King presents the lessons in a straightforward manner, making students not only feel comfortable, but that they are truly learning and able to walk away with something they’re proud of. Ciliberti and King work together in praising, supporting and offering help to those looking for ideas or wanting to know the proper way to hold a brush.

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One of duo’s greatest assets is their flexibility: “If the students have a request, we are able to change the painting or tutorial, or take suggestions.” The same goes for technique and style. Companies and corporations have hired them for painting courses, too. They rent a space close to the office, and then develop a class that works to strengthen teams: “First, we have individuals paint their own ideas, and then see how a team can paint an image together.” The unusual exercise for teams has left many groups smiling. Some of the most fun classes they’ve hosted are for teenagers’ or kids’ birthday parties. “Younger people get special attention, have a place to chat and create without judgement, and get to take home something priceless.”

There is plenty of laughter and handfuls of breaks in between each section of the painting. King has moved along the group’s canvases effortlessly, guiding the class through the step-by-step process he and Ciliberti developed days and weeks before. Ciliberti has a blow dryer ready for those who need the extra boost. Both applaud students who paint a bit outside the lines, insisting they have open arms for all interpretations of their samples and outlines.

King professes, “The bottom line is, we welcome anyone of any ability. Anybody should walk in here and feel comfortable, like they can achieve something. Art is not meant to be esoteric, everyone can do it.” Ciliberti nods and chimes in, “and we enjoy having our customers bring in their own influence. Everyone can look at an image and see it differently, and that is part of our core.”

For more information and to book a class, visit artbar.co.jp/ or www.facebook.com/artbartokyo

–Natalie Jacobsen

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