Zena El Farra, founder of MasterPeace, tells us why painting can have a positive effect on mental health. As told to Cally Squires.
We are a drop-in art experience, designed for adults who want to learn to paint mindfully and express themselves creatively.
All of our instructors are professional artists, so they can get super technical if they need to.
But for us it’s not so much about achieving a certain technique. It’s about seeing art as an alternative form of meditation.
Painting can really have a positive effect on mental well-being and anxiety, specifically where it’s a beginner audience in a group context.
“Painting can really have a positive effect on mental well-being and anxiety.”
Our co-founder Georgie [Mason] is a super successful artist who has exhibited all over the world. So she brings the creative mind.
My background in corporate banking helps more with the business side.
We’ve had 350 unique guests so far, but one client has already been 13 times. So we have a solid group of regulars.
We’re dog-friendly and we had a client host a party for her cockapoo’s birthday recently where all the dog mums painted portraits of their pups.
We even had doggy doughnuts and Over Glam next door gave a gift bag for each of the dogs with treats in.
“The adult classes really benefit from the totally zen atmosphere.”
As soon as we opened we started getting enquiries about children’s classes too. So now about 30 per cent of our classes are for kids.
We always keep them separate though, as the adult classes really benefit from the totally zen atmosphere.
Our beautiful cotton gowns are handmade in Jaipur specially for us by women in refuge who are all survivors of domestic violence.
We sell them in the studio too, and every gown that a guest purchases pays for a uniform to be made for a child in a local school out there.
Paint your photo
The primary class we offer is a coached class where you can bring a photo on your phone of something you’d like to paint, and connect it to one of our lightboxes.
It projects the image onto the canvas. So to get started all you have to do is paint over the light that you can see.
It’s really transformational for beginner painters, because there is nothing more daunting than a blank canvas.
It sort of tricks people into believing that it’s easy, and they work away not realising that actually it’s all coming from them.
I don’t think we’d ever see that level of skill come through without that little encouragement.
We have masterclasses too in things like portraiture and landscapes.
Classes are normally £49 and they come with nibbles and prosecco.
But we also run a weekly karma class as we want MasterPeace to be accessible to everyone in the local community.
The karma class is completely free of charge and people can make a donation if they like, but there’s no requirement to and you get exactly the same experience as everyone else.
Our instructors volunteer to run them, and we really want those classes to be used.
The studio is also partly a gallery, as we exhibit the works of the instructors who teach at the studio.
It’s quite affordable, as our idea was to try and democratise art.
We’ve got everything from super-abstract pieces to hyperrealist work. Hopefully, it inspires our guests not to have a preconception of what beautiful art is.
Main picture: an art class.
Second picture: Zena El Farra.