Rugby's hidden artistic talent unearthed in the pub - thanks to inspirational teacher

Forget the urban myth that you’re never more than six feet from a rat – these days in Rugby there’s a far more positive measurement. You’re probably never more than six feet from an artist.

Jan Taylor, the driving force behind nJoyArt, teaching a previous group.
Jan Taylor, the driving force behind nJoyArt, teaching a previous group.

It’s all thanks to a revolution led by Jan Taylor, who founded nJoyArt in summer 2019, to encourage people to have a go at painting, in the relaxed surroundings of a pub or similarly chilled venue.

It’s a simple but brilliant idea that has encouraged people to sign up for an evening being guided through the process to create a piece you can take home – with each session having an image of an animal, scenery or object etc as the target.

In the summer I saw the results from a friend who had experienced the nJoyArt magic at the Seven Stars – her piece was amazing.

Stressed? Not a bit of it - though I did send a photo home and suggest I'd done snowy trees in a blizzard...

But I still hesitated to cash in the voucher my wife had bought me last Christmas.

I love art but accepted at an early age it was not going to be a career option after my school’s art teacher did nothing to encourage me to carry on after my third year at secondary school. My highlight had been copying an image of Arsenal legend Charlie George using a grid system but that was apparently not enough to suggest I could get an O-level, even if I reproduced the whole double-winning team (yes, it was the 1970s, a long time ago).

Journalism has felt creative at times – but apart from a front page I designed for a Northampton paper being framed and put in a gallery, I’ve been happy to wander round places and wonder at the talent of proper artists, plus catch an occasional Bob Ross programme on the telly.

But as 2022 raced on, I had to balance out my certainty I couldn’t paint, with the likely reaction to me not using the voucher and just in time I saw the chance to go and paint snowy trees in early December at the Wheatsheaf in Braunston.

Remarkably, after two hours in the pub, I'd got something vaguely artistic to take home...

I can probably give no higher praise to Jan than her swift response to my revelation that I had not done art since 1974 – ‘You’re just the kind of person I like’ – when she was probably regretting accepting a booking from a no-hoper.

But when we got going as a group of eight - including three friends who had done previous sessions and everyone else seeming to be incredibly talented – Jan taught in a way that gave us all a chance. She had her snowy trees original as the guide but broke the process down into three stages as she painted a fresh version.

You get a drink in the ticket price and I stuck to non-alcoholic ginger beer to give me the best chance – but undoubtedly if you are at a venue close to home or have a driver, other options are available. I know people who have been to sessions at Gallachers Wine Merchants where prosecco is an option and have found a bit of fizz has apparently helped the creative juices flow.

Between each stage, Jan encourages you to walk around the room and see what the others have been up to and it’s fascinating how quickly everyone lives up to her suggestion that we will all produce something quite different.

If I’d tried to do the picture at home, I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start and would no doubt have got it completely wrong, whereas Jan took you through three sensible stages, explained which of the acrylic paints (see me getting a bit technical there?) to mix and which brushes to use (sorry, I can’t remember any of their names).

Stage one was the background and sky – Jan told me I should blend my white and pink more and, yes, I should have said I didn’t know what that meant, though it’s plainly obvious now something needed doing about the very pink arc in my sky… but I already felt so much better because my attempt wasn’t totally rubbish. A bit rubbish but not totally.

Then it was on to the trees and an element of a skill I am always in awe of – perspective. I could have done better but by now I was already thinking... I can work on that next time. The snow came last and suddenly two hours were done as we let our masterpieces dry before getting together for a group shot.

After the farewells it was time to leave after a brilliant evening that worked on every level. In those two hours, I’d done something I didn’t think I was capable of, I’d got the evidence to take home – and I’d discovered more about a pub I’d only sat outside once in the past and will certainly go back to.

When I got home I was asked to assess how mine compared with the other pieces – and a quick look at the nJoyArt Facebook page will confirm I was being honest in saying mine was the worst. But I’m happy with that – the whole experience was brilliant and had cost just £28.

The Facebook page also shows the courses coming up in 2023 and the website tells a little more about the thinking behind it all.

What's beyond doubt is that with nJoyArt, Jan has created something special – and if I can do it, anyone can book up and release their inner artist...