Girlfriend Getaway: Paint & Pour at Big Cedar

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By Christy Case Keirn

Susan and Christy
Susan and Christy, photographed by Kim Singer

I’ve always had romantic dreams of being an artist. I took enough classes in college to have a minor in art, but in the back of my mind I always heard those voices that said, “you don’t have a creative bone in your body,” or “you can’t draw a stick figure.” When I saw an ad for a trendy paint-your-own-masterpiece class within driving distance from home, my friends Susannah Alms, Susan Gregory, and I jumped in the car and headed toward Branson to scratch our creative itch. While the ad for Big Cedar’s Paint & Pour assured us that no painting skills were required to enroll in the class, we shared the usual reservations women often have when we step outside our creative boxes. We were nervous, but so determined to have this creative experience together as girlfriends, that we braved snow and ice to get there.

Before the bustle of Branson, with its neon lights and long traffic lines, there is a little piece of heaven that is Big Cedar. It’s rustic, but luxurious, and is situated on wooded hillsides of the Ozark Mountains on Table Rock Lake just 10 miles south of the Branson strip on Highway 65. Right away, the setting put us at ease. We were awestruck by the enormous lodge decorated in a style reminiscent of Bass Pro Shops, also owned by Big Cedar proprietors Johnny Morris and his wife, Jeanie. Susan was busy snapping pictures of the landscape, so Susannah and I checked out the fabulous gift shop while we waited for our class to start. At 4 p.m., we were directed down a winding staircase to a room fitted with top-notch art supplies, blank canvases, icy soft drinks, Big Cedar’s house wine, and bowls of Jeanie Morris’s personal Chex Mix recipe. The attention to detail was incredible, just as Big Cedar is famous for. They outfitted us with precious Paint & Pour aprons that we had all decided we wanted to keep before we found out they would let us!

Susannah and Susan
Susannah and Susan
Susannah Alms
Susannah Alms

Stephanie Watson, our instructor, showed us the adorable bird’s nest we would paint together, and assured us that everyone has creativity in their DNA. She went on to say that all artists are usually looking at something when they create their work—a photograph, a model, or a scene in nature. We were simply going to look at the beautiful nest she had created and use it as our study. Ours would be unique, she said, even if we all painted the same thing, and all would reflect our own style as an artist.

“It’s a skill,” she said about painting. “I wasn’t born an artist. I learned the skill of painting.” And then she said something profound—”passion can trump giftedness.” That’s just what I needed to hear. I knew I probably wouldn’t ever be a gifted artist, but I was passionate about my interest in art, and her words gave me the freedom to experiment and to put that first stroke on the blank canvas.

We began to paint! Stephanie taught us how to get certain effects from our brushes and how to mix the paint colors. All around me people were squealing with glee as the bird’s nests started to take form. I got so excited to see my nest take shape that I threw paint all over Susan, who I think is still carrying stains of copper, brown, and ochre on her clothes. Then, all of a sudden, some of us hit a wall: colors started blending together too much, curves weren’t round enough, our paintings didn’t even resemble the instructor’s sample. Stephanie calmly gave us one more tip with instruction that I found to be a metaphor for life: “Stand back from your painting,” she said. “You’re looking at it too closely and seeing all of the imperfections. When you stand back and look at things from a distance, you’re more objective and you will see how beautiful your painting really is.” It was true.

Christy, Susan, and Susannah
Christy, Susan, and Susannah

The three of us came away from Big Cedar with paintings that were similar, but each was unique and showed our own personality. We also came away with a little more confidence in our ability to create something beautiful—on canvas and in our lives. What a lesson we learned that day about art and life.

If you and your girlfriends would like more information on Big Cedar’s Paint & Pour classes and the painting theme for the week, call 1-800-225-6343 or 417-335-2777. Classes are offered 4–6 p.m. every Saturday. Classes cost $55, plus tax, and Big Cedar provides all the supplies needed, including easels, paint, canvas, brushes, and apron. Two glasses of wine, water, and soda, plus Chex Mix are provided to enjoy while painting. In the end, you get to take home a beautiful painting and the cute Paint & Pour apron, too! Additional information is available at

M! August/September 2013


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