We have to create opportunities for ourselves because no one else is going to create them for us.
Coupes + Pigment
How I got into the business that I have now – which is the paint and sip events and doing mobile crafts and mobile drinks – was basically me just working like any normal person. I was in college and I went to school for art, I went to The Art Institute and I went for art history and fashion because I wanted to teach. It was extremely expensive, it was very difficult and I really didn’t have too much support from my mom; my grandma was helping me out a lot. So I was like, “I have to work, I have to figure out something that I can do.” I worked in a small fashion store doing retail and then I started working as a cocktail waitress at a nightclub in downtown Long Beach. While I was doing that, I was like, “Oh my gosh, I actually like this, this is really really cool.” I went to school for bartending because the girl I was working with was like, “Ok, look, you’re making good money as a cocktail waitress, but you’re going to art school and your tuition is how much? Try to bartend.” I started bartending and fell in love with it.
The nightclub I was working at ended up closing so I decided to just get a regular 9-to-5. It was not for me. It was very difficult, very hard, so I’m like, “What can I do where I can just have the best of both worlds, really do what I want to do but still get paid?” Because it’s very hard for artists. Our supplies are ridiculously expensive, so it’s a little bit difficult trying to be successful in art. A lot of people just have it as a side business because it’s hard to make it your primary job. One night I was with one of my friends and my cousin and they were like, “There’s this thing called painting and vino,” and I was like, “Ooo, that sounds really fun!” You go, you sip some wine, and you paint. We went to the painting and vino and it was very boring. I was like, “When I paint, I don’t feel like this!” It’s a whole vibe, it’s kumbaya, it’s a Zen moment. But this was just… even if I watch a Bob Ross episode it’s not like that; that’s like, you want to get a blanket and just cuddle. It just wasn’t what I thought it would be. I was talking to my cousin like, “I think I could probably do something like that and make it a lot better.” And she was like, “I think you probably could because you have the bar experience, you have the drink experience, you can kind of merge the two,” and I was like, “You know what, that’s actually a good idea.”
I started playing around with the thought. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like wine. But I’m a beer girl. I love a good brew, I love a good whiskey, a good cognac, I like drinks. And wine is really good but I was like, “What can I do to up the ante just a little bit?” It’s all wine and not everyone drinks wine. And not everyone drinks beer either, but there are some beers that are sweet, there are ciders… whereas wine is just wine. I’m not knocking wine because I love a good wine. But I was like, “What can I do? What if I do paint and sips but put my own twist to it, I can go to people’s homes and do private events, we can do private bar tending. I can even merge them, like what if a girl wants to have a bachelorette party and do something like that but have the bar set up, too, so the ladies can drink.” I had all these thoughts in my head and I was like, “Screw it, let me just try.” So I got one of my girlfriends who is really really good at marketing… not even marketing but she’s a really good talker. I was telling her, “What can I do to try to start this so people can know?” Because I’m not a pushy person, I’m not a seller, if someone says no, I’m like, “Ok, no problem.” I got a little bit of insight from her; she was telling me, “Why don’t you just go to certain places? Why don’t you reach out to the community first?” And I was like, “That’s actually a good idea.” I started making some calls to some local breweries to say, “Hey, this is what I’m doing.” I was already doing private events just to kind of get a feel of it, and it was great. The private events were turning out wonderful. It was all word of mouth; nobody knew me or what I was doing. She was like, “So that you can get more clientele and more people who know what you’re doing, why don’t you try to reach out to a brewery or something and see if you can do a collab?” I reached out to Trademark Brewing which is off of Long Beach Boulevard and Anaheim. When I reached out to them, they were relatively new. They had kind of just built up. I told them everything I was doing and they were down for it. So we set everything up, we did a raffle deal, we had the music going, the vibing, and it turned out good! People were asking, “When’s your next one? Do you do them at other places?” And just from the questions that I was getting from the painters that were coming out to support us, just from those questions I already knew what I was going to do. We’re going to be Long Beach’s creative event – whatever creative event that you want to have, we want to be that for Long Beach.
I started reaching out to everybody in Long Beach. Every brewery that I could think of that was kind of smaller but still had a good following, and all of them were open to it. We did Long Beach Beer Lab which is off of Willow, closer to the west side. We do them at Ballast Point, which is near Naples. Then we started branching out a little bit: we started with SteelCraft Long Beach which is a small eatery off of Long Beach Boulevard but they have multiple locations. Then we went to Bellflower, then Garden Grove, now we’re in Costa Mesa.
That’s kind of how it started. I wanted to be able to be in a space where people would actually have fun with it. There’s no pressure to feel like you have to be an artist, just have fun, have a drink. And we even have guys who sign up, probably because we’re at a brewery. But most of the paint nights that I’ve gone to, it’s mostly women. They get their girls together, they have a girls night. But we have guys who sign up, bring their girlfriends, bring their wives, bring the fam. Because most of these breweries are family-friendly. And I have a child, so I always try to make sure that whatever I’m doing is something that other kids can be a part of, too.
I was able to meet some really great people. Now, I’m partnered with the city. I do art with the Arts Council of Long Beach. There’s some artwork around the city that I’ve done and some community events that I’ve been able to be a part of. Doors are opening. And it’s even making me second-guess because when I started doing this, I wanted to do it so that I could get myself a studio, have a place where people could come, which I still want to do. But I actually like being able to go to these different places and meet different people and I like the mobile aspect of it. That’s what it is: Mobile crafts and drinks. Of course, it would be nice to have a set place, but I like being able to go around and be in different places and meet different people. In a nutshell, that’s how the whole paint and crafts and drinks and mobile service started: a boring paint-n-sip!
I’m not going to lie to you, I’m going to be 100% candid – going into this field, especially when you’re working with breweries… a lot of breweries are predominantly white males. So even when I’ve met with some people, I go in nervous. Because I have a lot of stuff on the website and I have a lot of stuff on the Instagram, but it’s like I’m this little Black girl who walks in, like, “Ok, are they going to take me seriously?” Now I’m ok because I’ve been doing it for some years. Professionally, I’ve been doing it for about five years. But in the beginning, I was very very… I wouldn’t say self-conscious because I know my talent and my craft and I’m very confident in it, but just walking into someone else’s world and trying to present my bit, like, “We can work together and it could be a beautiful marriage of business.” At first I was like, “What are they going to think?” But they were so open to it because it’s something very different.
When I sit down with each brewery I kind of let them know, this is a partnership, I don’t even really see it as I’m bringing people for you and you’re bringing people for me, it’s just like we’re co-hosting this cool event and we’re scratching each other’s backs. They don’t charge me to come use their facility and I don’t charge them. We put everything in the cost of the ticket price: the cost of the beer is in the ticket price, we put the price of the supplies in the ticket price, and now that we’re going to be doing stuff for youth, we have a portion for them. We’re taking home, but at the end of the day we’re just making sure that everybody eats.
It’s interesting because you get two totally different clients that meet because of two different things: all of my artsy friends that come, and my clients that maybe are not artsy but they just like to have a good beer and have some good conversation and have it not be so serious, because of course when you’re painting it can be intimidating. Art is this thing where it’s fluid, but then again it’s not – people are very judgy about it, too. That’s why I think being out, having a beer… most of these breweries are beautiful and most of them are intimate, so it’s a laid-back atmosphere, music, chatter, and then, “Ok, I’m going to put a little therapy in it, too, with the art.” It really is an evening of vibes. That’s why I have “Vibe, sip, create” because that’s all it is. It’s fun and I hope that I’m able to continue to grow with it because I love to go out and represent: represent as an artist, represent as a woman… I feel like women are the master creators. We have to physically create people to do these amazing things, we have to create opportunities for ourselves because no one else is going to create them for us. So I’m here to represent for that.
We’re in California, so a lot of the paintings are scenes of beaches… I’ve noticed from the past when I have events where I’ve presented a scenery – usually ocean, mountain, trees, something of that sort – we get more people that come. I think it’s because we get people that are like, “I can’t draw,” so when they see something like that, they’re like, “Oh ok, that’s kind of easy, I think I can do that.” I state that on all of the events: this is not a fine arts course. This is a social event for you to come out and have fun. That’s all that it is. When we go to Ballast Point, it’s an ocean scene more than half the time because where we’re positioned, we’re facing the Pacific Ocean, it’s beautiful, so why not paint something similar to that? When we go to Long Beach Beer Lab which is a lot more intimate, it’s mostly night scenes, so night sky with a tree, or something that has a tree.
We come in, we set up, we have these table easels. Some of the paintings that we have might be a little tricky so we’ll have a stencil; like if there’s a big moon, some people can’t really do a perfect circle so we’ll have the stencil. When we set up for the event, we get there a little bit early just in case we have people that want to join. Traffic in California – anytime the 405 is involved we make sure we have enough time to do what we need to do! We do raffles, give away free stuff, tickets, it just depends.
It’s original stuff and the only time it’s not original is if I’m at a public event or a private event and they’re like, “Hey, I want to paint this,” and they send me someone else’s artwork. I’ll contact them and let them know that I’m going to tweak it. We don’t want to take anybody’s artwork, I’d probably be upset if I saw someone using my artwork. I don’t mind you using it but at the end of the day, ask. I don’t want to be that person, I don’t want to steal anyone’s art. And a lot of paint nights do, they reuse and do things like that, and I feel like that’s ok if you tweak it, just change it a little bit, or just ask… “Hey, that’s a really cool piece of art, can I use that, or can I use the concept?” So the majority of the artwork we use is original unless the customer asks for something.
For Mother’s Day we made dream catchers – they’re a hit with young girls and mothers, they love them. We’ve done succulents. The succulents were a hit for maybe a year or so. We did beer mugs where we painted beer mugs for Father’s Day, which was really cool. Most of the people that were there, it was the moms bringing the kids and then they would present it to the dad later. Some of them brought the dads so they could paint with him. The first time that we did it, we did it with brushes and paints, which… it wasn’t bad, if you were an artist. But for the people who were not an artist, it was a mess, so I was like, ok what can we do for the next one. So we bought acrylic paint markers, and then we had a small tub of Mod Podge to paint over it and we just told them, “Don’t put it in the dishwasher, don’t scrub it.” So we’ve done stuff like that. Those are mostly the crafts and then we have some paintings where we put charms or flowers – we did a Frida Kahlo painting one time and we added flowers for the hair.
Going back to the first paint and sip that I went to when I was there as a painter, just to have fun, the instructor was instructing for an artist. An artist will catch up on that verbiage immediately, but someone who’s never picked up a paint brush in their life, they don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s why I was like, “Ok, how can I do this?” So from beginning to end, I’m not even at my easel half the time. I’m walking through, I’m like, “Hey, do you mind, let me show you…” it’s little pointers, little tips. Most of the events are like an hour and a half to two hours, and we’re able to get it done in that time. That’s another reason why I do the sceneries, too, because they’re easier to finish. It’s a true instructing; I am teaching as well. But it doesn’t feel like that; even when we do private events, people’s families, laughing, chatter, it doesn’t feel like work.
I have a team. As far as the art, I am the only painter. But I have an amazing team. My fiancé comes to my events to help, my younger brother, my cousin who’s basically like my sister, my mom will come… so we all work together. I have another friend, too, who’s kind of like my manager at this point. They’ve been with me from the beginning so if people are asking questions or need paints, they know how to navigate them in the right direction if I’m still up here painting or with another person trying to help them.
Coupes + Pigment is about five years old, it’ll be six this year. You have to have the mindset of wanting to succeed. It’s different to be a creative and be extremely talented, but if you don’t have the drive to want to succeed, you won’t. It sounds crazy when you say it, but you have to want. You have to be a little selfish, not in the negative connotation of it, but you have to want for yourself. If you have that drive and that business mindset where you’re like, “If I do X, Y, Z, it’ll get me here,” then you can take whatever talent you may have, it may be to thumb wrestle, and you can be successful. Am I where I want to be? Probably not. But I feel I’m where I need to be in order to get to where I want to be. You have to be ok with stepping outside of your comfort a little bit in order to get to where you want to be and get what you want. It is about growth because I’m not the type of person to boast, I’m not the type of person to be, “Look what I did, look what I can do, look what I can give you,” that is not me in any way. The only way that I can ever present it so that I don’t feel like it’s coming off as cocky is, “This is what we can do for each other, it’s a shared thing.” Even though it is hard to boast yourself, you kind of have to have that in you. You have to feel like, “No, I’m the shit, I know that I can do this.” With me, I believe in myself wholeheartedly but just because someone else doesn’t believe in me, it’s not going to change my belief. Only, in business, if they don’t believe in you, you have to make them. It’s a thin line.
From working with the Arts Council, I’ve done a lot of community events where we go out and we literally just pitch a big tent, have a bunch of art supplies out, and the kids will come and paint or color for free. I’m really trying to start up where I can get some of the inner city youth – and when I say youth I mean middle school and high schoolers because it seems like they’ve taken almost everything creative out of schools. They’re bringing it back, which is a good thing, they’re bringing music back. But as far as music and art, they’re ripping it from the schools and I feel like these children, these young adults, they really don’t have an outlet right now. Being a teenager is already kind of difficult because it’s like, “I’m a kid, but I’m not a kid, but I’m not an adult, but you treat me like an adult…” It’s just so confusing for them. Being in this tech world, oh my gosh, these poor kids. Everything that they see is not even real and they don’t understand that. I feel like that is a lot of the reason why they’re depressed, they are committing suicide, they are self-harming… it’s because they don’t have an outlet. I feel like they need some sort of outlet. So for each ticket that we sell, we take a bit of those proceeds to buy art supplies so that we can teach them art. Art lessons are very expensive. I’ve been looking into it because I want to start doing art lessons and they’re very expensive. Even if you’re teaching art to children, those sessions are not cheap. Parents can’t – especially if you live in the city and your child is going to public school and you’re already working… living in California you’ve got to have at least two jobs. I want to be able to teach art to kids, focusing on inner city schools. That way they have a safe space and they have a place to put their thoughts, whether it’s on the canvas, whether they just want to draw… whatever. Just so they have some sort of creative outlet. That is my next move.
I do feel that that’s something in the very near future, and I’m saying no more than a year. My goal is to make it be known that this is what I’m doing and see how many people I can get to support it. And by support it, I mean just buy a ticket to a paint night because that alone will be able to give me the funds that I need for the kids. Then, once I have that together, I’ll try to use the connections and the family that I have with the Arts Council so that they can let the city know, “Hey, this is what they’re doing, they’re doing things for the children in Long Beach.” As long as they’re in school, if they would like to learn art, then they can.
For me, I’d probably be a different person if I wasn’t able to go to art class. In high school, my art teacher was dope and pushed me in the direction of going to school for art, because I wasn’t going to go to school for art, I was going to just try to be a normal person and, I don’t know, nursing… or whatever normal people do! But he took us on field trips to Otis (College of Art and Design) and different colleges for the arts. And I’m like, “Oh, I can totally do this.” I feel like he was really the one – Mr. Headley. I went to Long Beach Jordan and I swear that if it wasn’t for that art class, I never would have gone to school for art, never. I probably would have just gone to community college and, I don’t know, just tried to figure it out while I was there.
I just want to represent, be a representation for women, for artists, for the mothers, for Black women, for any women of color, background, ethnicity… you can do whatever you’re thinking. If you have the capacity to think it, then you can do it and you don’t have to be held back by standards that society is putting out, you don’t have to be held back by what your family says. “You can do.” That’s my thing. So I’m just out here, doing. I’m kind of in my prime right now, I’m 33, I have my four-year-old, I have my fiancé… I’m not where I want to be, but I know that I’m on the right path to getting there. I’m 100% content and just figuring it out. But in the middle of figuring it out, it’s working for me. If I can do it – I was someone who really just was not sure. Leaving high school, there was a dynamic going on in my life that was unhealthy and I did not know what or how I would make it. And I did. Sometimes the negatives are what push you to become better. I’m proud of what’s going on and I’m proud of the people I have behind me that told me that I can do what I do – they’re a huge help; I don’t do it by myself.