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Painting party rage puts every dabbler in the picture

Published on

Cathy Dobson

Local artist and entrepreneur Cat Cabajar has discovered Sarnia’s huge enthusiasm for paint parties is taking her company to a whole new level.

Cabajar, 35, is one of very few Sarnia artists making her living solely through her art. This month, she celebrated her fifth anniversary working full time as owner-operator of The Painted Cat (TPC).

Primarily, TPC has concentrated on providing face painting and party services for children.

But this year, Cabajar began capitalizing on the popular paint party trend for adults, which involves groups of wannabe artists spending an evening with food, drink and a paint brush in hand. Cabajar chooses a painting with a simple design and takes the group step-by- step through the creative process.

Participants leave paint parties with painting tips and their own finished version of that night’s project.

Paint parties are generally held in licensed establishments but can also be in private homes. The emphasis is on fun but Cabajar says some of her clients have pursued painting more seriously after attending a paint party.

“I did one party at a private residence and the next day one woman went out, bought paint and an easel and asked for a private lesson.

“She’s been sending the photos of her work to me ever since,” said Cabajar. “I just love that.”

TPC ran its first paint party in April when Elaine Hayter, senior development officer with the local Kidney Foundation office, approached Cabajar about a fundraiser.

“I’d been doing face painting for their walks for years and I said, of course, I’ll do a paint party,” she said.

“So I got a friend to make 50 easels and I bought all the materials – they know me really well at Michaels – and a whole new division of TPC was started.”

That first party attracted well over 30 painters. Soon after, Cabajar teamed up with Zzas Pizza Bistro on Christina Street to hold public parties every Monday night. Anyone can attend after registering on the TPC Paint Party Facebook page.

“At first I thought we’d do one once a month but by the third party at Zzas, it blew up with classes open to the public every week, some of them with 35 people or more.”

Cabajar is currently hosting three to four paint party events a week. Some are open to the public (at $40 per person); some are private parties and some are fundraisers.

When her paint parties started taking off, Cabajar introduced a “Paint It Forward” program where she offers a per-person discount and the host charity sets the ticket price. Some charities are making as much as $25 per person, she said.

Making a living as an artist in Sarnia isn’t common or easy, but Cabajar has been at it since Artwalk 2004. The early years required her to augment her TPC income with other part-time work but that’s not been necessary the past five years. Currently, she employs five contract artists and expects she’ll hire more in the new year.

“It’s a lot of work,” she admits. “But it’s possible. I see a lot of artists and musicians who are part time and I want to tell them that they can make it if they are extremely dedicated and know how to promote themselves.

“You have to make yourself a brand. If you let someone else promote you, they’ll take a piece of your pie.”

The Painted Cat can be reached for paint parties by calling 519-384-5069 or email Cat Cabajar at [email protected]. Visit the TPC Paint Party Facebook page for details. Offices at 140 Christina St. are currently under renovation.


The Arts Journal focuses on the cultural fabric of the Sarnia community. Cathy welcomes your story ideas. Call 226-932-0985 or email [email protected].





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