Collaborative Serendipity: The Story behind Live Painting during #SMMW18 / by Mary Jennings

A confluence of wine, jazz and painting flood Social Media Marketing World 2018.

Okay, maybe this IS a bit dramatic sounding, but it was pretty awesome. Let me tell you all about it.

The Spark
Striking While the Iron Is Hot

During a Facebook live video for Social Media Marketing World Volunteers, Phil Mershon, Director of Events for Social Media Examiner, said (while notifying the Social Media Marketing Volunteers of an informal, but very popular, meet-up at the Grand Hyatt in San Diego the night before the conference), “Natalie, if you bring the wine, I will (for the first time) bring my saxophone and we will do a live wine and jazz tasting.” I heard this and with a combination of feeling perfectly comfortable with the community of volunteers and knowing what value I was capable of adding, I wrote in the comments, “I should come do a live painting session!” This was really a response of gratitude for all the great work everybody puts into making #SMMW18 happen. I wanted to share what I could with these wonderful people. It was my gift to offer. Thankfully, Phil was willing to receive this spark of an idea.  

Phil Mershon on Facebook Live Video

Yes!

When Phil read my comment while on the Facebook live video, without a moments hesitation, he voiced his love of the concept and gave me a serendipitous, Yes! welcoming art into his and Natalie's wine and jazz tasting collaboration.

Phil is an not only an extremely nice man and great leader, but he’s also an accomplished player of the saxophone. He has done events with wine and jazz tasting before and has some recordings and videos on his Facebook Page called Jazz Tasting. In this case, the wine would be provided by Natalie Barnard of Frog's Leap Winery in Napa Valley, California. Now, I know how busy Phil is and could clearly see his expansive to-do list behind him in the live video, so I wanted to not only confirm that I was truly going to be there to paint with him while he was playing the saxophone, but that he would not have an ounce of extra details to manage to make this happen.

Soon after the video, I emailed Phil to detail my end of the commitment and to assure him that I would represent Social Media Examiner well and provide something fun for the attendees of the meet-up without burdening his calendar. We were all set.

On my end, development and research were required for this particular live painting event. I would need to make sure my art supplies were clean and portable in order to easily set up, paint and clean up while over 150 mingled behind me in the Grand Hyatt lobby lounge. Art supplies are typically lightweight and tidy. With only a few weeks until I had to board a plane from Virginia to San Diego, California, I ordered supplies from an online art material supply store. I already had the perfect backpack and easel for the task. Finally, I decided to use a canvas pad, art markers for portability, easy clean up, essentially drip free and fairly fast drying. Not really having tremendous experience using paint filled markers, this wine, jazz and painting was going to be the first time using them. Talk about the heat of pressure!

The Heat
Performance Night Jitters

After a busy day of training in my role as Network Ambassador for Social Media Marketing World 2018, I headed back to my hotel to grab my gear and walk back to the lounge to meet and set up to paint with Phil. When I got there by 7pm, he was by the stage next to the case for his instrument. There were already several speakers and attendees of SMMW18 there that I knew. After I put down my bag of materials, shook off my small dose of nerves, I began to chat it up with some friendly people while waiting for Natalie to arrive with her wine from Frog’s Leap Winery.

The crowds thickened. The set-up began. The people wondered. Excitement was heating up. As Natalie poured, Phil warmed up his instrument and I uncapped my paint markers, stabilized my canvas pad on my easel. People really wanted to know what I was going to paint. My answer to them was, “I am going to paint a response to the taste of the wine and the sound of Phil’s music.” It was a sincere act of collaborative serendipity. Unsettling to some, but I love these interactions of creativity.

 After Phil took his sniff of the wine, he conveyed to me some of the floral notes that he picked up. As he played his saxophone, I used my materials to paint. As I am used to dipping brushes in paint, using the markers were a combination of drawing and painting. I wanted to move quickly to achieve as much expressive qualities to the work, not really sure when Phil was going to stop playing.

After Phil took his sniff of the wine, he conveyed to me some of the floral notes that he picked up. As he played his saxophone, I used my materials to paint. As I am used to dipping brushes in paint, using the markers were a combination of drawing and painting. I wanted to move quickly to achieve as much expressive qualities to the work, not really sure when Phil was going to stop playing.

The Sniff of Wine

Phil and I took in the aromatic notes of the wine with a big sniff. He conveyed to me some of what he was experiencing and I considered as we both began to translate the aroma of the wine into music and art on canvas.

 We both took a taste of the wine and I listened to Phil as he expressed a woodsy like flavor, some smoke and some warmth. Me? I was tasting too, but I was really focused on responding to Phil's interpretation of the wine tasting through his music. The notes from his instrument definitely supported the description he gave me before we started.

We both took a taste of the wine and I listened to Phil as he expressed a woodsy like flavor, some smoke and some warmth. Me? I was tasting too, but I was really focused on responding to Phil's interpretation of the wine tasting through his music. The notes from his instrument definitely supported the description he gave me before we started.

The Taste of Wine

Phil and I then took a test of the wine. Again, he shared with me what he was experiencing with the flavor of the wine.

 Before we began to play and paint, Phil described wine's after impression as being one of dryness or of wind. Being that he's from Kansas, I felt the wind he was describing was more substantial than what I'm familiar with being from Virginia. In this session, I was more warmed up and so was Phil. We were really in sync with our creativity and expression.

Before we began to play and paint, Phil described wine's after impression as being one of dryness or of wind. Being that he's from Kansas, I felt the wind he was describing was more substantial than what I'm familiar with being from Virginia. In this session, I was more warmed up and so was Phil. We were really in sync with our creativity and expression.

The After Impression of Wine

For this last session, Phil and I discussed the after impressions of the wine’s taste. Phil has some really wonderful descriptive terms he used and I incorporated those in an abstract form onto the canvas as he played.

Live painting workspace

This experience was unrehearsed, unscripted and most of all unbelievable. Phil’s music was so expressive that it was truly a pleasure to feed off of his talent. Each part only lasted about five minutes, but were so rich to my soul as an artist. LIVE ART with hundreds of our closest friends and some complete strangers.

After we were finished, gave a fist bump, finished our wine, put our gear away and headed back through the crowds. While we were up there sipping, playing and painting, I had no idea there was another person in the room. It was just me and art. Almost heaven. 

The Fire
Inspiration Taking Hold And Spreading

Day one of Social Media Marketing World 2018 started very early and as I saw Phil in the San Diego Convention Center hallway, we both shared our take aways from the event. We both agreed that it was pretty raw, organic and that we should do this kind of thing again in the future. I’m 100% all in!  

Being that this blog was created a few weeks after SMMW18 ended, a new episode of The Journey was recently released. This is documentation brilliantly produced by Social Media Examiner, detailing  the ups and downs of creating one of the best social media conferences in the world. It’s a great series and helped new attendees get a real behind-the-scenes view of the work of Michael Stelzner (founder, Social Media Examiner) and his awesome staff. In "Training Day: Episode 21" at minute marker 4:25 you will catch a view of the live wine, jazz and painting in action.

Self revealing note about the author of this blog (me):
In order to get beyond my undercurrent of introverted behavior, I know that I need to work events rather than simply attend them. Two examples of that are the two years that I’ve attended SMMW as a volunteer rather than as an all access attendee. The other is my ability to find the only way to work at the social meet-up on Tuesday night. I performed live painting and then went on my way. I get the most out of everything by working my way through it.