Learn how to paint over dinner with Design and Dine in Abu Dhabi

The idea was created by a 29-year-old freelance artist from Belfast who upon moving to Abu Dhabi realised there weren't enough social events where people could meet over art.

Artist Gemma Gallagher conducts Design and Dine’s painting classes in Abu Dhabi. Photo by Frazer Skinner
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Have you always wanted to learn how to paint but have been put off by the idea of formal art classes, or never managed to find the time? There is now a solution to your dilemma.

Design and Dine offers a new concept at which you can pick up the essential skills you need to begin to master the paintbrush and canvas, enjoy a meal and make new friends, all at the same time.

Who is behind this idea?

Gemma Gallagher, a 29-year-old freelance artist from Belfast moved to Abu Dhabi in August 2014 and dipped her toes into the art scene, exhibiting in a few group shows.

Upon realising that there were not enough social events where people could meet over art, she came up with the idea of Design and Dine, at which she teaches people to paint over dinner.

How does it work?

After you book your place at the event, you will arrive to be greeted with a complimentary drink and be introduced to the other guests.

Then Gallagher will spend the first hour leading a painting class, for which she provides all the equipment – brushes, paints and a canvas.

Following her instructions, you will paint a background for your image and blend several colours to get the right shades. While this dries, it is time to take a break and tuck into the spread – sandwiches, burgers, finger food and a selection of desserts.

You can take your plate back to your table and continue painting, or socialise. Once the eating is done, the second half of the class begins.

What will I paint?

Gallagher chooses an image that is not too challenging but just difficult enough to complete in a couple of hours, while picking up basic skills. For the first event, participants painted a sunset, learning how to blend yellows, oranges and reds to create the right balance.

For the second event, the artists will create an image of a tree, which participants can paint realistically or in a more expressive and abstract way.

Gemma says

“When I came over here I realised that there was an opening for people to meet each other through art, so I came up with this idea,” says Gallagher. “It is a sociable and fun event and is open to anyone who wants to give painting a try or even those with a bit more experience who want to brush up on their skills.

“It is not an intense workshop, I want people to learn but also to meet new people and that is why I encourage my guests to sit at a group table. So far, we have had great feedback.”

Design and Dine’s second event is Thursday, March 3, from 7pm to 9.30pm at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Hamdan St, Abu Dhabi. From Dh280 per person for equipment, dinner and soft drinks.