A year ago I started up a group called Dine & Draw CLT. I'd been trying (and failing) to get back into drawing since 2013. I'd recently moved back to Charlotte and was missing the amazing network of people I’d built up while living in the Triangle. I’d also noticed Charlotte was severely lacking in design events – particularly free ones – to help keep me inspired and motivated.
So after about 9 months in the Queen City I decided to start my own event. I’d create my own group of like-minded folks to help keep me accountable. I’d start my own event to help keep me motivated and get me back to drawing on paper.
My dear pal, Lenny Terenzi, had started a group called Dine & Draw in the Raleigh area a few months before I’d moved. The group met once a month, usually at a local bbq joint, to sketch and mingle for a few hours. I was HOOKED. It was so nice to have scheduled time to put pencil to paper, and learn tricks and skills from others. With a slew of new restaurants and breweries I wanted to try in Charlotte, I knew this group needed to be in my city. And Dine & Draw CLT was born!
In the past year, this group has completely blown all of my expectations in the best way possible. We’ve gone from a ~15 person crew made of mostly my friends and family, to meetups with 40+ folks comprised of mostly strangers. I also assumed when I started this group it would be mostly other designers. Folks that wanted to get back to drawing on paper and spend less time on the screen. The second fragment of that is still true, but we’ve only had maybe 5 designers total attend events this year. Instead our group is made up of lawyers, teachers, accountants, servers, marketers, and even a balloon artist. People that wouldn’t be drawing unless they specifically made time for it at home or came out to our events. Pretty damn cool.
While I started this group for mostly selfish reasons (I really just wanted to draw better!), it’s the people that have made this whole thing so enjoyable. Meeting new faces. Catching up and learning new things from the regulars. Seeing folks not be afraid to bring their whole charcoal or watercolor set up to a restaurant and bust out something amazing. Seeing folks who haven’t drawn since elementary school because they are too afraid pick up a pencil and start doodling something. Seeing folks laugh because drawing is freaking fun (thanks 8 minute challenge and post-it goats!).
And the support system! A few months ago a friend and I jokingly posted we were starting an illustration studio to facebook (after creating some really awful sketches at a conference). Three Dine & Draw friends commented “that’s awesome” or “yeah!”. I think they have better confidence than I have in myself at my drawing abilities. It’s one of the reasons I started this group, and I’m so glad I’ve found it. Dine & Draw folks are good people.
So a big thank you to all of the restaurants and breweries who have hosted us this year and not cared when a group of weirdos carrying sketchbooks took over your space. Thank you for happily hosting 20 when I said more than 70 rsvp’d. Thank you for happily serving 50 when I said 20 had rsvp’d (still learning here!): OMB, Bistro La Bon, Pint Central, Triple C Brewing, Vida Cantina, Advent Coworking, Benny Panello's, Free Range Brewing, and Hygge Coworking.
Thank you to all of the featured artists who took time out of their lives to come teach the group something new for nothing but some group love in return: Lenny Terenzi, Sam White, Cece Stronach, and Jeff Burger.
A big thank you to my husband, Eric, who is not the best at drawing but came to every. single. event. this year and helped prove all those folks that say “But, I can’t draw!” wrong.
Finally, thanks to everyone that attended an event in the last year and helped build up this community that wasn't in Charlotte before. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Dine & Draw in the future!
And join us for our one year anniversary meetup this Wednesday, July 20, 2016 at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery at 6:30pm https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dine-draw-clt-one-year-anniversary-tickets-26290713231