CADILLAC — They’ve been making art together since high school, now they earn a living making it.
Husband and wife team Kyle and Courtney Harmon are the owners of The Barn Social, an art retail shop on Mitchell Street, which hosts their products as well as those from other area artists.
The couple, originally of Manton, opened the shop in April 2016 after their products began to take off.
Some pieces have attracted national attention, appearing on commercials and HBO.
And now the couple is bringing their artistic talents to Cadillac residents.
For the last year, the Harmons have hosted the Paint Social, a painting class, which has gained in popularity, attracting over 800 students.
Classes are held weekly, but with the rising popularity of the painting classes, the Harmons have been holding multiple sessions per week. Participants register online at The Barn Social’s Facebook page, and pay $39 for materials.
The Harmons said to follow the store on Facebook to stay up to date on future paint classes.
Painting classes have become a popular activity in larger metropolitan areas like Detroit and Grand Rapids, but one of the problems with painting classes is it’s difficult to pick up, Kyle said.
“It’s really hard to tell people to come in and sit down and draw a painting out and make a painting in two hours, three hours tops,” he said. “Even if you’re a seasoned artist, trying to sit down and do a painting in that amount of time is a time crunch. Then you feel stressed and pressured, and it’s kind of hard.”
So the Harmons took advantage of a classical printmaking method called screen-printing.
Screen-printing is a different process from other painting classes. Kyle explained how conventional painting classes often require students to come in and follow an instructor, drawing the images out as they go before brushwork can begin.
But in silk-screening, a base surface where the picture will be painted is placed under a wooden frame with an image drawn into a screen. The screen gets a photosensitive emulsion applied to it, which is exposed like a photograph. From there, students use a squeegee to impress the image with acrylic ink on the base and a copy of the image is transferred.
“Basically it’s a fancy word for a giant stencil,” Kyle said.
From there students then get to painting.
“So it’s more brushwork technique rather than the skill of drawing, so each person leaves with a wonderful painting.”
The Harmons work as a team, with Kyle demonstrating the screen-printing process while Courtney instructs the painting.
The paintings follow a theme, and for the holiday season, the theme has been Vintage Christmas, which over the weeks have depicted reindeer, churches and old vehicles carrying presents, Christmas trees and other classic holiday iconography.
The Harmons alternate between whose design is being painted, and over the year they have fine-tuned which designs people have liked best.
“It’s been nice to tailor it towards something people would want to put up in their homes because that’s what they leave with,” Kyle said.
Kyle also instructs students individually. He assures that of the over 800 students that have passed through the class there has been a 99 percent success rate.
Teaching painting to students is not unfamiliar to Kyle, who attended Kendall College of Art and Design for art education when Courtney opened The Barn Social and began selling their products.
“It was a 180. I was expecting to be a college professor ... and then things changed. We got to make art professionally and now I’m back here doing exactly what I wanted to do in the first place. I didn’t see it coming,” he said.