Sometimes the scene at Deb’s Paint Bar can resemble a cubist version of the “Last Supper.”

Inside the Quincy House master’s residence, a rectangular table is covered with a collage of reproductions of the painting “Head of Seated Woman, 1962,” by Pablo Picasso. More than a dozen students are in a frenzy of creativity to create their own versions of this masterpiece. A selection of top works from past paint bar sessions line the Quincy House lobby. There are student tributes to Van Gogh, Kandinsky, and other masters. Circling the room, House Master Deb Gehrke shows off one student’s work-in-progress above her head.

“You’re really getting it!” she says, before rewarding the students with a series of enigmatic quotes from Picasso:

Action is the foundational key to all success …
Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth …
Bad artists copy. Good artists steal …

Gehrke explains the methodology behind her annual event, which has been running twice each fall for years. “I want them to use the other side of their brains — I’m into slowing Harvard students down — making them see art and have fun,” she said.

Seated beneath a row of historical oil paintings, Nicole Sliva ’12 explains the spirit of the event. “Paint bar was a great opportunity to step away from schoolwork and simply be creative. After the two hours of painting, I found myself incredibly relaxed. It is events like these that make being a Harvard student a unique and amazing experience. I find that the nonacademic activities are just as enriching as the academic ones.”

Channeling Picasso

Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

  • Head of the class

    Head of the class

    Quincy House Co-Master Deborah Gehrke (far left) leads Deb's Paint Bar with a group of students.

  • True colors

    True colors

    Students, equipped with a printout of a Picasso painting, try to imitate the master's style.

  • Artful words

    Artful words

    Nicole Sliva ’12 (from left) and Amy Sun ’12 pause for a moment to consider a word, and a painting, from Gehrke.

  • Blown away

    Blown away

    Jennifer Maggio '12 rushes to dry her work.

  • Painted ladies

    Painted ladies

    Gehrke offers some pointers amid the artfully bedecked walls of the master's residence at Quincy House.

  • Whitewash


    Jennifer Maggio '12 colors an elongated, alabaster neck.

  • Print maker

    Print maker

    Even Gehrke's painterly printed cardigan matches the theme of Deb's Paint Bar.

  • George


    Joseph Gaspard '12 signs his work, and the first president observes!

  • Eclectica


    Amid eclectic collections, Olga Zinoveva '12 shows her work during Deb's Paint Bar.

  • Finished product

    Finished product

    Nina Han '09 shows off her latest work.

  • Shared visions

    Shared visions

    Gehrke stands proud with the students of Deb's Paint Bar.

  • Canvases in hand

    Canvases in hand

    But where will Joseph Gaspard '12 (left) and Olga Zinoveva '12 hang these jewels?