Mindzai WagJag dealI’ve always considered myself an artistic person. The problem is, I’m the kind of artistic person who sucks at art.

Stick figures are my specialty. I can also draw ghosts, the kind that look like they’re made of bed sheets. I can do paint-by-numbers, for the most part, but when it comes to creating my own art, my skills are decidedly lacklustre.

Mindzai store Markham

At Mindzai, a cute little shop in Markham, they offer a workshop where you’re given a vinyl figurine and a set of paints, and then left to your own devices. It sounded like fun, but the mediocrity of my art “skills” lodged in my throat like a piece of dry meat. I had grand ideas for my toy, but I knew they would never come to fruition.

Mindzai unpainted toys

For my figurine, I chose a little doggy. There were others — a cat, a cow, a robot, etc. — but I went with the dog because my mother loves dogs, and I had it in my mind that I’d make her a Mother’s Day present. The various figures on display were expertly painted to look like little toy replicas of famous TV, game, and movie characters. There was even a vinyl bear in the Master Chief armor from the Halo games. In honour of my mother’s most recent obsession, my dog was going to become Killian Jones, the Once Upon A Time version of Captain Hook.

Mindzai toy dog in progress

I pulled up a photo of him on my phone and started sketching with a pencil some rough ideas onto my dog. My drawing skills were just as lacking when applied to three-dimensional objects as they are on paper, but when I decided it looked good enough, I loaded my little plastic palette up with paints: parchment-coloured, for most of the fur; bright red, to be darkened into burgundy for his shirt; black for his boots and leather jacket; and bronze for his spots.

Mindzai - painting the toys

The painting was fun. I managed to do a reasonable job keeping the strokes smooth and even, though staying in the lines I’d drawn was a problem. But it was therapeutic. Relaxing. I chatted with my coworkers, who’d joined me on the trip, about the evolution of our figurines as we painted. All three of them finished their toys before I did — a remarkably accurate Minion, an adorable zombie cow and a brightly coloured monster of some kind.

Mindzai finished toys

Killian Bones, as I dubbed him, turned out better than I could have expected, though probably not good enough to gift to my mother. His dog portions look good. His leather jacket looks more like a tuxedo jacket, and his fancy boots look like the bottom half of a wet suit, but he’s cute. Not recognizable at all, though–I completely missed giving him a tiny hook.

Ah well. He might not be good enough for Mom, but he’s definitely good enough to sit on my desk at WagJag HQ. He’ll keep me company while I write up deals and blog posts like this one.

Mindzai Futurama figurines

Mindzai was a great time, even though my artistic side is more ambitious than is warranted. I’m going to be persuading my friends to join me there next time we have a girls’ day. Until then, I’m going to be practicing my painting skills.

Next time, I’m going to paint my dad on a cat.

By Andrea Smith