Capturing the essence of an image by applying paint to canvas often requires a stroke of divine inspiration – like a glass of pinot grigio, or two. Or three. Did someone say four?
Various cheeses help, too. Sliced Swiss, Muenster, sharp cheddar. Bunches of grapes. A blueberry pie. Katy Perry and Robin Thicke playing in the background. Nothing too excessive. Just the essentials any artist needs to bring a new work into the world.
Woodcliff Lake resident Nicollete Cothron exhibits model form in this Thursday night art class at Pinot’s Palette in downtown Ridgewood, one of many such venues in a growing trend that combines the discipline of an art class with the whimsy of happy hour. Her right hand never lets go of her paintbrush, while her left hand never lets go of her wine. "And I never stop talking, either," she says, flanked by friends all in this together.
As she interchangeably sips and slathers, she follows along with the instructor and makes the beginning midnight-blue background sky that forms the foundation for Vincent Van Gogh’s classic painting "Starry Night." Assistant instructors patrol the aisles of 50 students this particular sold-out Thursday night, reassuring those who are afraid they have messed up or are using the wrong color.
Jessica Day of New Milford, tonight’s instructor, stands at the head of the large, bright, high-ceilinged studio and demonstrates each step as she explains it. "You want to leave a little space around your moon, to put in your little dashes," she says, slowly and patiently, almost like a kindergarten teacher speaking to children.
Everyone is guaranteed to leave with a fully finished piece of art – though some fare a little better than others, in terms of replicating that night’s painting.
"Sometimes, something goes terribly wrong – and it becomes more like a Jackson Pollack," jokes Chris Harvey, who along with his wife, Emma, opened this location in the Pinot’s Palette chain in November. With more than 100 locations across 31 states and Canada, Texas-based Pinot’s Palette is one of the world’s fastest growing so-called "paint and sip" franchises, according to its president, Charles Willis. But it is one of just many such chains, individually operated studios or traveling art classes given at established bars on certain nights.
Everything from Art Uncork’d, to Paint in the Hut, to Paint Night, to ArteVino dot the proverbial landscape like paint dabs in a Monet, every place from Wood-Ridge to Whippany to Hoboken to Montclair, Maryland, Tennessee and beyond.
They supply the paints, the brushes, the easels, the instructors, the aprons and utensils, the music and the ambience. And you bring your own booze, food and, if you want, friends. Prices range, at Pinot’s Palette, for example, from $35 for a two-hour class to $45 for a three-hour class, per painter. The model paintings are generally classics, but some studios use original artwork created by any given instructor on their particular night of teaching.
What brought Ramsey resident Pam Fishman there this recent Thursday night? "It’s moms’ night out – hockey season is officially over!" she said, with a laugh. "I think it’s great. It’s fun to be with your friends, painting, drinking, eating – and being out of the house."
Despite all the imbibing, rest assured it’s a controlled chaos both on and off canvas, instructors say. Nobody ever gets too sloppy. Silly, maybe. But not sloppy. No paint fights, so far. Or food fights, for that matter. And no heckling the instructors, either.
"This is the kind of thing where you can be creative and challenge yourself, and walk away with something besides a hangover," said Maggie Allen, chief artist at ArteVino studio in Hoboken, which opened about two years ago and launched another studio in Cranford six months ago.
"Basically, it’s for beginners – people who have never painted before, don’t have the time to paint at home, they come in and there’s an instructor who does a step-by-step breakdown of the painting. We have a lot of fun. A lot of people come for birthday parties, bachelorette parties. And at the end of the night, you have your own masterpiece," Allen says.
Artist Jenna Park manages an art framing store in Whippany every day – but at night, it is the venue for Art Uncork’d. "We’ve been doing these classes for about three years now. It’s gained lot of popularity in that time, and has really taken off over the past year," she said. "There’s no pressure. People can just come in, have fun and paint. It’s nice for couples. People come in groups, but they end up talking outside of those groups. It’s very communal." Park adds that she also books quite a few corporate events, as the classes promote employee bonding.
Back at Pinot’s Palette that recent Thursday night, Day does a walk-around through the rows and rows of easels, canvases and artists – almost all of them women — and offers a reassuring shot in the arm. "They’re coming alonnnnnnnng, everybody. They’re coming alonnnnng. Awwwwesome!"
As Cothron’s canvas gradually began looking fuller and fuller, her wineglass began looking emptier and emptier. It was time for a refill. She said this was her second outing, painting and sipping. She’s getting the hang of it.
"It’s a stress-free activity. It’s something different to do. It’s social, it’s creative," she says.
"And you get to drink wine."
By JOHN PETRICK, 2 April 2015
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