Wicked Art Bar: Paint and Sip parties are all the rage these days, and North Shore artists and business owners are embracing the hot new trend
With a paintbrush in one hand and a glass of red or white in another, people are uniting artistic endeavors with a the pleasure of wine tasting.
Elaine Trepicchio greets two women who burst through the door of Metamorphosis Art & Design in a flurry of wet umbrellas and dripping jackets. It’s unseasonably cool and rainy on this July night, but inside the Andover art studio, it’s warm and bright and feels like a party. Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” thumps from the speakers as more and more women arrive. They shed their coats and slip black aprons over their heads. They pass around Tupperware containers filled with cheese and crackers and strawberries, pour glasses of wine, and pop the cork on a bottle of Champagne. As the minutes edge closer to 7 p.m., the women start to take their seats at long tables topped with blank white canvases. Each of them, whether they’ve been painting for years or haven’t picked up a paintbrush since grade school, will create a masterpiece in just a few hours, using a still life of two sunflowers in a vase as inspiration.
“Have no fear, you’ll be doing this step-by-step with me,” Katie Blue Nagy tells the crowd as she prepares to walk them through the evening’s activity. “No worries” seems to be Nagy’s mantra as she instructs and reassures the painters, teaching them which brushes and paint colors to use as they outline the rough shapes of the flowers and vase.
|Co-owners Elaine Trepicchio, Beth Prawdzik, and Katie Nagy provide a hotbed for creative fun|
“Mine’s already crooked,” one woman laughs to her friend, pointing to her indeed-crooked vase and taking a sip of her wine. But it’s OK. “No worries.” This is an evening for fun.
Metamorphosis Art & Design is one of many North Shore venues offering “paintand- sip” nights that pair wine, cocktails, and snacks with a fun night of step-bystep painting instruction. Nagy, Trepicchio, and Prawdzik, the trio who owns Metamorphosis Art & Design, have been letting painters bring their own bottles of wine to private parties for the past couple of years. But the paint-and-sip trend has really taken off in the past year, with new locations opening all the time. Unlike more formal art classes, which offer serious instruction and are often several weeks long, paint-and-sip parties are one-night-only affairs, during which an artist guides participants through a single painting, teaching them how to paint it brushstroke by brushstroke.
But even beyond the painting itself, the point of these parties is to have fun. Some classes, like the ones at Metamorphosis Art & Design, are BYOB. Others function like traveling art studios, teaming with local restaurants and bars for paint nights. Still others take place at dedicated paintand- sip studios that come complete with a bar and painting supplies.
The Art of Wine in Lowell is situated above Tutto Bene, a wine and cheese shop co-owned by Ellen Andre. She offers small samples of three wines from her shop during each studio session. “We’re introducing them to new wines, and they get that fun experience of trying wines, as well as doing the painting,” Andre says.
No matter where they are held, all paint-and-sip events have the same goal: Give folks an entertaining night out that’s different from dinner and a movie. And, as an added bonus, they get to take home a piece of art that they painted themselves.
“It’s just so much fun!” says Theresa Gritti, a retired art teacher who owns Paint Drink Create—a traveling studio that runs paint-and-sip classes at venues like The Ship Restaurant in Lynnfield. After retiring, she missed teaching, so when she heard about the paint-and-sip trend, she knew a business of her own would be a good fit. Plus, she says, “I’m a ham.” Gritti says she loves seeing people come in with groups of friends (paint-and-sip nights are popular with bachelorette parties) to get a bite to eat and a cocktail before they get down to the business of painting.
And even the people who claim they can’t paint so much as a stick figure are shocked at the quality of their work.
“When they’re done, they have this selfmade masterpiece,” says Renee Gannon, co-owner of Wicked Art Bar in Beverly. “A lot of them are flabbergasted at what they’re able to create.”
It all comes down to the instruction, which is led by experienced local artists who paint along with the classes, starting with a blank canvas and gradually completing small sections of the image so painters can mimic what they do and how they do it. Even though everyone’s following the same instructions, each painter’s picture is slightly different from the next; one might add three flowers to a vase instead of two; one painter’s road might arc gently over a hill while another’s zigzags.
Wine, cocktails, snacks, and music are certainly a social lubricant that loosens people up—and maybe boosts their confidence—as they prepare to paint their masterworks. “It’s kind of intimidating to look at a blank canvas,” says Shawna Kelley, owner of The Paint & Wine Lounge based in Methuen. “Having a glass of wine apparently helps that.”
However, the wine often becomes an afterthought as the painters become more engrossed in what they’re working on. “People arrive here and get more involved than they think they’re going to,” says Prawdzik.
Although fun is the primary outcome at paint-and-sip parties, spending the night painting sometimes sparks a love of art that people hadn’t realized they had. Jennifer Clement, who owns The Artist Bar and travels to venues like Seaglass Resaturant & Lounge in Salisbury and Christopher’s Table in Ipswich for her paint-and-sip classes, says she aims to make art accessible for everyone, even those who’ve never picked up a paintbrush before. And she wants to light the fire of creativity in everyone, too. “I’m creating artists,” she says. “I’m using this paint-and-sip [idea] to do it.”
Clement also says that paint-andsip classes can start people on the path to creating and loving more serious art; she describes one 80-year-old man who was inspired to buy an easel and begin painting at home after one of her paint-and-sip classes. All of the artists and entrepreneurs who run paint-andsip classes say the same thing about the act of painting: It’s relaxing and almost meditative to take a few hours and do nothing but fill a blank canvas with color and lines and shapes.
“When you paint for two hours, you’re not thinking about anything else,” says Erika Sandstrom, owner and founder of The Painter’s Pub, which travels to venues like Joe’s American Bar & Grill, Burtons Grill at the Northshore Mall, and Capt’s Waterfront in Salem. “You’re so focused.” She also says that people are sometimes surprised to discover personal things about themselves when they paint. In fact, painting can even be a form of therapy for some people, says Sandstrom. It can boost their self-esteem while they create something beautiful. “I’ve had tears in my classes,” she says. “[They] mostly [come from] people finding out that they can do things they thought they couldn’t.”
HOW IT WORKS
Whether you choose a traveling paint-and-sip event that’s hosted at a restaurant or one located in a permanent studio space, they all operate basically the same way. Classes are typically 2.5 hours long, and an instructor guides participants through an acrylic-on-canvas painting from start to finish. Classes typically cost between $35 and $45 and include all art materials; prices dont usually include the cost of drinks or food (wine samples are included in the fee at The Art of Wine in Lowell). Participants can also choose which painting they’d like to paint by visiting the businesses’ websites and looking at their calendar pages; upcoming paintings (and locations, if the studio travels) will be pictured on the calendar. And for men who want to experience the paint-and-sip phenomenon, many venues offer Fenway Park and other Boston sports-themed paintings.
Metamorphosis Art & Design
Andover, 10 Essex St., 978-470-4900 metamorphosisartanddesign.com
The Artist Bar
The Painter’s Pub
Paint Drink Create
Wicked Art Bar
95 Rantoul St., Beverly, 978-998-4221, wickedartbar.com
The Art of Wine
58 Prescott St., Lowell, 978-459-9463, tuttobenecellars.com
The Paint & Wine Lounge
Methuen/traveling, (978) 701-1277, paintandwinelounge.com