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Creative Outlets: Painting & Booze

In the past couple of years, the booze and paint night scene has exploded. It's a night of painting at a studio or local bar. An artist guides you through painting a picture while you imbibe a multitude of beverages from the bar, or in the case of the studio, the bottles you brought. 

When I first moved to the Chicago area, I searched for one, but couldn't find an event like that anywhere. Fast forward a few years and every LivingSocial, Groupon, or Amazon Local e-mail includes at least one deal for a paint night. Some are national and some are local. There is Colors & Bottles, Vino van Gogh, Paint Nite, Wet Paint Chicago, VIP, Sip & Splash, and Both Sides, just to name a few. They have them in well-known area bars with full service or in loft studios with a built-in bar for your BYOB selections. I even attended one at the Green Door Tavern that was held in the former Speakeasy downstairs (and had this delicious IPA).

These are the five points I consider for my social painting experience.

Finding a class with a good instruction is important to me. I have no art background. I'm not looking to be an art master, but I want to walk away with some sort of learning experience. The best instructors teach you basic principles, complete the painting in clear phases, and walk around to see how you are doing and answer questions. Explaining the phases and technique cuts down on frustration and makes it easier to understand that the blob of paint on the canvas will eventually look just fine once you're done and once the paint dries. Good instructors have a good gauge on the progress of the students and adjust the speed of the class as necessary. Many of the artists teach through multiple companies too, so if you find one that you like, see if they are teaching another session at a different location.

BYOB or Good Bars
When picking a spot for your social painting, check to see if you can bring your own booze or have to buy at the bar. If you can't bring your own, check out the website for the bar. See if they serve your beverage of choice and if the prices are reasonable. If they serve lagers and you like ales, or if the prices might clear out your wallet, you might want to pick a different locale.

You should pick a painting that lends itself to a little variety. Maybe you can pick different colors options. Maybe you have options on shape or number. If you're attending as a couple, you'll be taking two home. If you have specific decor, you might want to match it. A picture with options is also more forgiving if you should have an oops moment with the fast-drying paint. They are starting to do ones that pair up like a wine bottle and wine glass or two halves to a flower. Just make sure that it's simple enough that you and your partner's paintings can easily match up. If one of you is more Picasso and one is more da Vinci, you might have an issue.

When signing up for a class, pick a simple painting. Pick one with a simple background with a basic focus. Let's face it, you're going to paint and drink. You aren't a schooled artist. You don't want to get frustrated trying to paint a complex form in a two-hour class and neglect the fun and social aspects of your night out. Chances are the teacher will simplify the more complex painting to fit within the time frame and amateur skill level of the class. You don't want to end up disappointed with your painting because it doesn't look like the one on the website, that is for any reason other than your lack of artistic skill.

Class Size
The best class size depends on the location and the number of staff. Classes with fewer than 10 students provide more of an opportunity for personal attention. I don't mind larger classes as long as I have enough elbow room and there are other staff helping out (handing out extra materials and answering questions).

Companies and studios offering social painting can vary quite a bit. Based on the location, painting, and instructor, you can have a totally different experience even with the same company. There is no way of knowing until you try it out. Ultimately, enjoy yourself, relax, and get creative.


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