When I got in the car with my friend April Morais, she began talking non-stop about what a great time we would have at Wine and Canvas. This would be April's fifth visit to the art studio/bar combination. "When I leave, I feel giddy, like a little kid! I feel like I did in kindergarten when your teacher let you use finger paints and you created something amazing," April says enthusiastically. "It makes me feel like I just created my first picture all over again."
Wine and Canvas is, basically, a painting class with alcohol. They serve wines, a few different types of mixed drinks and sodas, as well as some snacks. All at reasonable prices, by the way. With no drink minimum, you are welcome to paint even if you aren't thirsty and with costs ranging from $35-$45 for the evening, it is an extremely affordable night out. The cost covers the use of the studio, the 11" x 14" canvas, the paint, the use of the brushes, and instruction by an artist.
When we entered the studio, we were hit by loud music playing and people milling about the room, looking at paintings from previous classes and hitting up the bar in the back. The studio is filled with long tables, stools and easels at every station. There is also a plate with the colors for the night's painting, brushes, paper towels and a glass of water to rinse the brushes off. Aprons are hanging on the walls of either side of the room beneath the big flat screen televisions that show a close-up of the night's artist as they paint and instruct.
The artist for our night was Jennifer Keller, a professional fine artist who likes the idea of Wine and Canvas because it gives the everyday person a chance to dabble in art. "The alcohol," she says, "really loosens people up and helps them relax so they aren't so uptight about painting the picture perfectly." Keller, who is one of ten artists employed with Wine and Canvas, instructs eight to ten nights a month. She designs most of the paintings she instructs, usually adapting a famous painting such as Monet'sWater-Lily Pond to make it her own. She keeps her adaptations at an easily teachable level. "Most people like landscapes, floral or wine themes," adds Keller, "so I try to design paintings around those."
Each Wine and Canvas class lasts between two and a half to three hours, with breaks to let the paint dry. Because of the way the room is set up, you are seated at a long table with people directly across from you and on either side. Perfect potential for making new friends. During our breaks, I was able to chat with some of the people around us. My neighbor to the left, Annie Caruso, and her two friends were also first-timers. The trio thought it would be something different for a girls' night out and were excited and chatty. The classes are usually a good mix of women and men. And, because Wine and Canvas will travel, it makes a great night in, as well. Yes, for a minimum of 15 people, they can even bring the party to your home. You must pay for a minimum of 15 people--this does not mean that 15 people have to be there, of course. They also have the occasional 'Date Night.' People come in pairs and paint individual paintings that go together. For example, a street scene that, when the two paintings are put side by side, matches up and looks like one continuous painting.
The adults aren't the only ones who get to have fun, though. Cookies and Canvas is held on Saturdays for kids. Parents can come and help their child with the kid-centered paintings or just drop off the older ones and let them enjoy themselves for a couple of hours. The children get the same treatment from the artist and are expected to mix their paints and follow along with the instructor to create their very own work of art. "The kids' artwork is the best," Keller confides. "Where we might agonize over perfection, they like purple dogs! A lot of schools are getting rid of art programs and I think having this outlet on a Saturday morning is really important."
Tamara Scott is the owner of Wine and Canvas. Scott and her husband came up with the concept in February 2010 and launched their first class in April 2010 in a restaurant in Carmel. They continued having classes in restaurants until November 2010 when they moved into their first studio. Two years later, they needed a larger studio and moved into their current location. Scott knew that Wine and Canvas would be a great way to infuse art into people's lives because she, like April, remembers what it was like to be a kid. She says, "We all used to paint and color when we were kids. We wanted to reintroduce people into that and give them those same feelings." Obviously, it works. The original, corporate location is in Indianapolis but there are now 22 locations across the country.
"Some people expect to have an outline, at least," Scott explains, "but we have broken the paintings down to where if you have never picked up a paintbrush before, you can do this. We use the paintbrushes and fingers as measuring tools to help you get that coloring book outline and then we teach you how to shade and color it in." Each class takes on a different painting and you can check their calendar to see which picture and which night fits your fancy and your schedule. If you have been to a couple of classes and are looking for something more challenging they can accommodate, but don't expect your painting to look like your neighbor's. "We may be teaching the exact same painting but, just like a signature, it becomes uniquely yours," says Scott.
April has gone out and bought her own paints, brushes and a canvas after her several sessions at Wine and Canvas. "I haven't gotten the nerve up quite yet to do it all alone," she says, "but I will!" Keller and Scott both say that people tell them all the time that they go out and get their own supplies and paint at home after taking a class or two. Scott thinks that after taking the class and seeing that they can do it, people gain confidence in their abilities. They also gain more appreciation for the art around them. "They have painted a picture now and know what it takes. They have a new-found respect for art and creativity."
Although I didn't partake of the Wine that night, I had a great time with the Canvas. My painting of a tree with a heart carved out and the initials of my sweetheart and I is proudly on display in our living room. Next time, I want to bring my six-year-old niece and attend Cookies and Canvas. I can't wait to paint a purple dog.