Get Ready To Party And PaintEveryone and their uncles seem to be talking about “paint and sip” parties. Though my brother inherited all of our dad’s artistic talent, I decided I’d use my February wedding anniversary as an excuse to try my hand at painting in this type of no-pressure, trendy party setting. That’s how hubby and I found ourselves zip-ping out to Ewa for a couple’s painting session with Wine & Canvas, one of several alcohol-plus-art themed parties on the island. Sharing the nervous anticipation is so much better than going it alone, and sharing it I was:
“I must really love you,” he tells me nervously as we enter our destination, The Ville at Ewa Villages golf course.
Lo, the couples’ faces that greet ours share the same mix of “This is exciting, but what have we gotten ourselves into?”
It’s a packed room and I’m reminded that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Most of the guys sitting at their easels look like they just walked out of an MMA ring. They’re bulging with muscles and covered in tattoos, and though we’re about to paint hearts and a romantic sunset, they don’t look like they were dragged here … especially when everyone’s orders of beer and pupu start arriving (the entry fee comes with a coupon toward menu items).
This Hawaii branch of the company is family-run by mom and daughter, Melanie and Katrina Richardson, and Melanie’s partner Joe Suttner.
Katrina is artistic director and she’s the one guiding us along today, though she also has three other paint instructors on staff.
“I’ve been painting my whole life, but I’m not classically trained,” she says. “I taught myself.”
She guides us step-by-step as we dip various-sized brushes into paint, and begin sweeping swaths of color across our canvas. At first, when we’re told to paint bold lines of red in our blue ocean, everyone’s hands seem to freeze.
“It’s OK,” coos Katrina, “there’s no such thing as a mistake. And if you don’t like it, we can fix it.”
She shows us how to blend the color, or if it’s too bold, how to add colors, or paint over whatever it is that we don’t like. The paints are acrylic, so they’re water-based, nontoxic, and easy to get off hands and out of clothes.
Pretty soon, we’re fully absorbed, mixing paint and adding details — making the artistic “look” our own. But the couples thing is tricky because our canvases are side by side, as we’re each working on our own half of a single painting. Our horizon lines need to match up, and though our strokes and style are different, we’re tasked with working as a team, which nearly ended in divorce when we once rented a double canoe, but here … well, maybe the beer helps.
During a break, people go to the restroom or order more food. Katrina has my husband read off the winning numbers of raffle tickets we picked as we walked in. The prize is a bottle of moscato. Meanwhile, it’s fun to walk around the room and see all the major and subtle differences in the other couples’ paintings. Clouds in the skies are wispy or dense, large or small, pinkish or purple or white. Seas are calm or stormy, the paint strokes smooth or textured, with many strokes and many hues mixed in, or very few, and the strokes are bold or timid. By the time we’re done, we’re all holding up something we’re proud of, and I’m also beaming as I hold up my newly won bottle of moscato (oh, yes, a cacophony of insinuating sighs resounded when my husband coincidentally picked my own winning number!). I’ve already begun thinking of what painting I want to do next, and at what restaurant, with what group of friends.
Wine & Canvas travels all over the island, from Kailua to Kapolei, partnering with restaurants and purposely choosing slower nights for that win-win, where the restaurant gets business and there’s plenty of room for the painting party.
“We do Hawaii-themed paintings, but we also like to do everything else: abstracts, florals, sunsets,” says Katrina, noting that the majority of participants are people who haven’t painted since kindergarten. “We do end up with regulars who fall in love with it. I have a lady who comes every month. She calls it her therapy session because it’s relaxing and fun. Once in a while we get people who do know how to paint and they put their own spin on it. We welcome all of them.”
Her goal is to bring the fun to everyone on the island.
“It’s about trying something new — using the right side of the brain, which most of the day we don’t use. We want people to be able to tap into their creative side and have a good time with their friends.”
Between public parties and private ones, they stay busy (check the schedule at wineandcanvas.com/oahu-hi, visit their Facebook page, call 445-2475 or email email@example.com). As a mobile business, they go to people’s houses for birthdays or other family or group gatherings, or to offices for work parties, and they accommodate groups of 15 as readily as groups of 60.
Cookies & Canvas is the keiki version of the program, and they plan to bring their concept to school classrooms. They also contribute their skills and tools to community fundraising programs through their Art From the Heart program.
Similar to Wine & Canvas is studio-based Painting With a Twist, which operates out of Kakaako.
“Painting With a Twist is the original paint-and-sip concept and the largest paint party franchise in the nation,” says Jimmy O’Don-nell, who owns the Hawaii franchise, along with wife Megan and mother-in-law Cynthia Fujieki. “It started in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, as a feel-good concept, to take the mind off the devastation. It started out of a garage and spread to a few places around New Orleans. It got so popular that it just kept going everywhere.”
O’Donnell says he and his wife first stumbled upon the concept on the Mainland. They went for a date night and had so much fun that they felt compelled to share the experience with Hawaii residents.
“It’s the new night out,” he says. “People are looking for something unique and creative to do. At first people can be kind of standoffish, but this isn’t a stuffy art class. It’s fun art, not fine art. We play music. We play games. The alcohol adds to it, but we also have nonalcoholic beverages. If you’re not an artist, you have a glass of wine and you feel a bit better about it.”
I enter the studio, and being solo is more intimidating than my couples experience where we can share laughter at any goof-ups. We play a lighthearted painting game (I won’t give the details away), and the winners of the most true piece and the most unusual piece win some Painting With a Twist swag. The exercise loosens us up, gets us laughing and realizing there’s no hard and fast rules to the way our paint and brush meet canvas.
We’re painting “Purple Willow,” and what a range of willows appear, with their few or many drooping branches and their myriad leaves in myriad hues.
“We have the largest art library in the nation, with almost 5,000 copyrighted paintings,” points out O’Donnel. “When you book a private party, we send you that link and you can go through and find one you like.”
Public classes are posted on the calendar (painting-withatwist.com/honolulu, visit the Facebook page or call 798-9507), and include everything from Chinaman’s Hat and Diamond Head to items of fad popularity like Star Wars and Harry Potter.
Like other paint-andsip businesses, they cater to social gatherings, from company team building, to engagement, bachelorette and bridal parties.
“We’ve even had proposals,” says O’Donnel. “A guy came in and he had us do a painting of the ring. He held it up in front of her — she had no idea. It was really cute.”
Kids are welcome, too, as long as they have the ability to sit through class and participate. Fridays and Saturdays are geared to adults, with a stronger music and drink atmosphere.
The average cost of a paint and sip party at a number of island venues averages at around $45 per person, but call the individual businesses or check on the web for coupons and discounts. Additional paint-and-sip businesses on Oahu, among others, can be browsed online at paintnite.com, createacanvas.net, wineanddesign.com, planitparadise808.com and maitaisandmonet.com.