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Paint and Sip Nights Foster Creative Experimentation

By Cindy Atoji Keene

Dabbling in painting can be fun and even therapeutic – but very intimidating for a novice, said artist Karin Samatis, a longtime commercial artist and an instructor at paint and sip nights at Pinot’s Palette in Lexington. That’s why the trend in “social painting” – instructional get-togethers that revolve around wine and art – encourage creativity to flow while imbibing in cocktails. “There’s a hidden artist in all of us, but sometimes we need a little encouragement to unleash our imagination,” said Samatis, who leads two to three hour painting sessions that result in a finished acrylic painting – regardless of artistic ability.

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Q: Are these painting parties the latest spin on the paint-by-numbers craze in the ‘50s and the popular public television show, Joy of Painting with host Bob Ross in the ’80s?
A: I do think it’s extension of these, especially the Bob Ross approach. This was something my mother-in-law did back then, and we would laugh at this stuff, but he made art very approachable. It’s teaching art by example, using a step-by-step process, using a limited palette of paints. We do the same thing at Pinot’s Palette.

Q: What can participants expect at the studio?
A: There’s a featured painting at the front of the room that everyone tries to emulate, usually a landscape, still life or abstract painting that I’ve already completed. Each person has their own workstation and is provided with two or three brushes, dabs of acrylic paint, and a blank canvas. I show them how to use simple strokes to create each part of the painting. A cloud, for example, is just a series of circles. As you add more and more layers, the shapes and strokes turn into a complete picture. I’ll walk around and help as needed, making the process easy and fun. And since it’s BYOB (Bring Your Own Beverage), the wine or beer can help ease any nervousness.

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Q: When did you first hear about the paint and sip industry?

A: There was a lot of buzz among artists about this latest development in the art world. At the time I was teaching illustration courses at several schools and so my experience fit perfectly. There were a lot of applicants for the instructor position at Pinot’s Palette, but they narrowed it down to about 20 of us, and then tested us not only on our art ability but also on our stage presence. Working here is not every artist’s cup of tea, because these events are not just about painting but also entertainment – you need to be personable and outgoing.

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Q: What’s the average art ability of a guest?

A: Many haven’t done any art since elementary school. But they surprise themselves with what they’re capable of doing. They want to paint something they’re proud of, whether it’s a house on a hill, a beautiful poppy, or a beach with waves. It’s not about talent but technique. I map out the painting in sections and teach them simple basic stuff like adding water to the paint brush. I’ll share tips I’ve learned over the years as an artist, like to draw a straight line, use your other paint brush as a ruler.

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Q: How does the wine help loosen inhibitions?

A: We turn on the music, and let things flow. The wine pays off later in the class when someone’s having a hard time. They might loosen up and the drinking makes it easier for them to take directions – they’re not so self-conscious or thinking they’re doing something wrong. Or maybe it’s just because they just had three glasses of wine and the painting just looks better now – even if it’s not.

Q: Pinot’s Palette has an archive of art that all the instructors can contribute to as well as draw upon. Have you contributed to this master library?

A: If an instructor such as myself develops a painting, we can submit it and it goes into a master library that others can choose from. If another location uses one of my paintings, I get a residual for it. Each painting also comes with instructions that another other artist can follow. I have developed a lot of paintings with local flavor, like a Boston skyline, Cape Cod beach scene, and New England lighthouse.

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Q: What particular artists are easier to paint – is Monet easier than Picasso, for example?

A: Anything Impressionist is easier to teach; the results across the board are pretty good and people are happy. I’ve taught Van Gogh’s Starry Night about three times now. With Van Gogh, the brush strokes are small, so if you make mistakes, you can’t see them. Also popular are Picasso sunflowers.

Q: Are you proof that starving artist doesn’t have to be a truism?
A: Yes, my parents theory was, ‘Oh, she can go to art school but then she can marry a nice guy who will support her.’ That actually didn’t happen – i worked my whole life. I knew my destiny was in the art field at a young age. I walked out of college into an ad agency, where I worked for 30 years. Nowadays, I run into some people who say to me, ‘You need to convince my so or daughter not to be an artist.’ I say to them, ‘I can’t do that. If that is their passion, let them find their own way.’

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