“No experience required.” That sentence sits dead center at the top of the Arts n Spirits website, almost as if they knew I would need one last bit of encouragement. I was about to dive head-first into one of the more adventurous experiences of my recent life: a BYOB painting and wine class.
Admittedly, I was probably more nervous than most people would be when faced with a chill night of paint and drink. My experiences with art classes haven’t always been the best. In fact, the last time I picked up a brush was a decade ago—in a college painting class. My professor gave me a generous B- and these parting words: “This just isn’t for you.”
So when I stepped into the Arts n Spirits studio, I brought along emotional baggage and zero ability. But I also brought three other things that ultimately helped the class live up to its motto of “laugh, drink, paint”: two of my best friends and a $5 bottle of wine, complete with twist-off cap for convenience.
Jessica Hess, the studio’s owner, and Christine DiMiceli, the evening’s instructor, greeted me right away. They both told me not to worry about my lack of experience—these classes are basically acrylic painting for beginners—and Christine handed me my brushes. Thankfully, they came with easy-to-remember names like Big Brush and Baby Brush. She then gave me a basic palette and directed me to the paints, which had pump-top dispensers and clear instructions for exactly how much I would need. We’d all be working on the same painting—“Rainy Day”—which depicted silhouetted figures against an abstract, rain-swept background.
I poured a glass of wine and took a stool next to my friends Mike and Anita, the three of us at the end of a long table that held our easels and blank canvases. Christine stepped onto the small stage at the front of the class and began to paint. We all followed along, starting with a simple gray background. I mixed black and white paint directly on the table—the studio had covered the table surfaces in white paper, making things extra easy. Even better, the staff would take care of cleaning everything afterward … except for my jeans.
I used Big Brush to make wide strokes, occasionally dipping its bristles into water. Christine, meanwhile, walked the room and gave advice, which for me was, “Don’t be afraid to use more paint.” The next hour or so passed in a blur of activity as Christine taught us how to paint with acrylics: she showed us how to transform rectangles and teardrops into people, dots and half-circles into umbrellas, and streaks of red, yellow, and blue into a rainy scene. She even painted larger examples on a separate paper, breaking down the painting’s more detailed parts into easy-to-follow steps. The only thing she didn’t teach me to paint was my signature, and I probably made it too big.
Christine’s encouragement kept me from turning into a bundle of nerves, as did having my friends nearby. We laughed and assured one another that our paintings were fine. I wasn’t convinced, but I was thankful that they were the only ones who could see my work—until I heard the words “we’re done,” and it was time to pose for photos.
This was when the drinks helped, though I was too focused during the class to down more than a glass and a half. The “BYOB” in BYOB painting classes seemed more about creating a fun atmosphere, and having a glass of budget wine in hand made me realize no one was really there to judge my work.
At the end, I posed unabashedly with my finished painting. I even plan to hang it in my apartment. Though probably at the end of the hallway, because as my Arts n Spirits instructor taught me, even great art looks better from a few feet away.