By Emily J. Minor
You’ve probably seen the photographs all over social media. Someone you know, maybe only casually, holding a paint brush, smiling, sitting at a long table – saddled up to an easel, a blank canvas, and a $20 bottle of Merlot.
Meet, drink, and paint happy, says the cute stenciled sign on the background wall.
And it’s happening all over South Florida. America, even. And Canada too.
Painting and drinking is big these days. Let them swipe your credit card and, there you are, a bit confused that very first time, about to make something out of nothing. You’re usually allowed to bring whatever food and drink you want. Customers lug in coolers, wine glasses, corkscrews, an orange and a knife for their wheat beers, brie and crackers. Sometimes the pizza delivery man shows up.
And then you sit and paint a picture. Everyone in class does the same one. And every single one turns out different. Way different.
“It’s just something different to do,” says Katie Finch, who with her sister recently opened their second Uptown Art studio in Palm Beach County, this one in Boca Raton.
“It’s not a bar. It’s not a restaurant. And sometimes our customers leave with something they’re very proud of.”
The idea is so simple you’re going to wish you thought of it. Rent some nice, utilitarian space. Funky is better, and you’ll need ample parking. Hire some artsy millennials to stand before the crowd and give step-by-step directions. “Mix two small scoops of the black with one giant scoop of the blue and you’ll get something that looks like this purple I made,” she might say. These shout-outs have to be simple and your millennial must speak clearly into her Madonna headset. And before you’ve knocked back your bottle of $12.99 Prosecco, there you are posing for an Instagram with your girl posse, holding your creation.
The artsy phenom started in 2003 by Birmingham, Ala., artist Wendy LoVoy, who wanted a different way of teaching painting. LoVoy called her studio “Sip n Strokes,” and the idea was so well received that today there are an estimated 200 wine and painting companies in the United States and Canada. Finch and her sister, Kara Burnside, are from Alabama and took LoVoy’s classes. They invested in the Uptown Art franchise with their mother in 2009. Then the sisters, who love Florida, moved to Palm Beach County and opened their first studio in downtown West Palm Beach in 2010. Today, there’s a waiting list for most of their classes.
The Boca Raton studio opened in August, and Finch says they’ll probably offer the same images they offer at their CityPlace location: beach scenes, moody skies, a swing floating from an old oak tree, sea life. The one thing they learned when they came from the Deep South is that most Floridians choose wildlife over religion, at least in painting class. “We learned very quickly that crosses and angels and landscapes weren’t going to work here,” says Finch, who says one of their most popular classes is the sea turtle painting. The sisters – their mother is back in Alabama, running the family’s first studio – have expanded their social role in the area, offering camp classes to kids whose parents might not have the $35 class fee. “We think giving back is very important,” Finch says.
There’s something else you might want to consider when signing up for paint class, and that’s your studio’s name. These days they’re named with grand creativity: Corky Canvas. Paint and Pour. Drink and Dabble. And our personal favorite, Vino Van Gogh.
For more information about Uptown Art specifically, visit uptownart.com, or call 561-218-4557. The Boca Raton studio is located at 6018 SW 18th St., Suite C4-5, Boca Raton, Fl., 33433 in the Shoppes at Village Pointe. Class registrations are taken online.