Paint-and-Sip Parties Going Strong

Art and booze fans can put the two together and create paintings at Paint Nite events or Pinot’s Palette.


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Budding painters find inspiration in their neighbors’ efforts at Pinot’s Palette.

Photos by Chris Duffey

Everyday Alamedans are learning to surpass their artistic expectations, guided by step-by-step instruction and fueled by a little booze.

First on Alameda’s paint-and-sip scene were The Fireside Lounge’s Paint Nite parties, where patrons mix an evening of drinks with creativity. In August, the community grew to include Pinot’s Palette Alameda, a South Shore Center studio-based take on the increasingly popular trend. At both locations, patrons imbibe, create, and take home a handmade work of art, the difference being whether they feel more at home in a pub or an art studio.

Paint Nite parties, which occur in 1,200 worldwide locations including several East Bay venues, are soirees at bars, restaurants, and spacious food and drink venues. A typically energetic instructor walks budding artists through a series of simple steps that result in a finished painting that might be a Parisian cityscape, a ladybug clinging to a flower, or a pair of giant Mick Jagger lips floating in a sea of polka dots. Pinot’s Palette, with many franchises operating from the East to the West Coast, works similarly in a brighter, more painterly, art studio setting with a charismatic presenter leading the session and helpful artists roaming to assist when called on.

While you create your masterwork, you sip beverages and socialize with friends, a date, your bridal party, or the other painters who will be as surprised as you are at how well each painting is coming along. The instructor paces the workshop so that by the time you are ready to walk out the door, all the paint is dry, and the only thing left to do is decide where to hang your masterpiece.

Instructors help patrons remember which glass holds their paintbrush water and which one contains their whiskey soda, Pinot Noir, or other beverage of choice—because it’s actually easy to mix them up in all the fun.

Rachel Gold participated in two social painting parties and then decided to be involved professionally with Paint Nite. She has led more than 200 events in the past two years, her enthusiasm for the drink-and-create industry never wavering an ounce. She often instructs at The Fireside.

“I love helping people add creativity to their own lives,” she said. “I love that I’m able to contribute to their lives in a positive way. Sometimes people tell me that they haven’t painted in years, and this has made them want to start using all of those art materials that they have sitting at home in a drawer.”

Gold’s first rule is for patrons to relax, have fun, and then let their imagination take over. “I encourage people to make the painting their own. So if that means changing the color of the background to match their décor or adding an extra tree or leaving a part out that they don’t like, so be it. At the end of the day it’s their painting, so no one has to be afraid to change things up.”

For those who might want to see the painting-and-sipping phenomenon in action, you can drop by Pinot’s Palette any Wednesday through Saturday evening or on many Sunday afternoons. Peri Gabriel, who launched Pinot’s Palette Alameda with her husband, Sean, said participants tend to arrive with hesitation, many concerned that they don’t have the ability to create a wall-hanging-worthy work of art. But she works to calm these fears and usher people to their perfectly styled workstations, knowing with complete faith that the easy-to-follow instructions given by the presenter will produce a successful result.

“So many people come up and tell me, ‘I can only draw stick figures,’” She said. “And I say, ‘That’s perfect! You’re the type of person this is designed for. It’s painting for the masses. It’s art as entertainment.”

The events at Pinot’s Palette Alameda include a local twist you won’t find at the other Pinot’s studios throughout the nation. Alameda’s is the only location to feature East Bay wineries at the sip-and-paint parties. Think R& B Cellars, Rosenblum Cellars, Rock Wall Wine Company, Aubin Cellars, Jeff Cohn Cellars, and more, as these nothing-but-fun celebrations continue throughout the year. Pinot’s Palette has a simple motto that guests are encouraged to follow: Paint. Drink. Have Fun. Participants should also remember the way Sean Gabriel describes the festivities. “This isn’t fine art,” he says. “It’s fun art.”

To find Paint Nite events, which are about $45 and don’t include drinks, visit www.PaintNite.com. Learn more about Pinot’s Palette at www.PinotsPalette.com; classes and events are about $39 and do not include beverages.

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