Column: Blank canvas to masterpiece, aided by alcohol

jardineI don’t have an artistic bone in my body, but that didn’t stop me from signing up for a recent Paint Nite event at Sofrito’s in White Plains. What I learned that night was that I didn’t need one. The combination of a good teacher and several margaritas seemed to do the trick.

Daniel Hermann and Sean McGrail, two friends from Boston, created the concept of nomadic social painting after attending a party at which they painted pictures while drinking wine.

After sketching out a business plan on the back of a napkin in March 2012, they launched their first Paint Nite at Clery’s Bar and Restaurant in Boston’s Back Bay. They are now in 40 cities across the United States and Canada and are branching out to London this month. The idea is simple; a creative twist on a night out at the bar.

Creating your palate of colors. Photos/Lisa Jardine

Creating your palate of colors. Photos/Lisa Jardine

Would-be Picasso’s pay for the two-hour session online—price ranges from $30 to $50 depending on coupons you can buy on sites like Groupon—which includes paint, smocks, brushes, a 16” by 20” canvas, an easel and carefully explained, step-by-step instructions from a professional artist.

The drinks and food you order are separate and purchased directly from the event’s host restaurant. Each session is taught by a local artist who has personally selected the painting that will be taught that evening, although the event is completely flexible and all about fun so, if you arrive and decide you want to go off-book and paint something else, that is fine too.

The events are held at various locations in Westchester County. Some of the places you can choose from in December are Elements Food and Spirits in White Plains, Rudy’s Sports and Entertainment in Hartsdale and Sofrito’s Puerto Rican Cuisine in White Plains. This month, in our area, there are two different artists who offer the classes and eight different paintings on nine different nights.

Nick Pappalardo, a young artist who studied fine arts at SUNY Purchase and computer animation at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, was the local artist the night I attended the event. He teaches a new painting every month and his genre of choice is landscapes.

“I love the beach, so I tend to choose beach scenes and I also like to incorporate seasonality into the paintings. But I make sure I choose something that someone would want to hang on their walls or in their bathroom,” Pappalardo said.

Artist Nick Pappalardo begins the lesson.

Artist Nick Pappalardo begins the lesson.

He explained the teaching that goes on at these events is not serious or heavy on critique.

“These nights are about fun. They are very social with great music and drinking and eating. It’s the perfect stress reliever after work, but I definitely still give helpful tips along with the lesson,” Pappalardo said.

Erica Vargas, the manager at Sofrito’s, was enthusiastic about hosting Paint Nite at the restaurant.

“It’s a great way to mix and mingle and meet new people. And bringing Paint Nite into our restaurant makes the restaurant lively,” she said. “We just started doing these events last week and we’ll definitely continue to do them. The people in the community have been very responsive. We just launched a new menu after seven years and it’s a great way to bring customers in to experience the food while having fun.”

Tabletop easels were set up on long tables facing the front of the room, where the painting that we would work on was displayed alongside a blank canvas. Everyone gets an apron and creates their palate of colors on paper plates. Nick explained the piece and how we would paint it in several steps. As he explained, he painted, showing us the technique we would need to duplicate. First, we painted the top third of the canvas to look like a sky. Then came the drink and dry time.

This is when you re-order your drink and mull over your first attempt at painting.

Next we painted the grey mountains.

Again, we drank and dried.

Then came the green mountains in the foreground. Each time, layering another aspect of the painting, letting it dry, drinking, eating, talking, and laughing.

After the brief explanations by Nick, he would turn up the music and let us create. It was quite magical to see everyone’s artistic interpretations emerge. He walked around making sure anyone who had questions was helped, but he doesn’t fix your paintings. What you create is yours alone.

Sofrito’s in White Plains is one of three locations in Westchester holding social paint nights. Photo courtesy Sofrito’s

Sofrito’s in White Plains is one of three locations in Westchester holding social paint nights. Photo courtesy Sofrito’s

The two hours seemed to melt away and with it, our inhibitions, or maybe that was just the alcohol kicking in. Regardless, it was definitely a new take on two very old pastimes.

Ryan Dunn, 33, attended with her friend Lauren Eschewsky, 27.

“It’s something new and different…so we came,” Dunn said.

Dawn Staslak, 42, was there for her second time.

“The first time, I had so much fun; painted a great picture and found the event very relaxing. So this time, I brought my co-workers from Danbury Hospital. We are all here to celebrate the end of a big project,” she said.

Pappalardo has taught more than 100 classes for Paint Nite in the past 13 months and really enjoys the experience.

“Some people come alone, some in groups. We get lots of couples and co-workers, people celebrating a birthday. For me, teaching these classes doesn’t feel like work. I have a day job, but doing these events at night is just about having a good time. I even have a following with repeat customers.”

To sign up online: www.paintnite.com
Dec. 1, 5 p.m.: Elements Food & Spirits
Dec. 2, 7 p.m.: Sofrito
Dec. 4, 7 p.m.: Rudy’s Sports and Entertainment
Dec. 8, 5 p.m.: Elements Food & Spirits
Dec. 9, 7 p.m.: Sofrito
Dec. 11, 7 p.m.: Rudy’s Sports and Entertainment
Dec. 15, 5 p.m.: Elements Food & Spirits
Dec. 16, 4 p.m.: Sofrito
Dec. 18, 7 p.m.: Rudy’s Sports and Entertainment

“I’m always on the lookout for a great story, an amazing
restaurant, an unusual day trip or a must-see cultural
event in Westchester County.”

To contact Lisa, email
lisa@hometwn.com.
And you can follow her on Twitter, @westchesterwand