Painting red with merlot

Photo courtesy WINE & CANVAS
Students from the March 10 Wine & Canvas event, hosted at Bahama Breeze, 406 E. Golf Road, in Schaumburg, paint while drinking wine. 

By Assistant Arts & Culture Editor

A local art class is harnessing the power of liquid courage to get Chicago artists tipsy with the tip of a brush.

Scott Stephan, owner of the North Chicago franchise of Wine & Canvas, began hosting the events because he said he liked the idea of people having fun together in a quirky way and found the classes to be an escape from the stresses of daily life. Not a fine artist himself, he said the classes were a way to leave his comfort zone and have fun doing it.

Founded four years ago in Indianapolis, Wine & Canvas, the fresh concept of combining fine art with a relaxed, casual night-out environment, brought founders Tamara and Tony Scott enough success to open several nationwide Wine & Canvas locations, the Chicago site started three years ago but later closed because of a personal tragedy. It reopened when Stephan bought it in November 2013.

The Chicago Wine & Canvas pro- gram is currently hosted in various bars, restaurants and studios on the North Side and in the Northwest suburbs because there is no permanent studio space. Stephan said he hopes to secure a studio space for the company to call home by the end of this year.

The business hosts events several times a week in places such as Mimi’s Cafe in Naperville, Ill., Crazy Pour in Villa Park and Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano in Deer Park. Hosting events in the restaurant/bar environment creates a nightlife atmosphere, but Stephan said he would like to have a permanent studio in which they could create that same relaxed feeling while maintaining the freedom to customize the studio space.

Although drinking is encouraged for the over-21 crowd at these imbibing is not the main event of the evening, Scott said. The younger crowd can enjoy the experience sober while eating and listening to music and being surrounded by other students who are also there to have a good time. The class focuses on painting in a relaxed atmosphere, not specifically on wine.

Stephan said the creative atmosphere of Wine & Canvas is very much a hybrid one, blending what seem to be opposite aesthetics.

“It is a class but [it is] also a show,” Stephan said.

Prior to purchasing tickets to the $35 class session, the Wine & Canvas website lists what painting the students will be challenged to recreate at each event, such as Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” Some classes focus on recreating famous works while others teach more original works. Students are guided step-by-step.

“The thing about this is that people go out, have a good time, get away from their normal daily lives, hang out with their friends or families,” Stephan said. “They paint, they listen to music and they kind of just forget about things for a while.”

Joey Goetzler, attendee at a Wine & Canvas event at Bottles & Bottega in Lakeview, came to a couples-themed event with a date. He and his date brought their own food and wine to the event, where each couple painted a portrait of their partner, which Goetzler said was an interesting way to enjoy a romantic evening out. He said neither he nor his partner had any prior painting or other fine art experience.

“It was a lot of fun,” Goetzler said. “I really got interested in it because it seemed like an original date. It was just outside of the norm.”

Taylor Hokanson, assistant professor of art at Columbia, said he thinks Wine & Canvas’ mission is clear and helpful. He said he thinks alcohol helps break down the barri- er between trained fine artists and less formally trained art-lovers.

“[I think] they were just trying to make art-making or painting seem less intimidating to the average person,” Hokanson said. “There’s a lot of folks who think of art-making from a serious perspective as sort of an ivory-tower behavior, so it struck me that that was the reason for the inclusion of the wine.”

Goetzler, who claims to have no artistic skill or artistic training, agreed with Hokanson. The event he went to was full of beginners.

“I don’t think anyone in that class had any painting experience,” Goetzler said. “Some of [the paintings] were pretty funny.”