Starry Nights and Fine Wine: The Paint Mixer in Sugar House

Posted November 27, 2013 in ,
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SLUG writer Amanda Nurre and her finished work of art at The Paint Mixer. Photo Courtesy Amanda Nurre

There is no better way to reproduce a Van Gogh, I believe, than under the influence of alcohol, and The Paint Mixer, a paint and wine studio that recently opened a second location in Sugar House, provides just this stimulating opportunity. Last Thursday night, sheltered from the frigid wind, I joined 30 other participants and playfully sipped wine and daubed acrylics to produce my own swirling interpretation of “Starry Night.” Brenda Hattingh—part-time paint-instructor, part-time clown—was our fearless teacher/DJ/comedian who orchestrated the art-infused party, sashaying around the studio in a bright red skirt and zebra-print apron.

The Paint Mixer offers a trendy, unique evening. For $25-45 one can sign up for a class like “Colorful Paris,” “Serengeti Sunrise” or “Winter Funky Tree” that features the step-by-step replication of a specific, simple painting. An instructor, such as the talented Hattingh, demonstrates each step for the eager class. It’s like a very simplified Bob Ross instructional (sans afro, unfortunately) with energizing pop music and a selection of nice wine.

Art supplies are pre-prepared upon arrival—at your seat you find a small easel and 16” by 20” canvas, a cup of water and a variety of paintbrushes. A participant need simply gather his paints from large dispensers at the back of the room and don an apron; then he’s ready to mingle and create his masterpiece.

On Thursday evening, within minutes, plastic wine cups joined paint water cups on the table to be easily mixed up in a tipsy or distracted moment. Silly chatter followed each instruction and friends poked fun at each other’s work. One man boldly complimented my curves—the curves of my acrylic clouds, that is. Many followed instructions rigidly while some created a looser interpretation of the model painting. I was focused, determined to emulate the perfect impressionistic starry night, comfortable in the brightly colored, warmly lit studio.

In September of 2012, The Paint Mixer opened its first studio in Park City, and success there led to the Sugar House debut on the first of this month. Paint and wine spaces like this one are blossoming all over the country under different names. Painting with a Twist, for example, is a national franchise with a location in Murray, and there is The Corky Canvas in Nebraska, pARTy and Paint in South Carolina and The Tipsy Palette in San Diego, among dozens of others. The business idea has earned national success and seems to be taking off here in the valley as well. Attendance in the first three weeks has been promising, with several classes selling out, noted Kelly Buskirk, manager of the Sugar House location.

The Paint Mixer attracts guests of a diversity of ages and artistic ability, often entertaining couples, friend groups and families. Corporate groups, fundraisers, bridal showers and private parties also utilize The Paint Mixer, Buskirk said. The relaxed environment makes a paint and wine night ideal for novice artists. “People who loved art as a child and haven’t picked up a paint brush in 30 years remember the joy they got out of painting,” said Buskirk.

Furthermore, a paint and wine evening serves as an effective icebreaker on a first date. “I really think The Paint Mixer is hands down the best date night in Salt Lake,” said Buskirk. “It’s the perfect mix of a positive, comfortable and friendly environment combined with art, good music and drinking.” A couple in a previous class, said Hattingh, took her class at The Paint Mixer for a successful blind date. “I think just having the painting to focus on kind of took the pressure off that awkward first date feeling. I like to think they went on a second date, and I like to think I had something to do with that … I expect I’ll be invited to the wedding,” she said.

At the end of the evening, participants all proudly held their paintings for photographs, beaming behind them like delighted fourth graders. “It’s a brilliant concept,” my dashing date, Lucas Jones, said. “I wish I had had more time to paint. I just didn’t want it to end.” The class was fun, productive and lighthearted and could, according to Hattingh, serve as a great way to impress the ladies. “Guys,” she advised, “taking your woman on a Paint Mixer date shows creativity and an artistic side that I promise the ladies will love. I know—I’m a lady.”

For more information or to sign up for a class check out The Paint Mixer’s website.