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On the job

Teaching art with wine helps creativity to flow

Longtime commercial artist Karin Samatis works with Eric Larson of Cambridge in a paint-and-sip class at Pinot’s Palette in Lexington.

Michele McDonald for The Boston Globe

Longtime commercial artist Karin Samatis works with Eric Larson of Cambridge in a paint-and-sip class at Pinot’s Palette in Lexington.

Dabbling in painting can be fun and even therapeutic — but very intimidating for a novice, said Karin Samatis, a commercial artist and instructor at paint-and-sip nights at Pinot’s Palette in Lexington. That’s why social painting — instructional get-togethers revolving around wine and art — are gaining in popularity, encouraging creativity to flow along with cocktails.

“There’s a hidden artist in all of us,” said Samatis, “but sometimes we need a little encouragement to unleash our imagination.”

Are these painting parties the latest spin on the paint-by-numbers craze in the ’50s and the popular public television show “Joy of Painting” with Bob Ross in the ’80s?

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I do think it’s an extension of these, especially the Bob Ross approach. It’s teaching art by example, using a step-by-step process.

What can participants expect at the studio?

There’s a featured painting at the front of the room that everyone tries to emulate, usually a landscape, still life, or abstract. Each person has their own workstation and is provided with two or three brushes, dabs of acrylic paint, and a blank canvas. I show them simple strokes to create each part of the painting. And since it’s BYOB, the wine or beer can help ease nervousness.

What’s the average art ability of a guest?

Many haven’t done any art since elementary school. But they surprise themselves with what they’re capable of doing. It’s not about talent but technique. I map out the painting in sections and teach them simple, basic stuff.

How does the wine loosen inhibitions?

The wine pays off later in the class when someone’s having a hard time. They’re not so self-conscious or thinking they’re doing something wrong. Or maybe it’s just because they had three glasses of wine and the painting just looks better.

Pinot’s Palette has an archive of art. Have you contributed to this master library?

I have developed a lot of paintings with local flavor, like a Boston skyline, Cape Cod beach scene, and New England lighthouse.

What particular artists are easier to paint?

Anything Impressionist is easier to teach. I’ve taught Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” three times. With Van Gogh, the brush strokes are small, so if you make mistakes, you can’t see them.

Are you proof that “starving artist” doesn’t have to be a truism?

I knew my destiny was in the art field. I walked out of college into an ad agency, where I worked for 30 years. Nowadays, I run into people who say to me, ‘You need to convince my son or daughter not to be an artist.” I say to them, “I can’t do that. If that is their passion, let them find their own way.”

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@cindyatoji.com.
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