Bridgette Riggin will be the first to tell you she is absolutely devoid of artistic ability; she has trouble creating presentable-looking stick figures, and jokes that her abilities are so bereft that her husband won’t even let her anywhere near a blank wall in their home with paintbrushes and rollers.
Still, the Stow mom has managed to create a half-dozen canvases that she’s proud enough to display around her house — bucolic scenes of grist mills and red barns; elegant flowers; whimsical cupcakes.
Such is the aim of so-called “paint and sip” studios – to, layer by layer, reveal everyone’s inner artist (accomplished or not).
“I can’t paint,” Riggin, an effervescent blonde, said with a laugh on a recent night at Maynard’s Paint ’n Pour. “But when I come through these doors, I become Picasso.”
Having started out in the South, the “paint and sip” trend has slowly made its way north, and is now burgeoning in Greater Boston. There’s the well-known Paint Bar in Newton, Palettes in Natick, and Paint ’n Pour, which opened in May 2012. Paint Misbehavin’ is to be the newest entrant on the scene; it’s expected to open in Hudson by early September.
“It’s geared toward people who have no idea what they’re doing,” said Suzanne Henderson, who welcomes about 70 to 100 people a week to Paint ’n Pour, between public events and private parties (bachelorettes, birthdays, bridal and baby showers).
It’s just like it sounds: Participants are provided with canvases, paint, and brushes, and, as they sip wine or beer — which is BYOB or offered via a bartender, depending on the studio — are given step-by-step instructions to create a painting, whether it be a Monet homage, or a simple landscape or still life. Sessions are typically two to three hours, and everyone comes away at the end with their own work of art.
“For me, painting is really therapeutic: Putting the colors on the canvas, watching them interact — I want people to look at the canvas and go, ‘I can’t believe I just did that,’ ” said Dave Rosolko, owner of Paint Misbehavin’.
He is creating all the designs himself — from sailboats, to the Grand Canyon, to abstracts and pop art — and expects to offer four sessions a week to start.
A MassArt graduate who has spent the last 35 years in graphic arts, Rosolko said he hopes the endeavor eventually allows him to offer intermediate and advanced classes for the more accomplished artists who happen to come through.
“You never know where the next van Gogh is going to come from,” he said.
Still, in most cases, the goal is to simply introduce art to those who otherwise wouldn’t interact with it (beyond, say, a visit to the museum).
“People are nervous, but when they leave, they’re so surprised and thrilled that they did it,” said Henderson, who isn’t classically trained, but said she always had a “knack” for painting. “It’s making people happy. No one ever leaves in a bad mood, including me.”
Like Rosolko, she creates all the designs herself (typically 16-inches by 20-inches), changing them with the seasons; on a recent evening, they covered the walls of her studio – Newbury Street at night; a peacock feather; empty beach chairs below a bobbing kite; van Gogh’s “Starry Night”; a sailboat in silhouette at sunset.
Colorful wine bottles also lined the windows, sporadically sprouting large fake blooms; the beloved PBS painter Bob Ross was also present in a framed photograph.
On this particular night, the challenge was “Pink bloom,” a close-up of a flower tinged with yellow, red, and orange streaks.
As participants arrived, everyone retrieved a black apron, palette of paint – with globs of white, deep yellow, bright red, raw sienna, dark blue, and chrome orange – and bundle of four brushes, and got comfortable at a seat in front of a canvas on an easel.
Amy Van de Water of Shirley, who settled in at the back of the room, said she’s not much of a painter, but likes crocheting, following a pattern.
“It’s definitely a way of bridging that gap – having instruction without it being paint-by-number,” she said.
Nearby sat Abigail Carman of Maynard, toting along her boyfriend, Matthew Kier, and sister, Nina Carman of Framingham.
“It’s relaxing, honestly,” Abigail Carman said with a shrug as she sipped Moscato. “You paint, have some fun, see how terrible you are.”
Whatever your abilities are, though, it’s ultimately an outlet, she added. “You don’t have a lot of time to be creative in your everyday life.”
Her boyfriend, meanwhile, when asked what he hoped to get out of the evening, shrugged and quipped, “I want my painting to be better than hers.”
Carman laughed. “That’s real love.”
Groups of two, three, and four continued to filter in, eventually drinking from beer bottles or plastic cups.
Henderson eventually took her place on a raised platform at the center of the room, starting out by asking if this was a first time for anyone. Four or five hands tentatively went up.
She stressed that it’s “fun art, not fine art,” and laid down one ground rule: There is to be “no negativity here.”
Then, she guided the group in the simplest terms; starting with a medium-sized brush, she instructed, “dip that into your cup of water – not your wine.”
Then, with a few strokes, they each created a half-circle of yellow at the bottom center of their canvases. After, they mixed red and white to create their own versions of pink – someone in the crowd joking that “mine looks like Pepto-Bismol” – and outlined petals; after that, they mixed purple to fill in white areas.
All the while, they chatted, music playing, champagne corks popping. Over the course of their work, some commented mockingly, “What have I done?” or joked, “All it does is make me want to cry!”
Quickly, though, things started to take shape; from a distance, the canvases looked the same, but upon closer inspection, the personal flourishes emerged – different shades of pink and purple, petals varying in shape and size, width, overlap. Some were abstract; others bushy.
Riggin, sharing a Cabernet with neighbor Betsy Foley, has been eight or nine times, she said, bringing different friends and even her 6-year-old.
“It makes you see your potential,” she said between brush strokes. “It takes someone who says, ‘I can’t paint,’ and tells them, ‘Yes you can.’ ”