"Chateau Cardboard" is how art instructor Renata Sharman describes most of the wine poured into plastic cups at Painting with a Twist, the art-class-cum-happy-hour studio in Garland. It's BYOB here, but everything else is provided: canvas, paints, brushes and paper plate palettes. They also provide the subject. Thursday night, 10 of us played along with the "paint without numbers" process, following Sharman's step-by-step, stroke-by-stroke instructions for a painting of a diaphanous dress on a coat hanger, floating on a background of either purple-y blues or orange-y reds. Not exactly "Guernica," OK, but most of us don't usually paint much beyond our toenails.
The point here is not to produce a masterpiece (though I kinda dig how my painting turned out); it's to relax, try something new and have a good time with friends. In just over two hours, we laughed, sipped cheap booze (one budding artist arrived with an aluminum cocktail shaker full of martinis) and slapped pretty colors on a canvas. Late in the evening, we burst into a group-sing of the B-52's "Love Shack." Somebody brought good cheese and crackers, too, so there were nibbles during breaks as we waited for the acrylic paint to dry (blow-dryers are provided to speed it along).
Founded in Baton Rouge, Painting with a Twist now has 50 franchised locations across the U.S., including eight in the Metroplex. It's become a popular spot for bachelorette parties, girlfriend-y birthday gatherings and sorority activity nights. It's a lady-centric place for sure, though there were two gents in our group who didn't seem to mind producing a piece of art that looks like a feminine hygiene ad. (Each night offers a different painting style, from faux Fauvists to simplified "Starry Nights" with some city skylines and fields of bluebonnets among the choices.)
Sharman, an accomplished artist born in Poland (English is her seventh language), is the favorite teacher among Thursday night's group, which included Dallas actors Sara Shelby-Martin and Chad Peterson and Equity stage manager Cathy O'Neal. Easy to see why. She's friendly and funny and will gently whisper hints in your ear about what to do when you start muddying colors or overworking the brush strokes.
Painting with a Twist even offers a free "fix it and finish it" visit if you don't get your painting done in an evening. Cost per session is $35 to $45 per person. Reserve an easel online (where you can see the calendar of upcoming pictures) or by calling the location.