Desert Companion

Culture: Party like an artist (oh, and BYOB)

social painting

Raucous laughter, a good wine buzz and decadent treats. This is the life of an artist? Bring it on. It’s a far cry from that timeworn image of the artist as a solitary soul, slaving away in the studio on a masterpiece. But that’s exactly the point of social painting classes, a new trend that’s turning valley storefronts and restaurants into lively studios flowing with wine, conversation and lots of paint. The classes are put on by creative people who want to fortify a typical cocktail-fueled gathering with a bit of artistic inspiration.

“My sister took me to my first social-style painting class. To look around and see everyone interacting with one another, and the pride and amazement on their faces as they created their own masterpiece, I knew we had to have something like this in Vegas,” says Sue Gaughan, owner of Social Paintbrush (7501 W. Lake Mead Blvd. #118, “Leaving that night with my very own painting, I felt like I was an artist. I had to give that opportunity and experience to someone else.”

[HEAR MORE: Body painter Suzanne Lugano discusses her bodies of work on "KNPR's State of Nevada"]

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Here’s how it works: Local painters design eye-catching artwork for all skill levels. From an online calendar displaying an array of paintings, social painters choose a piece that tickles their fancy, from landscapes to still lifes to inspirational icons. Then, with the help of step-by-step instructions, the social painting artists recreate the piece themselves — think of it as collective color-by-number fueled by a cocktail or two. Though some follow the instructor’s guidance to the letter, taking artistic liberties is encouraged for the brave of brush. And no need to buy gobs of supplies that may languish in your craft room. Everything is provided at these events: canvases, easels, pigments, brushes and aprons. Classes are two to three hours long and cost $30 to $35, which includes taking your finished, ready-to-hang piece with you. Other social art studios that have recently started include Paint and Party (8826 S. Eastern Ave. #114,, which hosts catered events, and Wine and Canvas (various locations,, which pops up at eateries in the valley.

Best of all: no tortured artistic soul. “It’s low-commitment. You can try your hand at it without having all the materials or the clean-up,” says Kate Hicks, who regularly gets her paint on with friends. “The set-up encourages different groups to mingle. Also, there’s wine. What evening isn’t improved with wine?” Or a bit of paint, for that matter.

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