Art classes with a twist

WINE AND ART: American Amanda Anthony's Paint 'n' Sip art classes are accompanied by fine wine.
WINE AND ART: American Amanda Anthony's Paint 'n' Sip art classes are accompanied by fine wine.

Picasso and pinot noir go hand in hand at Christchurch's only paint and sip studio, started last August by fun-loving American Amanda Anthony.

While the idea, which involves people with varying artistic talents getting together at the Ilam studio to paint while drinking wine (or other beverages), has been well received by the public, it did take her a while to find a landlord prepared to give her a lease.

"Getting premises was hard. I guess landlords had visions for what businesses they wanted in their developments and no-one in the central city wanted to take me on. Our location now, though, is perfect."

Amanda has lived in Christchurch with her Kiwi partner, Shannon Aram, since just before the February 2011 earthquake. She originally comes from New Orleans, where the paint and sip concept was started after Hurricane Katrina by two women, initially as a fundraiser to help affected families.

"Painting and drinking took off across the States. It is such a social thing, as well as being a bit of art therapy. A while ago, I talked to a friend of mine, Catherine Hover, who had started a studio in upstate New York, and I thought this would be something new and positive for Christchurch after the quakes.

"I'm not sure if it would have taken off the same way before the earthquakes, but now the city is ready to embrace different things and give them a go."

Amanda employs University of Canterbury fine arts students majoring in painting for the sessions. The students paint different works in advance and then members of the public can register for a two-hour evening class, during which they recreate the painting under the tutelage of the artwork's creator.

The canvas, easel, paints and tutor are all supplied and people are able to buy drinks from the licensed bar on site.

"You don't need any experience painting. Most people are critical of themselves and you have to break that down. The student will show you what to do and at the end of two hours, with a couple of wines and a lot of laughing, you will have a painting to take away with you."

The studio also does private functions, from corporate team building to hen's parties and children's parties.

Amanda, who is a qualified landscape architect and still takes on some project work to keep up her skills, has also found the studio a fun way for her to meet people socially.

"It's not easy meeting people sitting behind a desk. At the studio, I meet all sorts of interesting people from different walks of life at the classes, including other Americans. And there is so much fun and laughing - the painting is just an added bonus that you get to take home with you."

She says the sessions are all about giving people confidence to try something new and out of their comfort zone, while connecting with their "inner artist", with the wine helping to break through the barriers of self-doubt.