Would you like a paintbrush with your wine?
It's become a trendy pairing in the suburbs. Wine-friendly painting studios such as Bottle & Bottega and Pinot's Palette have sprouted up across the suburbs, along with a growing number of art businesses that host painting parties at local bars and restaurants.
Alcohol, while often preferred, is optional; some painting parties are held at places such as the Starbucks in Gurnee or at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights.
Depending on the business and the class you sign up for, it could be art therapy, serious art lessons or a fun night out with friends.
"There's a social aspect of going out with friends and having something to do," said Michele Van Patten-Muzones of Lindenhurst, owner of Art Rave, a growing mobile painting party business that hosts between 20 and 30 events per month. "It's a fun night out that includes a take-home item that you'd be proud to hang on your wall."
Bars hosting Art Rave parties include The Vine in Grayslake and Chill Martini and Wine Bar in Lake Villa.
Geared toward both nonartists and aspiring ones -- and especially popular as a girls' night out or date-night activity -- the painting parties are priced anywhere from $30 to $45 per person for adults. The cost covers paint, a canvas, a smock, tools and instruction time.
"It's something that's different. It's a night out. You're not eating dinner, you're not bowling. You're actually creating something yourself. Everyone walks away with something they've created," said Chris Bonk, owner of Bottle & Bottega in downtown Arlington Heights, a brick-walled space with a fireplace and easels.
While some businesses have their own bars, others allow painters to bring alcohol and snacks.
"It's not about re-creating a painting. It's about having a fun time," Bonk added. "Most people are surprised at how good their paintings turn out ... and they can walk away with a decent version of (Van Gogh's) 'Starry Night.'"
Or something naughtier. Sometimes, Bonk says they'll bring in a nude male model -- something bachelorette parties and girls' night out groups enjoy.
"It's more about just laughing and having a fun time. And most people will just draw him from the waist up," said Bonk, who recently left a long career as an animator and illustrator to open this business in October 2015.
Each business has a slightly different vibe. Pinot's Palette, in South Barrington, which opened just two months ago, takes a more family-focused approach. The 2,500-square-foot building can hold 90 people and attracts a lot of families, children, teachers and nurses from nearby hospitals.
People can buy wine or beer from the bar, or get $1 soft drinks, free coffee or free juice boxes for kids. It's more a place to paint than party, said owner Cathie Cook, of Hoffman Estates.
Cook said half her customers will get a glass of wine, but halfway through the class, they've hardly touched it because they're so focused on their painting.
"For some people (who come here), it's really more about art therapy," Cook said. "We have oncology nurses who come here, and it's a way to get away from what they're dealing with every day."
Whether wild or serious, sessions at all of these painting party businesses begin with a credentialed artist giving the group an overview of what they'll paint and step-by-step instructions on how to do it.
Groups might all do the same design, like the Chicago skyline or a Blackhawks logo, but people are free to paint what they want. The artist walks around to help everyone as they work. Most painting is done on canvasses, but some groups have painted beer mugs or shot glasses.
Since launching Art Rave four years ago, Van Patten-Muzones said her business has grown steadily each year.
"Women like to have that social aspect, but still have that creativity and productivity," she said. "We put a lot of attention into the quality of the art and the instruction. What brings people back is that they create something they never imagine they could paint."
Painting party fundraiser
An all-day fundraiser will be held from 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday, March 5, at Pinot's Palette in South Barrington to benefit the Children's Advocacy Center in Hoffman Estates, which helps children who have been victims of physical or sexual abuse. Owner Cathie Cook said she wants to help the center, which is struggling because of state funding cuts and budget woes.
The fundraiser will include a raffle, activities for families and four painting classes, including ones for children, families and adults-only programs. The business also will hold a Feb. 21 fundraiser for St. Jude's.
For details on either event, or to reserve a spot, go to pinotspalette.com/southbarrington.
Customers' favorite things to paint at suburban painting parties:
• Van Gogh's "Starry Night"
• Chicago skylines
• Autumn scenes
• Blackhawks designs
• Eiffel Tower and other Parisian themes