If you want a change of pace from second Saturday's Art Walk without giving up the art, venture north of Wynwood and over to the MiMo district, where Painting with a Twist fuses booze with acrylic paint. Never held a paintbrush before, led alone painted a full canvas? No problem. "Relax, you're not supposed to know how to paint," says Miami owner Eric Patrick. "That's what we specialize in."
The Painting with a Twist franchise got its origins in Louisiana circa 2007. After quitting his gig at Deco Drive, Eric moved back to Louisiana.
"I did what every respectable man does in their 30s," he says. "Go back home."
A natural born artist, he worked in freelance film and did odd art jobs here and there. Through a Craigslist Ad he encountered PWAT. "They were looking for someone to do their sketches. I didn't think it would go beyond that."
Soon enough, Eric was tasked to travel throughout the country and open PWAT locations in growing markets. "After opening about 30 of them knew I wanted my own and I knew where I wanted it." It took him a year after breaking the news to founders Cathy Deano and Renee Maloney to open the MiMo location. That was in June of 2011. Next month, Eric will celebrate his third year and recent expansion.
"I remember when I first opened, going to Art Walk and handing out flyers," he laughs. "I literally had to convince people that painting and drinking were fun." Today, it's weird if anyone shows up to a class without any sort of alcohol. PWAT is BYOB, and that's not just limited to booze. Edibles are also welcome; whether you bring it yourself or order pizza delivery (Andiamo is right down the street), nothing is off limits.
Classes are offered every day except Monday, and vary according to painting. For birthdays, corporate events, or girls night out, groups can book an entire area and choose the sketch they wish to paint from a library of over 4,000 images. Sketches include everything from elephants to the Eiffel Tower or a Tiger's Eye - you pick what class you want to attend by checking out their monthly calendar. If you're a crazy cat lady, you'll especially dig the personal class, where you bring a picture of your furry companion and paint a portrait in his or her honor. Two hour paintings cost $35 and three hour classes cost $45. And while on the way in you get to bring your own booze, on the way out you get to take your painting.
We gave a whack at our artistic talents on a recent Saturday and signed up for the Tranquil Buddha class (their most popular lesson). It was also a record breaker, with 72 new Buddhas being sent out into the world that night. "I had to deny 20 people because we were maxed out." With the recent expansion and acquisition of the space right next door, Eric can now accommodate a little over 100 aspiring painters on any given night.
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The teacher, David Sexton is PWAT's "Buddha-meister." He's sent over 2,000 Buddhas out the doors and has got it down to an absolute science. He'll walk you from beginning to end, ensuring that no Buddha is left behind, ever. Even when you think you've lost the way, he somehow helps you find your way back to the lines. The most important lesson you learn isn't the mixing of colors or how to properly use a paintbrush. It's not the shading or shadows or finger painting tactics to get the Buddha's crown to be the circular shape you want. It's the journey - the idea that there is no wrong or right way, only your way.
"Don't expect a boring painting class, it's more like a party. At the end you'll probably wind up with something that's going to surprise you," he says. The fun is in the twist, and like Buddha, he only points the way - it is you who must walk the path.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha