Social Painting

For 30 years Deb Deming has taught art to Gloversville high school students. Recently, she’s expanded her teaching to a wider range of students, in a different kind of classroom.

“I’ve given private lessons in my home for years, I just haven’t brought in the alcohol,” she said.

On alternating Saturdays Deming teaches painting to groups of people at an event called “the Thirsty Pallet” at Gianna’s Pizza & Pasta in Gloversville. For $35 participants receive painting instruction while they eat and drink.

Deming said she first became inspired to teach lessons to groups at bars in November, after hearing about so many people wanting to travel outside of the local area to participate in that activity.

“Some of my friends were discussing going to Saratoga to do ‘paint and sip’ and I said, ‘why drive all the way to Saratoga? I can do this,'” she said.

Gail Squillace, a retired Montgomery County employee, hosts weekly art instruction called “Sip and Paint” at the 518 Grille in Amsterdam on Wednesday night’s from 6 to 8p.m. She said she had heard of a sip and paint in Saratoga Springs, but was also turned on to the idea by attending a private group art instruction.

“I’ve been a local artist doing projects on my own for years and some friends of mine at the 518 Grille noticed my work and asked me if I would be interested in conducting a sip and paint class and I thought it would be fabulous because that kind of thing wasn’t occurring in the Amsterdam area,” Squillace said.

For $20, participants at the 518 Grille Sip and Paint receive art supplies, instruction from Squillace and a glass of wine or a beer or soda. Squillace said most participants typically order food as well.

“What’s nice about ours is we’re kind of doing different projects, not just a big intimidating canvas that people sit down in front of and people have to paint it and have the peer pressure of doing a good job. Some weeks it’s painting a vase with enamal paints on glass. Some weeks it’s painting a small canvas, so I try to keep it interesting and I can’t tell you how many people come back week after week after week,” she said.

Deming and Squillace are examples of artists tapping into the experience known as social painting, which has seen explosive growth in cities across the country as people seek to imbibe and relax while rediscovering their creative side.

Painting with a Twist, a Louisiana-based social painting company, had 126 franchises nationwide as of last year more than double its total in 2011, officials said.

Another national company, Paint Nite, started with one event at a Boston bar in March 2012, has grown in two years to 55,000 people attending 1,100 events per month in the U.S. and Canada, co-founder Sean McGrail said.

The company has been adding 10 cities a month and just started its first overseas operation in Sydney, he said. Next up: Johannesburg and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Deming said she’s tried to differentiate her classes from other social painting activities by providing more depth and personal instruction.

“The difference between what I do and what other people do, in terms of mass producing one painting that’s the same, is that I teach as a group and then I monitor individually. I don’t actually paint on a campus, I have an example and I demonstrate brush strokes on a canvas,” she said. “My subject matter is also more high-end in terms of difficulty, it’s a solid three-hour class.”

Squillace credits the rise of social media, like Facebook, for helping to spread the popularity of social painting. She said the 518 Grille has the capacity for her to seat 30 people in her class and she hopes it grows from her current average of 15-20.

“The more the better,” she said.

Deming said she envisions her business growing to include teaching at private parties similar to “makeup parties.”

“We could do a class of seven and the host paints for free,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.