Forty people in lime green aprons sipped drinks and laughed as they swept large streaks of black and white paint across 16x20-inch canvases propped in front of them.
“Don’t judge yourself and don’t judge your neighbor” was the motto for the two-hour social painting event held in the room near the bar inside DiCicco’s Italian Restaurant in Old Town Clovis.
Paint Nite artist Jaydee Pirtle led the class through basic lessons in mixing paint, drawing shapes and incorporating splashes of an accent color — all while cracking jokes and sending her aspiring firefighter husband, Josh, around them room to save the day with paper towels and paint refills.
“The class is for people without painting experience to walk away with a nice work of art. You have to make it simple,” Pirtle said.
Paint Nite was founded just over three years ago in Boston and has since expanded to 1,400 cities internationally, hosting more than 4,400 painting sessions each month in bars, restaurants and at private events.
Participants are given a canvas, paint, a smock and brushes, and in about two hours that blank canvas turns into a professional-looking masterpiece.
Those who attended the DiCicco’s event on Oct. 8 walked out of the restaurant holding their barely dry images of an owl — or family of owls — perched on a tree against a gray background.
Mike Capka, owner of Paint Nite Fresno, said he started the business in the end of May and has seen it take off.
“We’ve literally sold out every single event we’ve done,” he said.
Events are held at about 15 local venues within Fresno, Clovis, Visalia, Sanger and Madera.
“Everywhere we do it is popular,” he said. “We’ve got great venues in different parts of town to cater to different tastes. There may be a more mellow place, that is a little more ‘adult’ like The Tasting Room, and we also have venues with more of a club atmosphere, a party-type place. So there is something for everybody.”
Pirtle says she prefers teaching in The Elbow Room and HCK in Fresno, but enjoys teaching anywhere.
“The setup and cleanup are hard, but teaching is the part that I love. I teach classes at the (Fresno Art) Museum as well,” she said.
A lot of the Paint Nite artworks are whimsical and can be personalized.
“They’re not super hard to paint; people are amazed at what they can create during their instruction,” Capka said.
Monochrome paintings with one color splash seem to be popular right now, Capka said, noting that in Red Fall Hill, most of the painting is gray with an exception of one tree with red leaves.
“It jumps out at you,” Capka said. “It’s very popular. We do have paintings that seem to go quicker than others — some are sold out in 48 hours while it may take a couple of weeks for some paintings to have a sold-out show.”
A handful of local artists serve as social painting instructors with creations of their own, and also designs that are used by Paint Nite internationally.
“One of our local artists, Jessie Olson, submitted a painting that was chosen as the national painting of the month for January, so people are going to be painting it in cities all over the world,” Capka said of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” depicting two red birds on a white and gray background.
Local restaurants benefit from hosting the events as well, Capka said.
“We’re bringing in 40 customers on a night that might be a slower night for them,” he said. “The vast majority continue to ask for us to keep doing it. The average person is going to spend $12 to $22 on their bar bill, and with 40 people that adds up pretty quick.”
Capka said people often order appetizers along with their drinks to snack on while painting. And they may choose to dine in the restaurant before a 7 p.m. class.
“Usually it’s a girls night out or a date night, and people will come straight from work, have dinner together and then go into Paint Nite,” he said.
Social painting doesn’t only happen in restaurants and bars; a Paint Nite artist can come to a private event where at least 20 people will participate, Capka said.
Participants must be 21 and over.
“We do birthday parties, wedding showers, holiday corporate parties,” he said. “They are also fantastic fundraisers — it’s a really fun way to do it and we cut a large check back to the organization.”
Event locations, artist information and a sample of each painting can be found at paintnite.com. Seats are limited and many sell out fast.
To book a private event or inquire about fundraising, email Capka at email@example.com.