BY LYNN EDMONDS
In a cab on my way to Pinot’s Palette, a paint and sip night, I got a text from my friend Anastasia who was already there.
“This is way cooler than I ever expected,” she wrote.
My heart jolted a little as I rushed there with an empty stomach and a bottle of wine.
A couple minutes later, I pulled up to the co-working space near Kaufman Astoria studios where Pinot’s Palette hosts their Friday night events.
Moe Qadiri, who co-owns the Pinot’s Palette franchise with this wife Melissa Qadiri, was waiting outside.
He brought me up the stairs and into a large, spacious room with cement floors but cozy, warm colors that made it feel nothing like the factory it likely once was.
During the day, the room can be use for start ups and other businesses that want to temporarily rent office space for meetings and work. But with its hip décor – including a pink fluorescent light that spelled “create” in four different languages – a kitchen and bar, couches, and other decorations, it transitioned as easily into a nighttime, recreational space as a black dress transitions from an office to a wine bar.
On a table near the entrance, plates of food lay waiting. Delicious tiny chicken wings with exquisite marinade, beans and rice with fragrant herbs and spices, cheese and crackers.
Turned out – it belonged to a party of friends. Future guests can be smart and do as this group did; bring your favorite take out or a homemade meal or snack. If it’s something substantial, you will have time to enjoy it during the painting halftime, when painting pauses for 10-15 minutes of the two-hour class while the canvas dries. If it’s something easy to eat, you can keep it close and munch while painting.
Pinot’s Palette gives attention to the finest details. When booking, guests can specify a specific person to sit next to. Anastasia and I found our names written in pink crayon at our designated seats. In front of us we had piles of paint neatly organized on a plate, two brushes, a clean cup of water (“don’t mix up your paint water with your wine, especially at the end of the night!” the instructors warned us) and an apron to protect our clothing.
We poured ourselves a glass of wine and settled in.
The painting itself was of course the most enjoyable part of the evening. The instructor, Olivia, gave us simple, clear instructions, demonstrating on her own blank canvas as she did so. Next to her, a finished painting stood to help us visualize the ultimate goal.
After a minute of so of instruction, Olivia raised the music, a trendy playlist of electronic pop and R&B and we let loose on the canvas. The pace was relaxed enough that we felt comfortable chatting and catching up as we painted, but not so slow that we ever had to sit and wait for the next step.
The artist’s assistant, Alicia, who instructs on alternate days, came around and gave us tips as we worked. Using perfect psychic powers, she seemed to intuit just the right balance of constructive advice to make the painting beautiful, praise, and leaving us alone to stroke the canvas, sip wine and chat.
Despite zero experience with painting, the end result, a picture of a sunset sky with coconut trees and a hammock swinging in the breeze, was beautiful enough for my roommate to voluntarily nail it to the living room wall. The blend of colors was pleasing to the eye and the coconut tree, though not terribly realistic, had a little personality with its leaves that looked like the rumpled hair of a teenage boy that just woke up from a nap.
Looking around the room when the canvases were complete, every person had a beautiful painting. Some clearly had more craft and clarity than others, and yet all were interesting, pleasant to look at, and much more realistic than one might have expected. And despite the paintings all having the same subject, they were surprisingly different. Like handwriting, each one had its own character reflective of the artist that made it. There was also one painter who decided to do his own thing! And that is allowed too.
At the end of the night, all were smiling and laughing. The second or third glass of wine had not lessened anyone’s interest in painting but made them less perfectionist and freer with their brush.
Anastasia’s inner painter had awoken and she wanted to stay and paint for hours.
Unfortunately, we had to get going. But we each had a memento to remember a fun night.
The same can be true for couples that opt to do date night painting events.
Each half of the couple gets their own canvas, and then they paint two complimentary paintings that are hung up side by side to make one complete picture.
“They get to flirt with each other, and kind of joke around,” Melissa Qadiri said of the couples.
She laughed because typically with men and women, “usually the guys are more hesitant to come out, and then they enjoy it so much,” she said. “They forget about all this stuff going on, and they just paint, it’s very therapeutic.”
It can also be therapeutic for senior citizens.
Melissa said visiting nursing homes to paint with them was one of the most rewarding parts of the job.
Even with some seniors that were glum or depressed, she said that by the end of the painting sessions, “they’re dancing with us, they’re kissing us, they’re like when are you coming back.”
One elderly man that she worked with didn’t even want to pick up the brush when she first came. But by the end he was begging her to stay longer. Others danced to Frank Sinatra, as Melissa tailors the soundtrack to each audience.
Even after the event is over, “they’re telling their nurses and they’re telling their friends, look what I did,” she said.
The Qadiris even work with each senior center’s or nursing home’s budget to allow them to partake in the program.
“I really like what we do. I see the impact that I make on people,” Melissa said.
Pinot’s Palette also works with youth – minus the wine of course. They will visit schools for fundraisers and provide the main entertainment at children’s birthday parties (ages 6 and up), as well as do corporate team building events, baby showers, bridal showers and more.
But the simplest way to experience it is to visit one of their pop-up events on the weekend in Astoria at Spring Hill Marriot Suites in Corona. Stay tuned for Moe and Melissa to get their own studio spaces in the next few months. You can visit pinotspalette.com for more information or to register for a class.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana