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Uncork Creatively at 'The Spirited Artist'

The BYOB painting studio opened in April.

To produce art is to take a grave risk. The artist, in an attempt at expression, chances exposure; hazards revealing too much to others, but, just as treacherously–maybe more so–to himself. For the creator, after all, self-awareness can all too quickly give way to self-consciousness. 

All of which is to say, it’s the sort of thing you should do while you’re drinking.

This was, more or less, the insight that led Greg Pietrzykowski to , Phoenixville’s first and only BYOB painting studio.

“I went to see my niece in New Orleans this past October,” the owner explained, “and I saw this place that offered BYOB painting lessons, and I just thought, that would work great here.”

So far, it has. Located on 237 Bridge Street, the booming business’ concept is simple: groups of between 10 and 20 come, usually of the fairer sex, and for $35 per person, drink wine while getting a step-by-step painting lesson from house artist Ed Luterio–Pietrzykowski’s brother-in-law.

Since its April opening, the studio has offered regular nightly lessons from Thursday through Sunday and private group parties on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

(See its calendar of upcoming classes here.)

At one of the latter functions, on June 20, after drinks and appetizers in the Artist’s spacious studio, the stout and charismatic Luterio walked a group of 40-somethings (and one bewildered community news reporter) through a rendition of “The Road to Tuscany”–a canvas of a dirt road slicing, blue sky above, through an Italian hillside.

The steps:

  1. The sky. Luterio instructed his pupils, each situated in front of a blank canvas with an assortment of brushes on their left and a palette to the right, to mix two shades of blue with a touch of the white–lightly mixed, you don’t want the three to become one uniform color, he cautioned–and, using the wood-handled brush with the pinched silver heel, drag the paint gently across the canvas. “You’ll want to cover, basically, the top half,” instructed Luterio. Simple enough.
  2. The clouds. Going right to left, dab white across the off-blue sky, Luterio, tough but fair, demonstrated at his easel at the front of the studio. A quick glance around the room, and it was clear that a divide between the artistically inclined and the otherwise had begun to take shape.
  3. Drink wine.
  4. The hills. After mixing light brown and some other shades until the paint becomes a dark clay, paint the asymmetric cleavage of two hills resting alongside one another–first the larger left hill, then the right.
  5. Drink more wine.
  6. You didn’t get enough wine that time. Get more.
  7. The greenery. Paint, using an admixture of green and brown, a nest of trees at the top of the left hill, then a distant forest that falls into the crevice where the two hills intersect. “More or less, everybody’s painting should look look like what I have here,” Luterio announced, pointing to his personal canvas. Discouraged, drink more wine, then draw some bushes along the hillside.
  8. Detail. To get at the way the sun would strike the greenery, illuminating individual leaves, mix some green and yellow, then dab it along the tops of the bushes and distant forest. While you’re at it, paint some patches of flowers along the side of the right hill. Feel slightly better about yourself.
  9. The road. Sloping lazily between the two hills, sketch, with a mix of brown, dark brown, and white, a dusty old road. Painting a white dividing line along the road is, apparently, not just unnecessary, but discouraged.
  10. More wine.
  11. The trees. First draw a tall pine in the foreground, an uneven mix of green and dark brown–”You’ll want to go pretty dark,” the instructor instructed. “That way when we add highlights they will pop.”–then draw two more, smaller, to its right.
  12. Finishing touches. Add flourishes of flowers in the bushes, more sunshine on the trees, bushes along the road, etc.; this is the point where Luterio invites the budding artists to make the painting their own, before initialing the bottom and handing it over to dry.(Editor’s note: “make it your own” doesn’t mean it's okay to draw a UFO in the skyline.)

When the Wednesday class was over–it was a short one, under two hours–the graduates huddled in clusters around the studio to compare and contrast their work, finish what was left of the wine, and talk shop before Pietrzykowski gathered the group for a photo.

“I think I did fine,” shrugged Sharon Donato, who works for a pharmaceutical firm in Exton, but admits she used to harbor artistic ambition.

What was apparent from her canvas was this: Donato did, like many of the students, and The Spirited Artist itself, a good deal better than fine.

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