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Parties foster art adventure

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    2015 July 19 FTR - Paint and Sangria - Art instructor Luke DeKneef, professional artist, leads the Paint and Sangria class, where people paint their own take-home picture as they sip wine at Na Mea Hawaii/Native Books in Ward Warehouse. Here he begins to paint the honu. HSA photo by Bruce Asato
    2015 July 19 FTR - Paint and Sangria - Art instructor Luke DeKneef, professional artist, taught the Paint and Sangria class at Na Mea Hawaii/Native Books at Ward Warehouse. HSA photo by Bruce Asato

The cup of homemade sangria in front of Mark Silva sat untouched.

The 37-year-old nurse from San Diego was too focused on painting a blue sky on his canvas to indulge in the free drink — or even notice the 30 other people sitting around him at Na Mea Hawai’i at Ward Warehouse on a recent Saturday night.

Everyone else seemed engrossed in the same project, too: painting a honu (Hawaiian green sea turtle) playing in the surf under a bright-blue sky.

"I have never been to a painting event like this before," he said. "I mean, I’ve seen people do this. … It just sounded like a fun thing to do."

For about a year the Honolulu-based Loading Zone Arts has been organizing these bimonthly Sangria & Paint parties at different venues on Oahu.

The concept is simple: For $35 you get to paint on a canvas that you can take home, with step-by-step instruction from a trained artist while sipping wine or cocktails. The fee covers all of the materials, including acrylic paint and brushes. No art training or talent is required. You just need to show up.

Organizers say it’s about adding a social element to creating art.

"It’s something new and different to do," says Nohealani Ho’opi’i, coordinator at Loading Zone Arts. "We started with just one event, and it just grew. We had no idea it would last a year."

The sip-and-paint concept isn’t new, but it’s growing in popularity across the country and in Hawaii. The sessions, which last around two hours, are offered by individual artists, franchise-based businesses or venues that range from art galleries to bars. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are about 200 sip-and-paint companies in the U.S. and Canada.

After selling their remodeling company and moving to Maui from Denver, Alma and Curt Winn decided to open Island Art Party in a small art studio in Kihei organizing sip-and-paint parties last year.

It’s gotten so popular, the studio, which seats up to 60 people, offers classes five days a week. On Mondays and Tuesdays it’s available for private events. The couple smartly secured a liquor license and serves local beers, various wines and cocktails made with local rum and vodka, all for an additional cost. And they employ four "partistas" — party artists — who helped create the company’s catalog of 76 paintings that are used in the classes.

"We’re about having a good time, so it’s very social and you end up with a pretty picture," Alma Winn said. "But it’s really about having fun."

She got the idea of opening Island Art Party after attending a sip-and-paint event in Denver.

"I can’t draw stick figures but that’s the beauty of it," she said. "I went with friends, there was wine and my painting didn’t suck. It was really fun. … As an adult you don’t often get a chance to try something new and really enjoy it."

There were several groups of girlfriends and couples sitting at the long tables set up in the middle of the retail space at Na Mea Hawai’i on July 18, sipping sangria and catching up. But when artist Luke DeKneef started talking about the ocean scene they were going to paint, the chatting stopped and the mood became serious. Except for the soothing Hawaiian music wafting overhead, the store was quiet.

"There’s no right or wrong way," DeKneef told the attendees, all focused on their brushstrokes of blue on their 8-by-10-inch canvases. "I encourage you to step out of the box, if that’s what you want to do. There’s no critique after. You have total creative freedom. Just have fun."

And although DeKneef provided clear, precise directions on how to re-create his artwork, which was displayed on an easel in front of the group, no one’s painting looked the same. Some turtles were green; others were black silhouettes. Some waves were soft and gentle; others were stormy and turbulent.

But one thing was the same: They had all exceeded their own expectations as an artist, proudly taking selfies and snapping photos of their finished artwork with their smartphones.

"Everything I needed was provided, and the instruction was very good, easy to follow," said Silva, one of only four men who attended the painting class. "And I was surprised with the results. It’s actually something I would keep and put up. I’m thinking about framing it and hanging it in my living room."


>> 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sept. 5, The Manifest, 32 N. Hotel St.

>> 5:30 p.m. Aug. 15, Na Mea Hawai’i, Ward Warehouse.

>> 5:30 p.m. Sept. 17, Aloha Crepes, 3620 Waialae Ave.

Cost: $35, includes supplies, one glass of sangria and music; bring apron or old shirt; ages 21 and older



>> 6 p.m. Wednesday (bird of paradise) and Aug. 21 (sunrise shell), Cafe Hale’iwa, 66-456 Kamehameha Highway. Cost: $40 includes supplies; beverages and food available for purchase.

>> 6 p.m. Aug. 14 (lotus), Lily Lotus, 3632 Waialae Ave. Cost: $45 includes supplies, light pupu, wine and beverages.

>> 6 p.m. Aug. 14 (mango) and 28 (word boards), Fresh Cafe, 1111 Nuuanu Ave. Cost: $40 includes supplies; beverages and food available for purchase.

>> 6 p.m. Aug. 20 (octopus), Kailua Living, 22 Oneawa St. Cost: $45 includes supplies, light pupu, wine and beverages.

Contact:, 227-9095


>> 7 p.m. Saturday, Debut of Tribal Turtle, 1279 S. Kihei Road, Maui

Cost: $59 includes supplies, popcorn (kamaaina discount available); beverages for purchase; ages 16 and up

Contact:, 419-6020

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