Disclaimer: I received two complimentary lessons from Muse Paintbar in exchange for my honest review. My opinions are all my own.
Muse Paintbar is the perfect place to unleash your inner creativity. Muse combines the elements of painting, eating, and drinking to create a unique experience that can be enjoyed by all ages and all levels of expertise. The concept of a paintbar is relatively new; basically, you receive a painting lesson from a qualified artist/instructor, while at the same time enjoying beverages (adult ones, in my case) from a full-service bar. Muse Paintbar currently has six locations throughout the United States, including: Manchester, NH, West Hartford, CT, Providence, RI, Portland, ME, Norwalk, CT, and Great Neck, NY.
Each month, Muse posts a calendar of events on its website (per location), where it lists the times, prices, and instructors of each painting lesson. Also included is a thumbnail image depicting the completed painting, so that you can choose one that appeals to you. The majority of these events are open to the public, first come, first serve. There are a wide variety of paintings, some of which local customers are allowed to vote on. Some paintings are seasonal, and others are inspired by famous pieces of art. There are early sessions throughout the day, and sessions that run late into the night. If you have children, there are specific family days, which have easier, more kid-friendly paintings. Other nights target couples for paintings that can be completed together, across two canvases! Whatever your taste is, there is likely something that will pique your interest. Muse is an awesome choice for a date-night, a girl's night out, or any other special occasion.
Muse Paintbar also offers private lessons for groups, when scheduled ahead. Private painting parties are a great, innovative idea for bachelorette parties, birthday parties, or a get-together for co-workers. Muse can also host painting lessons for the purpose of fundraisers. Muse eagerly supports their local economy in each location, and is proud to donate 5% of their profits to local charities.
The closest Muse Paintbar location to me is in Portland, ME; this Muse only recently opened its doors to the public, and has already become a huge success. Portland is the perfect city for any young couple -- it is full of interesting things to do! My boyfriend, who enjoys painting (and drinking, of course), was intrigued by the idea of a paintbar, and thought it would be fun for us to try. I contacted Muse to see if they would sponsor a review, and I was very excited when they agreed. Typically, you would begin by reserving your lessons online, after checking out the calendar and selecting a painting that you like. Lessons start at $35, or $29 for Family Days.
My boyfriend Mike and I decided to make our Muse adventure into the perfect ending for a special date night; we spent the day in Portland visiting the Urban Fermentory, shops, and the Old Port Tavern. We chose to learn how to paint the "Lover's Lane", which features the silhouette of a couple under an umbrella at the end of a moonlit path. This painting lesson was on a Saturday night, from 7:30-10, and would have cost $45 per painter. The bar and kitchen opened at 7 for any early arrivals. Couples could also choose to paint across two canvases hooked together (one finally, larger painting).
Portland's Muse Paintbar is nestled in the midst of Old Town, amongst a variety of specialty shops and restaurants. Upon walking in, you immediately notice the warm ambiance. Muse has a certain character, and an abundance of friendly staff. The decor is modern, and features two separate rooms (which can accommodate two lessons at one time). In the center of each room are tables and chairs, arranged in tiny clusters -- these are the painting stations that you will use. Each station comes equipped with a high-quality, blank canvas propped up on an easel, a colorful palette of pre-decided acrylics, and a can of different sized paintbrushes. How did I find my seat? Since everyone at this session was registered ahead of time, you are given "assigned seats" around the room; your name will appear on your easel. Towards the back wall is a large selection of different colors of acrylic paint, in case you run low, or are feeling adventurous and want to try your own scheme. Hanging around the room are finished masterpieces of the paintings taught at Muse.
In the very back is a well-lit bar, where painters can order food and drinks, as well as go to socialize. At their locations, Muse typically offers 10-12 different wines, including: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Malbec, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Moscato, Riesling, and a standard Red/White. As far as beer goes, Muse will have some combination of: Blue Moon, Sam Adams, Harpoon UFO, UFO Raspberry, Twisted Tea, Bud Light, Corona, and Mike's Hard Lemonade. These drinks are reasonably priced, at around $7 for a glass of wine, and $4-5 for a bottle of beer. I ordered the Moscato to drink while I painted, and Mike chose a beer.
The next step, after socializing with our new neighbors (we had two other people, another couple, at our small table) was to grab an apron off the rack in the back. I didn't want to spill any paint or moscato on my new dress! We settled in, and looked towards a raised stage against the wall for further instruction. Our instructor was artist Stewart Carruthers. He taught us by giving simple, step-by-step directions in layman's terms. To someone who never paints, the finished outcome can look pretty daunting. I didn't think I had the skills to paint ANYTHING, much less this, but I was surprised to find that when you break it down, it is a lot easier than it looks. Our instructor had his own sample painting on stage, so we could watch each step as he completed them, to make sure that we were on track. Stuart was great! He was very passionate about painting and teaching, and was able to successfully lead a group of rowdy, young (and some very tipsy) people through a moderately challenging piece.
As you can see from my pictures, some of the steps were very simple, and they just built on one another. All of the colors you need to complete your painting are already included on the palette in front of you, and there are small plates for mixing colors per instruction. Stuart helped explain which sized brush was right for each step of the painting. One of the first steps was to create a light blue with our white and dark blue paint, and to cover our canvases. We then had to fill in some areas with dark blue paint, and blend. We created a horizon line, and our instructor pointed out how we could really add perspective to our painting by making sure that objects closer to us became larger. I loved creating the leaves on the trees and scattered on the pathway; this was a three-step process using different colors of orange to add depth and lighting. In between steps, when our paintings were drying (you could use a hair dryer if you fell behind, to speed up the process), Stuart walked around to see if we needed any individual help. I loved this personal touch -- he was super encouraging and insightful for everyone.
I did not have a hard time keeping up with the instructor's pace, but I bet I would have, if I had consumed a few more glasses of wine. He gave us plenty of time to go at our own pace, and explained the next step so that those of us who were done could work ahead. He did a great job of balancing time. Even though it seems hard, I swear, Muse makes an artist out of anyone. This really is the perfect spot for ANY skill level, so don't be afraid to give it a try, despite how you think yours will turn out. There is enough help and direction to create something that mirrors the intended image. I found the hardest part to be drawing the people in the center, and drawing any straight lines. I can't make even lines, and when you start to add to them, they just get worse and worse. My umbrella came out a little crooked. The beauty of it is the fact that everyone's painting, although generally similar, will be unique -- your personal style will come through in strokes. One couple even completely changed their color schemes and decided to put dogs in the middle of the painting instead of people! There is no limit to the creativity you can have while creating these paintings. I've included some of my steps in my painting below, so you can see how it started and how it turned out!
After a really fun night, I had created my very own Lover's Lane painting. Mike's painting had a completely different style! When we were finished painting, we got to take our canvases home. We hung one up in the living room and one up in the hallway. They are an awesome conversation piece, and a great addition to any home decor! People won't believe that you painted something so awesome.
All-in-all, I thought that Portland's Muse Paintbar was AMAZING. I would give it a 10/10 on the "fun things for 20-somethings to do" scale. Muse clearly cares about making every detail of your experience enjoyable and memorable. When you think about it, the cost is very reasonable, overall, when you factor in the instructor's time, the cost of materials, and the fact that you get to bring home your finished piece. I loved the fact that Mike and I now have something to treasure. This would make an excellent idea for a party, or even for a first date. I truly believe all ages would be able to keep up with the instructions and would love creating something. Muse is wonderful for socializing with other people in your neighborhood, as well.
Are you interested in learning more about Muse Paintbar? Check out the links below: