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Wine Fuels Artistic Inspiration at Scottsdale’s Brush Bar

Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 16:02

Brush Bar

Ryan A. Ruiz

Patrons get their brush strokes on at Brush Bar

I have never been afraid of trying new things. The idea that I may very well be terrible at something has never really hindered my desire to try it – but I've never been a painter. So, as I registered for my very first painting class at the Brush Bar in Scottsdale and saw the painting that I would be attempting to replicate that evening – "Lovers Lane," it was called – I grew a little wary of my abilities. But I threw all doubt to the wind and thought ‘the hell with it,' this will be fun.

I'll admit, I was slightly encouraged and enthused by the fact that the Brush Bar is not your standard painting studio. The Old Town locale features a beer and wine bar in the front and an art studio in the back. Guests can order their choice of beer, wine or a bottle for larger groups. The concept, I think, is genius. Especially for those of us that require a little bit of liquid encouragement.

The Brush Bar, which opened in August of last year, is located right at the heart of Old Town Scottsdale on Craftsman Court. Its storefront is much like the other art galleries and shops in the area, but its inside comes to life with the array of colorful art hanging from the walls and the fun music streaming from an iPod.

I checked in, snagged my one complimentary chardonnay from the bar and made my way to my station. It had already been set up with canvas and paint brushes. All the aspiring artists, myself included, donned fun aprons splattered with paint from previous classes or with painted on abs or sayings like, "I'm with stupid." There was nothing about this place that screamed snoot or condescension. On the contrary – I was relaxed and inspired. I squirted globs of acrylic paint on my palette and took my seat, ready to begin my very first masterpiece.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Would there be a lot of "art" types and experienced painters or just a lot of Scottsdale wives looking for something to occupy their time? I was pleasantly surprised to find a group of people not easily pigeon-holed into any of the aforementioned categories. There were all types; couples on a date, special groups on an outing, girlfriends looking for something different to do and even co-workers winding down from a long day at the office. My girlfriend came rushing in a few minutes late, but the staff of three was helpful and got her set up.

When owner and instructor Gia Ciliento bounced on to the small platform at the front of the room, my thoughts immediately went to "happy tree" painting Bob Ross and how she looked nothing like him. The petite, auburn-haired instructor was bursting with energy and words of encouragement. "I'll guide you brush stroke by brush stroke, but this is your masterpiece. Make it your own," she said to the class of about 20. "If this is your first time painting and you were dragged here by someone else," she continued, "just take a sip of your drink: we're going to have fun!"

Ciliento guides everyone in the class through the same painting blueprint, but opens it up for the artist to paint however and whatever he or she wants. Being fairly new to this, I decided to stick close to the "Lover's Lane" piece she was showing us. The image was one of two lovers walking down a road lit by street lamps and into a burning sunset.

Speaking into a headset mic, she instructed us on the first step. She kept it simple using layman's terms like "big brush" and "little brush" and then turned up the music and let us get creative. From that point on, it was just a dizzying blur of mixing colors, switching from one brush to another and taking sips of wine in between (and a couple refills). I must admit, I was fully consumed and totally diggin' it. When we were all on the same page, she repeated the process until finally, every artist in the room had completed their very own interpretation of the painting.

Once we finished our pieces, my friend and I looked down at our paper-covered work station and burst out laughing. It was a piece of art on its own. So many colors had been blended and dabbed on it, it looked like a couple of 3-year-olds had gone to town with some finger paint.

Before we all went our separate ways, Ciliento snapped a picture of the class holding up its paintings, each one unique and every face behind it beaming with accomplishment. We had created something and had a blast doing it. Such a blast, that as my friend and I walked to our cars, work of art in tow, we made plans to come to one of the Mimosa Morning classes the bar hosts every Sunday.

The Brush Bar, 4165 N. Craftsman Court, Scottsdale, 480.947.8700,, $25-$40, advance registration required

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