Anyone can be an artist in downtown Saratoga Springs.
At Saratoga Beads, you can make jewelry, and Creative Sparks is the place to paint your own pottery.
Now there’s a place to create a painting while relaxing with a glass of wine or beer.
This spring, Catherine and Mark Hover opened Saratoga Paint and Sip Studio at 80 Henry St. in the space where PaperDolls was before it moved to Broadway.
The new business doesn’t look exactly like a drinking establishment, as easels are set up on all the tables, but there’s a social atmosphere and a bar where one can step up and order a drink.
Before they walk in the door, customers go to a website, pick a painting with a theme, like “Matisse’s Goldfish Bowl” or “Avenue of the Pines” and register for that class. When they arrive, an artist guides them through the making of a 16-by-20, acrylic-on-canvas painting. Niskayuna native Kendra Farstad, an art/anthropology graduate of the University at Albany, is one of three young Capital Region artists who serve as instructors.
The class fee, from $35 to $45, includes appetizers and the use of aprons, easels, brushes and paints, and each customer goes home with his or her finished artwork. Drinks are not included in the fee.
Saratoga Paint and Sip also hosts parties for all ages and occasions, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., there is “open studio,” when customers can paint whatever they please for a $25 fee.
Catherine, who is 25, manages the studio while husband Mark works as a survey engineer for the Hudson River cleanup project in Fort Edward.
New Orleans native
Born and raised in New Orleans, Catherine studied fashion merchandising at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, and interned in Manhattan.
The couple moved to Saratoga Springs in April 2011, when Mark took the job in Fort Edward.
Catherine Hover talked with The Gazette earlier this month.
Q: How get you get involved with Paint and Sip?
A: It’s kind of a funny story. I had a painting in my moving box that I [had] done back home at another paint and sip. My neighbor saw it and said, “Oh, you’re an artist.” And I said, “I’m not a painter. I did this at a bar.” And he said, “There’s no such thing like that up here.” The light bulb went off in my head, and we started doing research to see how we could bring the concept to the area.
Q: Is your business a franchise?
A: Ours is not. We are an independently owned paint-and-sip studio. There are several franchises out there that were available but after doing some research we opted to take a stab at it on our own.
Q: Are there others in New York state? What’s the closest one to Saratoga?
A: There’s one just outside of Rochester that opened in March called Painting with a Twist. There’s one in Boston called The Paint Bar. The whole paint-and-sip industry kind of popped up. The oldest one that I know of was in 2007.
Q: Are most of your customers women?
A: Seventy-five percent are. A lot of women bring their husbands. It’s a great date night. There are considerably more men than I thought. In the South, it’s not a very manly thing to do.
Q: What’s the age group?
A: I would say between 25 and 55.
Q: What’s the atmosphere like on a typical evening?
A: When people walk in, they don’t know what to expect, and they are kind of nervous. Soon enough, everyone’s inhibitions are lowered. The way we have the tables set up, people tend to mingle, they can see other people’s canvases. It’s a party atmosphere.
Q: Do women arrive alone or with girlfriends?
A: Wednesday night we had a party of seven in here. No special occasion. Just girls getting together. And then I had a group of five. And then I had three or four groups of two. For the most part, people register in twos, but I have had people come in solo and have just as much fun. It’s a really great way to meet people.
Q: What are your most popular paintings?
A: The “Starry Night” is definitely a popular one. The peacock painting is big. We have an “Adirondack Sunset” that’s super popular.
Q: What kinds of wine and beer do you serve?
A: We do four types of red and four types of white. As far as the label goes, they rotate. We have Davidson Brothers IPA. And then we have a couple of other beers that rotate as well.
Q: Did you study art?
A: No. I have never studied art. It’s not a serious art class. It’s not attracting people who studied art. It’s not about learning technique and getting serious. It kind of opens people’s eyes to art, to make it more accessible, and make people realize that this is something that they can do as well. I definitely appreciate art more than I did before. And it’s fun, it’s therapeutic to get in front of a canvas after a stressful day.
Q: As a newcomer, what surprised you about Saratoga?
A: The people here are a lot friendlier than I expected them to be. Growing up in New Orleans, everybody acts like they know everybody. It’s a big city, but Southern hospitality is very tried and true. Saratoga being such a small town, everyone does know everybody.
For more information about Saratoga Paint & Sip Studio, go to www.saratogapaintandsip.com or phone 584-8244.