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Just add wine: Discovering your inner artist with Artist @ Heart

Artist @ Heart art studio in Libertyville is full of color. From the canvases on its walls to the wine bottle or holiday ornament mobiles hanging from the ceiling to the paint-spattered tables stretched across the studio’s main room, there is an exuberant energy that fills the room and immediately infects anyone who walks through its door.

That exuberant energy can be traced to owner Vickie Tucker, who is just as passionate about people as she is about art and her belief that anyone can be an artist.

During the summer months, Tucker’s studio is transformed into an arts and crafts day camp for children ages 6 and up.

The people slowly trickling into the studio July 1, however, are coming for an adult-oriented evening of painting and wine.

Tucker says her studio has been doing paint-and-sip evenings practically ever since it opened 16 years ago.

“We used to call them Ladies Night Out,” she says. “It used to be Wednesday [evenings], so you know Wine Wednesdays or Bring Your Own Booze, but it wasn’t like how crazy it is now and everyone has all these franchises.”

Now it’s not uncommon for Tucker’s BYOB events to sell out completely with as many as 60 people registering for the classes. This evening, Tucker has split her studio into two separate groups: 27 people – instructed by her husband, Dave – who will be creating an island lighthouse set before a blazing sunset in her main studio floor, and a private party of eight who are there to celebrate a birthday.

The early arrivals for both groups mill around the studio, looking over the canvases hung on the walls. Some of them pour their first glass of wine to get the creative juices flowing. Tucker says the main thing she tries to tell everyone – particularly the first-timers – is that “they’re not gonna be a Monet when they walk out. And just to relax. They’re here to have fun. … [Tonight is just] basically to have fun with your friends. Have a good time, relax and just create.”

Once the majority of the class has arrived and all the glasses of wine have been poured, Tucker’s husband doles out the first supplies of paint – pools of bright yellow and red on paper plates beside the tabletop easels that have been erected eight to a table in the studio.

The students don their paint-spattered aprons, wet their brushes and follow Dave’s first directive: Paint a large, yellow oval in the center of the canvas.

The room is immediately filled with laughter, exclamations and chatter as people start painting. The philosophy of the evening seems fairly evident: if you think you made a mistake, drink more wine.
Dave spends the next two hours walking his class through simple, nonintimidating steps to complete the painting. He teaches the fledgling artists how to blend the colors into an increasingly darkening sunset and paint a believable depiction of a lighthouse. At the end of the class, he walks the class through the steps to create a burst of fireworks in honor of Independence Day.

As he instructs, he strolls up and down the rows of easels, offering words of encouragement and pausing to provide quick tips or help for anyone who asks for it. Tucker, who is in the other room teaching the private birthday party, also pops in to see how the class is going.

At one point, even a passer-by pops her head into the studio to exclaim, “You’re doing fabulous, ladies and gentlemen. Keep up the good work!”

Two hours into the class, many of the wine bottles are empty and every canvas is full of color. While everyone created the same painting, all the canvases reflect the interpretations of each individual artist and the majority of people are beaming happily over their finished product.

Libertyville resident Scott Mason and his fiancée Amy Scholz are first-time painters and sit back in their seats to study their creations side by side. While they both good-naturedly admit neither are expert artists, they add happily in the same breath that they would come back for another night.

“You learn from your mistakes, so I would imagine like even next time I’d get better,” Scholz said.

Mason added, laughing, that with “a couple more paint nights and another bottle of wine” he might become an “expert” painter.

Both said they’d be eager to come back with a group of friends and family, curious to see who within their group would emerge the budding artist.

“It’s definitely a good group thing,” Scholz said. “The more people you had to laugh at each other. Even like some of his single friends would have a blast. I really think they would. I think they might complain on the way here, but they’d have fun. It’s just a fun, easy night.”

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