At Emile’s Restaurant & Suites, fourteen would-be artists sat around a long table, working their brushes diligently through dabs of red and yellow paint, trying to get the shading just right on the butterfly wings they are creating.
“I think I messed up,” said one painter. “The legs don’t look right.”
But her instructor told her not to worry. “That’s the beauty of painting. You can cover up all your mistakes.”
Two hours later, monarch butterflies have appeared on every canvas. Although everyone painting is different, every artist proudly displays their creation in a group photo.
That’s the beauty of Paint & Sip, which has been happening every Wednesday night at the East End institution for almost five months, says Joa-Gael Tremblay, founder of the event. Attendees pay $30 for materials and a complimentary glass of wine. The class is sponsored by Caribbean Cellars.
“I got the idea from Canada and the States,” she said. “It’s a big up and coming thing right now.” All she needed was an instructor, and when she asked eighteen-year-old Liliana Rhymer whether she would be interested, the young artist said yes right away. She chooses a different subject every week.
“We’ve had butterflies, turtles, mermaids, forests,” said Ms. Tremblay. “Liliana paints a couple days in advance and she shows them to me.”
Ms. Tremblay said she loves art, but “personally I’m horrible at painting,” she said with a laugh. “It was always something I would have loved to do but not something I’m good at.”
Overall, though customers learn to paint, it’s really more about community than anything. “It’s about getting people together and it’s a lot of fun,” said Ms. Tremblay. “There’s not a lot to do on Tortola, so people are always excited to try something new.”
The class is also good for business. Ms. Tremblay says she gets on average 20 people per class, “20 people we wouldn’t have had on a Wednesday.”
Of course, Emile’s pool is always an attraction, but Ms. Tremblay has been getting creative in order to increase business. “On Sundays, we have our BBQ night with the band Too Smooth,” she said. “It’s always a big draw. And at Paint & Sip, we have a lot of people who come/ Today we had a group of nine people. It’s like the fourth time that group has come.”
Artists are all smiles as they file out the door with their masterpieces. Sure, some of them blended too much black with red or didn’t get the shape of the grass quite perfectly. But they are all unique and beautiful.
“The best thing is that everyone’s painting comes out amazing,” she said, “so they feel like they’re happy and they’re proud of themselves.”