One year for her birthday, Rhegan Cooper asked her husband to go with her to a Pinot’s Palette art class.
“I kicked and screamed the whole way,” Eric said.
But once they got settled in — with the professional artist on stage providing friendly directions and some beer and wine in hand — the experience was far different than what Eric expected.
“The guests come in and they’re all happy,” he said. “That’s what attracted me to it.”
So the Coopers, who at that time were in the restaurant business, decided to open their own Pinot’s Palette right in Norman. It held a soft opening on Thursday night and will have its grand opening on Dec. 7 at 228 E. Main St.
Pinot’s Palette is a national chain with locations in several states and multiple in Oklahoma. Rhegan and Eric went to the one in Bricktown.
The concept is simple: guests pay for a two-hour or three-hour art instruction from a professional artist Pinot’s Palette hires. The price pays for the instruction, the paint, paintbrushes, the canvass, and the apron for painting.
Alcohol is sold separately, but Pinot’s does have a bar with wine and beer. There’s also juice and soft drinks for those who don’t wish to partake.
For those that do, neither Eric nor artist trainer Cara Calvert-Thomas fully understand why painting and alcohol go together so well. They just do.
“I think at a certain level, people feel sophisticated around artwork and wine,” Calvert-Thomas said. “So naturally, they would go together. Or maybe it’s channeling their inner artist. And of course, that loosens your inhibition. Having a little wine helps you relax a little bit and get creative.”
The artist instructor stands up on the stage with their own canvass of that class’ painting. Pinot’s Palette has a diverse selection of paintings to choose from, including various landscapes, abstracts and at least one for almost every holiday.
Some may feel the need to imbibe to try and dismiss their feelings that they have never been anything close to an expert painter. At Pinot’s Palette, that doesn’t matter.
“Anybody can do it,” Eric said. “It’s pretty incredible. If I can complete a painting, anybody can complete a painting. My paintings turned out fairly decent.”
Calvert-Thomas instructs artists how to teach classes for Pinot’s Palette. She said they walk guests through each painting, step-by-step, to make sure no one feels overwhelmed.
“It’s not a coloring book, but it is as easy,” she said. “So it doesn’t matter if you are a highly experienced artist or if you haven’t painted since pre-school and you can’t remember, or your only experience painting is the walls in your dorm.”
And the instruction isn’t designed to be intrusive. Everyone has their own style, Calvert-Thomas said, which is what makes each session so unique.
“The fabulous thing is everybody has their own painting style, whether they’ve every picked up a paintbrush or not,” she said. “So we make it easy enough so everyone has something very similar, if not exactly the same, at the end, but we also encourage creativity.
“You’ll always see customers who add that little special touch. Most of the time, I love what everyone else does, what our guests do, a lot more than what we started out with in the beginning.”
Pinot’s Palette books guests individually for a night out or a date night, and they also book groups. The main room seats 48 people, while a private room in the back seats 24.
And Pinot’s Palette isn’t just for adults. The Norman location already has a children’s birthday party booked for later this month.
“We accommodate guests from ages 6 to 106,” Rhegan explained.
Initially, Pinot’s Palette will be open four days a week, Thursday-Saturday nights and Sunday during the day. Eric said he and Rhegan want to add more days in the future.
One thing is for certain: they plan on having more fun in this business than they did in restaurants.
“It’s a lot of long, hard hours,” Eric said. “It doesn’t matter how good the food is, you always deal with complaints. With this concept, your artists that work here, what’s not to like about coming to work? You’re giving people a good time.”