WALNUT CREEK -- It may have rained one recent Thursday evening, but inside the newly opened Canvas and Cabernet on Locust Street, people's sunshiny mood wasn't the only thing that brightened the room.
Visitors to the studio are greeted by a sign at the entrance: "Come in and paint. It's cheaper than therapy."
Since Canvas and Cabernet, a paint and wine-sipping studio, opened nearly two months ago, wine has been swirling around glasses and colorful acrylic paints have swirled around canvases.
Owner Julee Herrmann teaches the painting classes to mostly first-time artists, who learn painting basics while sipping their favorite wine and socializing with friends.
"You're all sitting inside my dream come true," Herrmann said.
The studio offers step-by-step instruction from the beginning to the end of their painting giving artists creative license to embellish details along the way. As soon as the participants chose their colors and placed them on a palette, Herrmann revealed to them their activity for the night: painting a chandelier.
"If you haven't painted since you were 6 years old, then you're my perfect student," Herrmann said.
The purpose of Canvas and Cabernet is to ignite the creative spark within each person and have fun while you're at it, Herrmann said.
"We're all creators. We all have a creative spirit within us," said the Danville resident. "We're all creating something every day. It doesn't have to be a masterpiece."
Herrmann, who grew up in the East Bay, was influenced by a family of artists. Referring to her experience in sales, marketing, interior design, feng shui and teaching art, she said "all the things I've done have come to roost (at Canvas and Cabernet)."
Her own jewelry and mixed-media art, along with the artwork of other local artists, are displayed at the studio.
Since its opening, Canvas and Cabernet has booked several sold-out events and has catered to book clubs, socials and various themed parties. Occasionally, she'll host a themed event, for instance, where participants can paint the Eiffel Tower and offer wine and cheese pairings.
Herrmann said she got the idea to open a "paint and sip" studio when she encountered the concept while visiting her grandmother in Denver more than two years ago.
"I thought, this is totally my dream," she said. "I knew right then and there this was the direction I would go."
As she began to show how to layer and blend colors, participants start to sing the lyrics to a Bon Jovi song.
"I'm going to turn the music up, and we're going to rock this thing out," Herrmann said, as participants stood up and danced.
"We've had people come separately and leave together -- it's become really social," he said. "This gives people something creative to do while they can relax and interact with other people."
While other participants came with friends, Diane Ludwig said she thought it would be fun to go solo and meet other people there.
"I always wanted to learn the artistry and blending of colors," said Ludwig. "I would love to be an artist. This is my first real painting class. I don't feel intimidated like I thought I would."
Ludwig said she has a painting hanging in her home but hopes to hang an original painting.
"That painting's going to be replaced tonight," she said of her old painting.
Sarah Webster of Concord first attended a class with her daughter during a night with a Vincent van Gogh theme and decided to bring a group of friends.
"We kept saying we're making memories," Webster said. "After doing this the first time, I couldn't wait to tell my friends."
Betty Blaney of Walnut Creek was one of those longtime friends.
"It's girls' night out," Blaney said.
Jenna Croy of Walnut Creek, whose friends also accompanied her, examined her own rendition of a chandelier.
"I'm actually pretty happy with it," Croy said. "I'll definitely come back to do this with other friends."
Painting gives people a chance to spend quality time, whether alone or with a group, Herrmann said.
"Painting helps people stay present," she said. "When you're present, you feel peaceful."
Go to 1421 Locust St., Walnut Creek. Call 925-287-1614 or go to www.canvascabernet.com for more information.