Alejandro Sarmiento offers paint and sip classes in 5th street market alley.

Everyone Is an Artist With a Little Liquid Courage

Grab your favorite beverage and paint your worries away

One by one, people trickle into the door, grab an apron and find an open seat. A palette full of brown, red, orange, white, blue, green and black globs of paint rests on the table next to a paint-splattered cup full of fresh water and four different-sized square and round brushes lying on paper towels. The chatter dies down and cold beverage cans snap open as people gaze at the blank canvases in front of them.

All it takes is one brush stroke and one sip to begin a masterpiece. Anyone with a burning passion to kill time, relax and paint with no pressure can sign up for a paint and sip class. Take a friend or take some time for yourself and learn step-by-step how to paint an already thought-out picture in a supportive atmosphere like the late Bob Ross’s TV show The Joy of Painting

In the early 2000s, Sips ‘n’ Strokes debuted in Birmingham, Alabama, with art classes that allowed adults to sip alcohol while painting to relax. Years later, Painting with a Twist developed in a barn in Louisiana amid the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina, creating an escape for people to forget their worries and come together during a devastating time. The business soared, and now there are 300 franchise locations nationwide. Bottle & Bottega, Pinot’s Palette and Wine and Design have all taken this idea and created fast-growing chains.

In Eugene, the paint and sips are local, not franchised. Art with Alejandro set up shop in 2020 near the eateries and market in the 5th Street Public Market. The opportunity to move into the 5th Street Market Alley in January appeared, and Alejandro Sarmiento jumped at the idea. “My main business here is paint and sip classes,” Sarmiento says. “But I also do private lessons for people who actually want to learn to paint. And I have a gallery where I sell some of my work and feature other local artists as well.”

As you walk in, giant acrylic tiger paintings stare at you across the small-scale studio. “My favorite subject would be figures and portraits. I also like to do animals and a lot of stuff from imagination,” Sarmiento says.

To the right, trippy, psychedelic and vibrant portraits of mermaids and other creatures rest on the wall. Local artist Paisley Mae created these and teaches at Art with Alejandro while occasionally hopping in on Sarmiento’s classes, such as the one a few weekends ago with a mushroom house as the subject. 

Sarmiento drew a light sketch of the house for the students and printed out small images of the finished piece for reference and handed out the brushes and colorful paints needed. He then introduced himself to the class and started the first step painting the whole drawing with a light orange. “It’s almost like a paint by numbers, but no numbers,” he says. “I’m guiding you exactly where to go next.”

It wouldn’t be a paint and sip class without the sipping part. As Sarmiento waits for his Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission license, he offers complimentary red or white wine with the option to bring your own beer (BYOB) or other types of beverages, with the exception of hard alcohol.

Art with Alejandro has numerous paintings to choose from on its website, including paint your pet, landscapes, vintage VW buses and more. “I’d like to remind people that anyone can do it and to come for fun, even if the paintings look really hard,” Sarmiento says. “You don’t need any experience. This is art for fun in a way, but you end up with a decent painting at the end.” 

Before venturing off on his own business journey, Sarmiento worked at Vino and Vango. Shortly after the surge of paint and sips, Pauline Hauder opened Vino and Vango in 2010 — after being told no one could paint her paintings. “I would have my staff simplify my paintings, just wipe out 90 percent of the detail, and that worked out,” Hauder says.

In the first eight or nine years, the paintings were all inspired by originals from a company that Vino and Vango bought the rights to use. The idea was to keep it simple with trees, moons, water and more. Hauder recalls people coming in waves for the first four years because there weren’t other businesses offering these classes. Paint and sips have been operated out of the main Vino and Vango building on Springfield’s Main Street, but some spill over into Hauder’s studio next door, which is full of acrylic and oil paintings of her own work. 

As a private party occurs in the main studio, a miniature class takes place in Hauder’s studio. “The Midnight Moth” sits on display. Becky Willhite, one of the staff members who joined in 2019, begins by instructing the class to paint the background pitch black. Beverages are slowly creeping out of bags as BYOB is also allowed at this business. Willhite — a self-taught artist — takes people through a step-by-step process in creating this fuzzy, creature who loves the light.


After 14 years, Hauder was notified that Vino and Vango’s lease would not be renewed, and the business needed to be out by May 9. There’s “a lot of sadness that we’re leaving, but they have other plans for this building. And we’re kind of in the way of progress in downtown Springfield,” she says. 

“So we got the boot, and if someone gives you lemons, make lemonade.” With that said, Vino and Vango is taking its business on the road. May 4 was the last class in the building painting, “Fly Me To The Moon” — a whale jumping out of water in the moonlight. 

 “We are going to go mobile,” Hauder says. “We’re just going to operate out of a storage locker, and we get to go bye-bye in a car-car,” referencing the Woodie Guthrie song “Riding in My Car.” 

The business is going back to its roots, when Hauder operated out of a van six months before she found the store — hence the name Vino and Vango. The first official offsite class occurs at High Pass Winery on May 11 for a pre-Mother’s Day celebration.

“People just want to paint a picture without having to quit your day job or spend 20 years practicing and learning art,” Hauder says.Art with Alejandro is located at 590 Pearl Street, Suite 104. More info at More info on events by Vino and Vango at