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Paint by Lyrics 

Distilled: A shot of life

With a plastic pitcher of torn red raffle tickets in hand, she gracefully flits between tables and greets new arrivals in an already packed brewery.

"Would you like to enter a raffle for the painting I'll be doing tonight? I'm giving it away for free at the end of the night," the petite painter asks. "If you don't like it, you can always just throw it away," she emphasizes quickly, shrugging her shoulders and giggling.

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No one is impolite enough to refuse. Even though she feigns diffidence, 25-year-old Audreana Camm has drawn a surprisingly large crowd — many more than the full-time, self-taught artist expected on a snowy January night the day after New Year's.

After 20 minutes, it's still standing room only, and the cement-floored tasting room of Spokane's Ramblin' Road Craft Brewery hums with chatter as the lone bartender bounces from tap to table to bartop.

Camm sets the raffle tickets down and moves to the back corner of the room, where a paint-stained easel has been set up alongside a mic stand and amp. She waves her arms slightly to catch the room's attention and starts to speak, but no one hears her. A little louder, she tries again, and all but a few tables turn silent.

"I know this is a weird request, but if everyone could try and be as quiet as possible, I'm going to be painting from the music and the lyrics."

A group of tipsy, middle-aged couples whose center table is filled with empty pint glasses begin laughing and chatting again a minute later. The rest of the room, though, is transfixed when the flannel-shirted musician, Andrew Dempsen, takes up his guitar and begins strumming a mellow, folksy tune.

Camm's movements are a blur. Back to the audience, her waist-length red curls swing back and forth as she seems to dance with the canvas. Her right hand flutters around it like a hummingbird — up, down, right, up, left, and then down to the cloudy jar of water on the easel shelf.

"On the drive to Seattle / past windmills and tractor trailers / the passenger seats of other cars are your only neighbors... " Dempsen croons.

Through the singer-songwriter's original, five-song set, the canvas in front of Camm morphs from a glowing sunset to a dim, empty room with a fireplace. The final version — an abstract, heart-shaped tree inside the room — looks nothing like the cheery, bright landscape she began with. The tasting room fills with warm applause as Dempsen's last note fades out. Camm takes a timid bow.

The first name drawn from the raffle is absent — presumably one of the middle-aged drinkers who's since departed for No-Li Brewhouse down the street — so she draws again. The winner is Camm's cousin, but she'll have to wait a while before toting the artwork out into the snowy night. Leaning against the front windowpane, wet paint glistens in the dim light. ♦

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