Stroke of creativity

Every brush stroke across the canvas releases an ounce or two of tension from Melissa Leverett’s shoulders.

That’s exactly what she and the other 30 amateur painters at Art Buzz were looking for Friday night — a chance to discover their creative sides and enjoy the company of friends.

“I’ve been here too many times to count,” Leverett said. “It’s fun to let your creative nerves flow and be unstressed. I can’t draw stick figures but when I get done here [my artwork] actually looks pretty good.”

Owners Elise Cowgill and Kristi Love opened Art Buzz in January 2007. Cowgill said she just wants people to enjoy themselves.

“We think of it as a therapeutic thing for people,” Cowgill said. “We try to keep it small and intimate so people can ask for help.”

Just about any night of the week, classes across the county pair paints with pinot noir to transform this seemingly introverted activity into a social extravaganza.

“Coming with a group of friends can’t be beat and we’ve met so many new friends this way too,” said Kim Rosato of Helena.

Artist Wendy Lovoy introduced the area to the combination of step–by–step painting in a casual studio in 2003 when she opened Sips N’ Strokes on Highway 280. The company opened the doors to a new studio off Highway 52 in Pelham Nov. 1.

Executive assistant Stacy Foshee said many customers seek the chance to pick up a new hobby.

“Wendy makes art accessible to anyone,” Foshee said. “Just like any other skill set … art can be taught. Plus, there are just so many people looking for something else to do for girls’ night out.”

Girls Night Out is exactly what the Shelby County Arts Council calls their bi-monthly events. The arts council too encourages people to bring food and their favorite beverage to add to the social feel of the evenings. The arts council’s Girls Night Out event Thursday night is already sold out and often does sell out quickly.

Around Christmas time many of the businesses focus on holiday–themed artwork. But they also create paintings of martini glasses, angels and funky trees like the one participants painted Friday. The Bubbly Tree, as Cowgill called it, mimicked the mood of many at Art Buzz that night. The painting included a colorful background filled with saturated blues, greens and reds. Crossing the canvas were waving tree branches with bright bubbles hanging from stems.

The painting peaked the creativity and excitement of a group of women celebrating Heather Burns’ 30th birthday.

“I just moved back to Birmingham from Tampa, and when I got back all of my friends had paintings up in their houses,” Burns said. “I’ve always wanted to do this. It just seemed like so much fun.”

The fun is relatively inexpensive with prices at various businesses starting at $25. All who participate leave with a painting to hang in their houmes and offices or give away to friends as gifts.