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Painting the town: Painting parties are spreading around Tampa Bay

Taking advantage of a Groupon deal, Heidi Heine of Palmetto drove an hour to Copperheads Tap House in Safety Harbor to participate in Paint Nite. “It takes you away from the stress of a job,” she said of painting.
Published Mar. 24, 2014

SAFETY HARBOR

Heidi Heine sat before the empty canvas and got to work. She dipped a brush in orange paint and swiftly spread it in vertical strokes.

On her own, she has painted palm trees, water scenes and flowers. But when she spotted a Groupon deal online for a Paint Nite event at Copperheads Tap House in Safety Harbor, she signed up despite the one-hour drive from her Palmetto home.

Heine was among roughly 30 people who gathered at Copperheads earlier this month to eat, drink and complete a painting under the direction of Dunedin artist Pamela Sprecher.

"You don't have to have any painting skills whatsoever," Sprecher told them. "We will break it down for you."

Painting parties are on the rise in Tampa Bay.

Paint Nite, a company that offers sessions at bars and restaurants, began hosting events in Safety Harbor and Clearwater for the first time this month. Within the past year, Paint Nite, founded in 2012, has expanded to 77 cities worldwide with more than 1,000 events held each month, according to company officials.

Other painting party companies with permanent studios in Tampa Bay also have noticed growing numbers of participants.

Painting with a Twist, headquartered in Louisiana, has opened studios in 23 states. In 2009, Leslie and Marvin Gay opened the first Florida location in St. Petersburg. At first, about four people attended each session.

"Now, we can hold up to 30 people in one of our classrooms and 20 in another," Leslie Gay said. "We persevered. We stayed open."

In 2011, they opened another studio in Tampa. Attendees can bring their own beverages and snacks to the studio while artists guide them through the steps of a painting. Crowd favorites include sunset and beach scenes.

"It's a way to get together with friends, have a good time, be creative, do something that's out of your comfort level," she said. "And, at the end of the class, you have a painting you can hang up immediately."

Pinot's Palette, which opened locations in Oldsmar and St. Petersburg within the past year, just opened another studio in Brandon last month. More than 30 people arrived the first day.

"We do believe that this is becoming a huge trend," said Brandon studio co-owner Jennifer Crum. "We provide more than just a night out."

The Paint Nite event in Safety Harbor on March 4 was the second time Sprecher, a real estate agent, had led a session. Sprecher is a graduate of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She signed up as an instructor because she wanted a way to network and relieve stress.

The guests trickled in and filled paper plates with paint — yellow, blue, red, white and black — from large bottles in the back of the room. Then they settled at several tables set up with canvasses and paint brushes.

The night's task: painting a still life of three wine glasses and a champagne flute.

"How many of you have not painted since you were in grade school?" Sprecher asked them.

Several hands went up.

With a microphone in one hand and a paintbrush in the other, Sprecher showed the guests each step. Start with orange strokes. Then, in dark gray, draw the curvatures of the glasses before filling them in with rich red tones.

After each step, Sprecher walked to the tables with her unfinished canvas to show participants her work. Another assistant was also available for guidance.

Among the guests was Victoria Delesie, who came with several of her co-workers. It was her third time at a painting event. She has hung her two previous paintings of martini glasses and wine bottles in her kitchen, she said.

"It's just fun," said Delesie of St. Petersburg. "If it's ugly, you throw it away. It's not like you spend hundreds of dollars."

Sitting next to her was Heine, who listened to Sprecher's directions intently.

"I think painting is such a creative endeavor," she said. "It takes you away from the stress of a job."

With a small brush, Heine carefully drew thin, gray lines to form the stem of each glass. She rose from her chair and stood at a distance to scrutinize the painting that she hopes to send to her son in Canada.

"I hope he likes it," she said.

Contact Laura C. Morel at lmorel@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4157. On Twitter: @lauracmorel.

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