Canvas Roadshow puts artist in the driver's seat
Debbie Ellis of Bedford started the company in October, offering group painting classes for beginners and seasoned artists.
Already a professional photographer, Ellis got the idea for her second business from a similar enterprise in Boston. Realizing there was nothing similar in the area, she got to making it happen.
"Honestly, I was just really inspired with the experience that I had down in the Boston area," she said. "It was amazing and I wanted to share that with people. I just looked around and said I need to do this."
"It's like the hottest new party trend," Ellis added, referencing five places in Boston that offer the service. "And the cool thing about it is, beyond the art instruction, it's really about relaxing and losing tack of time - just enjoying yourself."
Painters come with friends or by themselves, getting the chance to meet people with similar interests. Ellis said the trend has been likened to yoga, only without the awkward positions.
The Roadshow's first event was a breast cancer fundraiser in October, hosted at a friend's home. The company now puts on events at a dozen venues in the Greater Manchester Area, including Social 24 in Manchester, Shorty's Grill in Bedford and the Black Forest Cafe in Amherst.
Apart from the regular events, the the show goes on the road for birthday parties, bachelorette soirees, or simply for an art night at a private home. A minimum of 12 people is required for a private party. And there's an incentive to do this; whoever hosts the event gets to paint for free.
Participants pay $35 for a two-hour class - more involved classes are $45 - with all materials provided, including a 16-inch by 20-inch canvas, acrylic paints, brushes and apron.
Ellis hired three professionally trained artists to lead the classes, including painting teacher Alyssa Gilbert, Nicole Manni of the Academy for Science and Design in Nashua, and Sarah Scribner, a recent UNH graduate.
The subjects of the paintings change from month to month. Van Gogh's "Starry Night" has been on the easel, as well as birch trees, Mexican flowers and other themes related to nature, still-life and landscapes.
The instructors also take requests, though this depends on the complexity of the painting and it's up to the instructors whether to take them on.
Ellis said business has been great so far, with participants already signed up for January classes. Participants get a frequent painter card, with the fourth painting session free.
"When people get it they really enjoy the whole process," she said. "They end up gifting their paintings out to other people."
"You learn some new technique, you have some fun, and you walk away with a new piece of art. You're guaranteed to have a good time."
The Canvas Roadshow does one fundraiser a month, including one at Hampshire Hills in Milford on Jan. 16 at 6:30 p.m.
More information is available at thecanvasroadshow.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/canvasroadshow.