BRADENTON -- A bottle of red, a canvas of white perhaps a painting of a rose instead.
At Pinot Picasso, whether it's painting scenes from an Italian restaurant or a flowery field, a little wine never hurts the creativity.
Carmen Leavitt has moved her bring-your-own-bottle painting class from Palmetto to downtown Bradenton this month aiming to give folks another option for entertainment or a date night.
Leavitt, a Ringling College of Art and Design graduate and former advertising artist for the Bradenton Herald and Florida Today, first opened Pinot Picasso in downtown Palmetto two years ago. With her lease up, it was time to grow and she found the Jess Jewelers building at 1304 Sixth Ave. W., in downtown where thousands of cars pass by each day.
After running Design Source Advertising with her ex-husband for 12 years, she felt the time was right to get away from the computer and back to the easel.
"I love my job. I do get a few folks from graphics and advertising that I'm still connected with asking, 'Can you do a logo, can you do a print?'" she said, but she politely declines and invites them in for a class. "I'm on this side of it now, so it's more paint and it's my passion."
The art studio maintains the exposed brick look inside and features two large classrooms for painting and a buffet area where guests can bring their wine and snacks for the night. She'll bring in corporate groups such as Feld Entertainment
and Manatee Memorial Hospital or gather a smattering of strangers for a night of cocktails and art.
So-called paint-and-sip classrooms have been popping up in the area over the last few years and Leavitt found her inspiration from a similar business. What separates her from some of the franchise offerings is that there is no countrywide catalog at Pinot Picasso. The art offered for copying are original creations by Leavitt and the four other artists at the studio.
"It individualizes it a little bit," she said. "It has a little bit more personality teaching your own paintings."
The schedules list each painter and the painting offered at a class, whether it's a zebra, a Grinch or a beachside sunrise. Leavitt also offers to pre-draw canvases or to give customers a blank canvas.
Knowing that the two-hour classes are full of chatter and drinks, not everybody gets their painting completed so she offers a free Painting ER class once a month where customers can come in on a Saturday morning to finish or tweak their painting.
"I rarely get people in the class so I guess it's kind of a good thing," Leavitt said. "Everybody leaves happy."
Leavitt said she has seen children master paintings some adults have challenges with and men eventually get into the mood, too.
"The men tend to come in a little bit pouty and then they leave and they're the ones the most excited about coming back," Leavitt said, adding she's offered baseball and football paintings to give the guys something to paint.
Her other classes include a Tasting Thursday with food and glasses of red and white wine, there are mimosas on Monday mornings, and charity nights on Mondays called Canvas with a Cause. For every paid seat, $10 goes to the charity, Leavitt said. The next charity events scheduled in January benefit Relay for Life, Tara Elementary School and Harmonics for Haiti, an Nokomis-based organization inspired by 14-year-old Serena Schumacher who wanted to donate the musical recorders to Haiti. The girl died in August.
The organization chose a musical note painting to be the inspiration for that event, Leavitt said. Several groups have personal objectives and reinterpret the art. A sunset turned into a sunrise as one group wanted to use the painting to rally around a terminally ill co-worker, she said.
The cost is $35 for classes ranging from two to three hours, Leavitt said, and while all ages are welcomed the evening classes are geared more for an adult's night out and may not be suitable for children. Morning classes are offered, she added. A full list of classes can be found at pinotpicasso.net.
Also joining Pinot Picasso in the Jess Jewelers building is Yadi's Beauty Salon, operated by Yadi Diaz. To celebrate, the three businesses are hosting a public open house from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday with free food and live entertainment.
Diaz moved her business from historic Manatee Village for better exposure, Diaz said. The salon does hair and nails and specializes in keratin treatments.
"I'm excited to be here and get new clientele from this area," Diaz said. Yadi's is open Tuesday through Saturday by appointment only, though she's usually around the shop from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Pinot's and Yadi's openings mean that the building Tom Jess renovated and opened a year ago is now fully occupied.
Jess, owner of Jess Jewelers, said he patiently waited to find the right mix of tenants.
"I couldn't be happier with the mix," said Jess, who is celebrating his 25th anniversary in Bradenton. "I was just looking for the special magic and believe I found it."
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.