Canvas Creations
By Brenda Eggert Brader

Everyone can be an artist if painting in the creative classes taught by Sheila Vertoli of Canvas Creations in Winter Haven.

“It is like traditional painting but way more fun, with canvas and cocktails, that kind of thing,” says Vertoli who has been teaching wet on wet acrylic painting for party groups since April 2012.

“It was in Louisiana that I started because a friend, who gives conferences for writers, wanted to do something fun as an activity so she asked me to do something like this because she knew I had wanted to draw and paint for years,” she says.

Suggesting Vertoli drive to the conference site, the friend purchased all the supplies making a starter kit for Vertoli to begin her hobby and eventual path for income.

Since then Vertoli gives classes at a couple local businesses and many a home party setting or retirement community clubhouse.

“I go into churches and personal homes that open up for parties,” Vertoli says. “So I travel and bring all the supplies to their site and set it up and break it down. I have regulars that I visit and many over the age of 55 retirement residences invite me to come for a party.”

Because she wants all those attending to have a great experience, she keeps her class size to around 20 participants and prefers at least eight people minimum to do a party. The cost is $35 per person including the canvass 16 by 20 inches.

“I will pick out something and get the party started asking the people what they are interested in,” Vertoli says. “Most of the time clients tell me what they want to paint and I get it ready for them ahead of time. I have to be sure to create it because it has to work to completion in two to three hours. If I can paint it in an hour, then classes can paint it in two or three.”

The parties are fun and casual with participants bringing what they would like to snack on and drink.

Acrylic paints are used because they dry faster. But sometimes the paint runs because people are getting used to how much paint to use.

“People have never used paints before so they have to be told how much to use,” Vertoli adds. “We use blow dryers, if needed, on the canvas before they go home.”

“People are having a great time being together,” Vertoli says. “That is my passion to draw people in so they have that great experience. Most people claim drinking wine helps them and they can get relaxed.”

The artist recalls a class at St. Matthews Catholic Church for a group of people held once a month. A lady in a wheelchair attended and later told Vertoli that she had put her paints down for years and years. After the class she went to Michael’s to buy paint and supplies and in a month’s time she had painted four pieces.

“She was so thrilled I had put that out to her,” Vertoli says. “Her family was happy that we had brought back part of their mother. That is what inspires me because people have so much fun.”

Vertoli shares that perhaps only about 10 percent of the class participants have an art background but are so encouraged when they leave that they can do something of their own. Many of the same people continue to return to the monthly gatherings she teaches at area businesses in Winter Haven that she has been holding over the course of two years.

“I have seen how much they have improved and I know I can challenge them a little bit more because they get it,” Vertoli adds. “They will bring others from time to time who get inspired by their friend’s paintings.”

“I have taken her painting classes and wet paint together on the side,” says Vanessa O’Neill who has a graphics business. “I was an artist when younger and did a lot of paintings myself. I was skeptical about painting something in one to three hours. I was amazed and it unleashed all the creative time. You come to the class full of energy. You know what you are going to paint and what I have done I have hung up in my house telling people I did it in two and a half hours.”

Others are just as enthusiastic.

“I am not an artist,” Stephanie Hines says. “I met Sheila through our children being homeschooled together and our children were in the same choir and I found out she was an artist. She taught art for the cooperative and my daughter loves art and artwork, and I found out Sheila did bookings for parties. I have had her come to my home. We needed a fundraiser done for the choir group and she did a fundraiser and she did a lot of the proceeds toward the fundraisers. She is so easy to work with.”

“She is flexible about location and whatever works for you and is convenient with room for the event,” Hines says. “She has hired my daughter, who is really into art, and her daughter helps with the parties. You have people that can give you help for one-on-one attention and so it is really neat to have that kind of attention.”

Hines played host to a house wine and cheese painting party for six to eight people.

“She is really good working with various groups or a church or in the home. She is one of those people who everyone she meets is a friend so it is easy to have her host a party,” Hines says. “It was a wonderful way to get together with other people to come and do something in the evening and to get together and have the camaraderie of other people and enjoyment. Sheila has the way of bringing that out in you.”

The artist also can modify the artwork she has planned if her audience of participants would like to make changes in what they paint.

“She can modify or incorporate what people wanted to paint in the one she has planned,” O’Neill says. “For fall you do a pumpkin or holidays do theme paintings. She changes it up and you do know subject matter before the class and it is a lot of fun.”

“Sometimes with a group it is hard to please everyone,” Hines says. “At couples’ parties, a spouse paints one picture and one does another so they face each other (when hung on a wall). She does a variety of things.”

Knowing her for a few years, O’Neill has a respect for her friend.

“She is very personable and wants to connect with people deeply and not superficially. She takes pride in connecting with people at a deeper level so she can provide a service and that really shows,” O’Neill says.

Because Vertoli wants all those attending to have a great experience, she keeps her class size to around 20 participants and prefers at least eight people to do a home party. The cost is $35 per person including the canvass 16 by 20 inches.

For more information on Canvas Creations call 863-409-4594 or visit CanvascreationswithSheila.com.