Judy Grossman’s Brush and Cork art studio in Sonora is a popular place for people to gather and let loose their inner artist, some with the help of a glass of wine or two.
“I like to describe it as a party, not a class,” Grossman said of her guided paint nights.
When the coronavirus pandemic forced Grossman to close her doors, it could have been the end of the party, but she has found a way to keep the fun and creativity flowing at a time when people need it the most by hosting online paint parties and it’s proving to be a popular option.
Grossman follows a fellow artist out of Texas with a similar business model and had previously purchased a program about how to set up online classes, but had shelved it without really exploring it. Now, it was going to prove a wise investment.
“I had to think fast on my feet,” Grossman said. “I knew I was just going to have to dive in if I wanted to save my business.”
The first online class was offered on Facebook Live, but since then has moved to Zoom, which Grossman said helps keep a communal experience because everyone can see each other. Her first online paint night used a theme popular in the studio — a pop art pet photo party. Attendees purchase their tickets and send in a photograph of their pet. Grossman and her staff print the photo out and trace it onto a canvas. Participants then pick up the canvas, along with their supplies through a curbside program and tune in for the online party. Just like the studio events, participants provide their own beverage of choice.
“It has been working really well,” Grossman said. “I’m getting people who always wanted to try it, but never seemed to have the time. Now their schedule is free and they’re giving it a try. People seem to be thankful for the distraction right now.”
The studio sessions were limited to about 30 people, which has been about the same online, though Grossman said they can accommodate more. The online courses have two price point options. If people already have supplies and just need the outlined canvas, then the cost is $10. For those needing supplies and the canvas, the cost is $25.
Participants don’t need to have any exceptional artistic skills to enjoy the class and come out of it with a project worthy of hanging on a wall. Grossman and her two other teachers provide easy step-by-step instructions for painters to follow along on the pre-drawn canvas.
Grossman obtained her Bachelor of Fine Art from California College of The Arts, in Oakland and her teaching credential from San Francisco State University in 1975. She went on to become an accomplished sign artist, designer, mural artist, fine artist and teacher for over 30 years. She has painted murals in Pontiac, Illinois, San Jose del Cabo, Baja, Danville, Illinois, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Plymouth, Wisconsin, Kewanee, Illinois and most recently designed and directed the community mural in downtown Sonora for the Sonora Farmers’ Market and the Mark Twain mural at the entrance to Angels Camp. Missing the connection she had as a teacher, Grossman started Brush and Cork in 2014, and in 2016, she made it her full-time occupation after retiring from JJ Signs and Designs.
Brush and Cork did offer private parties in the studio and are doing the same thing in the virtual format. Grossman said it’s a great way to celebrate some of the milestones that cannot be celebrated in person.
While the online parties have helped keep her business operating and her community of painter connected, Grossman will happily greet the day when people can return to party in her studio.
“It will be great to see everyone’s faces in person,” Grossman said.