Like most artists, Denver painter Heidi Keyes, seen here, was looking to expand her artistic endeavors.
Then, a friend told her to create a Colorado-style version of the popular Sip and Paint/Canvas and Cocktails events already happening: "Why not some kind of 420-friendly painting class?"
And with that, Puff, Pass and Paint was born, gaining steam and clients faster than Keyes could ever have imagined.
Westword caught up with Keyes this week to find out more about how she managed to become a professional artist and what it's like finding her way within the state of Colorado's new marijuana laws.
Westword: How did you get into painting as a profession?
Heidi Keyes: I graduated with my BA in Studio Art in 2009 and have been selling work since college as a side business. I had been selling work pretty consistently and getting a lot of requests for commissioned pieces, and the amount of hours I was putting into it wasn't jiving with working a 9-to-5 job.
About eighteen months ago, I figured that I would give being a full-time artist a try, and I'm pleased to say that I've been creating art as my primary source of income ever since.
WW: How did you come up with the idea, and when did you actually take it seriously?
HK: A friend and I were discussing the idea of doing a "cocktails and canvas" class, but instead one centered around enjoying weed instead of drinking wine. She suggested I actually give it a try. At first I thought of it as kind of a joke, but I started putting some feelers out, and people were really into the idea -- like shockingly into the idea. It made me realize that this is the perfect time and place to start a painting class that is 420-friendly.
WW: How do you think the atmosphere will differ versus the wine-and-art classes?
HK: I think the atmosphere will be extremely laid-back, and people will care less about if the piece they're painting is "successful" than if they are just enjoying creating something. I'm a professional, but I will also be a laid-back instructor, and I will totally encourage people to move away from what I'm "teaching" and do their own thing. I was talking about this idea with a friend, and he said, "That sounds like so much fun, but I could never take that class. I'm a horrible artist." And I explained that it wasn't at all about that. I want people to totally get into painting, if they're feeling it, and make something awesome, but it's really more about the environment.
WW: What kind of feedback have you gotten since you announced the idea?
HK: The feedback has been...overwhelming. There are so many of these marijuana-based small businesses popping up with the recent legalization -- "ganjapreneurs", I've heard them called. But surprisingly, Puff, Pass & Paint is the first and only business of its kind, to my knowledge. I'm running the business out of my private studio at my home, so I can only fit six people maximum per class. My first two classes filled up in a day, and people are already asking when the next ones will be scheduled and requesting classes for private groups, which you can do with four or five people. It's really, really exciting.
Continue to read more of our interview with Heidi Keyes about Puff, Pass and Paint. WW: How is organizing the business coming together so far?
HK: I'm making sure everything is legal, working with a lawyer and setting this up as a legitimate business. So slowly but surely, but because I had such a big response, it feels like everything is moving so quickly. I just got a huge shipment of supplies last night and was like wow... this is really happening.
WW: Sounds like class is ready to begin. What should one expect when they come into one of your classes?
HK: I'm going to be painting along with my class, and we'll have a specific piece we're working from. They can choose to follow along with me exactly, or they can branch off and completely do their own thing. This is all about creativity. If a student wants help, I am more than happy to give input, but I'm not going to be breathing down anyone's neck and telling them to change something if they like the direction it's going.
WW: How does it feel to be right there at the beginning of all this change?
HK: It's ridiculously cool. I didn't think Denver could get any better, but lately there's such a sense of excitement in the air here. Colorado is making history, and it's thrilling to think that we're a part of it.
WW: What is the cost for the class, and what do you get for that cost?
HK: The class is $40 per person and includes all art supplies -- brushes, paints, and canvas -- everything you need to create your own masterpiece. No marijuana is available for purchase here. Customers can feel free to bring their own, and I also have a friend who is donating weed to the project, so there will be complimentary joints of various strains and free edibles that I baked myself to take home later.
WW: You bake, too. Sounds like a winning combo. We wish you luck, and look forward to attending the first event on February 7.
HK: Thank you. I can't wait to meet interesting folks. I want to provide a relaxed atmosphere to create, and I want to have a ton of fun and laugh a lot. I also want to turn this into a successful business, and with the response I've already had, I think that's a possibility. Only time will tell.
Puff, Pass and Paint is located at 1324 Williams Street in Denver. Classes on February 7 and 15 are already full, but more will be announced soon. Puff, Pass and Paint is also available for private events; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or check the business Facebook page for further details.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.