As if being in quarantine during the pandemic wasn't bad enough, in 2020 Mesa artist Sladjana Ahmetovic tore some ligaments in her foot. Stuck in the house, unable even to drive, she found relaxation and enjoyment in painting while consuming cannabis.
"My friends started coming over because I couldn't go to them," Ahmetovic says. "They'd come and visit and my dining room slowly turned into too many people. So when my foot got better, I decided to try to rent a space and invite like-minded people to enjoy the same experience."
The result is Pretty Dope Paintings, her company that offers art classes modeled after the popular wine-and-paint format.
The classes, which are held on the second Saturday of the month, are open to people ages 21 and up. For about three hours, attendees will get guided instruction on making a piece of art while smoking pot. Food trucks and other vendors are on-site. There are usually about 20 people in the class, and everyone brings their own cannabis.
All skill levels are welcome, Ahmetovic says.
"You don't have to be a professional artist to be part of the class, so most of the time [the paintings are] things that can be easily grasped, things like landscapes, things that include shapes and such, things that can be easily replicated. So we're just hanging out, talking, painting, laughing, and of course, we also smoke during the class."
Ahmetovic says that a little weed can help the artistic juices flow.
"Sometimes, people come in kind of nervous, wondering what's going to happen, because a lot of them haven't touched a brush in a long time, or maybe never. And then at the end of it, they're pretty proud of themselves, because a lot of them would not think that they could do something like that with their own hands.
"There are lots of parts during class where it gets a little quiet. The calming part of cannabis kind of lets you zone in on the task at hand. Obviously, there are lots of laughs in between, but it's actually a very calming event. I've gotten a lot of people calling it therapeutic because people focus in on the painting."
Puff and paint nights aren't the only service Ahmetovic offers. Through her mobile art studio, she does kids' art classes, private parties (with cannabis or without), and public events and festivals.
When she's out at public events, she doesn't always hear positive feedback about her cannabis-inspired classes.
"At vendor events where I talk about it, I have had people that have made comments. I'll be doing live art, and in the meantime, people that are passing by, I'll talk to them about my classes and maybe offer them a flyer, and I've definitely had people that were [anti-cannabis] strike up conversations about how they feel.
"A lot of people seem to think that people who use cannabis are lazy people, that laziness comes with that. So for me, it was important for me to showcase other benefits you can get from cannabis."
For Ahmetovic, one of the benefits of cannabis (and by extension, Pretty Dope Paintings) is the way it connects her with others.
"My goal was to bring together people that are like-minded," she says. "So it doesn't matter where we come from, what we have to do after that, or what we did before that. For those three hours, we're all there for the same purpose, enjoying the same things. ... I love what I have been able to create, and the people who participate really help me continue on this path. I'm so thankful."
The next Pretty Dope Paintings class will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 14, at 1817 South Horne, #1, in Mesa. Cost is $35. Visit prettydopepaintings.com, or find the company on Facebook and Instagram.