Little Leonardo's art class shows off fearless paint strokes

People of all ages have been rediscovering the benefits of picking up a paint brush or sculpting a piece of clay.

The growing interest has sparked an art renaissance in the region and is also the driver behind one of the fast-growing small businesses success stories that started from a simple idea four years ago.

It has also coincided with the advent of many new art galleries, studios, shops and classes.

An end-of-year art exhibition hosted by Little Leonardo's Art Studio at Kiama Leagues Club provided an insight into why so many people of all ages have taken the opportunity to create something with their hands without the use of a mouse or keypad.

People's Choice winner Alison Foley, of Albion Park, said when she started art classes two years ago she did not realise how much it would change her life.

She said public recognition was great but the real reward was the enjoyment she got from developing her artistic ability every week.

"I have been doing classes with Natalija Vocanec for two years," she said.

"The best thing about it is Natalija has taught me that with any painting ... if you make a mistake, it is fixable. Doing art is a bit like a lesson in life. You can always fix things. Natalija is amazing. She is just a brilliant teacher."

Sumehra Sozio, 5, was recognised for her painting Jessica the Zebra.

Mother Sonia Sozio, of Shell Cove, said it was incredible seeing how much Sumehra had developed her skills in one year and how much she enjoyed every lesson.

"She started because she was drawing at home and I saw the interest," she said.

"We decided to bring her to Little Leonardo's, which has been very supportive.

"After each class she follows up what she has been told and does more at home.

"She follows through and really enjoys it. She loves going and won't miss it for the world.

"I think it is the atmosphere in the studio, as well and the support she gets from the teachers.

"She loves how they keep giving her instructions. It is a real growing environment."

Sumehra's brother Joshua, 7, also enjoys the weekly lessons and regular holiday programs such as the next one starting on January 13.

"He is the same, he just loves it," Mrs Sozio said.

"They go to the same class. Little Leonardo's provides such stimulating enjoyment."

Chelsea Hicks, 12, of Shellharbour said she kept doing it because she always learned so much and constantly discovered she could do new things.

"This is my fourth year," she said. Ms Vocanec, who studied at Curtin University, said her vision, posted on the studio's website, was all about creating an opportunity for people of all ages to learn in an open, safe, trusting, caring, non-judgmental environment and there was nothing that could not be fixed.

Teachers who have seen the results she has achieved with her students have invited her to run classes at their schools.

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