Creating an acrylic painting can be a social event, a fun, relaxing way to spend time off on a weekend or to spend an evening with a friend or loved one, at a place called Painting with a Twist. You can be an absolute beginner at art and still come out with a decent looking painting, because the artists there make an effort to reduce anxiety, allay any fears, and make the process truly enjoyable. “It’s fun art, not fine art,” said owner Marvin Gay. “There’s a big difference.” After each class, photos are posted to the Facebook pages of the Tampa and St. Petersburg locations. Just looking at all the happy faces, it’s clear to see that people enjoy the classes.
On Sunday, March 23rd, the Tampa location of Painting with a Twist had two cool events going on simultaneously in their two studios. Each of these events are held at intervals at the Painting with a Twist locations in both Tampa and St. Petersburg.
Paint Your Pet is a very interesting class, quite different from the usual offering at Painting with a Twist. In most classes, the whole group follows along with a teacher and everyone makes the same painting. In the Paint Your Pet class, when people register for it in advance, they Email a picture of their pet to the studio. The studio prints out the photo as reference, and their artists sketch the image of each person’s pet with a pencil on a canvas. When people come in, their canvas is ready to begin painting, as the studio’s artists go around and help each one individually to create their own work of art in their own style.
“It’s really amazing to see what people can do,” said Marvin Gay. “People come in here, some thinking they don’t even know how to paint, but then end up creating paintings that are really quite good. It’s always interesting to me, to see what they come up with.”
Stephen Norman was painting a whimsical version of his dog in yellow, wearing a neck tie, in a very modern style of painting. “I came here before and painted my other dog in blue,” he said. “I wanted to make another one so I’ll have a set of them now.”
Tara Zimmerman was painting a very colorful version of a cat. “This is for my daughter,” she said. “It’s for her college dorm room, so I know she’ll love having all this color in the background.”
Jillian Donahue was a little nervous to begin at first, and asked for help with rendering the fur of her pet. As the artist assisted her, showing her how to create the strokes on the canvas, her confidence grew. She was happy with her black and white kitty in the end, and the fur looked soft and natural when she completed her painting. Pictures of these creations by painters can be seen when you click on the slide show with this article.
The studios in Tampa and St. Petersburg are both owned by a husband and wife team, Leslie and Marvin Gay. They work together on both franchises, but day to day, Leslie runs the St. Petersburg location, while Marvin takes care of business in Tampa. The first Painting with a Twist franchise opened in St Petersburg in July of 2009. They opened the South Tampa location in January of 2011. The artists working at the Tampa location are Sandi Ragg, Erin Keller, Charles Sommer, Becky Bump, Tobey Pisarich, and Kristin Osterman. The artists really enjoy working there and most have been there for two years, since the location opened.
The Tampa studio can accommodate 32 people in their front room, with space for 28 people in the back room. The studio is growing, and Marvin said they held 17 classes the week this article was written.
“We have considerable growth in both the St. Pete and Tampa studios, with more classes, more private parties, and more classes selling out,” he said. “Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights the front studio sold out. The end result is that more and more people are realizing how much fun it is and they tell their friends about it. We get great word of mouth. We did two bachelorette parties, two team-building parties, and two family fun days this past week.”
In the second room, the Painting with a Purpose class was held. These events are part of the core values and commitment of the franchises, which hold an event like this each month at both studios to contribute to the local community and help raise money for a worthy nonprofit organization. People register for a painting class as usual, but at the end of the class, the Painting with a Twist studio writes a check to the nonprofit for half of the money they bring in from the class.
On this Sunday, the group raising funds was the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a group with local offices in Tampa. Wendy Bourland, Communications and Events Manager, was presented a check for $450 by Marvin Gay for this group that has been caring for the families of Fallen and Wounded Special Operations Forces since 1980. Painting with a Twist has done these events for Big Brothers & Big Sisters, The Wounded Warrior Program, Southeastern Guide Dogs, the American Heart Association, and Volunteers of America, among many others. They have events planned for a lot of other worthy charities all throughout the coming year.
“As an example, in the Fall of 2012, we had events for The Ronald McDonald House at both studios where we were completely sold out,” said Marvin. “We don’t always do the same charities at both locations, though. Probably nine of the ones we did in Tampa might be different than the ones we did in St. Petersburg.”
In the St. Petersburg studio, “We had 32 painters at our fundraiser for the Golden Retriever Rescue of Mid-Florida,” Leslie Gay said. “You will see why this organization is near and dear to our hearts in one of the pictures in this album (on Facebook). $900 was raised for them as part of our monthly Painting with a Purpose.”
In addition to these two special events, another fun evening at the studios is a date night painting, where a couple can each paint one side of a pair of paintings that put together, form a diptych. The painting might be two whimsical fishes kissing, or two sides of a leafy oak tree, with a loving heart carved into it.
In five reviews on the web site Yelp, people wrote about feeling nervous to try this and mentioned that they did not consider themselves artists at all. In fact, some had never painted. Each reviewer awarded the Tampa location five stars, however, and said that the artists put them at ease and that they wanted to return to do this again.
Painting with a Twist provides the paint, brushes and canvas, with an artist leading the class step-by-step in an easy to follow class. The Twist is that people can bring their favorite bottle of wine or other adult beverage or soft drinks to enjoy while taking a class. Register for a class from the calendar on the web sites for the St. Petersburg or Tampa location. Call the studios to book a private party, which could be for celebrating a birthday, a girls night out, a bridal shower, a team building event for a company or any other fun group activity.
Painting With a Twist
2821 South MacDill Ave., Tampa, Florida 33629
Painting With a Twist
2527 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, Florida 33713