Slice of Life

This art class will bring the paints and the music, but you BYOB

Emmy Gnat | Head Illustrator

Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” broke out across the room as Courtney Grosvenor picked up a paintbrush and swept it across the canvas in front of her. Tentacles emerged from the octopus she was tracing. On the other side of the room, seven people mirrored her movements with their own brushes, hurriedly looking back and forth from her canvas to the octopuses on their own canvases.

Next to their canvases, cups of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee stood aside smaller cups with pink liquid bubbling inside. Bright palettes of red, orange and yellow paint sat next to the cups as Grosvenor instructed them to throw some yellow on their canvases. She advised the painters not to rinse their brushes in the water cup next to them.

“All those colors are on there anyway and if they blend together, that’s absolutely fine,” Grosvenor said.

With the enthusiasm ringing in her voice, one could not guess that Grosvenor worked in insurance for most of the week. When the weekends arrive, though, she takes up her paintbrushes as an instructor at Painting with a Twist, a company that combines art, wine and lively instructors like Grosvenor. Liverpool and DeWitt both have branches, but 325 exist across the country.

The Liverpool branch is conducting a Mardi Gras special this week. Patrons will paint a “Vibrant Bourbon Street” on Tuesday to celebrate Mardi Gras.

“I think it’s a great way to introduce someone to painting,” said Grosvenor, who thinks these sessions open up art for adults starting out or even just adults looking for an enjoyable and relaxing experience.

Many people are hesitant to take the plunge and buy every art material, but Grosvenor said Painting with a Twist “breaks it down step by step and opens doors.” Guests show up, dabble with four or five colors and leave with with a unique souvenir.

That’s the beauty of Painting with a Twist. As Grosvenor put it, everybody is doing the same thing, but the end result looks different. She loves the fact that everybody could have fun doing something they thought they couldn’t do.

“You can’t lose, people come here to want to have a good time,” she said. “The vibe is always good, and I get to do what I love — talking to people and teaching them how to paint.”

Ken Paddyfote Jr., operations manager at Painting with a Twist, classified the vivid paintings at the studio as “doable.”

“What we do here is art entertainment,” Paddyfote said. “We don’t actually teach an art class or use art terms.”

With the intent of being active members of the community, Painting with a Twist puts on a monthly Painting with a Purpose fundraiser session at the New York State Fairgrounds. Last time, more than 130 guests came to the session. The proceeds from that event went to Operation Walk Syracuse, a program that allows doctors to go to developing countries and perform hip and joint rehabilitation surgeries.

Since its founding in 2009 in Louisiana, Painting with a Twist has curated and owned more than 8,000 doable paintings and provided jobs to more than 2,500 aspiring artists, according to its website.

“We’re number one in the paint and sip industry,” Paddyfote said. “Period.”

He added that Painting with a Twist was mentioned in the Forbes Top 500 for its category — Forbes in 2015 ranked the company number one among the paint-and-drink franchises to watch out for.

Paintbrushes at the studio shed their technical names and only have friendly names: Big Papa, Big Mama and Little Richard. Paddyfote emphasized the lighthearted nature of the session and the efforts the artists take to make their guests comfortable.

“Along with showing the patrons how to paint, you’re also an entertainer,” Paddyfote said. “You’re like the DJ of the party.”

Guests can participate in a variety of painting experiences: Grosvenor was instructing an open studio, where guests can sign up for a 2-hour or 3-hour session to work on a painting chosen by the instructors. During off-site sessions, instructors go to the site itself.

Painting with a Twist also unveiled its Bluetooth canvas about three months ago: guests can now paint on a canvas that could also produce music. Selling at a $100 a canvas, all the Bluetooth canvas needs is a phone to pair with and it would start playing Pandora favorites with a click.

Trademark events include special painting sessions for children groups, where Paddyfote said the kids are free to bring their “sippies.” Another crowd-pleaser is the Paint Your Pet session: Patrons can send a photo of their pet to Painting with a Twist, where the artists will complete an initial tracing. On this tracing, guests can begin drawing and painting their own pets. After three hours, they have a likeness of their pet to take home with them.

“I think it’s one of the most rewarding classes, because they get to hang up their pet,” said Paddyfote, whose Jack Russell Terrier, Travel, hangs at the entrance of the Liverpool franchise.

No matter where the painting occurs, instructors try to transport “the ambience of the studio” as much as possible, Paddyfote said.

“Many people come here saying ‘I can’t do that, I can’t even draw a stick figure,’” he said.

“With the talented artists here, we are able to finish a painting in two hours that people are proud to hang up on their walls.”

Apart from these varieties, Painting with a Twist also conducts private sessions at the studio, costing adults $35 and children $25.

The franchise in Liverpool fulfills Painting with a Twist’s national reputation. Hundreds of paintings cover the walls from top to bottom. More than 120 paintings hang in just the bathroom at the studio. Colorful splatters of dried paint decorate any remaining empty space on the floor.

Every month, Painting with a Twist produces 35 to 40 new paintings. Along with children-special paintings of animals and couple-special paintings, canvases sprawling with trees, leaves, snow and nature in all its glory decorate the walls of the Liverpool branch.

Last Tuesday, long tables stood ready with blank canvas and steady easel, waiting for the guests to put on their smocks. Nine ladies from the Rotary Club of Baldwinsville sat down and rolled up their sleeves.

A table in front of their canvases held a feast: a chocolate pizza box gaped open next to strawberries and baby carrots, and of course, four bottles of wine and a box of Sangria. Amidst raucous laughter and music blaring from the speakers, instructor David “the Steinman” Stein kicked things off.

“Let’s get started,” Stein said.

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