story and photos by Jamie Smith
FAYETTEVILLE — The rules at Painting With A Twist are simple—and they are hand-painted on the wall of every room at the Fayetteville business:
1. Get fully relaxed.
2. Avoid painting food, clothing, and especially friends.
3. Drink wine, not paint water.
4. When in doubt, bring cup to mouth, sip, and repeat.”
That third rule, by the way, is really emphasized. After all, the owners Mike and Susan Jean realize that the wine and other beverages they sell would be much more delightful than water used to clean the paint brushes.
Painting With A Twist opened in November 2011, joining more than 40 franchises in the southern United States. Just a year later, there are now 70 franchises. The company began in Louisiana three years ago because the creators – Renee Maloney and Cathy Deano – wanted to develop something that was fun and could help the area after Hurricane Katrina, Susan Jean explained.
The business provides the opportunity for anyone to spend a couple of hours with friends while each person paints a picture. In most locations, it’s “BYOB” (bring your own beverage) but that is illegal in Arkansas so the Fayetteville location – 1404 N. College Ave. – has a liquor license to sell wine and beer at a cash bar.
NO SKILL REQUIRED
No artistic skill is required and there are several options available including private parties and public parties. People of all ages choose to go to Painting With A Twist for birthday parties, Girls Night Out, date nights or just creative fun with friends.
Susan Jean first went to a franchise in Texas and again in Louisiana, having never painted before.
“I enjoyed it and had a great time,” she said. “I felt empowered. I tell people that if I can do it, so can they.”
Mike Jean said he, like others in Northwest Arkansas, didn’t fully understand the concept at first. When he went for the first time, he realized how much fun it was no matter your age or gender.
“People see how much fun it is,” he said. “My company had its Christmas party here. It’s such a relaxing and fun atmosphere. You get such a unique sense of accomplishment and you walk out with a painting.”
It’s not just painting and drinking, either. There’s fun music, hula dancing if you wish and trivia. Guests are welcome to bring their own snacks to munch on while they paint.
Two hour sessions and three hour sessions are available. Private parties may schedule their own paintings and a schedule of paintings that are done at the public parties are available on the website. Each session is led by a local artist that guides the group through each step of creating the painting.
Susan Jean said there are other opportunities including Paint Your Pet, which is where participants can submit a photo of their pet ahead of time and an artist will draw it out for them. The pet owner then comes in and paints the drawing.
PAINTING WITH A PURPOSE
There is also the monthly Painting With A Purpose, which benefits a different non-profit each month. Half the night’s proceeds go to the non-profit, she explained. On Feb. 24, the Jeans will host as many parties in one day as possible and all the proceeds will go towards a cancer-related charity in honor of her father, who passed away in February of this year.
“It will be called ‘In Memory of Daddy,’” she said.
Friends Cyndi DePew from Fayetteville and Sheila Fulnechek from Lincoln recently participated in a party at Painting With A Twist. It was Fulnechek’s first time and DePew’s sixth visit.
“One time is all it took,” DePew said. “I always liked to paint but never had the time. This is so relaxing and it’s cheaper than therapy.”
Fulnechek said she planned to be back.
“I love it,” she said. “My grandmother painted when I was growing up. It brings back those memories.”
NOVICE PAINTER SUPPORT
Tory Gaddy is a local artist who works as a guide for the parties.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “A lot of people are afraid to put paint on a canvas. We use ordinary objects and we use simple steps. People are surprised at what they can accomplish.”
Painting With A Twist caters to the novice painter, she said. There are a large number of paintings in the selection that are easier for first-timers.
“We guide them toward those for better success,” Gaddy aid. “We’re about fun and the art. You make friends here.”
Courtney Jurgensmeyer from Rogers agreed on the fun aspect.
“It’s a good excuse to hang out with the girls and relax,” she said.
Beth Irwin, also from Rogers, agreed about the fun and enjoying the unique atmosphere at the store.
“It’s a lot of fun. I’m not an artist and I would never attempt a painting on my own,” she said. “It’s more relaxed and less pressure. Their attitude is about encouraging people to have fun.”