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VOL. 126 | NO. 136 | Thursday, July 14, 2011

Canvas Creations

Blossoming artists help paint parties thrive

LESLEY YOUNG

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Nothing beats bonding and developing friendships from a night out with friends. Throw in an opportunity to take home some original artwork, and it’s a no-brainer why the paint-party business has grown in the Memphis area over the past few years.

Instructor Meagan Chaudoin, center, helps Leigh Williams, right, while Becky Birdwell, left, and Michelle Morris watch during a painting class at Painting With a Twist in Germantown. 
(Photo: Lance Murphey)

The newest addition to the market is a national franchise, Painting with a Twist, which debuted mid-June in Germantown.

“It’s just a great place to come and have fun with your friends and family and relax –forget everything that’s going on,” said Painting with a Twist co-owner Tovah Mitchell. “You can come and relax with friends and leave with something you created yourself.”

Aspiring Van Goghs can sign up for a specific class or groups can book private parties, where they re-create selected paintings under the guidance of an instructor.

Paint, brushes and canvases are provided, but patrons bring the party, including wine, beer, snacks or whatever floats their party boat.

Lisa Dick, who opened her paint-party business, Go-Paint Party, three years ago in East Memphis, says her clients get just as creative with the party part as they do with their brushes.

“I’ve seen them bring pitchers of margaritas or sangria and go all out and bring complete buffets,” said Dick, who hosts events out of Buckley’s Lunchbox on Yates Road.

Dick, like Mitchell, has hosted bachelorette parties, dates, supper clubs, fundraisers and church groups, and offers three to four classes a week, seating 35 to 40 per class.

“It’s a nice alternative to the usual Bunco night,” Dick said. “Recently I had a group who had been meeting together for a girls’ night out for 30 years come in and give it a try.”

“Sometimes they really push the party side,” Dick said. “It’s just a fun time for you. It’s a good time to get away from the kids and the laundry and not focus on your cellphone or anything else – just focus on having a good time.”

A professional artist herself, Dick uses her own creations for her classes, with more than 100 styles from which to choose. Painting with a Twist offers paintings from a library of 1,300 works they’ve purchased from artists across the nation.

Maria Parham, who opened ARTjamN Paint Studio on Young Avenue in Midtown more than a year ago, offers the opportunity for groups to paint together on one large canvas –with instruction, of course.

“I guide the colors and design,” Parham said. “It’s great for corporate team-building or family reunions or to give as a going-away gift.”

Parham also guides up to three different paintings per event, while the others keep it simpler using one painting per class.

“Or you can paint freestyle, if you have an idea you really want to work on, and I can guide you,” Parham said.

All three women agree on the importance of encouraging creativity and individuality.

“You can change up your colors from what I’m doing, and I have textures and gels and glazes you can add to it and make it your own,” Parham said.

“I encourage everyone to do their own thing, to change the colors. Say we’re painting a vase of flowers, and you really like gardenias. I’ll tell you to put some gardenias in there,” Dick said.

Exploring one’s creativity is the main ingredient in the formula for fun.

“I think that’s the most important part. A lot of people don’t ever get to do something creative, they don’t have that creative outlet. With this, you can explore that creative outlet in a short period without having to take a class for six weeks,” Dick said.

The end result is less stress and more confidence, Mitchell said.

“You leave with confidence, thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, look what I created. This is something I thought I could never do,’” Mitchell said. “Even in the morning you wake up and say, ‘Oh, look what I did last night.’”

Mitchell knows. She’s a former client.

After attending her second class in October last year in her native Texas, she and her husband couldn’t shake the idea of opening their own shop.

“As soon as we left, we told each other, ‘We have to do this,’” Mitchell said.

The Texas market was flooded with the franchises, so after a little research, they landed on the Memphis area.

“We love it here. It feels like home,” she said. “We enjoy being around people who experience what we experienced. You get to feel like you’re your own Van Gogh for the night.”

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