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The Scenestress gets artistically twisted

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At Painting with a Twist, you're encouraged to wine.

At Painting with a Twist, you're encouraged to wine.

I've found a place where I can unleash my inner Van Gogh -- minus the crushing depression and self-mutilation, of course, but with plenty of drinking involved. Painting with a Twist (5543 Palmer Crossing Cir., Sarasota 34233) is an increasingly popular hangout where anyone can show up with a bottle of wine and a picnic basket to spend a couple hours painting an image du jour.

Painting with a Twist started in 2009 in St. Pete, and has since expanded to about 100 locations nationwide. Open for less than a year, the local location is owned by Sheri Penxa and Hope Kinney, who visited the original St. Pete location with some girlfriends one time and had such a blast that they decided Sarasota needed one of its own.

Our esteemed instructor Bob Ross -- oh wait, that's Chelsey Curtin.

Our esteemed instructor Bob Ross -- oh wait, that's Chelsey Curtin.

I showed up early to meet and mingle with my fellow Fauves, including our instructor for the evening, Chelsey Curtin. She showed me the painting we'd be working on: a midnight landscape with an ink-black tree set in silhouette against a bright blue moon. Frankly, it looked hard. I decided now would be a good time to crack open one of the beers I brought.

Other artists were trickling in and smocking up amid the sound of popping corks. As I expected this to be a big girls' night, I was surprised to see two gentlemen had joined the class.

"The guys who come, you can tell they were dragged," Sheri told me. "But by the end of the class, they're the ones who love it the most. They really get into it."

Chelsey demonstrates the proper way to paint a moonbeam. This is harder than it looks.

Chelsey demonstrates the proper way to paint moonlight. This is harder than it looks.

Once we all settled in front of our pristine white canvases, Chelsey took her place on a small platform at the front of the class and briefed us on three different brushes we would use. Then the paint started flying.

As I mixed white and black paints and slathered my canvas in a dark charcoal gray, I felt an irrepressible tug at the corners of my cheek. I was actually grinning like a hyena. This painting thing gave me a rush.

"I have never done anything like this before, ever!" I blurted out. Chelsey flashed me a knowing smile as she cranked up "Sweet Child o' Mine" on the stereo. I recommend Chelsey as an instructor because her classes double as karaoke night.

With the background done, we waited for it to dry by playing a little game Chelsey called "headless drawing." Have you ever put a paper plate on top of your head and tried to draw a simple doodle on it? It's humbling, to say the least.

These ladies are all Painting with a Twist enthusiasts. After my initial experience, I can see how it becomes addicting.

These ladies are all Painting with a Twist enthusiasts. After my initial experience, I can see how it becomes addicting.

I'd been swept up by the sheer joy of applying paint to canvas, but now the real work began. For this first-timer, controlling a paintbrush turned out to be much trickier than I anticipated. Struggling to get my moonbeams to look beamish was sobering -- surely that's why you're encouraged to bring booze. By a third beer, my inner critic had gone to take a nap.

My only advice is not to sit next to anyone who's applying for a job at Painting with a Twist. My easygoing easel-mate Phil turned out to be a prospective instructor, and his finished painting was a masterpiece -- his cliff rocks looked rocky, and his moonbeams were definitely beamish.

I stepped back to look at my tree. It looked like a tree, which I hadn't necessarily expected. And where my cliff should have looked craggy, an ethereal mist spread over the foreground. Hey, I thought to myself for the first time in my life, I painted that.

 

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Last modified: September 18, 2013
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