Painting with a Twist has a slogan - “A Little Paint, A Little Wine, and a Whole Lot of Fun!” It’s a relaxed studio setting, where you are welcome to take a class alone, with friends, as a couple, or you can book a group. You may bring a libation of your choice and spend a few hours following along with a professional artist, making a painting of your very own. Whether an absolute beginner or a person who has painted before as a hobby, people at any level can participate and enjoy the time spent, and then come home with a painting and a feeling of accomplishment.
It’s a relaxed, fun atmosphere, with music playing, and people encouraged to enjoy their snacks and wine or soft drinks, whatever the customer has brought with them.
The classes are mostly offered in the evenings. Children's or Family Fun Days are offered at least once a month. You can check the St. Petersburg calendar and the Tampa calendar on the web sites for the latest schedule. A new calendar for the next month is published on the 15th of each month.
It’s easy to book a class. You can reserve and pay online or give the studio a call. You can also book a private party. A two hour class is $35, and a 3 hour class is $45. Classes can be any size, but there is a maximum of 28 seats in the downstairs studio, and a maximum of 24 seats in the upstairs studio.
When you enter you are greeted and given a canvas to paint. Canvas sizes are 16 x 20, which gives you enough surface to get a painting completed in a couple of hours time, but not such a small space to get you hung up on trying to paint tiny details. Your painting space is already set up for you, with your paint squirted out onto a paper plate palette, with your brushes and water ready. Classes are usually staffed with a teacher and an assistant. Artists at the business are rotated, so that they take turns during the classes, either serving as a teacher or as an assistant.
There are many different subjects of paintings to choose from, including floral, fish, animals, whimsical subjects, landscapes, you name it. While many of the paintings are of general subjects, paintings of local subjects and local areas of interest are also available.
The teacher for the session photographed for this article was Lisa Ferrante. She mentioned the tip that right-handed painters should have their paints, brushes and water on the right, and that left-handed painters should move their things to the left side of the canvas. This allows for a painter to have direct access to the canvas, not reaching across it with a loaded brush or dripping on it in an unintended way.
Lisa Ferrante taught a class for the painting "Laugh Love Laugh" in the upstairs studio, while a couples class, "Wet Kiss," was being taught by Joanna Ledingham downstairs. In the couples class, each partner painted a fish kissing that is meant to be connected as a diptych when completed. Melisa Mudd helped out with both classes as an assistant.
Leslie and Marvin Gay own two Painting with a Twist franchises, on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida and on South MacDill Avenue in Tampa. Both coming from a background in accounting to creating a successful art business, this husband and wife team are on a journey to have fun while they make it work together.
The couple started their first Painting With A Twist location in St. Petersburg. After a year and a half, they opened their second location in Tampa. Marvin had a career as a CPA. Leslie retired from her position as Senior Accountant at St. Petersburg College to run the St. Pete location.
Starting a business like Painting With A Twist might seem to be an unlikely business venture for two people with no art experience, but their knowledge of business and handling finance gave them a solid start, whatever the product they might choose to market.
“We moved to St. Petersburg in 2009, and Marvin thought he was going to retire,” said Leslie. “I got him involved in the business.”
“It’s something that I never would have envisioned,” Marvin said. “I worked for small companies all my life, in small oil and gas companies.” The art business that he developed with Leslie became a new career chapter for him. “I was in oils for 35 years, and now I’m in acrylics,” he jokes.
Asked how they manage to work together as a couple, Leslie and Marvin both said “It’s our baby!” (the business). We didn’t know what we were getting into, because there was no road map.”
“It has been really interesting,” said Marvin, “and it’s been a lot of fun. We got married in New Orleans six years ago. We had both been widowed a few years before.”
It all began with Corks N Canvas in 2007, the original business started by Cathy Deano and Renee Maloney in Mandeville, Louisiana. The two women had a concept to provide instructional art with friends, wine and a lively instructor. After they had four locations in the Greater New Orleans Area, the company began franchising the business as Painting with a Twist® in 2009.
The company headquarters are in Mandeville, Louisiana. The company maintains the artwork copyrights and the brand direction of the franchise locations. They make sure that every location carries on the positive experience that Deano and Maloney planned as their original concept. More about the company and the founders at this link.
Around 2008, Corks and Canvas had just opened their second store. Leslie had painted at that studio. Nine months later, Leslie and Marvin purchased their franchise. “We were the first franchise, right here in St. Petersburg,” Leslie said. “When we started our location in Tampa a year and a half later, it became franchise #29. Now there are up to 80 total franchises.”
“I think the turning point was when Leslie went to the classes in New Orleans,” Marvin said. “She saw how much fun it was and how transferable the business would be in any environment. With our backgrounds, we both understood the simplicity of the model. There aren’t a lot of complicated supplies to worry about. We can order paints and canvas and get them in two days.”
“Our professional backgrounds have been a help, but what we found is that there is a wealth of artistic talent in the Tampa Bay area,” they agreed.
“The artists are key. We know that. We try to treat them well. They understand what we are doing and they enjoy it and get along. They’ve been very enjoyable to work with,” said Leslie. “I tell them, I can’t tell you how to teach. You teach the painting the way you think it should be done.”
“We want people to relax and have fun when they come here,” said Leslie.
“It’s fun art, not fine art,” Marvin said. “It’s a simple thing to say, but a very important concept in our business.”
Leslie and Marvin both feel that using social media effectively, such as posting on their active Facebook page and interacting with people there, generates a lot of interest. It helps to fill classes and brings in new and repeat business. “We might connect with people that way at first. What we hear from people is that they found us through word of mouth. When people come here and have fun, they want to come back and bring a friend,” said Leslie.
After people take a class, there is a group picture taken with the paintings and the photo is posted on Facebook. People can tag themselves to share what they’ve done.
“We just did the Bridal Show at the Coliseum, which is a really good venue for us,” Leslie said. “We are a great place for bachelorette parties, bridal showers, and bridal groups.”
“Recently, a woman was getting married at the St. Pete Women’s Club, so they painted the Snell Isle Bridge painting we offer. It’s probably the most popular of our local paintings."
“We do a “Paint Your Own Pet” event every other alternate month,” said Leslie. “The people who want to take the class Email us a picture of their pet. The artist then sketches the pet on the canvas in pencil. The person comes in and paints it. To me, the results are amazing. We aren’t just teaching one painting at that time, we are teaching all of them a different painting.”
“Another thing that has helped us really reach out to the community is our Painting With a Purpose events. A core value of the company is to be an active member of the community and to focus on giving back. We do it once a month at both locations,” said Marvin. “It’s a very simple concept, really. At the end of the evening, we donate half of the gross proceeds to charity. We work with the charity to pick a painting that would be something the general public would like to do.”
“As an example, in the Fall of 2012, we had events for the Ronald McDonald House Charities at both studios that 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.”
Painting with a Twist has done charity events for Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Wounded Warrior Project, Southeastern Guide Dogs, the American Heart Association, and Volunteers of America, among many others.
“Leslie does most of the marketing, and she would like to do more,” said Marvin.
“One of our goals is to go after team-building parties for corporations and businesses,” said Leslie. Contact Leslie and Marvin for your next event!
Click to see pictures of the staff of Painting with a Twist-St. Petersburg at this link.
Painting With a Twist
2527 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, Florida 33713
Painting With a Twist
2821 South MacDill Ave., Tampa, Florida 33629