Michelle Lewis has just a few rules for those entering her studios: No paintbrushes in the wine cups, no drinking the paint water and, when in doubt, have another sip of wine.
Lewis’ Painting with a Twist locations in Ferndale and Farmington (and, as of early 2015, coming soon to downtown Detroit) helps southeast Michigan parents find their artsy side – even if they swear they can’t paint.
It’s a concept that’s resonated. The parent company, which started out as Corks N Canvas in Louisiana in 2007, now has at least 185 spots nationwide. Lewis was a pioneer here in southeast Michigan, starting with Ferndale in 2010. You can also find separate franchises in Ann Arbor, Rochester Hills, Shelby Township – and, as of early 2015, soon to arrive in Chesterfield Township and Wixom.
Local artists entertain and guide customers through the process of creating their own works of art, using a template painting as a reference. And yes: Visitors can bring bottles of wine to sip as they tap into their inner artiste!
How it all began
Lewis was born in Detroit but moved to Louisiana to work after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the area. There, a friend brought Lewis to her first encounter with Corks N Canvas. Despite initially not knowing what to expect, she says she fell in love with the experience and started going more often.
Lewis’ Facebook pictures of her creations intrigued her friends back home.
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“I had a lot of friends from (metro Detroit) say, ‘Do we have one of those here? I would love to do that.’ And that’s when the light bulb went off,” she says.
How it works
Studios offer both public classes, where the template painting is predetermined, and private parties, where the host selects his or her painting of choice.
Painting with a Twist has more than 3,500 paintings in its database. The collection is a melange of different styles and topics; some come from Painting with a Twist artists around the country, while others are famous artworks, such as Van Gough’s “Starry Night.” Still others are locally inspired; skylines of the Motor City or a Woodward Avenue street sign are among those created by Ferndale artists.
It’s not paint-by-numbers – although pre-sketched canvases are sometimes prepared for the most difficult paintings, most customers start with blank canvases.
“People will say, ‘Oh I don’t paint. I don’t do this.’ But you just gotta be willing to have a good time, and we’ll provide the rest,” says Lewis.
Because the studio uses acrylic paint, which dries quickly, customers can take their masterpieces home after class is over.
Once a month, the studio hosts a Painting with a Purpose class and gives a percentage of the proceeds to a designated nonprofit organization – letting patrons unwind for a good cause, too.
Painting with a Twist also has family day and summer children’s camp offerings, but evenings are reserved for adults only. Customers are more than welcome to bring their own snacks, wine or other beverages with them to create a relaxed atmosphere.
“For adults, it’s more like an evening out,” Lewis says. “A lot of times, they’re not able to have their ‘me’ time, so this is almost like their ‘me’ time.”
Customers are encouraged to give the paintings their own creative touches without worrying about being right.
“Right is what you make it,” Lewis says. “It’s art; it’s all right in your eyes, and if it’s right in your eyes, then it has to be right to everybody else’s eyes.”
For those still nervous about their artistic abilities, Lewis has encouragement.
“I say as long as you can pick up a pencil or a pen, you can pick up a paintbrush, and we’ll show you how to do the rest.”
As of early 2015, rates at all southeast Michigan is $35 for a two-hour class and $45 for a three-hour class.Painting with a Twist has southeast Michigan locations in Farmington (33033 Grand River Ave., 248-476-7928), Ferndale (200 W. Nine Mile Road, 248-850-7182), Rochester Hills (3320 S. Rochester Road, 248-289-6507), Shelby Township (50336 Schoenherr Road, 586-247-7928) and Ann Arbor (3143 Oak Valley Drive, 734-662-7928). Call individual locations or visit Painting with a Twist online to learn more about hours and availability.
This article originally appeared in a September 2011 issue of Metro Parent. It was updated in January 2015.