Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Shelby Rowe, left, and her friend Megan Rowe work on a painting at 'Painting with a Twist' in Downtown Lawrenceville. It was their first time going to the studio.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- It's Friday afternoon, and Keesa Mitchell and her 16-year-old daughter Leila tie up their aprons and elbow up to the easel.
With four dollops of paint on a paper plate in front of them, the two are ready to spend a couple hours working on a canvas.
But these two didn't go to school to paint. They don't sell their wares at art shows or display pieces in galleries. The Mitchells are at Painting With a Twist, working on a piece called "Little White Dress."
The new business, which features art classes on the Lawrenceville Square, opened in early December, and this is the second time back for these ladies.
"My daughter and I came for the grand opening. We loved it so much that we had to come back," the Keesa Mitchell, a Lawrenceville resident, said. "The atmosphere is fun and exciting, it's something that's new and not too far away. It's something that we can do together."
The concept is simple: attendees search through a monthly calendar of paintings online, sign up for their favorite class and show up on time with wine or beer -- but that's not necessary for the experience. In class, there is one instructor and one helper who guide the amateur artists step-by-step to build layers and colors for a final product. All participants paint the same picture, but the acrylic scenes vary in the end.
So far, the patrons and neighbors have taken to the idea, according to co-owner Suzette Riley.
"The community has really stepped up and supported us," she said. "I really can't complain. I mean, we won't always get every class filled, but I'm very hopeful that this will be a success."
Riley and her sister-in-law Felicia Riley wanted to open a branch of the Louisiana franchise for several reasons, but mainly because it's fun.
"I think it brings an element of entertainment that wasn't here (in Lawrenceville) before," Suzette Riley said. "I think that this sort of concept ... is possibly the new dinner and a movie. You really get a chance to explore your creative self or side. It's not serious art. It's fun art with no pressure."
First-timer Linda Campbell doesn't consider herself an artist, but feels good about the painting she created while spending time with her girlfriends.
"It's wine, painting and friends. What could be wrong with that?" she said. "When you're creating, it can really stress you out ... but with the music, instructor, fun and laughter, all of that goes away and you go home with a picture even though you don't know how to paint."
Campbell's friend Nancy Eckert added, "I think they gave us some great basics and some ideas and I think every one of the pictures are a little different. It shows the personality of the painters. I like what I did -- I'm proud of it."
Painting With a Twist also gives back to the community once a month with its class, Painting with Purpose. The store partners with a nonprofit each month, hosts a class and 50 percent of the proceeds benefit those in need.
The store offers other classes for children, families and a day to fix a painting that might not have turned out how you would have liked, called the S.O.S. class.
The building can also accommodate private parties in another room, which can seat up to 35 people per session.
"We all look for something to do that we're passionate about and bring some sort of sense of fulfillment," Riley said. "This did it for me. If I can do this every day, I will be a happy camper."
For calendar listings and to reserve a spot, visit www.paintingwithatwist.com/lawrenceville.