WEST BRADENTON -- Hope Kinney and Sheri Penxa started out as the average Painting with a Twist customers.
The two friends -- Penxa's daughter married Kinney's stepson -- said they lacked any artistic skill, but armed with a bottle of wine, their confidence grew at the St. Petersburg location.
"We drove up there saying, 'Oh gosh, I can't paint. Good thing we have wine,'" Penxa said. They each came home with a painting and tried it again and again in 2012, until they decided they should own their own franchise.
The Bradenton Painting with a Twist franchise -- 5917 Manatee Ave. W., Suite 209 -- popped the cork this month, about a year after their Sarasota studio at 5543 Palmer Crossing Circle.
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The studios are known for taking artists with little to no skill and having them finish a painting they can take home and hang on a wall, aided by a friendly bring-your-own-bottle atmosphere for a party while you paint.
"We're fun art, not fine art," Kinney said. "It's a little bit about the art, but it's mostly about the fun."
The studio offers two- and three-hour evening classes, with the two-hour sessions targeted to first-timers ages 15 and up. Classes cost $35 to $45, which includes all materials. The studios also offer 90-minute children's classes geared for ages 5 and up for $25. For $55, advanced painters can Paint Your Pet. An artist will sketch out a provided photograph of the pet on a canvas customers can paint.
A schedule of classes can be found at paintingwithatwist.com/bradenton.
The experience is therapeutic -- and not just because of sipping wine with art, Kinney said.
"Having three hours of nothing else in our world and being able to relax and enjoy each other's company is unbelievable," Kinney said.
The artists help the class complete their paintings.
"It's the artist being able to take you step by step that makes it fun," Kinney said. "It's not really a class. I think our paintings are developed so everyone can do it."
The two say the artists are entertaining and personable so they can make people comfortable.
Brandon Petefish, an artist instructor at the Bradenton studio, was preparing a sunset painting before a recent class. The Bradenton resident said students know when to rein in the fun and focus.
"We do want to instruct, but at the same time we don't overshadow, we don't direct anybody -- it's not what it's about," Petefish said.
Petefish received his bachelor's degree from Ringling College of Art and Design in 2008, but it's been challenging to find regular work, so he's been working at Starbucks Coffee for 10 years.
"It's been great for me to get back into it and connect to the community through the visual arts," he said.
Painting With a Twist comes with a catalog of 4,000 approved paintings to create, and each location has a set of local scenes that can be painted. The local offerings include the Rod and Reel Pier in Anna Maria, a Siesta Key lifeguard stand, the Cortez Road drawbridge, the Starfish house and beer in two plastic cups by the beach.
The store attracts groups for anything from bachelorette to birthday parties and it's not unusual for folks to come alone to get to know the community.
Painting With a Twist started in a New Orleans to support schools after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, helping birth the philanthropic branch of the business, Painting With a Purpose.
That appealed to Kinney and Penxa, who both worked at nonprofits including a stint together at Sarasota Children First. Each month features at least one or two Painting With a Purpose events, in which 50 percent of the gross revenue is given to the charity, Penxa said.
So far, the owners have helped raise nearly $20,000 for local charities, Penxa said. The business helps promotes the charities during the month to fill the classes.
The Bradenton location recently supported Forget Me Not Rescue and will support Community Haven next month.
Twice a year, all franchises support the same charity. For Veterans Day, Special Operations Wounded Warrior will be supported. Earlier this year, Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer received support.
Sometimes, the customers paint for their own purpose.
"One of our regulars who has cancer wanted to come in and have a private party with her friends before she went into chemo," Penxa said. "She used the stage to let them know that she's not going to be doing chemo, she's doing holistic."
The customer wrote a four-page letter that brought Kinney to tears about what that night painting with her friends meant to her.
"This was just two hours that changed her life," Kinney said. "It's just amazing. We hear so many of those stories."