Art as entertainment embarks on a sprightly path beyond studious museum gazing at the new do-it-yourself art studio, Painting with a Twist.
The marquee's "T," in the shape of a corkscrew, offers a hint.
First in Hernando County in the relatively new paint-and-sip business niche, Painting with a Twist provides a gathering place for the inexperienced to paint a canvas with an artist's step-by-step instruction and sip a beverage of choice during the endeavor.
The latter can be blamed for any painting missteps, quipped instructor Rachel Ford to a couples class on a recent Friday evening. She's part teacher, part entertainer, a Spring Hill acrylics painter herself, specially trained in the national franchise's modus operandi.
As the 30-some budding artists in the class applied their first brush strokes to a landscape's background, as per her instruction, Ford commented, "I congratulate all you men here," referring to about half of the gathering.
"I know!" she blurted as if struck by a eureka. "They came for the alcohol."
Playing to the "fun art, not fine art" mood, most of the men raised their hands in acknowledgment.
While some skeptics consider the paint-and-sip genre a ruse to sell more booze, at this Lakewood Plaza studio — launched in mid June by Aurelia and Sam Piliouras, ages 42 and 36, respectively, of Homosassa — it's BYOB or buy wine or beer at its minimalist bar. Soft drinks are offered at classes reserved for kids and teens.
For all events, the studio provides 11- by 14-inch canvasses, paints, brushes, an artist-instructor who offers easy-to-follow steps for the inexperienced, and roving helpers to guide a hand, answer questions and pour out another serving of paint.
Aurelia Piliouras, in charge of the enterprise, sets up for each class a painting that the participants copy. She chooses from a catalog of several thousand works provided by the national franchiser, launched in 2009 in New Orleans.
Ford explained her teaching technique.
"I try to break it down into really simple terms and shapes, no technical art terms," she said. "We usually always start with the background, and they learn the basics of blending. I walk them through each step."
Pointing to the evening's selection, a windswept tree in a late-autumn landscape covering two canvasses, Ford continued: "Then we paint in the tree and finally the leaves."
Piliouras chose the two-canvas work particularly to encourage partners in the couples class to work together.
That's precisely what Stella White of Tampa was in search of via Internet websites.
"I looked at all of them," the 30-year-old White said, noting that she checked Paint with a Twist studios from Brandon to Lakeland. With three friends settled at easels in Spring Hill, she continued, "I was looking for a couples one. It was because of the (two-canvas) picture. I'm excited about not having duplicate paintings."
This was White's second visit to such a venue.
"It tells me what to do so I don't have to figure it out for myself," she said.
Painting as White's partner, George Welch, 26, of Riverview said he hadn't done much artistic work "since grade school." Brandishing a can in a brown-wrapper cozy, he added, "Liquid courage."
"We cater to everyone, all ages, preferably 7 and up," said Piliouras.
Alba Perez of Spring Hill proved the point. Perez is 65, a recent widow.
"I'm doing it for therapy," she said. "I can't even draw stick people, but I love art. VanGogh is my hero. He was a depressive; I'm a depressive. Art makes me feel happy."
Others came to celebrate.
"It's our anniversary today," beamed Xiara Bowles, 49, of Spring Hill, who attended with her husband of 28 years, J.B. Bowles, 48. "I just happened to be walking by (earlier) and thought, that's what we're going to do."
Because the two-hour class includes some drying time between coats of paint, as much as 15 minutes, instructor Ford said, "We play games appropriate to the group."
For the couples gathering, it was passing a balloon back and forth between their knees.
"We always have laughs figure in our games," she said, "so they're not just sitting there watching paint dry."
Adult classes are generally two hours, $35 per attendee. Three-hour sessions are $45; youth classes, 11/2 hours in the afternoon, are $25. Private parties, with special amenities, can be arranged for a minimum of 10 attendees.
The studio will schedule Painting with a Purpose sessions once a month, giving 50 percent of the proceeds to a designated Hernando County charity.
In the planning is a four-day kids art camp and a one-on-one session, Paint Your Pet.
The rotating artist instructor staff includes Autum Proctor, Samantha Rispoli and Evie Harper, all of Spring Hill.
Contact Beth Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.