Creativity without pressure at ‘paint and sip’ studios

Two students toast during a recent Painting with a Twist event in Mandeville, La. The classes have become a global sensation, where adults can spend their nights out learning to paint in a relaxed, BYOB setting. -- Painting with a Twist photo via AP

They’ve become a global sensation — “paint and sip” studios where adults can spend evenings out learning to make art in a relaxed, BYOB setting. Thousands of franchises now exist to help us all unleash our inner creative.

One of the places where it all began was a little studio outside Birmingham, Ala. In 2002, at age 28, Wendy Lovoy quit her corporate job to pursue a career as a painter. She began teaching adult and kids’ classes. The adults, she noticed, were taking far too long to finish their paintings. They were nervous about making them perfect. They couldn’t get out of their own heads. When Lovoy encouraged them to relax and move more quickly, their work always turned out better.

So she began holding two-hour sessions during which she would guide adult students to create an entire painting from start to finish. As it turned out, they loved it. The paintings were coming out great, and classes were filling up. Students began bringing mimosas. The atmosphere was relaxed and pressure-free.

So in 2003, her company, Sips ‘N Strokes, was born. Sips ‘N Strokes pioneered the model of BYOB painting classes that teach students to reproduce a work of art step-by-step.

“My vision was to inspire the world to create,” says Lovoy.

The business grew slowly at first, going from one class a month to two, and then, suddenly, it was seven days a week. By 2007, Lovoy was squishing 100 people per night into her studio. By 2009, when she franchised Sips ‘N Strokes, similar businesses, like Painting With a Twist and Pinot’s Palette, had begun springing up around the country.

“It became an industry that the customer base really gravitated to,” says Joe Lewis, CEO of the Mandeville, La.-based Painting With a Twist.

Because the investment needed to start a paint and sip franchise is relatively low, Lewis says, the industry has grown quickly.

Lovoy is amazed at how popular paint-and-sip places have become since she opened her studio.

“When you’re 28 years old and you see something that was your passion blow up to something so big, it’s phenomenal,” says Lovoy.