By Mary Thomas / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“When I’m painting, everything in the outside world goes away for two hours.”

That sentiment reflects the personal experience of Connie Sluzynsky of Monaca, but it also could sum up the draw for the hundreds of individuals and groups who have gone to Painting with a Twist studios since they came to the Pittsburgh region in 2013.

The nationally franchised chain, which launched in Louisiana in 2009, is an afternoon or evening out built around creating a painting — participants all paint the same image — and made social with bring-your-own munchies and drink, which can include alcohol. 

Painting with a Twist now has studios at four locations in the region — Robinson, Castle Shannon, Monroeville and McCandless. 

Ms. Sluzynsky said she went to a Painting with a Twist session in Columbus, Ohio, a few years ago, and when a friend heard that one was opening in Robinson, they headed there. Nearly two years later, she has painted about 70 canvases featuring a variety of subjects, but she does have a favorite thing to paint.

“I like to do trees. You can’t make a mistake on a tree,” she said.

What keeps her returning? “It’s a good place to go to. It really is a lot of fun,” she answered without hesitation.

The 56-year-old administrative assistant does not have an art background. “I cannot draw a straight line. But the artists [at Painting with a Twist] are so talented at teaching that when I take a painting home and look at it, I can’t believe I’ve done that.”

Ms. Sluzynsky paints two or three times a month, choosing sessions from a monthly calendar posted on the individual franchise websites. She has a few friends she goes with, and sometimes her husband joins her on the studio’s occasionally scheduled Date Nights.

Recently she and her family attended one of the monthly fundraisers that the various studios sponsor — called Painting with a Purpose — to benefit a local charity. The featured painting was called “Starry Night Over Pittsburgh,” an altered rendition of the famous Vincent van Gogh work. “They’re giving back to the community, and I like that,” she said of the franchises.

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