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Stay-at-home moms spread their own joy of painting

by Jeremy Weber
Daily Inter Lake | July 5, 2020 1:00 AM

Sisters TaSha Franklin and ShaMar Irwin are putting their own unique and creative spin on painting lessons in the Flathead Valley.

The pair of Kalispell stay-at-home moms launched their Creative Canvas business in April 2019, giving area painters of all skill levels the chance to get together for fun, laughter and a chance to “find their inner Bob Ross,” they said, referring to the iconic artist whose TV show, “The Joy of Painting,” provided art instruction to scores of people prior to his death in 1995.

What started out slowly with private parties has now turned into a regular series of “Pop-up” parties at Bias Brewing, Glacier Sun Winery and Colter Coffee, drawing anywhere from six to as many as nearly 20 painters.

“Honestly, we really didn’t know what we were doing when we got started, but we just wanted to have fun. We are both passionate about art and this is how we can share that passion with other people in our community,” Franklin said. “We were both thinking that we needed to get lives for ourselves, we should try to do this. So, we did and it has been so much fun. We literally got some friends together and started asking around for someone to host us. Bias Brewing was the first place that said yes.”

Growing up with their brother and another sister in an artistically inclined family — their parents were singers and musicians in several bands — Franklin and Irwin have both always enjoyed being creative, but neither took up painting until recently.

While Franklin describes her sister as being “the creative one” who has dabbled in the arts since childhood, she proudly admits to having learned to paint from watching YouTube tutorials as a way to make some extra cash before starting her own venture painting animals and scenes on wooden pallets.

When their sister, who owns an art studio and hosts painting parties in North Dakota, suggested the pair should do the same in the Flathead, Franklin and Irwin decided to give it a go.

The private party idea was slow in taking off, but the idea for “pop-up” parties was born. After scouring local establishments looking for a host, the duo finally held their first event at Bias Brewing, drawing out the first few of those who would become loyal returning artists.

“We get so many people that are reluctant to try it because they have never painted before and then they come out and have a blast. This is truly something that everyone can enjoy. Because of that, it really took off quickly and it has gotten crazy,” Franklin said. “People want to get out of their homes and have fun. We have a lot of couples that come out and paint with us as a date night and also some people that just come out by themselves to paint and have a good time. Everyone gets to have a good time and they get to go home with a painting.”

With the exuberant, playful energy of siblings, the pair laugh and joke their way through their parties, making sure everyone is having fun while also learning to improve their artistic skills.

“I make fun of TaSha a lot, but that’s just the way we are and it works well. We play off of each other and try to make our events as much fun as they can be for everyone,” Irwin said. “We just slap a canvas in front of people and tell them we are all there to paint, then they discover how much fun it is and they are hooked. All you have to do is follow instructions. Anyone can do it.”

From first-time painters to seasoned artists, those who keep coming back for more pop-up parties experience a fun way to learn and polish their skills.

“These two sisters have put their heart and soul out there for people to join in the fun and therapeutic benefits of painting. I tried out a couple of other groups, and just loved the energy, and enthusiasm of these two,” Trace Cummins, who had not painted before attending a Creative Canvas event, said. “I am not a painter, but I am creative, and this medium is new to me, and so much fun. We laugh, tease each other, and encourage everyone. There are no bad painters, and there are no sad painters in our group.”

The story is much the same for Loralee Dalton, who created her first painting with the group and now tries to attend as many events as possible.

“I decided to try it even though I don’t think of myself as being very artistic and now I love going to as many events as I can. It is so much fun and I look forward to doing it every few weeks,” she said. “It’s a fun and positive thing to do and I get to be creative with someone there to help me when I need it. I get to paint and laugh, so I recommend it to everyone.”

Even COVID-19 couldn’t slow the sisters down as they began hosting popular Facebook Live painting sessions to stay in touch with their loyal fans and customers.

“Social media has been huge for us. People come to one of our parties and post photos and then the word gets out and we have even more people show up to the next event. We really got going, and the COVID hit, so we had shut down all of our events,” Franklin said. “Our painters kept sending messages that they were sad about not being able to paint, so we started doing the Facebook live painting sessions. People loved it!”

With subjects varying at each event, Franklin and Irwin strive to make sure their parties feature scenes that will appeal to a wide variety of artists.

“Our paintings are a little different than a lot of the sit-and-paint places because we like to come up with our own. It might be an abstract scene one week and then a landscape the next week. We are a bit all over the place, but that way we can hit everyone’s favorite style,” Franklin said.

With Montana continuing to open back up, Franklin said she and her sister are ready to bring back their pop-up parties and continue the fun.

“We have found some talented artists that never realized they had a gift. It has been a lot of fun so far and we are ready for it to continue,” she said.

For more information about Creative Canvas, visit their website www.creativecanvas406.com or find them on Facebook.