Paintings Worth A Thousand Words

Paintstory studio allows artists to paint on vintage book pages as their canvas

By Molly Priddy
Joy Keuylian, owner of Paintstory in Whitefish on Nov. 8, 2018. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

WHITEFISH — The walls of Joy Keuylian’s art studio, Paintstory, are covered in pages of century-old books, browned and thin with age.

The pages stick to the canvases taped to the walls, ready to be painted over and turned into artwork. One book, titled, “National Report System: Pacific Reporter Annotated,” is from 1909. It was headed to the garbage, Keuylian said, along with the other books she uses as canvases.

“They were going to get thrown away,” Keuylian said. “Now we’re giving them new life.”

Paintstory, which opened in September, offers a variety of ways to paint on these wordy canvases, from themed parties to intimate painting lessons. Keuylian unrolls stretches of canvas, and then particular book pages are added for an extra layer of meaning.

The studio can provide the pages, Keuylian said, but a lot of people tend to have special books in mind. For example, one family plans on gathering all 23 grandchildren together over the holidays to paint over the pages of a heritage family cookbook as a way to remember the author and display their words in art.

On Nov. 15, Paintstory will host a collaborative painting and book-signing event with local authors. Pam Rozell’s “Stones of Remembrance,” Christine Carbo’s suspense novels “The Wild Inside,” “A Sharp Solitude,” “Mortal Fall,” and “The Weight of Night,” and Miantae Metcalf McConnell’s “Deliverance Mary Fields” will be part of an art exhibit featuring paintings themed on their books by artist Abigail Folk.

The authors will be there to sign the books, and the paintings will be auctioned off during the event, Keuylian said. The proceeds from the paintings go to an organization of the author’s choice, in this event’s case three: Potter’s Field Ministries, Glacier National Park Conservancy, and The Nature Conservancy.

It’s an event to showcase the marriage of books and visual art happening at Paintstory, where Keuylian hopes to provide a place for people to have a unique painting experience. The idea popped into her head with such force that Keuylian, a Christian, believed it must have come from God.

“I wanted to build a place where people could paint in any way they wanted,” Keuylian said. “And I love vintage book pages, I loved using them in different crafts. So I thought, ‘What if I cover the canvases with vintage book pages?’”

Keuylian made a canvas stretching 16 feet wide and six feet tall and plastered it with pages before Folk painted a massive pair of feathered wings on it. Like the wings seen in art installations in cities, this piece of art is meant for people to visit and take pictures and see as a destination, Keuylian said.

The wings hang high above the studio, but are lowered for events. Keuylian said they host events for adults and kids, and use Milk Paint, which is organic, environmentally friendly, kid-safe, non-toxic, and made in the United States.

It’s also a powder the artist has to mix with water to get liquid paint, so the artist has control over how opaquely the paint covers the canvas. The thinner and more translucent the paint, the better the audience can see the words underneath.

Keuylian said kids in particular can have trouble painting on book pages, because they’ve been taught not to write in books. In those cases, they paint on canvas and use cutouts from the book pages.

It can be jarring for book lovers of all ages to see pages taken from their book spines and splayed out to be painted on, but Keuylian said all of her books were otherwise headed for the dustbin. Many are 50 to 100 years old, and stamped with ink reading “VOID,” “DISCARD,” “WITHDRAWN.”

She hopes to offer weekly events in the future, but for now, Paintstory offers individual events for groups no smaller than 10 kids or seven adults. Keuylian also said she’d like to work with art therapy groups.

It’s all about making a place where creativity and expression reign, she said.

“I love to try to make events something that you’re never going to forget as long as you live,” Keuylian said.

For more information on Paintstory, visit www.paintstory.me or call (406) 359-1139.