New art studio creates stories from paint and pages

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Anoush and Joy Keuylian recently opened Paintstory, and art studio that uses the pages of old books as the canvas for painters. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot)

Turning a blank canvas into art is never an easy process.

At Paintstory, Joy Keuylian offers something a little different instead, using pages of old discarded books as the background to paint on.

“There’s something else there so it’s easier to create on it,” Keuylian says, pointing to a large frame of old, yellowed pages of text covered in thick brush strokes. “I think a lot of people are so intimidated by a blank canvas, but when there’s something on it that really helps.”

Keuylian, along with her daughter Anoush, opened Paintstory on Baker Avenue late in August, hosting a grand opening event at the studio that featured artists Abigail Folk, Paige Grace and Elizabeth Michelsen.

At Paintstory, anyone — even those new to art — can come in and fill a canvas with whatever moves the artist. The studio hosts private parties for adults, like team-building workshops and book signings, as well as birthday parties for children.

In the latter case, the young artists spend half their time painting and the other half putting on a makeshift play, in which the stories they painted can come alive in front of the studio’s “Enchanted Forest” backdrop.

For Keuylian, the concept of the studio came from wanting to open up another creative space in Whitefish.

“I think it was a thought that God put in my head and the desire in my heart just to do an art studio,” she said. “My kids have spent so many hours at Stumptown Art Studio downtown, and that’s such a nice place to just relax and paint pottery and things like that, and I just think we need more of those spaces. There’s so many art galleries in town to showcase the art, which is amazing, we have so many amazing local artists, but for people who don’t usually do art, there needs to be more spaces.”

Keuylian said she was sold on her idea when it got the approval of her teenage daughter.

“It’s just such a fun place with so many opportunities for different things and it’s not just, ‘Paint this specific thing or on this one canvas,’” Anoush said. “You can really personalize your event, and that’s really special.”

All along the studio, cover-less books line the walls and fill shelves, ready to become art.

Keuylian says so far, she hasn’t heard any complaints about using the old books as a medium on which to paint. For the most part, the alternative for these books would be the garbage.

“I think when people see that these books are stamped ‘Discard, withdrawn, void’ [they understand],” she said. “So we’re totally reusing books that were meant to be thrown away in the trash.”

Along with using recycled materials, Keuylian says the paint they use is an environmentally-conscious choice as well.

Paintstory is a distributor of Real Milk Paint Co., based in Tennessee, which is made from 100 percent organic materials.

“It’s non-toxic, environmentally friendly, kid safe, organic. It’s a really amazing product,” Keuylian said.

Whether in the form of a child’s birthday party or an art therapy session, Keuylian said she hopes Paintstory can be anyone’s space to use art to tell their own personal story.

“Paintstory can be that space for these two end of the spectrum events and everything in between,” she said. “The common denominator that pulls them all together is the universal language of art, and the uniqueness of painting on vintage book pages adds another dimension to whatever your own story is at the time. We hope Paintstory will be a fun and beautiful blessing to the Flathead Valley community.”

Paintstory is located at 1824 Baker Ave. For more information, call 406-359-1139 or visit

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