Painting with Wine

Every so often, if I have a glass of wine as I’m painting, I’ll accidentally go to dip my brush in the wrong container. The opposite is also true, and I actually took a good swig of my paint water – but only once, I’ve been a lot more careful since! So I was extremely interested to meet an artist whose chosen medium is red wine on watercolour paper. What a cool idea! Dražen Pačalat paints Dalmatian scenes and motifs with many delicate layers of his selected wine. It looks for all the world like a sepia watercolour, as the red fades to brown on the paper. Different grape varietals have a slightly different hue, with merlot, for example, tending to a cooler violet/purple, and others coming out in warmer russet tones.

Drazen with his painting of sardines

Dražen Pačalat with his painting of sardines

Stina wine labels are made from blank watercolour paper, which I thought it was a good gimmick, but who would think to create a real masterpiece from wine? Apparently, some artists do. When I went online to research the technique, I found several artists, and a Wine Folly blog with some useful advice, complete with video. They addressed two aspects that were worrying me – firstly, how long will my masterpiece last? And secondly, how do you get darks worth anything? I was impressed by Dražen’s work, in that he achieves a very effective range of values simply by layering. The man clearly has a great deal of patience. The blog article suggested that darker values could be produced by reducing the wine by boiling first. Would you not end up painting with sticky syrup, I wondered? But perhaps you don’t need to go that far.

Moving on to the subject of fugitive colours – important to every serious watercolourist – Wine Folly advised spraying the finished painting (wineing?) with a matte fixative. Dražen himself said that his artwork doesn’t fade in sunlight, which I could believe, given how difficult it is to remove a red wine stain from clothing! Investigating further, I see that the wine artist Philippe Dufrenoy advises that his portraits last about 10 years before gracefully fading.

I hope Dražen is right about his work. I fell in love with his study of sardines – yes, me, who has often said I don’t like anything that might conceiveably be called “still life with fish”! But somehow, this is different. It’s a typically Dalmatian motif, and has a flow and movement to it that I really enjoy. Plus, it’s painted in local wine. The note beneath states that this is an original Vinorel of Plavac Hvar PZ Svirče, Hvar 2009. And it’s going on my wall as soon as I can get it a frame with protective UV glass. 🙂

A little background reading in case you want to try it:

Slobodna Dalmacija article about Dražen Pačalat (in Croatian)

Wine Folly: Step by Step Painting with Wine

Oddity Central:  5 Talented Artists who Paint with Wine