Paint with Wine

Christina LoCascio Invents a New Art Form


Like many innovations, it happened by accident. A spilled glass of red wine near a paintbrush led to a carefree stroke that triggered a realization and solved a dilemma. Christina LoCascio, wine tasting room manager by day and painter by passion, had been pondering what to teach in an upcoming art class at Artiste Winery in the Santa Ynez Valley.

"This might be interesting," she thought as she stroked out a reddish image. "Why not teach a class on painting with wine?" The notion was an instant hit - the class was full - and it launched LoCascio on a brilliant path that's sure to pay off, if for nothing other than its off - the - wall appeal.

LoCascio stumbled into the wine industry after her college days at UC-Santa Barbara, where she studied art. She happily found the wine world dominated by a different sort of artist. She reflected, "The more I studied wines, I realized that this is such an art. Winemakers are held up [revered] like artists would be."

Since she bridged the two arenas after spilling that glass of wine last year, LoCascio has made astounding strides in her new medium. "I'm researching different varietals to test for difference in color," she explained amidst the jars of red liquid and boxes of wine in the bedroom, where she works. By sampling the color consistencies of zinfandels, grenaches, syrahs and even white wines for blending, she's well on the way to producing a reliable color wheel, which also includes shades that appear after the wine has been boiled. She uses lees, thick dregs left over from the winemaking process, for deeper colors and found that a wine turned to vinegar produced a greenish gray-brown hue.

Working from photos she's taken of posing friends and vineyard landscapes, LoCascio focuses on both the human form and the sort of stuff one would expect of someone painting with wine - vineyard landscapes, grapes and the like. She uses earthy toned pastels, bleeding them together in a process that never overrides the integrity of the wine but serves to enhance the structure of her pieces. And because she always paints vertically, the drip traces of falling droplets add authentic texture, providing solid clues to those unfamiliar with the medium.

LoCascio wonders whether the images will stand the test of time. Since she's among a very few artists working with wine, longevity is a big unknown. LoCascio sprays her pieces with a protective coating and then covers them in glass before hanging. She's confident that the painted image will never fade completely - remember that spot of red wine on the white carpet? - but assumes some colors will evolve.

"I'm almost certain the paintings are going to change over time, but that's a beautiful thing," LoCascio proclaimed. "It's a comment on wine itself, because wine changes, too."

So far, that concern hasn't diminished her popularity. Her work sells quickly. Prices approach the $1,000 mark.

One thing seems certain; no matter how long her images last, LoCascio's creativity will endure.

LoCascio's work can be seen in various galleries and tasting rooms throughout the Santa Ynez Valley and will soon be featured on the labels of the Artiste Winery, where she works.