Local artist Christi Schaeffer began Gypsy Studios at the start of the year in an effort to bring her first love, painting, beyond the studio and out into wine country, with all its colorful vistas, fresh air, and sensational wines. Her Painting in the Vineyards series is popular at local, picturesque wineries, and the first in a series of three events at Sanford Winery in Lompoc will include plein air painting paired with Sanford’s reserve wines.
“It’s just a perfect kind of pairing,” said Schaeffer. “I can’t think of an artist who didn’t have a glass of wine in one hand and a paintbrush in the other.”
Many local plein air painters find plenty of inspiration in the rolling rows of grapevines in North Santa Barbara County, and like Schaeffer, enjoy sipping the drink while painting. It’s one of the aspects of the Painting in the Vineyards series that interests attendees of varying levels of skills, she explained.
Whether a first-time painter or a seasoned brush jockey, many find the immediate appeal of a leisurely afternoon out in a sunny vineyard, painting and sipping wine. The celebrated beverage also acts as a kind of social lubricant that helps the creative process along, Schaeffer explained.
“The creative process is a really vulnerable process, and wine really does help take the edge off in the practical sense,” she said, “but then it’s really nice to enjoy the taste of the wine, the beauty of the landscape, the creative process, all of those elements together are a very holistic experience because all of our senses are engaged.”
The class includes a glass of wine, and there will also be food available to purchase from Autostrada, which makes wood-fired flatbread pizzas that pair nicely with Sanford Wines, explained the winery’s tasting room manager Lesley Ann Becker.
According to Becker, the event will even include a short talk by a vineyard or winery manager regarding the history of the vineyard, including when it produced some of the wines being poured. In this way, attendees will have plenty of inspiration for their paintings.
“We have this beautiful estate property, it’s 485 acres and there’s 145 acres of vineyard planted here,” Becker said, “and right now the vines have flowered, it’s pollinated, and there are these little, pea-sized green dots along the vine.”
A vineyard offers several distinct hues and textures to capture, Schaeffer explained, from the dark greens of oak leaves, to the pale browns of the surrounding drought-stricken hills. The two-hour event offers enough time to paint the scene without the light changing too much.
Helping her students mix the appropriate colors gets them in the right direction to comfortably move forward with a scene, whether it captures a vine close up, or includes a wide panoramic scene with foreground and background clearly distinguished.
“The hardest part about painting is mixing the colors and knowing where to place certain shades and tints,” she said. “If you can have help figuring that out, then your painting ends up looking pretty amazing, even for a beginner.”
Schaeffer enjoys it when a student leaves with a different view of painting and increased confidence in their ability to do it. But mostly, she explained, getting out there and doing it is the most rewarding experience, and the painting becomes a keepsake and reminder of the class.
The connections that get made between art, nature, and wine, are also a motivator for both instructor and instructed, Schaeffer explained, as she also enjoys telling her classes about the unique history of each winery she paints.
“We really like to promote the winery and have an education element, to let people know what they are looking at,” she said. “I always draw the parallel of the winemaker as an artist, and how amazing it is to see how different these paintings turn out and how different two winemakers may make wine from the same vintage, from the same block, but you get two completely different wines.”
Arts Editor Joe Payne is aged to perfection. Contact him at [email protected].