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Palisade artist celebrates Colorado wine in wine art

By Dave Buchanan

A wine-art poster contest won by a poster done in wine.

Gary Hauschulz’s Winefest Art Competition-winning painting “Red, White and Fruit” features Colorado wines and found inspiration ranging from cruise ship guests, an American Pop-art painter and a Dutch Golden Age artist known for his group portraits.

The painting, which shows a smiling face lifting a glass in toast with another, also denotes which wines Hauschulz used in the making. The theme, said Hauschulz, was born of many memories.

“I remembered an image from Franz Halz of delightful people, they were so doggone happy and holding mugs and flutes and it was such a happy image,” Hauschulz said. “I couldn’t find the image but I could see it in my head.”

Among Halz’s (c. 1580-1666) notable work is the life-size group portrait, “The Banquet of the Officers of the St. George Militia Company.” Hauschulz, while on a recent Mediterranean cruise with his wife, artist Susan Metzger, thought of Halz’s work.

“I looked for happy faces,” said Hauschulz, who retired after 29 years teaching art at Grand Junction High School and may be better known for his sculptures. He won the Lou Wille award several years ago for his Art on the Corner entry.

Other inspiration came from American artist and musician Larry Rivers (1923-2002). The idea to use wine stemmed from a something Hauschulz picked up while sitting at a local bagel shop, sketching in a notebook.

“I would draw with pencil but that smears and in the 90s I would dip my finger in coffee and shade (drawings) with it,” he said. He found adding some espresso to his drawing gave him darker shades of color.

“Painting with espresso looks pretty spontaneous but it slows me up,” he said. “Now, that I’m retired, I have time to wait.”

When he started working with wine, he found even the darkest wines didn’t dry dark enough. “I was hugely disappointed, even the darkest wine was a blush,” he said.

That led to a breakthrough: by reducing the wine, he found the concentrate made a better painting medium. However, a problem arose when he started working on the acid-free paper required by the Winefest contest.

“Wine worked really well on my rice-paper book but the (chemicals in) acid-free traditional paper interacted with the wine and I kept coming up with hideous gray.” Once he found an acceptable acid-free paper, he then went around to the wineries for his art supplies.

He eventually used 12 different wines, including fruit wines. “I tried different merlots and they all looked the same,” he said. “So nobody knows whose merlot it is.”

He next challenge, finding a chardonnay that would dry dark enough, was solved when he discovered winemaker Bennett Price at DeBeque Canyon Winery has some older chardonnay in barrels.

“I let it evaporate,” Hauschulz said, with a laugh. “Actually, I got in a bit of rush with the deadline approaching and put some (wine) on my stove and forgot about it and it burnt.” Just like the burnt oil used in print making, the burnt chardonnay (sorry, Bennett) was dark enough.

Painting with wine is surprisingly exacting, Hauschulz said.

“Wine is unforgiving, so every splatter matters,” he said. “Not that I didn’t try. I tried the two-step wine remover but that just turned it gray. There is no erasing wine.”

Hauschulz’s painting plus the other Winefest art contest entries may seen at The Blue Pig Gallery, 101 West Third in Palisade.

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