It’s fitting that the first time I met Corning artist Amelia Fais Harnas was through mutual friends at The Cellar. We didn’t talk about her art, so when I came across this article about an artist from Corning, NY, who painted with wine, I didn’t realize we had met. I immediately called the most attractive local blogger I know to see if he’d like to cover the story. It went direct to voicemail, which is what happens when you call yourself from your own phone.
Looking through Amelia’s website, you’ll see she’s been experimenting with various materials and processes for a few years now. The layers she creates and the complexity she achieves by painting red wine onto fabric, turns a sketch into a masterpiece. That being said, my personal favorites are her 2013 series on wood. These burnt sketches on wood, tinted with a mix of wine, gold ink, & gouache (a type of paint) are subtle and mesmerizing. The small portraits seem to belong within the natural grain of the wood. Also, I like butts.
I reached out to Amelia via email with some questions about her art…
What is your process?
The process (simplified): 1) I draw the portrait in black crayon on white fabric (usually cotton, but sometimes linen or silk). 2) Using melted wax, I block out any areas that I want to keep bright white in the portrait. This can be painted with a brush or drawn with a tjanting. 3) Then, I pour the first layer of wine all over the fabric. 4) Next, I block out the lightest areas of pink using the melted wax, and pour another layer of wine on top. 5) And so back and forth I go, wax/wine/wax/wine until the darkest area of the portrait has the most layers of wine. 6) When I think I’m done, using thick paper towels and a simple household iron, I remelt the wax up through the towel and out of the fabric. 7) And voilà!
Do you use a particular type of wine?
I only use red wine and try to only use old vine varietals that have the lowest residual sugar possible (so it’s super dry) and low acidity, if I can manage. I tend to favor French wine (because I’m a French translator and Francophile), like Cahors or Côtes du Rhône.
Do you drink the wine while you paint?
I work in cycles of 4-5 pieces at one time, which will take approximately 1-2 glasses of wine over the better part of a day. I will usually drink a glass or two of wine while I work – nothing crazy. It’s just important to remember which glass is which!
What is it about portraits that you prefer over other subjects?
95% of my subjects are portraits. There is something about the marvelous mutable nature of faces that I cannot ignore. I’ve tried still life and landscapes, but they just don’t hold the same shimmering excitement as a portrait or figurative work. And, quite frankly, to me, drawing a portrait is almost second nature.
Where can we buy your art?
I’m now represented by Exhibit A gallery, for the time-being, any new works will most likely be exhibited there, which is where locals can purchase works.
For more information about Amelia, visit her website and like her on Facebook. I should also mention that I’m completely in love with her Sketchbook… I’m fascinated and jealous of anyone who can translate their personal experiences into art.