Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Cabernet Paint

In 1991, Detroit native Thomas Arvid backpacked across Europe with his girlfriend Vanessa. There, he says, "I was able to see artists working in the street. Later on in the day, I'd find them down by the square or the piers selling their paintings. I said, 'They're making a living doing that. That's what I want to do.' " So, without bothering about formal instruction, "I just decided to sit in my basement and paint."

The basement sat below the streets of Atlanta, and in 1995 Arvid climbed the stairs and started painting in public, at the city's Tu Tu Tango café. He began a series of paintings depicting what he thought of as American icons -- red American icons. "I was painting Converse high-top tennis shoes, Radio Flyer wagons, and crushed Coke cans, and wine just fell into that list of 'things that are red.' " (It is surely hopeful news for the domestic wine industry when a casual drinker in Atlanta thinks of wine as any kind of American icon.)

Continues Arvid, "I started painting wine the way that I saw it: on a table, being shared. People fell in love with the paintings; they were buying them as I was working on them." One client gave him a bottle of Silver Oak and a bottle of Stag's Leap Cask 23, saying, " 'Thomas, you've got to drink this wine and do a painting, and I'll buy it off you.' I was a struggling artist at the time, and I was drinking these great bottles and saying to my wife, 'This is out of control! This is what wine is supposed to taste like!' " Suddenly, Arvid became a less casual drinker; he had fallen in love with Napa Valley Cabernet. Less suddenly, he became a much more serious painter of wine. "The paintings start to sell and you keep on trying to add a wine painting to your series, and someone keeps buying it, and you start to forget about your icon series. You think, 'Hey, does anybody else paint wine like this?' I looked up winepaintings.com on the Internet, and there was nothing registered. I didn't know how to register, but I had someone do it for me. I was thinking, 'This is weird.' "

He decided to put his work -- close-up, casual in tone, larger than life, and photorealistic -- up against the wine painters of Napa. But when he arrived in the Valley in the late '90s, he found the battlefield deserted. "Everybody in Napa painted vineyard scenes and clusters of grapes. I thought, 'Nobody else is doing what I'm doing.' I delivered six paintings to the first gallery I worked with in Napa. They sold all six overnight. I got a call the next day: 'Hire somebody to mow your lawn. Hire somebody to clean your kitchen.' " Arvid had arrived.

He kept at the painting-in-public. "People responded to it. They were just, like, 'This is so cool. I can't believe you did that in two hours. Can I just buy it the way it is?' " But now, instead of a café, he set up his easel inside a restaurant that was playing host to a Silver Oak wine dinner. "It turned out to be a huge success. They had this visual entertainment -- me working over in the corner. People would see me walk in with a big blank canvas. I'd do a very rough sketch, capturing the areas of where things needed to be. Then I started blocking in the positive and negative spaces. A wine dinner lasts about four hours, so that gave me a good block of time. I made sure I had a glass of wine next to me, and I worked pretty aggressively."

The method was far different from the technique he uses at home. There, he works to restage an image he has picked up from "collecting wine and being around it. I try to get the same feeling or movement I experienced. Then I photograph it. I work from multiple photographs, because there are different planes of focus that you need." But the restaurant environment had this advantage: "It let people see an artist at work." The process became his publicity. "I was able to sell paintings, and I was able to meet the rep for Silver Oak. He invited me to do other dinners for him; I was drinking great wine and working with a captive audience." For the past five years he has attended Silver Oak's semi-annual release parties, beginning a new Silver Oak-themed work each time.

Besides Silver Oak, his paintings often involve Napa Cabernets such as Opus One, Beringer Private Reserve, Far Niente, Diamond Creek, and Flora Springs, with occasional detours into Bordeaux and Champagne. "It's a personal choice," he says. "I tend to favor the California-style wines, that Napa Valley style. So that's what I paint -- 'paint what you know.' " Labels like Silver Oak are examples of what Arvid calls "special bottles" -- not the stuff most people drink every night, but not cult wines such as Colgin or Bryant Family either. "I tend to try to stay within the realms of reality. I've had those wines, but I don't tend to paint them. People don't have the personal experience; they don't connect with it. There's a special bottle of wine, then there's fantasyland." (The same goes for glassware; though Arvid loves the giant Reidel Sommelier glasses, he usually works with "more comfortable glasses, really middle-of-the-road.")

People connecting to his work through personal experience has been one of the secrets to his considerable success. Before Arvid closed his commission list -- he's booked for the next four years or so -- he noticed a pattern in his clients. "People usually followed the work a little bit in a gallery and then decided, 'We want one of his originals.' They would say, 'I drink this bottle of wine, and this one is my wife's favorite. If you could put these two bottles in the painting with two glasses being shared, it would speak of our life.' Then they left it up to me to put together the composition."

And however special the bottle, however personal the experience he was depicting, the appeal proved near-universal. People connected with the subject. "Forgetting the painting -- just consider the image of wine," comments Arvid. "If you see a bottle of wine on the counter...when somebody says, 'Hey, why don't you have a glass of wine with me?' the relaxation level rises. It means you're going to stay another 15 minutes and hang out with your friend. You sit down, you relax. That's what I feel is happening within my work. It's not just how you paint and what you paint. It's the story, what you're trying to project to people."

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Cigarette smokers across the border take a hit

Duty-free stores help
Next Article

Pandemic dating smalltalk

Stop talking about current events to the extent they concern public health in any way shape or form whatsoever

In 1991, Detroit native Thomas Arvid backpacked across Europe with his girlfriend Vanessa. There, he says, "I was able to see artists working in the street. Later on in the day, I'd find them down by the square or the piers selling their paintings. I said, 'They're making a living doing that. That's what I want to do.' " So, without bothering about formal instruction, "I just decided to sit in my basement and paint."

The basement sat below the streets of Atlanta, and in 1995 Arvid climbed the stairs and started painting in public, at the city's Tu Tu Tango café. He began a series of paintings depicting what he thought of as American icons -- red American icons. "I was painting Converse high-top tennis shoes, Radio Flyer wagons, and crushed Coke cans, and wine just fell into that list of 'things that are red.' " (It is surely hopeful news for the domestic wine industry when a casual drinker in Atlanta thinks of wine as any kind of American icon.)

Continues Arvid, "I started painting wine the way that I saw it: on a table, being shared. People fell in love with the paintings; they were buying them as I was working on them." One client gave him a bottle of Silver Oak and a bottle of Stag's Leap Cask 23, saying, " 'Thomas, you've got to drink this wine and do a painting, and I'll buy it off you.' I was a struggling artist at the time, and I was drinking these great bottles and saying to my wife, 'This is out of control! This is what wine is supposed to taste like!' " Suddenly, Arvid became a less casual drinker; he had fallen in love with Napa Valley Cabernet. Less suddenly, he became a much more serious painter of wine. "The paintings start to sell and you keep on trying to add a wine painting to your series, and someone keeps buying it, and you start to forget about your icon series. You think, 'Hey, does anybody else paint wine like this?' I looked up winepaintings.com on the Internet, and there was nothing registered. I didn't know how to register, but I had someone do it for me. I was thinking, 'This is weird.' "

He decided to put his work -- close-up, casual in tone, larger than life, and photorealistic -- up against the wine painters of Napa. But when he arrived in the Valley in the late '90s, he found the battlefield deserted. "Everybody in Napa painted vineyard scenes and clusters of grapes. I thought, 'Nobody else is doing what I'm doing.' I delivered six paintings to the first gallery I worked with in Napa. They sold all six overnight. I got a call the next day: 'Hire somebody to mow your lawn. Hire somebody to clean your kitchen.' " Arvid had arrived.

He kept at the painting-in-public. "People responded to it. They were just, like, 'This is so cool. I can't believe you did that in two hours. Can I just buy it the way it is?' " But now, instead of a café, he set up his easel inside a restaurant that was playing host to a Silver Oak wine dinner. "It turned out to be a huge success. They had this visual entertainment -- me working over in the corner. People would see me walk in with a big blank canvas. I'd do a very rough sketch, capturing the areas of where things needed to be. Then I started blocking in the positive and negative spaces. A wine dinner lasts about four hours, so that gave me a good block of time. I made sure I had a glass of wine next to me, and I worked pretty aggressively."

The method was far different from the technique he uses at home. There, he works to restage an image he has picked up from "collecting wine and being around it. I try to get the same feeling or movement I experienced. Then I photograph it. I work from multiple photographs, because there are different planes of focus that you need." But the restaurant environment had this advantage: "It let people see an artist at work." The process became his publicity. "I was able to sell paintings, and I was able to meet the rep for Silver Oak. He invited me to do other dinners for him; I was drinking great wine and working with a captive audience." For the past five years he has attended Silver Oak's semi-annual release parties, beginning a new Silver Oak-themed work each time.

Besides Silver Oak, his paintings often involve Napa Cabernets such as Opus One, Beringer Private Reserve, Far Niente, Diamond Creek, and Flora Springs, with occasional detours into Bordeaux and Champagne. "It's a personal choice," he says. "I tend to favor the California-style wines, that Napa Valley style. So that's what I paint -- 'paint what you know.' " Labels like Silver Oak are examples of what Arvid calls "special bottles" -- not the stuff most people drink every night, but not cult wines such as Colgin or Bryant Family either. "I tend to try to stay within the realms of reality. I've had those wines, but I don't tend to paint them. People don't have the personal experience; they don't connect with it. There's a special bottle of wine, then there's fantasyland." (The same goes for glassware; though Arvid loves the giant Reidel Sommelier glasses, he usually works with "more comfortable glasses, really middle-of-the-road.")

People connecting to his work through personal experience has been one of the secrets to his considerable success. Before Arvid closed his commission list -- he's booked for the next four years or so -- he noticed a pattern in his clients. "People usually followed the work a little bit in a gallery and then decided, 'We want one of his originals.' They would say, 'I drink this bottle of wine, and this one is my wife's favorite. If you could put these two bottles in the painting with two glasses being shared, it would speak of our life.' Then they left it up to me to put together the composition."

And however special the bottle, however personal the experience he was depicting, the appeal proved near-universal. People connected with the subject. "Forgetting the painting -- just consider the image of wine," comments Arvid. "If you see a bottle of wine on the counter...when somebody says, 'Hey, why don't you have a glass of wine with me?' the relaxation level rises. It means you're going to stay another 15 minutes and hang out with your friend. You sit down, you relax. That's what I feel is happening within my work. It's not just how you paint and what you paint. It's the story, what you're trying to project to people."

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Will San Diego survive a fall without classical music?

Just as symphony, Mainly Mozart, La Jolla Music Society were getting stronger
Next Article

Treetop Tutoring Center: Jeanne Volk‘s triple tutoring whammy

“Kids miss school friends they were used to seeing and playing with most days.”
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close