July 26, 2012 in Washington Voices

Painters enjoy art, wine at Van Gogh and Merlot

Artists of all levels can paint and sip favorite beverage
Valerie Putnam vrputnam@yahoo.com
Tim Putnam photo

Vickie Moxcey, front left, and Lisa Baldwin, front right, attend a Van Gogh and Merlot class at Pasadena Ridge apartments July 8.
(Full-size photo)

To participate in the classes

 Van Gogh and Merlot hosts painting classes while participants enjoy their favorite beverage. Events are held at various settings around the city, including restaurants, coffee shops, wine bars and private parties.

 Classes at Pasadena Ridge Apartments, 4710 N. Pasadena Ridge Lane, in Spokane Valley, are the second Sunday of each month. The cost is $30 and does not include beverage. Participants are encouraged to bring their own food and beverage.

 Luxe Coffee House, 1017 W. First Ave., hosts ongoing events; including First Friday. The cost is $40 and includes beverage.

 Events can be scheduled evenings beginning at 6 p.m. and weekends starting at 8 a.m.

 For more information or to schedule an event, contact Ulysses Mireles at (210) 885-2441 or vangoghandmerlot@gmail.com. Upcoming events and the reference picture to be painted are posted on Van Gogh and Merlot website www.vangoghandmerlot.com/ and Facebook page.

Intently painting a large sunflower on an 11-by-14 canvas, Vickie Moxcey takes brief respites to sip her glass of riesling.

Moxcey is learning to paint during the Van Gogh and Merlot painting class, hosted monthly at Pasadena Ridge Apartments in the Spokane Valley.

“I’m going to keep this one,” Moxcey said about the sunflower. Moxcey, 58, has attended five classes over the course of the year. “I’ve been giving the others away as gifts. I like this one.”

The locally owned Van Gogh and Merlot hosts painting classes at different venues throughout the month. The classes are open to artists of all levels. During the class, participants enjoy a beverage of choice.

“Pretty catchy name,” owner Ulysses Mireles, said with a laugh. “But it’s not limited to alcohol. They can have coffee, hot chocolate or whatever they want.”

Mireles, 29, decided to start the business after moving to Spokane from San Antonio a year and a half ago.

“The idea came from wanting to meet people since I was new to the area,” Mireles, who has hosted more than 50 classes at various locations since 2011, said. “I felt like Spokane has talented artists in the area, but collectively there seems to be a lesser amount of art in the community. I wanted to be a part of a movement that would help introduce art to every person.”

Mireles provides the canvas, brushes, acrylic paints and aprons. He uses acrylic paints because of the easy clean up, no fumes and fast drying time.

In just a few hours he takes students from a blank canvas to completed art piece.

“I’ve not had a single person not complete the picture,” Mireles said. “There is a huge disbelief in the beginning, and at the end there is a sense of completion and accomplishment. It’s exciting to see.”

He demonstrates how to complete the painting by first dividing the blank canvas into sections. Then each section is addressed sequentially by short demonstrations. After each demonstration, the students return to their seats and complete that section.

“I give recommendations on color, brush size, how much water and all that,” Mireles said. “The most inexperienced participants don’t have to guess at what to do. I give them those recommendations and they go back and paint that part.”

The demonstrations continue to build on each other until the painting is complete.

“He makes it real easy because he goes step by step,” participant Michelle Colebank said. “Something that looks impossible turns out to be pretty easy when you do it that way.”

This particular class began with awarding Colebank, 33, a special Van Gogh and Merlot black apron. She earned the apron by attending the class five times.

“We give out the apron as a way of saying ‘thank you’ for coming out many times,” Mireles said, who’s rewarded more than 30 participants with the apron. “We joke it’s the black belt in painting.”

First-timer Jennifer King was so impressed by what her friend Jill McInturff had done in the class that she had to try it herself.

“I like it so far,” King, 50, said about her first class. “It’s very organized. I feel I’m not going to get too far without goofing up. It’s sequential, and that’s good.”

Mireles travels to different venues throughout the city, including private parties. Pasadena Ridge Apartments and Luxe Coffee House host ongoing classes.

Mireles said he knew he had artistic talent at an early age. When he was 5, he got in trouble when he drew a picture of some farm animals so well the teacher thought he had traced them. In response to his teacher’s accusation, Mireles said he drew the picture again.

He first tried painting as a junior in high school. His paintings were so well received that he began selling them. He used the money to attend college.

“I was able to pay for close to half my undergraduate with commissioned pieces,” Mireles said. “It became very lucrative.”

Mireles received multiple scholarships to pursue art but decided to go with something more stable. He became a physical therapist and is working full time in Spokane. Van Gogh and Merlot is a side venture.

“It’s a way to try out painting without spending hundreds of dollars,” Mireles said. “People who do participate enjoy it very much.”

Eventually he would like to establish a permanent venue in which people could paint and drink on a consistent basis. Until then, he hopes to schedule one event a week at different venues.

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