Art and wine: a perfect blend in Southold

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO  |  During a recent class at Heron Suites in Southold, Rita Rooney shows students how to blend colors with the help of a water-soaked paintbrush.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | During a recent class at Heron Suites in Southold, Rita Rooney shows students how to blend colors with the help of a water-soaked paintbrush.

Sitting before a blank canvas, paintbrushes and a glass of McCall pinot noir in hand, I looked around at the other seemingly clueless artists in training, comforted that I wasn’t alone.

The trio of wine glasses painted on a canvas at the front of the room, which each of us was to imitate, seemed like something of a cruel joke — until Greenport artist Rita Rooney took the floor.

“Negativity will suck the excitement out of the room,” said Ms. Rooney, dressed in a paint-covered apron and paint-speckled jeans to match. “Just focus, breathe and drink.”

The drinking part, at least, I could handle. And, in fact, allowing class participants to bring their own wine is quite deliberate.

Some anxiety is to be expected when someone is just learning so making the participants comfortable and the class fun and satisfying is part of her challenge.

“People can be real uptight about the details. The wine always seems to fix that,” Ms. Rooney said.

“The most famous line I hear is, ‘I can’t draw stick figures,’ ” she said. “It has to be a little challenging so that when you leave, you’re proud of what you’ve done.”

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Rita Rooney provides the artists in training with one-on-one help.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Rita Rooney provides the artists in training with one-on-one help.

She began teaching painting about two years ago, wanting to follow her passion and share her creativity with others. She said she got the final push to start the classes from Katie Sepenoski, her manager at Port of Egypt Marina in Southold. Together, and with the help of her family, they planned her first “Artists and Carafes” class, which take place at the marina’s hotel, Heron Suites.

“That first [class], when I heard everybody’s brush strokes hitting the canvas at the same time, I was just in awe,” Ms. Rooney said. “When I saw how excited they all were, it was just contagious.”

Ms. Rooney said she learned much of what she knows from her grandmother, who taught her about color and blending. She also credits television painting legend Bob Ross, who she says broadened her mind with his tricks and tips, including using everyday items to help make even the most difficult of paintings come to life.

“If you can copy a trick, and we go step by step, stroke by stroke — there’s nothing we can’t paint,” she said.

Looking down at the popsicle stick, paper plate and ruler accompanying my brushes, I knew this woman had a serious plan.

As we breezed through the steps together, my canvas started to take shape: a blended background with a few glasses of wine — the bowl of each glass seemingly symmetrical, thanks to the paper plate she provided for tracing.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | The novice painters’ challenge: three cheery wine glasses, as rendered by Ms. Rooney.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | The novice painters’ challenge: three cheery wine glasses, as rendered by Ms. Rooney.

Making her way around the class, Ms. Rooney cleaned up our messy edges, offering tips for some improvements.

As I stood at the back of the room, I saw that each of the 30-plus student canvases resembled Ms. Rooney’s original — but not a single one looked exactly the same.

For information on Artists and Carafes classes, visit www.artistsandcarafes.com.

cmiller@timesreview.com