Inspired by wine: Mid-Columbia wineries display Kennewick woman's paintings

KENNEWICK -- Wine glasses in Jamie Adams' paintings look almost real enough to drink from, and the grapes juicy enough to eat.

With a little imagination and swirl of a brush, the Kennewick woman has brought to life the wines and vines of the local industry.

Jamie started painting about a year ago and has since created about 35 pieces, all images related to the wine industry -- vines, bottles, glasses, coolers, corks.

"(My husband Michael and I), we really love the wine around here," Jamie said. "We go to all the barrel tastings. I did one painting on the study of glass, and I just happened to use a wine bottle and glasses. It all just came together."

Her art is hanging at several local wineries, including Anelare in Kennewick.

"Her work captures the romance ... of wine," said owner Kahryn Alexander, adding that about 10 of Jamie's pieces decorate the tasting room's walls.

Jamie is not new to art. She kept a sketchbook when she was little and enjoyed art classes in high school.

"When I was little I would always be drawing," Jamie said.

She used to think she'd become a dental hygienist or an environmental scientist, jobs she could do anywhere.

But neither really got her excited. So with a passion for art and a nudge from her husband, she decided to try painting.

"It's still kind of crazy to me that I'm doing this full time and that things are selling," Jamie said as she put the finishing speckles on juicy red grapes.

She glanced at the photograph next to her and dabbed deep purple paint on the colorful canvas propped in her lap.

"(Michael) is definitely a big part of my career," Jamie said, adding that he offers advice about the composition of a piece and hangs all the finished ones on the walls of their home to get a better sense of them.

Then he has a hard time saying goodbye to them, Jamie said with a smile.

"There's quite a few I don't want to sell," said Michael, an engineer with the state Department of Transportation.

Jamie's paintings sell for $500 to $1,200, she said.

Michael first saw Jamie's work in a gallery at Columbia Basin College for a contest she had entered.

"I was in awe of what she could do," Michael said. "I said, 'Why don't we just give this a shot and see if it works.' "

Along with Anelare, Jamie has art at AVA Wine Rooms in Kennewick and recently had pieces hanging at Cougar Crest in Walla Walla.

Her work soon will be on display at the Sixth Street Art Gallery in Prosser, as well as at Kestrel Vintners and Bookwalter Winery for spring barrel tasting.

"It's fun for me just to watch them look at her stuff," Michael said. "She's probably nervous, but I'm more proud."

Painting glass to look real is a challenge that continues to capture Jamie's attention.

Look closely at some of her paintings and you can even see her reflection in the bottles she's painted.

"It's a matter of breaking down what I see, painting what I see," she said.

Gather some of her work together and you'll also notice a chrome wine cooler in many of them. Painting it also offers the challenge of re-creating reality with a brush.

Though the process she uses is different for every piece, Jamie generally devotes six to eight hours each day to her work. Frank Sinatra and other old tunes often playing in the background. Sometimes a piece will only take a day or two, sometimes up to a few weeks.

"I've just got to feel it," she said.

And inspiration comes from all over the place -- friends, family and the occasional flash of light.

While out tasting one day, Jamie watched a woman pour Malbec into a glass and the sunshine hit it just right.

"I thought, 'I've got to paint that,' " Jamie said.

Her life as a painter likely will be put on hold at the end of May when she and Michael have their first child.

It also marks a good time to shift direction in her work, Jamie said, saying she'd like to work more on portraits, as well as using materials other than paint, such as charcoal and pastels.

Eventually, the couple want to open a gallery. In the meantime Jamie will keep busy working on pieces for local wineries, including a print of Anelare's label.

The winery is thinking of making the painting into prints for wine club members as well, Alexander said.

Customers like the pieces and so far one sold to a visitor from Seattle, Alexander said.

"Everybody really seems to enjoy them. It's nice to have customers walk around and look at them and engage with them," she said. "I think she's just an incredible asset for our community, especially with the way the wine industry is going."

Meet Jamie and see her work at Anelare, 3617 Plaza Way, Suite B, from 6 to 9 p.m. April 3.

See her pieces online at www.jamieadamsartist.com.

* Ingrid Stegemoeller: 509-582-1537; istegemoeller@tricityherald.com