When I first heard about the Whiskey Paintings and how they were “done with whiskey,” I was expecting abstract pieces in various shades of amber, with spatter patterns and fraught titles. But the paintings are actually small watercolors, maybe 4” x 5”, with whiskey (or the artist’s drink of choice) replacing only the water—not the pigment.
Augusta is one of few cities where the paintings are exhibited for sale, and it happens only once a year here, at the Zimmerman Gallery. I visited the gallery on Saturday as both art lover and investigative reporter, and the staff was so kind in answering my questions. It was such a treat to hear the history behind the paintings while seeing them for the first time.
With origins dating back to the 1950s, the Whiskey Painters of America is an exclusive club allowing no more than 150 artists at any given time. In 1962, when the club officially formed, “the rules to qualify were that a candidate had to be invited to do a painting after 10 p.m. in a bar by candlelight, using whiskey as his medium,” according to the Zimmerman Gallery website.
Seeing the charming collection made me want to light a scented candle, play some atmospheric music, pour some sake, and paint something teeny-tiny at 1 a.m. However, there hasn’t been sake in the house since March, and the only water-paints I could find were of the $1.99 variety—for the whole set. Hmm, I wonder how those paints would look with masala chai or peppermint tea.