Nearly everyone who's ever taken a car trip, knows that song, the one about how many bottles of beer are still on the wall. Most of us just hum or belt out a few rounds and leave it at that. Not Ceil Horowitz, however. She has taken it one step forward, using it as inspiration for her latest artistic project, entitled 100 Bottles of Colorado Beer.
Horowitz, an artist hailing from Colorado Springs, embarked on her ambitious project in November of 2012. Her plan is to visit every brewery in Colorado that bottles its own beer - she claims 80 in total - and paint at least one picture of the bottle, brewery and people at each one. At the end, she intends to have a collection of 100 such paintings. So far, she has completed 47, with just over half to go.
While it might sound very simple to paint a picture of a beer bottle, Horowitz's paintings and process are not. While each painting features a beer bottle at its center, the background is a complex spread of varied and specific details. Not content with simply painting the product, Horowitz works to infuse the atmosphere and personality of each brewery into her artwork. She spends up to 10 hours a day at one site, looking at the equipment, watching the people nearby, both brewers and customers. At one brewery, for instance, she painted the portrait of a family that had stopped by for the afternoon, kindly waiting around for three hours while she sketched and painted them.
After 10 or so hours in one place, "The mood of the brewery just starts to come out," Horowitz said.
She's also interested in preserving a particular moment in each brewery, how everything looked and how everyone acted during the moment that she was there.
"I want it to be a little bit of history," she explained.
For each brewery, Horowitz selects interesting or unique aspects about architecture, equipment, people or even the host town, to supplement the painting's background. At the Dillon Dam Brewery, for instance, she plans to focus on the brewery's label maker, an elaborate-looking machine from 1914. At the Breckenridge Brewery and Backcountry Brewery, Horowitz chose to paint each buildings' architecture and individual atmosphere.
Horowitz isn't visiting Pub Ryan's Steakhouse and Brewery this trip, because they use cans instead of bottles. However, she plans to be back once this project is over, to give the breweries that prefer cans over bottles their due.
Each painting only uses up to seven different colors. Horowitz paints them onto watercolor paper, using acrylic paints. Her style is colorful and abstract. She likes to use color to show depth, she said, rather than light and shadow. To demonstrate, she picks one painting and covers a swath of color with her finger. Like an optical illusion, the piece changes and seems to adjust before the eyes.
Beer has not often been an artistic subject for Horowitz, however. She has spent much of her time painting people, particularly musicians found in the subways of New York City. The beer idea came when she returned to Colorado Springs from a visit to New York. Wanting to start a new project but not particularly thrilled about spending hours in the studio alone, Horowitz, who has many brewer friends, hit upon the idea of beer. The decision to make 100 paintings was to create a challenge.
Though she said she doesn't drink a lot of beer, she does enjoy it from time to time. She's also a large proponent of supporting local food and crafts.
"I really believe you should buy local and support local," she said.
During her travels among breweries in the past few months, Horowitz said she has been impressed with the sense of friendship and community between brewers in Colorado.
"There's a lot of camaraderie between different breweries," she said. "It's a family, it's not a lot of different companies competing."
Horowitz said she hasn't quite decided how she's going to display her project after it's done. She may consider prints, or even publishing all the paintings into a book. She's also interested in potentially working with the Denver Art Museum and the Dillon Dam Brewery's special Van Gogh beer, or perhaps displaying the installation at the next Great American Beer Festival in Denver. But all that is for the future. Right now, Horowitz is just focusing on her art.
"The process is more important than the product," she said. "I just put myself in a situation and let it happen."
Not having everything figured out doesn't faze her at all. In fact, she seems to thrive on it.
"It's just an unknown," she said. "And that's what's fun with it."