Archive for May, 2008

The Elixir

May 29, 2008

– An earlier post ( Oh No, I’ve Hit A Wall ) showed this drawing which led to the progression of studies that ultimately produced the finished painting at the very bottom of this sequence. It’s acrylic in 11X14.

Thought it would be interesting to show how painting or drawing the same thing over and over again makes it familiar. It worked for Van Gogh. How many of HIS self portraits can you look at and never find it repetitive!

-My reference is a vintage photo from Guadaloupe seen here on top of the easel. ( Notice the red-eyed and eager studio assistant in the right hand background ). From the drawing, I moved again to my new favorite- cardboard, to do a value and placement study.

-The Committment- CANVAS! I found myself referring to some of the lessons of my workshop in the use of focal point and making the contrasts of light and dark more bold.

James Gurney in his spectacularly informative blog, Gurney Journey, describes “flagging the face” where you highlight the focal face with a contrasted light color behind to draw the eye in.

I used a glazing medium which allows the paint to be more malleable and layered the colors for subtle color shifts. Finished painting is here to the left.

-The Elixir is taken seriously in the Caribbean and Africa. There are references to ” Bush Tea ” here on St. Croix which includes some or all of : Lemongrass, Basil, Ginger, Mint. The applications of leaves that have been heated in oil and applied directly to afflicted parts of the body are legendary among the elders who have passed this information on.

Eden South, a local company here on St. Croix has a very extensive listing of plants and herbs with illustrations and uses for the endless varieties that grow here.

Let’s all raise a glass of our favorite elixir and toast to creativity, good health, free expression and a change in November!

Plain Brown Box (es )

May 20, 2008

-I used to live on another island. Manhattan. You could buy anything, anytime. Not so, here. Much of my shopping is done via catalogue or the web which means lots of cartons come to my post office box. Our mail has to be picked up at the post office – we’re pretty far from any main road where mail delivery might be an option.

So now there’s an attic full of heavy duty cardboard boxes that I hate to throw out but also hate saving, “just in case”. Just in case what? I have to ship back something whose warrantee expired five years ago or worse, one day after the three year extended warrantee is up? Took them down from the attic ( it always feels good to purge and re-acquaint yourself with your collective accumulations ) and cut them apart to flatten them and thought they’d make good platforms for painting. I like the color of brown cardboard- kinda like the sienna tint of a canvas that was once white.

-There were gobs of assorted colors left in my Sta-Wet palette so I tried a few really quick studies, aiming for free-hand, no drawing, fast blocking in of dark mass. The way the lights jump off the brown background creates a striking contrast without having to paint in those light spots to be whiter than an already white canvas.

-These were two really fast and painless exercises. It’s good practice. I may have to shop more.

– Now I’d like to engage the encyclopedic collective of my friends and art readers to help me identify a painting. This one immediately above, with the painting in the background of the painting, is a version of one of an impressionists’ ( the best attempt to learn from the masters is to copy them ) that I did more decades ago than I’d like to confess to. ( If I had any memory left, I believe my age group would have ended with ” teen “. )

I took it from my Jansons’ History of Art Book, which I no longer have. I thought it was Cezanne and I’ve checked on-line but don’t see this turning up in any of his archives. Does anyone have an a-ha?

Sour and Sweet

May 15, 2008

A few weeks ago, I started this still life at a workshop given here by Bruce Williamson, a visiting artist/teacher from Texas. Unlike the other members of our class who used oils, I was working in acrylics.

Bruce would begin each class with a demonstration ( think of it as You Tube LIVE ).

As a visual learner, and aren’t most artists, I gained so much by watching him begin to fill in spaces. And hear his mental process, not because we were psychics but because Bruce, while working, was telling us how he translates what he sees into what he applies.

By the time his demo was over, it was midday and the sun was directly on top of us which gave our still life set-up the very sharp shadows as you can see in the photo.

It also very nicely baked my paints into a abstract form on my palette, much faster than I could paint. That’s the Sour in the title.

But I liked the beginnings. It taught me to work fast and not over think each stroke. I took it home and worked on it in the studio, using the photo as a reference ( what did we do before digital cameras??).

How we look at shadows- they’re not one color. There are at least 6 colors in each object and its’ shadow. The true color, the mid-tones of the true ( or local ) color, the shadow of the object, the shadow of the object reflected on the surface, and finally the best part- the little highlight on the true color that gives the object its’ “ping “.

Who could have known you’d need an abacus to tally the contents of your work while you’re having at it!!

Art is math. Art is science. And some darn fine teaching too.

This is what I finished in the studio.

-I’m very happy with the lemon. I adjusted the pear to be more grounded into its’ axis- it wasn’t leaning authentically. The apple, well, I’m learning to compensate for how acrylics dry darker than you think they will but I’m not into overworking this piece anymore.

What I did get out of it was a sense of having fun while doing it. I haven’t done a still life in a very long time.

How pedestrian, to be living in the Caribbean and presenting you with a trio of fruit you could find in a convenience store on the interstate! But mango season is coming right up and hopefully may compensate your disappointed eyes.

They Took a Village

May 5, 2008

We have a community here on St. Croix that reaches deeply- into their pockets, into their hearts, and into their consciences to help a good cause. There’s no shortage of those, certainly not here on our own island.

This past Friday night I went to an art show fund raiser that was unlike any other I had ever been to. One of our local galleries – Maufe` by name, hosted at its’ own expense, a show dedicated to a newly formed, St. Croix based non profit organization known as Haiti Community Support. Please don’t stop reading now. There is a very important story to be told here.

Headed by Bruce and Mathilde Wilson, they have devoted their lifes’ work to changing a pocket of humanity, one cinderblock, one child, one bag of rice at a time. Mathilde has lived on St, Croix for many years but was born in Au Centre, a poor among the poorest village in the mountains of Haiti.

They have made numerous trips back to her village where not one child had ever been to a school or had even seen a school. Through the setting up of their 501 (c )3 organization, they have raised some of the funds necessary to build a school and hire two teachers to make sure that the next generations have an opportunity to improve their lives.

I’d like to offer some quoted text from Mathildes’ Spring 2008 newsletter as no one can put this into words better than she can-

HCS Newsletter Spring/Summer 2008

“For each of my 41 years on this earth, my country, Haiti, has been a place of terrible suffering and despair. I’ve wondered all my life how this holocaust could be allowed to continue, year after year, with no meaningful intervention from the developed world.

Recent press stories about mud cookies and deforestation, food rotting in the ports, and hunger riots in the cities are shocking and discouraging. But Haiti has been this way on and off since my earliest memories. I’m worried that if that’s all people hear about Haiti, maybe they’ll just completely give up on us.

Sensational stories hide the greater truth: That Haiti’s survivors are eager to rebuild their ravaged country – if given even minimal help. Deep in the mountains, in the poorest and most forgotten of mountain villages, our school kids and their parents are today making great progress; planting a community garden, running the school lunch program, and learning new skills. Men and women who have survived the odds already just by staying alive, defy the odds again, to build a school and a medical clinic.

Making progress in Haiti is difficult and exciting work. You’ve been a part of our success. We’re a young organization, and early supporters like you are especially important to the future of an effort like this.

I and my husband have been working in Haiti for the love and exhilaration of success. What has kept us going has been your support and encouragements, and especially the hard work and dedication of our village leaders in Haiti.

I hope you enjoy reading some good news out of Haiti. Feel proud! It’s news you are helping to make happen! “


Mathilde Aurelien-Wilson
Director HC

The gallery event Friday night was something that made every resident here feel proud of our community. Up for auction were paintings by Haitian artists, some of our local artists, and in the best tradition of total involvement, paintings by young local art students, some of whom never painted before.

This was coordinated by the supreme efforts of Monica Marin, the art teacher of Country Day School here. What this group accomplished was not only raising over $10,000, just last night, but to instill in children here that what they do can make a difference.

If all we do is focus on what’s wrong with our society and our politics and policies, we will become beaten down and deadened. There is so much to be done, and thankfully, there are people like Bruce and Mathilde who risk so much and try so hard and in the end, refer to themselves as a ” lucky crew”. How can we not help them? With last Friday nights’ collection they will be able to expand the school and add another 50 children from neighboring villages.

There is no doubt that unlike any other agency you may give to during the year, there need be no question as to where every penny goes. It ALL goes to the children and families of Au Centre.

Please have a long, deep look at the photos.

I’d like to ask you all to visit their website here to see what the best of humanity is capable of and click on their automatic payment button to make a real difference in the lives of people who have never known running water, electricity, a meal before bed and still, only want an education.

Thanks to all my readers and friends for indulging me in something I feel so very strongly about and just know that whatever you can do- will truly make a difference. Let’s all take a village.

Peace and love now more than ever.