Saturday, January 31, 2015

A month of still life painting... things I learned.

Painting seems deceptively easy, sometimes even to me.  In my mind, I can move from blank canvas to finished canvas so fluidly with wonderful results every time.  However, translating that to real life...not so much.  This month of painting still life has taught me so much.  First, painting still life is not a walk in the park.  It is a lot of work.  A good bit of it before you ever start painting.  My month has been consumed with composing paintings in my head, sometimes at midnight or 3:00 in the morning, and then trying to execute them in the studio.  But with the composing comes actually finding the objects in the composition, which sometimes proved to be impossible, and then arranging them in a way that made sense and told a story.  For each of these little paintings, hours and hours  and hours and more hours went into them.  You just can't imagine.   

Paint everyday for a month and some things begin to stand out.   I have laughed, cussed and screamed this month.  It would have been funny to have a film crew in while I was setting up and painting...or not.   I thought I would share with you some of the observations I made this month:
  • Balls roll over and fall out of your setup with amazing speed and frequency
  • garnishes don’t stay where you want them long enough to paint.  They basically come to life, moving of their own free will.
  • oysters don’t smell good under hot lights.  And the ice in a tray that the oysters are on? That melts too.  Amazingly fast, so fast in fact it starts running off of the tray onto the floor before you realize what's happening.
  • Tape is a girls best friend.... and lots of it.
  • I'm not sure but I think collard greens can actually be cooked under a lamp.
  • I need a better lamp. Or two.
  • I like painting bourbon.
  • ice cream still life requires more speed than is humanly possible.
  • after I finish painting a set up, I always think of one more thing that would have been the PERFECT addition and just made the painting
  • don’t have that 3rd cup of coffee when you are trying to hold the viewfinder 
  • don't expect anyone to understand what you are doing and why.  My own family was incredulous as to the lengths I was going to when I was gathering objects.  Some of my favorite quotes "can't you just pretend it's there" "just make it up".  When I sent my husband out for moon pies and coke to put in the coke bottle he looked at me like I had truly lost it. "Really? Can't you just color it in?!"  Yes, color it in.  I'm not sure he knows what I do yet.
I ran across this quote in one of the many blogs I subscribe to.  I wish I could credit the owner but I can't remember.  It really hit home with me because so often people have advised me to be successful I need to paint one subject, not everything.  Just landscapes or just cityscapes or whatever.  But that's not me.  I paint what appeals to me in the moment and what I am feeling at the time.  Painting to me is such an outpouring of my heart, a barometer of my mood.  It's just the way I'm wired.  

"The things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling"
                Fabienne Fredrickson

Thanks again for hanging out with me this month, and if you saw a painting you wanted but didn't get... here is the link to see if it is still available:  Still Life Gallery . And here they all are in one big group.  Makes me smile :)

Friday, January 30, 2015

"priceless" ...Day 30

So this month has truly been a trip down memory lane for me.  I have really enjoyed everything that has gone into doing these paintings.  From coming up with the ideas, to searching out and setting up each still life, then painting and sharing my thoughts behind them with you.  It has been a month of painting from the heart.  I would recommend doing this sometime if you get a chance.  I got so much out of it.

I racked my brain all month, trying to figure out what I wanted to do for my last painting.  I wanted it to be meaningful and stay within the theme that I had set out to do.  But I also wanted it to sort of tie everything together.  Wrap up the month.  Then one day it hit me.  What about the south is more important than anything else?  What defines and redefines our southern culture and traditions? What is the heart and soul of the south?  Family.

That is the essence of this whole series.  It is family that ties it all together.  In these paintings of my viewpoints and my is my family.  They have provided the memories and the experiences in my life to make all of these paintings possible.  It's kind of funny really.  My family is not the perfect family by any stretch of the imagination.  My family is loud, a little quirky, a little dysfunctional and a whole lot of crazy.  We have stories that defy the imagination, a lot of stories we shouldn't tell (but do)  and enough eccentric personalities to make up several families.  But we like to laugh and we like to have a good time...we really like to have a good time....and even though we drive each other crazy, they have my back and I've got theirs.  There are no people, like your people. 

Family is important everywhere and especially in the south.  Bad or good, crazy or shapes your view of the world and how you relate to it.  You can leave them and yet they are always with you.  The stories and the traditions are a part of you.  That is important stuff.  Very important stuff.  

How do you paint family though?  I chose to throw a stack of old pictures of my family on my studio table and light a candle and paint that.  But really all the tangible objects in the world won't capture the soul and memories of family or the south.  They are only bits and pieces, fragments of life.  The real painting is what you live everyday.  It's the traditions and the stories that you pass down to the next generation.  Crazy or not.  I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes that is just so least in my family. 

"I'm saying this is the South.  And we're proud of our crazy people.  We don't hide them up in the attic.  We bring 'em right down to the living room and show 'em off.  See, no one in the South ever asks you if you have crazy people in your family. They just ask what side they're on." 
-Julia Sugarbaker, Designing Women

 Thanks so much for sticking with me this month! I have thoroughly enjoyed all of your comments and memories that you have shared with me.  Thank you also for enjoying my paintings enough to buy them.  I have sold almost half of them.  I feel like this series has gone so much farther than I ever thought it would and has meant as much to others as it has to me, and I am grateful for that.  That is why I paint.

8"x8" oil on canvas panel

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"old 45s" ...Day 29

Some of my earliest memories are of music.  My dad, who I'm sure knew plenty of songs, was always belting out the lines at the top of his lungs to only a select few over and over,  Bye Bye Blackbird, Uncloudy Day and If You've Got The Money, I've Got The Time.  My grandfather loved his big band music and I learned to appreciate everyone from Sinatra to Glen Miller's Orchestra by sitting with my ear to the speakers of his great big stereo or dancing to them standing on the tops of his shoes.  We grew up listening to everyone from Elvis to Willie Nelson to Queen.  The 60's and 70's were the years of the variety show and I spent many hours watching Andy Williams, Sonny & Cher, Glenn Campbell,  the Osmonds and the Jacksons, Tony Orlando & Dawn name it, everyone had a show.  And that's not even including all the Christmas shows!

The painting today is of my mother's old record player and one of her 45's...."Love Me Tender" by Elvis Presley.  In 1956, when my mother was in high school, her family moved from Savannah to Memphis.  They immediately went to Elvis's house and dug up grass out of the front yard, put it in envelopes and sent it back to all their friends in Savannah.  My cousins and I grew up hearing all the stories from my mother & her sisters of Elvis's legendary parties.

I still remember my first record player.  I got it when I was six or seven. It was green and white and was a take along had it's own suitcase!  I got it for Christmas along with a 45 record of "Santa looks a lot like Daddy".... kind of a bad pick for a Christmas gift for a little kid!  But I don't think our parents thought a lot about that back in the day :)

Oh, and the pink zebra stripe paper in this painting...that's a homage to the jungle room of course!

"old 45s"
10" x 8" oil on linen panel

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

"the practice round" ...Day 28

I don't play golf.  I don't even watch golf voluntarily.  Maybe the end of the Masters, but that's about it.  My boys have played since they were little, and my husband is on the course every free moment. He is consumed by it. Unless it's a ski trip, our vacations always include golf somewhere.  Years ago, I played in one couples tournament with my husband and I thought it never would end!  The only thing that made it bearable was the other couple we were paired with and we had a cooler full of beer :)

It seems like everyone in the south plays golf.  Every boy I ever dated except for one (he was a musician...just as addicting and as time consuming) played golf.  In my former life, I worked for an advertising agency that handled almost nothing but, you guessed courses.  It seems that I have been surrounded by golf my whole life.  It is a part of my life but I'm not a part of it.  Funny how that works.

"the practice round"
12" x 6" oil on linen panel

If you have ever wanted to learn to paint or would like to dust off your brushes, I hope you will sign up for my class.  I am teaching a great weekly class painting from life starting next month:
Day: Wednesday's 9:30-11:30am

Where: Butler Studio Rm.301A

Dates: February 18,25 March 4,11

Price: $200 with materials 
for more information or to sign up click this link:  Butler Studio

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"teacup camellia" ....Day 27

When I was thinking through the paintings that I wanted to do for this series, this little one came to mind.  Growing up, I always remember seeing one single cut blossom floating in a teacup on the countertop.  Usually it was a camellia blossom or another heavy flower that would droop in a vase.  (Magnolia blossoms were another thing that would be displayed this way, although it was always in a bowl not a teacup:)  I always thought it gave the blossom such importance to display it this way, but yet looked so dainty and so very southern.  I still do this with my flowers, reminds me of both of my grandmothers.

I have been waiting all month for a blossom to paint.  While most of my camellias bloom in November and December, I have a couple of camellias that always bloom in January and early February.  But not this year.  The buds are still closed up tight.  I think the extreme cold we had a couple of weeks ago must be to blame.  So this is a borrowed bloom.  One of my friends hand delivered it to me a couple of days ago.  Takes a village to get this done :)

"teacup camellia"
8" x 8" oil on canvas panel

If you have ever wanted to learn to paint or would like to dust off your brushes, I hope you will sign up for my class.  I am teaching a great weekly class painting from life starting next month:
Day: Wednesday's 9:30-11:30am

Where: Butler Studio Rm.301A

Dates: February 18,25 March 4,11

Price: $200 with materials 
for more information or to sign up click this link:  Butler Studio

Monday, January 26, 2015

"gathered treasures" ...Day 26

It's no secret by now that the beach is near and dear to me.  The salt air and the rhythm of the waves bring me peace like nothing else can.  I treasure every moment I spend with my toes in the sand.  It's the only place that I get up before the sun, voluntarily.  Watching the sun come up over the water is just magical.  I love it hot and sunny, cloudy and stormy, and brisk and cold.  Doesn't matter.  

I used to be a shell gatherer when I walked.  I don't collect them so much anymore....I've got more than I need.  I am still a sucker for a good piece of driftwood though.  I just love the soft feel of it and the layers of color.  The last couple of years, it's a toss up as to whether I take a long walk on the beach or grab my backpack and go paint.  In the middle of the summer, painting usually wins because it's just too hot to paint any other time of day.  

gathered treasures
8" x 10" oil on linen panel

If you have ever wanted to learn to paint or would like to dust off your brushes, I hope you will sign up for my class.  I am teaching a great weekly class painting from life starting next month:
Day: Wednesday's 9:30-11:30am

Where: Butler Studio Rm.301A

Dates: February 18,25 March 4,11
Price: $200 with materials 
for more information or to sign up click this link:  Butler Studio

Sunday, January 25, 2015

"lunch special" ...Day 25

Pimento Cheese...the staple of the southern refrigerator, appetizer table, picnic, name it. Pimento cheese is a part of it.  We even put it on our hamburgers, warm it up and dip tortilla chips into it and my family would never hear of having a holiday meal without pimento cheese stuffed celery on the appetizer tray.   The best stuff is homemade although I have had some really good ready-made pimento cheese from small mom-and-pop companies.  Don't you love the swirly, yellow paper in this still life?  Reminds me of my grandmother's kitchen.

"lunch special"
10" x 8" oil on linen panel

If you have ever wanted to learn to paint or would like to dust off your brushes, I hope you will sign up for my class.  I am teaching a great weekly class painting from life starting next month:
Day: Wednesday's 9:30-11:30am

Where: Butler Studio Rm.301A

Dates: February 18,25 March 4,11
Price: $200 with materials 
for more information or to sign up click this link:  Butler Studio

Saturday, January 24, 2015

"for the love of barbecue" ...Day 24

You can't wax poetic about the south without talking about barbecue.  Impossible.  And on my side of the world, it's pork not beef.  And we always had it with a stack of white loaf bread, no buns.  People in the south will almost come to blows, arguing about what barbecue sauce is the best.  Ours was ketchup based but with a big vinegar and mustard zing to it.  Very tangy.  We ate a LOT of it growing up because my dad loved it.  He would even push for it for holiday Christmas.  Didn't get far with that, though we did have it on Christmas Eve a number of times.  Compromise, I suppose.

When I was a kid, he even went so far as to build his own smoker out of an old boiler from the dry cleaners.  I don't know if you can imagine what I am talking about but it is a big piece of the size of a small car. He welded and made racks for it, put it on a trailer and drove it to our house and parked it in the driveway the front yard! That lasted about a day.  My mom was horrified.  He could never understand what the big deal was but he hauled it back to the laundry, which is where it stayed.  One more funny story, when he retired and built his home in the country, he wanted to build this raised pit to smoke meat in.  My dad never did anything in a small way so this thing was huge. He was working on it one day and fell in and couldn't get out.  It was several hours before someone just happened to stop by and heard him yelling and helped get him out.  He of course was sure that was where he was going to die.  That pit never got finished.

The sauce that is in this painting is a sauce from a restaurant, Johnny Harris, in my hometown of Savannah.  Although they serve many things other than barbecue, it is a place that is very special to my family since the 1930's.  My grandparents went every Saturday night with their friends to dance to big band music and years later when all the grandkids came along would take us too.  I could write a whole post about the memories in that place but I'll save it for another day.  Their barbecue is good but the memories make it great.  Food is like that.

for the love of barbecue
8" x 8"  oil on canvas panel

Friday, January 23, 2015

"fruit of the sea" ...Day 23

Yes, the title of this one is from Forrest Gump.  I couldn't resist.  My series of paintings would not be complete without shrimp.  Boiled Shrimp.  Not steamed.  We always said "boiled" but it is pronounced more like "bald" than "boiled".  Fresh shrimp off the boat, thrown in boiling salt water (just like they just came out of) with a little Old Bay for about 2 or 3 minutes...just until the water comes back to a boil, drain and then good squeeze of lemon juice....and you have absolute perfection.  So very simple and unadorned so that fresh sweet taste can come through.  No cocktail sauce please.  And no shrimp from Thailand or wherever they are imported from and no farmed shrimp please.  Wild caught from shrimpers that have been catching them for generations.  I'll get off my soapbox now :)

Growing up shrimp was a normal meal, like chicken.  That's the beauty of living on the coast I guess. I love them any way that they are prepared but my favorite is just boiled.  On special occasions like July 4th or family get togethers we would have low country boil.  If you aren't familiar with that dish, I included the recipe below.  I've never painted shrimp before... but they were fun.  And then, I got to eat them.  Even better.

fruit of the sea
8" x 8" oil on canvas panel

Low Country Boil

Six ears of fresh corn broken in half to make 12 pieces total
12 small new potatoes
Smoked sausage cut into 3 inch pieces to yield about 12-15 pieces
4 lbs of fresh medium size shrimp, not peeled
4 tbsp Old Bay or more or less to taste
Kosher Salt

You need a very large pot that everything can fit into and still have enough water to cover everything.  Salt the water so it tastes like sea water and add Old Bay.  Bring to a rolling boil.  Add potatoes and cook 15 minutes on medium high (keep pot at a slow boil for the whole cooking time).  Add sausage to the pot and cook for 5 minutes. Add corn and cook for 5 more minutes.  Add shrimp and cook for about 3 minutes.  Drain and dump out onto a big platter (or we just cover the table with paper) and enjoy.  This serves about 6-8 people.


If you have ever wanted to learn to paint or would like to dust off your brushes, I hope you will sign up for my class.  I am teaching a great weekly class painting from life starting next month:
Day: Wednesday's 9:30-11:30am

Where: Butler Studio Rm.301A
Dates: February 18,25 March 4,11
Price: $200 with materials 
for more information or to sign up click this link:  Butler Studio

Thursday, January 22, 2015

"roadside treat" ...Day 22

I started to title this painting "I stop for boiled peanuts" but I thought it was a bit too long.  I know I am losing some of you with boiled peanuts.  Those of you that have not come over to the dark side.  The side where one handful is never ever enough.  The side where you look for the juiciest, softest one and aren't ashamed to let anyone see you suck that salty juice out of the peanut shell before you bite the shell and eat the peanut.   The side where you finally know how a peanut was meant to be eaten....BOILED.

I can't remember a time when we didn't have boiled peanuts.  Sure, I have always eaten them roasted or as we grew up saying "parched".  But boiled was better.  When peanuts were harvested, we would get a big bag of raw peanuts and my mom or dad would boil them.  So good.  After I was grown, every time I went back to visit my dad he would have a pot of hot boiled peanuts for me. :)

 It takes a while to cook them and even though I have fixed them a few times, I have to admit that now I buy my boiled peanuts from the roadside stands.  They do all the hard work and I just get to enjoy the goodness.  My favorite part of summer is sitting on the beach with a cold beer and a bag of boiled peanuts watching the waves.

"roadside treat"
8" x 8" oil on canvas panel

For a great essay on the power of boiled peanuts by one of my favorite southern personalities, Roy Blount, Jr  CLICK HERE .  And by the way, that was a real stop sign that I used for my prop and the ladle is the same one that my dad used.  I am working hard for you people :)
If you have ever wanted to learn to paint or would like to dust off your brushes, I hope you will sign up for my class.  I am teaching a great weekly class painting from life starting next month:
Day: Wednesday's 9:30-11:30am
Where: Butler Studio Rm.301A
Dates: February 18,25 March 4,11
Price: $200 with materials 
for more information or to sign up click this link:  Butler Studio


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"longing for spring" ...Day 21

69 Degrees.  That was the temperature yesterday.  Sunshine and 69.  Top was down on my jeep and I dreamed it was spring.  And spring at my house means baseball.

I love baseball.  It's a good thing too because I spend a lot of time traveling to/from and watching my son play in game after game.  I've got years of it behind me and hopefully still a few years in front of me.  Sitting on bleachers at a game on a warm spring evening with the sun sinking low on the horizon... it seems like everything is right with the world.

We are all big Braves fans in my house too.  Growing up in Georgia, it was hard not to be (even though they were terrible when I was growing up).  It's a topic of conversation at my house year round... who got traded and why, who is looking good early in the season, just how deep is the bullpen and then when playing gets going how many games up or back are we.  Baseball is so much more than a bat and a ball, it's something to rally around, a way to make a connection with someone else.  Whether we love the same team or not, it's something we can have a conversation about.  And that's as important today as it was a hundred years ago.  Maybe more.

"longing for spring"
6" x12" oil on linen panel

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"peaches and cream" ...Day 20

It's not easy to find peaches in January.  Just saying.  I have absolutely no idea where these were grown but I ate two of them after I painted them and for a peach in the winter they were pretty good.  Wonderful, really.  A juicy bite of summertime.

Being from Georgia, a Georgia Peach by birth, this series would not be complete without them. :)  I know other places grow peaches, but I'm partial to the ones from my home state.  When I was pregnant with my first child, my dad drove up from Georgia and brought me a crate of peaches so ripe, there was no way possible to eat them without making a mess.  So I sat there, juice running off my chin, down my arms and on to my huge nine month pregnant belly and ate peach after peach..... gorging myself as only you can do when you are pregnant.  I don't think they have ever tasted that good.

"peaches and cream"
8" x 10" oil on linen panel

Monday, January 19, 2015

"prelude to the hunt" ...Day 19

First things first.  I don't hunt, never have.  I'm the crazy person that does catch and release with spiders in my house.  I could never shoot anything but a target.  But I grew up with plenty of people that hunted and still know plenty of people who do.  And you can't paint about the south if you don't include hunting.  Too long of a tradition.

My dad grew up in the 30's.  He would get on the back of a mule, still so young that his legs didn't hang down but stuck straight out, and go into the woods to try and shoot a squirrel or a rabbit for dinner.  That was part of life for so many people in the south. Livestock was precious and only killed for special occasions, hunting was a way to put meat on the table.

This was a really fun painting to paint.  Lots of reflective surfaces and so much color and pattern....from intense to subtle. I also never knew that shotgun shells came in so many colors!  Wildlife and Sporting art is a huge segment of the art market.  The SEWE (Southeast Wildlife Exposition) is next month in Charleston, SC.  It's a pretty big deal.  For a glimpse at a few wonderful wildlife artists Click Here.

"prelude to the hunt"
8" x 8" oil on canvas panel

Sunday, January 18, 2015

"gameday contraband" ...Day 18

It is shaping up to be a "bourbon" kind of weekend.  :)  Yesterday, a Mint Julep... today, a Bourbon & Coke.

College football and the South are a match made in heaven.  We are raised on it and it's how we spend our weekends in the fall.  And for many of us that went to college in the south, our drink during the game was a bourbon & Coke.  Not legally of course, we sneaked in flasks or bottles of bourbon to spike our concession stand cokes.  And usually the girls did the smuggling.  Back in the day,  I would use an Ace bandage to secure a bottle to each to each of my legs.  Wearing a dress and heels, no one was the wiser.  The smell of bourbon to this day makes me think of football.

For a different take on a bourbon & coke from Garden & Gun Magazine... click here.

"gameday contraband"
10" x 8" oil on linen panel

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"bourbon and horses" ...Day 17

Yes, I know it is January, not May.  But if we are talking "southern" ... then you can't leave out horses or bourbon or that wonderful thing called the mint julep.

I was a horse crazy child.  Dreamed about them, drew them, wrote stories about them ...even pretended that my bike was a horse.  I wanted to be a jockey when I grew up.   I begged and pleaded and finally, by working weekends and summers for my dad was able to save up and buy my first horse when I was 12.  (Then I had to work every weekend and through the summers to buy horse feed and pay for boarding!) She was a crazy palomino named Gold-digger. Six months after I bought her,  she spooked badly, crushed my ankle and my dad made me sell her and buy another horse that was much better trained.  His name was Dodger and he was my dream come true.  A big, sweet, sorrel quarter horse with enough energy and spirit to keep things interesting but not dangerous.  I sold him my senior year of high school and often wondered over the years what happened to him.

Growing up I always watched the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes on television.  And I still watch them, especially the Derby.  I make myself a nice ice cold mint julep and wonder what it would be like to be a jockey riding one of the most marvelous and fast creatures in the world.

The stirrup is one of a pair of old wooden ones that I found years ago in a barn where I used to board my horse.  The bourbon, Knob Creek, is one of my favorite brands and I can't remember where I got the silver chalice but it's the one I use every year.  To help get you prepared for the Derby this year, here is a link to betting tips on the race from Garden & Gun.  Click Here

"bourbon and horses"
8" x 8" oil on canvas panel

Friday, January 16, 2015

"life is sweet" ....Day 16

Friday!! Time to celebrate getting through another week.  My high schoolers had final exams this week.  So we are all glad to get those over with.  Made me start thinking about my school days (shudder).  One of my favorite after school snacks growing up was a root beer float.  I used to LOVE root beer.  Which is actually kind of interesting, because root beer originally came from the root & bark of the sassafras tree and, get this.... my dad's nickname for me was "sassafras".  Kind of cool, huh?!  It was meant to be.

I don't have root beer floats much anymore.  Sadly, I cannot eat dairy, so ice cream is out of the question for me.  I've tried making them with soy milk ice cream but it is just not the same.  Some things you just can't replace.

I did find this yummy sounding "grown-up" root beer float recipe in Garden & Gun so I'm leaving you with the link in case you would like to indulge in a sweet weekend celebration of your own!
 Garden & Gun's Root Beer Float

life is sweet
12" x 6" oil on linen panel

Thursday, January 15, 2015

"a southern convocation" ...Day 15

I have reached the halfway point in this month's challenge.  It has been a journey so far.  Lots of thinking and assembling of objects, then standing back and reassembling and painting them.  Then there is the explaining to you of why I chose to paint what I did.  I have discovered that I am rather long-winded in my explanations.  No matter how hard I try to limit my thoughts to several sentences, they keep spilling out and rambling all over the place.  I cannot repress my storytelling gene. :)

Today's painting is a grouping of objects that don't seem related at first glance. But individually they trigger so many memories for me and they connect some of the dots in my childhood.

My grandmother lived up in the country in southeastern Georgia.  It is a land of pine trees and agriculture.  You still see cotton fields around, but no where near as many as there used to be.  I think the fields are beautiful with the puffs of cotton in a sea of golden brown  But the beauty is a beast.   My dad picked cotton, like so many other boys his age did that lived in the country.  Awfully hard, back breaking, finger pricking work.  Every time we passed a cotton field my dad would say it sent a shiver down his spine and gave him a backache just to look at it.

Wild blackberries were everywhere on my grandmother's land.  I always ate way more than I brought back to make a pie.  Once when we were kids picking blackberries, instead of putting the berries in the bucket we brother put them all in his pockets.  Let's just say the top part of him was a whole different color than the bottom part of him.

Pecan trees (yes, I grew up pronouncing them PEE-cans not pa-cans) were plentiful.  My dad always had a bowl of them sitting near his chair to snack on.  He never tired of them.  I love them best just like that...straight out of the shell.  I still have my grandmother's old wooden cracker.  It got a lot of use through the years.

This was such a fun little painting to paint. A lot of different textures to pull together and I love the bold red as the backdrop because it's not what you would expect.  Just like the objects assembled.

"a southern convocation"
8" x 16" oil on gallery wrapped canvas

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"life on the half shell" ...Day 14

Yes, I am a coastal soul.  Love the salt air and the salt water and I love seafood.  It nourishes the body and the soul.  I didn't know how lucky I was when I was a kid and got to eat my seafood the same day it was swimming in the water.  But I do now.  And when I head back to the coast for a visit, I gorge myself.

Oysters are one of my favorites.  Although as a young child, I wouldn't touch them.  One of those foods that I had to grow into I guess.  But growing up, my mom always made oyster stew and at Thanksgiving half of the cornbread dressing had oysters and the other half was plain for my brother and I.  My parents didn't really encourage us to try them....I don't think they wanted to share :)  But in my teens, I discovered what I had been missing.  I've been making up for lost time ever since.  When the weather gets cold and dreary, it is God's way of saying it's time to have an oyster roast.  We have to have something to get us through the winter, right?  For your Garden & Gun fix of the day, here's a link to everything you need to know about oysters: Click Here

I painted these from life, and sadly by the time I was done.....they weren't safe to eat and I had to toss them in the trash.  Almost made me cry.  Don't let it be said that I'm not suffering for my art. :)

"life on the half shell"
10" x 8" oil on linen panel

One of the reasons I wanted to paint still life for this January challenge was to get back into the practice of painting small.  I also wanted to practice setting up still life compositions into interesting arrangements, lighting them and painting them.  It has truly been a learning experience! But there is a method to my madness.

In February, I will be teaching a weekly beginning painting class at Butler Studio.  We will be painting from life.  I want to teach "how to see" and how to put what's right in front of you down on the canvas confidently.  I think this stage is so critical and is the foundation for everything that you paint.   I am so excited about this class.  Can you tell?  If you or anyone you know would be interested in joining us email me at  It's going to be a small class, so space is limited and we are going to have so much fun!  Great, big thanks to Curt Butler for his confidence in me and for giving me this opportunity.   Life is good on the half shell.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

"going fishing" ...Day 13

Thinking through my "southern" series of paintings, I couldn't leave out fishing.  Not that fishing is exclusively southern, because it certainly isn't.  But it is definitely part of my "southern".  Lakes, salt water creeks, rivers & ponds.  Been there.  

My dad's idea of relaxation was fishing.  My dad's idea of vacation was fishing.  My dad's idea of spending quality time with his kids was, you guessed  We did a lot of fishing growing up.  Thing was, though, I really enjoyed it.  It is that perfect combination of excitement and relaxation. Almost meditation.   I learned to fish with a cane pole and still given a choice, would prefer just that.  When I was 7, I learned to "make up a pole" or rig the line on the pole using  knots and electrical tape, tie on a bobber, weight and a hook.  My dad was a stern taskmaster, too so I had to do it the right way or do it again.  

Fishing for my dad came early.  We were out before daylight, loaded up in the car with the poles sticking out the back passenger window.  We had our lines in the water long before the sun came up, when there's nothing but a soft, inky black sky and mist over the water.  And quiet.  No sound but the water lapping, a bird calling out every once in a while and us shifting from foot to foot as we changed our position.  

Once the sun was up, we would eat.  A fishing breakfast was a cold coke and a pack of crackers.  My dad was in his element, offering suggestions on where to cast and shushing us if we talked to loudly (can't scare the fish off).  We would try his patience with the inevitable line stuck in the tree or stepping in an ant hill or arguing as kids are prone to do.  Squeals of glee that came with a caught fish would immediately be met with a look of pride and approval from my dad, as if he was thinking that now us kids might actually succeed in this life.  Now that we could fish.  And by lunchtime we would be  tired, hungry and a little cranky. We would all head home with our cooler full of fish and rest up for more fishing in the evening.    

When my dad retired he built two ponds and I took my own kids down to fish with him.  I never saw him so happy.   All excitement and no relaxation but happy.  He died when my children were still very little and they have no memories,  just pictures of fishing with him.  But I have enough memories for all of us.  

Since my dad died, I've only been fishing a handful of times.  Not for any reason really....just lack of time and opportunity, I guess.   One of these days though, I'm going to head back out there at daybreak with my cane pole and my coke and crackers and see what I can catch. 

"going fishing"
10" x 8" oil on linen panel

my dad and my daughter fishing

Monday, January 12, 2015

"the cure-all" ...Day 12

So, 'tis the season for colds and flu.  We had our bout with it over the Christmas holidays.  In fact, this week has been the first week that I have felt good.  I was determined to wait out my sinus infection and not go to the doctor.  I hate taking antibiotics!  It took longer than I hoped but it finally went away.

One of my nightly rituals for a cold, cough, sinus or just that "achy-I-don't-feel-good" feeling is a hot toddy.  Bourbon, honey, lemon & hot tea.  Eases the pain and helps you sleep.  And if you have a cough, a shot of bourbon, lemon juice and honey right before bed soothes your throat and keeps the coughing away for a while.  

I'm not sure if it's a southern thing or not but it's one of those traditional home remedies that my mom used, and her mom before her, and I'm sure it keeps going back in time.  Cure's what ails you, as they say. :)

I loved painting the honeycomb, although it was harder than I thought.  We used to get honeycomb in our honey jar as kids but you just don't see them that much anymore.  Honey has become so generic now, not local like it used to be.  If you can find local honey, I encourage you to buy it.  So much better than what you buy in the grocery store.  Thanks to my friend, Ruth at Renfrow Farms for finding me one to paint.  

"the cure-all"
8" x 10" oil on linen panel

Sunday, January 11, 2015

"sentimental sidekicks" ...Day 11

So everyone knows that Coca Cola was developed in Georgia, but did you know that RC Cola was too? I think we have a love affair with sugar in the south that goes waaaaay back.

I'm not sure if RC Cola is even made anymore but you could find it easily in the 60's and 70's.  In glass bottles, too which is by far the best way to enjoy any cola product.  And where I am from we called everything coke, whether it was Coca Cola, Pepsi, RC, Sprite, Orange.... you name it.  Didn't matter the color or flavor, it was all a "coke".  If I was going to the store to get a beverage, I would ask you what kind of "coke" you wanted. :)  I can remember getting RC Cola at country stores, in one of those chest coolers filled with ice.  And using the bottle opener that was on the side of the cooler to open it. 

And the Moonpie, mmmmmm.  Chocolate, cookie and marshmallow filling. Perfect trifecta of goodness.   The one I painted below is a double decker if one story of a moonpie isn't enough.  My dad always said a coke and a moonpie was a poor man's lunch.  Not sure I would want that for lunch. But for a snack an ice cold "coke" and a moonpie (warmed up in the microwave just enough to soften the chocolate and make it messy) sure would be good right now.

This series was inspired by my favorite magazine, Garden & Gun.  For a recipe for a homemade Moonpie from them Click Here. 

sentimental sidekicks
12" x 6" oil on linen panel

Saturday, January 10, 2015

"sipping the sweet stuff" ... Day 10

There's tea, and then there's sweet tea.  Growing up, we always had a pitcher of it in the refrigerator.  In fact, along with a pot of rice and cinnamon toast, sweet tea was one of the first things I learned to make.  Smart move on my mother's part.  When you drink for breakfast, lunch and dinner..... you are making it all the time!

I like my tea the same way I like my coffee. Strong.  No weak, watery stuff.   And I prefer my sweet tea without lemon.  But I think I'm probably in the minority on that one.  In the summertime when fresh mint is growing like a weed all over the place, I do like to add that to my tea.  Somehow the addition of mint cools you off even more on a hot summer day.  And ice.  You need lots of ice.  I'm not a crushed ice fan for my sweet tea... it waters it down too much.

Sweetening the tea is an art. Too sweet and it is sickening.  Let the tea cool off too much and you can't get it sweet enough.  And sugar.  No artificial sweeteners.  Only the real stuff will do.  Preferably Dixie Crystals sugar.  My grandmother made wonderful tea but as she got older, the tea got sweeter with each passing year.  I'm guessing she couldn't taste the sugar as well, so she just kept adding more.  To this day when my family is together and we get a glass of overly sweet tea, we call it "Noni tea". 

Bet you didn't know it was possible to have so many opinions on something so simple. :)  In the south we love our tea so much, there is even Sweet Tea Vodka for cocktails.  And click here for a recipe for Sweet Tea Granita in Garden & Gun.   I think my work here is done.

"sipping the sweet stuff"
8" x 8" oil on canvas

Friday, January 9, 2015

"well accessorized" ... Day 9

Bit of a change today.... drinks instead of eats.  It is Friday after all. Time to celebrate. We made it through the week!

But not just any drink.  A bright, festive and heavily accessorized drink.  It almost looks like it should have a pedigree :) . And one of my favorites.  I remember the first time I saw anyone have a Bloody Mary.  I was probably 6 or 7 and saw my grandmother have one.  At the time I just remember thinking what a great, almost dangerous name for a drink, and being impressed with the celery and olives that garnished it.  And my grandmother was cool so I thought it must be a cool cocktail too.

But mostly Bloody Mary's remind me of football games.  Tailgating before football games, specifically.  When I was in college and for years afterwards, before every home football game we (my then boyfriend, now husband and I)  headed over to tailgate with the sweet parents of a good friend of ours.   His parents were the epitome of southern hospitality.  She was gracious and polished and his dad was a true southern gentleman.  We would eat and talk and his dad would always make me a Bloody Mary while I was there.  And then he would make me another one, much stronger than the first, for the walk to the stadium. While his Bloody Mary surely had no pedigree, no fancy garnishes and was drank in a solo cup, the memory of it and the affection for that wonderful couple still crosses my mind every time I have one.

This was such fun to paint but such work to set up.  I have a new found respect for food photographers and set designers.  They must tape everything in place.  About the time I got all the accessories set up just like I wanted them and started painting, the ice would shift and everything would move.  Talk about painting fast.  It's a necessity!  I loved the groovy, swirly paper in the background.  Made it so much cooler. ;)

And just so you know, the accessories are: celery, lime, lemon slice, olives stuffed with blue cheese, pickled okra, a hot pepper and cilantro. Oh, and a salted rim...have to have that!

"well accessorized"
12" x 6" oil on linen panel

Thursday, January 8, 2015

"kindred spirits" ...Day 8

Winter moved in yesterday.  It brought enough luggage to stay awhile too.  According to the weather app on my phone it is currently 9 degrees.  Now,  although Charlotte isn't the deep south like where I am from, it is still the south and 9 is cold. Real cold.  Not only that, it won't rise above freezing today.  And I'm sure it's probably colder where you are, than it is here.  Therefore, as a public I am bringing you summer.

Hot, humid summer.  The kind that curls your hair and warms your bones.  The kind that grows ripe red tomatoes and more okra than you can possibly eat.  Yes, okra.  If you aren't from the south, you probably can't believe that anyone would actually eat the stuff. But we do and it is sinfully good.  And okra and tomatoes? A marriage made in heaven.  Add a little onion and garlic to sweeten the tang of the tomatoes and you have a pot full of love.  Served over rice and you have a bowl of summer comfort food. Perfection.   Add a piece of cornbread and you'll swear life couldn't get any sweeter.

With all of winter's grays and browns outside, the color in this still life truly lit up up my studio.  I used bright yellow paper under the vegetables just to add a little more color.  My little mason jar full of rice was an oasis of calm in this color explosion.  I am really starting to love painting glass.

I included my recipe for okra & tomatoes below.  Stay warm!

"kindred spirits"
8" x 8" oil on canvas panel

Okra & Tomatoes
1 1/2 Tbsp bacon drippings or substitute olive oil
2 c. sliced okra
2 1/2 c. diced fresh tomatoes or substitute 2 c. canned diced tomatoes
1 large vidalia (sweet) onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
cooked rice

Saute onions, garlic and okra in bacon drippings over medium high heat for 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes and salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve over rice. Yum! (if you use bacon drippings instead of olive oil, crumble that cooked bacon over the top of your bowl of okra & tomatoes...doubly good)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"tea and cake" ...Day 7

Tea and cake on a Sunday afternoon.  Both my grandmother's were fond of an afternoon cup of tea and a thick slice of pound cake.  I've always been game for any dessert anytime it's offered.  They never had to talk me into it.

Pound cake is just one of those classic desserts that is the perfect combination of simple and decadent.  Butter, sugar, eggs and flour with a little vanilla or lemon extract thrown in.  Doesn't get much easier than that.  So wonderful and rich. But believe it or not, I grew up putting a pat of butter on top of a slice of pound cake and toasting it in the oven.  As if it wasn't already loaded with butter! It's still my favorite way to eat it...especially for breakfast. :)

And can we talk about the crust on top?  If you've ever made a homemade poundcake, you know that they have the most wonderful, crunchy golden crust on top.  (must be all that butter and sugar!) At my house, we fight over the piece with the best crust.  Many years ago at a family gathering when I was a kid,  my little brother and my youngest cousin sneaked into the kitchen and ate all of the crust off of the top of my grandmother's freshly baked pound cake.  I very rarely remember my grandmother ever losing her temper but when she took the cover off of the cake plate and saw what they had done, we all ran for cover.

I found this little cup and plate set years ago.  They are a creamy white with a decorative silver edge. Very girly.  I loved the blue striped paper and the way the cup and plate reflected so many colors.  As I was painting the sun was streaming through the window giving everything a wonderful glow.  It was such fun to paint.

"tea and cake"
8" x 10" oil on panel

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

"simply divine" ...Day 6

Divine but simple.  An old earthenware crock and a well used rolling pin.  A glass bottle of cold buttermilk.  Fresh creamery butter and a tall glass jar of cane syrup.  Where am I going with this?  Biscuits, of course.  And real biscuits...not the kind that come in a can.

That delectable basic southern staple that is so simple but so versatile.  Dress it up for brunch or appetizer or dress it down for breakfast.  It works overtime in the south.

They aren't as easy to make as you'd think though.  Handle the dough too much and they're tough.  They can go crumbly on you or get too doughy.  I know, I've messed up plenty of batches.  My mother can stir up biscuits blindfolded and they turn out wonderful. She's the only person I know that can just make two biscuits instead of a panful.  I don't make them often enough to do it well.  It's probably a good thing.... I would end up looking like a biscuit if I did.

My favorite way to eat them is buttered and sopped (that might be a southern thing means dipped but more like drenched) in cane syrup.  Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.  :)

simply divine
9" x 12" oil on panel

Monday, January 5, 2015

"off to a sweet start" ...Day 5

A box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts appeared on our countertop over the Christmas holidays.  Not all that unusual, although my kids would certainly like them to appear more often than they do.  But this box looked different than the usual box.  It had this great retro holiday design that reminded me of my childhood. I have had more than my share of Krispy Kreme doughnuts in my life.  I still love them, especially the glazed ones, still warm from the oven.

When I was growing up, I went to work with my dad every Saturday.  He owned a dry-cleaners and had to get there first to get the boiler going and all the machinery warmed up.  That meant we left the house early, about 5:00 am.  I'm not going to lie to you, I hated it.  Getting up at 4:30 and not getting back home until 4 or 5:00 in the afternoon was not how I wanted to spend my Saturday.  Not at all.

But my dad had a strong work ethic and wanted me to learn responsibility and that having things meant working hard for them, even when you didn't feel like it.  I didn't really get a choice in the matter.  To ease the pain, he would stop at Krispy Kreme on the way in to work and let me pick out a dozen doughnuts.  Back then, I would pick out the creme filled, jelly filled, name it. The sweeter the better.  And then we would get a second dozen, just glazed.

I can still go back in my mind and see us there.  Darker than dark outside and it felt like we were the only ones in the world awake until we opened the door of Krispy Kreme.  Inside, the fluorescent lights would be so bright it would make my eyes hurt.  The few tables would be crowded with people eating, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. There was always a line which would make my dad grumpily threaten that this would be the last time we would come.  I knew I better be ready with my order before my dad ran out of patience and just got the glazed box.

When we got to the laundry, I would pour myself a big cup of coffee with about 10 teaspoons of sugar and eat one of my doughnuts before I moved on to the warm glazed ones that were always so much better.  My dad would join me and we'd share a few moments together talking before the work day got going.  I think back now about how unhappy I was to be there then.  But now that my dad is gone, I wouldn't take anything for those glazed donuts, lessons learned and time together.

I love the retro feel of this little painting.  I used the top of the box as the backdrop and was happy the way it worked with the art deco silver coffee carafe and mug. Hope your week is "off to a sweet start"!

"off to a sweet start"
10" x 8" oil on panel