This is the first year that we stayed in New Orleans for Christmas. We tried to do some fun activities that happen only during the holiday. Mostly we ate out.
This is what I think I know… The bon fires go on for 3 miles. They need a permit and have a maximum height of 15 feet. They all start at 7 pm on Christmas Eve, wind permitting. This is a tradition going back a 100 years or more. The reasons vary, and my favorite version is that the bon fires light the way for Santa Claus.
Saint James Parish is about 30 minutes west of New Orleans. It took well over an hour to get to the river on Christmas Eve. We went to Paulina to see the beginning of the bon fires, then we drove through Lutcher and Gramercy.
It’s dark, so you can only see the structures in front of you.
The arrow is pointing down river. All of the lights on the levee are bon fires.
This is a close up.
Now you can listen to it. Most structures are full of fire crackers, and people shoot off BIG fireworks. I took these photos with my phone…
It is pretty scary being black in America. I only know this through the news and hearing my friends talk. I have never had to have the discussion with my children about what to do if they are stopped by the police. I haven’t had to explain to them that they SHOULD NOT RUN through our neighborhood and to NEVER wear a hoodie.
I am near the top of the entitled group. I would be at the top if I were male. Part of being entitled is not having to think about entitlement. I was never afraid to be stopped by the police. In the handful of times I have been stopped, “I am sorry officer. Did I do something wrong?” was enough to never get out of the car and never get a ticket.
You might wonder why I painted Don’t Shoot. I relate to being a woman who is unsafe. I know what it is like to be afraid. I see black women on the news crying because they are so scared of being pulled over
and I feel sad and angry.
I want racism and misogyny to disappear.
It made me feel better to paint about the problem the same way it made me feel better to participate in the Women’s March on Washington. What can we do besides stand together. Together we are stronger.
The background is red for her anger/ grey for her measured non-response. I gave her a short haircut and urban colors to epitomize her strength. She looks small and powerful. I also opted against long lashes. I didn’t want her to need any of the feminine trappings. She is woman enough as is.
Here is page 4. Tia is Spanish for aunt. Maybe it is her first name, too? Tia is the baby’s aunt. That’s what I know for sure.
I think baby takes after momma in coloring, but I see Tia in her face.
Tia is listening to music in the kitchen. I did want to make sure Tia wasn’t dancing with the mop or ironing. Even though those stereotypes are etched in my brain, I am trying to break free. She just stopped by the kitchen for a cup of coffee. Probably one of the men took care of that other stuff.
I put in my favorite laminate table from the 1950’s. Baby is too short to see the top of the table, so I put the table top design that I wanted to paint on the cup. You can see the same magnolia bead tree from the garden out the window.
The New Orleans things on this page are only the bead tree and music. The window and the paint color are also typical New Orleans.
I try to keep the family to a moderate income. That’s why the table is her grandma’s and her headphones have a cord.
The painting part is straight forward. When the picture needs some very small details, I use a paint pen or intense pencils. Often I go over this with a brush. I liked the tree better when it was bright green, but I thought there needed to be glass in the window. I mixed a half drop of Golden Titanium White into some matte varnish. I painted the window panes 2 or 3 times with this mixture. I think it looks a little wavy like old glass.
Here we are… President Obama’s last day as president. It does feel momentous.
I am writing here today to share page 3 of the book I am illustrating. If I seem cryptic about the book, it is because it is mostly top secret. So far, we have Baby, Momma, and Pop. I will be starting Tía soon.
I relaxed slightly while painting Pop. I am about as nervous as if I was creating a commissioned painting now.
Pop is watching a New Orleans Pelicans game. I wanted to give him cigarettes or a beer, but this is a children’s book.
Framed on the wall is Gator Girl’s painting of Swamp Girl. Swamp Girl is also the first page in the book Maggie Pokorn and I are co-writing.
Next to Swamp Girl are Silent Chimes, by the local artist Kat Ryalls. I received, by request, Silent Chimes for Christmas. They look amazing on my bedroom wall. I don’t do them justice here.
This house looks so much like my house.
Stay tuned. There are 19 pages. Pretty soon I imagine my non-painting life will slow down enough to paint maybe 3 pages a month.
I wanted a garden like this. It seems like you need a lot of money in the city to buy a house with a big garden area. I fudged on this because this is a family with an average income.
Here is a photo of momma in progress.
I didn’t mess around too much with the composition this time. The neckline of her shirt was an accident. I wanted to tell myself when I came back to paint that I wanted the neckline smaller, so I used a paint pen to mark the new neckline. It reminded me of a burnout shirt, so I left it.
I am going to put a little more of her hair on her right cheek (left cheek to you) because it looks too big. The danger in that is that it is hard for me to put the brush down. I am usually changing another thing an hour later.
The challenge for me is that it takes me so long to paint. I think the author might get tired of waiting. Each page is a full on painting, so it does take a while. I hope I reconcile with this soon.
2016 has been a hard year for a lot of people. I hope you are doing alright.
Happy Fall! Just about a month late, but I will take it!
I had an urge to paint over an existing painting. I have never done that before. I was thinking that I would paint something to hang on the cabin walls.
What I thought was a random act was more.
As I was prying off a saints card of the Virgin Mary, a brass cowgirl boot, a paper skirt… I realized I didn’t need Painting My Dream any more.
I painted my way to New Orleans with this painting. That was only half of the plan. The other half of the plan was owning a camp. In the painting I have an airstream. In reality it is a little cabin. Either way, the dream is complete.
You might notice the bigger cabin is about to fall into the river. 🙂
The best part is the river.
I started a painting for the cabin. There is really such a thing as small owls with long legs. Burrowing Owlsare less than a foot tall, have bright eyes, and nest in the ground. They fly and run.
I am planning on painting over another painting. I want to paint a family of Burrowing Owls. They are so cute.
I wanted to wait until this painting was finished before I wrote to y’all. I didn’t want to miss another week of blogging.
I saw a photo on Facebook of my friend who works in a Laundromat on Sundays. I loved her Rosie the Riveter bad ass look. She was also wearing the same shirt that I own from Target.
I am going to go in backwards order here. This is my almost finished painting.
Half way through, I think her eyes are too large. The counter came to the bottom of the washing machines, so it looked like a floor. I like the blue behind the chandelier, but the wall seemed too fragmented and I thought wallpaper behind the chandelier would be cool.
I tried gold leaf on the chandelier. first I used the gold leaf that you press on and rub. It has a paper back. I think you must need hard surface for that. The canvas has too much give. Next, I bought ten tiny sheets of gold leaf advertised for use in Buddhist worship. I like the look.
I watched You Tube videos about making a faux granite counter top. It is basically dabbing wet on wet paint with a sea sponge. I made small sponges from a kitchen sponge and cut some larger holes to resemble a sea sponge. It was funny to make a tiny granite counter.
I love the painting except for the counter and the chandelier. They are just not quite right yet.
Thank you for walking through the last 2 weeks with me.
I have been painting some heavy topics lately. My last 3 paintings were about slavery and prostitution. I think artists have a responsibility for social change. This is Banksy 2011 protesting the foreclosure debacle.
This is me protesting slavery.
I decided it was time for a light hearted alligator.
While I was painting him again today, I was thinking how I forgot why I paint. I paint for people to be happy; to cheer up a room. Maybe I paint happy alligators and heart wrenching topics. Do you think there are some light hearted topics dealing with social change? Maybe an alligator on a picket line?
My Etsy sales are slow this month. I had use money to promote my art. The voice in my head was critical of me for painting slowly. In response to the voice: Etsy sometimes has a slow month. I have to pay for things even when the money is just going in one direction (out). Slow is OK.
You can’t see in this photo that his teeth are white with iridescent pearl for the top layer. There is a little yellow ochre near his gum line because he has some gingivitis. It’s not to a critical stage. If you have seen previous photos of the gator in progress, the big change I did today was some shading and a few coats on the green parts of his body to tie him together.
There is a surprising thing about me. I am pretty terrified of alligators. I was reading about them online to appease my fear, but it just fueled it. There was a woman moving to Florida and asked if people in Florida got tricked into buying a house near the water and then were unable to sell it because of the alligators. Because who would live near alligators. I thought she was pretty funny, but my crazy self bought some of it. If you have any alligator advice before I go camping, PLEASE let me know.
I am a little long winded today. I hope everything is going well in your part of the world.
Gator Girl Art moved into Zèle NOLA yesterday! It is on Magazine Street, the block between Community Coffee and Starbucks.
Zèle is the first of its kind in the New Orleans area. It’s not a co-op or a flea market. Zèle is a Multivendor Art Market. NOLA has several outdoor art markets offered monthly, but we do not have any permanent indoor markets where our local artists can display and have their extraordinary work sold for them.
This is exactly what Zèle offers, a place for and by NOLA’s own!