Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Time for Thanks and for Sketching

Thanksgiving Sketch
Watercolor and Ink
Stillman & Birn sketchbook
Click to Enlarge
Our Thanksgiving was wonderfully relaxing this year—near bliss after the crazy weeks leading up to the holiday.

A small gathering at my brother's home. Nearly perfect weather. We were able to leave the doors open and enjoy the breeze. (It can be hot enough to run the air conditioner on Thanksgiving here in Florida!)

After dinner, I headed outside and sat by the koi pond to sketch.

I think I could have stayed all day.....

I do know I'll be going back.

Care to join me?

Monday, November 28, 2011


Sketched on Location
Click to enlarge
Oak Alley is a (still-working) sugar cane plantation upriver from New Orleans. There are 28 Live Oaks that line the path to the house from the river that were planted by a settler back in the 1700's. They're estimated to be 300 years old.
Front of the Home
Image courtesy of the Oak Alley Plantation
The Roman family later purchased the land and built their home in 1830's, using the 28 oaks to inspire 28 columns that are 8 feet in circumference and walls that are 16 inches thick. They also planted an additional 28 Live Oaks in the back of the plantation. Those are estimated to be around 150 years old and are what show in the journal page at the top of the page.
Back of the Home
Click to enlarge
The large kettle featured in the journal page and the image above is one of the kettles they used to boil the sugar cane juice down into syrup. Today, they are often used as koi ponds and planters as manufacturing has long since surpassed the use of these pots.

As the fates would have it, the weather was being rather fickle this day and it didn't know if it wanted to rain or not. After a few warming sprinkles, the rain finally started to get heavy enough that most of us retreated to the café.

Introducing my latest "coffee passion:"
Memory sketch,
created after returning
Click to enlarge
Praline coffee. YUM! There's not much more that needs to be said about it. It was sooooooo good! I went by two of our local liqueur stores only to find they don't carry it. It's a special order. Needless to say, there is a bottle winging its way here as we speak.

Last but certainly not least, we had dinner at the Napoleon House. It looks like a dive on the outside and it's as dark as a cave on the inside with an old world, European feel. The walls are brick and stucco with an open air courtyard.
Memory Sketch,
crated after returning
Click to enlarge
Several of us had difficulty reading the menu due to the low-lighting (no lighting?) conditions. Our helpful waiter brought us a big yellow and black flashlight so we could read the menu. No kidding! Apparently, they'd had this kind of trouble before.

Napoleon House is also known for their "Pimm's Cup" cocktail and I just had to try one! It is made with Pimm's Liqueur. It is garnished with a cucumber slice and is quite refreshing. (One of those drinks that sneaks up on you if you have too many because they're not hard to drink! And, no, that's not experience talking—I only had one!)

Despite the few showers of the day, it was a fun day with many laughs and some great sketches!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Dangerous Combination...

...for me, anyway! I know other artists that do quite well sketching and eating at the same time. Unfortunately, I can't say the same thing as this poor sketch proves:
Southwestern Soup
Ink and watercolor
5.5 x 5.5 inches
I would love to tell you it's a contour sketch, but it's not. It's just....sad.

This is what happens to me when I try to divide my attention between two masters—eating and sketching. You can easily tell who won this battle! All the same, I am happy to report that the green is spot on! I just purchased some new soup cups and that's really and truly their color—acid yellow-green!

Love that color!

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in America, I would like to send to each of you a very grateful thanks for being a part of my life, the blogosphere and the Imaginary Realm. I can't imagine a world without you as you've touched my life and my heart in countless ways.

I hope you'll hug those around you that you're thankful for, smile at a stranger today as it may be the only kindness they will know this day, and tell those you love just how much you love them...this day, this hour, this moment, and take time to count the many blessings that fill your life.

Since I'll be putting down the paintbrush tomorrow (so as not to slaughter anymore unsuspecting food items), I will be picking up a pen to write a page of thanks—and you'll be at the top of my list!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Makin' Of Mardi Gras (NOLA)

Click to Enlarge
Page started on location,
finished after the trip
We actually started off at Tujague's for dinner on Sunday night. Because I haven't finished that page yet, I've skipped ahead to Monday morning. We started the day off at Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World! We started with a video tour about the Kern family and the history of Mardi Gras. We also has a taste of a tradition King cake and then went out to the work area and warehouse.
Click to enlarge
Note the golf cart in the image above. I took this for scale in this huge warehouse. Everything seemed larger than life! Mardi Gras World makes a variety of props and floats for 40 of the 54 krewes that have a parade during Mardi Gras. They will often repurpose a prop from year to year. The example shared was taking a hobbit's house and restructuring it into Shrek's head the following year.
Click to enlarge
Here we see one of the artisan's creating a pelican's head out of styrofoam. Most of the props and floats are made of styrofoam and paper mâché as the materials are inexpensive and the labor less intense than the fiberglass props they complete.
Click to enlarge
This little jester is made of fiberglass. He only stood about 3 feet tall, but weighs considerable more than the styrofoam pieces as well.
Click to enlarge
This giraffe loomed high above over our heads. He seem to have a benevolent look to his face though so it wasn't so bad to have him looking over our shoulders.
Click to enlarge

This isn't a great photo, but it does give you a sense of scale, and if you click to enlarge the image, you'll see several folks walking around in this kingdom of props and it gives you a better understanding of just how huge this place was! It was so much fun to be in the warehouse and walk around in, let alone sit down and sketch!

We had a great time sketching and painting these larger than life "caricatures!" It was really cool being able to take the tour, spend some time looking around at the "sights" and THEN deciding on what we wanted to sketch and knowing we had time to do so.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

From The Beginning (NOLA)

I had made plans to go into NOLA early to make sure that everything was in place and to check a couple of logistical matters that I couldn't check out any other way. Boy, am I glad I did!

I arrived tired—emotional, physically and mentally. You see, both of my parents had experienced major health crises the week before I left. Since life is what happens while we're making other plans, I had little choice but to roll with it. Luckily, I have a great family and both parents were beginning to show improvement before I left.

It took a few days to switch from worried caregiver to maven of Imaginary Trips Made Real. Luckily, I had KJ (of Catching Happiness) to keep me from getting lost or worse. One of the other "travelers" arrived late on Friday evening as well. 

Click to enlarge

On Saturday, while the other two roamed the French Quarter, I caught up on a few emails and some other necessary business. Finding a good internet connection turned out to be a sizable challenge this entire trip! I had to sit in the front lobby or breakfast room to get a fairly reliable connection.

After I completed my work, I sat out in the sunny courtyard to sketch one of the doors leading into the Armstrong House as well as the breakfast nook. The others returned and joined me for a wonderful afternoon of sketching.

Click to enlarge
This second page I'm sharing was started at The Decadence Shoppe....which turned out to be a bakery/breakfast joint, but with a name like that in never know!! The umbrellas hung from the ceiling and were just to cute to pass up as a drawing opportunity.

The decadence came in the form of Praline Pancakes and Maple Spice Chai Latte. Oh. My. Goodness! Yummy! Though I have to say, everything we had was excellent. We went there for breakfast twice. The second morning the doors were open and we sat gazing out of Louis Armstrong Park which was just across the street.

After more exploring of the French Quarter, we decided to go back to Bistreaux (having been there on Thursday evening). It was close to our hotel and the food was very good. LSU was in an epic battle to retain their No. 1 ranking against Alabama, ranked No. 2 and the joint was full.

To add to the frivolity of the evening there was a wedding being held in the hotel next door. Once the vows were exchanged, the happy couple, wedding party and everyone who attended as well as a band went around the block, waving handkerchiefs to celebrate. The image below is not of the same wedding party, but you'll get the idea. That's just how you do it in NOLA!
Click to enlarge
 It was a very lively evening and yes, LSU won—in overtime!

To be continued.....

Monday, November 14, 2011

I Would Have Brought You a Praline, But....

....I wasn't sure if you would want chocolate, traditional, creamy, rum, coconut or spicy!

I've just returned from New Orleans and the BEST ever 1st Imaginary Trip Made Real, NOLA Live!!

I'm not sure where to begin to describe the fun we all had, the things we saw, the food we ate, the places we visited and all the cool things we learned about this vibrant and wonderful city!

Without a doubt I'll be talking about this trip for weeks (maybe months) to come and I want to say a few words of thanks to the most wonderfully, intrepid "travelers" a gal like me could hope for—you MADE this trip fabulous and I thank you for your sense of adventure and friendship!

To KJ (of Catching Happiness), for being there, for talking me down off the ledge more than a few times as well as for being a great friend and travelmate!

To Chris for believing in this crazy dream of mine even when I didn't. I could never have done this without your unwavering faith in me.

I am amending this post to add a very special thank you to my family for keeping the home fires burning and allowing me to go to NOLA knowing my parents were being well taken care of!

What I did bring you was a few short videos of some very fun street performances in NOLA! To set the stage for the beginning of our trip, I took a few minutes out of the day to video some of the lively performances you're bound to experience in the French Quarter.

This is one of the things that makes this city soooo great—you never know what you'll find around the next corner!