Friday, December 15, 2006

Taking a Holiday Hiatus

See you all soon........

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rasta Boy - Painting in Progress- 11"x15"



This is a departure from the usual daily painting portrait. This is a much larger work in progress, based upon an earlier study posted on the blog. Now that the holiday season has descended upon me, I'll be taking a brief respite from the daily 4x6 paintings as I work on pieces for friends and family and commit more time to larger works such as this one.

I'll still be posting something fresh every weekday, but will be mixing up the material for the next couple of weeks. Don't know what the new year will bring but the daily painting blog will continue.............stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Colonel



Or is he The Kernel? Perhaps reflecting yet another opportunity for me to completely misunderstand The Big Picture.

Despite a preference for cammouflage fashion, this gentleman "farmer" is hardly the stuff of military bearing. Gentle and humble, I don't think I've heard him utter more than a few words each time we've met over the years.Excruciatingly polite. Though he does strike me as someone who could easily conduct guerrilla-style warfare if push came to shove.

He is typically not at home when we come a callin'. If anyone is in the one-room board house, they often nod up to the dense grove of palms, mango trees, avocado, and overall dense tangle of foliage, saying. "he gone a bush."

Much "hailing up" in that direction typically results in a call-and-response barrage of patois. We hear him long before we see him. Finally, the Colonel emerges from the thick greenery and descends goat-like down the last few rocky steps of the steep hillside behind his house.

A true country man of the 21st century, the Colonel wears a tattered marina slung low over his knee-length cargo shorts, casually steps barefoot over the sharp rock-stone, carrying a machete in one hand and talking into his cell phone with the other.

The Big Picture, indeed.

4"x6" ink and watercolor on paper.
Purchase a print of this painting here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Something was not right



The first time I met him, he was with his mother and older brother. She introduced herself as Empress Shaniqua, and presented her two young sons to me as Prince Elijah and Prince Iwon. I had to respect the attempt to present herself with great dignity, given that her clothing was sunbleached and threadbare, the princes wore no shoes, and they all lived in a small board house on a remote mountain top, without indoor plumbing.

Well, it WAS her palace and she WAS the resident Empress. And I guess every mother would call her sons "prince." It just seemed as if Empress Shaniqua took it one step further, and insisted that we all address her and the little boys with their formal titles.

When I returned a year later, the Empress was no longer in residence. Seems she was a city girl from Town who eventually came to the realization that rasta life inna country yard was not really her cup of tea, royal title or not. She took one prince, and left the younger one with the Ras.

And she cleaned out the savings account before hopping on the last minibus for Kingston.

So the Ras was left with this little Prince, who clearly had a problem.

My first thought was that the little boy had perhaps suffered some form of birth defect. But I didn't remember him looking like this the last time I'd met him. I don't think it's politically correct to say "mentally retarded" these days, but I must honestly admit that's exactly what I was thinking as I watched him move about the yard. He looked up at us with half open, heavy-lidded eyes; his jaw was slack and he tended to drool.

The Ras clearly had his hands full. As we spoke, he slowly began to talk about the Empress and what they discovered about their youngest prince. He had become progressively worse over the past year, his physical symptoms slowly worsening to the point that a formal doctor had finally been consulted. Actually, I think it took several different doctors before they pinned it down.

The diagnosis: Myesthenia Gravis

Myasthenia gravis, according to what I've read, is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by varying degrees of weakness of the voluntary muscles of the body. It is typical for such muscles as those that control eye and eyelid movement, facial expression, chewing, talking, and swallowing to be adversely affected.The disease is most debilitating if the muscles that control breathing, the neck and limb movements are affected.

When we next visit the Ras and the little prince, I hope we'll have some information about new treatments for the disease.

And I'll remember not to judge a book by its cover, royal title or not.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Very Old Young Woman



She's only about 5 or 6, but has the face of an old soul. Shy and quiet, she moves like a little old woman about the yard. She's carrying some kind of weight I can't quite put my finger on. She always wears the same expression: hopeful, curious, worried....

We took her to the sea one day. I don't know if she'd ever been there before. She was the first in the car, but the last one in the water. The enormity of the beach and the ocean gave her pause.

My daughters helped her up on an inflatable raft, certainly her first time with such a magnificent toy. Within seconds she'd tumbled over the side and without any fuss or flailing arms, she slowly sank to the bottom, her eyes wide, looking up at the sky through the water.

"That's just how she looked, mommy," said my daughter. "She just sank like a rock, on her back, looking up at us." A little hopeful, a little curious, and undoubtledly a little worried.

4"x6" ink and watercolor on paper.
Purchase a print of this painting here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Ubiquitous Marina



I'd never seen one of these before going to Jamaica. You know what I'm talking about: those cotton mesh tank tops with the deep scoop neck. More than any Name Brand, this is sufferah's uniform, a Jamaican phenomenon not even made in Jamaica.

If you're slender and not too tall, the marina will swing low over your booty, nearly engulfing your cargo shorts. Stylin. It's the shirt that's not a shirt when shirts are required.

It's cool. On several levels.

But I particularly appreciate the cool-as-a-christmas-breeze marina when it is paired with tailored woolen trousers. Or wide-wale corduroys. Top off the look with a freshly-polished pair of Clarks your sister sent you fram farrin and you're ready for the ghetto runway.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Driving While Rasta



I'd have said he was the life of the party, but that honor typically went to Peter. Instead, he was more the ever-present sidekick, the perfect foil. Laid back without being lazy, he was the first to find the humor in any situation, no matter how grim.

He was usually peering at me over some miniscule sunglasses perched on the tip of his nose, more of a nod to style than to the glaring sunlight. He'd top off his mile-long dreads with a jauntily-placed and thickly-knit woolen tam, regardless of the heat, A voice deeper than a basement, he'd patiently repeat himself for me, slowly, when the patois became too thick. Then punctuate his sentence with a slow "aaaaal-riiiight?" and a big grin.

Older, but not necessarily wiser, he struck more as an affable absent-minded professor, ragamuffin style. Hopping in the car on a moment's notice, road-trip ready, he was a self-professed expert on the runnings of 'town. He'd navigate from the backseat when we crossed the Kingston city limits.

"Go soh, go soh!", he'd shout, as we approached an intersection.

"Yah soh? or deh soh?", Peter would shout from the driver's seat, glancing over his shoulder, and uncertain as to whether to make a left or a right.

"Soh, soh, ovah soh", said The Professor.

This particular use of patois was not exceptionally helpful when driving.

"Yah soh" and "deh soh" loosely translate into "here" and "there" respectively. And the simple us of "soh" essentially leaves it up to the imagination. We came to a grinding halt as they argued about yah so vs. deh soh until The Professor finally used his finger to point to the proper choice of roadway. Peter fumed and The Professor laughed.

It's been years since I've seen The Professor. I'd had no idea his peaceful easy facade was propped up by a deep addiction. But looking at him here, without the props of style, I should have known there was more to The Professor than met my eyes.

4"x6" ink and watercolor on paper.
Purchase a print of this painting here.

Monday, December 04, 2006

My Bodyguard



This is Antsman, one of my bodyguyards. Heh.

Well, at least I didn't realize he was one of my bodyguards until several years later. It didn't occur to me that a 30-year old woman would be assigned a 13-year old bodyguard but I see in hindsight that was the intention. He and his 14-year old cousin Zeelo, stuck to me like glue whenever Peter wasn't around.

I thought it was just because they liked me.

In retrospect, I believe they were under strict orders to:

1. Keep me company,

2. Keep me comfortable and

3. Keep the wolves away

Funny, I enjoyed them immensely and I think they really liked hanging out with me, assignment or not. We were windows into one anothers' worlds. Not too many New Yorkers set up camp in the yard for extended lengths of time, of that I am certain.

Likewise, he and Zeelo were my interpreters for all manner of "flexin'" in the yard. I got the susu and backstory on every character who passed through as well as the origin of their nicknames. They provided me with rudimentary patois lessons and were willing runners to the distant shop for a cold drink or snack -- "I'll buy, you fly" was understood. They were funny and curious and kept me from going crazy during those long, hot afternoons when "nuttin a gwan" in the yard.

Antsman was the quiet, sheepish one while Zeelo was the older, confident leader. They were an inseparable pair in those days but their paths have diverged significantly since.

I think Antsman could have used a bodyguyard of his own.................