Friday, October 26, 2007

Grotesque?




I've got another version of this fellow which is much more conservative, with less of an exaggeration of his features. It is generally more precise but less interesting. I prefer this one, even tho it is a bit over the top. I'll post the other when it's finished and let the critics weigh in.................


"Grotesque", 12"x16" ink and watercolor on paper

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Rude Gyal




"Rude Gyal", 11"x15" ink and watercolor on paper

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Less is More



I've resisted the urge to do more to this painting. No layering, no blotting, no nothing. She looks clean and wet and translucent and fresh.

Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em.

"Less is More", 12"x15.5" ink and watercolor on paper

Monday, October 08, 2007

White Girl, Black Girl, Same Girl ?

I posted this image a while ago, noting that it was another version of a similar sketch and that it was still in progress:



And then I put it aside for a while. Until this week:



This reminds me of a story from several years ago....

A prominent caucasian female news correspondent at the network where I worked, proposed to the Executive Produer of her prime time news magazine show that she go "undercover" to expose racism in everyday American life. By "everyday American life" it was understood to mean applying for a job, renting an apartment, obtaining a car loan and so forth.

This very prominent news woman wanted to report from the front lines of racist America in black face. Yes, she suggested she be fully make up as a black woman to expose the existing prejudice of white America. "Black Like Me", thirty years later, with hidden cameras.

Despite her power, cooler heads prevailed and she was left to analyze and narrate the results of said investigation. Actual people of color, which were lower on the network food chain than said correspondent, were left to make telephone calls for apartment rentals or complete paperwork for job applications, and then videotape their unfortunate follow up face-to-face interviews which invariably resulted in their rejection. Racism was alive and well without an American news icon putting on a minstrel show.

There would be no dramatic whipping off of the lace-front wig to reveal the smooth tresses of the white, patrician beauty pageant winner. No shocking "I'm - The - Famous - Network - News - Icon" whom you denied the rental of a run-down, one-bedroom, section-8 housing apartment.

We were left with the equally, if not MORE, offensive spectacle of average American men and women just trying to make a living, find a home or buy a car, only to have the door slammed in their faces.

I think the point was better made that way. Don't you?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Another Take on a Palm Tree

Seems as if people all over the world love this drawing -- I get visits to this page literally every day from every continent on the globe.

See many more of my palms here.



Purchase a print here. Only $28 plus shipping.


Someone in Jamaica told me that my ink drawings of palm trees were "scary." Made me wonder if that is the feeling I must be having as I draw them.......why would that be the case?

They are beautifully graceful. They grow in sand. They are watered by rain but also by the relentless washing of salt water from the sea. Hardly scary, they not only survive the relentless heat of the sun and ocean, they THRIVE.

But their roots are like the up-ended head of a dreadlocked monster. They are a purplish red, more plentiful than their swaying leaves, and stretch for several feet beyond the surface trunk in all directions. I got a good look at those roots, after the hurricane-driven waves washed away the protective sand of the many trees lining the shore. I was stunned.

Perhaps I did find these beauties quite scary after all.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

So we're home, from one rock to another....



This drawing reminds me of us, huddled together, baby birds no doubt tucked in between, looking out for one another in different directions, but always standing together on the same piece of rock.......from the rock of Jamaica, now back to the rock of Manhattan.

Whew -- I'd say that it flew by, but five weeks really does feel like a long, slow langorous dream of a trip when you are in Jamaica. Lazy hot days under the palms on the beach, countless road trips to country, delicious and piping hot fried fish cooked on the coal pot for our family,my husband, Peter, finally convincing me to take some wonderful journeys on his fiery red motorcycle through the West End, Orange Hill and beyond, late nights laughing with our friends and relatives on our verandah, reminiscing about all the wild journeys and amazing characters we've enjoyed together, and lost, over the past 15+ years --- it just doesn't get better than that.

We visited The Usual Suspects -- and they US -- and returned to the old familiar haunts of Roaring River (yawn), Benji's Paradise (still lovely) and The Blue Hole (always free of visitors) but also explored some new elusive swimming spots we'd only heard about. Made plenty of sketches, took nuff photos and video, too, so I'll soon freshen up The Night Shift with art from our journey.

One of the highlights of our trip was a long, overnight journey to the East, leaving our daughters behind with family friends, and having a proper grown-up road trip all on our own. Here we are, a little worse for the wear and tear after driving for nearly 8 hours, spending the night in St. Thomas parish at a friend's home, and then up again at 5am to head for the hot water Bath Fountain and then the Blue Mountains. My hair is a wreck, I forgot my toothbrush, and I longed for the warm healing waters of Bath Fountain. Peter was smart to wear those Ray Bans -- at least his bleary, tired eyes are hidden! More on that trip later -- it was a blast, with many trials and tribulations but I wouldn't have passed it up for the world.

As always, Jamaica is an Excruciating Good Time. Jamaica sweet, but it nah nice, eeenh?


Monday, August 27, 2007

Classroom on the Beach



Although Hurricane Dean forced me to cancel our original workshop schedule, he did not put a stop to the classes altogether. Here are some photos of the Children's Watercolor Workshop I held shortly before the storm........






I had as much fun as the kids...




Drying our work in the sunlight.......




The final project, Turtles Under the Sea. They came out beautifully, don't you think?

By Irenee, age 11



By Ellis, age 9

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Wine and Cheese Under the Palm Trees



If you happen to be in Negril today, please stop by Whistling Bird on the beach at 5pm for a Wine and Cheese Art Opening Reception.

My art work will be on display and I look forward to meeting and speaking with those of you who can attend........

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Still Standing, Dean-oh . . .



I glanced down at my fingernails as I flicked the mosquito from my ankle. The thin line of black grit confirmed the fact that we'd been without running water, neither hot nor cold, for two days. Some parts of your body just don't get clean when you pour a bucket of water over your head.

The National Hurricane Center website had me whipped into a frenzied cocktail of dread and anticipation, stirred with a shot of excitement, on the rocks, for two days. Would we be flattened like a bald tire that struck a pot-hole on Spur Tree? Would we be able to see the seashore through leaf-less trees from Norman Manley Boulevard? And just how long would the 15 litres of bottled water keep us happy?

Fifteen litres of chardonnay may have been a more prescient plan of action.

We'd packed our belongings back into our luggage, many things in two or three layers of plastic lada bags or my month's supply of ziplocs, and moved to higher ground. That sounds like a torturous trek but really meant moving ourselves 30 yards to a second-story room in a cottage with a concrete roof. Our current cottage had a heavy corrugated metal roof, much heftier than the ubiquitous zinc of your standard board house, but nonetheless more vulnerable than concrete. So we moved 90 feet closer to the sea, but with a roof that could withstand a fallen mango tree.

And we piled into the one-room cottage, 4 of us sprawled out on to the two twin beds pushed together. We left the cottage door open as long as we dared -- well past 10pm, as the trees began to swirl in the darkness and the occasional branch flew across the arc of the verandah which was lit by candles. Er, uh, "kangles." We'd stockpiled drinking water, purchased excessive packages of crackers, jars of peanut butter and a few pounds of rice and dried beans, not to mention a brand-new coal pot and requisite 4-foot tall sack of coal to see us through the horror.

The horror that never came.

Our room grew warm and stuffy as the night wore on. No fan, let alone A/C, and we kept the shuttered windows closed as the wind grew more turbulent and we silently steamed ourselves to sleep. But only a 10-year old could find sleep without dreams, without worry. The rest of us tossed and turned, elbowing one another through the night, waiting for the howling thunder of hurricane winds.

It soon became clear that the loudest thunder we were going to hear was that of the groaning generator for the hotel next door. The Italian tourists at "Fun Holiday" would not be forced to experience Hurricane Dean in the dark. All things considered, I would have preferred the growl of a hurricane; it was like sleeping with a lawn mower circling your pillow.

When daylight finally arrived, we realized we'd actually fallen asleep at some point, that the tree frogs' gleep-gleeping had gradually yielded to the birds' chirp-chirping and that a storm surge had not washed us all out to sea. We pulled open the door to our cottage to take a look outside. Much like Dorothy slowly easing open the black-and-white door of her Kansas farm house, we hoped for a technicolor landscape left intact and not a wasteland of barren trees.

And they were all indeed still standing.

A smattering of mangoes and almonds littered the leafy ground, branches of assorted fruit trees and bamboo stalks lay streaked across the walkways, but the Whistling Bird remained relatively unscathed. The "electric city" had been cut before the storm overtook Westmoreland and the water in the pipes grew to a slow trickle by afternoon, a full stop by the middle of the night. And we began our short-lived, camping-trip version of our vacation, cooking over a fire and bathing with a bucket of cold water poured over our heads.

I wonder how my fingernails would have looked if Dean had really knocked on our door, eeennnh?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The party's over........




I was going to write a story about the wild Emancipation Day weekend celebrations here in Jamaica as an accompaniment to this painting. Sort of a morning after, ode to the debauchery of the night.

There were tales of choked traffic on the normally sparse Norman Manley Boulevard, cars and motorcycles riding 3 or sometimes even 4 abreast the two-lane road. Young women in varying stages of dress or undress, beach wear was de rigeur even after 11pm. Especially after 11pm. We saw thong-wearing ladies riding on the backs of Ninja's,deliberately grabbing their own bottoms and shaking their exposed cheeks to the cheers of onlooking vehicles.

Or as my youngest daughter said, "Mommy, wherever you look tonight, you see something really silly. Or just plain stupid."

Hmmm. I'm rather glad to hear that coming from a 10-year old. Not necessarily an appreciation of her culture, to be sure, but more on that later. Remind me of her very first introduction to her cousin's "dancing" on a DVD, shot in the bowels of a late-night Montego Bay dancehall party spot.

But that's another story.

Tonight, is about the wait for Hurricane Dean.

We've bought our 5-litre jugs of bottled water, several packages of candles and matches, scores of biscuits and crackers and root vegetables, pounds of rice and dried peas, and even secured a brand new coal pot with a bulging, 4-foot tall sack of coal. We did most of our shopping yesterday at the Hi Lo in Negril, which was still relatively calm, no crowds, shelves full.

Today we returned to the Hi Lo to with draw cash from the ATM, but had to wait for the Brinks truck to re-fill the stacks of jays. The line grew long. We then sped off to Sav, which was more than bustling. It was boiling and bubbling with activity.

"Kang-el,kang-el, kang-el - tree pack fuh one hundred dollah," bellowed the tall, slim man, walking between the cars on St. George's street, clutching his red and white cardboard boxes of slim white candles.

The vegetable market was bursting with food and folk. We bought naseberries, plantains, carrots, irish potato, and two bags of chopped callaloo. We went on a search for cooler in the hopes we could forestall doing with out ice for at least a few more hours after the electricity goes. We found an average coleman-style imitation cooler for sale, the usual size for a family picnic, but the price was over 60 bucks. A bit steep for what would probably prove to be just a few more hours of ice cubes. We passed on the cooler.

We're now back in Negril,darkness has fallen, and the tree frogs have begun to gleep as usual. I am spread out in the darkness, on crisp white sheets of a freshly made bed, a ceiling fan blowing above me, and my face lit by the blue glow of my laptop.

I am struck by the sheer comfort and delight of this moment. Peaceful, calm, clean and crisp....it may be a while before I have such a gift again.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Love Birds



This is a wooden carving which sits at the base of a seagrape tree on the beach front of Whistling Bird, two carved birds.

I'm afraid I don't have a good love story to go with this painting -- but give me a few more weeks, there may be one yet.

On second thought, I may have to wait until next year to tell it. If at all...........that's the way love goes.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

John Chewit, Nanny and the Out House




I assumed he was a figure in Jamaican history. John Chewit, it sounded like a proper English "genkle-man". We'd stayed in the cottage bearing this name countless times over the past several summers at Whistling Bird and are again this summer. This is the view of our verandah, as we turn down the path from the main gate. I never gave the cottage names much thought and was actually most happy not to have a complete understanding of the world around me.

For a change.

As I've noted previously, I often don't really have a clue, when I'm in Jamaica. A complete fish out of water when it comes to figuring out the finer points. At home I read the newspapers and news magazines obsessively, watch the news, read blogs online, try to keep up with current fiction and so forth.

But in Jamaica, I am almost relieved to just give it all up. Throw up my hands and surrender to incomprehensison. It IS calming not to have to know what's going on at all times. Ignorance IS bliss.

In my defense, I am quite adept at understanding patois, tho' pretending to be quite ignorant of such. Very helpful. And I did quickly figure out that "lend me a nanny" literally meant "give me 500 Jamaican dollars" because the 500 dollar note had an image of Nanny Of the Maroons, treasured national heroine, imprinted upon it (read more about her here: http://www.moec.gov.jm/heroes/nanny.htm). It is often MOST beneficial to understand what you can, obviously, but feign ignorance, lest one be completely lead astray.

I'm not one eediot, of course.

So back to John Chewit.

When our firstborn was just a toddler, we stayed out in the yard in Sav-La-Mar, rather than stay at Whistling Bird, or any other place in Negril. We had our own one-room, little board house at our disposal. We had a single bare lightbulb, no indoor plumbing, of course, and we had to hastily nail some loose boards across the opening to the front door just so our little one wouldn't stumble out and drop the 2 feet or so to the ground below.

We had to walk to the very back of the yard to use the outdoor shower, which was really just 3 pieces of barely vertical zinc, surrounding a rather meager shower head atop a skimpy pipe. Likewise, for the outhouse, which was a frightful destination after dark. I once approached it in the pitch of night, flashlight in hand, only to find it surrounded by belching bullfrogs. I tiptoed amongst them, pried open the squeaky wooden door only to find several more INSIDE the actual house, including a very bold fellow aggressively belching from his position upon the seat itself.

A determined stamp of my foot didn't shoo the bulging, slimy frog off his perch. Rather, it only caused him to leap directly INTO the hole of the pit itself, right through the seat, waiting for me to continue on my mission. I never used the outhouse after dark again. I'd rather squat behind the house in the bushes.

And when we had our second child, I succumbed to the lure of finer accommoodations in Negril. I just didn't feel like camping out anymore. It was fine when it was me alone, but for the few weeks I had to travel each year, presumably on VACATION, I decided I really didn't want to rough it with two small children.

So it was back to the beach, and a cottage at Whistling Bird. The property is lovely, lush and naturally landscaped. Not covered with concrete and manicured grass. It is almost a quiet, small jungle. We all squeezed into a one-room cottage that first year, sharing a bed with one child and setting up the other in a portable crib. The cottage was called Banana Quit.

To me, it sounded like the name of a luscious tropical dessert. I'll have one thin slice of Banana Quit, please, with coffee, hmmm?

For several years after that we stayed in Nightengale, which had two rooms and was more comfortable. It was after several years in Nightengale, the girls grew bigger and ours stays grew longer, before we moved up to the much larger cottage of John Chewit. We had much larger rooms, a screened-in porch off to the side, and a kitchenette of sorts with a mini-fridge and countertop with a sink on the verandah. We pack a couple of hot plates and haul a coal pot out from the country and we're good to go, cooking up a storm or just making a morning pot of bush tea at breakfast.

And after 16 years, I still wasn't hip to the pattern. Clueless, as usual.

The cottage names struck me as so very odd and eccentric. In addition to those I mentioned - John Chewit, Banana Quit and Nightengale -- there were also Night Heron, Cling-Cling, Parrot, Aunty Katy, Petchary, Tananger, Parakeet, Doctor Bird and Jacana. Seeing them all in a list, perhaps, makes it so easy.

The sharper tacks among you will now see that John Chewit is, of course, hardly a proper English genkle-man. He is, rather, a simple bird, as are the rest of the characters proudly adorning the name plates of the cottages at the W.B. -- it is the Whistling Bird, after all.

Don't think I'll be ordering a slice of Banana Quit any time soon...........

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The only thing Jamaicans do fast is DRIVE



It was too good to be true.

Our bags burst through the rubber slats straddling the carousel, one right after the other. We'd barely made it across the broad expanse of the new Customs wing at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, before we spotted the first bulky black bag trundling along that winding rubber road. One by one, the others began to follow. We spotted them immediately.

We'd given up on our previous half-hearted attempts of tying brightly colored yarn to our luggage to make them stand out from the crowd of similar black bags. The yarn always shredded during god-knows-what journey it took in the cargo hold. And it seems everybody else had the same idea, of course, and by the time we arrived, weary and bleary eyed, I could never even remember the color of the yarn we used. Pointless.

So I finally bought some bright, cobalt blue plastic luggage tags and affixed them to each of our bags. We'd also replaced some of our battered black bags with some new ones, colored in a bright tomato red, hoping those would also stand out from the field of basic black.

I think Kmart and Walmart, however, must have been running a sale on red bags since the sea of black perched on the carousel was now peppered with bright red bags throughout. Next year, we go for purple.

Still, thanks to the blue tags we soon saw our odd assortment of red and black bags quickly pile up at our feet as Peter hauled them off the moving belt. Five out of six, I counted. And we waited. And waited. I turned to the luggage carts upon which he'd stacked the bags and counted again, just to be sure. Still only five out of six. The remaining bags on the moving belt were quickly plucked up by their owners until a few lonely odd sorts remained, only to circle the loop again and again unclaimed.

And no number six.

You know when you are the last people standing at the luggage carousel, for 10 minutes or more, that it is a bad sign. I walked over to the black rubber slats where the bags punched through the wall from outdoors and poked my head outside. The baggage handler standing on the other side confirmed what I feared. No more bags coming from the Delta flight.

So we made the long walk back across the customs hall to the small cluster of desks near the entryway, where we were told to report our missing bag. One desk had an Air Jamaica sign with a smiling uniformed attendant at the ready, another sported an American Airline sign and was similarly occupied by an attendant smartly dressed in red white and blue.

And squeezed in between the two was a nameless desk, with a bored looking woman wearing neither an airline uniform nor a pleasant expression on her face. She was wearing a bright fluourescent green vest, the sort that indicated she spent much of her day out on the tarmac, dodging vehicles and airplanes. I approached her, asking if I could report a missing bag from a Delta flight at her desk.

She slowly turned her face toward me, expressionless, casually tossing her long, auburn hair weave over one shoulder. She nodded and came around the desk.

"What does de bag look like?" she asked.

Now I thought the description portion of the report came later, after submitting the baggage receipt, flight number, name, and so on but I figured she was going to go at her own pace.

"It's black and looks almost identical to this one," I said, pointing to another of our large boxy black bags, with the extendable handle, which allowed you to pull it on its small wheels. "But I have the baggage receipt sticker right here," I said, "I've checked off all the other bags and this is the one that is missing", showing her the official receipt with it's ID number.

She clearly was not interested in filing any paperwork. She took the receipt from me, still looking quite bored, and began to walk away from us, heading across the vast room, toward our flight's carousel, which by now had even stopped circulating. She was not going to take us at our word that the bag had not arrived. She was going to see for herself that it was not on the carousel.

And she walked as if her feet carried ten pound cinderblocks in each shoe. Through a field of Molasses. She simply could not have walked more slowly. Slightly knock-kneed, and wearing uncomfortable looking chunky heels, we stood watching her slowly sail off, as if she were a tiny rowboat setting out to cross the Atlantic.

This was going to take longer than I thought.

We'd been up since 5 am, our flight and connections were delayed by several hours each. We should have arrived at 2pm but it was now nearing 8pm and we were anxious to get to our cottage. But Miss Baggage Boss was not about to hustle on our behalf.

When she finally reached the carousel, she stooped over each remaining bag and carefully read the ID number on it's long flapping sticker, comparing it to our missing bag number. It seemed to take hours. After finally confirming that we were indeed missing our bag, she turned and began her slow walk back across the hall to us.

It was like watching grass grow.

I felt my New-York-City-Everything-Innna-Hot-Minute attitude bubbling under the surface of my calm demeanor. Losing my cool would only provide her with some entertainment and a good story to share with her co-workers. Over the years I've learned that The White Lady Fram Farrin Temper Tantrum is only grist for the mill and never gets you anywhere. If anything, it will slow up the process even further.

She slowly slid behind her counter and reached beneath to get a claim form for me to complete.

"Fill in dis part here, and dat part here and sign at de bottom." She handed me a pen. She told me the bag would be delivered to our hotel when it arrived. She began slowly punching ID numbers and all of our information into the keyboard at her desk.

"Thank you so very much, " I said. "You are such a professional, I really appreciate this, I'm so worried about the bag." I delivered this compliment with as much sincerity as I could muster. Not so easy considering I felt like throttling her at that very moment.

She slowly tilted her head up at me, blinked and slowly smiled. Her entire demeanor changed. She probably had never been called "professional" in her entire life. She visibly straightend up, gave me a beautiful grin and began typing even more furiously into her computer. "Do you think they'll find my bag?" I sighed.

"Oh, of course, they'll find it Miss," she beamed, " It soon come, in just a day or two. And we will have it promptly delivered to your hotel. Here is your claim numbah, and I will also give you the phone numbah for dis desk so you may call tomorrow and check to see if it has arrived. We will, of course, call you at your place when we collect your bag. No worry yuhself, Miss," she cooed,still smiling, " it WILL arrive."

Ok, so maybe there's something else Jamaicans do fast -- they'll soak up a respectful acknowledgement of their worth and repay it in kind. Just as anybody else would do.

Now if we could only do something about those driving habits..........

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Off to "Yard"



We'll be leaving for Jamaica in just a few days and so I haven't had any time to post new work. I hope to be drawing and painting EVERY DAY in Jamaica and will be sure to kick The Night Shift back into first gear.

I expect I'll be gathering more good stories, too -- please stay tuned!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Another Run-It-Under-the-Faucet Painting

I was really pleased with this when it was simply ink on paper but somewhere along the way, I took a wrong turn. After the first few washes of color, I decided the combination of colors just wasn't working. No harmony, not a pleasing combination.

It was just a start, but I felt it was in the wrong direction -- right?



I think I had even more paint on it the above scan shows, so I did the old wash down. Soaked it under the fauct and washed of plenty of the paint. But many watercolors, of course, still stain the paper. Some will wash right away, but others will leave a faint stain. So I still had the remnants of some color and I headed of in a slightly different direction.





As usual, I don't quite know where I'll end up..........

Monday, July 02, 2007

No more unfinished symphonies



I didn't think I was going to find a resolution for this painting. I'm not crazy about the composition -- I'd intended to incorporate much of the environment around him but ended up going with a more abstract treatment instead. But I do love the colors. I glazed the shirt with a warm yellow to help integrate it with the other colors a bit more.

It's been an unpredictable progression....





Cropping can change everything. I think I'm going to experiment with framing this painting (cropping it) a few different ways. I like this view ............




"No More Unfinished Symphonies", 12"x16" ink and watercolor on paper $250



Thursday, June 28, 2007

Another portrait progression

Where have I been, where have I been!! ??

Just been preparing for our summer getaway to Jamaica and the watercolor class I'll be teaching. Sadly, that has taken quite a bit of time way from actually painting. And painting more and more is equally important in preparing to teach. So it goes.

Well I have yet another portrait in progress. I seem to have about a dozen or so that I keep shuffling around in my studio, starting one, putting it aside and starting another. I'm quite good at getting the first few washes and colors down on paper, and then I begin to get anxious. Finishing is the hard part. But I'm determined to finish ALL of them in due time.

So without further adieu, here's the latest, shown in two steps -- I began with a pencil drawing this time, rather than using an ink sketch..........



The colors are a bit bizarre, hmmmm? And I've avoided working up the background which I really need to figure out. Negative space is equally important to the positive space, yet I've given it short shrift. I"m liking the face, however -- here's close up....



Ok, more to come very soon!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Lobster Claw - no shells! A Workshop Exercise...



I've been working on some materials for the Watercolor Workshop this summer and made this painting of a beautiful Heliconia flower, aka Lobster Claw. I painted it as an example of Wet-on-Dry glazes. That is, the paper is dry, not pre-wetted, so the paint tends to hug the paper, stays pretty much right where you place it.













If you take a close look at portions of the painting, you can see the layered glazes. I worked from a lighter glaze first, which is typical for watercolor work, then let them dry. I often have to work on several paintings at one time, putting one aside to dry and working on another until I reach a similar stage.





Looking closely, you can see which layers were placed first, such as the pale yellow and very pale green. These were followed up with the deeper orange, then the red, for the flower itself. Likewise with the greens -- stronger and deeper greens were glazed over teh initial pale layers.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Here's Another Interesting Progression

I've drawn dozens of pen-and-ink line portraits this year and have slowly begun to push them further along with watercolor. I've shared just a couple here already (Shara, Tasha, Jube) and have some more today.

I find it a a real eye-opener to take the black and white line drawing into a different place. The addition of color is not always successful and it often exaggerates what may have been slightly "off" in the original drawing. Then again, it can also give a rather simple sketch some real punch. Never knowing where I'm going to end up is both exciting and terrifying -- I'm constantly in fear that I'm going to "wreck" something that was perfectly acceptable in its original state.

But risk taking has its own rewards.

I drew two different line drawings of the same subject, the first was done with a rapidograph ink pen which has a very controlled flow to the ink:




So I laid down a preliminary wash on this one -- it was looking ok:


And then I kept on glazing and laying down colors. And I'm afraid I may have totally overworked it. I don't know if I can salvage it. I may have to do the old run-it-under-the-faucet routine and see what happens. It's just too overworked at this point BUT there are portions of it that I like:


So I put it aside for a while, just to have a fresh start with something else. And I took up the second drawing I'd made of the same subject.The second was done with a bamboo pen dipped in ink and the result is much greater variety in the line, it narrows and thickens and even disappears in places:


I tried to take a much lighter hand to this one, having learned something from the first version. This one is much more pleasing, tho I still have a few areas to work on:


Much more fresh, no? So totally screwing up a painting was worth it, because it freed me up to try something different with the next.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Catching up with Tasha


Tasha No. 2, 12"x16" ink and watercolor on paper


I'm putting this painting, Tasha No. 2, to rest. I last posted the original line drawing and the first stage of watercolor. I wasn't quite happy with where it was going, the color harmony seemed all wrong to me.

I've darkened the overall appearance, taken a step away from my usual bright and vivid colors. I think perhaps the expression on her face is more suited to somber colors.

Here's a look at the progression:





However................

I had drawn another version of Tasha and so I decided to begin another painting, using the complete opposite range of colors. This is just beginning so I've no idea where this one will end up.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Watercolor Workshop - Negril, Jamaica

Come paint with me in Jamaica this summer-----



I have been invited to be The Artist in Residence at the lovely and lush Whistling Bird resort cottages in Negril Jamaica this summer. During our month-long stay at Whistling Bird, I will be offering two Watercolor Workshop sessions, geared toward Absolute Beginners, and invite you to attend.

If you've never picked up a paint brush but have always dreamed of giving watercolor a try, this workshop is for you. While geared toward the absolute beginner, I also welcome anyone who would like to join us for 5 days of painting in a most beautiful Caribbean setting.
Nestled in a beautifully landscaped beach front garden of palms, seagrape, almond and mango trees, the Whistling Bird is just steps away from the acclaimed 7-mile, white sand Negril Beach. There is simply no shortage of subjects for our paintings - the turquoise sea, the white sandy beach, the brilliant greens and gem-colored florals of our surroundings will relax and inspire you.


We will meet each morning at Whistling Bird for a 2-3 hour session of demonstrations, techniques and exercises. After a break for lunch and free time, we will reconvene in the afternoon and explore another locale in Negril to sketch and paint en plein air.
My husband was born and raised in the parish of Westmoreland and knows all of Negril's vistas and views and will share his intimate knowledge of the area as we explore for the perfect setting to paint.

We may visit the cliffs of the West End or the charming winding roads of Orange Hill or visit The Royal Palm reserve. After each day's excursion, we will reconvene at Whistling Bird to share and critique our work. Our final day will consist of a day-long excursion well beyond Negril to sketch and paint at one of the many beautiful attractions inland, such as YS Falls or The Blue Hole and Benji's Paradise.


The two Monday-Friday sessions will be offered as follows:

Session I: August 13 - August 17, 2007
Session 2: August 20 - August 24, 2007

Cost Per Session is $425 pp, plus materials. Transportation and admission to all excursions is included. Class sizes are limited to 10.

Airfare and accommodations are not included.

Secure your position in the class of your choice -- click one of the two buttons to the top right of this page to sign up now and pay with PayPal.

Any questions? Email me for more information and the materials list:

info@vhmckenzie.com

I encourage you to book a room at Whistling Bird,our home away from home when we make our annual visits to Jamaica. Located a quarter of the way along Negril's 7-mile beach, Whistling Bird offers privacy and serenity but also easy access to the many shops, restaurants and nightspots that dot the beach. The cottages include one or two bedroom, open suite or 1 room bungalows with oversize private bathrooms.



See you in Jamaica!


Click here to download Workshop Registration Form


Pay by check/M.O. or click on Session Buttons on the home pageto pay via Paypal. Deadline to enroll: July 15, 2007

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

So I think Shara is done -- but Tasha is not....

This is another 12"x15" ink line drawing of a young girl, Tasha. I used a bamboo pen with india ink to draw the preliminary lines.



Now here is the first result of my adding watercolor washes to the ink. I'm not so certain about the harmony of the colors. I've used blues and purples in the shadow areas but may be adding more warm washes over her face to bring all the colors together. Not sure. And I don't know about that lime green for her shirt. Hmmm. Going to sit on this for a bit and get back to you!




Monday, May 07, 2007

Another step closer



Hmmm, think I'm almost there -- as I planned, I darkened the area behind her head and back, desaturated the bright yellow highlight on her face, taking out some of the yellow, darkened more of the verticals to the left of her face, more work on her face and arm....not sure what else I will do.

Knowing how to paint also entails knowing when to stop. I'm stopping. Shara No. 2 is complete.

Shara No. 2, 12"x16" ink and watercolor on paper

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A work in progress

As you've proably noticed, I've been taking a break from the smaller daily paintings and focusing on larger pieces. One reader suggested I take the time with these pieces to post some images of them in stages. I was spoiled by the immediacy of the 4"x6" portraits, as I was always able to finish them in a single sitting.

But there is so much more surface area on the larger sheets -- I have to stop, let portions dry, take a step back. I think it will be beneficial to me, as well as any interested viewer, to see how a painting changes, how we have to take advantage of "happy accidents" which are the calling card of watercolor, and see that where we end up may never have been where we thought we were going when we begin.

So -- here goes.

This is the preliminary line drawing, using india ink on watercolor paper. I was very happy with the expression and almost left it as is. But I was too tempted to liven her up with color.





My first effort was a disaster. I'd used my usual palette of bright, saturated colors but it just wasn't working. Wish I'd taken a pic. I was so disappointed that I ran the entire sheet of paper under the faucet and let it soak in the tub. When most of the color drained from the paper, I took it out let it dry and began again.

There were very pale, pastel colored washes over the surface of the paper, the remains of my first attempt, but I just began painting again, and chose an entirely different, more muted, earthy palette. The next stage, still unfinished, is below.



She still needs more work on the face/cheekbones and also her arm. I love the colors in the wall behind her, but I think it needs to be pushed further into the darks.

Watercolor always dries a few shades lighter than when you put it down -- the wet paint always seems dark and saturated, so it's often best just to let it dry periodically and take a break. Once fully dry, the painting presents an entirely different course of action. To be continued.............

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Jube Redux



I know I haven't posted much these past two weeks, because I've been spending time working on some much larger paintings than the typical 4"x6" smaller portrait series. They take considerably more time to complete.

This is another portrait of our friend, Jube. I'd painted a portrait of Jube when I first started the blog back in September. It was a 4"x6" and was quite somber. I think this larger portrait, 12"x16", captures much more of the light and colorful energy that typically surrounds him.

At least on his good days......................


Jube No. 2, 12"x16" ink and watercolor on paper $250



Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Iyah, the Roots Doktah




Shelley was feeling miserable. She had just arrived on the island the day before, after a two-week trek through Italy. She was tired and looking forward to just sitting on the beach for a week. She needed a vacation from her vacation.

And somewhere between Milan and Montego Bay, she'd wrenched her shoulder. I expect she'd hefted a too-heavy bag one too many times in the past 48 hours and winced with every movement of her hand. I fetched two bandanas from our cottage and tied them together, an impromptu ragamuffin-stylee sling. It eased some of the downward pull on her strained muscle. I bought her a gin and tonic at the Whistling Bird bar and she gingerly sat herself down at the nearest table.

And as things often mysteriously transpire in Jamaica, I soon spotted a small, spry elder dread trudging up the central path of the WB property, heading for the bar. He looked to be close to 70, with salt-and-pepper stringy dreads to his shoulders. He'd clearly taken time with his attire that morning, wearing freshly-pressed trousers, a clean white tee shirt topped by a bright tomato-red vest. A bowl-shaped caramel brown felt hat threatened to tumble off the crown of his head with each step. He carried a heavy backpack over one shoulder.

"Have you had the pleasure of meeting Iyah, our favorite roots doctor?" boomed Jim, as he followed Iyah up to the bar. Nope, we have not. But how fitting that a Roots Doktah should appear in Shelley's hour of need.

Iyah removed his hat briefly to wipe his brow and nodded in our direction. He asked Miss G for a glass of water and dropped his backpack to his feet.

"Got anything in that bag for a sore shoulder?", asked Shelley, grimacing. "I could sure use some kinda nice bush salve. Whatcha got in there Iyah?" Shelley had been traveling to Jamaica for nearly 20 years and was well acquainted with the wonders of the bush.

Iyah shook his head slowly, smiling. "But mi haff da ting fi heal yuh sed weh." He reached into his pack and pulled out a gallon-sized plastic jug, filled with the requisite murky brown roots tonic.

Oh no. Not the roots tonic. We'd all tried the roots tonic, that fermented mixture of a dozen different roots, barks and leaves that "purified the blood." And tasted like a compost heap.

"Mmmm, no disrespect, Iyah, but mi nuh really wan' the roots right now, seen?" said Shelley. "Mi no teenk dat can fix what ails mi." Iyah bristled visibly at her characterization of his elixir as simply "roots." He stepped closer with the heavy jug, lifting it up to her face. The jug's murky contents sloshed up and down the inside, leaving a filmy residue.

"Dis nah jess roots, miss," sniffed Iyah. Jim nodded approvingly from the bar. "Dis yah a mi own speshal tonic. Dis yah tonic a cure evry-TING."

Shelley gave him a cool nod. Nobody wanted to insult the elder but she knew the roots was not what she wanted right now, no matter how unique the recipe. She had no doubt of the curative powers of certain roots, but knew its limitations as well.

Iyah continued with his spiel. "Dis yah tonic a cure headache, it a cure cough, an it a purify deh blood." We nodded, we knew the reputation of the roots.

"An' it a cure CAN-SAH." What? Hmmm, that's a new one.

"An' it a cure deh AIDS dem!" Well. THAT certainly was a new addition to the miracle healing power of roots. Shelley glanced at me, raising her eyebrows.

"Cancer? And AIDS?", asked Shelley. Iyah nodded knowingly at us, fools that we were, apparently unable to appreciate the value of his wares.

"Well, that sure is some powerful tonic yuh got there, Iyah, but right now I'll just settle for the tonic that comes with mi gin, seen?"

Iyah shrugged, put his jug back in his pack, gave us a slight bow, and moved on up the beach. There was no doubt another sufferer in an hour of need.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I Heard It Through The SeaGrape Vine



"Yuh lookin fi Peter, right?"

I stopped dead in my tracks and stared at him. His face looked familiar but how could it be, really? I'd been to Jamaica just once before, a month earlier, and didn't recall meeting him. He was tall and thickly built, his skin an inky black, and his sun-bleached dreads gathered high up at the back of his head. I had no idea who he was. But he knew me.

I nodded, yes, I was hoping to find Peter.

"Yuh jess miss him, gwan and check pon di beach, check fi him at Club Kokua."

I stared at him. He smiled slowly and said, "Yuh nah remembah mi?" Nope. But there was something kind and gentle in his face, I knew he was just trying to help me out. I thanked him, and walked out of Xtabi on the cliffs, and hailed a taxi back to the beach. I was mystified.

I'd spent only one week in Jamaica on my first visit and let Peter know I was coming back, we planned to link up. I wasn't sure where I would be staying and so counted on the small-town nature of Negril to make sure our paths crossed. These were the days before every Negrilian carried a cell phone in their pocket, these were the days when nobody needed a phone to get a message out or to find a friend. And these were the days when everybody knew everybody's business -- or at least thought they did.

It was many years later, after Peter and I were married, our eldest daughter was two years old and we were expecting our second child, that I re-told this story to Cleveland. We'd become good friends over the years and he always spent time with us when we returned to the island. He smiled and nodded, yes, he remembered seeing me step onto the terrace at Xtabi and searching the crowd. He remembered me and knew Peter was looking for me, too.

That day was one of many that made me realize what a small town Negril could be and how closely people pay attention to who you are and how you move and how very tough it can be to slink below the radar.

Cleveland motioned me to follow him as he stepped off the verandah, away from the crowd that always gathered at our cottage. He walked slowly across the grass and stopped, pulling his wallet out from his back pocket. He pulled two, slightly worn color photographs from deep within it's folds and handed them to me. One was of a dark-haired, smiling girl with coffe-color skin. She looked to be about 4 or 5, and the other was a very young baby, clearly the other's sister, with a shock of black hair on a tiny wizened face.

"These are my dawtas," smiled Cleveland. I was stunned.

"What?? I had NO idea you had kids, Cleveland. They are beautiful. Peter never told me you had kids."

Cleveland kissed his teeth -- "He nu know 'bout dem." Stunned again. Peter, one of his closest friends, didn't know Cleveland had kids? How could that be?

"Their mom live in the States, mi know her lang time, he know she. But mi no tell everybody 'bout mi bizness." He then permitted me to share the pictures with everyone else and happily soaked up the delighted responses and smiles they elicited from the group.

So, I wondered, why tell me? And why now? He'd sure manged to guard that secret for a long time and from a lot of people. The SeaGrapevine never picked up that scrap of news.

I think because we were so happily returning to Jamaica with our daughter, who brought such joy and laughter wherever we went, and with a second child on the way, it gave Cleveland pause.

He'd mastered the art of subverting Negril's CIA-like informers, the SeagGrapevine that carried everybody's stories up and down the beach. But at what cost? Thankfully, he'd paid the price long enough and finally found the pleasure of sharing his secrets.

Well, maybe at least one of them.........