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Reconnaissance in New Orleans

Oil painting of potted blooming geraniums and rosebush on steps to shotgun house in New Orleans, painted plein air
I woke early the first morning of my visit, and painted this little 8×6 oil of the potted geranium and rosebush on my host’s front steps in first light. I gave it to them as a thank-you gift.

Having such wonderful hosts made my visit to New Orleans earlier this week so very easy.  My intention was to see how plein air works were displayed in fine galleries.  Bill and Saramae Dalferes welcomed me into their home and Saramae chauffeured me up and down Magazine and Julia Streets to galleries we knew to carry plein air works, as well as a few more along the way.

(Because I write my blog as a record of my progress, it becomes a notebook of sorts, if anyone is wondering why I link so much.  Some of my links are to give a thank you to people or places which have given an experience to me; I link others so that I can go back and look up people or places I don’t want to forget.)

Saramae Dalferes is the career coach who helped me make the transition to becoming a full-time artist 2 days a week, a year ago last spring.  (Her email address is in the last paragraph, below.)  Saramae helped me identify the roadblocks that were keeping me stagnant, and then, once identified, helped me to remove them by changing the way I think and speak, by removing words that limited me.  One of the biggest changes was effected by using a relatively simple tool, a calendar.  When I put my future painting dates on a calendar, they are 99% certain to happen.  If I don’t, then they are about 10% certain, even today, and back then, 0%.

Saramae had finished a lot of research before I even arrived last Monday.  A few galleries were open Monday afternoon, but Tuesday was the day to remember!  We started at the Cole Pratt Gallery where the assistant director of the gallery, Cristin Cortez, graciously and expertly talked to us about every artist in the gallery.  We had specifically gone to see the works of Phil Sandusky, a prolific plein air artist and author of New Orleans en Plein Air and New Orleans Impressionist Cityscapes as well as many other books.

But I was thrilled with all of the work displayed at the Cole Pratt Gallery.  I especially enjoyed Denyce Celentano’s Everyone At The Beach Drives The Same Car, and Susan Downing-White’s Songs for the Gulf Coast Ballad. The front gallery held an exhibit of exquisitely impressionistic landscapes by John Stafford.

The plein air works by Sandusky were presented in wooden shadow box floater frames, which display the panel or canvas all the way to the edge, where the “reveal” of a standard frame hides about 1/4 to 3/8″ around the edge of the painting.

We stopped at the Garden District Gallery where we met the director Jim Adams, a fascinating guy whose wife, gallery owner Patti Adams, was showing amazing works with a number of other artists in the front gallery exhibit, “Drawn – Exploring the Line”. Jim and Patti also play for the symphony there in New Orleans.  We had gone in to see plein air paintings by Elayne Kuehler, but apparently that show was over.  She has a drawing in the “Drawn” exhibit.  As an aside, it puzzles me why drawings command prices that are so much lower than other media, even though they may demonstrate far superior technical skill and expression.  Carol Peeble’s work is a perfect example, an amazing large piece selling for only $1200, her 50% probably including the expense of the framing.  (I do not begrudge the gallery’s share, the gallery having all of the overhead expenses as well as advertising — the relatively low price of the media probably has more to do with an archaic perception of drawings being less permanent, bu with today’s archival materials and presentation, that no longer is true.)

Saramae also took me to the Soren Christensen Gallery where the director brought us plein air works by Libby Johnson out of the back room where they were waiting to be hung for an upcoming show..  The Jean Bragg Gallery of Southern Art was displaying a number of plein air artists, but when I asked how artists were selected, the director said that they were partial to local artists showing work painted in Louisianna.

We happened upon the Callan Contemporary Gallery, which had eye-popping optical illusions by James Flynn, and in a back room we discovered a piece by Sibylle Peretti, Holding Birdsfrom her show there last April, which completely blew me away.  72″ wide, it included a fantastic drawing floating underneath thick engraved, smoked plexiglas, with imagery created over the drawing, and feathers underneath and other feathers engraved and silver-leafed within the plexiglas.  No plein air works at the Callan, but what a visual feast!

The rest seems like a whirlwind — Betsy Stewart at Octavia Art Gallery; Lemieux Gallery, where Margaret Tolbert’s impression of a spring felt like home to me; at Guy Lyman which is showing many plein air paintings, in the back room sitting on the floor, a beautiful ink and conte drawing of a Dancer holding her ballet shoes, by Wilfred R.E. Fairclough, $1200; glassworks artist Dale Chihuly at the Arthur Roger Gallery, works priced from $40,000 to $225,000, and last but not least, the stillifes of Amy Weiskopf, small works priced generally $6000, framed in beautiful shadow box floater frames that looked like they were made of bronze, with no visible seams at the miter joints.

My plan last year was to begin plein air painting and regain my long dormant skills as a painter, intending to become a full-time artist at least two days a week.  This year I have been taking as many workshops as I could afford, sort of a post-graduate refresher course in painting techniques and style, and next year I intend to focus on marketing.  The purpose of the trip to New Orleans this week was to get ideas my subconscious can mull over for next year, while I trek onward with this year’s goals.

Presently my plein air paintings are shown at Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet in Grayton Beach, Florida, and my figure drawings are at Bohlert Massey Interiors in the Village of South Walton in Seacrest Beach.

If you want to contact my career coach, Saramae Dalferes, for her help with your own aspirations, her email address, given with her permission, is sedalferesatyahoodotcom, which I have translated out of standard email address format to discourage spam.

Below are a few other images from my visit.

2014-0616 Magazine Street iPhoto of the extreme shadows of the ferns growing out of the Garden District Cemetery wall in New Orleans App'd iPhoto of the lamp on the shed in Bill and Saramae's backyard

Value sketch on toned paper, Whole Foods on Magazine Street, New Orleans

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Commissioned Works En Plein Air

I recently completed two commissioned assignments in which specific subjects were requested.  In the first case, a specific style also was requested.  Fortunately for me, the stylistic samples I was given, ranged from the light and airy scenes of the French Impressionists to a piece of “outsider art” which had that sort of purely expressive sense of being painted by an artist who has not had formal training.  I was confident I could paint within that wide of a range!

The location of the first commissioned piece was in the gardens at Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet, at a wedding reception, and my job was to paint the bride and groom’s first dance.  When I arrived to get the background started, the Forrest Williams band was setting up, and the people from Grayton Beach Catering were bustling about.  My background was blocked in when the first guests arrived, and I was enjoying the band singing “She’s as Sweet as Tupelo Honey”.  By the time the guests started arriving, my 10×8 painting was well underway, and a few of the guests would wander over and watch as I worked.  I let one of the children put some color on the bottom part.  When the bride and groom were announced and made their entrance onto the dance floor, I put down my brush and picked up my sketchpad and my camera.  After the dance, I laid in the figures on my nearly finished background and then finished the details in the studio using my sketch and my photos for reference.  Afterwards, I decided to paint another painting in the studio, making effort to paint in a more “Impressionist” style, with layers of short, patterned brushstrokes loaded with color, which was great fun.  (See also my later blog “Commissions under Pressure – Plein Air at Events”.)

Sketch of couple dancing outdoors Plein air sketch Oil Painting of Couple Dancing Outdoors by Bridge, Painted en Plein Air Plein air painting, details in studio Oil Painting of Couple Dancing Outdoors by Bridge, Impressionist Style Studio painting


The second commission was for Channing Gardner, a real estate agent, for a gift for his client.  My task was to paint the Seagrove Beach property as it was when it was purchased, before anything was built on it.  It took me two mornings to complete it, because of the changing light and the heat.  I opted for a wider format, painting it 12×24, which allowed me to include more of the coastal development to contrast with the empty lot.

Oil painting of central Seagrove Beach westward towards Seaside, showing recently purchased empty lot

June is my busiest time of year in my day job, managing my pool service business, so I was not able to join the local plein air painters yet this summer until things lightened up this week.  We met near the pond at Mystic Port, a small collection of shops and restaurants north of Grayton Beach, Florida.  I was intrigued by the fountain, but never having painted one, I gladly accepted the suggestion of a more experienced artist, to put the splash on the surface of the water and then take a palette knife and drag upwards.  I am happy with the results — I can hearing the water falling.  Other works by our group on that day can be found on our Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters Facebook page,

Oil painting of the fountain splashing at Mystic Port, Grayton Beach, FL

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