Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunflowers

It's August.

The thermometer might say 94 degrees but what they call 'apparent temperature' (a.k.a. heat index) is 110 degrees. There is a reason why the locals walk really close to the buildings on the French Quarter sidewalks - that's the only place where the shade is at noon. 

Sure there are places other than New Orleans where the temperature goes above 110 on a daily basis. But when you're inside a bowl surrounded by water, there is a lot of moisture in the air which doesn't move. At all. 

Sunflowers, Black Pearl, New Orleans
oil on canvas, 24"x12"
Even the sunflowers are almost all gone by late August. Cats Claw vines are overtaking the backyards, afternoon downpours don't cool anything down, and people are pissed off in general without knowing it. It's the humidity, baby. Good for the plants, bad for human psyche.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Door To Nowhere

Just a block away from my house, you used to see this:

Door to Nowhere, New Orleans
oil on board, 12"x16"
This is a front wall of a house, nothing special, with a window and two white doors attached, with metal doors on the outside. It stood there like this for about 6 months. I was fascinated by it, and I had to paint it.

I had no idea why on earth you would want to keep just the front wall of a house but demolish the rest. To keep the original wall, there must be a good reason. Maybe this house is a historic structure and the owner wanted to keep the value of it.

One day someone saw this painting and said "Oh that's in my neighborhood." But it wasn't. Apparently, this practice has been done all over New Orleans for quite a while. Why? Most houses in this city was built more than 70, 80, sometimes a hundred years ago. Back then there was no city ordinance on where your front wall should be in relation to the sidewalk. In French Quarter and Marigny/Bywater, you'll see stoops taking up half the width of the narrow sidewalk. Now a newly constructed house has to be 4 or 5 feet away from the sidewalk. I'm not sure exactly how far it should be, but it must be far enough for the home owners who want to maximize their houses' square footage. By keeping this front wall, they don't have to follow the new rules.

It's been about 5 months since I made this painting, and there is a brand new two-story house under construction right behind this wall. Unattached. Interesting.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Yscloskey, LA

My teacher Phil and I have been painting the shrimp boats in Yscloskey, LA lately, just to test our endurance levels in the mid-summer heat. Yscloskey is a fishing and trapping village near the south tip of Lake Borgne in St. Bernard Parish.

On Friday mornings we head southeast from New Orleans on Hwy 46 and eventually come to a fork in the road. The Hwy 46 continues to the left towards Yscloskey, and Hwy 300 to the right, towards Delacroix. Delacroix was famously mispronounced by Bob Dylan in his song "Tangled Up in Blue."

The passenger view on the road to Yscloskey is eerily beautiful, surrounded by bayous and the bald oak trees killed by the storms and salt water. After taking another sharp left at the center of activity in Yscloskey, the Hwy 46 dead ends at Mr. Go, the famous Mississippi River Gulf Outlet that acted as a storm serge highway from Gulf of Mexico into Chalmette and New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward during Katrina.

We set up to paint near the drawbridge right where the Hwy takes the left turn. We were there for 3 Fridays in a row so far, and met half a dozen fishermen who reminded us of their heritage. One of them was Mr. Richard, an IsleƱo with a French name, who owned the boats we were painting that day.

Two Shrimp Boats in Yscloskey, La
oil on canvas, 12"x24"
He owned another boat that was just outside of this canvas to the left, and his family members owned 3 other boats to the right.

There also were oyster boats here and there, along with mountains of oyster shells on the side of the road. But most of the boats there have two long posts on either side that would be lowered into a T to spread the nets in the water. The small boat in the painting below didn't have those posts and I wonder if it is a retired shrimp boat or a recreational fishing boat. It probably is waiting for the owner to attach those posts.

Shrimp Boat in Yscloskey, La
oil on board, 16"x12"
Yscloskey reminds me of a small bay I visited just outside my hometown where oyster boats were docked. They served charcoal-grilled oysters right in front of those boats in the winter... yum.