Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tuesdays at 9pm

My teacher Phil has been teaching at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts for a while, but for the first time in 20 years he is teaching portrait painting class every Tuesday this semester.

His class starts at 6pm and ends at 9pm, and we have a new model every 2 weeks. Our first model was Marie.

oil on canvas 18"x14"
Unfortunately this didn't turn out too well. My favorite part is the chair.

Then we had Allen.

oil on canvas 18"x14"
It was done in one sitting. Not too bad.

Our third model was Anna.

oil on canvas 18"x14"
Best one yet? I have a lot to learn here.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Riverbend Stables, Halloween day

The weather is finally manageable with the temperature in the mid-70s here in New Orleans. And it's Halloween today, so I decided to go paint the Riverbend Stables by the Mississippi River, located between the levee and the train tracks.

I have seen horses go by my house on their way from there to Audubon Park many times when the levee was off limits while under construction. It seemed out of place at first but I enjoyed the clip-clop sound of these beautiful animals. It was a very peaceful sight also. Now the levee is open again and the horses can walk up and down this nice grassy area instead of the hard, paved streets.

At one point while I was painting, some of them came out of the barn and ran around inside the riding area a bit. Below is the quick sketch done in about 80 minutes.

The rectangle building with a red band around it is Oak Street Raw Water Intake and Pump Station, where the Mississippi River water goes through. After being filtered and purified at a nearby treatment plant, that same water ends up in my belly. Yum. As Richard Campanella said, all of us New Orleaneans are made of 70% Mississippi River water.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Flying Horses and New Orleans City Park

They are called carousels in the rest of the world, but in New Orleans they are the Flying Horses. They live in City Park, and according to their website, the carousel dates back to 1906. Some of the animal figures date back to 1885. They are hand-carved, hand-painted, and horses have real horse hair tails!

Flying Horses of City Park, New Orleans
oil on canvas, 24"x36"
New Orleans City Park holds the oldest grove of mature live oaks in the world. Some are between 600 and 800 years old. There are 20,000 trees in this park.

Peristyle at the bottom was built in 1906 for parties and dances, and still is popular for birthday parties and weddings.

Three of my City Park paintings below will be at the 20th Annual Poydras Home Art Show & Patron Party at 5354 Magazine St. in uptown New Orleans.
Paton Party is on Thursday, October 30, 6-8pm.
Art Show is free and open to the public, on Saturday, November 1, 9am-5pm.
For more information including the Patron Party tickets, visit the Poydras Home website.

Near Diagonal Dr., City Park, New Orleans
oil on canvas, 14"x18"

Wildflowers in City Park, New Orleans
oil on canvas, 14"x18"

Peristyle, City Park, New Orleans
oil on canvas, 14"x18"

Sunday, October 12, 2014

small ones

Race at Coliseum, Lower Garden District, New Orleans
oil on board, 9"x12"

Coliseum near Melpomene, Lower Garden District, New Orleans
oil on board, 9"x12"

Adams Street Grocery, East Carrollton, New Orleans
oil on board, 10"x8"

Adams at Burthe, East Carrollton, New Orleans
oil on board, 8"x10"

Friday, October 3, 2014

Snake and Jake's

When I painted this large piece in late August, no one knew where the location was or what the building with the pink roof was. Even my neighbor who's lived in this neighborhood for more than 20 years had to ask "now where is this at?" 

Snake and Jake's on Oak Street
oil on canvas, 20"x30"
Only after I tell them the building in the middle is Snake and Jake's, you know, that dark late night hangout for college kids, they'd go "oh I went to that place every weekend for 3 years." No one knew what Snake and Jake's looked like in the day time.

The problem with, or the beauty of, this hole-in-a-wall joint is that they don't have a huge sign out front with their name on it. And it is notoriously dark inside and out at night, and things don't get interesting until really late at night, or actually early in the morning. At least it used to be that way. Who cares what it looks like in a broad daylight? And who cares that the real name of the bar is the Christmas Club Lounge?

The last time I was inside Snake and Jake's sometime in the late '90s, I got my toes run over by a wheelchair with a legless Vietnam vet sitting on it, who was being carted around by a German guy, who would sing "I'm turning Japanese" every time he saw me. It didn't hurt because I was wearing steel toe engineer boots. It was probably in late August.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pickup Trucks

Pickup trucks in the Lower Garden District. 

Thalia St. at Annuncication St., New Orleans
oil on canvas, 18"x24"

Race St. at Constance St., New Orleans
oil on canvas, 18"x24"

Mojo Coffee Shop on Race St. at Magazine St., New Orleans
oil on canvas 14"x18"

Busted Flat on Thalia St., New Orleans
oil on canvas, 24"x18"

Friday, September 12, 2014

Market Street Power Plant

One of my favorite buildings in New Orleans is the Market Street Power Plant in the Lower Garden District. It was in operation between 1905 and 1973. In 1922, NOPSI was founded to serve the entire city of New Orleans with this Power Plant, instead of the more than 200 different gas/electric companies that were in operation at the time.

oil on canvas, 12"x24"

oil on board, 9"x12"

oil on board, 12"x16"
A few Hollywood movies were shot inside this abandoned building. After Katrina, a developer in Miami bought the power plant and nearby TwiRoPa building. To start redeveloping the power plant into a hotel-shops-condos-in-one, they demolished TwiRoPa in 2007. When that multi-use development didn't actually happen, there was also a talk of making this into a sporting goods store. We lived a couple of blocks away and I remember thinking, they better not sell guns in that sporting goods store... That didn't materialize and it still sits vacant. Broken and Beautiful.

Monday, September 1, 2014

More Sunflowers

Summer is over? I don't know what you're talking about. Here are two more sunflower paintings done in my neighborhood in New Orleans.

Sunflowers III
oil on panel, 16"x8"

Sunflowers IV
oil on panel, 16"x8"

Sunday, August 24, 2014


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.

Monday, July 28, 2014

City of the Dead

Our city is famous for above ground tombs. For those of you who are not impressed with our cemeteries yet, try to remember how cool Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper were in 1969, and you know how cool those cemeteries are. Thank you very much.

For the French and the Canadians, city of the dead probably is not a big deal. (You should see some of the cemeteries in St. Martinville, La, or in other areas of the French Louisiana/Cajun land. They do make the tombs look like miniature houses.)

Even for me, a Japanese native, the above ground concept doesn't really sound that strange. The Japanese cremate the dead, put the ashes in an urn, and store it inside a little compartment either under a gigantic headstone or inside a small garden-shed like fancy structure. Since the 'underground' tombs are somewhat raised off the ground kind of like the tombs in New Orleans (if that makes any sense), it doesn't feel that the Japanese dead are really 'buried.'

To me the regular ordinary American cemeteries where the ground is flat and only the tombstones are sticking out, seem very odd, compared to the New Orleans style tombs. (do people not mind the fact that they are actually standing on top of their dead loved ones when they visit those flat American cemeteries?)

Anyway, one of my grandfathers' ashes is housed inside a small garden-shed-like structure on a hillside, where we simply unlock the front door and walk in, just like you're visiting someone in a 5x5 shed. There are shelves and drawers you can display and store pictures, candles, flowers, liquor bottles, small alter, etc., sort of like a mini-church, made just for you.

Here's a few paintings done at Lafayette Cemetery #1, a very popular tourist spot in Garden District.

Weeping Statue
Community Tomb for Volunteer Firemen
Above Ground Tombs

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Big Muddy in New Orleans

When the sky is this blue, the Big Muddy becomes the Big Blue. This web site seems to make the deep blue of the river look a bit muted, so please use your imagination... or come visit the location in person to see it for yourself.
Ultramarine Blue + Yellow Ochre = Mississippi River on a sunny day in late July.

Mississippi River, New Orleans
oil on canvas, 18"x24"

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Race Street, Lower Garden District

When we lived in the Lower Garden District, I either walked or biked up and down Race St. everyday. Here are a couple of views you would see on a sunny day, on the downtown side.

Race St. near Annunciation St. III, 2014

Race St. near Annunciation St. II, 2014

You can see there are mixture of different styles of houses from different eras... and below is a wider view of the same spot.

Race St. near Annunciation St. I, 2014

I wasn't planning to do 3 paintings in this one block when I started this first one, but over the period of about 5 months they just came out of the hole. And over the past 6 years or so I ended up producing about 24 paintings on Race St. between Annunciation St. and Coliseum St., which is only 3 blocks long.
Here's a bonus image of my old painting, from 2012.

Race St. at Annunciation St., looking towards downtown

Recognize the orange roofed house on the left? The two-story building with striped awning on the right used to have a huge bougainvillea in the front of the house, reaching up to the top of the second floor balcony. I wonder if they still have that, and have to cut it back to the ground every few years just to start a new cycle. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Crescent City Connection

Here's my most recent painting of the Crescent City Connection a.k.a. the Mississippi River Bridge in New Orleans, with a ferry landing on the right corner.

This painting has found a new home in Bay St. Louis, MS. It was worth stickily sticking around at Palmer Park here in New Orleans for the monthly Arts Market, in 90℉, 80% humidity. Yay!

Here is another one from 2013, with a concrete plant & Tchoupitoulas Street.

Below is an older one done in 2012, with Market Street Power Plant.

It seems that I'm painting this bridge every summer for 3 years. What Can I do, it's a good looking bridge. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Bars no more

There are about 120 bars (including restaurants with bars) in French Quarter. I don't know how many more there are in the entire New Orleans area, but there are many, many bars here. Although I didn't (still don't) drink much I had a few places I didn't mind going with my college friends back in the days. One was Coop's Place on Decatur St. near Ursuline St. I used to eat their Rabbit Jambalaya or Mardi Gras Pasta while my friends discussed music and films, wondering off to the Abby, Molly's and the Hideout. A few years later El Matador opened up down the street on the corner of Esplanade Ave. El Matador became my would-be husband's favorite, thanks to the quality bartenders (or "the best looking tattooed up lady bartenders in the Quarter"). They had a circular bar counter in the middle of the main room and Vince Vaughn once served us beer while Supagroup played on stage.

El Matador I, 2012

El Matador II, 2014

El Matador closed way before 2012, but I painted those from photographs that I took on the last night of their existence. They moved the circular bar to their new home, One Eyed Jacks. My husband still calls that place Shim Sham Club.

(used to be) Butler's, 2014
In the late '90s Butler's still had cheap beer and Atari's. I was never a regular at Butler's. I lived too far and drank too little to appreciate the place.

Later on, we lived in a place between the Saint and the Halfmoon, and we felt at home. I think I miss that apartment the most probably because that was our home right before and after Hurricane Katrina. The various bars in town were the first to come back - if you reopen your bars, your people will come.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Willie Mae's Scotch House

After the rain, sunny day...

...and after the rain, cloudy day.

They were closed on that cloudy day.
The sign says Willie Mae's Restaurant but the official name is Willie Mae's Scotch House. They are famous for their fried chicken though my friend who was born on St. Claude Ave. says that McHardy's on N. Broad is the best in town. All I know is that if you buy a bucket at KFCs in Japan you get to eat the chicken tail (or butt...whatever it's called, that triangle-shaped mystery meat) which is the best part of chicken according to my KFC aficionado husband. I tend to agree with him.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Happy Fire Hydrant

Let's start with a street corner near my house. Spring comes early to New Orleans and this fire hydrant looked so pretty surrounded by all the pink flowers and weeds on a sunny day in March. A few days later, the firefighters had to stomp on them in order to make the hydrant more visible. The weeds grew back but not the pink flowers. Maybe next year.

Happy Fire Hydrant
oil on canvas, 18"x14"

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Welcome to New Orleans oil painting

Born To Be Wild - New Orleans oil painting blog is here.
I will be posting new paintings as they finish, so stay tuned!

Valence Cemetery Angel
oil on board, 16"x12"
Auctioned at Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts 2013