Saturday, April 25, 2015

Shadows-On-The-Teche Plein Air 2015 (part 2)

The inaugural Plein Air Competition was organized by Shadows-On-The-Teche, a historic house and garden in downtown New Iberia, La. From April 11 to 18, the participating artists were allowed free entry to the area's historic sites, including Avery Island and Tabasco factory's Jungle Gardens, and Jefferson Island where Rip Van Winkle Gardens is located. 

Both Avery Island and Jefferson Island are salt domes, and according to the Iberia Parish's travel guide, there are five "islands" in the region. They "rise up above the grassy marshlands and prairies that surround them. From 50 to 100 feet above sea level, these areas of high ground are sitting on top of mammoth, immovable columns of salt, which hold them up above the surrounding countryside. These monoliths of salt are two to three miles wide and five miles or more in depth."

The judge of the competition and my teacher Phil Sandusky had told me about Rip Van Winkle Gardens and that's where I painted first, with fellow painter Peg Usner, while our husbands chatted over iced tea off camera.

Peg and I use the same palette & easel set up,
made by Art Box & Panel

Lake Peigneur
oil on canvas, 14"x18"

April 12 - Above is a view of Lake Peigneur, from one of the many structures in Rip Van Winkle Gardens. It was raining and we painted under the awning of a banquet hall. The brick chimney in the middle of the canvas belongs to a house that sunk into the lake in 1980. I didn't know about this when I painted the chimney, but there was a man-made disaster where "a Texaco oil rig accidentally drilled into the Diamond Crystal Salt Company salt mine under the lake." (wikipedia)

Long story short, the lake drained into the salt mine, creating a waterfall that swallowed 11 barges and a backwards flow of the salt water from the Delcambre Canal and Vermilion Bay. Amazingly, all of the salt miners and oil rig workers escaped and there were no injuries.

April 13 - I was all alone with no car. And it rained cats and dogs in the morning. So I set up inside the screened porch and painted what was there.

View From Porch I
oil on panel, 12"x16"

Luckily the rain stopped after lunch and I took a 20-minute hike to the Amtrak station in downtown New Iberia. It was extremely windy and I set up in front of a huge blue dumpster but had to hold onto my easel the whole time I was painting.

photo by Kathy Chassee

The Erath Building
oil on canvas, 14"x18"

The Erath Building has nothing to do with Amtrak, but it is right in front of the station. It was built in 1880s and the front of the building currently houses an art gallery.

April 14 - I woke up to thunder, lightning, and buckets of rain. It was porch painting time again.

View From Porch II
oil on panel, 10"x8"

In late afternoon I walked to nearby City Park to scout some locations. The flash flood warning was in effect but the rain had subsided.

April 15 - finally a while day without rain!
I set up under a little shelter in City Park. The ground was saturated and fire ants were everywhere. And off course the trash bin right next to me was full of stinky garbage... why do I always set up next to trash bins and dumpsters?

Footbridge in City Park
oil on canvas, 14"x18"

Then there was a welcome party at Shadows-on-the-Teche, with shrimp jambalaya and huge fried shrimp.

photo by Kathy Chassee

April 16 - Phil and I set up to paint the same subject which was the Minuteman Furniture Restoration on Julia Street. It rained on and off but we were under the awning of a church across the street. The whole time I was painting, I kept imagining the members of Minutemen restoring furniture, humming to their songs coming from the radio. I always have music playing in my head while painting, usually some Nick Cave songs.

Minuteman Furniture Restoration
oil on canvas, 14"x18"

April 17 - Painting submission deadline for judging. After turning in 2 paintings in the morning, I made Phil drive us to Konriko Rice Mill, the oldest operating rice mill in the US, to paint one last time.

Konriko Rice Mill
oil on panel, 12"x16"

April 18 - I took a day off from painting. We drove out to the Avery Island and walked around Jungle Gardens. At night, there was the gala and auction of submitted paintings at Clementine restaurant in downtown New Iberia. Jerome, the mastermind of this plein air event, bought one of my paintings - Thank you Jerome!

In order to participate in this event I had to miss two group show openings that I was part of. Although the house I was staying in made me feel like I was stuck in a Twilight Zone episode, it was a fun experience. It was my first plein air event, and I'm glad I did it. I felt privileged to be in the company of great artists and great organizers. A big thank-you to Jerome, Pat, Kathy, Joy, and Phil. Congratulations to Mary Monk (1st place winner), Richard Abraham (2nd place), and Hilari Baranco (3rd place)!

Number of plein air paintings made: 8
Number of lunch visits made to Bon Creole: 3
Number of shrimp eaten: dozens and dozens, large and small
Locals who gave me nothing but kind and encouraging words in passing: countless

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Shadows-On-The-Teche Plein Air 2015 (part 1)

A plein air competition took place on April 11-18 in New Iberia, La, and I was lucky enough to be a part of this inaugural event. About 30 artists from south Louisiana and St. Paul, MN participated in this competition and my teacher Phil Sandusky was the judge.

Shadows-On-The-Teche visitor center

poster for the event!

artist's pass got us into historic houses and gardens for free

New Iberia is a little over 2 hours' drive west from New Orleans, and I had visited its historic downtown twice before, during my post-Katrina refugee days almost 10 years ago (we lived in nearby St. Martinville up on La 31 for 4 months). And what was different this time?

cue "Storm Warning" by Mac Rebennack

Solid dark clouds with rainstorms. Oh and some thunder and lightning, as well as a flash flood warning almost every day. The sun came out behind thick clouds for about 4 hours total in 7 days. It rained so hard for so long, the toilet stopped flushing in the low-lying area where I was staying. Naturally the water on Bayou Teche was unusually high.

the most inaccessible handicap parking

nutria! and little... ducks?

On Thursday afternoon, Phil did a painting demonstration in the rain under the Steamboat Pavilion in Bouligny Plaza right next to the bayou.

initial block-in

adding electricity


I will upload some of the paintings I've done during the event on the next post. Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 5, 2015


The last time I was painting with 6 other people at Audubon Park in New Orleans, I heard a golf club hitting a ball, then "fore!" - followed by something coming through the oak tree branches above.

Luckily the ball went past me and hit the ground 15 feet away.

Audubon Park has a golf course that is always full of local and visiting golfers. I don't know how to play golf but I can tell by the number of times I heard the word "fore!" that most players there aren't going pros anytime soon.

Japanese Maple
oil on panel, 16"x12"