Friday, June 29, 2007

Stawberry Tart

A rose is a rose is a rose...maybe not. This one is a strawberry. When this was brought to me, I marvelled. Think of the care the chef went to to please me ( and everyone else). It is fruit and custard and crust, yet so much more. It is the chef himself. Look around yourself and see how many things in the course of your day have a little bit more in them. How do you put yourself into the things you touch? Perhaps it is the artist and the romantic in me, but little things like this make my day so much more.The world is just so much more vibrant with them. Now where is my brush? I must return the favor.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Peach Tart

Summer. Nothing says it like fresh peaches. The best are tangy and sweet-and juicy. Keeping color interesting and real, not too sweet, is always a challenge when painting something that is by nature "sweet". This is where poetic mystery in color comes in. If a painter is not painting a little something that is outside the frame, for me at least, the painting does not hold my interest. Setting up a resonance that includes the response, that is the critical aim. So the chef tickled my palette on this one and I responded with bright hope and good wishes for an abundant summer for all.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Lemon Madeleines

Two straight lines. Although gaily tripping little school girl rhymes usually come to mind every time I see a Madeleine, these reminded me of the beach. Totally the form. When I set them up, oysters and sea shells and the sand I've walked on several coasts and barrier islands came into my minds eye. So I went a little wet and sandy in the background. We rise from the sea. All life. Botticelli painted it so well that his Venus is a cultural icon. Nike will probably figure out a way to sell shoes with it and Venus will rock with an ipod across our screens sometime. I have and happily use both of those essential items by the way-not knocking them at all. So if quintessential life can be suggested by a couple of tangy lemon treats, so be it. My brush just loved gliding over these. Now my feet better get in my Nikes and my itunes carry my steps. This series is enriching, and playful for my studio and oh, energizing my workouts too. So life in a little cookie, just keeps moving along.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Mexican Chocolate Bread Pudding

O-lay. Who knew? I had to paint this party in a bowl. Or should I say fiesta?It just said light and air and oozed rich chocolate sauce when warmed.Paint and anticipation built at the same time. I've spent a large part of the past year in Santa Fe, one of my heart homes, so I could not pass this up. It has a kick, not from rum, but cinnamon. It has sweetness, not from raisins, but chocolate and sugar. Not Commander's, but way good too.I have been adding a few words of Spanish to my vocabulary. My path has taken me out west. It's an easy trade that nets a smile or two on both sides of the conversation. When I lived in Italy same thing. Bread is bread all over the world,but look at the change it takes as we travel a bit. So go global. Pick up a few words in a language you didn't grow up with and watch for smiles. Now where are the Patron Margaritas, cher?

Chocolate Cake with Raspberries

Total decadence. Rich perfect chocolate cake with a bit of topping , then fresh, juicy raspberries and a bit of cream. Yum-a-licious! A coup de foudre for me. I cannot recall my first encounter with raspberries and chocolate, but I fell hard and continue to be enamoured. My sustaining college food was Dannon's frozen raspberry yogurt chocolate covered bars. From L'Etoile in San Francisco, to Louis XVI or Winsor Court in New Orleans, if it is on the menu, chances are it is my desert of choice after a wonderful meal. My favorite small treats are Godiva raspberry starfish. You know them. And aren't they succulent? It doesn't take much, just a bit and life feels like love again.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Almond Croissant

This is my most likely breakfast when given the choice and I am not just eating tea and apples, or tea and watermelon. Whoever thought of putting almond paste inside a fluffy, buttery croissant is a hero to me. I really do wonder about those early bakers and Antone Careme. I know court painters,sculptors, jewel smiths, Boule and buddies, were under the best and worst kind of creative pressures. But then diamonds are forged in heat and pressure and look at the sparkle. So for a fraction of the cost, a pittance really, one can bite into this, sip a cup and possibly dream of great things, feed our own muse. Dream it, feel it, do it.

Two Cannoli

Crunch and cream. Pistachio and just a smidge of chocolate on the rim. Yum. So many fun times at Broccato's. Cannoli are a neighborhood thing. Hand made. Would like to have tried one on a recent trip to Baltimore. We lucked into a margherite pizza from a brick oven that has been there for over 150 years, not two blocks from the harbor. It was that nor'easter weekend around Easter time. Up for my brother's funeral in Richmond. Amazing how a little warm lunch on a cold day in a neighborhood spot, a handmade treasure made by a young Italian ragazzo honing the craft can rewarm a heart. Broccato's has reopened in New Orleans. My friends were back that first week. Handmade cannoli. Lines, not a problem for heartwarming. Getting a bit of self back. Sometimes you just have to bite into life and taste it again.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Raspberry Tart

A party on a pastry base. Yummy custard and fresh raspberries.A dusting of confectioners sugar. The gang is all here. I want to take a moment to thank all of you who are finding the series on ebay and writing me about how much you are enjoying it. And thanks for bidding too. We are a full two weeks into this project and the excitement is contagious. I have a map on the studio wall and we put a pin in each time a painting is shipped out. Whitefish Bay, Oklahoma City, Prescott, New Orleans, Marietta,Pomona....the pins are going in. And the party is just getting started. So tell a friend, grab a cup and get your snack today. My brush is happy and so am I. So a little celebration on a pastry base? You betcha.

Tart Citron

Citron, not lemon. I asked. Yummy is what it actually was.Just a bas relief disc actually, glazed and drizzled with a bit of chocolate. Tender, but substantial base. Packed a whollop. I have been in Austin for some necessary down time. Just a brief getaway, some live music, good tex-mex, and a drive through the hill country. Packed a wholllop too. Who knew Lone Star Beer was medicinal and that Sol Food is also soul food? A little went a long way to restoring my perspective. A little bit of a good something can do that. Call it citron or lemon, or time with a friend.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Harlequin Cheesecake

Loved this "harlequin " cheesecake. It's a party waiting to happen. A parade of treats I called this series yesterday on ebay. You can take the artist out of New Orleans, but you can't take the New Orleans out of the the artist. Every now and then we need a chance to throw a little unexpected twist into the works. Wear a mask.Enjoy a bit of pagentry, maybe second line a bit. For some reason painting this reminded me of designing the silks for Mardi Gras krewe favors,one of the many bits of ephemera and design that make up a successful season. It's more that the world sees that Fat Tuesday. Artisans and European style craftspeople plan, design, select and fabricate each detail that is seen and unseen.Balls must be planned, protocals practiced, secrets of royalty kept, guest rooms and cots counted ( or just bathrooms if you are on the parade route) At this moment even in the summer heat there dens of "elves" plying their trade, creating what ifs for 2008. There are parties to plan parties for goodness sakes. It is about joie de vivre and watch out it can be contagious. If you have never danced with a "Big Chief", or caught a coconut, or seen Henri Schindler's's huge papier mache heads dancing at a ball, all I can hope is that you try it one day. The chef who made this had one of those days, I think, when less was not enough. My thanks to him, or her. It was yummy and surprising, too. Had to reach for some unexpected colors. Come on you can hear the music now can't you? Sometimes ordinary is not what we need.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Chocolate Rugulach

Two little chocolate rugalach. Cream cheese, chocolate, and flakey pastry. These two are having a chat. This piece spawned several emails back and forth with my friend and world traveler, Noie. It is important to know what makes a good rugulach. Apparently the flakiness of the crust and the richness of the cream cheese are the key. Well these were fabulous. Not too sweet, but deeply rich. More than the other pieces, this one makes me think I channelled a bit of Wayne Thiebaud. I have rarely been able to not look and marvel whenever his work comes up. Form, drawing pleasure, toss in just enough color, and light. It's like a call and response for me. Count me in. I have always loved our basic tools. And he plays with them well. I look at these and that little bit of cobalt violet still makes me smile.My eye searches for the coresponding yellow. I have a game I call how many lines does it take to draw a shrimp? Three. Try it. I know that two little rugulach can also be how many it takes to connect to a friend. Resonance, it often happens with the least little thing.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Chocolate Eclair

The thing about a truly wonderful eclair is the total uniqueness and distinction of each of its components. The first bite, like a first glance, says it all. The rest is called savoring. If it is really good -bliss. You can't just phone it in. The choux pastry has to be light, puffy and just a smidge chewy. The cream inside has to be exquisitely buttery, fresh and, well, creamy. And the chocolate, well that has to be satiny, rich and real. If each part of the whole in a painting is really cherished for its essence, and experienced, then you have the beginnings of a nice piece that may work. The parts still have to fit the form and carry the message. How far can I push this shape, this light? When is just a bit enough? What resonance between hues makes it pop? Then, after all that, does it say how much I loved exploring this yummy little treasure? Did you take them there? If you get it right, that first bite or first glance is sustained and keeps giving over and over again long after the crumbs have been cleared.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Cinnamon Roll

In terms of comforts, the scent of cinnamon is right up there. If it just happens to be between rolled coils of a brioche like bread and topped with a crispy glaze of vanilla, well, how can anything in the world go wrong? Think about it, someone got up early in morning, mixed this dough, went through all the steps, rising , shaping, baking and then of course finished it off with an excellent crispy sheen. When I painted this I knew balance and nuance were the keys. It whispers.Tones resting gently next to one another. A compliment here and there for a little spice. This is a caress. Something that resonates gently but deeply. A friend from New Orleans called me earlier to share the sound of horse hooves clip clopping down St. Charles. He knows it is a favorite sound of mine that I used to hear regularly outside my window. It's a pacing thing, a timelessness. A rhythm more akin to a heartbeat. Squishing paint on a palette, choosing from a beautifully made Sennelier naples yellow, or a Schmincke burnt sienna, pulling a sable brush across a surface, I feel akin to the baker in my own clip clopping way.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Chocolate Croissant

This croissant was as puffy and delicious as I have made it here. Biting into one of these is truly a life affirming moment. Instant and vivid memories of patisserie counters in many cites morning and afternoon, "un pain chocolate, s'il vous plait." A dark strip of chocolate buried within the buttery tender layers.Life is good. When painting this I was very much aware of that opening illustration in Saint Expuery's "Le Petit Prince". The one grownups think is a hat, but it is really an anaconda who swallowed an elephant. Painting what is outside of the image or unseen but truly an essence of it, is important to me as an artist. Otherwise, it is just a technical exercise. When I was choosing pigments, I was feeling the coolness of walking into La Marquise to rest from my walk in the Quarter, at Still Perkin in the Garden District jotting some notes in a journal while taking a break from the studio, or in the coffee shop near the fairgrounds hand in hand during a once upon a time affaire. So as I squeezed out the naples yellow, the burnt sienna and red ochre, the cobalt violet, the rose dore, the sepia and the white , my thoughts were shifting, vignettes floating, my mind pondering richness. How can I paint a luscious strip of chocolate when it is buried underneath so that whomever views this may think it is not just a piece of bread, but a life fully lived.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Chocolate Nun

I had never seen a chocolate nun.(My friends at home of course made the appropriate "chocolate city" comments when I told them what I was painting.) My thoughts go to Paris streets and two straight lines. I wonder which baker came up with this name. In any case it is little profiterole stacked on top of another with chocolate, yum, and rich cream.So how can that be bad? Makes my mouth water even now. Sinful and delicious. Fed my soul. Didn't feel especially pious except in enormous gratitude to the powers that be and the pastry chef at the Main Street Bread Baking Company. I really began to enjoy the oils on this one. It is funny how we have to sometimes play around to get to what we need from the studio. I loosened up here. Felt the paint even more. John Scott always encouraged play and experimentation. After two minutes with him, you became braver than you ever thought and more childlike. Will it work? Try it and see. Permission to be a child in the studio. Magic can happen then. I think Picasso had a quote about creation and keeping the child alive in the artist . Ah but here I am back in France again. Maybe I really want to be a Madeleine in two straight lines, skipping to get my snack. But I had a breakthrough in the oils, un petit peu. That made me smile.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Pear Tart

Love pear tarts. This one was so freash, so subtle. I just pulled the Naples yellow over the top and smoothly added the burnt sienna to the sides. Smidged some lavendar in theshadows, saved the whites and cherished it all.There is a world in this tart. To borrow from Proust, it makes me feel and sense other times other places and yet be fully in the place I am now. So this one is to all my friends and for thoughts of all we have shared and loved about our lives. Wherever we all may be at this time, you still are with me as I savor this several times-in the choosing, in the painting, in the eating and in the remembering. Very renewing little tart. Very poignant too.
I think I will search for an apple one.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Chocolate Dome

If architects were patisserie makers, can you see Frank Gehry's wares? That could upscale the upscale on niche bakeries.He's doing jewelry for Tiffany so hmm, hey Frank...This was a tasty treat purchased at the Main Street Bakery. Yummy inside too-cheesecake. I am actually enjoying the oils. Now that I can make them slip and slide a bit. I love to work way big in watercolor, hard for me to explore if I am doing that small scale. But I am loving doing these little oils. It is making me rethink the larger oils I have in progress. And it remnds me of that game, name that tune-the fewer notes it takes for you to get it being the goal. I have a six panel, 12 feet long watercolor in progress. I started it in Santa Fe last spring. It is a wetlands painting I discussed well before the storm with the curator of the Ogden Museum in New Orleans and the Walter Anderson Museum in Ocean Springs.The six panel sketches were done mostly before Katrina in Still Perkin in my " hood". Friends and neighbors and tourists dropping by, clouds moving over the cpypts that daily reminded us Carpe Diem, waiters heading up the block to Commander's for their shifts,soaking up the ambiance,.. And yes, pastry was involved.Six Sketches but it was two panels then in concept. After the storm, the need is greater to make it say more. So here I am in Dallas, musing, all from a little dome of chocolate. This item went up on ebay this am. You too can make dreams come true.
(Again apologies for the incorrect date stamp on the photo)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Carrot Cake

"Let them eat cake".This one is a bite size carrot cake. It's available on ebay for the next 3 days. payment is paypal. I was asked by a colleague to give painting a day a try. I looked around, saw some beautiful work coming out of France and Virginia. Hats off. Although I am known for my large scale work in watercolor this gives me an opportunity to put some pressure on another medium skill. When I am in Santa Fe, I am priviledged to be part of a group of very talented and fine figure drawing artists. Every Tuesday we do 3 hours of quick one and two minute poses with some exceptional models. This practice makes a huge difference in all studio work. Ignore the date stamp on the image. I forgot to reset the camera this weekend. If anyone has any intelligence on collecting oil versus watercolor I would love to know about it.