Art Pin Camp

How is this for producing art? We worked out selves from 9 AM- 5 PM with just a short break for lunch. I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun at a workshop. What a creative group. No teaching here. They put me to shame. I sat in the corner with my dunce cap on, looking at other’s work with envy. We were rockin and rollin with ideas for pens. They ran the gamut from landscapes, florals animals,and design concepts, to abstracts. Some were goofy and funky, some were extremely elegant and classy. We really had a great time. I want to do this again in 2008.

I got to telling restaurant kitchen stories at lunch, and swapping stories with others. I once worked in an International kitchen. We had an Irish head chef with red hair and a temper to match. We had a sous chef from Puerto Rico via the Bronx in New York City. Our salad girls were from Thailand, our pot washer from Haiti, and I rounded out the kitchen as the only native of Florida.

All of them carried switch blades and they were not afraid of anything. I always felt safe with them because they looked after me. In those days, the restaurant business was very rough. There were always fights out in the back parking lot, because there were several restaurants on that strip. Most of the cooks I knew were alcoholics or used amphetamines. The hours were long and they succumbed to the boredom and fatigue I guess. I was lucky enough to avoid those fates. I knew I had a plan to be a full time artist and so I had more positive things to hope for.

Today’s Recipe

Carrot Cake

6 cups flour
6 cups sugar
2 tsp salt
2 T cinnamon
2 T baking soda
1 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup coconut
8 eggs well beaten
2 T vanilla
3 cups canola oil
2 2/3 cups carrots
1 diced pineapple

Mix dry ingredients, mix wet ingredients. Combine both, add carrots and pineapple.

Evenly distribute in floured cake pans. I like to cut a round of wax paper to put in the bottom of the pan before flouring.

Bake at 300 degrees until knife inserted comes out clean. Turn out onto racks to cool.

I like to torte the layers before frosting so that they are thin. I sprinkle th cake layers with a bit of rum before ading the frosting. Yummy!!!

I use cream cheese frosting for my red velvet and carrot cakes. I also like to freeze my cake layers after baking. It really sets the texture nicely and they frost very nicely after thawing a bit.

Cream Cheese Frosting

16 oz cream cheese
2 tsp good vnilla
2 boxes 10x sugar

Beat until smooth

I like to add a bit of lemon or lime zest to my CCF.

A Day Of Fun

I’m going to have a huge day of fun today!! I am having an art pin making workshop. We have all kinds of goodies to play with, thanks to my sponsor They have generously donated all the pens, markers and pencils for this day of fun.

This table has mat board scraps donated by Valerie Druga at High Springs Gallery, sequins, bling, and my button collection.

Here is my gluing station. I like to use my kids old lunch boxes for projects like this. I have glitter glue too. Wow!!!

Here is the marker /colored pencil station. You can tell I am having fun here.

The most important station is the coffee pot of course. We will have muffins, juice and coffee for breakfast and break for lunch with a great taco bar,bean dip and lemon drop cakes. I’ve been busy in the kitchen preparing for this.

Anyone who takes my art camps at my studio knows that the real reason to come is the food and fun!!

I started combining meals and art at these camps a few years ago because they are so much fun and it allows me to use my catering exprience once again. I sometimes miss my catering career.

Here are a couple of samples from my own art pin collection

They are so much fun to do that I decided it might be nice to do some small miniature drawings too. Her is one I have on Ebay right now.

I did so much painting in June and July that I feel I deserve a bit of fun too.

Today’s Recipe

This is the bean dip I make for studio parties and taco parties.

2 cans refried beans or 1 pound mashed black or pinto beans

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup mayo

1 cup shredded cheddar or jack cheese

1 can sliced black olives (optional)

1 package taco seasoning mix

1 small diced onion or green onions sliced

1 fresh chopped tomato

1 bell pepper diced

Mix it all up and serve with corn chips or scoops. Garnish with a few of the diced vegetables for color.

Finding My Way

I’m still wandering through this painting with no particular hurry. I am starting to get the composition where I want it. I have added some trees and vegetation to the left side of the composition to balance it a bit. I wanted to keep the random look to the trees. I have started to do a bit with the palms in the foreground, adding a bit of vegetation around some of them for interest. Subtle changes in the value and temperature make the drop off work fairly well. I’m going to have to put it away tomorrow because I have friends coming to do a wearable art workshop for the day.
More to come…..
This view of Orange Lake is from the top of the hill off US 441, just outside of McIntosh. It is a favorite view for photographers and landscape painters. The lake at the bottom of the hill is a favorite for fishermen and painters too. There is a great fish camp called Mike’s at the lake.
There is so much history in this part of Florida. Marjorie Kinnen Rawlings estate is not far from there at Cross Creek and we have all painted there for many years. Cross Creek is really beautiful with many large cypress trees and palms up and down the creek. I watched them film the movie “Cross Creek” there many years ago. It starred Mary Steenburgen and Peter Cayote. They were both very nice people to meet. I had a little Cafe’ in those days in Micanopy called the Blue Plate Cafe’. They used one of my pies in the movie. It was a thrill.
Today’s Recipe
One of my best recipes comes from the old days in my youth. When I was about 16 years old, a man named Carmine had an Italian restaurant in the then Gainesville Mall. It was the first mall in Gainesville and we thought we were really uptown. It has long since disappeared to be replaced by a home improvement store, but the recipe lives on. Carmine used to serve this cheese with Italian bread pieces soaked in olive oil and garlic and then toasted. the bread alone was worth coming for. The cheese came in a little glass bowl with a round scoop of cheese. It is the very best cheese spread have ever had in my life!!!!! I guarded it carefully throughout my catering career. It took me a year of begging to get the recipe from Carmine, who only gave it to me when he retired and closed the restaurant.

Cheese Spread

8 OZ cream cheese

1 cold pack cheddar port wine cheese (You can find this in the cheese isle at grocery stores in a plastic container.

1 package Good Seasons brand dry Italian dressing mix

Just enough wine to soften the cheese mixture if needed.

Put everything in a mixer and beat for about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy.

The recipe can be doubled with no problem. You may want to add the seasoning a bit at a time to see how strong you like it. I love it with the whole package.

Serve with crackers, bagel chips,garlic toast points, or slices of French or Italian bread. To dress it up, add chopped fresh Italian parsley and about two oz of chopped Franklin or Genoa salami. Sometimes I serve it in a scoop, sometimes make into a cheese ball and sometimes I pipe it through a pastry bag and tip. it’s also very pretty in a cleaned out acorn squash or gourd for fall.

It will be gone in ten minutes!!!

Orange Lake, More Process

Here I am at the next stage of the painting. I know that I will want to put a few more trees on the left side of the painting so that it is not right hand heavy. I have painted this view many times over the last 15 years or so. The unique difficulty of this particular place, is the steep drop off of the hill. It is always a challenge to make the two areas flow together from the foreground to the middle ground. I think I have the color where I will want to take it. Most of the painting is going toward the cool gray end of my palette, but will have a bit of warmth in the foreground. Not as much as you see here, more subtle. More on this painting to come….

Quick Hospitality

Given that Southern hospitality is a way of life here in the South, I tend to keep some basics around to make a quick snack for studio visitors. I sometimes need to throw something together at a moment’s notice.
Some of the items I keep handy are:

a variety of pickles

jars of olives




cream cheese

canned meats


sour cream



canned fish, like Salmon and Albacore

sliced turkey and ham



Cans of black beans or refried beans



A bottle or two of wine. I like to use the mini bottles that come in 6 packs

a 12 pack of any soft drink brand.

bottled water

That is really all you need to make quite a nice variety of snacks.

Here is a nice quick dip that is delicious.

1 pouch of smoked tuna (Starkist), or smoked mullet from the fish monger

8 oz cream cheese

1 teaspoon minced or dried onion

cracked pepper

1/4 cup mayo

Chopped parsley

and lemon wedges for garnish.

Mix it all up and serve with toasted bagel chips or crackers.

I keep bagels in the fridge because they make great toast points for dips. I slice them as thinly as possible and spread them with a bit of margarine or soft butter. Then sprinkle them with garlic salt and toast them in the oven. You can break them in bite sized pieces. They are more tasty than crackers and look more impressive.

Painting Decisions

Orange Lake
18×24 inches
oil on canvas
Stage one

This is a painting I started yesterday. It’s been awhile since I painted in oils alone without the casein under painting. As I was painting this block in, I thought about the process of painting. Painting is really just a bunch of decisions we make as we go along. From the beginning, our decisions will make or break a painting. I believe that is why I am more and more drawn to studio work for serious paintings. I have found for some time that alla prima takes away the ability to mull over a painting step by step. Yes, it is fresh and lively, but invariably, I see many errors in my plein air work that I would not have made given the time I have in the studio to process and think about what might be an improvement.

I like to think about the painting as a series of layers. The first are basic flat shapes, with dark and light values, so that I can see the basic parts of the painting and where the basic elements go. At this stage, I stop to think about what I might want to change.

Southern Hospitality

I was thinking the other day about how different regions can be culturally. I was raised in the South where hospitality is always expected. Whenever a person drops by to visit, refreshments are served. Even if they show up at supper time, they are always included for dinner. I remember as a teenager, going out the back door of the house to the store for food because someone dropped in unexpectedly for a meal. Mother would quietly slip money to me and send me out the door, all the while telling our guests that there is more than enough for dinner and how happy she was to include them.

Of course when illness or death comes to a neighbor or friend, everyone brings food or groceries. That is the first thing to be done. You would be surprised at how important that ritual is. I will remember to the day I die, that my next door neighbor fried up a huge platter of chicken for us when Daddy died. That was the most comforting thing for us during the whole ordeal. That was 22 years ago but I still remember it well.

Whenever I have a studio guest coming, I always prepare a snack and cool drinks or coffee and cake. It would simply be bad form not to. It was shocking to me to learn that many people from other regions of the USA do not do that. I had a couple of artists laugh at me for preparing refreshments for studio visits. They said it would never occur to anyone in New York City to do that.

It makes me glad I live in the South.

Series of paintings In Studio

I travel a lot. I do lots of alla prima studies on small formats when I am away from home and I take a lot of photos on the road. I also spend a fair amount of time looking for domain free images of places that interest me.

When I get back home for the summer, I spend time working on series of paintings about the places I discover on the road. I have always believed that working through a series on subjects is a great way to paint and to learn.

Of course I have my favorite places and themes that I go back to over and over again for years. I have always loved painting at a couple of farms in Marion County in Florida. I have done hundreds of paintings there and will do hundreds more if God is willing.

The same goes for Cross Creek and the fish camps around the lakes here in North Florida. Florida’s rivers are also a favorite theme for me. I tend to rotate around to different areas of interest, revisiting them every few month. I always have a new vision when I return and something different to say with the paintings.

At one time I relied only on plein air work as my strength but that has changed. I now use the plein air work as a reference for my serious paintings in the studio. I still feel that plein air work is very important as a learning tool. It keeps my work fresh and I learn a lot about light and value on location, but it is lacking in finesse for me and my composition suffers on location. Composition and design is a difficult part of painting and best left in the studio for me.

Food Glorious Food

Today I want to talk about one of my regular spots to eat, Pearl Country Store in Micanopy, Florida. It is a combination gas station, convenience store and restaurant. It has no redeemable atmospheric qualities but it is clean and the food is wonderful. It is a basic menu of all your favorite breakfast foods, hamburgers/fries and the best BBQ around. The ribs are huge and meaty, dripping with sauce. Lots of seasoning on the meat. Thy also have great pulled pork sandwiches, various vegetables, homemade mac and cheese, and homemade desserts. The store itself is full of interesting bottled hot and BBQ sauces, books about Florida, as well as the usual convenience store fare. It is located at the caution light on US 441 in Micanopy.

Red Velvet Cake

Cake: 2 cups sugar 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature 2 eggs 2 tablespoons cocoa powder 2 ounces red food coloring 2 1/2 cups cake flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup buttermilk 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1 tablespoon vinegar

Icing: 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese 1 stick butter, softened, 1 cup melted marshmallows, 1 (1-pound) box confectioners’ sugar

Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter, beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. Mix cocoa and food coloring together and then add to sugar mixture; mix well. Sift together flour and salt. Add flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Blend in vanilla. In a small bowl, combine baking soda and vinegar and add to mixture. Pour batter into 3 (8-inch) round greased and floured pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from heat and cool completely before frosting.

Icing: Blend cream cheese and butter together in a mixing bowl. Add marshmallows and sugar and blend. Spread between layers and on top and sides of cooled cake.

Discovery about Process

Colorful Mountains
12×16 inches
mixed media on panel

Process in Plein Air vs Studio

Saturday, I tried my mixed media out on location for the first time. I took casein’s out with me and did the under painting in the field. The results were less than I had hoped for. This process has worked so very well for me in the studio that I was just sure it was going to be great on location too. In fact, it was disappointing. The compositions were weak and the paintings took much too long. I got completely bogged down in tight detail and lost the whole painting process. The first painting looked illustrative. The second was better but neither were what I hoped for.

I think it will be best to leave this painting technique in the studio. I have lots of time in studio to play with the composition, tweaking the under painting the way I want it. There is no pressure in the studio. I am not as distracted.

When I paint on location, I always feel pressure. I feel the need to work quickly and get it done. The direct method of painting will be far better out on location, so I will go back to using my oils out in the field.

It is always interesting to try new techniques and I truly love the mixed casein with transparent oils. It will be a fine studio method to continue with.

Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken is essential to Southern cooking. It is so much a part of out lives. I can’t imagine life with out it!!! There are a million fried chicken recipes. My favorite restaurant fried chicken is found at a place called the Dixie Grill in Live Oak, Florida. I discovered it a few years ago when I used to go over to the Live Oak Artist League Gallery. It was right across the street from the Dixie Grill on the main drag through town. I believe that is US 90.

Their chicken is golden brown, crisp and salty on the outside and moist and tender on the inside. When you cut into it the juices run out and it is steamy. It is absolutely delicious. The also have a fabulous open faced hot roast beef sandwich with crisp french fries which is a delight. It has rich brown gravy on top. Too good for words. Anyhoo, back to the chicken…….

Whenever I am feeling a bit low about the state of the world, I fry chicken. It is the most lovely and comforting activity I can think of. My recipe is quite simple. I don’t use a thick buttermilk batter like a lot of cooks do. I like to add my standard season mix to flour in a bag. I toss the chicken pieces in the flour and then refrigerate them for a few minutes while I get the cast iron skillet fired up. I add about an inch of olive oil to the pan. ( The best chicken is fried in lard but my doctor won’t let me have that kind of fun anymore) I take the chicken out and flour it a second time. I heat the cast iron skillet to medium heat and place the pieces in the hot oil. I fry the chicken, turning it in different places in the skillet to fry evenly. It should not be rushed. When it is done, I put the chicken on paper towels to drain and then put it in the oven while I finish making the mashed potatoes, green beans, and gravy in the skillet.

For gravy, pour off most of the oil and make a roux with a bit of seasoned flour and the drippings, Stir it until light brown and the flour is incorporated. De glaze the pan with a bit of white wine. Add a can of chicken stock. Stir until smooth and creamy. You can add a bit of cream to make it richer if you wish. Add a bunch of fresh ground pepper and salt to taste. Add a pinch of leaf thyme for flavor.

My Adventure

Town and Country Farm
8×10 inches
mixed media on panel

Painters Journal

Yesterday I spend the day painting at Town and Country Farm with my old friend Elisabeth Ferber from Orlando. We started the day at Pearl Country Store in Micanopy, Florida for a big breakfast and then headed for my favorite place to paint, one of the farms in that area. We were seeking shade. We parked ourselves under magnificent old trees and happily painted the day away. Around 2:00 PM we headed for lunch at Rocky’s Villa in Orange Lake. It’s a really cool restaurant that serves Mexican and Italian food. I had the Sicilian Pasta which was spaghetti with olive oil, garlic, and fresh tomatoes. Yummy. She had ahot sub with grilled mushrooms, peppers and onions in olive oil.

I had not painted on location since May, so it was a bit of a challenge for me, getting back into it.

Here is my favorite Alfredo Sauce recipe. I got it from the sous chef at Toby’s Corner, now closed. His name was Tim King. He was an awesome cook and a delightful friend.

Tim’s Alfredo Sauce

1 1/2 quarts heavy cream
1 pound of butter
3 oz chopped fresh parsley
1/2 T salt
1/2 T coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 T chopped fresh garlic
1 pound Parmesan cheese
1 T corn starch to thicken if needed

This recipe can be cut down into smaller batches

Melt butter, add cream and then all ingredients except the cheese. Bring to boil and then add cheese stirring constantly until smooth and creamy. Serve over pasta and sprinkle with cheese. Yummy!!!

Sky Painting Demonstration

I used the following palette for this demo:

Stephen Quiller Acrylics from Jack Richeson & Company. I am proud to have them sponsor my workshops.

titanium white
warm white
buff titanium
cadmium red light
Ivory black
French ultramarine blue
thalo blue

I did this demo on index paper. Very inexpensive and you can use oil or acrylics on the paper. They are not of archival quality of course, or meant to be sold. They go right into my notebook to keep and refer back to.

Stage one

This stage establishes the positions of the clouds in the composition. Notice that the further away the clouds are, the closer together and flatter they are. I have begun to lay in the shadows and the basic sky color in this first stage. The sky color becomes cooler as it becomes closer to the horizon.

Stage 2

I have started to vary the color a bit in the shadows and have established the direction of the sun light on the cloud masses. The sun is situated on the left side of the clouds.

Stage 3

In this stage of the painting, I have added some warmth to the light areas of the clouds and made some adjustments to the values and color temperature of the shadows in the clouds.

This is the final version of the painting. Forgive my lousy digital techniques. My photos are never very good. Here is a little trick with acrylics. I use my finger in the last stage of the painting to smear on the little white highlights. it’s a good way to soften the edges. Acrylics don’t blend easily and for this the finger works very well.

To read more about sky painting, look on my Landscapes Of The South blog this week.

I will be teaching Beginning Landscape Painting with Acrylics at John C Campbell Folk School in Western North Carolina August 24-30, 2008. I’m very excited to be going back again. It will be a wonderful week. This is a studio class, too hot to paint outside in August.

Stone Bridge Part Two

Stone Bridge
12×16 inches
mixed media on panel

Painters Journal

Imagine my surprise and delight to find myself the featured painter on Robert Genn’s The Painters Keys web site today. HERE He had printed my response to his letter and I am always honored when he includes my unwise words. Then I scrolled down to see who he had selected for this week’s featured painter and it was me!!!!! I never imagined that!!

I am going out on a plein air adventure tomorrow with an old friend, Elisabeth Ferber from Orlando. A terrific painter. We will have breakfast together first and then paint at the farms in Marion County. I’m looking forward to it.

This is the second phase of the painting. I have used transparent oils for this stage. I use Shiva Permasol brand paints very thinly for multiple layers. Sometimes I will pull off parts of the oil glaze or use opaque paints to highlight an strengthen contrast in some parts of the painting.

Dessert Sauce
8×10 inches
casein on paper

This is one of the quick easy recipes which make ice cream and other desserts taste yummy.

It is great for poached fruit and flaky pastries.

I worked for a great restaurant in Gainesville, Florida years ago called Toby’s Corner. It was owned by Diane and Ed Toby. I was their dessert chef. I have fond memories of this restaurant. We used to crank up James Brown full blast on the speakers every night after the restaurant closed. It was a fun kitchen crew.

Dessert Sauce

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 jar ice cream topping- caramel, chocolate or butterscotch

2 oz liqueur- Baileys, Amaretto, coffee are all good choices.

Stir it all up and serve.