Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What do I like to paint?

The short answer is everything! I am known for my conch house paintings, colorful, tropical depictions of the unique old houses of Key West. And new - you can find a mural of the Harbor House on the construction wall close to the corner of Elizabeth and Caroline Street. I also like painting landscapes, seascapes, and still life. What you don’t see a lot of is people. It’s not that I don’t like painting people, it’s not one of my strengths. I have a closet full of bad people paintings, but I continue to try, so one day you may see some.

The Key West houses and landmarks mostly are painted en plein air. I paint every Wednesday with a small group of artists, the Key West Plein Air Painters. We meet somewhere different each week, paint for a few hours, sometimes the same thing, other times different things in that general vicinity. Sometimes we lunch together afterwards. We’ve had a few group exhibits, notably one at the Key West art museum, The Custom House.

The still lifes are mostly from Jim Salem’s classes. Every Thursday, Jim has a class at the Sugarloaf Tiki Lodge. He is a most gifted teacher. He gives a demonstration in which he explains clearly what and why he does. We then paint on our own and there is a critique afterwards. Jim always finds something nice to say about all the paintings, even while offering suggestions to improve. His classes have had a huge impact on my work. You can clearly see the difference in the before Jim and after Jim paintings. Check out his website

The sea and landscapes could be from either and you can see everything I mentioned on my website, Another thing you won’t find is some of my travel paintings. I love to take photos when I travel, but even better is a memorable painting from a place I visited. I think I love these paintings because they capture the emotion of the place and how I felt when I was there. Here is an interesting example, “Fall Vista,” painted from memories of a magnificent Blue Ridge Parkway drive. I am uncertain of whether to put it on my website, as it is not tropical and has nothing to do with Key West. What do you think? Should I start a travel page on my website? More important, do I want to sell these intensely personal paintings?

Why do you sell your paintings? How do you give them up?

A lot of people ask me this. At first, I didn’t want to part with my paintings, as they are all personal, but the more I paint, the more paintings I have. They aren’t making anyone happy in the closet! I started by giving away paintings. All my friends and relatives have one. Then, when I started selling my paintings, I had to put some limits. One sister, when viewing my latest paintings, said she wanted this and that. I said, no, they are for sale now. You have six already (including Mermaid Babies, below). Now, my relatives get one free painting. The rest are for sale.

I always love the most recent one the most, but I do have favorites.

Ultimately, the highest compliment an artist can receive is to have someone want to buy their painting. It means they like it enough to pay money for it. You could discuss endlessly the whole topic of money for art, but money is how our society puts a value on things. If someone wants to buy my art, that means it has value. If someone thinks my work has value, that makes me feel that I have value and that makes my day!
What is my background as far as art training? How did I get started?

For the most part, I am self taught. I was a creative child, always involved in painting or drawing something. As a teenager, I was attracted to the bright colors of acrylic paint and really started my life long love affair with acrylics. I painted throughout high school and college, but only took one art class in college, purely for fun. I was a biology major at Wellesley College and was very serious about going on to medical school and doing research one day, not becoming an artist.
Ah, but my life took some unexpected turns. I got sidetracked by a love of sailing and in my 20's, when I was living on a sailboat and adventuring about the Caribbean, I still painted, just smaller canvases. After settling down in the Florida Keys, I painted, but only for myself as I worked on trying to make a living as a biologist in the Keys, which ultimately led me to a great job with The Nature Conservancy managing the volunteer program of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
When the start up computer company that Bob worked for was bought out, he retired from the rat race and started a sailing charter business with the boat (see It didn’t take long for me to take advantage of the chance to really be an artist. I started by taking a class at the Audubon House with Judi Bradford, a well known Key West artist and journalist. After just two classes, she asked me if I had ever thought about selling my work. Yes, but how? What do I do? Judi was my mentor. She gave me tons of advice, the first being join a co-op. Share rent and work with a group of artist, giving yourself a venue to show and be seen. See Judi’s work at
I joined Island Arts, a co-op that had been around for 15 years, with a good following of both locals and tourist. There, I learned more about the art business from my fellow artists. I continued taking classes, from various local artists such as Judi, Sanford Birdsey, Kate Miller, Susan Sugar and Jim Salem. I exhibited at the local art festivals. Two years ago I had the chance to partner with four other artists and start a new gallery, SoDu. We have a brand new website, thank you Lainie!
I am often asked if I teach. No, perhaps one day, but right now, I feel like I am still learning, both about art and the art business. I am happy to share ideas!

Who was that masked man?

That magnificent red parrot is my beloved Bob. Fantasy Fest photos were taken by dear friends Patti Carey (cemetery) and Jill Benado, a wonderful photographer artist. It’s always important to acknowledge fellow artists!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fantasy Fest

Fantasy Fest is when Key Weird goes crazy. For me as an artist, it's all about the costumes. As usual, we had a blast. The cemetery masquerade march is always my favorite event because it involves lots of clever costumes. The theme this year was Pirates, Pundits and Political Party Animals. I figured all pirates need parrots and what better pundit than a talking parrot?

Earlier in October, I attended John McBride's mask and headdress workshop at the Studios of Key West. John is the genius behind the masks at I learned all about glue guns, but managed to make these headdresses.

For many years, I have made my own Fantasy Fest masks and a few headdresses -anyone remember the dinosaur whores? Compared to my past efforts, this year's headdresses were light and comfortable. Alas, not so those feather wings. Never feel sorry for birds in the snow - feathers are hot - and itchy if they're not your own.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Welcome to my new blog. Also, welcome to Key West. I have lived in the fabulous Florida Keys for 20 years. I have been a full time working artist for the past eight years. Many people have told me they would love to know just what life as an artist in Key West is all about, so I'll do my best to take you into the wonderful weird world of Key West.

First things first. I paint acrylic paintings. They tend to be colorful and tropical, but nothing is off limits. I do a lot of commission work. I can paint your favorite house, restaurant, boat, or fantasy. I also make things out of whatever I find lying around, which is a lot, since I am a pack rat. The paintings, you can see on my website Or drop by my gallery, SoDu at 1100 Duval St in Key West, corner of Virginia and Duval, in the heart of the South Duval Arts District. I work there on Tuesdays, so please come in and say hi. Or come HOWL with us. Every full moon, all the galleries, shops and restaurants in our neighborhood stay open late and have special events. The South Duval Full Moon HOWL is a great way to see what's new and meet up with all your friends.

The gallery. SoDu is a partnership of five artists, plus we have many guest artists and special events. My partners are Judi Bradford, painter and crafter of fabric necklaces, longtime mentor and friend, Janis Childs, famous for her painted wooden bowls who I met while involved with Island Arts Co-op Gallery a few years ago, Leslie Kanter, a potter who was with the old Helio Gallery on Fleming, and Lainie Davia, jeweler extraordinaire. Be sure to visit the gallery's blog

That'll do for an introduction. You'll find out more about me later. What do I want to accomplish with this blog? I hope to give you an insight into what an artists' life is like, not only the trials and tribulations of trying to make a living with your art, but the special joys this life brings. As Judi was my original teacher and mentor, I hope to teach and inspire. So if you have questions, I'll give you my thoughts.