More than a week after we fueled up in Seattle, we reached Cajun country, and hit the brakes. The light is different here, the shadows are different, the air is different. New Orleans is my second home, and it has been for more than 16 years. Though I don’t radically change the subjects of my work while I spend the winter there, I have the light back in the sky and on my canvases. I can get dramatic skies in the summer that look like Seattle’s winter storms. Long, slow shadows are great in winter months, but here in NOLA there is sun to go along with them—and two extra hours of daylight.
When you’re up on the levee you can see the boats coming down the Mississippi. The river was extra high then, and they opened spillways to prepare for the water coming down. From outside the window, I heard the soft murmur of neighbors talking; bike bells ringing; mournful ship horns; and the metal on metal orchestra of train cars slamming into each other to link up. Mardi Gras preparations would happen soon. It was Christmas time, and 80 degrees outside.
. . .
My studio space there is temporary, precarious. My Seattle studio is organized, but in NOLA canvases are everywhere, and I try to embrace the idea of stirring up my patterns and approach. I paint by building layers with glazes, which means having lots of room and time for layers to dry. So, no matter where I am, I work on four paintings simultaneously, or I’d never finish one.
. . .
From out of a box I pull my five whites: zinc white for transparency, zinc-titanium white, titanium white, brilliant yellow extra pale for warmth and cool, blue white. I pull up a reference photo from Vaughn, and set to work.
I adjust the curtains. I’ve come 3,600 miles to find light. Here it is.