Wednesday, December 30, 2015

You say Gre(nay)da, I say Grenada

We leave for Grenada, in about six days. Excited anticipation is building to see what it will be. Will the bed be comfortable?  Will the water outside our door be good swimming?  How will the locals treat us?  What will I paint?

Last year in Trinidad the birds were so beautiful and abundant I had to paint them. The spectacular national bird of Trinidad, the Scarlet Isis painting went back to the islands, to Barbados as a gift for for and from relatives.   The first bird influenced painting, Hummingbirth which was inspired by my little companion, the Copper-rumped hummingbird, will be in an exhibit while we are away, at the Janet Carson Gallery in Eau Claire,WIsconsin. Fabulous Florals is an exhibit of floral designs by area florists inspired by a work of art. It'll be interesting to see what they do with Hummingbirth

I found a nice heavy canvas bag designed to carry golf clubs on a plane. I'm planning to load it with acrylics , rolls of canvas and stretcher bars like I did last year. That worked out great.

Yata's trying to decide what and how many guitars to bring. His job with the Menomonie School district is done for now. He thoroughly enjoyed working with the teachers and toddlers at Stout's Early Childhood program. 

The Accola Gallery is soon closing until mid March.

Join us if you'd like. Feb 29th. Party on Grenada. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Re-entry (belated)

Back to the Upper Midwest

I've been meaning to write this follow up since the day we returned but for some reason, just kept it in my head instead of pressing the keys. Meanwhile my memories and thoughts are loosing their clarity.

But one memory that will not die is that of the wonderful Midwestern 'can do it-ive-ness' we encountered the day we were flying home. We got to the Miami airport and realized that the car key we were going to need to get into our car and drive home in, was missing; probably back in Trinidad under the desk. So I got my cell phone charged up and called our son Nick who gave me phone numbers and suggestions. I then called our insurance company who gave us the VIN number so I could call Trail Dodge in Menomonie to get a new key made. Of course, making a key is no simple operation. The newer cars need special keys so the service department called and found the proper type and had it brought to Menomonie. Then they had our Jeep towed to their shop where they programmed the key and then returned the Jeep to the parking area, leaving the bill on the seat, not knowing us from Adam! All this within four hours time.

Not to perpetuate American chauvinism but there is a story about how well the American troops stationed in Trinidad built the roads there. How much better they held up. The joke was though, that Trinidad didn't know where to get asphalt. The reason that is a joke is that there is the La Brea Tar Pits in Trinidad, one of the earth's largest sources of natural asphalt!

Don't get me wrong, we loved our two months in Trinidad and realize that each culture has it's strengths and weaknesses. And traveling sometimes makes you appreciate what you have back home.

We do miss all the fresh fruit we had access to in Trinidad. In Wisconsin we went to the coop and paid $8 for 6 oranges. They were good, but not as good as those we ate right off the trees in Trinidad for free! We have access to better coffee at home though, and such a huge range of things such as beers and wines, cheeses, art supplies, movies and more.

The weather back home this winter has been mercifully warmer this year in fact we've been able to bicycle in March.

I've reorganized my studio since I got home to put up an easel in the middle of the gallery's main floor where I can easily spend time painting rather than having to try to set aside time and space in the midst of a busy day. It's more convenient to do a half hour session now and those half hour sessions can add up! I've continued to develop the portrait of my grand-daughter Sadie and working on a of couple commissions.

Life is good!                            
Orange flowering Imortelle trees in the foreground. Brought to Trinidad to shade the cocoa trees.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Pan Finals and Carnival: Trini Style

We were excited to have our daughter Ella and her husband Ken and our grandson Liam come for five days over Carnival. Carnival in Trinidad is Over the Top! Many of the citizens devote days and dollars in preparation. If they are in a Steel Pan Orchestra they are rehearsing nightly sometimes until as late as two or three am. If they are in a group (called a band) in the parade, they are either making their costumes, working to pay for their costumes (some of the more elaborate costumes run as much as $2000 USD),or possibly working out to get in shape (the parade route goes from early am until late pm, and is in scorching heat). Or it they are 'playing Jouvert' as Ken and Ella did, they are trying to get a little extra sleep for the parade that starts about 4am and goes until about 9am, marching the streets of downtown Port of Spain in a band whose members are slathered in either cocoa, paint, mud or possibly chocolate; following a music truck blaring soca music at a volume that literally makes your chest pound, while drinking 'lubricants'. It's a scene. The cost includes security guards, thankfully. Ken and Ella enjoyed it, and Ken having grown up in the Caribbean, was really excited to sort of 'go back home'. We took care of Liam that am and then we picked them up after the parade and went to Maracas Beach to cool off and have Bake and Shark, a great fast food, made famous at Maracas.

The next day we went in mid afternoon to the Pretty Mas as it's called. This is the major parade in the Rio style with all the bikinis and beads and feathers and music trucks. This was interesting...! Lots of whining going on but not the kind we know...I'll leave it at that.

Sadie, ~13 x 20 acrylic 
They flew out that evening. I (Jean ) have been missing my grandkids so much that I've started doing paintings of them. Actually, I had taken a photo of some sweet little schoolgirls in La Fillette, a small village on the north coast of Trinidad. They were about eight years old and in uniforms with bright red bows in both their carefully braided or curled hair. It was a real challenge. First I started out with random color just trying to 'sculpt' the face with accurate values. But after reworking them at least four times, I've become more refined. It's interesting how such minor details really make or break a portrait in terms of capturing a person's likeness. The next portrait I did was from a photo of Liam
Liam, 16 x 20 acrylic
when he was one year old, a profile. And since them I did a full figure portrait of our son's daughter Sadie when she was one, from a photo. In the last two days I've been working on a self portrait.

Two days ago we visited the Asa Wright Nature Center, a great bird sanctuary in the northern mountains. My artist friend from Minnesota, Dodie Logue, was there so after we did a bird watching hike we met Dodie for lunch and then sat on the veranda where they keep many birdfeeders filled to attract the birds. We saw nine different varieties of hummingbirds including the Tufted Coquette, the most charming tiny bird (it's the second smallest bird in the world).

Last night we had dinner at the vegetarian Hindu restaurant
Lakshmi Narayan temle at Night, watercolor, 3 x 9"
which is about a mile away from us but which we've been able to see from our back deck everyday and night as we look out over the hills behind us. The food was Indian style, a buffet and was excellent. We've been learning more everyday, meeting more interesting people and starting to think more about home which we see has been nasty cold.

White necked Jacobin and Bird of Paradise, 3'x3' acrylic
Oh and our bands, Phase II took second place in the Pan Finals after the All Stars.  Fonclaire took always controversy swarms around the results.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Pan Semi-Finals in Port of Spain

Jean and I attended the Pan Music Semi-Finals competition a week ago.  There were 14 Medium Bands of 80 players or less, and 15 Large Orchestras of 120 players or less.  The Large Orchestras have 210 pans of various sizes (tenor, double seconds, 7 bass, 9 bass, etc), cut from 55 gallon drums, and loaded on wheeled carts with covers.  In all, there were 5,000 pans played during the day.  

In attendance, there were 8,000 people in the North Stands and 3,000 people in the Grand Stand.  We were among the two thousand wandering the "drag" to hear the bands rehearse before playing on the Main Stage, and heard most of the Large Orchestras.    

The bass drums are heavy and require lots of help from community members, so Jean and I were "pan pushers" as we helped Phase 2 Pan Groove push a 7-drum-bass down the street for about half a mile.  At one point, we found ourselves positioned in line with the front row of lead pan melody players during one of their last rehearsals, and I got some great videos, which I plan to upload.  I also took some great pictures.

Pan music traces its genesis to violent encounters in the 50's between rival communities which evolved into organised steel band competitions in 1963, so bands could focus on the music.  There's a great documentary on this called "Pan Odyssey" by Kim Johnson; and Kim also gave a TED Talk on the subject.

Each orchestra has its own story.  This may sound unbelievable, but all the bands are from Trinidad and Tobago, except Andy Norelle writes and arranges for Birdsong and is from the USA; recruiting players from the US and Europe, to merge talents with the locals.  His arrangements are jazz oriented and have not been placing well enough to make it in the Finals.  

"Boogsie" Sharp is a flamboyant  arranger and composer for Phase 2, the defending champions in this fierce competition.  The "Desperado's" come from the toughest part of Port of Spain, a community called Laventile, where there is a lot of poverty and problems with drugs.  Our favorite band FonClaire took 5th out of 15 so being in the top ten they go onto the Finals this coming weekend and Birdsong took eleventh for about the third year in a row.  Not sure if they've ever gone on to the Finals.

The top 10 bands in each size advance to the Finals which will be held on Saturday, Feb 14, Valentine's Day.  Our daughter Ella, her hubby Ken and 20 month old son Liam will be visiting us for about a week, and we plan to attend the competition as well as other Carnival activities.

We'd like to post a  video but need to figure out how to make them smaller files first.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Steel Pan Primer & Tobago

There are so many accomplished musicians on this island as it was the birthplace of “steel pan” music and claims to be the birthplace of Calypso, but other West Indies Islands may also lay a similar claim.

The pan is a 55 gallon steel drum used for transporting oil or chemicals, and many years ago when this instrument was being developed, were readily available to local citizens (many of them poor) once discarded. They pounded out the steel tops to create notes, and surrounding themselves with many steel drums, developed songs/melodies by drumming on them.

Over time, the tradition expanded to orchestras of 120 players, all playing different sized drums with unique mallets, under the direction of a leader and a section captain. They rehearse one song of 8 minutes in length each night for several hours for about a month, making changes and developing parts in the neighbourhood pan yard. Local citizens assemble to listen, and are free to walk around the various players to hear the complex and complementary arrangements of each section. Rehearsals involve focusing on individual sections numerous times at various tempos, before playing the whole song.

There are stages of competition and the best bands will compete on the main stage in Queens Park Savannah in downtown Port of Spain, the capitol city of Trinidad at Panorama, held during Carnival.  Thousands of people attend each year for this event, along with other wild activities such as masquerades, parades, wining, etc.

Jean and I have visited the pan yards on four occasions to hear the bands rehearse for Panorama.  For me, the most amazing thing is the fact that there are so many bands and they are all amazing musicians. The players in the bass section are surrounded by 7 or 9 drums and twist and turn in sync to reach the notes around them. I especially enjoy listening to the tenor section, as they have parts that counter or complement the melody, bringing their own distinct harmonies and melodies.

Fortunately for us, the folks who we are renting from, also love this music and we travel together to hear it. On Sunday, there are the Semi-Finals and on Feb 14 and 15 are the Finals. We’ll be there, and especially following our favorite band FonClaire from the inner city of San Fernando.

We've been in Trinidad for a month now. We went to Tobago the last four days to check out that part of the country and it reinforces our sense that each island has it's own distinct character. Tobago is smaller, drier, mellower. The population is only about 50,000 people and it is about 30 miles by 5 miles in size. Scarborough, the largest city is on a port and they host cruise ships a couple times a week.
We were staying at a nice little studio apartment on the hill above Scarborough with a deck that overlooked the city to our south. The garden around the home welcomed birds including the marvelous Motmot, a bird about the size of a small hawk with dramatic coloring; black, green and gold with a bright turquoise v on the top of it's head and a racket shape at the end of it's black tail. They along with the Banaquit and some other birds can be somewhat tamed by feeding.

We also took a snorkel and hiking tour to Little Tobago off the northeast corner of the island. The water was the clearest water I've ever seen. I think we could easily see forty or fifty feet deep. It was a bit like diving with the sensation of depth below us. Saw lots of amazing corals, sponges and fish. Then the hike on Little Tobago took us to the peak where we looked down toward the sea and saw the flight of the rare Red-billed Tropicbird, a white sea bird with a long forked tail. We also saw some tropicbirds nesting within a few feet from us. Quite a treat actually.

While in Tobago we visited the LouiseKimme museum, set in her home. She was an artist originally from Germany who died a couple years ago. She was a great wood sculptor. Her home is open for tours and a small body of her work is on display there. We met her sister and Doneski a Cuban sculptor who works there and opens the museum on Saturdays. Much of her work is on display in Germany now.

A couple other highlights included the restaurant Shore Thing with excellent food, right on the shore, of course at Lambeau (not Field). Jean Claude Petit had a boutique chocolate shop next door where we gilded the lily by having his incredible chocolate just after dinner and coconut cream pie at Shore Thing. Mmmm, life is good! Another highlight was the Martin Superville Gallery where we spend a good hour or two talking with his lovely wife Maria about food and then Martin about art.

We ended the visit by dropping our bags early at the airport and walking a block to Kariwak Village a real oasis and yet so close to the airport. Great reputation for their restaurant and what appears to be a nice little garden resort. We had had a big breakfast so we went for some coffee and ran into Rory and Bunty's friends Keith and Pam, Brits who have a passion for Pan and come every year as well as travel to South Africa to help in the dissemination of Pan their. Keith is a retired hair dresser to “the stars” and a fun guy to talk with. Pam is a creative sort as well displayed in her white cropped haircut with hot pink dyed streak down the top center. We joined them for breakfast and enjoyed their company while sipping on some excellent Cocoa (chocolate tea), while the Blue grey Tanager and the Banaquit joined us over the sugar bowl. Through their connection we were able to enjoy the small pool with a waterfall in the garden before we took off for the airport. The flight is literally only 18 minutes long and it's a beautiful view of the north coast as the plane comes around the northwest corner of the island to fly into the airport.

More on the Pan Semi-Finals next blog. Find out if FonClaire made it into the Finals!

Recent Paintings:
Scarlet Ibis Nesting, acrylic, 36" x ~17"

A Parrots in a Poui Tree, acrylic, 36" x ~16"

Turquise Tanager, acrylic, ~8 x 10"
Irie, ,acrylic 36 x 36

Friday, January 30, 2015

Tipi Tombo and Two Toucans

I'm sitting up in bed in our little cottage in Trinidad, writing this post. One of the things I find so amazing is that there is no glass in the window behind me. A bat just flew in and flew out the french door at my side. I'm inside a mosquito net in a sleeveless gown, barefoot and very comfortable after a shower. It was a bit warm today, maybe up to 85 or so, but we rarely felt it since we are under the canopy of large trees and our deck is on the north side of the house. I painted out there today while Yata wrote a song in the study, a room with another glass-less window overlooking the plains and mountains to the north. This sort of lodging wouldn't be for everyone; in fact, Nick, our son, asked me how we kept the rats out. Actually, we have a resident guard cat Lulu and two dogs besides. There are too many dogs in our neighborhood, a common problem on many of our trips to less developed countries. But regardless of the bats, and such, we love being in such comfort and submerged in nature. We spend about an hour a day bird watching still. One day while I stood at the kitchen window doing dishes I looked up and there was a pair of Toucans or should I say two Toucans. Also saw a pair of parrots.

Alert! Food blog next.
So we've been very adventurous with food here. We actually live in an area that is mainly inhabited by East Indians who came historically as indentured workers. So there are Roti shops and Trinidad is famous for the Doubles that they make. A roti is a fluffy wrap filled with choice of meat and a mash of yellow lentils and spices (I think.) Double are really great too. Again a bread pocket (two/double) layered with mashed chick peas and topped with various pepper sauces or chutneys. Another food item Trinidad is known for is the Bake and Shark most famously served at Maracas Bay beach on the north shore. This is deep fried bread pocket filled with fresh deep fried shark or Kingfish and then you have a bar of condiments to smother it with: shredded cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, onion dressings, hot sauce and a tangy sauce made from a local tree fruit the Cythry (this may be spelled completely wrong). We've had Sorrel, a drink made by steeping the pods of the Sorrel bush in hot water and sweetened. I even enjoyed a Sorrel Shandy. These are all things we've tried out of our own kitchen but we've been adventurous on our own as well.

I go shopping with Rory or Bunty our hosts and they know of my interest so they'll point out a new item at the green grocer and say something like, “ these are the Tipi Tombos, and they are only available during this season. They are a lot like waterchestnuts.” So I bought a pound or so not really knowing exactly how to prepare them. They look just like little new potatoes. I boiled them longer than potatoes and then found that they were much harder to peel due to their tough skin, much more so than a new potato. Inside the 'meat' is just like a water chestnut. Next time, I'll pass and buy a can of water chestnuts. Another challenge was the Chataigne, or Breadnut. A green prickley looking fruit about the size of a cantelope, again Bunty said, “these are really good”. So I bought one and did look up a bit of instruction online to have some idea of what to do with them. Chataigne, by the way is french for Chestnut and I think the french named the plant thus since it reminded them of their Chestnut back home. You tear the fruit apart to find these nuts, about 50 to a fruit. You then boil the nuts to remove the fibers around each shell. Then you have to remove the hard shell which breaks and peels fairly easily, but the final paper thin layer that clings to the one inch creamy nut is the pain. Since I thought the flavor was like artichoke heart, I made some into a semblance of that artichoke heart dip that was so popular for a while, with the mayo, cheese, garlic and baked.
Pretty good but a lot of work....

Monday we took a trip with our friend and driver Shammy to the north east coast of the island. It was beautiful and a fun day. We had a lunch at a little local cafe: stewed chicken with noodles and callaloo.
Calalloo is another food that is typical of Trinidad. It is considered Creole food. It is made from the young leaves of a particular plant along with okra and coconut milk into a stew. It's really yummy and in fact tonight I made a quick supper by putting shredded chicken and cassava root into the callaloo and heating that up. Speaking of cassava. I've always heard of it and so had to try this 'Ground Provision' as they call the root crops here. It's shaped like a yam, is harvested this time of year and is pretty much like a potato. You could use it in all the same ways. The skin is tougher and a bit harder to peal than a potato.

While on our trip to the north coast I noticed a fish market so we stopped and bought a couple of fresh fish. A Carite and a Kingfish. Both excellent. I did my traditional fried fish with lemon butter sauce, made a ceviche out of the odd parts like the tail fin sections and then made a stock from the scraps and heads with bay leaf, garlic and onion. I later made an Asian broth from this by adding lemon grass from our garden as well as soy/ginger sauce, more garlic, mushroom and fresh ginger root. I served the broth over fresh thin sliced green pepper, the Tipi Tombo (water chestnuts) and noodles.

As I've mentioned before, we live in a four acre tropical garden and this climate is ideal for growing fruit so we have an endless supply of grapefruit, lime, banana and these wonderful oranges called Portugals. They are dark green but inside they are similar to a mandarin orange in texture. Very seedy but the juice is great. I contend that it is the only citrus juice in which you can actually taste the flavor of the orange blossom. So instead of lemons in a recipe, for example, I would use Portugal juice, awesome!

Well is that enough food for one post? One more thing. Today on the way to the Wild Fowl Trust we stopped for fresh doubles, a street food to try at home some time. On the way home we stopped at the grocery with Shammy and he helps us understand some of the food customs. For example: we bought a hunk of tea chocolate. It is mixed with cloves and nutmeg and other spices. You grate it into boiling water. Strain the tea and serve with milk and sugar. Cocoa is a native tree of Trinidad so we've had some great gourmet chocolates from CocoBelle a local chocolatier who combines the chocolate with the local fruit and spice flavors such as sorrel, passionfruit, coffee, etc.

Enough about food, onto birds …. again! Yes we went to to the Point a Pierre Wild Fowl Trust, on the site of a huge oil refinery on the west coast. Yes you read that right, an oil refinery. When you are at the trust you don't even realize there is a refinery near by. It is a beautiful sanctuary, oasis for the wild fowl like the Purple Gallinule, the Wild Muscovy Duck and many more. We languished there for a couple hours walking slowly around the body of water at the center, painting, taking many pictures, bird-watching and being educated about the local trees by Shammy. A nice day!

We just booked a flight to Tobago for next week. We'd like to see it and maybe do a little bit of beach time. They're supposed to have a good snorkeling reef I'm looking forward to.

Little Blue House at Blanchisuesse, 16 x 20 acrylic

The Pan Man, 36 x 36 acrylic

Violaceous, 36 x 36 acrylic

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Violaceous Euphonia and the Scarlet Ibis

We've been here for over two weeks now. There is a really thriving art and music scene here. Almost daily we meet more artists: painters, musicians, potters, writers, film-makers and more. Rory and Bunty took us to a concert at the National Academy of Performing Artists for a concert of the faculty and some visiting faculty from the US. We followed that up with a trip a few blocks away to the “pan yard” of Phase II, one of the favorite Pan drum Orchestras. They were in “practice-mode” preparing for the first phase of competition which will culminate in a huge show, Pandemonium, in the main open air stadium downtown Port of Spain in less than a month. Pan orchestras are something really exceptional about Trinidad. They are made up of up to 125 players playing anywhere from two to nine drums at a time. Each drummer's drums are positioned into a metal rack on wheels. They practice their one song that they will compete with each year, specially composed for them, over and over again; maybe as many as 100 times a night; night after night for about a month in advance. The leaders are celebrities in their own right, with stories of last minute 'saves' in the competition. There is a documentary called Pan Odyssey which tells about this phenomenal thing.

On the other end of the day we wake surrounded by bird song and sip our coffee with a binocular in one hand. I've mentioned the hummingbird but some of the other highlights have been the Turquoise Tanager, the Orange shouldered Parrot, Violaceous Euphonia (love that name) and the Toucan. But the most spectacular bird on the island is the National bird of Trinidad, the Scarlet Ibis. To see them we booked a tour into the Caroni Swamp where the birds come at sunset to roost in a particular grove of trees. Thousands of bright red large birds all congregating on a small green arborial island. The world's largest Christmas Tree! At the base of the island, the skirt, are flocks of the Snowy and the Cattle Egret, both intense white. Place this all against a steel blue sky! WOW!

Recent paintings:
Ruby Topaz, 36 x 36 acrylic

Trinidad II, 36 x 36 acrylic

Rainforest, 16 x 20

Monday, January 12, 2015

With Love from W.I. To WI

Trinidad I
Yes, we are in the West Indies, Trinidad to be exact, having come from frosty Wisconsin (WI) we are lavishing in tropical warmth, barefoot. Sorry to incite any envy, but how else can I tell you what we are doing without mentioning this. The weather is one of the main reasons we leave WI in the winter. But the weather has been interesting here. It's supposed to be the beginning of the dry season but instead the rainy season is lingering into January. What that means is that its been raining a lot! A couple days this week it rained in sheets most of the day and all night. The ground is soggy and the air is humid to say the least. We tried to go for a walk but got rained on and came back to our sweet cottage. The cottage is situated on a four acre tropical garden in the center of the country, in the countryside. We have a deck off the kitchen which looks out towards the hilly grasslands and to the mountain range in the north. Trinidad is also a bird watcher's heaven and we've been enjoying the birds and butterflies. Rory and Bunty, our hosts, loaned us a good binocular. I could sit all day and look for birds and then look them up in the bird book. Our closest neighbor is a Copper rumped Hummingbird who lives in the tree just off our deck. He has inspired my large painting of the week, the 3 ft by 3ft canvas. Another circle, titled Hummingbirth.
Hummingbirth  36 x 36 inches acrylic

We haven't gone far except to the grocery in Port of Spain and to the local market in the nearest town. So I've been enjoying cooking. Today I made an eggplant curry and Caponata (my favorite Italian eggplant relish). I also made a beet salad with green apples and feta cheese. Tonight we had beef stroganoff with portabello mushroom, yummy. The only exotic food (unique to us) we've had so far is Breadfruit. It is a large tree fruit that when cut up looks like starchy uncooked potato. When boiled it makes the best 'mashed potatoes' you've ever had, almost like you added some cream to the potatoes/breadfruit. You serve it with butter. The garden we live in produces unlimited grapefruit, limes, bananas and mandarins. The local beer Stag, is a great lager, Yata and I are impressed with it.

In fact, overall we are impressed with Trinidad. It's a very developed country. Good education and standard of living. The mixture of Muslim, Hindu and Christian seem to get along well, as do the races. But, the country is only seven miles from the coast of South American, Venezuela to be exact and that brings gang/drug crime. The crime rate is up and people are concerned. The world is not a particularly safe place these days but we refuse let it keep us down. We will continue to be cautious, do our research and try not to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In some ways we feel as if we are home here. Bunty and Rory feel like long lost friends. They are artists, Bunty a talented artist and she has many artists friends just like I do back home. I have a feeling it's going to be difficult to leave here, seven weeks from now.

Stay warm and keep the creative juices flowing! Jean and Yata   

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The traveling painter and musician....?!

Trinidad Tobago in the south eastern Caribbean was our destination. We were flying out of way sub zero Wisconsin. The morning we left to catch our airport shuttle to MSP it was 17 below zero Fahrenheit. So cold that when you drew air in to breath, it actually made your cold-sensitive teeth ache. That was a first! But we could put up with that knowing we'd soon be in a steady equatorial climate, warm and humid, for two months!

I was transporting artist's materials (warned not to tell TSA that they are paint) acrylics to be exact. I have been a watercolorist – the easiest to travel with, an oil painter- not so easy- and a pastel artist- the pastel sticks show up on the xray machines looking like bullets or shells as they are composed of heavy metals such as cadmium and cobalt-which need to be left out like a lap top if carrying through security.

I have recently started using acrylics which have the advantage, or disadvantage of drying quickly. I hadn't had the time in the studio in the last two years to work on the large scale series of semi-abstracted plant forms that I had started and thought, 'that's it, I'll do that in Trinidad'! I imagined I could take the pre-primed canvas, broken down stretcher bars, tacks and painting supplies and stretch the canvas there, complete the painting, untack it from the stretcher bars and roll it up to return home where I would re-stretch it. I wanted to work large, four by four feet or so. Trying to imagine how to do this I thought of using a golf travel bag to transport all these things. Eventually I got the 'bright idea' to use a ski travel bag which I borrowed from a friend. It was over six feet long and about twenty four inches in circumference. Perfect. NOT. It was so heavy and cumbersome, once loaded, that I realized that it was highly unlikely that the airlines would allow this.

(Warning: this paragraph is about dealing with the airlines customer relations and if you might find this tedious, skip over it!!) In fact, I spent quite a few hours on the phone or waiting in the American Airlines phone queue and reading the fine print on the airlines baggage policy. On the Sports page of the baggage policy it allows a ski and boot bag to count as a checked bag. But, and this is the kicker, in the fine print it says that the bags can only be used for the intended purpose: golf clubs in a golf bag, skis in a ski bag, etc. But, three times I called customer service to see if this was strictly enforced. The first two times, the staff were very easy going, 'sure you can take art supplies in a ski bag', until I'd mention the fine print and then they'd back off, possibly contact a superior, try to contact MSP American Airlines ticketing to eventually say, 'we aren't sure'. The third time I got a definite 'no', from the resolutions department. So I cut my canvas roll from sixty inches long to 40”, eliminated my four foot long stretcher bars and found a former tent bag that I thought I might be able to use. I kept most of my paints, carefully repackaged in plastic tubs or zip-lock bags, a bin of brushes and such intact. I unrolled the canvas from it's core, cut some of it off, rerolled it around the three foot stretcher bars and then rolled that with shrink roll. The airlines also have a limit on weight and size. Fifty pounds, and 62 inches. So if I understood the size limit correctly, I could have a forty inch bag with a twenty two inch circumference. I took the plastic shrink roll along in case I needed to 'shorten' the tent bag which was about sixty inches long and eighteen inches in circumference, to eliminate the $200 oversize charge at the check-in. We got to the counter plenty early-in fact we took the 3:07am shuttle to have plenty of time to spare. The attendant asked suspiciously, 'what's in here'? I said 'artist's materials'. She started to get excited....I said ' but they are acrylics; they are not flammable!' She settled down and put the bag tag on. Away it went to Port of Spain,Trinidad. The tent bag was oversized, but not such that it was charged and it went to special handling but made it to POS thankfully. Phew!! I'm gonna' be painting!!

One other concern about acrylic paints is that they don't like to get cold. They can turn to 'cottage cheese' if they get below about forty degrees Fahrenheit or so. The tent bag with the paints in them road in an unheated cargo trailer from Menomonie, Wisconsin to Minneapolis/St Paul airport, about an hour and a half ride at about 15 below zero Fahrenheit. Would I have usable paints in Trinidad???

I can happily report that I'm am now sitting in my cottage in central Trinidad, having just checked the paints to find that they are still in good form....sigh of relief!

But what about the Musician you ask? He, Yata, wanted to travel with two guitars, supposedly so I could 'jam' with him. I play the bass unprofessionally, he's a professional singer and rythmn guitar player. We've traveled the globe with two guitars. One great find was an inexpensive guitar we picked up in Antiqua Guatemala years ago, an Aranguez, a nylon stringed sweety, only about two feet long with a cut-away neck. And Yata bought himself a Christmas gift of a Yamaha tenor guitar, another nylon stringed smaller sized guitar (nylon is better in a humid environment-they can't rust). So again, the airlines....they are pretty lenient with small guitars if they fit in the overhead compartment. No problem.