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11-16-2010 Charleston, SC

shrimp

Fresh shrimp from Dauphin Island, Alabama 11.15.10

Alabama

The beautiful coastline of Alabama. Perdido Bay, Alabama 11.14.10

Epilogue
I ended up leaving Gulf Shores, Alabama early on Sunday morning. I had a substantial drive ahead and also wanted to make some stops along the way. Besides, Big Al was waiting for me in Apalachicola, Florida. I was disappointed to see the same amount, if not more, clean-up crews along the beaches between Alabama and western Florida. In some places they are actually rebuilding the sand dunes, but in most cases these crews were cleaning up tar balls and oil remains. I felt compelled to end my Gulf trip exactly where I began it – at the border of Navarre and Pensacola, Florida. Again I was confronted with a larger clean-up crew than I had seen on the earlier days of my trip. I was also once again confronted with the beauty of that part of the coast. I hope man and nature can restore the sands and waters to their pristine state.

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Clean-up staging area. Perdido Bay, Alabama 11.14.10

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Heavy clean-up equipment. Perdido Bay, Alabama 11.14.10

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Where I started my story. Gulf Islands National Seashore, Pensacola, Florida 11.14.10

Gulf Islands National Seashore, Pensacola, Florida 11.14.10

Making my way east along Route 98, I was exposed to yet another face of the Gulf. I would say it was more built up than what I had seen before. Still, it is speckled with marinas, nature preserves, and just plain beautiful coastline. I pulled into Apalachicola around mid afternoon, where I met Big Al for the first time. We hit it off pretty quickly and I got he Sunday tour of the area. It included meeting some friends down by the river for sand bocce and conversation, giant grasshoppers and Boeing B-17s helping some neighbors flip a boat and push it on to a trailer, sampling some of the local seafood, attending a barbeque birthday party, and finally crashing at Al's place. All in all, it was not a bad day.

FL Heron

Heron in the grass, Sunnyside, Florida 11.14.10

App River

Apalachicola River, Apalachicola, Florida 11.14.10

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This grasshopper was the size of my fore finger. Apalachicola River, Apalachicola, Florida 11.14.10

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Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. Apalachicola, Florida 11.14.10

App Morning

Morning on Apalachicola Bay, Apalachicola, Florida 11.15.10

Morning on Apalachicola Bay, Apalachicola, Florida 11.15.10

Monday morning, downtown Apalachicola, Florida 11.15.10

On Monday morning I had to make a pretty quick exit out of town. The drive to Charleston, North Carolina was going to be at least 9 hours and I was hoping to make it before dusk. (I didn't, but it's all good). I got an extra treat of seeing just a last fading glimpse of the Gulf before heading inland and northeast. Today I'll be pointed towards Washington, DC and tomorrow, home to Massachusetts. It's going to be getting colder and less green as I move north, but I have a boatload of warm memories to sustain me.

Cypress stumps on the beach, Carrabelle, Florida 11.15.10

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11-14-2010 Gulf Shores, AL

Sunrise on the Gulf of Mexico. Gulfport, Mississippi 11.13.10

Passing Through
The day started with another one if those stunning Gulf Coast sunrises. I packed my gear, (and to my demise, later noticed that somewhere along the line I had lost my small travel watercolor set). I also noticed that a few small tar ball crews were starting their day as well, as I passed through Gulfport and Biloxi one last time. To my left were the empty remains of Katrina. I had almost come to think of them as part of the normal landscape. But, they are not. They are a reminder of what can be and what can be made better.

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The remains of Katrina across the street from the Gulf. Gulfport, Mississippi 11.13.10

o Springs

Looking out towards the Bay. Ocean Springs, Mississippi 11.13.10

Mike and Mary had introduced me to Ocean Springs, just over the recently opened bridge between Biloxi and this town so rich in artistic heritage. Not only are the views of the Bay and the small bayous inspiring, but so is the attitude and style of the folks living here. I was pointed to the Shear Water Pottery enclave, which is the home of the Anderson family of artists. The pottery and ceramics are absolutely gorgeous. The story and history of the Andersons is equally intriguing and poignant at the same time. When I was in Biloxi, I was told of the fire that destroyed George Ohr's work and how it was later saved and salvaged. The same happened to the Anderson's pottery and studio when their property was hit by Katrina and virtually wiped out. I am so envious of the appreciation the people of this area have for their artists and art in general. Before leaving Ocean Springs, I did stop at the Poor Man's Yacht Club where Kenny graciously invited me to share in the freshly caught and fried shrimp and fish. Fantastic! Kenny's business used to be fantastic, until the sheen from the Deepwater Horizon took a toll on his income. He is still hoping for reasonable compensation. In the meantime, he is basking in the warmth of a great bunch of friends, including Mike.

Little River

Little River. Bayou La Batre, Alabama 11.13.10

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Coden, Alabama 11.13.10

On my way towards Pensacola, I got to pass through Bayou La Batre one last time. Down at the town dock, the sandy banks of the Little River were covered with people of all ages fishing. I have not done a "live sketch" in Alabama on this trip, and thought this was the perfect place to do so. Heading towards Dauphin Island and the ferry to Fort Morgan, I was able to absorb the coastal scenes of Coden and Cedar Point. These were drenched in heavy fog and rain when I initially made my way through the area. I had to stop and pick up some fresh shrimp from Mr. Skinner on the island to bring to Big Al in Apalachicola before boarding the Ferry. The ride across the mouth of the Bay was smooth and full of clean views of the Natural Gas Platforms.

D Island

Dauphin Island Harbor. Dauphin Island, Alabama 11.13.10

Gas

Natural Gas Platform off Dauphin Island, Alabama 11.13.10

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Exxon/Mobil Natural Gas Platform off Dauphin Island, Alabama 11.13.10

Once I reached Gulf Shores, Alabama, the sun began a swift dive into the Gulf. I decided to stay here and forego the additional drive to Pensacola. I am glad I did. While having a bite to eat, I spoke to a couple of gentleman about the affect the oil spill had on this area. They both shook their heads. Not good. Up until just recently one of them was covered in an unidentified "slime wave" that made his skin sticky and itchy and had him feeling nauseous for a few days. This area is not a fishing community. It is a party on the beach and surf and swim town. It's hard to bring in the customers when the beaches are being scraped every day. Making my way back to the hotel, I passed a huge oil clean-up staging area between Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. I am afraid the remnants of the spill are passing through here again as well.

*********

This is probably the last major online update of my travels along the Gulf Coast and my observations of the people and the waters and the landscape of this beautiful area. Today I will be recording the scenes from here (Gulf Shores, Alabama) on my way to Apalachicola, Florida. Tomorrow, I begin 3 days of 9-hour drives up the East Coast towards the chill of New England and the warmth of home.

If you have been following my story, I can only thank you first of all, but you should know that I have so much more to show and tell. I have taken well over 1,000 images and I have been posting the condensed versions of my impressions as time will allow. I am hoping to give a number of public presentations and exhibitions of my journey beginning in early 2011. Please visit this site for updates, schedues and information.

The book, Eye on the Gulf Coast – The View From a New England Artist, will be available for purchase in early January of 2011. Additionally, the prints, photographs and paintings will be available and can be viewed and purchased at Fine Art America. All of these items can be seen on the Eye Store page of this site. Please note that a portion of the proceeds from the sale of these items will go to the Gulf Restoration Network.

Thank you again to all of my supporters and project donors and to all of the wonderful people of the Gulf who I have met and spoken with and who have become my dear friends to the south.

Paul Gaj, November 14, 2010, Gulf Shores, Alabama

***********

Comments>>

11-13-2010 Long Beach/Gulfport/Biloxi/Ocean Springs, MS

oak

Mike's oak tree. He tied his boat to the limb, riding out Katrina. Biloxi, Mississippi 11.12.10

Mike and Mary
I cannot describe anything I have seen or heard today without mentioning and thanking Mary and Mike for their gracious hospitality, warm conversation and love of life along the Gulf. I was given a guided tour of the nuances of gumbo, family ties, fishing rigs, sun porches, yacht clubs and survival. We started with a lunch at a restaurant overlooking the brilliant, dazzling, monstrous jewel that is the Gulf.

Mike knows the monster the Gulf can be. He rode out Katrina in a Boston Whaler tied to an oak tree. Before the screeching storm had subsided, he managed to save 4 dogs, 3 people and himself. And he had the foresight to swim to the bar level of the casino that was still standing across the street. Having a drink or two to calm his nerves, he couldn't light a cigarette even if he had one. All of the gas lines were broke and leaking. That is the short version of the story. Mike's family has been a part of this area of the Gulf since 1944. He still thinks this is the most beautiful place in the world.

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St. Michaels Church. Biloxi, Mississippi 11.12.10

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The bow of Mike's schooner overlooking Deer Island. Biloxi, Mississippi 11.12.10

Mike and Mary

Mike and Mary at the stern of the schooner that bear's Mike's name. Biloxi, Mississippi 11.12.10

Mary lost all of her belongings to Katrina and after a few tears decided she had some work to do and started cleaning up. She owns a couple of pawn shops near the casinos and has lived in this area for most of her life. As we zigzagged our way between Gulfport, Biloxi (Buloxi, I was corrected.) and Ocean Springs we exchanged that comfortable conversation people have when they've known each other awhile. I had only known Mary and Mike for an hour, but there is an easy-going air that you encounter with folks down here. Mike's brothers and cousins and friends and relatives that I met along the way all spoke freely and easily about their opinions of the shrimp, the oysters, the oil, hurricanes and anything else that came to mind.

ocean spings

Looking across the bay towards Deer Island. Ocean Springs, Mississippi 11.12.10

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Shaded egret at the Poor Man's Yacht Club. Ocean Springs, Mississippi 11.12.10

I am hoping to spend a little time in Ocean Springs at the Poor Man's Yacht Club on my way out of Gulfport tomorrow. The sun is setting earlier along the Gulf these days. I have to say that as I move further and further East, I am feeling both the tinge of lost moments with new friends here and the exhilarating anticipation of being home. I miss my family dearly, but I wish there were a way to connect the two worlds. Hopefully that will happen in the not too distant future. In the meantime, the gentle waves of the Gulf are leaving an electric ribbon of light in the sand. And there is not a clean-up crew in sight.

sunset

Sunset on the Gulf of Mexico. Gulfport, Mississippi 11.12.10

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11-11-2010 Gulfport, MS

blues

Biloxi Blues. Biloxi, Mississippi 11.11.10

Biloxi Rhythm & Blues
It was a day of curious explorations. Driving towards Biloxi down Beach Boulevard, I only saw a few members of the tar ball team along the shore. It was close to 70 degrees by 9:30, so if there were going to be more out there, I would have seen them. I tackled my first challenge of the day, which was to do a week and a half's worth of laundry. With fresh clothes and bright smile, I began my tour of the area. Biloxi has a grand mix of southern history and heritage, a fishing industry, the homestead of the only Confederate President, an impressive art museum, the Hard Rock Casino and 2 very large alligators – one of which I photographed.

j davis

Jefferson Davis, the only Confederate President. Biloxi, Mississippi 11.11.10

I started with a tour of Beauvoir, the "Jeff" Davis estate and site of the historic confederate cemetery where lies the tomb of the Unknown Confederate Soldier. I aptly paid my respects on this Veteran's Day morning. The main house and libraries along with a few outer buildings were severely damaged – torn by the wind and waves of Katrina on August 29, 2005. Jefferson Davis, the first and only Confederate President, is spoken of with great respect here. And it is said he was torn by the responsibility of leading the South during the Civil War. Originally a Senator of the United States, he chose to ally his allegiance with his home state and territory. There is much allegiance to home and state here.

ohrpods

The Gehry Pods at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art. Biloxi, Mississippi 11.11.10

podding

The Pods survived the winds and waters of Katrina, but not a floating casino that had broken loose. Biloxi, Mississippi 11.11.10

Just down the Boulevard, passed the second largest man-made beach in the world, is an incredible museum. The Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art houses the work of Biloxi's "Mad Potter", George E. Ohr. George Ohr's ceramics and pottery defy classical definition in the same way I am sure the man did. Beautifully twisted symmetry is how I would describe it. But wait, there is so much more to this enclave of style and sensitivity. World-renowned architect Frank Gehry designed the museum. His curved "Pods" and angular "Shoo Fly" structure compliment the works of the artists on exhibit here. In one of the halls I viewed a number of original serigraphs by Andy Warhol and in another the ceramic sculptures of Helene Fielder.

pot

The work of the "Mad Potter", George E. Ohr. Biloxi, Mississippi 11.11.10

After a quick lunch, where I noticed an article in the local paper about the recent sightings of 2 large alligators, I made my way to the scene of the critters. (I later thought that having the smell of chicken wings on me was probably not the best aroma to carry on a gator hunt). Standing along a bayou off the Back Bay of Biloxi, I saw a group of people pointing to the opposite shore. Sure enough, there was an 11-foot gator resting in the mud. I am told that is a rather large size for this area and probably due to the abundant food supply in that part of the Bayou.

gator sign

Pretty straightfoward. Biloxi, Mississippi 11.11.10

gator

What's for Lunch? Biloxi, Mississippi 11.11.10

Biloxi almost looks like a peninsula when you view the Gulf on one side and Biloxi Bay on the other. Both sides have casinos. Only the Bay side shows evidence of the commercial fishing fleets and packing houses, somewhat protected from the onslaught of the Gulf hurricanes. Ironically, there is a smaller fishing fleet tied up on the Gulf side, nestled behind the Hard Rock Casino. Here they sell their shrimp off their boats and gamble with the uncertainty of economics and nature.

virgin mary

Shrimp/fishing boats on the Back Bay of Biloxi. Biloxi, Mississippi 11.11.10

buildings

Gutted hotel from Katrina, looking towards the Gulf. Biloxi, Mississippi 11.11.10

I ended the day with another quick stop at the Half Shell Oyster House in Gulfport, Mississippi. Melissa was on hand to serve up the Orleans oysters, (which on this day, were from the coast of Texas or maybe the western Louisiana coast). They were delicious. I sat next to Stan and he and I started up a conversation. He bought me a couple of oysters I hadn't tried, just to show his "southern hospitality" as he put it. It is a small world. It turns out he has family all along the eastern coast. One even lives in Noank, Connecticut, where I spent an earlier portion of my life. And so it has been a day of curious explorations.

hardrock

Between a Hard Rock and a hard place. There is a small fishing pier behind the Hard Rock parking garage. Biloxi, Mississippi 11.11.10

Comments>>

Happy Birthday to my brother Bill in Burlington, VT.

11-11-2010 Gulfport, MS

GulfportLight

The Gulfport Light. Gulfport, Mississippi 11.10.10

Life Really is Like a Box of Chocolates
I decided to slingshot myself to Bayou La Batre, Alabama from Gulfport, Mississippi this sunny morning. During the first leg of my trip on my way to Louisiana, I missed a lot of the Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula area. I was wise to plan a return route that included the coastal towns I had passed through initially. I only observed a few clean-up crews along the beaches. More evident than any remains of the oil spill were the remains of Katrina. There are still many empty lots and foundations where beautiful homes once stood. Somehow, the mighty oak trees have maintained their stand.

Pascagoula

East side of the Pascagoula River, Pascagoula, Mississippi 11.10.10

I was on a mission to explore Bayou La Batre because I was unable to see much of it while driving through an intense storm there last week. Passing the casinos of Biloxi, I crossed the "noisy bridge" over Biloxi Bay on my way to the state line. Going east, the shipyards and port of Pascagoula are more prominent and I took a turn off Route 90 to get a closer look. It is tricky being a guy with a camera in certain areas – especially along the Pascagoula River. There are many governmentally sensitive areas. After making my apologies, I moved on towards Alabama and my original destination.

When I reached the Alabama state line, I stopped at a Chevron station in search of a map of Alabama. I am finding that paper maps coupled with my GPS give me a better bearing of where I am. I met three young ladies on bikes as I left the store and found to my delight that they were from New England and bicycling from Maine to New Orleans. I gave them some helpful advice, I hope, as I wished them a safe journey. They were on their way to help rebuild some Katrina-destroyed homes in New Orleans. I tell you that it is hard to talk to anyone along the Gulf Coast without mention of Katrina. I doubt that many folks down here named their newborn girls after her. The oil spill seems to take second seat to the memory of those awful winds and waters of late August 2005.

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Commercial shrimp boats. Bayou La Batre, Alabama. 11.10.10

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On the banks. Bayou La Batre, Alabama. 11.10.10

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Shipyard with push boats on the left. Bayou La Batre, Alabama. 11.10.10

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Cap'n Frank's Smoke Shack. Bayou La Batre, Alabama. 11.10.10

Bayou La Batre is not far from the border of Mississippi and Alabama. It is very far from anything I have seen on my travels. The town is filled with basic, hard working folks who keep their noses to the grind wheel and their smiles poised and ready. Everyone there is involved in a quiet intensity unlike anything I have seen. From Cap'n Frank's Smoke Shack, which is incredibly delicious, (You have to try the bayou pig.) to Rachele in the Chamber of Commerce/Historical Museum, to the gal wiping the counter and the welders in the shipyards and the shrimpers caring for their boats. Although Forrest Gump was filmed there over 14 years ago, you can still catch an authentic glimpse of that southern coastal life around every corner. I made my way to the mouth of the Little River where there were a number of steel push boats and shrimp boats being built and overhauled. At the end of the town dock, a gentleman, seeing me with my camera, offered to take a photo of me. He is a private fisherman who said he has seen many shrimp and fish, but no oil.

bayouL4

Storm surge line on building. Bayou La Batre, Alabama. 11.10.10

There is a frightful reminder of the storm surge that pushed many vessels on the banks and flooded a good portion of the town. If you look closely at the outer side of the building in the picture above, you can see where the sheer force of the wave buckled the wall. It was observed in a conversation along the Mississippi River earlier in my trip that what nature crashes and thrashes here is rebuilt bigger, and stronger and smarter. In Bayou La Batre they are doing just that.

bayouL5

Palm trees. Bayou La Batre, Alabama. 11.10.10

Vanquish

Bow of the Vanquish. Bayou La Batre, Alabama. 11.10.10

paulgaj

Paul Gaj on assignment. Bayou La Batre, Alabama. 11.10.10

As I drove back towards Gulfport, I was mapping in my head where I might set up my paints when I passed through Bayou La Batre again on Friday. I also realized that I hadn't taken anywhere near as many images as I have on previous days, but I had taken a lot of impressions – also a valuable resource. In the course of my days here, I try to get as much visual reference material as possible. When I return to the hotel room at night, I spend up to 4 hours reviewing my images and writing my notes. I stopped in downtown Gulfport to catch a light bite to eat before heading in for the evening. Melissa at the Half Shell Oyster House served a fantastic seafood gumbo from the kitchen. Before leaving, I was engaged in a friendly conversation with Mary and Mike who offered some history and insight into the Gulfport/Biloxi area. I hope to see them again for an extended conversation. For now, I am in my safe port up the road, planning my excursion for tomorrow.

pure

Pristene Gulf of Mexico. Bayou La Batre, Alabama. 11.10.10

Comments>>

A salute and thank you to all of our brave Veterans today.

11-10-2010 Gulfport, MS

Dawn

Dawn on the Delta just outside of Venice, Louisiana 11.09.10

Delta Dawn
It was a along day. I started at 4:45 AM as I got myself together for a boat ride with Jimmy on the Delta. I wished I were a fisherman today, because instead of catching images on this beautiful morning, Jimmy would have had me catching speckled trout, reds, bass and maybe a flounder or two. Instead of packing bait, tackle and rod, I made sure I had an extra flash card and battery. You don't waste a trip on the Delta like this by running out of juice or memory. Crawling out of the Cypress Cove Marina, we made our way on to the open Mississippi River where Jimmy shot us towards Pass a l’Outre. (Also known as the Pass Beyond, and originally as Otter Pass).

wake

Looking up River towards Venice, Louisiana 11.09.10

jimmy

Jimmy on the Delta, Louisiana 11.09.10

There are two other main channels out of the mouth of the River – South Pass and Southwest Pass, which is the primary shipping channel. Jimmy was taking me to the site of the first breach of oil from the spill. Before we made our way there, we pulled up to some older offshore wells that had long been drilled and were doing their jobs of pumping oil quite cleanly and efficiently. These platforms were affixed to the seafloor, which at this point of the Delta was only 14 feet deep. The ocean floor below the Deepwater Horizon was 5,000 feet and that platform was a semi-submersible, which is held in a floating position by four motorized push boats. (A simplified explanation). There is a lot of "old iron" in this section of the Delta. These are wells and rigs that have long been used, but sit in place waiting to be scrapped.

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Compressor rig on the left, "Christmas Tree" on the right and other platforms on the horizon off the Delta, Louisiana 11.09.10

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These platforms are in fairly shallow waters, only 18 to 24 feet deep. Fishing boats are allowed to tie up to them on the Delta, Louisiana 11.09.10

silt island

One of the silt islands first hit by oil off Pass a l’Outre on the Delta, Louisiana 11.09.10

The mouth of the Mississippi River is spotted with silt islands that are basically cane grass on silt. These are rich feeding grounds and nesting areas for the waterfowl there. This is where the concern of the first wash-up was centered. Orange booms could be seen keeping the oil in, rather than keeping it out. Large powder discharges could be heard every 30 seconds, used to dissuade the birds from landing on the island.

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Affected island on the left, shrimp boat and Pass a l’Outre Light. This was all once land and marsh before Katrina. 11.09.10

cleanup

Clean up along South Pass on the Delta, Louisiana 11.09.10

On this day, it was odd to see a shrimp boat 500 yards off the oil-stained shore of the silt island. The basic concept here is that the seafood is good and healthy to catch and eat. As we made our way back up South Pass, a tricky bit of navigation for Jimmy, we saw little evidence of oil damage other than one clean-up site on the western shore.

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Notice that the white pelicans are indeed white along South Pass. No sign of oil at this point up along the Delta, Louisiana 11.09.10

Heading back to Venice, Jimmy pointed out Pilot Town, where the river pilots were stationed at one time and the old Quarantine Station where crews were tested before being allowed into port. Further up we ran into Jimmy's friend Chris who was catching a flounder or two along side a speckling of other sport fisherman. We also almost ran aground further up from there as Jimmy made his way through an unfamiliar pass. The tide was at a low point, and to Jimmy's credit, the shifting silt bottom of the river changes constantly. We made it back to Venice without a glitch, two camera batteries later I might add.

So the bottom line from my view is that fishermen in Louisiana want to fish. Oilmen want oil. Consumers want oil and fish without oil in them. Someone has to be keeping track of this. Each side is a little too close to their product to be thoroughly objective. Appearances would indicate that both sides are doing the best they can with the situation.

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Cattle on the levee North of Port Sulphur, Louisiana 11.09.10

I left Venice after thanking Jimmy and made my way back towards New Orleans and on to Mississippi. Along the way, I caught the West Port a La Hache ferry across the River to Port a La Hache, saving a bit of road time. I also had a brief conversation with a gentleman on the ferry who has lived along the River all his life. I offered him a satsuma orange, which he gladly accepted. He was proud to tell me he was the first black man to graduate from high school in that area. That was in 1952. He also said he has seen many changes along the River since that time. Changes brought on by man and nature. Some good. Some, not so good. Most were written on his face.

windswept

Wind damaged long ago along Route 39 North, Louisiana 11.09.10

I stopped at a small state park outside of Chalmette to cook myself a lunch before making my way back along Route 90 East towards Gulfport, Mississippi. I passed NASA’s Michoud Facility assembly area where the last of the external fuel tanks for the space shuttle boosters were shipped from this year. Across the street is the Folger Coffee plant. They just went through a $100 million expansion. We are not making rocket fuel tanks any longer, but will continue making coffee. It is a new dawn on the Gulf of Mexico.

pass1

A new dawn on the Delta just outside of Venice, Louisiana 11.09.10

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11-08-2010 Covington/Venice, LA

The Tchefuncte River Light Station. Mandeville, Louisiana 11.07.10

All That Remains
Sunday brought me to Covington, Louisiana, which is on the northern end of Lake Pontchartrain, the second largest saltwater lake in the United States. It is a shallow body of water – only 12 to 14 feet deep. I was invited to the home of Beth and Tommy. Beth, an attorney, is related to my wife and Tommy is related to Louisiana. I mean that as a compliment to them both. They could not have been more gracious or informative about the oil spill, southern cooking and the Big Easy.

I walked in to the aroma of Tommy's homemade seafood gumbo. I have never met Tommy, but I was greeted with a big ol' how are you and a warm conversation that went on for hours. All good. As was the gumbo and the Saints' game. After a quick tour of the area we settled back and I began to pick Tommy's brain as he introduced me to sassafras, Chefs John Folse, John Besh and Susan Spicer and how to make a Roux. I also learned about crawfish and rice fields, oyster season, satsuma and a rodent-like critter called a nutria. More intriguing to me was Tommy's knowledge of the oil business and offshore drilling. He has spent some time out on the Gulf and with his help I'll be able to better illustrate the process in the near future.

After a great night's sleep and a strong cup of coffee I left my new friends for the two and a half hour drive to Venice, Louisiana. Crossing Lake Pontchartrain over the 24-mile causeway will keep you alert at 7:00 in the morning. An interesting observation I made was that the ride into New Orleans at rush hour on a Monday was a Big Easy. Continuing through the city, passed the Super Dome, under a tunnel and on towards Route 23 South, it also occurred to me that I have been over, under and around a lot of water in the past few days. Tomorrow I will be on the water if my plans work out.

Flying to the platforms. Boothville, Louisiana 11.08.10

Fishing vessels. Empire, Louisiana 11.08.10

Gas refinery. Venice, Louisiana 11.08.10

Making my way South along the Western banks of the Mississippi River, I was exposed to the obvious fact that the only thing more abundant than water here is the presence of the petroleum and natural gas industry. As you get closer to the mouth of the river, the landscape goes from agricultural to industrial as evidenced by the rig and pipe suppliers, the staging areas, the heliports and heavy-duty transfer vessels. The drive into Venice was somewhat cinematic in that as you pan from one direction to the other there is a hustle and bustle of sportsmen, pickup trucks and boat trailers while at the same time, there are the parallel activities of welders, scrubbers and other working vehicles and personnel. To add to the anomalous symphony, you have the beautiful landscape of bayou, swamp and cypress groves punctuated with jumping mullets, rolling red fish and swooping white cranes. There is also a Halliburton Road here. I kid you not.

Snowy egret in flight. Venice, Louisiana 11.08.10

If any one thing can be said about the spill here today, it is that it is still on everyone's mind. It has had an affect – physically, mentally, economically and/or emotionally. This was ground zero for the first waves of oil and the media circus that followed (there is some debate about which was worse), and it is the center ring for watching how the Gulf Coast and its people will survive it all. They have survived many adversities here. It remains to be seen how they will fare through this.

Venice, Louisiana 11.08.10

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11-07-2010 Delacroix/Bohemia, LA

crabbing

Cold morning crabbing. Delacroix, Louisiana 11.06.10

Bohemian Rhapsody
Right outside of Delacroix you can get tangled up in blue. Blue sky. Blue water. Blue crab. (Thanks Mr. Dylan). I saw it all this morning. It was a cold blue. I tried sketching along the canal to Delacroix, Louisiana and my fingers were numb. I warmed up to some comfortable conversation with a few folks crabbing down the road from this rough and tumble fishing launch. The dance of the white cranes offered an amusing respite from the cries of the red winged black birds as the duck hunters made their way to set up camps for the season in their camouflaged John boats.

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Duck hunters with New Orleans on the horizon. Delacroix, Louisiana 11.06.10

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Pencil Sketch of moss and egret. Delacroix, Louisiana 11.06.10

No sign or talk of oil here. The tide was about 2 feet lower than yesterday and only allowed for a glimpse of the residue of other man-made implements – bottles, bathtubs and baskets. I looked for Dugie in Hopedale, but he was nowhere to be found. So I paid one last visit to Glenn and Boogie where I picked up a map of the Louisiana Delta to guide me through next week's sojourn.

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Boogie's shrimp boat. Hopedale, Louisiana 11.06.10

From there I made my way to Bohemia, Mississippi which is on the far eastern neck of the Mississippi River. At first glance, the feathery edges of the Louisiana coast make no sense. But when you really take a look at a detailed map it becomes clearer. The Mississippi is a mighty River and a mighty path of commerce. It provides the U.S. and the world with petroleum refineries, natural gas feeds, grain and raw material depots and transfers from as far north as Minnesota. The drive along Route 39 South is a bit eerie in that you are surrounded by levees and have the distinct feeling that there is water above you. Bohemia, Mississippi is really the end of the continental landscape of the United States up to the Gulf of Mexico. I saw no evidence of human habitation other than an occasional utility truck or government vehicle monitoring the area's energy delivery systems.

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Barge and natural gas plant. Mississippi River, Louisiana 11.06.10

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Bohemian Rhapsody. Old school oil well, Pointe a La Hache, Louisiana 11.06.10

Pointe a La Hache, Louisiana on the other hand offers a formidable boat yard and launch area. I spoke with a gentleman there who was along with friends getting a general plan for the next day's fishing excursion. We both agreed that the apparent solution to devastation of any kind in the area was to rebuild it bigger and stronger.

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Fishing boats up for repair, Pointe a La Hache, Louisiana 11.06.10

Which is what they were doing on the other side of the boat launch. A number of fishing vessels were up on dry dock being patched welded and riveted back together. It was a perfectly warm spot for some quick pencil studies. Tomorrow is a day of visiting with my wife's family in Covington. I understand it involves the watching of the New Orleans Saints on a Sunday afternoon. All of my batteries could use the recharge.

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Watercolor, Half a boat away. Pointe a La Hache, Louisiana 11.06.10

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Happy Birthday to my sister Nancy. Hope all is well in Seattle today.
Good luck to Mark Nelson in the New York City Marathon today.
Congratlations to LSU on your win!!

11-06-2010 Hopedale/New Orleans, LA

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Boogie makes a catch. Hopedale, Louisiana 11.05.10

Dugie Boogie Woogie
Dugie and Boogie are oystermen, shrimpers, fishermen – whatever is in the water and able to be caught or harvested-men. I started looking for Dugie on a tip from Millie. I ended up meeting Boogie by asking for Dugie. By the end of the day, I was listening to some live Boogie Woogie on Bourbon Street. Are you with me so far?

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Lost Boat. Hopedale, Louisiana 11.05.10

The road to Hopedale is paved with hope. And ghosts. St. Bernard Parish, whose parish seat is Chalmette, Louisiana took a fatal hit from Katrina. It also took a hit from the Deepwater Horizon spill. Not a direct or even physical hit, but an economic and psychological one. There were plenty of sport fishermen leaving for the Gulf through the canals and passageways off Breton Sound Marina in Hopedale in pursuit of "reds" (Red Fish) today. Glenn Sanchez watches them every day. He also watched the "vessels of opportunity" launch their armada against the evil tar balls from his docks not long ago.

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Off Breton Sound Marina, Hopedale, Louisiana 11.05.10

Boogie Barrios just wants to shrimp and oyster. He does a fine job of it too. His lineage includes ancestors from the Venice, Louisiana area and he is proud of their history working the waters off the delta. He also thought he might lose his livelihood after the spill. Judging by the catch he made this morning, he should be all right for now.

I met with Dan Farve of the Gulf Restoration Network this afternoon in his office in New Orleans. It is about 30 feet above sea level. Dan's explanation of the entire Gulf situation is at an elevated level as well. It was enlightening to get a view of the entire picture and the many facets involved in maintaining the health of the Gulf while dealing with the welfare of the fishing industry and the constraints of the relationships between the federal, state and local governments and the obvious political and economic influence of the oil and gas industry. There are also conflicts of interest regarding flushing fresh water into the marshes versus the inland attack of leaking oil. As a side note, the general consensus is that there is oil still out there. At what level and intensity is up for debate. It is not all gone.

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Unleaded and Regular. Hopedale, Louisiana 11.05.10

So there are two entities working off the same resource here – seafood and energy. When you throw in the affects of a devastating man-made disaster and a natural disaster, it makes for a complicated jambalaya of problems. New Orleans itself seems to have recovered nicely from Katrina, at least in the downtown and tourist areas. As you head out of town along North Rampart passed Louise Armstrong Park, you can still see the debris and waterlines of Katrina's surge. But it is improving and life appears to be moving on. They say "It's all good" here a lot. Even if it's not, by saying it and thinking it the folks here do make it good.

One thing everyone agrees on is that this is a wonderful piece of America. Whatever the solutions are, they have to be found and implemented. If you walk down Bourbon Street after a cool drink and a fine dish at La Bayou Restaurant and into the French Quarter, you forget about the problems over the levee. The sounds and tastes and smells are so rich and alive that you can't help but tap your feet and smile. It's all good!

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French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana 11.05.10

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P.S. Cleveland is just alright with me. I hope no offense was taken.

11-05-2010 Chalmette/New Orleans, LA

Insult to Injury
I started my day compiling the images and text for November 3rd's update and planning my schedule and accommodations for the next few days. By the time I packed the sun was out, but the northern wind and clear air made for a crisp morning. Not New England crisp. Gulf crisp. I got back to the beach along Gulfport to find a spattering of clean up crews making their way up and down the sand. They could be seen on the surf line along Route 90 as well, like the new subjects of this century's genre paintings. If you look from left to right making your way through Gulfport, Long Beach, Pass Christian and Waveland, you will see the beautifully magnificent Gulf of Mexico on one side and the gnarled and splintered remains of hurricane Katrina on the other. Insult to injury.

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Great Blue Heron, Gulf of Mexico off Waveland, Mississippi 11.04.10

And below the surface all is not well. I heard much talk of oysters today. The fishing schedule for them has been delayed because of recent findings of which no one seems very specific. The oystermen repair and tinker about or simply abandon their boats waiting for the go ahead to harvest. I am not sure how they are able to cope with the onslaughts of nature and man at the same time. Chrissy made me a wonderful fried crab sandwich in Pass Christian for lunch from her small food truck, which she explained was once a building and has now been made mobile for a quick escape.

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Idle oyster boats, Pass Christian, Mississippi 11.04.10

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Saint Clare Parish, Waveland, Mississippi 11.04.10

By the time I reached Waveland, the winds had increased but the sun was still keeping the air warm. Waveland is basically being rebuilt from the remains of nothing. I believe most of the town was wiped out. There are no fishing boat docks there, but up a little further by the casino there were a few boats tucked into one of the inlets waiting for their release.

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Bayou Sauvage, New Orleans, Louisiana 11.04.10

It's funny how when you cross from one state to the next you can almost feel the bump of the boundary line. The same happens from Mississippi to Louisiana. The pavement is different. The trees and the horizon change. The drive over the Pearl River was a bit unnerving as the winds continued to pick up and I felt like I was driving below sea level. Despite the awkwardness, I stopped at the Bayou Sauvage sanctuary and was greeted by the squeal of a hundred birds. They seemed unaware of the wind, my presence, or any oil spill. I am outside New Orleans for the night in an area that once felt a 16-foot storm surge. There is a bit of a wind blowing. May I never know the terror these poor folks must have felt.

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11-04-2010 Long Beach/Gulfport, MS

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Natural Gas platforms off Dauphin Island, Alabama 11.03.10

Weather and Seafood
This morning I was determined to make my way to Dauphin Island, Alabama at the mouth of Mobile Bay. Leaving Mobile at 7:00 am, I drove into a black wall of heavy rain and thunderstorms. Heading south towards the island, the weather eased a little as I reached Alabama Port. By the time I crossed the causeway bridge, the clouds broke and I caught my first view of an offshore platform***, lights twinkling on the horizon. There is a Sea Lab research facility on the Island, but they didn't open until 9:00 so I searched for a cup of coffee while I waited. I happened upon the Lighthouse Bakery, which was full of the sweetest pastries and warmest southern smiles. Back at the Sea Lab I spoke to one of the staff about the situation along that part of the coast.

*** They are actually Natural Gas platforms. Twenty-eight thousand feet below the surface of Mobile Bay and the near shore Gulf of Mexico is one of the largest natural gas deposits found in North America! Drilling started in 1981 and is projected to continue for another 20 years. – Thanks for the correct information Robert.

What I am learning as I go is that the effect and pattern of the spill and its residue traveled like smoke in a swirling breeze. Some areas of the coast seem to have no negative effects, while others are severely impacted. And this is happening at multiple depths in the waters as well. The Alabama Bay Watershed supplied the Bay with vast amounts of fresh water flush from the winter and spring rains. This helped dissipate the oil from the spill from even reaching some of the oyster beds and shrimp areas. The Sea Lab has been monitoring both the water and sea life in the Alabama coastal region before and since the spill. That was good enough for me so, I bought 6 large shrimp from Mr. Skinner and made my way off the Island towards Mississippi by way of Bayou La Batre, Alabama.

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One of Mr. Skinner's Shrimp Boats 11.03.10

Bayou La Batre is the largest seafood processing port along the Gulf. (Remember Forrest Gump?) It is also a boat and shipbuilding area. Unfortunately, by the time I reached there a dark curtain of torrential rain, thunder and winds walloped the area. I had to pull over once and move quickly to get away from severe street flooding. I will visit the port on my return route.

As I continued towards Mississippi and got closer to its coast, I noticed the lack of clean up crews and heavy equipment along the beaches. The area may have been spared the lasting effects of the oil spill, but as you drive west from Biloxi to Long Beach you will notice miles and miles of hollow foundations – the remains of Hurricane Katrina's wrath. Before ending up in Long Beach, I stopped at the Davis Bayou Area to find a spot to cook Mr. Skinner's shrimp. A caught a lucky break in the weather and the sun was shining finally. Not only were the accommodations superb, (picnic table and running water) but also the shrimp were delicious. I did a small sketch of the beautiful bayou in front of me before the next rain shower sent me packing.

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Davis Bayou, Ocean Springs, Mississippi 11.03.10

At the end of the day, I needed a little something to top off the shrimp lunch and ended up in a small café in Gulfport. Speaking with a woman who was born and raised there and whose father had been an oysterman, shrimper and fisherman – depending on the season – I was once again reminded of this wonderful attitude that the folks here have. Times are good, times are bad, but everything works out. I had to try the oysters after her recommendation. They were delicious. Yesterday I put myself in the Gulf. Today, I put some of the Gulf in me.

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Cooking Mr. Skinners's shrimp from Alabama in Mississippi 11.03.10

On Thursday, I am off to explore the remaining section of Mississippi's coast. A cold front is pushing the rain away, but bringing in some New England temperatures. I might actually have to wear jeans.

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11-02-2010 Mobile, AL

Sugar Sand and Black Tears
Although this is day 4 of my journey to the Gulf of Mexico, it is really the first day of my Eye on the Gulf Coast project. Today, I truly had my eye on the Gulf and my feet in the Gulf. And I have to say it brought tears. I have not even seen the worst effects yet. This morning began on the pristine beaches of Navarre and the Gulf Islands National Seashore just outside of Pensacola, Florida.

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The first evidence of the clean-up crews. 11.02.10

By the time I had only traveled some 60 miles along Santa Rosa Island to Perdido Key and Gulf Shores, Alabama, it became pretty obvious how serious the impact of the spill is – still! As you move from east to west, the accumulated manpower, machinery, waste containers and clean-up-occupied space increase exponentially. It started with a few guys with rakes and buckets and an off-road vehicle here and there and ended with heavy construction equipment gouging the beaches in Alabama.

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Sign of the times. 11.02.10

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This is basically a body-bag for tar balls. These are set up at clean-up sites along the parking areas where the teams are deployed. 11.02.10

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A fairly light clean-up brigade. 11.02.10

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More concentrated clean-up brigade. 11.02.10

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Clean-up group. 11.02.10

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The containers get bigger and bigger. 11.02.10

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The machines get bigger and bigger. 11.02.10

The folks here seem to take this all with a wonderful southern resolve of faith and perseverance. JP told me how she cried when seeing the first wave of sludge hit the sands off Fort Pickens, Florida. A realtor up the road from there said he had just gotten his claim payments. Considering he suffered a 75% loss in vacation rentals over the summer, he seemed content with the settlement. Hopefully the mess will be gone by next season.

I am in Mobile, Alabama tonight. The weather was too rough for me to take the ferry from Fort Morgan across the bay. I hope I catch it on the return leg of my trip. It is the off-season here so the winds and temperatures aren't as gentle. Hopefully, they'll spare the sugar sands from more black tears.

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boatbow

(The foredeck of a 40-foot cruiser) The Gulf has certainly taken its toll on man, but our recent mark will be left for years.11.02.10

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11-01-2010 Navarre, FL

Gulf Wind
Once you make it through the entire length of Alabama in your car, there is nothing like the feeling of stepping out and being hit by the warm Gulf breeze. It was 80 when I arrived in Navarre, Florida which is about 24 miles east of Pensacola. I wanted to start as close to the water as I could.

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Now the real work begins. I am not optimistic about the weather over the next few days. Makes for soggy painting. I'll probably concentrate on photos and getting the lay of the land betweeen Florida and Mississipi. It will be a good chance to talk to people. In speaking with the host from the hotel here I learned that at the beginning of the spill period, the waters off Pensacola were quite ugly with goo and sludge. Luckily, the currents divert any debris from the west away from Navarre so they weren't affected.

I was planning on taking a flight over Gulfport, Mssissippi later this week through the cooperation of a fine organization called SouthWings. Apparently there is nothing substantial to see in that area so I'll probably be flying from a different location over the weekend. Stay tuned. Gotta pack.

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10-31-2010 Nashville, TN

Happy Halloween. Fine Times in Nashville.
Left Harrisonburg in the dark on Halloween morning. Shot the sunrise image on my way south along Route 81. Great drive. Lots of dead dear along the highway. Missed one that jumped out at me.

I pulled into Nashville at around 3:30. (2:30 their time). Checked in to the Best Western and made my way to Broadway. Now when faced with a wide variety of bars to enter in Nashville, I went for the one with the largest screens so I could catch the Patrioits and the Vikings. They also happended to have a 2 for one special of a variety of 50+ beers. The wings and Gumbo were to die for. I would highly recommend the Broadway Brewhouse and Mojo. I was then introduced to a couple of locals who suggested I might listen to some music across the street.

I have never heard live music of the calibre that I have here. Between the vocals and the musicians it was fantastic. And as you walk your way up Broadway you can pop into any number of venues with more excellent talent.

I got a cab ride home by a gentleman from Baghdad. We got to talking about art and he started showing me the beautiful paintings he does on furniture. Between the food, Halloween characters, music and general hospitality, I would say it was a good day. Off to Pensacola. A little later than hoped. Must have been the beer.

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Raphine,VA Sunrise, Oct. 31, 2010

10-30-2010 Harrisonburg, VA

Long Drive to Shenandoah Mountains
580 Miles. Saw a lot of great sites, but no access to pulling off and getting a decent photo. I am going to get a good night's sleep and start off early tomorrow. As much as I am tempted to stop and paint along the way, I want to make sure I stay on schedule for the Gulf. I might sneak a photo or two in Nashville tomorrow.

10-30-2010 Groton, MA

Off to the Gulf Coast
I'll be leaving from Groton after a nice breakfast with my family at 8:00 AM today. I plan to make it to Harrisonburg, Virginia by the end of the day. Not sure what I'll see along the trip, but I hope to absorb as much as I can on the way to the Gulf Coast.

10-20-2010 Groton, MA

Project Locator
This map shows the general area to be covered while on the Gulf Coast. As the trip progresses, you will be able track events and journal notes as well as images that are specific to each location.

Base map

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10-15-2010 Groton, MA

Water & Color & Salt
In addition to photography, my primary medium for recording what I see on the Gulf Coast will be through watercolor sketches and paintings. The base solvent in watercolors is obviously water. Although there can be some questionable long-term effects from salt in the water, the textural variations that are created are quite intriguing. Whenever possible, I will be using water from the Gulf to dilute my pigments. Unless I detect a nasty reaction, it could make for an interesting combination.

Swatches

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