Mondo Neon podcast is all about neon. Max interviews people from around the world who are neon benders, neon artists, and others who share a love of neon. This is one of the podcasts I listen to when I’m painting, so I was surprised, but thrilled to be asked to be a guest! If you have a free minute maybe take a listen.
I couldn’t do what I do without this guy.
About seven years ago my husband and I started scaling back our life so that we had more freedom. That means different things to different people. For us, it meant putting away as much money as we could to have a savings account that would allow us to be on the road for awhile. We’ve always been pretty scrappy, but this took a very concerted effort.
It’s remains a lot of work, but we’re able to save enough to live on between our shows and deployments.
So far anyway. It’s still a work in progress…
In the last two years we’ve put 36,000 miles on our Airstream driving around the country almost three times plus a few little jonts from here and there. John is always the driver and I am always the navigator. Pepe rides behind John in his kennel while kitten roams the cabin of the truck. I sit on the passenger side with my phone, my notebooks, my computer and my atlas. Between them I point us in the direction of the next destination. And John keeps driving.
I would not be able to capture the images of the signs I paint without this considerable family effort. We make camp every night before dark so that we have time to take pictures before we cook dinner. And many times we wake up at sunlight to go out and take more of the same signs with different light. Then back to the camper, make breakfast and pack up. Rinse and repeat.
We both love being on the road with a mission, but I don’t thank him enough for everything he does. So thank you, mio marito, for all the trailer maintenance, tire-pressure-checking, navigating skills, parking skills, and patience.
Here’s to many more miles and many more campfires.
ti amo per sempre <3
Aside from all the house projects and Mardi Gras I still managed to get some real work done. It’s time for me to stop putting paint on and letting these things dry so we can pack them up for the road. A special thanks to Townhouse for hanging in the living room while we were there.
Time to start packing for a road trip. Fingers crossed everything survives the trip!
I love the drive down to the Keys on the Overseas Highway. We’ve made this trip quite a few times. John and I were even married in Key West in 2003. But for the last handful of years we’ve made this trip during November for the Key West Offshore Powerboat World Championships. We were part of my brother’s pit crew so we drove the race boat and/or the support trailer ( https://www.facebook.com/TalbotOffshoreRacing/ ). We’d leave Sarasota early in the morning when it was still dark, make our way through Alligator Alley and meet a police escort in Homestead. From there to Key West they drove us as fast as they could through the Keys. No time to stop for signs.
It takes about 5 hours to make the drive ( traffic permitting and with no police escort ) from Key Largo to Key West. Each bridge and each key take you further into the Gulf of Mexico and closer to the sea. Pelicans fly next to you and small brightly colored tourist shops line the highway. Each mile makes you smile even more.
This trip we made base camp half way down at Fiesta Key. We unhooked the trailer so we could drive the Upper Keys in search of neon. The weather was great and we had quite a catch for the day. Back at the RV Park, there was a tiki bar and restaurant where we could eat, drink and listen to music. And there was a huge outdoor pool where we could swim each morning before work.
The next home base was on a military campsite in Key West—and right on the water. From here we rented a golf cart and went into downtown. Parking is at a premium and while you can drive in Key West, the island itself is only 2 miles x 4 miles and there’s no easy way to pull over for a sign in a big truck. Plus, I love golf carts! Some neon and a visit to one of my favorite cemeteries and we were back at camp to enjoy another gorgeous sunset.
Driving back up the keys gave us a chance to stop and visit some dear friends. First a pitstop in Sarasota at the warehouse to see Grant and Kellie ( yes, even spelled the same! ). These guys always took care of my brother and his boat and to be around them is like medicine. It’s never long enough, but we enjoy a pizza and wine with the large doors open and the golf cart ready to be driven around. We camp in the parking lot as is now our tradition —and head north in the morning.
This year we got to make another pitstop on our way back to New Orleans in between more signs. Gainsville is now home to another dear family whom we’ve visited as they’ve moved around the country. They just bought a home there and in the midst of their remodel, let us park in their driveway. It is worthy to note how awesome it is that after so many years apart you can roll up to someone’s house and go right back to the preverbal kitchen table you last sat at. Pato y Gato for life.
Just one night with each set of friends and then it was back on the road. Next stop Pensalcola. We’d never camped here, nor looked for signs. We’d always driven through. It was worth the stop for the neon. And the Naval flight museum. And the sunset.
And that was our two-week adventure to the Keys. We did time things right so that we could visit John’s parents on the way down. We got to enjoy some meals, a lot of laughs and some sun together before John’s next deployment.
In a nutshell, I think this road trip has been one of the best. Life is short and yes, that’s cliché, but you never know how long you’ve got. I say work hard at what you do, take the time to hug your parents, visit old friends, make new ones at camp and ride that golf cart.
Mardi Gras Season went by in the blink of an eye. This year I worked on the floats more than normal—having the opportunity to do some full size drawings that were mounted to floats. I loved it. My arm may still not be recovered from that deadline just yet, but I loved it. And because of all that I was invited to ride on float number one—The Goddessey. Oh. My. Goddessey. It’s like getting bumped up to first class! I barely finished my shoes this year and only photographed a couple. And the night of the ride was touch and go. Thunder and lightning almost prevented us rolling. But they let us go, so off we went in our busses to our floats—and there were the happy faces of our friends and family who’d been waiting there for us. Once the parade started the rain stopped and all was clear for the rest of the night. The Amusement after-party was one of my favorites yet. Pat Benatar can still hit every note. Just a few more days to go—a few more day parades to go—and Mardi Gras Season will come to an end.
We have four days until our friends start arriving for Mardi Gras. Yeah, this seems like a good time to redo a floor!
So it was a little ambitious I’ll admit. And we didn't grout until after everyone left, but we did get it all in. The bathroom had carpet almost throughout. It continued out the doors and into the hall leading to the back door and (in the other direction) to the bedroom. We pulled it all out.
We found old subfloors. I was hoping I could paint them and live with that for awhile, but instead we found a few soft spots and —once we were cleared by a Terminix inspection and assured that we were termite free—we decided that tile would be the best solution.
A trip to Lowe’s later we had a truck full of Hardie board, rock tile, thinset, trowels and screws. We pulled up the old tile by the back door, removed all the carpet tack and nails, cleaned the floor and were ready to get to work. The Hardie board provided new strength to the subfloor ( as well as the proper under layer for the tile ) .
Next it was time for tile. We picked the rock for a few reasons. First, our house is very crooked and any pattern would highlight that. Second, the rocks give an outdoor feeling to go along with the banana leaf wallpaper in the bathroom and the jealousy windows and succulents in the hall. And third, I would not need a tile saw to install these tiles. The rocks would be a lot more forgiving when it came to meeting up with the walls and corners. I could just fill in rocks where I need them. The rocks are also forgiving when it came to adjusting some of the roll of the floor.
After Mardi Gras we grouted and caulked. We still need to cut, paint and install all the quarter round trim along the baseboard, but I am happy with how this came out. And we did it ourselves!
Our friends invited us to the IRIS tableau and supper dance. It sounded fun. It sounded fancy. And we had no idea what it was all about. So we asked a lot of questions! Men wear tuxedos (or the military equivalent). Women wear full length gowns. The tableau starts promptly at 7:30pm. Dinner starts at 10pm—and the rest of the night is lots of drinking and dancing.
The tableau is the formal part. This is where last year’s royalty passes the torch to this year’s royalty. All the royalty will ride up front on floats in their parade for Mardi Gras. You get the picture—King, Queen, etc.
Anyway, one friend has a son who is a Page this year. That meant that his mom—and anyone else who was family and female—sat in the front row seats. And actually, the first two rows are for the ladies. If you’re in the front row then you’re supposed to wear white gloves. If you sit in the second row then it’s nice if you wear white gloves, but it’s not required.
Are you wondering where the males sit? Well they sit behind all the ladies. And if there isn’t enough chairs for ladies then it’s customary for the men to give their seat away and stand in back. Chivalry!
So we sat—me, in my white gloves and full-length gown in the second row and John in his military equivalent of a tuxedo sat a row behind. The tableau was about an hour and a half of introductions of the new court. Their were giant head dresses of feathers, long sparkly dresses and suits, and lots of waving.
There’s a lot that we could have done to this kitchen—and I guess we still could. But we’re on a time budget as well as a financial budget so we had to pick our battles. Knock out what we could and live with what we could. This way we get to live with the space awhile too….
The biggies in the kitchen were cabinets, lighting and appliances.
The old kitchen ( some pics in here from the open house ) had upper and lower cypress cabinets. When we removed the uppers we reused them out in the closet of my studio for storage. They are good cabinets but seemed to squish the space too much. With 11-foot ceilings, something needed to be taller here.
Pictures of the old space:
We went south to a place called Southern Arch to buy reclaimed barge board like our living room walls. We removed the fluorescent lights on the ceiling and replaced them with a sputnik chandelier. The stove was quite rusted and needed replacing. The frighted worked fine but was way too big for the space. It covered up light switches and blocked counter space. We found great deals on both at Home Depot —and both are made in the USA. Kitchen island was easier to remove than it looked—and while we still have to get chairs for the table, we now have a great space to sit in the kitchen.
Pictures of the new shelves:
My painting progress hasn’t been clicking along as fast as I’d prefer—and admittedly that’s because of house projects getting in the way—but I’ve got five in progress and that feels good.
For the last six years my husband and I have commuted from Seattle to New Orleans to live and work down here for about four months at a time. The drive to and from is a weather-permitting random driving route in search of old signs across the country. So far we’ve hit 28 states.
Once back in Seattle the work continues and the cycle repeats each year. Usually I paint for my gallery in Seattle while down south and for my gallery in New Orleans while I’m up north, but this year I am stockpiling for a solo show at SAM Gallery in September. More progress to come!
Now back to the easel!
This is my Stepdad. Dad. He’s been in my life since I was 10 years old. We weren't always the best of friends ( yeah, we went through our issues ), but this man has been there through thick and thin.
He taught me how to change a tire, how to check and change my car’s oil, how to drive a stick, and how to drive in the snow. He taught me how to be self sufficient how to use tools, how to put chains on my car, how to stack wood. All of these things gave me confidence. No chore was off limits for a girl. He taught me to be sturdy.
Richard turns 75 today and I am not in town to share in his celebration. If I was I would thank him for his loyalty, his kindness, his thoughtfulness and his humor. I would kiss his feet for his devotion to our mom and her life with Parkinsons. And he’s been a rock through the loss of our brother .
How much I’ve learned from this man.
I love him.
He makes me laugh and he keeps me tethered to my roots.
Richard, I cheers you and your 75th birthday and I hope we have you for at least 25 more. You are a true individual. I can’t imagine where I would be without you.
Is it boring to put house projects in my blog? It’s kinda like art. I mean, a house IS really like a 30-year art project, right?
So here am I am with a bathroom that I don’t have the money to remodel. So I decided to flaunt the flaw as they say. I ordered this pattern ( appropriately named Golden Girls ) from a company in Boston—and yes, it’s made in the USA.
Now I’m pretty good with visual spacing, but there’s a lot more math that goes into wallpaper. Luckily this pattern repeats starting from the top and every other sheet you order is a twin, so two full sheets create the pattern and then it starts again.
The hardest part was aligning the two sheets. On a ladder. As the wallpaper stuck to itself. But just like the directions said, you could pull it apart. It was true!
My math turned out to be pretty close and I ended up with about 1/2 sheet more. I only had to get crafty in one little triangle space where I cut out a leaf to fit. And when it was all smoothed down I just used razor blades to trim. Go ahead. Say Rise Up Lights out loud.
One of my favorite things about this house is the back building. It spans the width of the lot ( just 24’ wide) and is about 15’ deep. Inside is a large storage closet and a full bathroom. The rest is open and perfect for painting. Welcome to my new studio!
There’s always something to work on in a house this old, but for the most part my studio was able to get up and running pretty quickly. I coated the whole thing with a fresh coat of white paint and then flooded the cement floors with black porch paint.
The bathroom in here took a little more work, but not bad. We had to remove a big mirror from the wall ( which tore it up pretty good as there was a lot of glue ) and let’s just say that the studs in this room aren’t in a traditional pattern. So to smooth things out and provide a place for hooks, I used this paintable wallpaper that looks like tin and then we topped it with a wood cap. The cap rail gave me places to hang a shelf and hooks. The rest was just paint.
(more before pics from Zillow)
There were two old suitcases in our garage taking up space as we were packing to come south, so I thought I could put them to better use. We got some legs and some hardware and I got to work…
I drilled the bottom of the big suitcase and mounted the legs…
Since both suitcases taper towards their handles I flopped them when I mounted them together. I used my wine glass as a level and inserted a few of those little felt things you put on furniture feet to make it straight —and viola! Suitcase coffee table!!
—Oh, and I ate a bowl of brussels sprouts with my wine as I built this.
I could not be happier that our first house guests were family! I love these two and we’ve traveled together a good number of times. We’d only been in the house a couple weeks and they were total sports by making due with our makeshift scenario. I look forward to many more visits! Viva la famiglia!
Before pictures are from the Zillow listing of the house because there are no overhead lights in this room and, well, I probably didn’t take as many before pictures as I should have.
Anyway, here is John’s office in progress. We brought some furniture from Seattle, bought a new desk here, and found mirrors and tables and frames at a local flea market. The walls are Oceanside from Sherwin Williams—and even though you can’t quite see the full effect, the paint changes as the light hits it. I love this color so much I want to bite it.
The carpet will come up and we’ll replace it with Heart Pine floors. We’ll also redo the wallpaper in that 1/2 bath off the office. But for now, it’s looking real southern-den-ish. I think John should wear seersucker at work.
I believe that a house tells you what colors it wants to be. Perrie was all very peachy and light grey inside when we got him and it didn’t feel like his walls were living up to their potential. Also, I feel like a fresh coat of paint is the quickest and easiest way to make the house your own and get the biggest bang for your buck. An immediate mood change.
Even before we arrived here I knew that I wanted to called paint John’s office a Sherwin Williams color called “Oceanside”. The whole front room was going to be painted white (very much out of character for me) so the office needed to be bold and saturated. And because you can see from one room to another, the colors needed to all look good together and draw your eye from one room to another. So then I needed a color ( and for some reason I was feeling pink ) for the bedroom. I’d considered a fuchsia or magenta, but wanted the contrast to be more significant between the office and the bedroom so it needed to be lighter than that. I called upon a dear old friend who specializes in color to ask her for some recommendations for pinks. After some discussion about what direction I was headed in ( accent colors, fabric, and feel ) she suggested Sherwin Williams “Youthful Coral”. I added in some “Tricorn Black” and I was set. To the paint store!
On December 7th, 2018 we got the keys to our newest art project. Meet Perrie James—our little single shotgun fixer-upper in New Orleans. He comes to us needing a bit of loving, but we’re very okay with that and ready to dive in!
Brace yourself for house project posts!
Here we are with where we started in the front room. A giant mirror above the fireplace, a giant wall of barge wood, a kitchen island and a lot of cupboards. What will stay and what will go?
After a couple days of accumulating miles and signs we decided to take a detour from our normal southbound route and headed for Joshua Tree.
The desert is a pretty special place. I’m not sure if it’s because the sky is so big or that the land looks so alien, but the city-ness of things definitely falls away. For as far as you can see there is nothing but monzogranite rock formations, crazy cacti and the hardest working plants I’ve ever seen. Maybe that’s what I like about it. It seems rough out there—day or night. Those are some scrappy plants and animals. I admire their tenacity.
“I’m gonna live goddamnit!”
We usually head south the day after Thanksgiving. Mr. Salsa ( our camper ) lives in a garage near my family when he’s not on the road, so heading out on a trip from their neck of the woods means we get Thanksgiving dinner and hit the road with leftovers ( full disclosure: I do none of the cooking. My family does it all and just lets us show up! )
So south we go with a full refrigerator over Willamette Pass in the hopes that we avoid the snow…
But then there was snow.
Luckily it was mid-day and the sun was out so we had a lot of mush and hard pack. As long as we can make it to Weed, California the threat of snow is behind us.
This fall I was invited to start having work at Cole Pratt Gallery in New Orleans. I’ll be delivering seven paintings in December to begin with and hopefully more soon after that. Here’s a peek at what’s on its way—