Reminiscing About NOLA

The French Quarter collection includes these seven 16x12 oil paintings on canvas board, and the 8x6 balcony piece, all currently available at the artist's studio.

The French Quarter collection includes these seven 16×12 oil paintings on canvas board, and the 8×6 balcony piece, all currently available at the artist’s studio.

In the years after Katrina I was able to finally make it to New Orleans for the first time. I stayed in the French Quarter and it was delightful and at the same time it felt so familiar. I realized the familiarity came from the architecture. You see, the French Quarter was originally French but after the great fires of 1788 (damaging 78% of the buildings) and 1794, as well as the hurricanes and storms of the 1800’s, damage was replaced by architecture with more of a Spanish influence.

My hometown of Cuernavaca in Mexico was first part of the Aztec empire but then it housed Hernan Cortes, Spanish conquistador, and Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico so the urban design and architecture is clearly a mix of Spanish and French influence. This influence is what I recognized while strolling down the streets of the French Quarter. I may not have been the first Mexican to notice the resemblance. Perhaps Benito Juarez, one of Mexico’s former presidents also saw the similarities while living in New Orleans.

Each 16x12 original oil painting is framed in 2.5 (approx) inch solid wood frames with silver finish.

Each 16×12 original oil painting is framed in 2.5 (approx) inch solid wood frames with silver finish.

During my visits I enjoyed walking down the cobblestone streets and sidewalks of St. Peter Street, Decatur, Royal Street, and into the store front shops built into the old homes. Homes with interior courtyards and many rooms. Balconies decorated with wrought iron works and blooming plants adding color to a colorful quarter of the city. What stories can be found waiting to be discovered!

The lush Jackson Square on the wide banks of the Mississippi River, frames the St. Louis Cathedral, one of the oldest cathedrals in the country. The triple steeple building is glazed by the sun’s warm tones reflecting light on its walls.

There is also the pirate lore that of Jean Lafitte left behind. One can almost hear the echos of footsteps and brawny laughter while walking down the cobblestones of Pirates Alley.

So inspired by the vibrancy of the historic square, I set out on several mornings, with easel and paint box in tow, to capture the quiet streets of the French Quarter. Propping my easel as close as I could to the buildings on Royal Street, between the palm reader, the antique shop, and the old heavy wooden gate that saw many carriages ride through it, I started to paint. The same for other soon to become familiar streets. Each one an opportunity to capture the colors of of the French Quarter. I enjoyed the still hours of the day with only a few passers-by on their way to work, by foot or by bike, showing vague signs of life in the still dormant village. And in the heat of the day, I would find a quiet bench in a shady courtyard to rest and enjoy the sights and sounds of NOLA.

The French Quarter collection is also available in authorized reproductions of wall art, home decor, lifestyle pieces, phone cases and greeting cards. For information on the original oil paintings, please contact me.

Interview with Artist Layne Johnson

I recently had the opportunity to attend a private showing of Layne Johnson’s paintings. It was a happy reunion and I was so excited with his work that I wanted to share it with you, from the creator’s perspective, so Layne granted me an interview.

Q: In the time I have known you, how many years, 15, more? You have been a successful and sought out illustrator for children’s literature. Over the last few years however, you have transitioned into fine art. Tell me about this metamorphosis.

Artists Lilibeth Andre and Layne Johnson with samples of Layne's portraits.

Artists Lilibeth Andre and Layne Johnson with samples of Layne’s portraits.

A: Yes, I believe I’ve known you Lilibeth for at least 15 years. Wow. Regarding the transition back to fine art, it’s been interesting in many ways. It was slow going at first. Part of some of the delay was moving and building a new home. Plus I worked on other projects I always wanted to do but never had the time or space to do them. Building ponds, a large raised bed garden and now raising chickens has been fun, but a lot of work. However, back to the transition . . . after moving and settling into my dream studio, I had to decide what direction to go artistically. I believed I could handle many subjects – figurative, portraits, landscape, etc. But I needed to focus. One big challenge was just getting back into the “groove.” I hadn’t painted in 9 months! Another was building up a new body of work. The portfolio of children’s art, while beautiful, was not the direction I would be going. Exaggerated colors and distorted compositions would not work for the representational art I wanted to pursue now. The truth was that I had a few paintings that were “ready” but I actually had some that I had started years ago, that when looking at them with fresh eyes, saw they needed my attention. One positive was that after doing so many paintings for children’s books, my sensibilities and skills had surged forward making me a much better artist. So I grabbed some of the old work and repainted them. With great success I think. But as of now I’m creating totally new work that I’m excited about. Right now, I focusing on landscapes, and working in a series. But portraits will always be in the mix for me. I do enjoy capturing a person’s image in paint, in effect their “essence.”

There are now new and different opportunities to explore via the internet, so we’ll be delving into that to see what works and what doesn’t. One last thing I’m enjoying is the liberty to paint what I want and not being tied to a book project for months on end. The average book took about six months to complete, but some of the last ones took far longer. I have fond memories of that career, but don’t miss it. I loved what I was doing and achieved honors and success. It’s just after doing it for so long and seeing thousands of kids in school visits, I was ready for a change. Ready to explore my old love – ready to paint art that moves and inspires me. And hopefully others, too!

Q: Clearly you enjoy what you do. What is your medium and your favorite tools of the trade?

A: My medium is oils! Though I’ve worked in just about everything else. For many years I painted in acrylics. I’ve also used watercolor, gouache, ink, dyes, and even egg tempera. I dabbled in intaglio, silkscreen and lithography as well. But the freedom that oils gives me plus the fond memory association I have with the smell of linseed oil makes oil painting my favorite medium. With that said, I use the usual assortment of brushes, though some old damaged ones are favorites for certain textures and effects. I often use Liquin as a mixing medium that aids in drying time.

Q:  When did you realize you were an artist?  Who was your first supporter and/or mentor?

Artist Layne Johnson talks about his art at a recent private reception.

Artist Layne Johnson talks about his art at a recent private reception.

A: As for as realizing I’m an artist, it was probably around 13 when I started to really paint. I had great feedback from family and friends, but when I started selling art I realized that THAT is what I wanted to do. I’ve had several mentors but my first was Mrs. Clara Skinner. She taught painting classes and I eagerly attended and learned a great deal from her. I have fond memories of her and probably without her I would not have become an artist. My son either, as he followed my path and now has a Master’s degree in art. He works digitally.

Tomorrow I will attend a memorial for Mrs. Skinner. She was a patient, kind, and an encouraging friend and will be sorely missed by many. (6/15/16)

Q: This is a combined question: Where would you like to be with your art in 5 years? How would you like people to remember your work?

A: In 5 years I’d like to be continuing in the direction I’m going, including having my art in galleries, and also selling prints. I’d also like to travel more and plein air paint. Commissioned portraits would also be in the mix. I’ve had several inquiries recently about teaching classes or retreats. I’m not sure how good of a teacher I’d be, but my wife says I’d be great.

I want people to connect with my work emotionally. I want a painting to move people in a way no photograph can. I want people to identify my work with a sense of place – and embrace the light as I do!

Ultimately, I want collectors, not just clients.

Q: How can people find your work and follow your art career?

A: At the moment the easiest way to follow me is through social media.

I’m on Instagram and Facebook: @LayneJohnsonStudio. I’m finishing up my new website and am eager to connect with people there. I’ve many things to say on my blog and need to get busy on that. So in a few months, I’d say following my blog and joining my list will be the best ways to connect with me.


Mobbing the Hawk

The other day I went out to play with our dog in the back yard. We were playing ball while birds chirped and chirped. Between ball chasing I suddenly realized there was more than chirping going on. I looked up to see a flock of blue jays squawking and circling the sky in a fast and aggressive raucous. They descended into the neighbor’s yard behind me and the chirping and squawking only got louder and bellicose. At that very moment I saw what looked like a red-tailed hawk flying out of the neighbor’s yard and the blue jays followed him. They continued to circle him and showed him the way out of the neighborhood.

I’ve had the opportunity to see blue jays mobbing the Hawk before but I’d only caught glimpses of them as they flew off. Typically, it has been while I’ve been out walking in the neighborhood. I hear the chirping and squawking and I see the birds fluttering through the trees and just catch the tail of the predatory bird giving up on the easy prey, or so it thought.

It is quite remarkable to see how these individual and competitive birds can come together for the protection of their blue jay community. The hawk was clearly bigger, perhaps 4 times or more, than any blue jay but together, they were a force to be reckoned with, and the hawk lost.

Maybe the moral of the story is to teach us that working together we can overpower a threat and by calling our neighbors and mobbing the hawk, we can generate a force bigger than each one of us to save our whole community.

  • June 2016
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    © Lilibeth André and Art by Lilibeth André, 2009-2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this text, images or content without express and written permission Lilibeth André is strictly prohibited. For permission to license, exhibit or purchase any of the artwork, email Links to this site may be made with full and clear accreditation to Lilibeth André and Art by Lilibeth André.