As a sort-of rule, I avoid sentimental journeys to places I once lived. But it's been years--spring after Katrina--since I saw the house at 410 Cherokee Street. It's one of a cluster of mid-century modern houses two blocks from the streetcar line, in an area called the Black Pearl. I loved that everything wonderful about this house only revealed itself once you were invited over its threshold.
It's Asian-influenced, post and beam construction, skylights, sliding screens, built by John Dinwiddie as his own home when he came to New Orleans to serve as dean of Tulane's architecture school. Mr. Dinwiddie had had a successful career in California, and his last home was wonderfully compact in all the right places, but soared to 12' ceilings in the large main rooms. The back and side walls were floor-to-ceiling glass and faced a courtyard. I always loved walking down the slightly dim hallway to emerge in brilliant daylight. Such quiet drama. He must have been a great gentleman.
So I made my side trip down Cherokee Street and zigzagged back to Broadway. Tartine is in the old Albert Brown salon, but I'd forgotten just where that was. I crossed Broadway to turn at Audubon Street, and passed my first house in the city, on New Orleans most friendly block. Once there, I remembered to turn just past it, which turned out to be the familiar Perrier, a one-way street going the right direction. The stars were in my favor; there was a parking space just around the corner. (Of all the things I miss, finding parking blocks from Tulane on a week day is not one of them.)
I start with the toned canvas in a medium value whose color depends on my mood. If I'm ruffled, it might be venetian red, though that is also a joyful color to my way of thinking. Transparent raw umber brushed till it's warm and glowy is my default, however. As I lay in the brushstrokes for light areas of the sky and taper them off the canvas, I discover how light or shadowy I'm feeling. Except here's the wonderful thing: those first strokes lift me into the present. The painting needs care, has demands of its own. I put my own aside for a time.