The marshes on the Island.
Bird Island Marsh
oil on canvas
I love this view
BI Hilton Sign
Patsy's SculptureNotes From My Residency Journal
Day 1 at Bird Island
I arrived this morning in Horseshoe Beach to Rob's Silo house. Rob and Donna are friends with the Nelms family and look after Bird Island. There was a parade in town and Donna was dressed like a clown. She was so cute in her costume and painted rubber boots. It was a cold and rainy day. Rob offered to keep my car at their house for the duration of my visit, and ferried me over to Bird Island with all of my gear. Bird Island is affectionately known as the Bird Island Hilton.
BI, as I call it, is incredibly beautiful. It is left in its natural state for the most part with a few paths mowed for walking. It is lush, with fantastic large Red Cedars and huge stately Sabal Palms which lean toward the sea. There is a nice wooden boardwalk which covers the edge half way around and a path to the high boardwalk through the natural marshes on the back side. The view is wonderful.
It was dark and cold, so I set up my easel on the front porch and painted the side yard. There are lovely palms and cedars there with a peek at the sea beyond them. I enjoyed watching the occasional boat go by and listening to the birds.
At four PM I stopped for the day and enjoyed my afternoon cup of coffee on the porch. The weather cleared for a bit so I took a walk before my supper.
After supper, I was settling in and suddenly the power went off. Oh no!!! I knew not where to find a flashlight and the downstairs phone only works with the power on. At BI, dark means complete darkness. I carefully felt my way to the circular staircase and slowly climbed the stairs. I made my way from one room to the next and found a landline phone with a lighted dial. Eureka!! I called Rob, who told me where to find the flash lights. I was back in business! I played solitaire on my IPad until I got sleepy and went to bed, keeping my flashlight handy. I enjoyed another exciting adventure creeping around the house in the dark. I was proud of myself for my courage to climb that spiral staircase in total darkness.
Day 2 at Bird Island
I woke without power or coffee, but after a peanut butter sandwich I was out on the island painting in the warm sun for a couple of hours. Rob arrived between 9 and 10 to show me how to turn off the pump. He told me the power company had arrived to assess the problem. After kindly offering his guest house for the night, if the power could not be fixed,he went on his way and I resumed painting. In an hour he returned to tell me the power was restored. Yippee!! Ironically, the problem was that a bird got fried on the power line. Now, if only I could find a way to fix the Internet connection! Linda with no Internet for four days is not a pretty picture! Thank goodness I am indeed in paradise so the pain is minimal.
My first act was to make coffee. By then, it had become overcast, windy and chilly again, so I moved the painting onto the porch to finish it. I like painting on the porch at BI. It offers a nice wind break and a comfy chair to take a break now and then. Most people don't know that painting can be quite tiring, so breaks every few hours are welcomed.
The day continued to be dark and windy. When I finished my painting I decided to take a walk before supper time. I walked out onto the boardwalk on the back of the island and took several photos for reference of the lovely view. I took a photo of Rob's silo house from across the channel. My IPad does not have a zoom feature so it is almost too far away to see well. I will attempt to take one on Wednesday when we are journeying back. I want to do a small painting of their house for Rob and Donna as my thank you for their good care. It began to rain so I hurried back to the cozy house for my supper.
Rob is quite good at all things. He told me that you can cut a hole in your roof and slide in a bottle of water, caulking around it carefully. It will create the equivalent of a hundred watt light bulb during the daylight hours. When he was overseas in third world countries, they used that trick to light shanties with no power. He said you can do the same with a flashlight sitting on its end with the light facing up, by putting a bottle of water on the light. How fascinating! I will remember that trick the next time the power goes out at night. I am fortunate to meet really interesting and smart people in all of my travels.
Day 3 at Bird Island
I woke to overcast skies and wind, so I continued my painting on the porch. I decided to use my IPad photo of the marsh side of the island I took yesterday.
Patsy Nelms was a teacher in her career days so she is keenly interested in history and archeology. She is partnered with the Archeology department at the University of Florida and allows them to come to Bird Island for digs. Dang it, I just missed the last dig conducted recently. She has a wonderful collection of pottery pieces, arrow heads and all sorts of parts and pieces around the island house from the digs. She is also a fine artist, doing interesting sculptures from found objects on the island and great paintings too. Warren is an engineer, and has done all of the cool mechanical stuff in the BI house. The yard is home to a collection of old fishing buoys and other articles that wash up on the shore. Staying on the island is an experience like no other. It is a world away from the pressures of our modern world. My heart is tied to old Florida and this is a thrill for me.
I did my favorite painting today, the marsh view of BI. I really enjoyed this one. I have to paint in a place for a while to dig into the process. Tomorrow I will touch it up and spend some time photographing the island, and views from the upstairs in the house. There is a bird's eye view from the cupola that I want to photograph. I might do a couple of small studies, time permitting. It will be time to start packing up and cleaning before I leave on Wednesday morning.
Day 4 at Bird Island
Today was cool and sunny at 8 AM. It is windy here at the island in April. My other trips here have been in October, when it is hot and still. I have not been plagued with the no see ums or Mosquitoes this time. I will remember that April is lovely here. I imagine that November through April would be pleasant in this way.
I got busy around 9 AM and painted until 2 PM. I took a lunch break then headed out to the boardwalk over the marshes to do a little 5x7 inch painting of Rob and Donna's silo house. What fun! Precarious too, being high up on a narrow walkway in the wind with my paintbox. It only took me a little while.
I did four 16x20 paintings and one 5x7 in my four days here. A fair amount of production this time. I also got good reference photos to add to my residency files for future paintings in my studio.
I have loved every minute of this residency and hope to do it again next year. I am so very grateful to the Nelms family for their kindness and support.