Thursday, August 17, 2017

Picasso Paige

In the third grade, I was tasked with drawing Mary L. Singleton, the first black woman elected to Jacksonville City Council, to be the focal point of my class's bulletin board for Black History Month. For once, I didn't finish in class and asked to take the poster home where I promptly handed the print out of Mary L. Singleton and poster board to my mom. That night, she drew and I colored with my freshly sharpened colored pencils. The next morning, I turned in my portrait of Ms. Singleton and returned to my comfort zone of multiplication tables and long division. Meanwhile, my teacher was so impressed with my work that she submitted our bulletin board for a district wide contest and we won. Staff around my school started calling me "the artist" and my mom called my teacher to let her know that she strongly helped me with my drawing assignment but despite my protest that I wasn't the talented one, I went on to publicly receive an award from Duval County Public Schools on behalf of my third grade class from Mary L. Singleton's family.

Since third grade, I've always longed to again be "the artist" creative type. To be real and not a phony. So twenty years later, I finally felt brave enough to become an artist and create my own painting. To explain, when I moved to Nashville, I wasn't sure what to put above my couch. In NYC, I had a gallery wall of picture frames and in Charlotte, I had a wall of windows (here and here.) Though I liked the picture frames from the gallery wall, they were $3.99 from Ikea and had lived long past their expiration date and inevitability, one was always crooked. Plus, as I near 30, I felt like I should have more sophistication and be the type to have fancy art displayed on the walls in my apartment. I dreamed of having one of Inslee's figure studies or this beauty by Britt Bass and while I may have sophisticated daydreams, I'm currently a graduate student with a monthly income of $0, and couldn't afford the price tag on a print let alone a large, original. Though I scoured the pages of Etsy and Pinterest looking for affordable yet fancy looking art, I came up with nothing which led my feisty inner independent woman to think, "I can do this myself."

I'd go abstract so that if anyone critiqued my work, I could simply accredit it to their lack of refined taste. I started planning the canvas, the colors, the tools, and my mind was spinning. This was it. I was going to become an artist. I started to daydream about my studio (terrace overlooking a garden with fountains, of course) and all of the galleries that would showcase my work across the globe. Oh the exotic trips I could go on and all to gain inspiration. Or better yet, maybe I wouldn't be appreciated in my time and centuries from now, pupils would study my work in their art history classes on spaceships. Or the best scenario, I'd become so renowned that Kate would catch wind of my name and hire me to do exclusives for the redecorating of Kensington Palace. I think its clear, I had high hopes of my painting.

Hopes in tow, I went where all of the great artist go to purchase art supplies, Michaels. As I paced the aisles, I cringed at the prices I was seeing. No wonder these Etsy artists charged so much for their work. I splurged on the cheapest acrylics available and a nice medium sized canvas and made sure to swipe my DPHHS ID for my teacher discount on the way out.

I traveled home where I transformed my parent's porch into my terrace studio. Though it wasn't overlooking a garden with fountains, I had mom's lemon tree nearby and the St. John's River in lieu of a fountain. Now, where to begin. In my Pinteresting for cheap art, I had read countless articles about how to take an artist's work and recreate it for yourself and though it was tempting, I didn't want to again be a phony. This art was going to be a Danielle P. Leach original!

I spent days in my studio creating my canvas, blending the colors on my paper plate palette, and carefully brushing strokes of paint only to intentionally go over them again with a new stroke. Through this process, I realized how much I truly enjoyed painting. There weren't any guidelines or expectations. I had no idea what was I was working towards. If I messed up or didn't like my creation, I could simply go over it with new paint the next stroke. It was beautiful and freeing and while I had no idea where the painting was going, there I was dancing around the patio, paintbrush in hand.

Though I wanted the process to last forever, one day I looked at my creation and just felt this need to stop. It was right where I wanted it to be. So I did.

Now that I've rambled on long enough and because I know some of you have been waiting to see my first ever Danielle P. Leach original since it's debut on my Instagram stories, I present...

Picasso Paige's Painting Process! 

The end of day one where I realized that I was going to need a lot more of the three tubes for $10 paint at Michaels.  

The end of day three (I think.) Annnnd... 

ME! Proudly displaying first original. 

One more because this snap wasn't staged at all. 

I've been told the final resembles a cow which makes sense given my love for cows specifically, ones named Kyle (which is what I call all cows.) I wasn't sure what I would do with the painting but I am proud to share that it is currently hanging above my couch in Nashville. I haven't had anyone over to admire my work but I'm certain, once word gets out, my place will be packed with paparazzi trying to get a snap of my latest piece in transit to the hottest gallery. Get it while you can. 



The Artist 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Fire Up The Grill

I enjoy being in the kitchen. There is something about a meal that brings everyone together and I love making meals for people. In Charlotte, I had a decent sized kitchen and open living space so I would frequently invite friends over for dinners, brunches, and of course, pizza and wine. In New York, my kitchen was large by New York young adult apartment standards but it really could only accommodate one person and the living room was separate so not ideal for entertaining not that anyone in New York hangs out at each other's apartments which was frustrating for my large collection of drinkware. I don't have any friends to host yet in Nashville but am hoping for more dinner parties like Charlotte. One thing I haven't been able to do at any of my apartments and certainly can't do in Nashville is grill which is why I've been maximizing every opportunity to fire up the grill this summer at my parent's house. 

I love the grill because it adds so much flavor while simultaneously leaving zero mess to clean up post meal. I've been grabbing some protein (chicken or turkey sausage) and a few vegetables and throwing them on the grill for delicious weeknight meals that have to be healthier than the Chick Fil A drive thru. Speaking of vegetables, I have some truly exciting news to share. I now eat zucchini and not in the let me take a small piece and hide it in this mound of other things bite or I'll take a bite and then down an entire glass of water to hide the flavor but actually eating zucchini all by itself and I haven't died yet so I think this is a good sign for my hopes of becoming a vegetable eater. 

Another thing I am obsessed with this summer (as is Pinterest) corn. I'm not sure there are any real health benefits to eating corn but it has to be better than french fries, right? We recently went out to eat and I debated ordering the corn and ricotta ravioli appetizer, followed by the summer corn chowder soup, and topping it off with the sweet corn risotto as my meal. I opted against this strategy but man, doesn't that sound delicious? 

If you follow my story on Instagram, you can see that I've been posting lots of pictures and videos of my creations to my story so I thought I would share a few favorites here. 

I picked up a vegetable grill basket from Target for $8. I tried to find it online to share the link but it appears to only be available in-store. It was the Room Essentials brand so nothing fancy but it seems to be doing the trick. 

First, I'll cut up whatever vegetables I purchased and put them in a bowl. I found that the red potatoes take longer to cook so I tried cutting the potatoes in 16 pieces and that seemed to be a good size. Other than that, I've done peppers, onions, tomatoes, and my new summer favorite, zucchini. Once in the bowl, I add 1-2 tbs of olive oil depending on how much I have in the bowl (it all drips to the bottom so I don't think that's too important) and then I add some seasoning. My dad loves salt so to my dismay I usually add some salt and then toss in some pepper, oregano, garlic, and parsley and mix in with the oils and let it sit. I've let it sit for 10 minutes or a few hours. Once the grill is up and flaming, I scoop the vegetables into the basket and grill away for 15-20 minutes.  For the corn, I've been able to just place it on the grill and slowly rotate so that all the sides have a nice grill marks and I cook whatever protein (typically chicken) until it's done. Theres minimal clean up and I think the meal is so flavorful. 

Another favorite is this summer corn, tomato, and feta salad. I've made this twice once on the grill and once using the skillet on the stove and HIGHLY recommend using the grill. It's amazingly delicious. This summer cavatelli doesn't require the grill but it does call for zucchini so as a new found consumer of the vegetable, I enjoyed this dish. 

Summer away my friends. Soon enough, it will be fall and we will be all pumpkin everything.