Marcia Willman, Nyle Gordon, Manda Sophia, and Spencer Meagher fled the cold Midwest and traveled to New Orleans this past winter to soak up the sounds and sights of the Crescent City. Now they are showing their work, and painting studio pieces based on their studies and photos.
When winter rolled around, these painters made plans. “While many take advantage of this window to focus on studio work, we traveled to New Orleans to paint the Big Easy,” says Willman. “Capturing the essence of the city was our goal. We planned to steer clear of the icons for which New Orleans is famous.”

Manda Sophia at work in New Orleans

They spent a week exploring and painting. “Weather-wise, December is one of the best times to visit the Crescent City,” reports Willman. “Long shadows cast by early morning sun accented the bright colors in this ancient part of the city. Strolling tourists mingled with regulars making their way from voodoo lounges and hookah shops to oyster bars and five-star restaurants. Turning onto a soap-covered Bourbon Street, we chanced upon men in white aprons scrubbing away vestiges of Saturday night’s festivities. After hours of walking and driving the French Quarter, Gordon expressed the sentiment of our whole group when mentioning he was in sensory overload. Finally, we set up our easels at the corner of Royal and Toulouse to begin capturing the soul of the French Quarter. One might expect plein air to be commonplace in a city with so much to offer, but the general public was intrigued by what they termed a rare sight as we went about painting their town.”

Spencer Meagher working on location in New Orleans

Willman points out that New Orleans is much more than just the French Quarter. “Each neighborhood offers unique subjects,” she asserts. “Manda Sophia was fascinated with ‘the cotton candy-colored shotgun houses’ that influenced our palettes. Gordon’s oil painting of a once-glorious home that sits delinquent a decade after Hurricane Katrina is indicative still of many districts. Cathedrals dot the city, and the mission-style architecture of Our Lady of Lourdes on Napoleon Avenue captured our attention, and we set up across the street from the twin-towered church. Napoleon Avenue is the scene of a massive construction project: an effort to prevent future catastrophic flooding. Similar construction plagues every road heading towards the Mississippi River. Yet with typical Southern hospitality, construction workers dropped by to check on our progress.”

“Hemingway House,” by Nyle Gordon

Meagher gravitated toward St. Charles Avenue and the busy traffic, complete with green trolley cars. “On the last day, Meagher depicted the scene in watercolor,” recalls Willman. “Drivers waiting at the red light chatted with Meagher while others passing through on green would give a thumbs up. Joggers stopped to offer their thoughts about the trolleys, expressing a genuine love of their city.”

Meagher’s painting of the trolley on St. Charles Avenue

Meagher says, “The only word that we artists found to adequately describe the feeling New Orleans offers is ‘vibe.’ There is an undercurrent of excitement that flows throughout the city. It isn’t generated by any one thing, but rather the combination of cultures that make up its rich history. One week only whet our appetites for New Orleans. We will be back.”


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