Posted by: Mickey Goodman | July 24, 2013

Painting (and Eating) My Way Through St. Simons Island

No way in the world am I considered a “painter,” but my guilty pleasure is taking weekly watercolor classes with artist Greta Schelke at The Dutch Palette in Roswell. With classical music wafting in the background, good friends all around and brushes in hand, we joke that painting is a whole lot cheaper and much more fun than weekly trips to the psychiatrist.


ImageWhen an opportunity arose to paint for three days in a row with noted watercolorist/teacher Pat Weaver ( in St. Simons, one of the most beautiful areas in Georgia, I leaped at the chance.  So did 24 others whocame from as far away as Boston to learn new techniques. For me, it was double-edged pleasure: a chance to visit the extraordinary area AND stay with former classmate Patti Ellis who now lives in Brunswick.


 The luxury of painting for a long stretch is new to me, but the Golden Isles — St. Simons, Little St. Simons, Jekyll Island and Sea Island — are old friends. It may be just a five-hour drive from Atlanta, but the minute I gaze at the velvety green moss-covered water and the graceful reeds that sway with the breezes on the Marshes of Glenn, the tension eases from my shoulders.  I’m instantly at peace with the world.


 The Marshes of Glenn that frame Brunswick are the “gateway” to the four islands made famous by poet Sydney Lanier. Once across the bridge named in his honor, we’re embraced by a canopy of ancient oak trees dripping with Spanish moss that transform even the most mundane home into a place of beauty.


 Just a five-minute drive from the bridge, the quaint village of St. Simons welcomes visitors with its collection of restaurants and eclectic shops where you can buy everything from a T-shirt emblazoned with a picture of a large mosquito aptly named “The State Bird,” to fine handmade jewelry, beachwear and more. On the left, the very presence of the St. Simon’s Lighthouse sets the scene to the atmospheric village center that ends at the pier where scores of fishermen line up, hoping for a good day’s catch.


ImageSitting in class at the Casino Building in Neptune Park, I’m torn between listening to Pat Weaver and peeking out the window at the pier, the spectacular water oaks and the energetic campers and beachgoers who cavort the park. But art pal Muriel Mendel, Patti and I are on a mission to learn some new watercolor techniques, so I tear myself away from the view to pay rapt attention to Pat.


 She lectures for an hour, talking about hue and value, how to “gray” the only three colors needed: aureolin (a bright yellow-gold), cerulean blue and permanent rose to create 100 unique colors. Then she outlines the “must haves” in every good painting: good composition, an odd number of objects, and most important, varying the value of the colors from dark to light. While talking, she produces a spectacular painting in 30-minutes or less (mine generally take weeks), and personifies that old expression, “A picture is worth 1,000 words.”


 I quickly discover that everything I thought I was doing correctly is dead wrong. I’m in big trouble for the upcoming individual critique of my two-flower painting in pale shades of pink to purple. Ah well, I haven’t come for praise, but to learn new skills. Now that I know the “wrongs,” I just need to learn the “rights” — and how to meld the new techniques with the soft, transparent watercolor style I love.


 Note: The class members are 0 for 25 on the “getting it all right” scale. Most of us have trouble with contrast and composition – choosing to add extraneous material instead of honing in on a focal point. Almost all of our paintings lacked depth and value, cardinal sins.


Because of the full-day classes, we don’t get in much sightseeing this trip, but spend our time painting and eating our way through St. Simons. If you love seafood, it’s all but impossible to find a mediocre eatery, but without doubt, Barbara Jeans ( tops my “favorites” list. Famous for crab cakes chock full of the tender white delicacy with no fillers and Chocolate Stuff for dessert (the actual name on the menu), the food rivals the finest French cuisine in New Orleans. You can even order these indescribable dishes online and have them shipped right to your door via next day air. Talk about a party!


More casual but totally delicious places, include Iguanas ( I ordered a divine oyster Po-boy sandwich) and Palmer’s Village Café ( salad).


 One evening we go ultra casual Mudcat Charlie’s, one of Brunswick’s most beloved restaurants, conveniently located near Patti’s lovely home (this time I order soft shell crabs). Are you sensing a pattern here? Another night we join class members to mingle over drinks and seafood at Coastal Kitchen and Raw Bar ( )(yummy shrimp and scallops) where we watch the boats glide in and out of the harbor and discuss the day’s lesson and our own clumsy attempts at using the flat angled brush Pat specified.




ImageAt seminar’s end, Muriel and I remain one more night relaxing around Patti’s screened in pool. We giggle as we critique her soft watercolors hanging on the walls. Few meet Pat Weaver’s strict criteria, but all are lovely and artistically framed. (And after all, isn’t beauty is in the eye of the beholder?) Somehow over the three-day period, I’ve managed to produce a decent lighthouse — admittedly with some expert brush strokes from Pat — but there is still much to learn. Greta can count on me for another 10 years, at least!


Too soon, we’re heading back to Atlanta, and while “real” work calls, watercolor techniques dance in my head and my new three-color palette beckons me to try, try again. If only I could order a serving of Chocolate Stuff from Barbara Jeans, all would be right with my world.












  1. Seems like such a lovely “girls” trip~

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