Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Meanwhile Back At The Ranch

Book for sale in the visitor's center. I love the angle of this photo and look: cattle.
It really is a ranch. Fyi you can buy the beef.

Yes,meanwhile back at the ranch…

That’s what they call it, “the ranch”, well, among other things.  I first visited in the 60s, (the 6os! but I was a child,) and I've been back more times than I can remember. But it’s worth it. There’s a lot to see, too much really. Since it’s so well documented in books, online, and elsewhere I've tried to cull an idiosyncratic selection from more than 300 photos taken on this recent trip. Had an excellent tour guide of the upstairs, knowledgeable without being a "know-it-all" and able to speak extemporaneously on every question asked. Oh, and she first visited in 1963 so she has me beat by a few years.

Neighbors? Hearst thought of that and bought all the land you see.
That's La Casa Grande in the center dwarfed by the estate.

So this 10 year old boy takes an 18 month trip through Europe with his mother, a school teacher, remembers everything he saw and at age 60 builds a house recreating that experience. Poster for the movie depicting Hearst and Julia Morgan at work designing and designing.

It's really quite simple. You sell a few magazine and you take some of profit and build a weekend place in the country. Oh, but make that a few million magazines, newspapers, and such and start with an inherited fortune.

Left, an image from the internet and right my snapshot of Hearst' personal bookplate framed and hanging in his bedroom. He really was bookish, read several languages. His mother had been a teacher, remember.

 The sequence above shows what I imagine is the nerve center for William Randolph Hearst because this is the room where he reads his newspapers, probably every other newspaper as well. So he controls his empire from this room. Now notice, we start with a wide shot and finally land on details of the buttress painting. That's contemporary painting, contemporary for the time the house was built I mean. The rest of the ceiling is period Renaissance but when you zoom in on this detail it's a little amateurish don't you think? Oh well, the overall effect is right, the palette is right. Still, I wonder was this a cost cutting measure? Julia's decision or Hearst's? Certainly they could have found better painters. 

This is just a small corner of the library. Yes, a room for the newspapers and this, the library. Interestingly that priceless marble urn front and center fell in the last earthquake and smashed to pieces. A year's worth of restoration and cracks are visible only by looking down inside it.

Above, random shots. I mean really. They're careful to tell you: if you think to photograph it, do, because you won't be coming back the way you came so I'm snapping shots pretty madly. There's hardly time to think and be present in the moment but you do what you can.

Ok, this is kind of interesting. The deco clock and the shoes are in Marion Davies' bedroom. Conveniently located steps from Hearst's room she was his mistress don't you know. Unlike the untalented character portrayed in Citizen Kane Marion Davies not only was a self supporting established actress when she met Hearst but she also paid some of his bills when he was down on his luck late in life. Is that gold statue her? I'll say yes. It's discreetly located off the the side in the back where the building was left unfinished at the time of Hearst's death.

Now, just think of the upkeep. Actually, don't bother; you've got your own problems. The only problem our tour guide had was remembering the term "scaffold" and how to get past it to take us on a tour. So she asked around as we waited a bit and -we're in (!) and looking out to see views like the shot directly above. Swaying palms, the ocean, perfect weather. It's California you know.

I leave you with the famous pools that all visitors want to accidentally fall into and be forced to swim around in circles, leisurely, until being thrown off the property presumably. Unexpectedly and undoubtedly a rare site the Roman pool was drained for maintenance. We learned in the visitor center movie: "Hearst Castle - Building the Dream" that the Roman pool started as a hot tub, was ripped out and replaced with a small above ground pool, then finally they dug this really big hole and got serious, or something like that. The indoor Neptune Pool had this brilliant patch on sunlight reflecting off the gold tiles. And that's how the tour ends. You exit through the pool house. Not a bad way to go.

See the movie if you can. The DVD is cheap and the movie is schmaltzy but not intolerable and it's a start. The whole Hearst Castle business is a growth industry. I feel certain there's more to come, more movies, more products, more kinds of tours. There's even a group called Friends of the Castle determined to, well I'm not exactly sure what they're determined to do but take a look at their site. They've got a slew of interesting pictures of parties they've had at the property, bad plein air paintings, and typical website boiler plate nonsense.

Will you share with me your very own Hearst Castle stories in the comments? 

Thank you!

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Style Salonista

Into The Light

Hello Blog readers, writers and readers who write! 

I'm not going to bore you with the typical blogger lament apologizing for my long absence/ infrequent posts. In fact I'm not really going to post anything much but a link to another blog, The Style Salonista by Diane Saeks. (hint: it's into the light). And I hope that keeps you a little occupied until we meet again...

Be seeing you!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


My altered cover of Veranda, October 2014.

Slow time, stop time, go back in time. Wadmalaw Island makes you think all of that’s possible. If you’re out on the island you've likely come from Charleston, an antique city that lulls you in to thinking time travel is possible. Forty minutes from Charleston it’s deeply rural, unspoiled, serene, and bucolic. The October issue of Veranda has the story of Birdsong, a farm on Wadmalaw Island, and the site of my largest mural to date. It’s been well documented on this blog but here’s a refresher.

Nearly 160' of hallway, 160' of mural.

The vaporous woods of Birdsong.

Looking toward the side door.

A view into the guest room.

Detail of mural and sconce, the wild and the refined.

The marshy low country.

Turning the corner on the kitchen wall.

Spanish moss? Yes, lot's of it.

One of my favorite passages, a little abstract corner outside the kitchen.

My first job as a muralist is to decide on the overall look of the piece to make sure it fits seamlessly with the architecture and interior design. At Birdsong the mural is soft and impressionistic and I chose to portray the kind of dreaming atmosphere associated with the magic hour and misty mornings. The result is a work that one will not tire of because it is minimal and calming.

View of the Wadmalaw River.

The hall outside the library.

I think that shall never see...

The kitchen hallway.

A tangle of nature.

The spread in Veranda Magazine, October 2014.

I've gone back through my pictures of the making of, the installation of, and the mural hung with the interiors filled. It’s much more than you can see in Veranda though they say the tablet version of the magazine has more. I revisited the architect, Glenn Keyes’, site which has some lovely photos. Use the search box on my blog and type in "Wadmalaw" for more on this project.

Monday, July 21, 2014

 Scott Waterman / no title / ink / watercolor / gouache /paper / 52" x 40" / 2014

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sail away, sail away, sail away

Sales brochure for the yacht, now renamed and remade.

Here's something I've never done: sit in an airport waiting area and begin writing my latest blog post. Here's something else I've never done: paint a couple of murals for a yacht, a yacht in Palm Beach, Florida, fyi. It may sound rather luxurious and in fact it was. My part in what was huge project was small but what continues to hold my interest as an artist is how something so slight can have such a big impact. The two pieces I did for the boat probably amount to not much more than a pint of paint spread immeasurably thin and while in this case the designs were not my originals I made them my own by adapting them to the circumstances. Let's take a look.

Studio view of my "Matisse".

The panels in the background which will soon receive my painting.

Here' my work cut up and glued to the four panels.

The panels, back in place and covered with color.

John Nalewaja and his assistant Ed prepare the bath mural.

It's purely coincidental that the Matisse cut-outs, currently one of the best shows on the London art scene are the subject of one of my paintings for the boat. My interpretation is faithful to Matisse’s, (though the palette comes from his paintings not the cut-outs). It's in the dining area and its bold form carries through to the living area and the outside deck. This is the major visual note for what is the most significant area of congregation for the owners and their guest. I'm glad to be there and be really visible because my other work is in a most intimate space.

Studio view of my "Scene of India" mural.

Jim, John, and Ed getting the bath mural up and bubble-free.

Rub a dub, dub.

Turn to the left.

Now turn to the right.

Now get carried away.

Because you're with me you're admitted the inner sanctum of the master bath and what has to be one of the most luxurious bathing experiences one can have on a boat or possibly anywhere. Can you imagine? You're lying back in a deep soaking tub, looking up at a starry sky, surrounded by a languid procession of Indian royalty parading through the exotic subcontinent, while sailing steadily to your next port of call. Before the rehab of the boat this area had a 80s style hot tub. It's a big step up I assure you. And that's my job: to upgrade, to elevate, and to lift you up.

From Fiji to Tiree and the Isles of Ebony.  

Stay close.
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