01 Oct

The Walgreens Rule

This year's trip to Havana, Cuba, introduced us to a beautiful (though deteriorated) city, filled with color, music and creativity. We had the opportunity to visit artists' studios and learn about the gallery scene, exhibit opportunities and their challenges in obtaining supplies. One artist's Seattle-raised fiancee explained her "Walgreens Rule" to us: if you can buy it in a Walgreens, you can't get it in Havana!

They have to re-use palettes and scrounge materials continuously. It made me appreciate the fact that I can simply go to the local art supply store and choose from a rainbow of pastels. Which I did, for my new series of Havana paintings.

I've been thinking about this since I finally had a chance to visit there this spring. Depressed by news that it might be closed to us again, or damaged by hurricanes, I figured the only cure was to start painting! A previous post talked about my process – beginning with hundreds of photos, choosing some for multiple thumbnail sketches, and learning from those how I want to compose my paintings.

Here's a painting in progress, from one of the thumbnails (see my July 9 post) that made the cut. I added light – my eye saw much more than the camera did. I added people and moved figures around in the painting. I like the car colors as they are, but want to be sure they work with the buildings to guide the viewer's eye around the painting.  Therefore, I've changed the colors on buildings several times, and will likely do it again before deciding it's done.


  1. Sad that new restrictions are being placed on travel to Cuba. We may have been lucky. I suspect a lot of it is PR, that if one wants to get there, there will be ways to go. 

  2. Beth–this is so beautiful and evocative–I'd love to go on a visit such as the one you described. I love that you have such an intentional process for choosing your subject. And thanks for letting us know about the Walgreen's rule!

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