Daddy's Christmas Angel

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Destination Jamaica--A Great Gift No Matter the Season

"I Saw and Angel Standing in the Trees" ©MMSikes
Years ago, my husband gave me the gift of a trip to the luscious island nation of Jamaica. I don't recall if the gift was for Valentine's, but it could have been.

That first visit was amazing, exciting, and transforming. For an artist, the scenery could not have been more lovely. In those days, I always carried my 35mm camera with me no matter where I went, so I took dozens of photographs every day we were there. When I got home, I went into my downstairs studio and stretched new canvases. Some were 4 by 6 feet. Others were 3 1/2 by 4 1/2. I tightened each canvas on the stretcher bars, then carried them to the upstairs studio to gesso the foundations for my new series of work.

Using my Jamaica photos as reference materials, I first created a pastel working drawing for each image. Then, I pulled out my tubes and bottles of acrylic paints and began painting my new canvases that now hung on the studio wall. An entire series of "Tropical Fantasy" paintings grew in the studio as my visions became realities. (One of those paintings was later enhanced with my angel vision.)

"Red Bud" ©MMSikes
During that trip I had my first glimpse of Rose Hall Great House rising above the landscape overlooking the sea along the coast of Jamaica. It was an eerie sight; it was a beautiful sight. I was drawn to visit the old building that once belonged to Annie Palmer, often called the "white witch" because of her treatment of the slaves that worked her sugar plantation and because of her ties to the strange Obeah rituals that came with her from stays in Haiti.

When I returned from Jamaica, the story of the"white witch" haunted me. I wrote about her in travel articles that appeared in the Chronicle-Telegram (Cleveland, Ohio) and other newspapers and magazines. When we went on another trip to the island, we stayed at the nearby Wyndham Rose Hall.

Everything I saw and learned led me to include Rose Hall Plantation in my coffee table book, Hotels to Remember. Annie Palmer was an unforgettable character. She kept returning to my thoughts, and, although I never painted her, I was compelled to write about her. She had to be a character in my novel, Hearts Across Forever.

The paintings in my studio continued to evolve. So did the writing of my novel. Jamaica mesmerized me and persisted to invade my thoughts, so we returned again and again for more than a dozen visits.

My book still enthralls me. It is filled with "what if's" that might be "could be's". The paintings illustrate the visual power of Jamaica. The writing explains the magic.

Jamaica still beckons me. I long to return and to take with me copies of Hearts Across Forever.