Rangia Cuneata Clams of Lake Pontchartrain Saturday, Jul 25 2009 

Prehistoric peoples of the Gulf Coast ate large amounts of the Marsh Clam and left garbage heaps full of them behind. Early European settlers in New Orleans found the Lake Pontchartrain clam shells could be used for roads and driveways. Growing up in Lakeview the service alley at my old home would get regular dumpings of fresh shells and often other things would be found in them like arrow heads and even bullets.
I never tasted the Lake Clams, Rangia Cuneata, but the local Native Americans did a lot as we find shell middens all over the area from them leaving behind the white calcium rich sun bleached shells.  Like most wild caught seafood they need to be cleaned well to get the dirt out. Like we purge crawfish before boiling. They are boiled and the water changed to clean them out and remove a muddy taste.  Some others grill and cook with other foods. They are considered too small for commercial eateries but locals still dig and boil them especially in Virginia and Mexico.  A local dish is made called, “arroz a la tumbada”,  a rice and seafood soup.
Growing up these small clams benefited the local economy as many material trucks would carry them for construction. That was until the dreding was banned and now we use gravel which is heavier and more costly. Eating the local clams could now benefit the local economy. Local restaurants should give them a try.

From USGS at http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2002/of02-206/env-issues/clam-abundance.html :

“From 1933 to 1990 Rangia cuneata clam shells were harvested in Lake Pontchartrain. According to 1980’s estimates, these shells had a gross annual value of $34 million and were used for the construction of roadways, parking lots, and levees and in the production of cement ( USACE , 1987). Forty-four percent of the Lake was opened to shell dredging. Dredging operations were prohibited around the shoreline, bridges and gas pipelines. Shell dredgers used a large suction device to draw up shells, sediment and water, creating trenches 1.5-2 m wide and 0.5-1 m deep. The shells were removed and the sediment and water were discharged back into the Lake ( USACE , 1987). This slurry produced a localized increase in turbidity. Despite the economic value of the shell mining industry, dredging in Lake Pontchartrain was banned in an effort to improve water quality.”

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Secrets To Framing Art Prints Sunday, May 3 2009 

Jenny On Beach Frame

     After years of selling my art I have learned a few tricks to getting good looking frames at a reasonable cost. Too often clients tell me they love the inexpensive prints I sell but having them framed is expensive. I tell them, ” get the frame first.” Many art and craft stores have seasonal frame sales. Frames come in standard sizes, 8×10 and 11×14, some have mats in them too. I have been able to find 11×14 frames with a mat for as low as $15 on sale at many discount, import, and crafts stores. I also find “postcard size” collage frames 4×6 with one, two, or more places to put a 4×6 print in them. Clients can also use the greeting cards I sell  5×7 as small prints framed with a mat.

Postcard Frame

 First shop for a nice frame knowing what size prints are available, 4×6, 5×7, 8×10, 11×14. Be sure to know when the sale goes on and look for a frame with a mat. I also get discounted pre-framed prints and remove the store bought print and put in its place my prints. Above is a photo of an off size painting I did for my daughter, framed in a frame I found at a discount store with an existing food print at half price. The painting fits perfect into an existing frame and was $12.

 Framing a print need not be costly when you keep in mind to get prints to fit a standard frame. Look for frames first, on sale, then frame your print yourself.

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Royal St. Musicians Painting Friday, May 1 2009 

I posted information on my  “Art News”  blog about my painting of the Royal St. Musicians print sold on the web at both my shops on the web.

Street performing is associated historically with the Gypsies. Several Gypsy fortune tellers man the Tarot Card Reading Tables in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Mostly known for the Street Art, New Orleans has many fortune tellers, street musicians, and other street performers. Usually they perform for tips. Most are allowed to perform for free but painters are forced to get a license and sell only original paintings. Because they sell an object sales tax must be collected.The street performers are interesting subjects for artists and I have painted some on occasion, most recognized is a group of good musicians on Royal St.JK Schwehm, Art In The News, May 2009

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Jazz Fest Fridge Magnet Thursday, Apr 30 2009 

NEW ORLEANS - APRIL 24:  Leroy Jones & the Fai...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife
 Many Jazz Fest designs sold at Fig Street Studio
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Art News Blog Sunday, Apr 26 2009 

 I somewhat keep a running list of art and graphic designs I have done in a blog I call “Art News”. It started out as some odd news articles for April Fools Day but was an easy place to add in an announcement of what new designs I made. When Twitter came along I could add in all my Tweets. So it is a busy place with a lot of short blog entries but a good place to learn and see a lot of my graphic designs. Whenever I do a new design I add in a picture and link to it and I also add in other older designs as people ask about them. Here is that link- http://oddinthenews.blogspot.com/

Big Red Streetcar Painting Sunday, Apr 26 2009 



In the fall of 2006 I painted a big red streetcar mural for a nice New Orleans themed restaurant in Athens, GA. and kept a blog on its progress. I did not want to repeat the long blog here so I thought I would just add the link here. Stop in and read how it was done- http://bigredstreetcar.blogspot.com/

Family and friends have stopped in and ate, said the food is good and the painting is fine.

That Old Crawfish: What’s In The Name? Thursday, Apr 16 2009 

The word “Crawfish ” comes from the Cajun French word “escrevisse“.  Many places use other names, crayfish, crawdad, mudbug but we here in Louisiana prefer “crawfish”. No matter what it is called it is a favorite food in spring. Boiled Crawfish with corn, potatoes, garlic, sausage and more is served at many family picnic or back yard party. I am told the real scientific name is Astacoidea Cambardae and there are over 300 types in North America alone, a big family even by Cajun standards.  The art of boiling them was covered in another blog entry but it is easy just get any of the boiling spice packages from Rex or Zatarain’s and follow the directions. To make it real fancy people add in corn on the cob, and other veggies that boil well, even artichokes. Whatever you like add in the boiling water and have friends over.

One time I even wrote a fable about a Cajun Mermaid, part crawfish part woman on how the first Cajun ate the beautiful red swamp crawfish.

Cajun Mermaid design at Fig Street Studio

Cajun Mermaid design at Fig Street Studio

I use the crawfish too in many of my gift designs sold on the web at http://www.cafepress.com/figstreetstudio/596208 I would think along with the Fleur De Lis, the Crawfish is a symbol of Louisiana. See the Fleur De Marais design here: http://www.cafepress.com/figstreetstudio/5246408

Crawfish Fleur De Lis design at Fig Street Studio

Crawfish Fleur De Lis design at Fig Street Studio

Crawfish designs sold by Fig Street Studio

Crawfish designs sold by Fig Street Studio

By whatever name it is called it is a fun delicious food found in the swamps of South Louisiana, the swamps we must all protect as they once protected us.

The Lion At The City Park Peristyle and Old Palm Tree Monday, Apr 13 2009 

Print Sold at Fig Street Art Studio

Print Sold at Fig Street Art Studio

In 1974 when I was a Probation Officer at Juvenile Court in New Orleans I saw an elderly man collecting seeds from the many beautiful palm trees along Loyola Ave by the Civil Courts Building. He told me he planted the seeds in empty coffee cans and grew them for sale. He was correct because I followed his advice and had many palm trees to plant in my yard. New Orleans has many beautiful palms and they make the landscape very interesting. I purposely painted the the palm tree behind the lion in the above painting because with the moon the painting looked like another place not  New Orleans City Park. The park has some unique and beautiful spots that could be found in Europe .

Last November while visiting the park I decided to collect some seeds from that big beautiful palm tree near the Peristyle. I wasn’t sure why. I had already collected seeds from palm trees on Magazine St and they were sprouting. This weekend I was in city park and  discovered to make room for “improvements” that big beautiful palm tree was cut down and laying ready to be cut up into pieces. Now I know why I stopped to collect the seeds. I will not only have a beautiful palm tree but one from the big  palm tree that once stood majestically near the Peristyle in City Park making my painting even more cherished.

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PS:  The construction  is done. The area now has many trees and a beautiful open area with walkway and fountain. The old tennis courts next to it is a nice parking lot. The addition of many trees replaced the one large tree a fair exchange. April 4, 2011

The Ghost in Pirates Alley Thursday, Mar 26 2009 

The First Wedding In Pirates Alley New Orleans

The tradition of being married in Pirates Alley in the French Quarter is clouded in secrecy and varies as who tells the tale. One is never sure who was actually the first to get married there but this tale as told to me often during my life is a sure as any tale of pirates, ghosts, and love. Back in the days of the Pirates of Barataria many young men from many places joined in to make a fortune. Called “smugglers” by some, hated by Spain, used by France but admired by Americans as an independent lot who at times would help the poor and ill treated.

I am told one Reginald Hicks, who began as a mere cabin boy on an English ship was taken by some pirates and raised by them. Only a lad in his early teens when captured ultimately raised himself to a first mate of a pirate ship by the time of the War of 1812. He was trusted by all his pirate brethren and their leader Jean Lafitte. He was known to go along with several other men to met with General Jackson to aid the Americans in the Battle of New Orleans, mostly as “cannoneers” as they were very good shots.
Of course Master Hicks was a good looking young man having many a lass looking at him but in his heart was none other but a beautiful Creole French girl, Marie Angel Beauchamp. She too had only thoughts of him and whenever he came into the City they would steal off into the night, keeping their love a secret as it was not permissible for a young  Creole Catholic girl to be seeing a Pirate of English extraction.

As things would happen on Master Hicks’ visit to meet with General Jackson he learned that his Marie was expecting their child. He being raised as an English gentleman his first decade of life did not want to leave the city without getting married. His child would have a father and his love would not be scorned for having a child without a husband. All evening they searched in vain for a priest to marry them but most required that they both be Catholic, others would not think of doing a ceremony on such short notice. Eventually they had two options, simply jumping a broom down in Barataria or seeking out a German born baker in the jail who was also an ordained Protestant minister. Master Hicks did not want to take Marie to Barataria which meant she would have to stay and may never see her family and friends in the city again.  So they very early in the morning made their way to the Cabildo and asked the jail’s warden if they could speak with the German Minister. He would only allow them to see him through the iron gate facing Orleans Alley. But right there and then they were married. Soon gathered many early arriving workers and some visitors who witnessed the first wedding in Pirates Alley. Documents drawn and signed by a Notary on his way to file others for record at the Cabildo and all present signed making the marriage both Civil and Religious.
Here again the story varies as exactly what happened. What happened to Master Reginald Hicks remains a mystery, some say he was killed in the Battle of New Orleans and seeks out his lovely Marie nightly in Pirates Alley today as a spirit. Others say he and Marie left for Galveston with Pirate Lafitte after Louisiana was sold to America. But if you go to Pirates Alley early in the morning on the right day of the right month you can hear laughter and celebration and wedding bells and a cold breeze passes you by. Could it be the ghost of Master Hicks seeking his bride?

Believe as you may.

Today couples can still get married in Pirates Alley  by a German Protestant wedding officiant. For more in formation visit his web page at: http://www.figstreet.com/guesthouse/firstpiratesalleywedding.html

JK Schwehm at Fig Street.
Copyright 2003 [Fig Street, LLC]. All rights reserved.
Revised: March 25,2009 by the author

Mississippi Queen Under The Hill in Natchez, MS Wednesday, Mar 25 2009 

Natchez is the oldest small town on the Mississippi river. Natchez was the first capital of the Mississippi Territory in 1798. Natchez Under The Hill was a boat landing established for the boats to unload and load. It was a rough spot with bars and boatmen for many years. In 1837 the merchants of the town of Natchez made an effort to clean up the area with the help of a storm finally the rough Under The Hill area tamed down. The Mississippi Queen was built in 1976 and has cruised along the mighty Mississippi river, it has been out of service but scheduled to begin trips  again soon. The painting was done from a photo taken while the boat was docked  Under the Hill taking on supplies.
The Mississippi Queen River Boat moored at Natchez, Ms under the Hill in 1998, painted by JK Schwehm, New orleans artist.  This acrylic painting can be purchased on the web printed on paper or canvas. The original not for sale it also appears on note cards and a book cover. Prints are available at  http://www.cafepress.com/figstreetstudio

Prints on canvas available here-

Starry Night Riverboat print
Starry Night Riverboat by figstreetstudio
Browse all the other art on zazzle

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