An Artist’s Journey from Del Ray to the West Indies
We featured Sarah (Coffin) D’Alessandro on DIY Del Ray as an artist (potter, illustrator), student of arts management and all around DIYer running The Empty House Studio (TEHS) art space in Del Ray in 2013. When we discovered that Sarah had moved to the West Indies with her husband Andy as he finishes med school, we started reading her blog, The Study and The Studio, where she writes beautifully about her adventures and artistic endeavors. This is one of Sarah’s first of, we hope, many guest blogs from Dominica to Del Ray in which she shares how she creates art on whatever canvas she can find, including rocks, seeds and shells.
This is where I live post The Empty House Studio (TEHS), in the tropical lands of the West Indies, on the nature island of Dominica (pronounced “dom-i-NEE-ka”). It’s exotic, vibrant and very difficult at times. The shapes, textures and colors are shocking to a native Virginian like me. I am enthralled with the visuals even after five months here.
Our little apartment is just enough for the both of us. Andy’s study and my studio. We have two rooms — the first one serves as our kitchen/front “hall”/dining room/his study/library and the second one serves as our bedroom/closet/my office/my studio/storage area.
I have a few paintbrushes, a tiny kids’ set of acrylics and a CD case as a pallet. To draw, I have a sketchbook and paper from stationary and a few pens and pencils. I would love to have an art store spilling over with pen and pencil choices, various canvases, and different kinds of paper but that is not an option here.
Armed only with the materials I find on the island, I paint and draw on whatever canvas seems conducive.
Dominica, only about 290 square miles, has nine volcanoes. The climate produces large wet, waxy leaves and flowers, vibrant seeds and fruits, vines and roots with personality as they intertwine and grow above ground, and impressive growth rates. The stones on the beach are volcanic material and beautifully rounded but rough.
There are coconuts bits, bright red palm seeds, long pods from the flamboyán tree, and tiny whole coconuts that never matured.
There are nutmeg seeds, banana flowers, African Tulips and mangoes.
The list really could go on and on.
I’m making things I never dreamed of.
If I waited for the “right” materials, I would never get around to making anything. I’ve learned the importance of adapting to circumstances and losing the expectation that every place will offer the same process or materials as the last.
If you’d like to read more about Sarah’s creative projects and adventures, make sure to check out her blog The Study and The Studio.