April 28, 2006 -About a dozen Pallettiers were wandering around the grounds at Birds of Paradise in Hermon Hill on Friday morning. The 10-year-old group included painters of various skill levels.
The Pallettiers has no formal leadership. Someone sends out e-mail during the week and everyone who wants to and is able to, shows up at a chosen St. Croix site with paintbrushes in hand.
Sondra Catts, who has been with the group since the beginning, said the Pallettiers have created artwork to decorate a Christmas tree donated and sold at the St. George's Botanical Garden Christmas Is Spoken event. Catts said the tree often sells for more than $2,000.
Pallettiers also volunteer for community projects at the Nature Conservancy and Botanical Gardens. However, the group's focus is painting, Catts said. "We all share one thing, a love of art."
The group travels to a different spot each Friday morning to paint. Once they get there it is up to the individual to do what he or she wants to work on.
This was evident in the hillside gardens at Suite Birds of Paradise, owned by Margarita Hutchison and Dan Odell, overlooking a valley leading down to the south shore. Some members were photographing the many exotic flowers on the grounds.
Catts said she was going to do a sketch to finish up at a later time. Others were jumping right in and twisting off caps from paint tubes.
Catts said, "We are a pretty casual, laid back group. Anyone can join."
In the winter the group sometimes swells to over 20 members with tourists who are "thrilled" to be paint outdoors.
After a three-hour painting session, there is a show-and-tell gathering, where participants can exhibit and talk about their work that morning if they choose. Some members continue the art discussion at lunch afterwards.
Christine Anderson started painting with the group a year ago and recently had her work on display at the Good Hope School Art Show.
Anderson said she learned a lot from the group and from taking lessons from one of its members – Jan Aikin. (See "Island Artist Focuses on Architecture and Flowers").
Karen Cooper said she liked taking part in the group because "you get to go to places you ordinarily would not have the opportunity to go."
Catts said there are two basic requirements for painting sites – a ladies room and some shade.
The former facility might not be available for the group next week. The Nature Conservancy is taking the Pallettiers down to Annaly Bay next Friday morning.
Catts said the Nature Conservancy, which is opposed to over development in that section of St. Croix, hopes to organize an exhibit from the artwork created at Annaly Bay.
There was only one male at Fridays event – Chester Delacruz. (See "On Island Profile: Chester Delacruz ").
Catts says the group welcomes men, "We love them," but there is generally never more than one to three participating.
Hutchison gave a tour of Birds of Paradise on Friday, pointing out many of the flowers she brought from her home in Puerto Rico.
Catts said this destination "is gorgeous. The care that has gone into these plants is unbelievable," she said.
For more information about the group, call Catts at 773-7961.
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