The Artist

Daniel J. Rhodes
is a native of Houma, Louisiana, born on the highland of Bayou Terrebonne in 1958 next to the best French bread bakery in town. Growing up between Bayou Terrebonne and Bayou Cane, Danny didn’t have to paddle far to find wetlands loaded with ice chests of shrimp, crabs, and sacks of red crawfish. He cane-poled catfish, netted crawfish, and picked blackberries, but on rainy days he learned to paint by peering over his Pawpaw Bazet’s shoulder as Pawpaw dabbed cypress leaves and stroked bayou reflections on canvas. A printer by trade, Pawpaw also taught Danny to carve wooden relief plates, and from them, they hand-pulled prints off an old cast iron press that sang and clanked in the backyard print shop, the shop only a few steps from the oldhouse. Pawpaw taught Danny but he warned, “Don’t try making a living as an artist ‘cause you’ll end up like a bum on Jackson Square.”

Years later Danny left his pirogue on two tile blocks and drove LA-1, following Bayou Lafourche way up North to LSU. Leaving his paint brushes and the old press, he tried to stay away from art and boats, but on campus he embraced a couple of new things – the media of pen and ink . . . and a Thibodaux girl named Judith Lee. After Danny and Judith married, guess what Danny did with that LSU degree?

Danny became a fulltime artist and commercially fished the Atchafalaya Basin. When he closed his eyes, crabs paddled sideways while crawfish waved from coffee cups and flew likeCupid into his dreams. He wrote stories about these, and drawing inspiration from the stories and dreams, Danny rendered on paper, pen and inks that he published as limitededition prints. Next he hand-pulled each black and white print from the old cast iron press using his hand carved plates to add color to the editions. For press ink, he used his grandfather’s pallet of artist oils mixed with tacky varnish. Danny finished the prints with pencil color and brush washes of acrylic, plus he added a different ingredient – coffee. Danny added coffee to the colors and brushed pure dark roast atop the crawfish, crabs, and shrimp.     

Today Danny still renders his original prints the same way. They’re trademarked as Louisiana Coffee Editions, signed on the prints as LCE, and dated – time starting over the year of Hurricane Katrina, first year as 1 AK (after Katrina, 2005). Judith will tell you, “You can’t keep Danny out of a boat.” His boats have grown much larger. In the late 90s between art shows and crawfish season,Danny decked his way from ordinary seaman to Master of Oceans, licensed by the US Coast Guard as a merchant marineofficer, where he sails the Gulf of Mexico supporting oil and gas operations. The captain continues publishing original print editions during his shore time; however, off watch he colors lots of prints in calm to 20 foot seas.