Growing up, I never cared much for tea. Hot, cold, sweet, unsweet- didn’t matter, I didn’t prefer it. To me, no amount of heat or ice or sugar could cover up the bitterness. Though in the South it’s almost a sin not to love tea; specifically not to love sweet tea. (Of course being Southern, sweet tea is tea. Even just alluding to the idea that unsweetened tea is a choice is considered blasphemous and might get your Southern title revoked.) Sweet tea is just one of those things always associated with the South. Kind of like the heat. Or honeysuckle. Or sayings like “bless your heart.”
Those ingrained images of the South (and the assumptions normally tied to them) were the inspiration for my latest series “Tea, Punch, and Other Colloquialisms.”
Now I should note (mostly just to save anyone the trouble of letting me know that tea is not a colloquialism) I do in fact know the definition of colloquial. If you haven’t dusted off your word of the day calendar in awhile, or would just like a refresher (pun totally intended), a colloquialism is the common, informal language of a region. It’s not slang, or jargon, but instead a word or saying that is accepted and used across all ages, genders, and professions that is specific to a particular region.
Prime example- what do you call a sugary, carbonated drink? Soda? Pop? Cola?
If you answered yes to any of those, you’re wrong. It’s called “Coke.”
I kid, kind of.
But in the South all carbonated sodas are called “Cokes”. You then would specify what type of Coke -as in Coca Cola product- (occasionally pronounced “Co-Cola” depending on your age) you’d like to enjoy. (Important note here, the South does not drink Pepsi. If you walk into an establishment and they only serve Pepsi products you are not in a true Southern establishment. Of course, this is coming from a Georgian so take that into consideration.)
So there you go. A colloquialism is region specific- and nothing gets more regional than a Southern punch or sweet tea.
So accepting teas and punches as colloquialisms-as a language of their own- I explored the idea that the specific tea or punch an individual makes represents them as a person. Similarly to dialects and stories, drink recipes are passed down from generation to generation, each being tweaked just a little to make them more personal or interesting. So in theory, anytime someone offers you a tea or a punch, they are in fact offering you a glimpse into their life story; a story influenced and tweaked by years of history, society, and tradition.
How cool right?!
Now that you know all of that, let’s take a closer look at the paintings.
Right away you’ll notice I used my watercolors to capture the various colors of teas and punches. Some I allowed to flow naturally, others I took a more hands on approach to portray a specific energy and emotion. I then combined the watercolors with line work. Some of the blooms are recognizable as Southern blooms, others are more abstracted. They seem familiar, but there is something about them that you just can’t place. (That’s intentional.) The last piece of the process was naming. All the paintings- like most of my paintings- are named after women and represent an emotion, a characteristic, a story, or some combination of all three. Some of the names are intentionally famous, others are not; some are personal, while others are just figments of my imagination. And all together they make up a pretty amazing tea party if I do say so myself. Which I do.