Posted on

The Amazing Paintout

The Amazing Paintout

Second Annual! – August 20 – 24, 2014

The Amazing PaintoutFive days of painting in select locations on the Central Coast of California with award-winning painter, Erin Lee Gafill

$725 per person

Tuition Includes All Entry Fees, Instruction Lunches, Snacks, Beverages “After Hours” Events and Receptions

Erin Lee Gafill
The second annual Amazing Paintout will feature new painting locations, one-on-one instruction, a wide range of painting venues, a safe and supportive creative environment, and a fabulous group of friends with whom you’ll paint on California’s Central Coast.

Posted on

Texas Hill Country Retreat

Wolf Creek Ranch, Wimberley, Texas

Awaken the Artist Within

June 5-8, 2014
Wolf Creek Ranch
Wimberley, TX
Includes all workshop, meals, evening reception and three nights lodging.
$1,100 – double occupancy | $1,600 – single occupancy | $575 – workshop only (with lunches)

Register Now!

Still Life Painting with Erin Lee Gafill
Award-Winning Big Sur Artist, Erin Lee Gafill


Join Award-winning artist, Erin Lee Gafill for a four day immersion in creativity. Using paint, drawing, mixed-media collage, and writing, you’ll experience a personal break-through in creative expression. This retreat is more than a workshop, it is an opportunity to fully experience a nurturing creative environment, where you can discover what ignites your creative fire.

Erin is on the creative faculty of Esalen Institute and teaches annually at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. In June she is bringing her expertise to the Texas Hill Country in Wimberley, where a small group will come together to share a transformative weekend.

The Texas Hill Country Retreat takes place at Wolf Creek Ranch just 35 miles outside of Austin. This lush, private setting has two houses, a swimming pool, and out door work space that will provide the inspiration for our art making. Tuition in this workshop is all inclusive with lodging and all meals provided. A limited number of “workshop only” spaces are available for those who would prefer to provide their own accommodations, or who live locally.

Big Sur Love Story - Erin Lee Gafill
Big Sur Love Story – 36″ x 60″

Tuition in the Texas Hill Country Retreat includes –

  • Four days of instruction with Erin Lee Gafill & Tom Birmingham.
  • All supplies and equipment.
  • Accommodations at the Wolf Creek Ranch (optional).
  • Home cooked meals from Thursday afternoon through Sunday morning.
  • Evening receptions and entertainment at the ranch.


Posted on

On Location with Erin

Erin Lee Gafill

Online painting & creativity workshop

April 14 – June 9, 2014
Painting the outdoors, plein air and studio methods
Erin Lee Gafill – Instructor

On Location with Erin Lee Gafill

Your Studio | Your Pace | Your Schedule

Erin’s life takes her far afield from her home studio in Big Sur. This spring she and Tom are visiting some of their favorite destinations, Gualala, CA; Santa Fe, NM; Covington, LA; New Orleans, LA; Wimberley, TX and of course, home to Big Sur.

Alphabet Cafe - 14th StreetHer travels include workshops for adults and kids, art shows, visits with old friends, and painting the open places and interior spaces she’ll be visiting. You can join her for an eight-week, online journey, learning techniques and exploring inspiration from new environments.

This workshop will introduce methods of recording your observation in a personal source book, setting up for painting plein air on location, using sketch and photography to capture composition and color references, and bringing it all back to your studio (or motel room) to create paintings based on impression and memory.

Erin will be painting in town and in the country. She’ll set up her easel at the beach, in the mountains, in the city, and in the bayou.

Posted on

13 December, 2013 21:05

Saturday December 14th 2013
Open Studio at the Old Log House at Nepenthe
You’re invited!
Tom’s cooking!
My paintings, Chi’s drawings, Emily’s Creations (from doodles to hand painted scarves and so much more!)
and other family textiles.

Posted on

On The Verge – Recipes From a Childhood


Chopping up the ends of sour dough loaves this morning to freeze for croutons, I recalled my grandmother Lolly so strongly it was as though I were watching her strong hands press down on the tang of the blade, and her hands cupping the crumbs and sweeping them across the counter into the waiting bag.


Food on the verge – not to be wasted but to be re-used in some new creative recipe never before tested or tasted.  A kind of hallmark of the kind of cooking that is not “cooking” in the trendy chef sort of way – but the kind of cooking for a family, or a crew, that we grew up with here at Nepenthe.

Bananas at peak would be mashed into pancake batter.  Now I freeze them (first peeling them and wrapping them in plastic) and use them in smoothies.  Perfectly good bread that won’t get eaten because a new loaf is fresh on the table – I’ll slice, chop, and freeze for a casserole’s crumble, or a salad’s crouton crunch.


What else?  Ends of beef and pork roasts saved to simmer with onions, garlic, a splash of wine – the beginning of a new hearty soup.


Even food receptacles were cherished.  An early childhood job was soaking wine bottles to remove their labels.  The windows in the family kitchen were lined with old bottles cleaned in just this way, deep greens and burgundy glass ranging along each sill.  I remember once realizing that the bottle I was scrubbing might be worthy of adding to Lolly’s window collection and I scrubbed even harder at the thought.

Can I admit here that it was I, at the age of 14, who threw out all the Prep Kitchen Soup recipes?   Chicken Tortilla Soup, Mexicali Bean, Vegetable Barley  . . . my thinking, such as it was, that if I could make these recipes, you didn’t need a recipe.


Chopping bread this morning, I thought of these recipes of food “on the verge” that we valued more then, because money was hard to come by, shopping trips to town few and far between, and the effort of creating food greater.  I value bread higher because I baked it – kneaded it – waited for it to rise – watched over the starter like an anxious  mother – coaxed yeast out of the air with a magical concoction of water, pineapple juice and organic flour that needed constant attention.  Each slice has a value, to me, because it has a lot of me in it