Patti Cook

"The Original Drifting Saints"  Story The story of how these delightful Classic Keepsakes came about started in 1988 and it was in 1989 that I began giving them to folks outside of my family circle and also when I began to sell them.

I was lounging on our local beach with my son one hot August afternoon looking through the most recent edition of "Leisure Arts".  I was a subscriber to their annual "hard-cover" books that covered everything about embroidery, cross-stitch, and wonderful gifts of the season along with amazing recipes to go with them.  I loved these publications and looked forward to them every year.  So full of ideas that sparked my creativity!

As I flipped through the pages I took note of a cute gift idea.  It was a hand painted mug with a cellophane bag full of mulled spices and a stick of cinnamon centered in the middle of it.  On the top portion of the cinnamon stick was a painted caricature of a Santa Claus.   I looked at that and wondered how I could make these as gifts but with my own spin on it. I was poor, single mom and pretty much hand made every gift every year.  I looked at the cinnamon stick and then my eye caught a piece of driftwood beside me. It was a small driftwood piece that had been sanded smooth by the water and the beach stones over time.  I picked it up and thought, oh, I could paint a Santa face on this and turn it into an ornament! That would be a unique gift for me to give!  That's how it started.  One small idea.
I refined them by selecting the flatter/wider pieces of driftwood and changed from a folk art face into a more traditional Victorian portrait of St. Nicholas.
The name comes from them being driftwood and I also thought about where this wood may have come from and what it's journey might of been. Ok, that is it, the name came into being.  "Drifting Saints".  I think about the driftwood's journey every time I paint them and just like the Saints of old, they are on a journey to spread love and the good news!

In the beginning I was relying on some Victorian pictures of St. Nicholas for reference, however, now they are painted intuitively, the wood piece shows me what the face/expression is going to be.  I can see it, just as when we look at any surface we can train our eyes to see shapes and faces in them, this is what I do with the driftwood.
Since their inception I have had orders for them as far away as England!  They have been shipped to Australia, England, Germany and the West Coast. Those are just the ones that I know of. I sold them for only a few years at shows as I just couldn't keep up with the demand and still maintain my day job, single motherhood and the myriad of other responsibilities I burdened myself with. I continued to paint them every year because there are always requests for them.
This year, 2020 marks the 32nd year I have been painting them!

I do include a few in the art fairs I participate in and love when folks come up and tell me they still have theirs and pull it out every Christmas even after 25+ years.

Now is a new generation and there are a lot of copycats and variations out there, so I have changed the name from "Drifting Saints"  to "The Original Drifting Saints" because I believe my style (portraiture style) is where this trend started and this at least claims the original idea as mine. 

The medium I use is artist quality acrylic (aflesh blend I mix) as a base paint and white titanium for the beard.  The entire face however, is painted with artist grade watercolour as the translucent finish that watercolour provides is more life like for me.  
I finish each one with a coat of varnish to keep the integrity of the watercolour (although it does shift the color slightly) and to seal it against any harsh weather  (if it goes outdoors.)  If you use it for the latter, spraying it every few years or so with an acrylic or varnish spray should keep it sealed for years to come. Depending on where/what the conditions are.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I love painting them!
Please send me a message letting me know if you bought one and where it went if it was a gift!  You can always send your recipient to this page for the whole story too. :-)  Thanks for reading this far!