Nothing is Simple in Plein Air Painting

April 27, 2015 in Landscape by joanvienot

Oil painting of blackberry leaves and honeysuckle cascading over a fence at The Boathouse Landing in Valpariaso, FLPainting with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters at The Boathouse Landing in Valparaiso, FL, last Wednesday, I thought I would paint a simple cascade of leaves over a fence. The lush green blackberry leaves were punctuated by a few white and yellow honeysuckle blossoms. I was wishing I could capture the scent along with the shapes and colors.

And then I found out that it wasn’t simple at all. I was very close to my subject, and perhaps that was the challenge — I was seeing too much detail. I’ve heard of people taking off their corrective eyeglasses so that they don’t see as much when they paint — maybe that would have made it easier.

I had toned the canvas with a light wash of pink acrylic paint before I started the oil painting. My purpose was to retain some of the pinks and reds that were in the blackberry stems and branches. Overwhelmed by the large mass of green leaves, I settled for the patterns of light and dark, and painted the honeysuckle flowers towards the end of the session. I scratched out a few of the twigs and branches of the blackberries, revealing the pink canvas. There were bands of light between the fence slats peeking through the leaves in a few places. Later, in the studio, I refined the edges of the spots of light to help the leaves stand in front of them.

It ended up being a great session for challenging myself, topped off by a nice meal and good conversation with fellow painters Dan Robison, Weezie Bancroft Brabner, Patti Overholt.

Local Plein Air Painter Groups

April 4, 2015 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

Wherever you live, there probably is a group of plein air painters who meet regularly to paint, perhaps critique their work, and socialize a bit. There is huge value in the energy of the group. Numbers may wax and wane, but almost always someone else comes and helps magnify the creative energy. The group I meet with is called Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters. More than 100 people receive the notifications of the weekly painting locations for our group. Anywhere from 2 to 15 people usually show up, painting for a few hours. Sometimes we paint the same view, sometimes everyone paints something different. There are no rules. Around 11:30 we meet for what I call a “soft” critique, with no one ever telling you that perhaps you should take up a different pasttime. Sometimes experienced artists are present, and they give very good suggestions for ways to be more effective in our paintings.

Social media also has proved to be useful in providing feedback. A post in “En Plein Air”  Paintings and Painters. Only 3 at a time. on Facebook will often bring comments of appreciation and constructive criticism.

For myself, I am one of the waxer-and-waners in attending the weekly sessions, preferring not to drive very far especially during the slow traffic of tourist season. Our group meets in a two-county area, in Walton and Okaloosa Counties, in Northwest Florida. We generally meet in the southern half of those counties, but even that limited area comprises about 1000 square miles. There is no shortage of subjects to paint, so we really are constricted only by the presence or absence of public restrooms and adequate parking.

This week we met at Cessna Landing, a small park and boat launch on Hogtown Bayou in Santa Rosa Beach. The weather could not have been nicer. The first thing that caught my eye was the scene looking into the early morning sun, a bunch of scruffy, gone-to-seed cattails in front of the parking lot circling the park. I immediately decided the broken, bleached, backlit cattails would be too difficult so I walked around looking at everything else, finally shaming myself enough to work up the courage to give the cattails a try. Now that I have painted them once, I’ll have to try again sometime, to see if I can do a better job of capturing the brittle, broken leaves. Below is the 8×10 I completed.

Plein air oil painting of backlit cattails gone to seed, at Cessna Landing on Hogtown Bayou, Santa Rosa Beach, FL

What to Paint When It’s Foggy

March 28, 2015 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

2015-0311 Boats at Foggy Oak MarinaAs a plein air painter, I am never at a loss for subject matter. I paint the light. How do you do that on a foggy day, you may ask. But that’s just it, unless it is pitch dark outside, there is always light. Sure, I prefer to paint the bright sunlight contrasted with shadow, but it was foggy many mornings this month. Three weeks ago our local plein air painting group, the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, met at Oak Marina in Niceville, FL. I was filling in for our coordinator who had business out-of-town that week. So I arrived early, and set up to paint in the fog, with no more than 100′ visibility. The moisture in the air almost completely removed the color from the scene of the sailboats tied up to the docks. I drew the basic shapes, watching them swirl in and out of view for 30 minutes before the first painters arrived.  By critique time, I had completely finished my 10×8 oil painting. Having limited colors because of the foggy atmosphere, my challenges had primarily been just values of dark and light gray. Eventually during the session, the fog lifted, and the far shore became visible.  But I was far enough along in my painting that I was able to maintain the blanketed feeling I had when I had first arrived that morning.

I would like to have painted in the fog two weeks ago on St. George Island in Apalachicola when I attended the Morgan Samuel Price workshop (blogged here), but the fog had lifted by noon every day when our painting sessions started. On my last day in there, after the workshop had concluded, I made one last trek to Scipio Creek Marina and caught a few photographs of the boats in the fog, to support my memory. I have one of those photos at the bottom of this post.

2015-0325 Bluewater Bay Winn Dixie EntranceThis week was a challenge of a different sort. Our group coordinator suggested we meet in the parking lot of a grocery store. I was skeptical, imagining that we would be painting my nemeses, cars and buildings. Our coordinator, Ed Nickerson, is a master of design, able to create interesting shapes and compositions out of what anyone else might consider impossible subjects, like broad expanses of road, and power lines, and such. So I was prepared to take a page out of his playbook and paint lines on a parking lot, ha! But to my pleasant surprise, I found the pansied entrance to the shopping center to be a delightful arrangement of color.  What fun, to be able to use some pigments straight out of the tube! By the time critique rolled around at 11:30, I had finished most of my painting, all except for the road and the sky.  My road was a blue-gray, and Ed commented that it was confusing, appearing as if it were water, so I grayed it more and added the median curb and post and crosswalk to indicate the divided highway.

Below is my photo of the foggy marina in Apalachicola.

Scipio Fog Photo

Fishing Boats at Scipio Creek Marina on a Foggy Day – joanvienot.com

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Morgan Samuel Price Workshop, Apalachicola, March 2015

March 27, 2015 in Landscape, Photography, Plein Air by joanvienot

IMG_0754Last year I took my first workshop in plein air painting. I had been painting weekly with the local plein air group for about 14 months when I took that first workshop with Morgan Samuel Price. But I found each day of this year’s workshop even more challenging than last year. According to Morgan, that is the painter’s life. She says that a plein air painter just keeps finding more and more challenges. The more experienced they get, the harder the challenges they find for themselves. Sigh, I thought this was supposed to get easier!

What an amazing group of artists in this year’s workshop! Lynn Wilson, Carol Drost Lopez, Becky Anderson, Charlotte Hope, Nancy Smith Crombie, Patricia Irish Richter, Brenda Anderson, Sherry Wetherington, Mary Wain-Ellison, Glenda Coleman, Karen Snider, David M. Jones, and I:  thirteen of us. One of the best parts about the workshop was the critique session held each day at the end of the day. We would line up our efforts, even if it was just a few brushstrokes, and Morgan would discuss each and every painting, directing her comments to that artist but for the benefit of us all. This was addition to her amazing morning teaching and demo sessions, and our afternoon practicing painting en plein air, all making for a superb workshop for beginner and advanced painter alike. Blessed with infinite patience and superb focus, Morgan is able to work despite the constant distractions of the excited artists milling and buzzing around her, cameras clicking next to her ear. Below are a few shots of her working. You can click on any of the images to see a larger view.

IMG_0806 2015-0320 MSP demo SGI Preserve
IMG_0864 2015-0318 MSP demo Apalach street scene

OfficeI had confidence to be away from my pool service business. I had worked long hours the weekend before the workshop, to clear my desk, plus I have a fantastic crew in the field and a wonderful office staff. On Wednesday my staff decided to show me what was happening there in the office, with a series of photos that even Tamra’s store helpers (her two dogs) had a part in.  Here’s the worst one, Tamra Thomas, Margaret Bush, and Brenda Osborne. Clearly they do not have enough work to do.

The city and area around Apalachicola is such a scenic place, with the historic buildings, working waterfront with shrimp boats galore, oystermen, grottos and lagoons — it is heaven for painters.  The home of Forgotten Coast en Plein Air, you often can find an artist or photographer at work.

Below are some of my works from the workshop with Morgan Samuel Price. Daily critiques were at a set time. Work had to be halted then if we wanted to hear what Morgan had to say about our progress. Click the photo for a larger image.

2015-0316 Scrub Pine on St. George Island 2015-0317 Pond near Scipio Creek Marina 2015-0318Apalachicola
2015-0319 St. George Island Plantation 2015-0320 Pond on SGI Preserve 2015-0320 Thistle Bloom

On the last day I was captivated by a thistle in bloom, so after I finished my landscape, I captured the pink of the flower by using a tint of color I had not ever used before, quinacridone magenta, which turned out to be perfect for painting thistles and I believe also should make painting azaleas easy. I am finding I generally prefer to mix my colors instead of using specialty pre-mixed tubes, but in this case I was very pleased with the chroma.

I shot the photo below using my iPhone.

2015-0317 Lady Louise photo

Contact me if you are interested in purchasing work from this page or any of my online galleries.

See the next post for the weekly paintings done just before and after this workshop.

 

Inspiration from the Creative Efforts of Others

February 28, 2015 in Landscape, Other Art by joanvienot

Art does not come out of the void. At a minimum, it interprets experience and renders a modicum of the artist’s truth, and at its best, it takes the artist’s inner and outer experience, undergoes experiments in alchemy in the boiler room of the artist’s soul, and then spawns something seemingly completely original. Yet to the artist, it merely is another step in the process of expressing herself or himself.  Most of the artists I know are amazingly humble in that regard. They see their work as an experience, a process; while those viewing the final piece, the artwork, see the magical release.

By mingling with other artists, seeing their work, talking with them, listening to their excitement, their struggles, observing their unbelievable courage and their ability to withstand misunderstanding and rejection along with acceptance and recognition, I see mirrors of myself, and my creative spirit is magnified.

Facebook has been a tremendous boon for me, creatively.  Through this phenomenon of social media, I have been able to see the work of my artist-friends and acquaintances, as well as that of other professional artists through the various groups I belong to, and then there are the very giving spirits who appreciate good art so much they share a veritable museum of found art on their Facebook pages, people like my friend the amazing Susan Lucas, who shares a wealth of creativity by others.

I volunteer for one such community, as a member of the Board of Directors of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA). I serve on the A+Art Committee, whose mission is to showcase the work of CAA member artists. I had the privilege of being the show coordinator for Creative Textures, a current exhibit of the work of 11 artists known for the textural quality of the work, featuring the sculpted acrylics of Justin Gaffrey, colorful weavings by Margaret Rogers, art quilts and stitchery by Mary Zahner and Becky Brodersen, bold ceramic masks by Didon Comer, dyed silks and beaded fabric by Gabrielle Bullard, the haunting art dolls of Ann Welch, expressive tile work by Sherry McCall, exquisite glass and shell collages by Mary Hong (South Walton Artist of the Year 2014), wearable beadweaving by Emilie Pritchard, and unique art basketry by Carol Dickson.

Last month my own work was selected for the promotional materials for another one of our shows, Express Yourself, used on the posters, the program, and the custom wine labels.  Bottles of the show label were auctioned.  Photos are on the A+Art Facebook page, January 20 and 21, 2015. I’ve posted a few below. I believe Melissa Mercer Brown, 2014 Chair of A+Art, and Suzanne LeLoup-West, Express Yourself show coordinator, shot most of the photos, if not all. Music and song, poetry, theater, dance, all of the arts enrich the soul, and for artists, provide further inspiration, motivation, and a “refilling of the well”. Electronically we have the ability to bring all things “culture” into our living spaces and our studios.  But of course there is nothing quite like mingling in person, in the actual energy of creative people, attending events, or even just getting together in small groups or one-on-one.  We seem to energize from our contact with each other.  There is so much value in community.

1 Express Yourself table Express Yourself wine label Express Yourself Poster and original Express Yourself entrance pic Express Yourself photo by Melissa Brown
Eagle

Eagle, by Leslie Kolovich, pastel on sanded paper. Use Contact Form to request purchase information.

Recently I’ve been watching my good friend Leslie Kolovich develop Leslie Kolovich Live, her own internet radio/tv broadcast featuring “music, art, the environment, and purposeful living”, and especially observing her interaction with the musicians, and I see the very same creative energy exchange I’ve been writing about here. Likewise with my friend Melanie Cissone, organizing life drawing sessions for fellow figure-drawing artists, intent on improving her own skill and expression, but benefitting other artists at the same time. Community with other artists provides support and opportunity, infinitely energizing. Leslie comes to my art studio every week or so, a community I don’t invite into my personal creative space unless the energy is very, very simpatico, which it is, with her. This week I finished the painting I posted in my last blog, while Leslie produced an amazing pastel of an eagle, inspired by a pair of nesting bald eagles we saw when our paddle-group paddled the bay near my house last weekend (Leslie’s painting at right).

Painting en Plein Air at the Florida Chautauqua Assembly

February 25, 2015 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

Every year in January the Lakeyard in the city of DeFuniak Springs is the site of the Florida Chautauqua Assembly, a festival offering educational exhibits relating to the selected theme for that year. Typically it also includes exhibits of times gone by, including Civil War re-enactments complete with cannon-shooting. Recently it also has welcomed plein air painters. A few other brave souls and I painted there last year in the 34º weather, brrr! I was very happy to be painting in my shirtsleeves this year.

Oil painting of gourds hanging in the frontiersmen camp at the 2015 Florida Chautauqua AssemblyI wandered the grounds for a while before deciding to paint in front of the frontiersmen camp. Initially thinking I would paint the whole scene, I instead decided to greatly simplify the challenge by painting only the gourds hanging from a tripod of branches. I was amused by a baby Nubian goat bouncing around the encampment, and wondered if I could paint him, but he didn’t ever sit still long enough to get a good drawing done.

Click for short clip of the cute baby goat

So the next morning I painted just the goat’s head after watching him some more and looking at some photos on my iPhone that I had shot the previous day. A friend of mine asked for the painting as soon as she saw it.

Oil painting of a baby nubian goat at the Florida Chautauqua Assembly, 2015My final painting that morning was of the encampment itself. The family shared with me their meal of eggs and potatoes and meat flavored with a little gospel. When I started painting, I had to move fast because the festival was about to close down. So I generalized a good bit, letting the colored shapes suggest form rather than distinctly defining it.Plein air oil painting of a frontier encampment, an educational display at the 2015 Florida Chautauqua assembly

Here are a few photographs of the actual event…

IMG_9108 IMG_9129 IMG_9135 IMG_9141

 

Owl Energy

January 10, 2015 in Landscape by joanvienot

Oil painting miniature of the head of a screech owl

Screech Owl, 4×4 oil paint on gessoboard, by Joan Vienot

A shadowy bird flew into my vision just inches from my headlight one night last week. I was unable to avoid hitting it. It was a screech owl, the smallest of the owls indigenous to Northwest Florida. I stopped to see if I could help it but the owl had been killed instantly. Needless to say, I was devastated. I knew I needed to honor it somehow.

I like to read interpretations of animal “energy”, or totem “medicine”, after interactions with wild animals. These energies are said to be present in the person experiencing the interaction before or because of the interaction, and can be used for affirmation or guidance in that person’s life. These descriptions are always positive. They are fun and encourage introspection, and are not meant to challenge anyone’s faith.

Owl is a symbol for wisdom, being able to “see” so much and so well, particularly in the night and at dusk and dawn when it is so difficult for us. Its flight is soundless, giving it an aura of invisibility. Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, was sightless in one eye; an owl rode on that shoulder so that Athena could see.  It is said that people with owl energy cannot be deceived, because they see what others cannot. Owl people “see” right through others, to their ulterior motives. In “Owl Medicine” (Jamie Sams and David Carson), my encounter with Owl suggests that I use “keen, silent observation to intuit some life situation”.

On Sunday this week fellow artist and friend Leslie Kolovich (SUP Radio Show) came to my studio and we decided to honor the owl by making paintings. Before we got started, another couple of friends came by to look at my oil paintings and possibly purchase one, and then one said she would like to buy my as-yet-unpainted owl on the small 4″ x 4″ gessoboard that I was thinking of using for this project. Because I had chosen the subject, and because it was small, I did not feel the same pressures as I ordinarily would have for a commissioned piece. I started and finished the piece that afternoon while my friends went to the movies.

Meanwhile, using soft pastels on sand paper, Leslie produced a captivating rendition of an owl with magnificent eyes. It’s entertaining having Leslie in the studio. She often struggles with the blank paper, fretting and stewing over how to begin, and then she gets completely quiet, and I look up from my easel after a period of silence and she has another amazing work nearly completed! As she finishes it, she starts singing. Below is her completed soft pastel painting honoring Owl.

Soft pastel painting of an owl, by Leslie Kolovich

Owl, 10 x 12 soft pastel on sandpaper by Leslie Kolovich, $200. To purchase, click on picture for contact form.

 

 

 

 

Losing the Light, Plein Air Painting

December 27, 2014 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

The light changes so much over the short course of a painting that a plein air painter can easily “lose the light” unless he or she has made a preliminary value sketch or shot a reference photograph. That certainly was the case on Christmas Day as I was painting a small camellia tree at Eden Gardens State Park, a short distance from my home in Point Washington, FL. I had set up my easel thinking the sun was going to move differently than it did. About halfway into my painting, I realized I was losing my light, so much so that the tree was becoming completely shadowed by the massive live oak behind me. I was challenged in the same way last week, painting the shops on the lake at Baytowne in Sandestin, Florida. Angular shadows move rapidly on structures as the sun slides around to the other side. In both cases, I had failed to make a values sketch or take a photo, in favor of jumping right into the painting. When will I learn, that delaying the gratification of painting for just a few minutes, by making that preliminary values sketch, makes painting so much easier!! My paintings were successful, but I struggled more than I otherwise would have. Below are the two oil paintings.

2014-1225 Camellia at Eden

Oil painting of the bright little houses that are the Shops at Baytowne in Sandestin, FL, painted plein air from the bridge over the lake

 

Tipping the Balance From Entrepreneur To Artist

December 14, 2014 in Figure Drawing, Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

 

Oil painting of crepe myrtle flowers, in Julie Gilbert Pollard workshop
Oil Painting of Reflecting Pool at Eden Gardens State Park
Still Life Encaustic
Figure Encaustic
Encaustic 2012
Seahorses
Oil painting of Shorty's Surfside in Grayton Beach, Florida
2011-1109 Reclining on back
Oil painting of soft grass at edge of Hogtown Bayou
Oil painting of Western Lake looking towards 30A, at Grayton Beach State Park
2012-1216 Tulum Sunrise North
Oil painting of the old pier at Camp Helen State Park, Panama City Beach, FL

Although I earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Fine Art with a certificate to teach, and did teach for 3 years, I actually produced art for only about 6 more years after moving to Florida and becoming consumed by owning and operating a pool service business. Thirty years have come and gone, and now I am reversing the process, practicing more art while allowing my business to run more and more on its own steam. I still depend on my business to pay the bills, while I continue to re-develop my skills as an artist. A few weeks ago I felt the energy shift, tipping the balance from entrepreneur to artist, and I found myself much more highly attuned to my art and my efforts to support the arts. It literally felt like a teeter-totter under my feet had begun to tip to the other side. The column of images to the right shows the number of sales this past week, which greatly reinforces my perception that things have changed.

I continue to paint plein air with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, and also I am excited to be practicing figure drawing again (“life drawing”), thanks to the organization of the program by fellow local artist Melanie Cissone and the generosity of Allison Wickey who is letting us use the space at her A.Wickey Studio-Gallery for our twice-a-month drawing sessions.  I’m a little rusty but find it just as exhilarating as ever — the pace is 100 mph, trying to capture the essence of the pose before the time is up! Below is my final effort in last week’s session.

2014-1111 with the model

Figure drawing of female reclining on side

It was bitter cold at our plein air session this week.  We painted at Red Bay Grocery, in Red Bay, Florida.  The grocery is a favorite for locals, stocked with the bare minimum plus local honey and such. A third of the space is the dining area, and another third is the kitchen, where home-cooked specials are served every day. I had toned my canvas a buff color, and when it was time for critique, I hadn’t painted the sky.  The group almost convinced me to leave the sky the buff background color, but after i got back to my studio, it just wasn’t how I had pictured it, so I quickly dashed in the light blue sky, and heightened a few contrasts to help it “read”. I seldom do much of anything with my plein air paintings when I get back to the studio, firstly preferring the pure plein air experience, and secondly, never quite remembering exactly what it looked like that would be different from how I painted it. Below is my painting of the Red Bay Grocery, and beside it, my friend, fellow painter Ed Nickerson‘s painting of me in my baggy falling-down snow britches.

Plein air oil painting of the Red Bay Grocery, Red Bay, FL

Red Bay Grocery – Joan Vienot

By Ed Nickerson

Joan – Ed Nickerson

Our painters group has members from a wide geographic area. Last week I drove for an hour to meet up with the group. Sometimes I stay home and paint, but it’s good to get out and see things that are new, and it’s always good to meet up with the other painters.  It feels like family. We painted at Lincoln Park, in Valparaiso, FL.  The light and shadows were outstanding, everywhere you looked. But they changed rapidly through the course of the painting — you had to choose a light patterns nd just stick with it.  That underscores the importance of making a value sketch first, to help me remind myself what attracted me to a scene in the first place. Below is my piece.

Oil painting of the autumn view from the south end of Lincoln Park in Valparaiso, FL

 

2014 End of Year Sale!

December 7, 2014 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

$125 or less — 50% off listed price!

Addendum

I’m selling selected works at half-price or less to make more space in my studio. Here’s a quick preview:

Reduced prices on select paintings, at least 50% less than listed price. Click on any of the images below to see a larger version. Message the artist for purchase information or for a studio visit. Most of these oil paintings are on 8 x 10 canvas panels. Colors of actual paintings may vary slightly. All are reduced to $125 or less. Many were painted “en plein air”, on site. Sale ends 12/31/14.