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.

Re-working a Plein Air Sketch

November 25, 2014 in Landscape by joanvienot

Oil painting of the marsh on Sea Island, later re-worked -- see 2014-1123 Sea Island Marsh 2

http://joanvienot.com/galleries/landscape/attachment/2014-0426-sea-island-marsh-2

Oil painting of the marsh on Sea Island, GA,

2014-1123 Sea Island Marsh 2, re-worked in the studio, from 2014-0426 painted en plein air

Looking back at some of my plein air sketches, I see how the outdoor light sometimes is so strong it completely washes away the color from a scene. This week I played with one of my studies from a plein air painting workshop taught by Laurel Daniel last April, adding more contrast to the values and more intensity to the colors. The result is a painting that I look at for longer, that entertains me, whereas the first study merely presented the basic idea, easily dismissed. Since my plein air painting is a thin slice of my life, I will be considering this. Experiences which may seem colorless, with very little impact at the time actually actually could be full of significance and ripe for interpretation. But maybe I think too much, ha!

 

Always Learning, Plein Air Painting

November 12, 2014 in Landscape by joanvienot

Every painting begins, of course, with the proverbial blank canvas. The elements of composition present a new challenge, every time: line, shape, size, position, color, texture, density. Today I opted to paint at Deer Lake State Park, and my challenge was to capture the intense morning colors of autumn in the dunes fronting the Gulf of Mexico. My best friend and I walked over the long boardwalk to the beach where I left her to her writing. I return to a midpoint on the boardwalk and started setting up only to discover I had left my regular palette and paints in the studio! So back to the parking lot, to get my trusty back-up, my Guerrilla-box, a minimalist plein air kit that goes with me everywhere for that plein air painting that just can’t wait, which holds the 5 colors I consider the minimum – alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow pale, cadmium yellow deep, thalo blue, and ultramarine blue, and white of course. I’m counting the walks to the beach and back, and to the parking lot and back, as my exercise for the day! I’ve attached a few photographs to show what the dunes really look like, though the off-and-on cloudiness did not do it justice. The view that I chose was very busy, with goldenrod sprinkling bright yellows through the reds of the grasses. Below is my end result, and under that, a few photos of Deer Lake State Park, on Scenic 30A in Walton County, Florida.

2014-1112 Deer Lake State Park

Joan at Deer Lake IMG_6891 IMG_6892
IMG_6894 IMG_6895 IMG_6896

 

On Being a Plein Air Painter – 1

November 1, 2014 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

IMG_6434

Photo by Pat ‘Sheewho’ Cummins

Last weekend I went to Birmingham, Alabama, and tent-camped at Oak Mountain State Park, with two friends.  Our intention was to enjoy a weekend of mindfulness and simplicity in preparation for seeing the Dalai Lama at two events on that Sunday. When camping, every task is a bit of a chore, and each chore is less than familiar, so mindfulness is a requirement. We packed our groceries, tents, and art supplies, and off we went.  The first night was predicted to be only 45°, so I had packed my quilted overalls and was quite toasty, wool socks inside my trusty Crocs. One of my friends and I went to the lake for our meditation, and we watched the sun come up through the mist rising from the warm water into the chilly air. That’s when my friend Leslie Kolovich said, “Joan, go get your paints!” So I dashed off my impression of the mist before breakfast. I posted my 6 x 8 piece last week, and here it is again, below. I just wanted to share the photograph above, taken by fellow adventurer Pat Cummins, to show what it’s like, painting plein air in 45° weather. I am seated at a picnic table, using my Guerrilla box instead of an easel.

Plein air oil painting of mist rising from Beaver Lake at Oak Mountain State Park

Growth Mindset in Plein Air Painting

October 27, 2014 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

Plein air oil painting of mist rising from Beaver Lake at Oak Mountain State ParkBecause there are so many variables in n plein air painting, each painting presents a unique set of challenges, even if I am painting the same place at the same time of day. Adding a complication, I myself am different, and I am part of the process. “Wherever you go, there you are.” So I make no attempt to repaint the same scene in exactly the same way.

I read a blog about a concept called “growth mindset”. Apparently “researchers have known for some time that the brain is like a muscle; that the more you use it, the more it grows. They’ve found that neural connections form and deepen most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy ones.” (Salman Khan)

The point was that we learn and grow during the struggles.  I certainly know this to be true within the patterns and rhythms of my life, and recently I have been coming to this conclusion about my approach to my art. Perhaps it is the stage of of growth as an artist, or perhaps it will always be this way, that I have to learn anew how to paint, during each painting.  Of course, I become better at my craft, but each painting presents new compositional challenges, new color challenges, and often, new lighting or atmospheric challenges, not to mention of course, new imagery in new scenery. Usually, I paint something I have never painted before.  During the process of the painting I must learn how to paint whatever it is that I am painting. I try to capture the light.

Last Saturday, my challenge was to paint the mist rising off the surface of a lake at sun-up. Many many years ago I remember creating a passable mist by scumbling white gauche on a watercolor painting, but I had no idea how to paint mist in oils. I ended up using a light gray mixture of paint where I wanted the mist, and feathering it as best as I could without mixing much into the colors above and below. This seems like a technique I should practice, since I probably will want to create this sort of atmosphere from time to time. Above right is my 5×7 plein air effort.

Below are paintings from the last two weeks — two from my best friend’s balcony looking out over Camp Creek Lake, and the other a painting of one of the gigantic live oaks at Eden Gardens State Park.

Oil painting of the marsh and trees of Camp Creek Lake, with short cypress turning orange in the fall Oil painting of the marsh and trees at the edge of Camp Creek Lake, with purple shadows Oil painting of large live oak and light/shadow patterns on the grass underneath, at Eden Gardens State Park