Plein Air Symmetry

August 20, 2015 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

I can’t remember the last time I painted my subject dead center in a symmetrical composition. But the live oak tree at Oak Marina had such a commanding presence yesterday morning that I decided to give it a go. It probably is 500 years old, with at least three main trunks coming up out of a common root, typical of live oaks in the wild. I remember learning when I was running a campground near where I now live, that when a branch of a live oak is plowed under, soon there will be several sprouts coming up from it, and which if allowed to grow, will form a small grove, all with a common root. Some trunks might join together, like this giant oak appeared to. It’s crown stretched at least three-fourths of the way across the water-frontage of the marina.

I was painting with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, the local group of weekly-painting plein air artists. I have volunteered to be the group’s coordinator of this year. Every Sunday I email everyone with the coming Wednesday morning location, and whoever shows up paints. For myself, I find that painting plein air with a group provides a social component that gets me out to paint when I otherwise might just blow it off, like when things are hectic at work or the weather is iffy.

The clouds came and went, rapidly changing the colors of the subject. sometimes the reflected light on the hard shiny leaves was blue, and then when the sun came out again, the colors would warm and glow. The Spanish moss swung underneath with the light breeze. The tree is so big that when you stand underneath it, it gives a feeling of rock-solid fortress-like security, but from a distance, it looked young again. This was one of those days that I personally identified with my subject.

Oil painting of the huge live oak tree at Oak Marina in Niceville, FL

Contact me if you are interested in purchasing my paintings, or click on the photo of the painting and a specific form will come up.

Surviving the Heat, Painting Plein Air

August 13, 2015 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

With the heat index over 100, any activity requiring intense focus, such as plein air painting, can actually become dangerous, because staying cool and hydrated is not the first thing on your mind. Instead you are focused on capturing just the right amount of rose in that barely orange chunk of concrete, or the touch of sky blue reflected on a shadowy surface. But the heat has no mercy. So only 3 die-hard painters without good sense showed up this week to paint. I was glad I was one of them — every time I paint, I learn.

I was painting with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters at Coffeen Nature Preserve in Miramar Beach, Florida. World War II bunkers and missile tracks punctuate the beautiful nature trails wending through the wild. A few small areas of the preserve are groomed for recreational use and sight-seeing. Outside of the preserve are the houses of Four Mile Village. Caretakers Bruce and Susan Paladini watch over the preserve, welcoming guests and providing information. You have to call ahead and get their permission to visit.

I have fond memories of the area. Long ago I used to visit my dear friend Jane Henkle who lived in Four Mile Village. She would take me over the dunes to the coastal dune lake bordering the preserve, and we would sketch and paint. The last time I came to the Village was to visit her daughter after Jane died.

Every time I have come to the Preserve and to Four Mile Village, I have avoided looking at the giant barn, the first structure you come to after checking in at the office. I have always thought it generally to be a monstrosity, such a big building situated in the middle of the wild, natural beauty. But yesterday in the morning light, it caught my eye.

I sketched in the light and shadows first, to help me remember what it looked like when I finished the painting at the end of the allotted 3 hours. I left the sky until last, not sure whether it was going to cloud over or not. What initially interested me in the composition were the dark openings of the doors in the broad sunlit side of the barn, but I also noticed the sky blue reflected on the shady side of the building, and the brightly lit tree in front of that side. And then I got distracted by the intricacies of the trailer full of brush trimmings, and then the light behind the sand pile! What a fun painting, every part of it!

I finished it and then drank about a gallon of water!

Oil painting of the barn and grounds trailer at Coffeen Nature Preserve, Miramar Beach, Florida

Painting at Deer Lake State Park

August 5, 2015 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

Oil painting of the view of the dunescape from the boardwalk at Deer Lake State Park in Walton County, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

Uncertain whether it would rain or not, I deployed my sun umbrella when I set up to paint with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters at our weekly outing, this week at Deer Lake State Park. The beach breeze promptly blew it over and inside-out despite my wraps of rope around the stem. I was a little craftier in in how I tied it down the second time. I had to head it into the wind a little, which meant it initially was useless but 45 minutes later, it shaded my palette and canvas perfectly. And it never rained while we painted.

Deer Lake State Park contains beautiful, unspoiled, pristine sand dunes. The very long boardwalk is elevated to provide superior views in all directions, protecting the habitat below from feet beating a trail to the beach. Clouds came and went, but that didn’t matter as I blocked in the skyline of dunes and water. However, when I looked for the light and shadow the next time the sun came out, I realized I had forgotten to put my whites on my palette. I looked for them in my collection of tubed paints – nope, not there. Apparently still sitting on my table in my studio. Now what? The other painters were all a good hike away from me, so I decided to paint without borrowing white for as long as I could. I had toned the bottom half of the canvas with beige acrylic before I started, so it wasn’t stark white. The dunes were very white though, where the bare canvas showed in between the painted bushes and grass. I decided that was a good thing. I decided that I might not need white, if I could be disciplined enough to not paint where the white needed to be.

Park visitors walked past me, on their way to the beach, but some stopped to watch. They complimented my work, and some talked to me. I enjoyed that. There are times when I am seriously challenged by my painting, when I might not be in the friendliest of moods, but today’s painting was fun and interesting. Working without white made me a bit nervous, but it also provided an excuse if the painting didn’t turn out good, so I think I may actually have been fairly relaxed.

The group met in the picnic shelter back at the parking lot, for our “soft” critique, and we then packed up and met at a local restaurant for lunch.

Another beautiful painting adventure!

Blue Moon Drum Circle Nocturne en Plein Air

August 1, 2015 in Figure Drawing, Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

Nocturne en plein air, Oil painting of a drum circle on the beach on the night of the blue moon, 7/31/15

Blue moon is the term for the second full moon in a single month. The color of the moon is normal, not actually blue. It happens about every 3 years. Painting the blue moon is an opportunity that comes, well (forgive me), only once in a blue moon. So I had to paint, instead of beating a drum, at the Blue Moon Drum Circle last night. My dear friend Leslie Kolovich organizes drum circles once a month, usually in her studio. It had been touch and go whether we would be able to meet on the beach for the moonrise, the weather forecast changing by the hour. The night before, she and I had actually come up with Plan B in case we were rained out, creating a slide presentation of images of the blue moon (most of them tinted blue) that we found on the internet, that we would project onto one wall of her studio, sized to cover the whole wall. But we were thrilled that Plan A worked out. Being a plein air painter and a nature enthusiast, I think that anything outdoors is infinitely preferable to being indoors.

I quickly set up while the drum circle participants socialized. I used a wash of red and black acrylic paint to tone my 8×10 stretched canvas before I started. I was eliminating the stark white of the canvas, so that distracting white hollows of the canvas texture would not show underneath if my hasty brushstrokes skipped across the canvas in my hurry to capture what I knew would be quickly-fading light. I am an oil painter, and I wanted my wash to be dry before I started – the reason for the wash being acrylic.

I joined the drum circle for the stating of goals. Leslie explained that the energy and timing of the blue moon is perfect for enlisting the support of others in the attainment of our goals, if spoken out loud. We all listened to each others goals — mine to someday retire and become a full-time painter. Afterwards the group began drumming, an easy gentle beat, while I returned to my easel to lay in the basic shapes of the beach, the dune skyline, the Gulf of Mexico, and the sky. The sound of the waves added an ebb and flow to the rhythm of the drums. Occasionally someone would start chanting, and I smiled when someone led everyone in a couple of wonderful howls, calling to the moon that was still beneath the horizon.

When it became difficult to distinguish the colors on my palette, I turned on my tiny book lights — one for my canvas and one for my palette. Shortly after that, I heard someone “Ohhhhh” over the sound of the drums, and a couple of people stood and craned their necks towards the distant coastline,and I saw a glow behind one of the structures on the beach. They, with their view unobstructed, saw the reddish moon peeking over the dunes. In a few minutes I did too, a beautiful red-orange orb, bright enough to make the close clouds glow.

Every painter is familiar with the anxiety of having a nervous twitch just at the moment of laying the brush tip on the canvas to render a detail. It’s worse when you are painting a starkly contrasting color. Especially orange. “Confidence, my lady, do not fear!” And just that fast, the moon was in the painting! Soon after that, I stopped, picked up my paints and backpack and trekked back to my car. I took a photo of my painting and texted it to Leslie along with a few photos of the group at sunset.Then I rejoined the group for a little drumming of my own.

But there was something bothering me about the painting that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Later, when Leslie received my texts, she texted back, “The beach looks like snow.” That’s a common description of our sugar-white sand beaches here on the Emerald Coast of Northwest Florida, but I wondered what I needed to do to make it look more like a beach. Then it dawned on me — beach vegetation! So this morning I popped in a little vegetation suggesting sea oats in front of the dunes, and that made all the difference. I pronounced the painting Done.

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Below is a pen-and-ink sketch of another one of our drum circles, drawn inside Leslie’s studio during the drumming.

Pen-and-ink sketch of drummers in a drum circle

Giclée prints available, 6×15 stretched canvas $90; 6×15 paper $45.

 

 

Plein Air Painting at Alaqua Animal Refuge

July 20, 2015 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

Detail of 2015-0715 Emu at Alaqua Animal RefugeI paint with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters which meet every Wednesday morning to paint somewhere in the Okaloosa-Walton two-county area in Northwest Florida. Last week we met at Alaqua Animal Refuge. What a treat. Interesting animals everywhere, and fantastic areas of light and shadow between the barns and sheds and trees. I had been at Alaqua only a few times before this, to adopt a couple of cats, so this was the first time I looked at it through a painters eyes, with no other agenda.

After walking much of the immediate grounds, admiring Gorgeous George, the turkey strutting his full regalia, and the pigs, and the horses, burros, goats, and of course the dogs and cats and kittens, finally I found the emus, and decided I wanted an emu in my painting.

Alas, the perspective and the brilliant light in my scene completely dominated the emu. But I still have titled it “Emu at Alaqua Animal Refuge”, honoring my original intention. So often that is the case, that when I paint en plein air, the “what” that I thought I was painting either doesn’t get painted at all, like the Indian Blanket flowers I had intended to paint last week, or else the focus shifts during the painting, to the perspective and the light.

The painting is 12 x 24. I also have posted a detail showing that indeed there is an emu in the painting!

Plein air oil painting of the light near the emu's pen at Alaqua Animal Refuge near Freeport, FL

 

The Practice of Art

July 10, 2015 in Figure Drawing, Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

Certain pursuits are referred to as a practice. We think of the practice of law, the practice of medicine, the practice of meditation. I consider my art to be a practice — I practice figure drawing, I practice plein air painting. I think of it as lifelong learning, each painting or drawing a new experience.

I stopped figure drawing a few years ago when the logistics became more difficult, and instead I began plein air painting. Now, when I go to the life drawing sessions my local arts alliance supports, I find my practice a little rusty. But thanks to my friend Melanie Cissone for bringing the local figure drawing opportunities back to life, figure drawing is getting easier again. Bohlert-Massey Interiors in Seacrest Beach, Florida, has been selling my figurative pieces and suddnely I am hard-pressed to re-supply their stock, so I am happy that my practice is paying off.

Below are some recent works from both of my practices. Click on them and use the attached form to message me if you are interested.

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Plein air oil painting of the herons on the bridge at Veteran's Park, Okaloosa Island, Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Plein air oil painting of the "umbrella trees" from the south shore of Western Lake at Grayton Beach State Park

Plein air oil painting of Indian Blanketflower at Grayton Beach State Park

Figure drawing of older child-fashion-model

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing More Color, Plein Air Painting

June 14, 2015 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

Oil painting of the potted plants in the pavilion at the head of the Turkey Creek boardwalk, Niceville, FLAfter noticing my tendency to dull my colors when painting in the bright light outside, I decided to paint with brighter colors, sometimes straight out of the tube. The duller colors were exact when I was outdoors, but indoor lighting is never as bright as the sunlight, so I found my paintings looked dull when I brought them indoors. This effort to paint my paintings so that the colors look realistic when indoors, challenges me, because the more intense color seems a little garish while I am painting. I have to battle my instinct to tone it down.

Painting the potted plants in the pavilion at the head of the Turkey Creek boardwalk in Niceville, FL, last week, I was thrilled to find my subject half in the sun and half in the shade. Colors change radically when the sunlight hits them, being more true to what we think of as local color, in the shade. And the reds! Seldom do I get to use strong red! What fun!

Oil painting of the boats, hens and chicks, in the yard near Nick's Seafood Restaurant in Basin Bayou, FLThis week Wednesday was overcast. The light was strong, but the colors were muted. The Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters were painting at Nick’s Seafood Restaurant in Basin Bayou, west of Freeport, FL. I remembered  all the fancy little chickens running around in Trey’s yard next door, and I hoped to paint them. Alas, they were gone, and the only critters to show up were three scrawny young turkeys, two white and one brown. So I decided to paint the play of light around the boats, and the geometry of the chicken coop. Halfway into the painting, Trey came out and I asked him about the chickens, and he said there were about a hundred in the coop. I heard them start cheeping, as a little boy spread food for them. Trey threw some corn between me and the coop and a few adult chickens came out to eat. So I got to paint chickens after all!

Click on image for form to get purchase information.

Kathie Odom Plein Air Workshop, Seaside Institute

June 6, 2015 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

Group shot, workshop attendees 5-29

Back row: Beth Loscondo, Marian Pacsuta, instructor Kathie Odom, Denise Kevany, Patricia Hagan. Front Row: Bob Weir and Joan Vienot. Photo by Buddy Odom.

Last week was my last hurrah before my summer season in my day-job as owner of a pool service business in a resort area of vacation-rentals and second homes. Sigh, I am paying for it this week, burning the midnight oil making up for the time I invested in painting last week. But I do not for one minute regret it, because it is always such a joy to paint with like-minded enthusiasts. At the end of the workshop we took a group photo, and I asked Bob if I could hold his hand. His excitement was such an inspiration to the group, having started plein air painting only recently in his 80-year life.

Our workshop was sponsored by the Seaside Institute, in Seaside, FL, facilitated by Casey Johnston. Our biggest challenge was finding parking during that week of Memorial Day. The institute brought Kathie Odom in from Tennessee to lead our workshop. Kathie shows her paintings at Redbird Gallery in Seaside.

Kathie underpaints her plein air paintings with a wash of yellow ochre, viridian green, and transparent iron oxide (a rust color). If not fully mixed, the wash will be more of one color than another in any given area. She doesn’t necessarily cover the entire canvas, instead usually making some sort of a off-center starburst pattern. Then she takes a paper towel and rubs off the juiciness, so the wash is relatively dry. She uses a dark brownish mixture similar to raw umber to paint-draw the scene she has chosen onto the canvas, and she uses a cotton swab dipped in solvent to lift off the areas that she wants nearly white, the recently applied color wash coming off fairly cleanly. From that point, she proceeds on to the unexplainable magic of plein air painting, applying darks first and lights afterwards. At the end she randomly applies extra twigs and flicks of color which help create the what she calls “vibration of color”.

Oil painting of Great Southern Restaurant, in Seaside, FL, painted en plein airIn every workshop I take, it seems like there is a bottleneck in my brain between what I’ve just heard the instructor say, and what I am able to do with my hand when I paint. It guess it takes a while for new information to get from the left brain to the right side. The bright yellow-green umbrellas of the Great Southern Cafe caught my eye from the amphitheater stage where we were set up behind the Seaside Post Office. JV watching Kathie demo 5-26Challenged by the lower part of the scene being hidden by the parked cars of Memorial Day vacationers, I dashed in a few shadows to break up the foreground, and returned the before class the next morning to finish up. I decided to leave the foreground as it was, and just sharpened up a few details and called it done. Buddy shot a photo of me concentrating on Kathie’s demonstration.

Oil painting of the beach foliage and beach umbrellas along the gulf-front at Seaside, FL, painted en plein airThe next day’s scene was our view from a pavilion overlooking the beach in front of the Shrimp Shack there at Seaside. Working with the greenish-yellow wash behind my sky was not as disconcerting as I thought it would be. I’ve used washes before, using transparent iron oxide alone or mixed with ultramarine blue, and also I’ve used cerulean blue for my drawings, sometimes washing some areas. But usually I’ve toned my canvas with an acrylic wash so that it is completely dry before I start oil painting. That has allowed me to scrape off color to expose the wash, but Kathie’s technique of washing with oil paint permits lifting off color to expose the white canvas, or scraping it to expose the wash, which to me is the best of both worlds.

We painted upstairs at the Seaside Assembly Hall that afternoon, thankfully indoors while a fantastic lightning storm blew through the town. Kathie taught techniques that she uses. Below are two classroom exercises from two afternoons that week.

Oil painting of rustic cabin in front of mountains, technique exercise painted in Kathie Odom workshop, May, 2015 Oil painting from a photo in Kathie Odom's workshop May, 2015
Red Bird gallery 5-27

Photo by Buddy Odom

My pool service business did not slow down just because I was taking this workshop, so one afternoon I hardly painted at all, spending most of the allotted time on the phone, managing a difficult relationship between a property owner, his friend who was responsible for the property, and the contractor repairing a pool heater with wires chewed by rats. It is nearly impossible to explain to someone who hasn’t seen it, how hard it is to figure out which wires the rats may have just chomped on, out of the spaghetti of wires inside an appliance.

I met the owner of Redbird Gallery in Seaside that afternoon, and we talked for a bit. Tricia shows some of Kathie’s works there. I chose that gallery to paint but barely got the paint-drawing done. Buddy got a good shot of my easel.

On Thursday we painted in Grayton Beach State Park. I decided to paint on a larger size canvas, 12×24, more than 3 times bigger than my usual 8×10. I spent almost the entire time mixing more paint, since my practice with smaller paintings was to mix just a little. A small mixture doesn’t go very far when painting a bigger painting! I went back to the park at 6:30 the next morning to finish my painting, thinking the park opened at sunrise, only to find that it doesn’t open until 8:00. Below is my unfinished painting of the scene from the parking lot near the nature trail.

JV painting at GBSP 5-28

Photo by Buddy Odom

Grayton Beach State Park 0528

Unfinished:  Western Lake from Grayton Beach State Park

Frustrated, I started driving back to Seaside on Scenic Highway 30A and stopped at the bridge where I painted the view of Western Lake from the roadside. This view of the “umbrella trees” is probably the most photographed scene in all of South Walton County, where the slash pines bordering the backside of the lake form an umbrella. It perfectly fits the 12×24 canvas I used. I will be making limited edition prints of this painting, some on stretched canvas. Message me if you are interested.

Oil painting of the slash pines forming the iconic "umbrella trees' of Western Lake at Grayton Beach, FL, painted en plein air

Umbrella Trees at Western Lake, 12×24. Limited edition prints available on stretched canvas.

 

 

Self-Forgiveness and Transcendence in Plein Air Painting

May 14, 2015 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

I often say that I meet myself coming and going, when I am plein air painting. By that I mean that I have to do a lot of work on self-acceptance throughout the process of making a painting. Every painting is a struggle – none go exactly as planned. Some paintings go better than others, but some seem like every stroke, every color, every value, every shape, is wrong and needs to be corrected. Those paintings require self-forgiveness and self-acceptance all the way through, or else I would quit and they would end up in the trash. If I don’t forgive myself, then I become angry, and then painting is no fun. I have to reach the “zen” of the process, that point where I start to let be whatever mark I make, without conscious judgement of “good” or “bad”. The artistic analysis and corrections become unconscious, and that is when painting becomes meditative and personally transcending.

I recently have done a number of paintings, some with the local Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, and some at an event in Apalachicola, the Forgotten Coast En Plein Air. Yesterday I did not complete my painting. I often wait until last to develop the focal area of my painting. Yesterday I worked on the focal area first, and I lost track of the time, so the call for group critique came while I still had half the canvas bare.  I quickly slapped in the greenery and a suggestion of the ground to give some context and the following image of the Bruce Cafe was the result.

2015-0513 Bruce Cafe, unfinished

Unfinished — Bruce Cafe

Last week’s regular plein air session was at Oak Marina in Niceville, Florida, yielding my impression of the graphic light on the foreground and the massive oak tree trunk.

Oil painting of the big tree trunks and light patterns on the ground at Oak Marina at Niceville, Florida

I painted 3 paintings during the span of the Forgotten Coast En Plein Air. I painted in the Quickdraw Competition the first weekend and was pleased that my painting sold during the judging! The scene included a row of potted plants in front of a landscapers office, some in the shade, and some in the sun. I called it “Garden Ready”.

Oil painting of potted plants and rocking chair at the 2015 Apalachicola Quickdraw, sold to a festival attendee

The next day my eye was caught by the light on the crumbling stucco wall and corrugated tin covering the windows of the abandoned waterfront Joe Taranto Seafood Company building. Across the street is the iconic wall of buoys, but I just suggested the buoys in order to keep attention of the texture of the wall and tin.

Oil painting of the light on the cracked stucco side of the Seafood building, with the wall of buoys across the street, downtown Apalachicola, FL

I could not stay for the entire event — my pool service business is experiencing a growth spurt, so I needed to be home during the week, but I returned on the weekend for the final showing of the works of the professional invited artists. While there, I painted what was told to me was the oldest structure in town, a building which now is just four walls, with no roof, draped with trumpet vines. The stark shadows of the palms on the wall were what initially attracted me to the scene. Unfortunately, I made a lot of what we painters refer to as mud when I was painting the spaces between the shadows, so I came back to the scene the next morning and cleaned them up. This is my result.

2015-0509 Apalachicola Memories

The week before last, our local plein air group painted at Four Mile Landing in Freeport, FL. I chose the industrial scene of the port, where barges were ready to be loaded, and on one bank, a new fireboat’s water cannons were being tested. The light alternated between a sunny glare and muted overcast as the atmosphere wafted in and out. The result was more impressionistic, with extra emphasis on the lights and darks.

Oil painting of the industrial facilities and barges at Four Mile Landing in Freeport, FL

All of my paintings are available for sale — click on the painting for an individual view showing the price, with a form to contact me.

In addition to “Garden Ready”, the Quickdraw competition painting shown above, the following paintings also recently sold. “Marsh at Indian Pass” sold during the Artists of Apalachicola Area member show two weekends ago, and “Island Plantation” sold this past Monday night at a meeting of the local women artists network.

Oil painting of the marsh, crossing over onto Indian Pass peninsula, Port St. Joe, FL Oil painting of the clearing from the bay boardwalk on St. George Island

 

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.