The Ruins at Coba

December 31, 2012 in Landscape by joanvienot

I spent a week in Mexico in mid-December.  Ruins from ancient civilizations fascinate me, and the ruins at Coba were no exception.  A boy there drove our big tricycle-tour-carriage to one of the pyramids, Nohoch Mul, one of the few in Mexico that visitors are still allowed to climb.  Nohoch Mul is the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula, 138′.  At the top, you can see out over the Mexican jungle to other points breaking the treeline in the distance, which I presume are other pyramids.  There was a structure on the platform at the top, with a short doorway which was screened closed.  The walls inside were black, like many fires had been burned inside.  It felt spooky, and I wondered if sacrifices had been made there — maybe some spirits were still hanging around.

Our tricycle guide took us to some of the other structures, including a round temple-pyramid and a Mayan ballcourt.  After we finished our tour, we realized there was another, smaller ball court, near the entrance to the area.

I found the ballcourts to be particularly fascinating.  I could almost hear the cheering for the teams of players trying to pass a ball through the stone rings in the center of the sloped side-walls.  The game was played recreationally, but also ceremonially when it is thought that the captain of the losing team gave up his head.

One of the rings was broken at the second ball court, and its jagged edges and sharp shadow shapes intrigued me.

As often happens when I am first starting a painting, the initial paint-drawing frustrated me and I almost quit.  There was very little color to the ruins — just the black, white, and gray of the rocks and mortar.  But I didn’t want to make it a black-and-white painting.  Near-black, and gray can be made from many colors.  I wanted the areas lit by the sun to be warm, and the shadows cooler, so I chose an orange tint for the sunny rocks, and I used cobalt violet mixed with orange for the shadowed areas.  Where I needed it to be even cooler, I added a little viridian green.  The broken stone ring was the obvious focal point, being so very different from the planes and shapes of the rest of the structure.  To bring even more attention to it, I added a warmer gray to its shadows, with more orange.  The shadows cast from the ring are in sharp contrast to the sunlit area, as opposed to the shadows from the trees overhead, which have soft edges.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

Laguna de Siete Colores Adventure

December 25, 2012 in Landscape by joanvienot

After completing the Artist’s Way Workshop led by Joyce Hogue at A.Wickey Gallery, I think I need to start over and really read every word of every chapter of the book.  There were so many times I would read something and think, Oh, yeah, that’s not really about me or my life, when really there is a lot more truth than I was comfortable admitting, descriptions of ways that I sabotage efforts to create art.  Most especially I realized that I am not exactly being truthful when I say I don’t have time to do my art.  I took a good look at how I spend my time, and I noticed that I seem to be able to take off on a 5- or 10-day adventure at the drop of a hat, so it is absolutely untrue that I do not have time — it’s merely that I have not been scheduling time for my art.

 
 
 

So this-coming year, I resolve to expand my definition of myself, this time as an artist, as well as an adventurer.  Oh, I’ve been calling myself an artist my whole life, but when I am honest, I realize that time-after-time-after-time, I have resisted when it comes to actually producing art.  Sometimes it is the inertia of couch-sitting that holds me back, sometimes it is thrill of unknown adventure that I would rather do, sometimes it is the attraction of friendship and companionship, and sometimes the aggravation of bills or work commitments, but I am realizing that just about any excuse not to produce art has resulted in greatly limiting my artistic output.  If I really want for my dream of being a full-time artist to come true, I will need to quit ignoring the call of the paint and to start producing finished works.

At the very least, I will have an additional 3 hours of empty time every week, when I have been attending the 12 sessions of the Artist’s Way Workshop. Last week one of the participants hosted a party for us all, at her house.  Our assignment was to make a small gift using a quote form the Artist’s Way book.  I made and framed a 3×3″ watercolor of an orange, above right, with the quote that “sometimes we shake the apple tree, and the universe delivers oranges.”  This quote is significant to me, in that so many times in my life, I may have had a wish, a dream, or set an intention, and events come to pass which meet and exceed that intention in ways very different from how I had imagined.

I missed class the week before, while I was in Mexico at a retreat called Laguna de Siete Colores, named for Laguna Bacalar, in the southern Yucatan.  I was there to shoot promotional photography for The Stand Up Paddle Radio Show and for Undertoe Mexico Stand Up Paddleboards, the producers of the retreat.  The paintings at left are all oil on canvas panel, and this series is from the sunrise at Tulum, our first morning in Mexico.  Sunrise is always inspirational, and the colors are so warm and bright in the first hour after sunrise, the “golden hour.”  I plan to paint many more from this adventure in Mexico.

My present intention is to review and refresh my skills with painting, since I have only just begun oil painting late this year, after about 30 years of making drawings and watercolor paintings.  My goal is to join up with the local group of plein air painters, who paint every Wednesday morning.  I am limiting my work on these practice paintings to only 2 hours at most, so that I develop a faster and looser style of painting, which is more practical for plein air painting, due to rapidly changing light and weather conditions.

I have found that my brushes are pretty sad, so I have ordered 4 new ones, and also a new tube of titanium white,and new oil painting medium to make my paints more workable and to help them all dry more quickly and with the same degree of gloss.  I’m still pretty stingy with the paint, not mixing big enough batches of each color, which is forcing me to remember which tubes I used and in what quantities in order to get each color.  So far the color mixing has come back to me fairly easily, and I very much appreciate the fact that oil paints dry pretty close to the same color that I mix, as opposed to watercolor paints, which always dry more muted and lighter in value than when they are wet.

I usually post photos of my paintings on Facebook on my Joan Vienot Art page as soon as I finish them.  The tern painting was very popular, selling the same day I posted it.  Contact me if you are interested in any of my paintings.  Since they largely are practice pieces, I am maintaining reasonable pricing.

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Finished piece: Whispering Statue

Around one month ago, the Artist’s Way workshop assignment was to open a book, and select a two-word phrase, and make a piece of art out of it, or write a poem, or whatever mode of expression we chose.  When George Harrison did this, he wrote the song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” after seeing the phrase “gently weeps” in the first random book he picked up.  I didn’t actually open the first book I picked up, but instead selected the title of a Nancy Drew mystery, The Whispering Statue.  I selected for my inspiration a piece of concrete yard art in my own yard, a gift from a dear friend, a statue of St. Francis of Assisi.  Below is the progression of the painting.  The statue stands next to my birdbath.  Click on any of the images for a larger view.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

 

 

Opening the Floodgates

December 15, 2012 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

A good friend of mine is preparing to backpack the Appalachian Trial.  Last month, over the long weekend after Thanksgiving, I accompanied her on her “shakedown” trip where she tested a lot of her new gear and her cooking methodology.  We camped on her mountain property near Mount Pisgah, near Brevard, NC, Jane in her fancy Hennessey Hammock, and me in my REI quarter-dome tent.  Having backpacked through the Smokies and in New Hampshire, I know that much of any backpacking experience is consumed with ordinary survival — food, clothing, and shelter — and this trip was no exception, with nighttime temperatures in the low 20’s (F).  Jane cooked on a lightweight backpacker’s alcohol-fueled stove, and I had my minimalist pan support with dry Esbit fuel, to rehydrate and heat our dehydrated food and make tea.  But we weren’t that far away from town, so even though we were “roughing it”, our evening meals were accompanied by good wine.  Each evening we would go for another walk, as if our mountain trail hikes had not provided enough exercise for the day, and then we would talk in between handfuls of “gorp” for dessert (good old raisins and peanuts) before crawling into our sleeping bags for the night.

The mountain imagery was overwhelming.  Jane is a fine art photographer, so spending time with her doubled the opportunities for the mountain splendor to imprint on my soul.  If there is a simple purpose to producing one’s art or vision, it may simply be to point out the beauty/order/harmony we see and to share it with those who might not have noticed.  I learned a lot about the limitations and capabilities of my iPhone camera.

I came home with my head and heart overflowing with the mountain colors and shapes.  Having only recently begun my return to oil painting, I was surprised to find myself wide awake and compelled to paint at 4:00 the very next morning after we got back.  By compelled, I mean that there was no option not to paint — it felt like a dam would break if I didn’t get an image made.  This happened twice in that week following our adventure, forcing me to focus my sleepy eyes 2 hours earlier than my usual wake-up time.  I painted the 8×10″ canvas panel very quickly, finishing before showering and leaving to be on time for my day job.  Above are my paintings which of course contain the colors and memories of my experience more so than the photographic references below.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

Photo reference

Photo reference

 

Sean Dietrich

December 3, 2012 in Other Artists by joanvienot

Sean Dietrich, Artist

I own and mange a service business which has progressed to the point where I am now working primarily at a desk in an office, instead of in the field where I first began to love the trade I am in.  The office work is less than satisfying, and I take many short breaks to maintain maximum productivity and to keep from becoming an automaton.  I often run the newsfeed from Facebook in the background behind whatever I am working on.  Sometimes it is hours before I actually look at Facebook, but as fortune would have it, a few weeks ago one of my favorite local artists posted a photo of a freshly completed figure painting, and said something to the effect of “Free to a good home” for the first person to comment.  By the time I saw it, it had been posted for 15 minutes already, and no one had commented yet, so I pounced, “I want it!”  I picked it up that Saturday, and now I am the proud owner of my very own Sean Dietrich painting, the 18 x 24 oil on canvas posted above.

I was attracted to Sean’s work by the loose style of the small studies he had been posting on his Facebook page.  These smaller works were loose and gestural, but had a certain precision of color and form that made it obvious that years of practice preceded the apparent simplicity.  When I met him to pick up my painting, I said to him that his work looked like it only took him twenty minutes but I knew it took about 30 years.  He laughed, and said “True!”

Sean blogs and posts his work at http://seandietrich.com/?page_id=3440.

Early Morning Light

November 4, 2012 in Photography by joanvienot

 

Yesterday I went hiking shortly after sunrise with my friend Jane Burns, who is a fine art photographer.  The sun was rising between the foggy tree trunks, just above the brush, as we hiked the groomed trail through the state forest just north of Grayton Beach State Park.  Jane and I both pulled our cameras out of our packs, to capture the first light.  We continued to have jaw-dropping views at every turn of the trail.  It was the “golden hour” following sunrise, when shadows are long and the light is warm and diffused.  A light fog exaggerated the effect, rendering every scene an ethereal fairy-scape.  The first photo above was taken during those first minutes on the trail.

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The light changed quickly as the sun came up, and the fog began lifting.  Wonderful atmospheric  effects played over the landscape as the cooler, shaded areas maintained a misty quality, and open areas became more clear.  Normally I carry my bigger camera, but since we were going to hike 8 or 9 miles, I opted to bring only my iPhone 5S.  Halfway into the hike, Jane showed me the High Definition function, where the camera shoots two versions, one normal, and one HDR.  The higher quality is obvious on some even when viewed on the camera’s small screen.

As the morning progressed, the fall light became crisper, and the colors became more vibrant.  Dew remained in the shady areas, and in one section, a carpet of bejeweled, glittering moss underfoot.  Both Jane and I tried to photograph the shimmering drops on the moss, but the camera didn’t pick them up.  A tightly focused video would have been beautiful.

I stopped taking so many pictures after the first hour or so.  The light was still beautiful, the sky a crystal clear blue and the colors so typical of autumn.  I still felt like I was walking through a scenic calendar.  But I was so very spoiled by the wealth of imagery during that first hour, the golden hour, that I just enjoyed the views for the rest of the hike.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

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Scenes of South Walton, 2012

October 20, 2012 in Photography by joanvienot

A local group focused on environmental and growth issues in the mostly rural community where I live, in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, is called South Walton Community Council.  Missioned especially with protection of our fabulously beautiful, pristine environment, relative to development and community growth issues, SWCC also puts on a Back-to-Nature Festival every fall.  Last year for the first time, Hidden Lantern Gallery partnered with SWCC to produce a juried art show called Scenes of South Walton, comprised of art inspire by the local natural setting.

Aster Reflected

I decided to enter a few of my photographs this year, and I was pleased to receive notice that my work had been accepted.  I usually shoot photography for fun, for Facebook, and because I love the process of capturing images.  If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you know that I also shoot for Leslie Kolovich of The Stand Up Paddle Radio Show, but working for her is so much fun I hardly call it work.

Being a visual artist, of course, line, shape, size, position, color, texture, and density, all of the elements of composition, and repetition, harmony, and unity, the principles of composition, factor into my artistic evaluation of any of my photographs.  Ultimately, though, my chief interest in my own photography, is the play of light over the forms.  I rarely do much with post-processing, primarily enjoying the act of shooting the photo much more than the infinite tweaking that can happen after the image is on the computer.

Tree Frog

To my pleasant surprise, one of my pieces was selected for Honorable Mention.  There were works by 12 other artists and photographers, all of whom I consider my superiors in craftsmanship, experience, and sheer expression.  But my pieces do have impact, and the piece I submitted that received the Honorable Mention, “Aster Reflected“, also has enough of an abstract element to be just a little confusing.  It is a photo of an aster hanging out over the creek, and perfectly reflected in the creek.  Actually, the reflection is a more distinct image of the flower than the actual flower, which is over-exposed.  The confusion comes from there being such a perfect reflection of the aster, stems, and leaves, in contrast to some pine straw and debris that is just floating on the surface without any reflection.  When you look at it, you have to stop to figure out why there isn’t a double image of everything, how there could be just a single image, unreflected, mixed in with all the double imagery of the reflections.

Water Lily

The juror, KC Williams, didn’t mention the composition when she talked about my photograph, but instead discussed how it clearly represented an image that could be found in South Walton.  She actually talked quite a bit about each piece she that she had chosen, and also about the superb craftsmanship and artistic expression of all of the works in the show, but when mine was announced, I was smiling too wide to be able to listen.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

Juror KC Williams is Director of the Galleries at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, and she along with the Director of the South Walton Center of NWFSC, Julie Terrell, facilitate the exhibition of Cultural Arts Alliance members works through the A+Art Committee, on which I serve as co-chairman.

Great Paintout at Grayton Beach

October 14, 2012 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

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On Saturday I joined at least 16 other painters at Grayton Beach State Park, in Grayton Beach, Florida, to participate in the local effort for the Oil Painters of America 8th annual Great Paintout.  It was my first try at plein air oil painting in perhaps as much as 30 years, but something I have been intending to do for a long time.  I have occasionally painted outdoors using watercolors or sketched with pencil or ink, but the last time I remember painting the landscape with oils, plein air, was while on a camping vacation in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1978.  That day, so long ago, was memorable for being so hot and buggy.  By contrast, Saturday was the perfect day for plein air painting, being shaded by the park pavilion, and virtually bug-free.

So what’s the big deal about plein air painting, you may wonder.  En plein air is French for “in open air”, a phrase used to describe painting an outdoors scene “from life”, while actually looking at it, in the often changing light and weather conditions.  It requires intense concentration and awareness, and is much more challenging than painting from a photographic reference in a studio.  It appeals to me in much the same way that figure drawing appeals to me, because time is a limiting factor, so one must work fairly quickly, finishing or very nearly finishing the painting in one session.  For that reason, and because I felt so out of practice, I chose to paint on small 8″ x 10″ canvas boards.  I managed to make a passable effort on two boards.

To a certain extent, this was a trial run for me, to see how my equipment worked, and to start remembering how to paint.  I used just 3 brushes — two to paint with and a third one to sign my name, and a palette knife to scratch out some bush branches.  The brush I used for most of both paintings was a Winsor-Newton #6 round, sable, I think.  It worked better than the stiff bristle brushes I used a month ago in my first effort at returning to oils, in the workshop I blogged about on September 9. My new Coulter System easel and palette/box that I purchased last summer worked like a charm.  I used my 35-year old Grumbacher “Pre-tested” and Rembrandt oil paints from my days doing demonstrations as a high school art teacher.  My oil painting medium is about that old too, and while the paints are still good, I’m pretty sure the medium is degraded.  The paintings I did Saturday are dry today, one day later, but the painting I did a month ago in the workshop, in which I used more medium, is still a little sticky.

The sand dunes at Grayton Beach are made of  sand is so fine that it crunches underfoot like dry snow, and it even looks like snow in the bright sunlight, thanks to the clear crystals of quartz that make up the majority of its composition.  The scrubby oak bushes and half-buried scrub pines round over the tops of the dunes, shaped away from the Gulf of Mexico by the salty seabreeze.  Palmetto bushes and dune marsh grasses dot the lower dunes, fringed this time of year by various yellow wildflowers that some of us locals refer to collectively as goldenrod.  I never got around to painting as much as I would like to have, never adding in the finer details of shadows and sea oats.  I might go back in and put in those details, but the photos I have posted here are exactly as I finished on Saturday morning.

After we painted for about 3 hours, we all got together and looked at each others’ works, and we ooo’d and ah’d before giving feedback.  It was an excellent critique, with the masters of the craft commenting on areas of paintings that worked well, and areas that were challenging, and even discussing compositional tricks, like pointing out places where something in a painting might need to recede, made difficult by being light in value.  (Typically, light shapes and colors tend to advance, and darker forms recede, in a picture plane.  That can be overcome by muting or graying the lighter colors, shapes tending to become less bright as they recede, the way that we see things.)  Everyone was kind to me, not being critical at all, but I admit that I gave fair warning, protecting my vulnerability by explaining that I had just returned to oil painting again about a month ago, and that this was my 2nd effort in 30 years.  That was a fairly clear request to cut me some slack, I think.  The regular plein air painters go out every Wednesday, so if I start coming regularly, I’m sure they will feel more free to make helpful comments, and I will not be so scared to hear them.

Shane McDonald

Some of the artists who were there have their work online:

Becky Perrott

Charlotte Arnold

Rosalyn O’Grady

Margaret Ann Garrett

Jeanette Brooks Sherritze

Nancy Nichols Williams

Melody Bogle

Velda Dougherty

Shane McDonald

Matt Craven

And I wish I had the names and websites of the others there — if you read my blog and know the others, please email me with their names, and I’ll include them.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

 

 

The Artist’s Way Workshop

October 12, 2012 in Photography by joanvienot

I am two weeks into a workshop on  The Artist’s Way:  A Spiritual Guide to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron.  Joyce Hogue is leading the workshop for our group of 10 or 12 women, at A. Wickey Studio-Gallery in Rosemary Beach, Florida.  I bought the book eons ago, when it first came out, and I started it several times, but my interest always waned after not even one week of studying it by myself.  One of the exercises in the first chapter, which is to continue I guess for the rest of your life, is to write 3 pages about anything, every morning.  I found out in this workshop that I don’t have to use a big notebook, so I can finish my 3 pages inside ½ hour every day.  I think using a fullsize notebook is what cost me my enthusiasm in previous attempts.  I expect the energy of the group to keep me focused.

I am more in touch with my desire to produce art now, and I expect The Artist’s Way workshop to reinforce the direction I am heading.  Anyone following my blog knows that I am not a “blocked” artist, that I have been producing quite a bit of art over the past few years, especially considering that I also have a full-time job and several part-time jobs.  Also I have been much more involved in my local art community, serving on the Board of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA), and working especially hard on CAA’s A+Art Committee.

One of my part-time jobs has been to occasionally produce photographic images for Leslie Kolovich, host of  The Stand Up Paddle Radio Show, a blog with online podcasts of her interviews of interesting people and events connected by the theme of standup paddling.  She also writes “On the Road with Leslie” segments for the Standup Journal, where some of my photography has illustrated her adventures.

So it should not be not a surprise that I took my cameras with me on my “artist date”, an exercise assigned by the Artist’s Way workshop.  I got up early last Saturday, and launched my canoe in the bayou behind my house, and paddled out on the glassy-calm Choctawhatchee Bay at sunrise.  The buoys marking the Intracoastal Waterway captured me, and my half-hour artists date turned into two hours.  I played with some of my photos right there and then, in my canoe, using an application on my iPhone.  I’ve included a couple in this post.  Most of my photography is done with my Sony Cybershot which I dearly love, but which requires a computer for any post-processing.

My practice of photography is paying off.  Next week is the opening of  “Scenes of South Walton“, a juried art exhibit at Hidden Lantern Gallery in Rosemary Beach, Florida, and I am one of the 12 artists selected for the show.  I submitted 3 photographic images.  All of the art is nature-inspired from South Walton County, Florida, my home community, as a part of the Back-to-Nature Festival hosted by South Walton Community Council.  The show opens Thursday, 10/18/12, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

The next night, 10/19/12, A+Art’s “Top of the Class” juried art show opens at Northwest Florida State College, in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.  I served as show coordinator with the Co-Chair of the A+Art Committee, Miffie Hollyday, for the production of this show.  Every member of the committee provides invaluable assistance, and I’m excited to be a part of this team effort.  Working behind the scenes certainly has given me an appreciation for the process.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

Oil Painting with Jan Bennicoff

September 9, 2012 in Still Life by joanvienot

Jan Bennicoff, Demonstrating

Yesterday I attended Jan Bennicoff‘s oil painting workshop at the City Arts Cooperative in Panama City, Florida.  The day before, I packed up my supplies from the list she had distributed, which I have been gathering over the past 6 months or so in preparation for my plan to start plein air painting.  I had signed up for this introductory workshop as a review, since the last serious oil painting I did was in college, dare I tell my age, almost 40 years ago.  I loaded a couple of small canvases, 11×14, my brushes, my new lightweight easel and palette, paper towels, and some containers.  The solvent, medium and the paints, were provided at the workshop for a mere $5.00 supplies fee.  The workshop was free to members of Panama City Artists.

Jan set up a still life of melons, and she began her demonstration by making a line drawing of the subject using a brush and a dark color, red in this case. She instructed us to then paint from dark to light, that is, to paint the dark colors throughout the entire painting first, covering all of the canvas, and afterwards painting the lighter values.  She helped us to see the different colors, shapes, and values in the subject from our individual viewpoints, and gave tips on how to execute them, and how to mix the colors.

While painting, I found that I need to buy a few better brushes.  Some of the brushes I have that are the perfect size for how I want to use them, are a little stiff in the bristles, so that putting another color on top of an area of wet paint results in the bristles scratching off the other color.

I didn’t have too much trouble drawing the subject onto the canvas, even though I haven’t practiced contour line drawing in a while.  I’ve been practicing figure drawing, focusing on light/shadow, and defined vs. lost edges, rather than all contours.  I worried about the composition from my viewpoint, which was nearly split in half, with only a small area of a tray overlapping the right hand masses with the masses on the left.  Jan helped me see the shadows and highlights that would also help tie the two halves together, and I repeated some of the watermelon reds in the orange pieces of cantaloupe, and added some oranges into the red watermelons, to also help tie the two together.  To make the colors brighter, I heightened the background contrast, deepening the blue-brown until it almost became black.  I liked the end result, especially considering I completed it in just a little over 2 hours.

I have always been of the opinion that things are more interesting when a little is left to the imagination.  I know that my tendency is to try to be exact with my art, but the painting style I want to develop will be a little looser, exact only when absolutely necessary to define an essential element.  This will require me to assume that my audience can “read” the painting without me describing every little detail, a leap of faith on my part.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

A Little Fun with Effects

August 31, 2012 in Photography by joanvienot

Today is the last day of the month, and the second full moon of the month, which is called a Blue Moon.  There have been a number of fancy moon images marking the occasion on the web, but I haven’t learned how to overlay images yet, so my Blue Moon is just the moon.   I managed a fairly well-focused hand-held shot of the moon by setting my automatic digital camera on Twilight, and then I “cooled” the image to a nice blue using the “Cooler” tool in iPhoto Effects.  I re-sized it and added the watermark using Photo Bucket.  As always, the watermark will be removed for purchased prints.