The Setting Sun – Working From Photo References

December 30, 2013 in Landscape by joanvienot

Oil painting of the Gulf of Mexico at Sunset, with oranges reflected on the emerald green sea
Oil painting of the Gulf of Mexico shoreline, with people silhouetted against the purple and peach-colored sunset
Oil painting of sea oats silhouetted against burnt-orange clouds over the Gulf of Mexico at sunset

Painting a sunset, during a sunset, would be very difficult because the light changes so fast.  But the subject begs to be captured on canvas.  Since the weather was chilly this weekend, and it was warm and cozy inside my studio, I decided to take a few stabs at it using photographs I have on my camera phone.  Photo references are not ideal for making a painting, because the camera does not catch everything the eye can see, and the camera certainly does not capture the sound of the waves, the warmth of the evening sun, the changing patterns of the waves, and the shifting latticework of shadows and light.  So I rely mostly on my sensory memories of the experience, some going right to the core of my own being, reflecting whatever might have been challenging me that day, whether work-issues, relationships, or even the existential questions of existence itself.

I have painted many a sky using watercolor, where the happy accidents often end up being exactly the right shape, color, and mood.  Oil painting is so much more deliberate, that I found myself questioning whatever made me think I could be a painter.  Plein air painting has allowed me to develop a much looser, impressionistic style, so I expected more immediate success with my sunset skies.  It took more time than I thought it would.  I can see that I need to practice more, if the sky is to be the subject and the focus of the painting.

The most elementary and powerful form of defining shapes is through silhouette, which sunsets encourage.  My first attempt does not have any foreground shapes other than the beach itself, and I think the next two are much more interesting because of the silhouettes of the figures in the middle ground of the second one and the sea oats in the last one.

 

Winter Solstice, Deja Vu, Beginning Again

December 22, 2013 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

2013-1220 Labyrinth

Yesterday was the Winter Solstice, the day in the northern hemisphere when daylight is shortest, exactly one full year after the ancient Mayan calendar rolled over and began a new cycle.  2013 has been a new beginning for me, a year when I have manifested my decision to start plein air painting, and to become a full-time artist at least two days a week by the end of the year.  I cannot say that my two-days-a-week of being a full-time artist are 48 hours in a row, but rather, a few hours here and a few hours there over the course of the week, but most certainly taking up at least 16 “work time” hours.  Not all of it is actually the production of artworks;  some of it is framing and presentation, of course blogging, Facebook networking and looking at other artists’ works and art news, studying, taking a workshop, supporting the arts by attending openings and events locally, and giving art instruction.  Another significant part is the nourishment of my spirit, which I have come to realize is closely tied to my life as an artist, and must be factored in as a necessary investment of my time.  As I become aware of various energies and energetic systems, I find my senses heightened, and my creative energy has become more of a compulsion, so that I don’t just WANT to create, I MUST create.  My joy has multiplied exponentially.

I celebrated the Winter Solstice yesterday with a group of dear friends who share a commonality of spirit.  First we had breakfast at my house – cantaloupe, pineapple,cheese, croissants, and coffee and hot tea – with stimulating conversation punctuated by a visit from a young man who said his name was Ryan, who seemed to appreciate our conversation but wouldn’t have anything to eat.  He did say it was refreshing to be treated nicely.  He gave us some literature from the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  His visit was limited by our plans to meet another dear friend at a labyrinth nearby, our intention to be walking it at the exact moment of Solstice, which was 11:11 AM Central Standard Time.  The labyrinth is on private property in a gated community, and we had received permission to use it.

After Leslie read us an invocation to set Sacred Space, Caroling began her walk, and after a respectful distance each of us followed — Maddie, Mary, Eda, Leslie, and myself.  This labyrinth meanders in a complex, continuous path from the outside to the center, with 11 circuits through four quadrants of a perfect circle.  You eventually end up in the middle, and then make your way back out again.  Your mental state is your own — some ponder the great questions of the universe, some simply commune with nature.   You can walk as fast or as slowly as you want, and if you have a question in your mind, by the time you are done with your walk, you probably have some clarity, or at the very least, peace.  We walked as individuals, as slowly or as fast as we wanted, sometimes overtaking each other, sometimes completely stopping for a moment or two.  Sometimes we passed by each other on adjacent paths, or even met each other on the same path, always acknowledging and honoring each other, perhaps with a nod, perhaps with a bow, and occasionally exchanging a sweet hug, mostly in silence.

My thoughts in the labyrinth often returned to review the changes in my life over the past year, especially spiritually and artistically, growth in so many ways, strengthening of old relationships and forging of new ones, some of it hesitant, some of it bold.  Eileen, Cheri, Donnelle, Felicia, Michael, Colleen, Beckie, Melissa, Susan, Miffie, Ginny, Jennifer, Bob, Steve, Saramae, Sean, Anne, Ed, Weezie, Sandra, another Mary, Pat, and so, so many more, a whole crowd of people, from the past too — were your ears burning?  And as I walked the winding path, it occurred to me that this path was familiar, hadn’t I been here before?  But of course I had — the path right next to me, where I had just been, had the same scenery, but it was a different path, and I was on another, sometimes going the same direction, sometimes the opposite direction, sometimes in light, sometimes in shadow, a metaphor for my life, a metaphor for my year.  My mind would wander, and then return to the present moment with the birds flitting and chirping in the surrounding forest, and my friends playing and pondering on their walks nearby, and I would have that odd feeling of deja vu and realize I was still here, on yet another circuit of the labyrinth, another circuit of my life, beginning another year of growth and expansion.

My goals for this new year are simple:  to continue on my present course, and to take as many workshops as I can afford, from plein air artists whose work I admire.  So far I already have signed up for a workshop with Laurel Daniel and one with Morgan Samuel Price and I confess, I am more than a little excited about this.  It’s going to be a fantastic year!  So to all, Feliz Navidad, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukka, Joyous Kwanzaa, Magical Solstice, and Happy Holidays!  And also to all, Happy New Year!

—————————————-

The above photo of my friends in the labyrinth, was altered using a photo app called “My Sketch”.  The plein air paintings below were completed in mid-November, the first two, and the other two this past week, in mid-December.

Oil painting of a creek running into Mack Bayou, in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida Oil painting, impression of a creek running into Mack Bayou, in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
 2013-1218 Grayton Beach State Park Dune Scrub  Oil painting of the dunes at Grayton Beach State Park, in the winter

 

 

 

Painting Plein Air with an Extra-Long Filbert Brush

December 5, 2013 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

Extra long filbert

Extra-long Filbert

2013-1204 Dune Walkover
2013-1204 Dune Grasses
2013-1204 Bright Light on the Gulf

This blog post could be subtitled, “Where did November go?”

Soon after my show, “The Present Moment”, opened at Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet, I received an email asking if I would paint, plein air style, a view from the balcony, for some second-homeowners to hang in their “first” home in Tennessee.  I met with them, to visit and to look at their view of the coastal dune lake, Redfish Lake, and the Gulf of Mexico.  They gave me a few favorite photos, with morning light.  A day later, they sent me a photo of wind-driven clouds that they liked, and I started to work on the 24×36 gallery-wrapped canvas, with a 16×20 practice piece on the side.  The day before, I had painted with the local plein air group under the very clouds my clients had photographed.  So the scene was familiar enough to me that I was able to work from the photos and still have the feeling of being there.  I have nearly finished it and have posted photos below showing both the practice piece and the actual larger commissioned piece.  I have a few tweaks yet to do, especially perhaps darkening the tile roof on the gazebo.

Yesterday our plein air group met at Henderson Beach State Park, in Destin, Florida.  I painted with an extra-long filbert, size 7, made by Winsor & Newton.  The filbert, which I have sketched at left, is about 1/2″ wide, but the bristles are 2″ long.  I had bought it about 6 months ago, just to try out, but had never used it.  Last weekend I watched a painting demonstration on DVD by Frank Serrano.  I was inspired to try painting an entire painting using only one brush, and I thought, why not the extra-long filbert!.  So when our plein air group met at Henderson Beach State Park, in Destin, Florida, this week, I chose a scene which could easily be simplified, so that learning the brush would be my only challenge.  I grew to like the brush as I painted with it.  The extra long filbert holds more paint than an ordinary brush.  Because the bristles are longer and thus not as stiff,  it required me to lay color onto the canvas instead of scrubbing it as I sometimes do with stiffer brushes.  It was perfect for the texture of the fall-colored grasses on the dunes.

The day was gray, without direct sunlight, and the mist during the drive had dried up by the time I had set up my easel on the boardwalk to the Gulf.  A light breeze cooled it to a balmy 72°.  I painted fairly quickly, the scene complicated only by the structure of the dune walkover.  I had to use a small rigger to paint the walkover, but I used the extra-long filbert everywhere else.  The values and colors were muted by the indistinct light.  Because I had arrived about 40 minutes late, I worried that I would run out of time.  But I felt the 8×10 painting was finished after only about an hour, so I tried another, smaller one, 6×6, and wrapped it up fairly quickly too.  I started a third painting, 8×10, and gave myself the challenge of looking directly at the highlighted Gulf, sparkling white where the sun was peeking out of the darkening sky.  It turned out quite a bit more dramatic than the first two, because of the heightened values.  At right are the three paintings.  Silver plein air frames show them off nicely.  I have priced them for sale but may keep all three for my own collection.

If anyone did not get a chance to see “The Present Moment”, many of the pieces will remain at Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet, and some will be lining the stairwell on the way up to Bob and Cheri Peebles’ real estate offices on the second floor of the building, at Beach To Bay Realty.

Below is the not-quite-finished commissioned piece I was writing about, and below it, the practice piece where I worked out solutions to the problems I encountered along the way.

Oil painting of the view from a balcony at Sanctuary By The Sea, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida: Redfish Lake and the Gulf of Mexico

24 x 36, commissioned oil painting, view of Redfish Lake and the Gulf of Mexico from Sanctuary By the Sea

Practice piece for commissioned oil painting of the view from a balcony at Sanctuary By The Sea, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida: Redfish Lake and the Gulf of Mexico

16 x 20, practice for commissioned piece above