Plein Air Painting on a Road Trip

July 29, 2014 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

Last Friday I drove a friend, Leslie, up to Birmingham for her doctor appointment, on the condition that I could paint before we left the next day.  To my pleasant surprise, she wanted to try painting too!

I had brought my usual plein air backpack and paints, but in my vehicle I also keep a Guerrilla Painter kit, which is a small box containing oil paints, palette, brushes, and everything else needed for spur-of-the-moment painting, for times when something just has to be painted but catches me without my full backpack.  So I set Leslie up with that kit.  I toned our canvases a light orange, and while they dried, I laid out Leslie’s palette, with a good dollop of each of the primary colors, plus another hue of blue, and also white.  A little linseed oil and some solvent completed the set-up. We were at Oak Mountain State Park, and we picked a view of the lake with a sweet cove in the foreground, lush greens everywhere.  I stopped painting every 20 minutes or so to reassure Leslie who seemed ready to throw away her efforts every time I turned around. She stayed with it until to her surprise, she finished her first plein air oil painting!  I always find myself a little surprised too, at the end of nearly every plein air session, to have a finished painting, or very nearly finished, after 60, 90, or 120 minutes of such struggle, such searching for the right colors and strokes to express the truth that I see.

And afterwards, as we were driving back home, we found ourselves in that frame of mind that comes only after that intense focus, that blissful sense of the present moment, when nothing exists except the immediate which becomes intensely magnified by its undistracted singularity.  The scenery we were driving through was more beautiful.  The rolling hills and green roadsides were in high definition and “Technicolor”.  It was what I now recognize as that ecstatic state of awareness brought on by plein air painting, similar to meditation or any other pastime requiring sincere concentration.

Below is my finished painting from this adventure at Oak Mountain State Park, and another from Boggy Bayou State Park in Niceville, FL, where I met up with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters 2 weeks ago.

Oil painting of the lake at Oak Mountain State Park, Birmingham, AL

Oil painting of the trees and cast shadows at Fred Gannon Boggy Bayou State Park, Niceville, FL

 

But sometimes a painting is not finished, usually due to the light changing, or bugs biting, or weather threatening. Below are 3 unfinished studies, one of the spring at Ponce de Leon State Park, FL, one of a cedar at Camp Helen State Park, and one of the multi-colored leaves of some potted plants in front of the gazebo at Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet.

Ponce de Leon, study Cedar at Camp Helen, study Grayt Grounds, study

As always, most of my paintings and images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

Camp Creek Wetlands Plein Air Painting Video Progression

July 19, 2014 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

My best friend Leslie Kolovich‘s home and studio look out over the beautiful wetlands of Camp Creek Lake, one of the rare coastal dune lakes of Walton County in Northwest Florida.  True coastal dune lakes, which periodically exchange water with the sea, exist in only a few places in the world. Ginger Jackson Sinton has written a book about our lakes, Rare Coastal Dune Lakes: Biodiversity and a Sense of Home.  A contributor to SoWal.com, she writes, “Walton County defines coastal dune lakes as shallow bodies of water located within two miles of the coast that occasionally intermingle with the Gulf. The lakes are composed of both fresh and saltwater from tributaries, groundwater seepage (from the uplands and the Gulf), rainfall, and coastal storm surges. Their levels rise and fall due to frequency, strength, and duration of storm activity, tidal flows and wind conditions. When water levels reach a critical point the lowest level of the beach opens up, creating a temporary outlet, or outfall, into the Gulf.”  (Click for whole article.)

This past Wednesday afternoon found me at Leslie’s studio. The late afternoon sun was painting the top of the marsh grasses with golden light. Leslie has often said that I should paint from her upstairs porch, so we went up for a look, and I immediately went back out to my pickup to get my painting backpack.  Early morning and late afternoon light require fast work because the light and shadows are changing so fast. Leslie shot a few short videos showing the progress of my work. I had toned an 8×10 canvas panel a light muted tannish-green, and I chose that panel for this painting so I wouldn’t be worried about white glaring through if my brush skipped over any of the canvas — an unnecessary concern as I painted alla prima impasto.

Below are five of the videos Leslie shot, sometimes with talking, sometimes not.  It’s difficult for me to talk while I’m painting, and Leslie and I had a few laughs about that as I sometimes struggled for words!

Oil painting of the wetlands at Camp Creek Lake, South Walton county, Florida

The Sunsets of 30A

July 15, 2014 in Landscape by joanvienot

Cindy Moskovitz recently published a beautiful book of photographic images titled Sunsets of 30A, The Magic of Light on the Emerald Coast.  My friend Colleen Duffley designed the layout (Colleen Duffley Productions).  The book is filled with eye-popping, jaw-dropping photography by individual photographers both professional and amateur, every scene an image of a sunset over the rare coastal dune lakes or the sugar-sand beaches bordering Highway 30A in South Walton County, in Northwest Florida.  Images shot by a number of my friends and acquaintances were selected for the book.  The distinguished list includes Arlene Newsome, Claire Bannerman, Colleen Duffley, Cindy Moskovitz, Dave Sullivan, Dawn Chapman Whitty, Elam Stolzfus, Garrett Griffis, Ginger Jackson Sinton, Jack Hanes, Jamie Conley, Jeanne Dean, Joey McKenna, John Hollan, Larry Davis, Leigh Leuze, Linda Howell, Lynn Nesmith, Mary Brockett, Payson Howard, Robert Leeper, Shelly Swanger, and William McCalmont, as well as myself, Joan Vienot.  I also painted the watercolor map of the area, on which Colleen then overlaid the names of the various communities.  Below is the map, and below that, my sunset photograph selected for the book.

Sunsets of 30A Map

Layout by Colleen Duffley Productions

 

Photograph of Seagrove Beach

“The blazing colors of sundown fade into the intimacy of the night.” ~Joan Vienot | Seagrove Beach

For more information or to purchase the book, go to www.sunsetsof30a.com.

Completion of Plein Air Paintings in the Studio

July 13, 2014 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

I’ve heard of certain art described as being painted “in the style of plein air”, but that description describes nothing, because plein air is not a style.  Some plein air artists paint in a more abstracted style, and some paint very representationally. Plein air painting, by definition, is painting in open air, on-site. It describes an activity as well as the painting produced during that activity. Plein air artists focus on capturing some aspect of the actual fleeting light. Usually the subject and the artist are at the mercy of the elements and the environment, but there are no rules — if the weather or bugs are nasty, the artist might paint from inside his car.  But very little, if any work, is done in the studio. When invitations are given for plein air works to be formally shown, usually the requirement is that most of the painting have been done outdoors, on site, from life, anywhere from 80% of the painting painting en plein air, to the purist’s position of 100% painted on site.

As for my plein work, occasionally I will correct a shape or add a detail in the studio, but usually my plein air paintings are fully completed outdoors, on site. Like many plein air artists, I have many plein air paintings stacked in my studio that for one reason or another, I consider unfinished, or with which I feel less than satisfied as far as the painting representing my impression of the scene and setting.  Some have compositional problems, because in addition to the value patterns showing the play of light, there are so many design elements to consider – line, shape, size, position, color, texture, and density, as well as the compositional principles of balance, rhythm, and harmony.

So this week when I was chased back indoors by some biting yellow flies, I worked in the studio, making a few corrections to a plein air painting I had produced in a Laurel Daniel workshop this spring. I removed a pesky, distracting “V”, made the greens more yellow and less green, and I added a little more light in the background, and a red boat shape.  The composition is more effective now, and more clearly represents my impression of the morning view, except for the boat of course, which simply adds interest.

2014-0425 Muted Perspective, Unfinished

As initially painted en plein air, the view from Gascoigne Bluff, St. Simons Island, Georgia

Oil painting of Gascoigne Bay looking through the trees and brush

Completed painting of the view from Gascoigne Bluff, St. Simons Island, Georgia