Growth Mindset in Plein Air Painting

October 27, 2014 in Landscape, Plein Air

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

 

Commissions Under Pressure – Plein Air at Events

October 18, 2014 in Landscape, Plein Air

Oil Painting of Couple Dancing Outdoors by Bridge, Impressionist Style

May, 2014

Those who follow my blog know that I contract to paint plein air at wedding receptions at Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet where my plein air paintings are shown.  I blogged about it in May, “Commissioned Works en Plein Air.” So you might think it would become old hat, painting the same setting.  But the colors are different, the sounds change, the plants change, the people are different, and most of all, the light changes, so the challenges are always there, and I must always grow as a result. If the scene feels too familiar, all I need to do is move my easel a little, or turn my head, for a new point of view. I am not so fast as to actually paint the couple on site — instead I paint the surroundings in the hour before the event, and then I take photos and sketch a gesture of their entrance or first dance or whatever scene they choose, and then I may block in the general silhouette of the couple. I complete the painting in the studio. The biggest challenge, in commissioned work, of course is pleasing the client, and that includes working with color choices that compliment or repeat the design colors of the event, and sometimes it includes altering my painting style to lean towards a particular style the client likes.

Oil painting of the bridge and garden at Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet, plein air preparation for painting a wedding couple's first dance

Plan A, with afternoon light

My most recent contract was a month ago, in September.  I had gotten the time wrong, thinking the newly wedded couple would be making their entrance around 5:30 instead of 7:30, so I was painting the entire back scene with late afternoon light in preparation for adding the couple when they made their entrance. I had planned to catch the couple coming across the bridge over the coy pond, placing them slightly right of center, against the spray of the green bamboo like plant that grows behind the bridge.

When the couple made their entrance at 7:30, my entire painting was wrong — the garden was now illuminated by string lights instead of afternoon sunlight. Plan B:  Start a second painting!!!  I was only minimally prepared for a nocturne, but I needed to get my painter’s sense of the location, the sounds, the vibrancy of the lights, the energy of the party. By painter’s sense, I mean that visceral impression of myself being a participant in the scene and not just an observer. I needed to be able to recall all of it, not just relying on photo references, which convey only a small part of what I try to project. I set up my little lights, one on my palette and one on my painting, and knocked out a study of the light-wrapped trees and the dance patio to help me do the job right when I got back to the studio.

2014-0920 Grayt Grounds Nocturne Study

Plan B, nocturne study

The challenges of painting a nocturne successfully include first of all, believable colors. My palette from the afternoon painting was not the colors I would have chosen if I had planned a nocturne, but I was under the gun to capture the light-wrapped trees and the energy of the gardens so I used my afternoon palette.  I don’t judge the resulting study — it has so much background energy, it looks like the place is on fire — it was perfect for reminding me of some of the feeling I needed to capture, even though I needed to figure out how to paint the light-wrapped trees better.

A little about composition… When I teach, I suggest that my students stick to the safer “rule of thirds” for the focal point, which means putting the focus of the painting on one of the intersections of the horizontal and vertical tri-sections of the painting. By putting the couple smack in the middle of the painting, I was challenged to direct the viewer’s eye. I didn’t want the eye to go straight to the center and just stay there.  I wanted the eye to circle the painting, returning again and again to center, to help the viewer look at the painting for a longer period of time. That required more attention to the crowd than I was visualizing at the actual event, and especially more attention to the figures at the outside edges, who are intended to help the eye circle, and by their body position also help redirect the attention back to center. The scene is dramatized by the blue and red spotlights that were on the couple during their First Dance.

By writing this, I am reminded how many decisions go into making a painting. When painting plein air, those decisions are made on the fly; they are more considered in the studio. To arrange for me to paint plein air at your event, contact Cheri Peebles at Grayt Grounds: http://graytgrounds.com/contact/.

Oil painting of couple dancing outdoors at Grayt Grounds in wedding reception - final piece

 

Finding the Light in Plein Air Painting

October 1, 2014 in Landscape, Plein Air

Oil painting of th early fall colors reflected in Beaver Lake, Oak Mountain State Park, Alabama

When I go outside to paint, I am looking for the light and I am anticipating where it will be in 2 hours when I will be finishing the painting. I say I am looking for it, but truthfully, it catches my eye.  The more I paint, the more the light catches my eye.  The drive home from Birmingham, Alabama, yesterday was heaven, the light was so brilliant.  It was a crisp, clear fall day, with long shadows and the clarity of lower humidity. Autumn colors were just beginning to show. It’s interesting that the drive up to Birmingham was so much less remarkable, simply because it was a gray day, a 3 on my scale of days worth painting.  But yesterday was a 10!  Part of the visual ecstasy was due to having been painting in the morning.  Anytime I paint plein air, my awareness and my enjoyment of all things visual increases exponentially.

The morning broke gently in Oak Mountain State Park, slight pinks in the mist over the Beaver Lake, glowing through the filter of the screen roof of my tent. There had been almost no chance of rain, so I had slept there without a rainfly.  I left my cozy lightweight sleeping bag and walked down to the water’s edge, but my morning meditation was cut short by the realization that the trees were going to be sparkling bright in a few minutes, and the lake would provide glassy reflections. I went back to the campsite and set up to paint. My campmate, Leslie, took her oil pastels some 100 yards away to a picnic table, and I was left to watch the light evolve.

I had to resist the temptation to paint the myriad detail. My intention was to capture the color of the trees on the far side of the lake, and the reflections. I could not indulge in the amazing purples in the foreground tree leaves, or the oranges in the dewy grass — they had to remain muted in order to stay true to what had caught my eye in the beginning. That is the discipline required when plein air painting, because “eye-candy” is everywhere.

Oil pastel painting of early fall colors on the mountain behind Beaver lake at Oak Mountain State Park, by Leslie Kolovich

Leslie Kolovich, Beaver Lake, Study in Oil Pastels

I’ve been helping my friend Leslie Kolovich with technique and media exploration and lately she has been plein air painting.  I have been thrilled with her progress every step of the way.  I didn’t consider her piece finished finished yesterday — we needed to pack up and get back home for her family obligations, but I was very happy with where her piece was going.  We talked about her continuing to layer color and continuing developing the darks, and how to add reflection in the lake water.  I was blown away later last night when she texted me, declaring her painting “Horrible” and “Embarrassingly bad”. I think this is a perfect example of a point that many artists get to, at a certain stage of each work, when they wonder what on earth ever made them think they could be an artist.  At that point, you either quit the piece, or you continue trudging through the process. It’s not a happy time. I remember reading that it took Leonardo daVinci 4 years to paint the Mona Lisa.  The problem is that we are so impatient, we expect instant success.  And Leslie has had instant success on many of her works.  She has amazing talent. But there always is that period of time in creating art when the work looks completely wrong and unsalvageable. It’s the point when you have “Broken the egg in order to make the omelet”. I think that’s what Leslie was seeing last night. But at the same time, I am not a fan of working on a piece that is making me miserable.  So I told her she had a decision to make.  She could continue to work on it, she could scrub the board clean and re-use it, or she could set the painting aside and let it be for a while. I hope she doesn’t kill me for posting her work here.

Oil painting of the deer moss and lichen on a birdhouse in the treesA couple weeks ago I was late getting to my weekly plein air group outing, and nothing immediately appealed to me, knowing I would only have about an hour or so to paint before it would be time to meet and critique, so I went back home and wandered my yard for inspiration. I returned to a birdhouse that had caught my eye a few weeks before, the deer moss and lichen on the roof providing such a great contrast of texture to the aging wood. I am deciding whether I should add a bird back in the bushes, to give it more story.

 

Completion of Plein Air Paintings in the Studio

July 13, 2014 in Landscape, Plein Air

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

 

Commissioned Works En Plein Air

June 6, 2014 in Landscape, Plein Air

I recently completed two commissioned assignments in which specific subjects were requested.  In the first case, a specific style also was requested.  Fortunately for me, the stylistic samples I was given, ranged from the light and airy scenes of the French Impressionists to a piece of “outsider art” which had that sort of purely expressive sense of being painted by an artist who has not had formal training.  I was confident I could paint within that wide of a range!

The location of the first commissioned piece was in the gardens at Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet, at a wedding reception, and my job was to paint the bride and groom’s first dance.  When I arrived to get the background started, the Forrest Williams band was setting up, and the people from Grayton Beach Catering were bustling about.  My background was blocked in when the first guests arrived, and I was enjoying the band singing “She’s as Sweet as Tupelo Honey”.  By the time the guests started arriving, my 10×8 painting was well underway, and a few of the guests would wander over and watch as I worked.  I let one of the children put some color on the bottom part.  When the bride and groom were announced and made their entrance onto the dance floor, I put down my brush and picked up my sketchpad and my camera.  After the dance, I laid in the figures on my nearly finished background and then finished the details in the studio using my sketch and my photos for reference.  Afterwards, I decided to paint another painting in the studio, making effort to paint in a more “Impressionist” style, with layers of short, patterned brushstrokes loaded with color, which was great fun.

Sketch of couple dancing outdoors

Plein air sketch

Oil Painting of Couple Dancing Outdoors by Bridge, Painted en Plein Air

Plein air painting, details in studio

Oil Painting of Couple Dancing Outdoors by Bridge, Impressionist Style

Studio painting

For mobile viewing

Sketch of couple dancing outdoors

Plein air

Oil Painting of Couple Dancing Outdoors by Bridge, Painted en Plein Air

Plein air

Oil Painting of Couple Dancing Outdoors by Bridge, Impressionist Style

Studio

 

The second commission was for Channing Gardner, a real estate agent, for a gift for his client.  My task was to paint the Seagrove Beach property as it was when it was purchased, before anything was built on it.  It took me two mornings to complete it, because of the changing light and the heat.  I opted for a wider format, painting it 12×24, which allowed me to include more of the coastal development to contrast with the empty lot.

Oil painting of central Seagrove Beach westward towards Seaside, showing recently purchased empty lot

June is my busiest time of year in my day job, managing my pool service business, so I was not able to join the local plein air painters yet this summer until things lightened up this week.  We met near the pond at Mystic Port, a small collection of shops and restaurants north of Grayton Beach, Florida.  I was intrigued by the fountain, but never having painted one, I gladly accepted the suggestion of a more experienced artist, to put the splash on the surface of the water and then take a palette knife and drag upwards.  I am happy with the results — I can hearing the water falling.  Other works by our group on that day can be found on our Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.520412828081717.1073741866.285985251524477&type=1.

Oil painting of the fountain splashing at Mystic Port, Grayton Beach, FL

Learning to See Better through Plein Air Painting

May 20, 2014 in Landscape, Plein Air

2014-0508 Thumbnail Sketch, Boat in Drydock2014-0513 Value Sketch, Fishing BoatsDon Demers, one of my workshop instructors last week, tongue in cheek, said “Plein air painting creates bad drivers.”  He explained the hazard, that as a practicing plein air painter, one could be driving along and become mesmerized, staring at the shape or color of something, perhaps even something so interesting as the shadow of an underpass.  We all laughed of course, but I recognize the truth of his statement.  After practicing plein air painting for 8 days, I can’t look anywhere now without noticing wonderful value contrasts, delicious color intensities, and patterns of light leading my eye through compositions waiting to be painted.

The first workshop I attended was by invitation.  Twelve painters were selected to be in the “pilot” course for the Apalachicola School of Art Plein Air Academy.  Master plein air artist Don Demers is designing the curriculum, and Joe Taylor of the Apalachicola School of Art is planning the logistics.  Together they will come up with a course to be offered as professional development for the advanced plein air painter.  Don spent a good bit of time talking with each of us, as well as offering constructive tips with our paintings.  Of most practical value to me was his suggestion to set intention before starting a painting, and then to stick to that intention.  He suggested we draw “thumbnail sketches” of our intended paintings first, studying the value relationships and evaluating whether the composition would work as a whole, before we spent 3 hours painting it.  Some of my sketches progressed into paintings, some were mere studies of shapes or ideas discarded as perhaps too complicated or logistically difficult (the one above left required me to stand in an ant pile; the one above right was too complicated for my limited knowledge of fishing boats).

I learned something about photography after doing one such value study, and that is that my iPhone camera does not see the light the way I do.  In fact my camera hardly picked up the power of the light at all.  Here’s a comparison:

2014-0509 Value Sketch, Docked Sailboat iPhoto of Sailboat I Sketched

I completed two paintings and a couple of studies in the Plein Air Academy workshop.  Integrating what I am learning is always difficult — there has to be a period of intense, grinding focus, because painting is for the most part so visceral, and newly learned information so very intellectual.  I found myself completely exhausted by the end of the first several days.  I must have had every muscle in my body tensed as I tried to incorporate what I was learning.  I literally came home, ate supper, and went straight to bed, for the first 3 days.

Here are a few of my paintings from the Apalachicola School of Art Plein Air Academy workshop.

2014-0511 Typical page of Notes

Typical page of notes

.2014-0506 Port St. Joe Marina.2014-0508 Mooring Buoy.

 

2014-0507 Value Sketch, Marsh.2014-0507 Color sketch for Marsh.2014-0507 Marsh

 

Over the next few days I attended the Forgotten Coast En Plein Air event workshop with Greg LaRock and Ken Dewaard.  I wish I could remember everything they said.  It was fun to watch the different approaches of two accomplished artists.  Both were very strong on compositional tips.  LaRock often mentioned ways to lead the viewer’s eye through the painting, and Dewaard pointed out subtle color changes to look for, like the change in the tint of shadows depending on how much of the sky color they might be acquiring, or how much of the color of the ground.  Hopefully I absorbed a lot of it, even though I can’t recite it.  Below are the paintings I produced during their workshop.  In the first one, my challenge was to make the pile of rubble, mostly chunks of concrete, look interesting, like a rocky shoreline.  The paintings of the boats  and of the shirts for sale both challenged me to simplify.

2014-0511 Value Sketch, Rocky Shoreline 2014-0511 Port St. Joe Rock-Lined Harbor 2014-0512 Carrabelle Launch

 

2014-0513 Value Sketch, Shirts For Sale 2014-0513 T-Shirts for Sale, Apalachicola

I actually had energy to paint a few small studies outside of class, the last several days, below.  Apologies for shooting the photos slightly crooked!

2014-05 Morning Light, Two-Mile Channel Oil painting of evening light on Two-Mile Channel, Apalachicola, FL Oil painting of full moon rising over Two-Mile Channel, Apalachicola, FL

 

And now back to my day-job!  But the shadows of those underpasses are starting to look mighty interesting!!

 

My Drawing Was Used to Illustrate a Berks Story Project

April 20, 2014 in Figure Drawing, Other Artists

www.joanvienot.comWell, for 2 seconds anyway, but still, it’s fun to have been involved!  It’s in a Berks Story Project interview with author/adventurer Cindy Ross, at http://www.berksstoryproject.com/#!cindy-ross/cmzr.  It all began last February when out of the blue, I received an email by way of the contact form on my website:

Hi Joan,
I’m an independent multimedia producer in Reading, PA. I’m writing to ask your permission to use one of your life drawings in one of my forthcoming productions. It is a short video documentary, in the story-telling style of The Moth, about how a woman resolved her conflicts with her father over her choices in life. She mentions in the video that she worked for a number of years as a life drawing model. I would like to show a couple of examples of figure drawings in that section of the video, including this drawing of yours:

http://joanvienot.com/figure-drawing/figure-drawing-how-lucky-am-i-1660#.UvADyvY29Ng
(top left)

The final video will be archived on our web site, berksstoryproject.com. The video will also appear on the web site of our local community access TV station, BCTV.org.

Unfortunately, though, I cannot pay a license fee, but I would certainly give proper credit. The Berks Story Project is a personal project and a labor of love for me and my co-producer. We make no money producing the videos, and we don’t charge viewers fees to watch them.

Please let me know either way whether you will grant us permission to use the drawing.

Sincerely,
David Walker

I was intrigued by the project, which their Facebook page describes as being about the extraordinary stories of ordinary people in Berks County, Pennsylvania.

The Berks Story Project is a growing collection of short multimedia stories about people in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Created in 2009 by David Walker, the project was inspired by intimate first-person narratives told on radio programs such as Story Corps and This American Life. Jane Palmer joined David in 2012 as co-producer. Our mission is to share the extraordinary personal stories of ordinary people in our own community. These are stories about love and war, tragedy, hope and aspiration, dreams lost and found — the universal themes that bind us all. We find them in every corner of Berks, wherever people are willing to open up about a compelling, transformational experience. Joined together like the patches of a quilt, the stories form an evolving narrative of this extraordinary place.

Cindy Ross writes a blog at cindyrosstraveler.com.  Here’s The Berks Story Project documentary about Cindy Ross, “What Cindy Wants”.  My drawing is shown for about 2 seconds at 3:06, along with drawings by other artists:

Acceptance into A+Art 2014 Top of the Class Juried Show

April 12, 2014 in Landscape

I am pleased to report that both of the paintings I entered in the A+Art  2014 Top of the Class Juried Show were accepted.  It is a beautiful show of only 37 works, juried from 85 entries.  The juror and judge was Brian Jekel, an instructor at Pensacola Christian College.  It is an honor to be showing alongside the works of Susan Lucas, Charlotte Arnold, Melody Bogle, Heather Clements, Donnelle Clark, Lynn Wilson, Ann Welch, and Theresia McInnis, the award winners and honorable mentions, and beside the many other talented artists whose work was accepted, all members of the Local Arts Agency, Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County.  McInnis won Best in Show with ‘Bromeliads Gone Wild’, winning the $500 Trustmark Bank Award and a solo show of her own in 2015.  Lucas won the Livingston Financial Planning $250 Award of Merit, Clements won the Watercolor UPS Store $250 Award of Merit, and Arnold won the Hidden Lantern Bookstore $250 Award of Merit.  The show will be exhibited at the South Walton Center of Northwest Florida State College in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, until May 30, 2014.  Hours are M-F, 9:00 to 4:00.

Oil painting of Tucker Bayou in warm tones, stylized from photo app, www.joanvienot.com

“Tucker Bayou”, 30 x 40 x 2, oil painting on gallery-wrapped stretched canvas

Oil painting of the dune forest and the rose-tinted grasses bordering Western Lake in Grayton Beach State Park, Florida

Grayton Beach Rosy Grasses, 12 x 36 x 3/4 framed oil painting on stretched canvas

Studying from Morgan Samuel Price

March 30, 2014 in Landscape, Plein Air

2014-0323 Apalach Afternoon Behind the Island

The view from where I stayed

2014-0324 Coombs Inn

Coombs Inn and the Church

2014-0325 Scrub Oak Grove

Scrub Oak Grove, St. George Island

2014-0326 Apalachicola Marina

At the Marina Under the Bridge

2014-0327 Scipio Creek

Scipio Creek

2014-0328 Rainy Day at 'Up the Creek'

“N 2 Deep”

 

Last week I attended a plein air painting workshop in Apalachicola, Florida, taught by Morgan Samuel Price. The location of this fishing village is just two hours from my home, an easy drive but far enough away that I chose to stay in a rental property rather than commute. I learned so much I hardly know where to begin.  It will probably take me years to assimilate it. The difficult thing about an intense learning situation, is that much of it is communicated abstractly in words and absorbed into the left brain, while painting is performed on the right side of the brain. Fortunately, Morgan demonstrated during and after each lecture, to help us make right-brain sense of the concepts she was teaching. And she didn’t seem to mind repeating answers while each of us gained just enough understanding to ask the same question the previous student had just asked. “Morgan, what colors are you using now?” “Ultramarine blue, cadmium red light, and hansa yellow,” Morgan would answer. And the next student would ask, “Morgan, what colors did you mix to get this color?” And Morgan would patiently answer, “Ultramarine blue, cadmium red light, and hansa yellow.” To be fair, though, the different colors we were asking about were entirely different colors — it’s just that Morgan is a wizard at color mixing, and can make any color on the palette out of ultramarine blue, cadmium red light, and hansa yellow.

The first day, Morgan taught us about various materials and how to hold the brush for different angles of brushstrokes, and she taught us about color value, intensity, and temperature. She taught us more about those topicss every single day. She also taught us about  color in context, about composition, about creating the illusion of receding space, how light falls on horizontal surfaces vs vertical surfaces, how the eye moves through a painting, and even how to doodle on a scratchpad that sits by the telephone. She taught us about clarity of value and precision of shape. She taught with ease and good humor.  And she patiently answered again, “Ultramarine blue, cadmium red light, and hansa yellow.”

We had some good sunshine the weekend before the class, but our only sunny day during the class was the first day, Monday. After watching Morgan paint a simple alleyway with so many luscious values and such obvious perspective, making it look oh-so-easy, she turned us loose to paint in the afternoon. I choose the bright yellow siding of the Inn where everyone else was staying, and tried to capture the perspective of the sidewalk receding toward the church in the background. Even in my frustration (left brain / right brain confusion), I already had begun to learn. It is in the struggle that I find I truly learn, whether the painting shows that learning or not.  There is some confusion between the palm tree and the porch roof which makes the porch roof look like it is angled wrong — it’s not.  But as we joked in class, sometimes we need arrows and words printed on our painting to explain different elements.  My painting of the Inn could use several arrows.

The next day we drove to St. George Island, and I painted a grove of scrub oaks which had a play of light on the tree trunks that interested me.  I struggled with that light, but Morgan said to be definite with it — so I put down my tentative little brush and made some bold swaths of light, giving it much more of the feel that I wanted.

On Wednesday, two of the other students and I got lost from the rest of the class.  We painted near the base of the bridge to SGI, at a marina.  I painted on 16×20 canvas panel instead of my usual 8×10. I enjoyed using bigger brushes, but found myself being very stingy in mixing my colors, never mixing enough paint.  It’s difficult to paint with no paint on your brush.

Thursday found us at Scipio Creek, at another marina at the north edge of Apalachicola.  The pelicans and seagulls put on a continuous show for us while we caught the hazy pinks and lavenders in the middle ground and the muted grays in the distance, in contrast with the richer colors and more contrasting values in the foreground.

And then, sadly, it was Friday.  I painted beneath the overhanging deck of ‘Up the Creek’ Restaurant, with a vicious thunderstorm popping lightning all around me.  Nearby strikes three times chased me back further underneath to the center of the marine storage area under the building, which I imagined was safer.  All of the colors of my scene were washed out, at times it being so dark there was no color at all.  The last thing I painted were the reedy grasses and trees in the background, when suddenly I realized it was time to critique, so I packed up and hurried back.  I will dim the intensity of color on that foliage to make it recede more — it’s a little too bright, like the sun is shining on it, which it wasn’t.

A plug for my excellent host, the owner of the property where I stayed, Robert Lindsley:  Visit the Robert Lindsley Studio and Gallery at 15 Avenue E near the waterfront in Apalachicola.  And to the VRBO agent, my new friend Mike Klema — just search “VRBO Apalachicola” for Vacation Rentals By Owner, and Mike’s units will come up.  He was very accommodating, and I loved my place behind the island, right on US 98!  I had the thrill of seeing both the sunrises and the sunsets, as well as the parade of fishing boats every morning, and the abundant species of birds.  I’ve posted below a few photographs of my week, which all in all I enjoyed very much.

 

Sunrise

Sunrise

Sunset

Sunset

Low tide

Low tide

Atmospheric scenery

Atmospheric scenery

Fishing boat

Fishing boat

Eagle below my house

Eagle below my house

Demo in the alley

Demo in the alley

Class and demo on the beach

Class and demo on the beach

Morgan critiquing

Morgan critiquing

iPhonography Bicycle

iPhonography Bicycle

iPhonography Grasses

iPhonography Grasses

Plein Air to Colorado and Back

March 6, 2014 in Landscape, Photography, Plein Air

Photograph of the moon setting over Buffalo Mountain, in Silverthorne, CO, with the alpenglow preceding the sunrise

Photograph, moon setting over Buffalo Mountain in Silverthorne, CO, in the alpenglow of the sunrise

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that this year I have the intention of attending as many workshops as I can afford, to learn as much as I can from artists whose work I admire.  At the very least, if i am traveling anywhere, I am justifying it by taking my paints.

Oil painting of the view from Four Amigos at Silverthorne, Colorado

So last month when I traveled to Colorado for my Dad’s 94th birthday and then to the mountains to play in the snow with my two sisters and their families, I took my Guerrilla Painter’s Box, with every intention of painting every day.  I had forgotten that where there is snow, then it probably will be snowing!  So the light was too dim for inspired painting, and the weather suitable only for playing in the snow, until the last day I was there, when the sun finally came out.  I stepped out onto the front balcony and caught the view of the mountains across the way.  I left that little 5 x 7 painting there with my sister as a small thank you for the adventures.

Oil painting of a snowy Colorado mountain sceneI took a lot of photos, thinking I would paint more snow scenes later, but life has been hectic since I returned, so I only managed one, at left.

Yesterday I again painted with th Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters group in my home area in Florida.  We met at Baytowne in Sandestin, FL, and I painted the brightly colored shops reflecting into the pond.  It was chilly, and the light was low, with rain predicted, but the lake was flat and the reflections just a bit choppy.  To brighten my colors, I choose a canvas I had under painted orange, and I allowed some of the orange to show through my colors, and I scratched off some of the paint in places where I wanted lines, so the lines shine a bright orange.

Oil painting of the shops at Baytowne in sandestin, FL, reflected in the lakWe met near the fountain for our critique.  Another artist had the misfortune of dropping his painting and the edge of it sliced a diagonal scrape across the face of my painting, so I had some repairing to do afterwards. I am happy to report that the painting is no worse for the wear.  sometimes these sorts of things happen when you are painting outdoors — it’s all just part of the experience, where things are never entirely under control.