Community Awareness and Art Marketing for Plein Air Painting

September 17, 2017 in General, Landscape, Marketing, Plein Air

This fall I am investing my time in cultivating my community’s appreciation for plein air painting, as well as promoting my own work. Many people in my community have never heard of plein air painting, so that is taking extra effort. My local arts association, the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, is very supportive. The CAA will be adding a plein air paint-out to our existing Flutterby Festival at Watersound Origins here in Santa Rosa beach, FL, in November. I will be teaching a one-day workshop the day before the festival, the lesson being effective shape-making to start a plein air painting in a way that will offer a high likelihood of success.
Art marketers say that 20% of your time as an artist should be spent on marketing. I am spending more than 20% of my art energy right now, but I expect it to level off. I actually had intended for last year, my third year of plein air painting, to be my marketing year. The transition and adjustment after selling my pool service business took more time than I had anticipated.
As I see it, the main task is the creation of opportunities for press releases and posts on social media. To accomplish that, I have filled my calendar for the next 6 weeks.
The first event coming up is thanks to an avid supporter of the arts in my area. Cheryl Gray, herself an artist, lines up artists to show their work in the local library. I will be showing my work during the months of October and November. Cheryl sends out press releases to local media. I made my own postcard to give out printed announcements to a few people, and I posted it on Facebook and created a Facebook event. I will send a press release to several other media in my community. I regard the press releases to be of equal importance or even greater importance than the actual exhibit, because public awareness of plein air painting is my primary goal.
This-coming weekend I will paint at a wedding reception, and next week I will be framing paintings for the library exhibit. Somewhere during that time I would like to change out and replace the paintings hanging in the lobby of Northwest Florida State College’s South Walton Center. My local weekly painting group, the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, is showing plein air paintings there. My goal with that exhibit is to foster awareness and appreciation within the high school and college students attending there.
The first week of October I will be taking another painting workshop in Dahlonega, Georgia, with my mentor, Morgan Samuel Price. I want to continue to challenge myself to paint better.
The second weekend of October I will paint on-site at the library during the annual book sale, during my exhibit. The third weekend of October I will teach the same one-day workshop as I will be teaching in November, but for the arts association in the neighboring county, the Arts and Design Society of Ft. Walton Beach, FL.
The first weekend in November I will participate in a painting event in Gulf Shores, AL, and the second weekend of November will be the CAA’s Flutterby Festival and Paint-Out.
Hopefully I can breathe after that. It’s exciting, to have so many art events and activities lined up. This past year was the first year that I kept track of art expenses, after I sold my career pool service business, and as I was expecting, I spent more than I earned. It would be nice to break even this year. When I achieve that, I should be able to cut back on my promotional efforts, for the recommended 20% of my time.

Went to a Garden Party, en Plein Air

June 4, 2017 in Landscape, Plein Air

Sometimes our local group of plein air painters receives an invitation to paint at an event. When that happens, usually 4 or 5 of us will show up, and it is always fun. The garden party today, at Clay30A, was no exception. It was the 5th anniversary for the Seagrove Beach, FL, nursery and gift shop. I meant to arrive an hour early, because the party was only scheduled for 2 hours in the afternoon, and I wanted a head start. Alas, somewhere I lost an hour, so I arrived right after the party started. Several fellow painters were already hard at it. The business is a cornucopia for plein air painting – brilliant light and color and contrasting dark shadows galore. I often bite off more than I can chew when we (the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters) paint here, so today I purposefully chose a simple subject, pots of flowers hanging from a tree. I correctly guessed that the sun would be starting to hit the flowers by the end of the party at 5:00, which was when I would be ready to paint the light. From when I started at 3:00 until then, I was busy with simple shape making and background colors. At the end, I was pleased with my result, so I gave it to the owner to thank her for inviting our group. To our surprise, she gave each of us a sweet card and gift. I am so grateful to live in such a classy place! Below is my painting. There was one change I made after shooting this photo — I removed the pot hanger I had started to paint in below the lowest hanging pot on the right. I decided that it would be difficult to identify, and that visually it would be less confusing to have the pots just hanging from the tree.

Oil painting of hanging impatiens at Clay30A nursery and gift shop, Seagrove Beach, FL

The Practice of Plein Air Painting

February 12, 2017 in Landscape, Plein Air

We “practice” yoga, we “practice” meditation. Plein air painting is “practiced”. Like yoga, and like meditation, plein air painting is performed, hopefully, with increasing awareness and perhaps with increasing skill, but I don’t know of any painter who thinks their practice is “perfected”. Even though a plein air painter might occasionally paint the best painting of her or his life, the next painting still begins with the proverbial blank canvas. I paint weekly with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters. Actually, I coordinate the weekly sessions, sending out the location to the email list of 240 people, and meeting the group of 2 to 15 painters who might show up. We paint for 3 hours, and then have a soft critique, followed by lunch at a local restaurant. The social aspect of the weekly get-togethers reinforces my practice.

In January, it was foggy for one of our sessions, at Turkey Creek in Niceville, FL. By the time we finished, the fog had lifted and colors had appeared, but initially my scene appeared to be monochromatic. I used a different approach for this foggy scene. Normally when painting en plein air, the darks are laid in first. But to create the atmosphere of light through the fog in this painting, I painted the light brownish-gray sky and water and the very light value background shapes, layering the darker, closer shapes on top.

Oil painting of the dunes at Henderson Beach State Park

The last week of January we painted at Henderson Beach State Park in Destin, Florida. The Florida Panhandle coast from Panama City to Pensacola is covered with sugar-white, fine quartz sand from thousands of years of erosion carried down to the Gulf of Mexico by the Apalachicola River. The white sand picks up reflected color from everything around it, and sometimes the compliments of those colors are sensed by the viewer. The sand might appear pink next to the green foliage topping a dune, or warmer and yellower near cool shadows.

The next week we painted at Camp Helen State Park, which is on the Walton County / Bay County border. The park contains hardwood live oak and pine hammocks, marsh ecosystems, and sandy beach. I hiked out to a view of the dunes, where I could just make out the skeleton of the old pier. I was challenged by the puffy little clouds covering most of the sky, with a little blue peaking out just here and there.

The first weekend of February, I drove two hours east to the village of Apalachicola to meet up with my friend Lynn Wilson, owner of On the Waterfront Gallery and President of the Artists of Apalachicola Area. Lyn is sponsoring monthly Weekend Warrior painting workshops, and this weekend was the first, taught by Atlanta artist Debra Nadelhoffer. I took the workshop both to learn and also to observe the logistics, since Lynn has invited me to teach the workshop in May. Debra likes to paint the sky with different colors of the same value in order to impart the shimmer or movement of the air that she sees. I painted the above painting, and later was painting on a new canvas, trying to learn how to paint the blinding glimmer of sunlight on water, when passers-by stopped and asked to purchase the above painting. The following paintings were also painted in the Nadelhoffer workshop, as I tried new color combinations, and exaggerations of color.

After returning home, I painted with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, and found myself experimenting with color temperatures in order to enhance the feeling of space and mood. I did not finish the painting (below) and did not keep it, satisfied with what I learned in the process.

All of these paintings are available for purchase. Contact me for information, using the form that comes up when you click on the painting.

 

Out with the Old, In with the New: From 2016 to 2017

January 17, 2017 in Landscape, Plein Air

2016, A Year of Recognition

An art career doesn’t happen overnight.

When I received my degree in Fine Art, I imagined that I would be a fulltime artist by the time I was 40 years old. Instead, I was completely immersed in a growing pool service business, with hardly enough time to produce the occasional donation of art for charity. It would be another 15 years before things would change.

In 2007, with the economy slowing to a crawl, my business growth stopped and I found myself with a good deal of free time. I began producing art every week and I started volunteering for the local arts organization, the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, helping to organize and produce art exhibits. Soon after, I became a member of the Board of Directors. I began painting en plein air in 2012, and in 2015 I volunteered to be the coordinator for the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters. Finally, in late 2015, I sold my pool service business, and I began pursuing my art career more diligently.

And now it is the end of 2016. What a year it has been! I continue to serve for the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, and I continue to coordinate the weekly gatherings of the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters. Here’s my year in review:

In January, the Sunshine Art Center / Beach Art Group produced a solo exhibit of 55 of my paintings, honoring me for winning People’s Choice Best in Show at the Local Color Plein Air Paint-Out in Lynn Haven, Florida, which was held last fall.

Also in January, all 3 of my entries were accepted into the Southeast Regional Juried Art Exhibition at the Mattie Kelley Art Center at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, Florida, and “Western Lake with Umbrella Trees”, my 12 x 24 plein air oil painting, won 3rd place.

At the end of January, I was the featured plein air painter and workshop instructor for the Florida Chautauqua Assembly in DeFuniak Springs, Florida.

I was the February Artist of the Month for the Freeport Art League, displaying work at the City Hall in Freeport, Florida.

In mid-February, I got my left thumb repaired, CMC arthroplasty, which gave me a new thumb joint. I practiced with watercolors while I had use of only one hand, which was less messy and a fun return to my years fresh out of college.

In the spring, I received a phone call from Joe Taylor, from the Forgotten Coast Coalition in Apalachicola, Florida, telling me I would be one of six artists selected from across the state to be a “Florida’s Finest en Plein Air” Ambassador for 2016 until May of 2017. That recognition gave me a good deal of credibility among other artists and attendees of the annual Forgotten Coast En Plein Air Invitational in Apalachicola. I also gained immeasurable experience teaching the fifteen one-on-one plein air painting lessons as an Ambassador.

In June, I coordinated an exhibit of works by the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters at Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast.

I continued my weekly painting excursions with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters through the summer, and was the luncheon speaker at the Arts and Design Society in Ft. Walton Beach in July.

In the fall, I taught two more plein air painting workshops – one in Panama City and one in Santa Rosa Beach.

Also in the fall, I competed in the Bagdad-Milton Plein Air Paint-Out near Pensacola, Florida, where I was honored to receive Best in Show for my 12 x 24 oil painting “Anticipation”.

A month later I was asked to be the judge of the Alabama Plein Air Artists’ Gulf Shores Paint-Out Quickdraw, which allowed me to demonstrate my expertise in evaluating art.

The final honor for the year was being juried into the Foster Gallery, a co-op of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, which exhibits 15 select artists every quarter.

I was the November Artist of the Month for the Freeport Art League, displaying work at the City Hall in Freeport, Florida.

Also in November, I had my right thumb repaired, CMC arthroplasty, the same surgery I had on my left thumb in February. I practiced working with pastels instead of oils, for 5 weeks while my right hand was immobilized, using my left (non-dominant) hand. Pastels are great fun, a welcome addition to my repertoire. I was surprised that using my left hand was not the nuisance I anticipated, just another challenge.

The events of this past year have improved my reputation as an artist, and have given me the confidence to set more ambitious goals. In 2017 I will be making a strong effort toward marketing as I continue to strengthen my painting skills.

My dream is to be able to travel and paint, and I have begun to realize that dream. In August I traveled with local painter Rebecca Perrott, to Arizona to take a workshop from my favorite instructor, Morgan Samuel Price, and in October I traveled with two other local painters, Theresia McInnis and Deborah Scott Mason, to North Georgia for a short week of plein air painting in the Blue Ridge area. In February I will travel with Apalachicola painter Lynn Wilson and a number of other painters to New Zealand for a week of plein air painting and adventure, on Plein Air Magazine’s Publisher’s Trip.

Plein air painting comes with many challenges which include the changing light, the weather, insects, and even by one’s own fitness. Sometimes I think I must be crazy to enjoy it so much. But after years of burning the midnight oil managing a business, which thankfully paid the bills, but did not nurture the soul, I am thrilled to be well on my way in this new career, the career I dreamed of!

It is my joy is to share the beauty I see.

Below are recent paintings. The first painting is the first one painted in oils with my new thumb joint, post-surgery, a bitter cold day. Eden Gardens State Park is one of our favorite locations to paint. It was decorated for the holidays, but I was sufficiently challenged to just get a bit of the structure, my primary interest being the intense color of the resurrection fern growing on the live-oak trees.

Oil painting of the mansion at Eden Gardens State Park in Pt. Washington, FL, painted en plein air

The next painting below was painted on a warmer day, outside the Foster Gallery at the Market Shops at Sandestin, Florida, where I was accepted as one of the 15 artists to show work this quarter. It is a small painting, only 6×6, but as is usually the case, something I had never painted before.

Oil painting of pansies, painted en plein air

The next week we painted the Western Lake Outfall at Grayton Beach, Florida. The coastal dune lakes of our county are a rarity, being found only in a few other places in the entire world. When a coastal dune lake accumulates enough rain run-off, it breaks open and the overfill flows into the Gulf of Mexico, and tides then exchange saltwater with freshwater in the lake, until the beach builds up and closes off the lake outfall again. The outfall was flowing on the day we were there. When I say we, I am talking about the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, a group of avid artists meeting weekly at various locations, to paint en plein air. On this day, the sky was completely overcast, and the entire scene was muted shades of gray, except for a coral strip of sky between the clouds and the Gulf waters. Halfway through our morning painting session, the blinding sun came out, and suddenly the entire scene was in color. The smarter painters set their first canvas aside and began another painting. The rest of us fussed and fumed our way through, perhaps relying on a photo or two to quickly finish our paintings before our memory gave out.

Oil painting of the Western Lake Outfall in Grayton Beach, FL, on an overcast day, painted en plein air

Last week we painted at the Destin Library. Beautiful gardens and landscaping surround the library. Unfortunately, we had a hard freeze the weekend before, so many of the camellia blossoms has dropped off, but on one bush new blossoms had opened since the freeze, and that bush begged to be painted.

Oil painting of the camellias and grounds at the City of Destin Public Library, Destin, FL, painted en plain air

Yesterday I was nominated to post a painting a day in the 7-Day Artist’s Challenge on Facebook. The first day I shared Thistle Bloom, which I will be giving away out of my display at the Foster Gallery where I am one of the juried artists exhibiting through February 25, 2017. Today I shared the painting below. This 12×24 oil painting was done almost all en plein air at Twin Oaks Farm last September. When we first got there, the early morning light was beginning to warm the chicken sheds and the rolling fields, and the sheep were just waking up.

Oil painting of the chicken sheds, chickens, sheep, and rolling fields at Twin Oaks Farm in Bonifay, FL, painted en plein air

Click on any image for purchase information.

Adjusting Again – The Election and then Hand Surgery

December 3, 2016 in Figure Drawing, Landscape, Plein Air

Last February I had surgery on my left hand to reconstruct my thumb joint (CMC arthroplasty), and in November, the day after Election Day, I had the same surgery on my right hand. ( I mention Election Day because the surgery the day after the election meant that I could go through the next few days on pain medication, a relief on several levels.) I had opted to have my left hand repaired first, in February, even though the right hand was worse, so that I could know the level of disability I would have and be able to project the recovery time more accurately. The adjustment I made in February was to change from oil painting to watercolor painting, so there would be less clean up. I blogged about it under the title Adjust, Adapt, Accommodate — Painting Through Challenges. But this time, my right hand, my dominant hand, was immobilized, so I had to use my left hand express myself. Handwriting left-handed is difficult to say the least. By the time I finish writing anything, I have totally lost my enthusiasm for whateverit is I am writing about. And controlled brushwork is nearly impossible. So I switched to soft pastels, which are pure pigment, pressed into chalk-like sticks. The support I am using is 12×9 fine grit sandpaper made for this purpose. I’ve tried to keep my compositions fairly simple, being quite challenged both by the medium and by having to use my left hand. I’ve painted 3 times in the 4 weeks since my surgery. The rest of the time has been consumed with recovery, Thanksgiving holiday, and installing my part of the exhibit at The Foster Gallery, which i mentioned in my last post.

The first painting, at our weekly plein air painting session at Watercolor, Florida, was incredibly enjoyable, as I sat beside a large grouping of butterfly bushes that were sparkling with at least a hundred monarch butterflies, visiting during their annual fall migration to Mexico.

Soft pastels painting of monarchs on butterfly bush, painted en plein air at Watercolor, FL

(Created using my left hand, with soft pastels on sanded paper.)

The second painting was a respite from a football game that was being cheered by my Thanksgiving week hosts and their other guests. I wanted to convey my impression of a tree I had seen a few days before. I had a photo to remind me, but I wanted to portray the feeling of awe that I had when I first saw the tree. It had turned completely red, and was dropping its leaves, but all the leaves on the ground were pink, instead of red. I did not investigate to find out why — I guess they were falling face down, so only the pink backs showed.

Soft pastel painting of a red tree with pink leaves underneath, an impression of a scene in Murphy, NC

(Created using my left hand, with soft pastels on sanded paper.)

And the third painting was again with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters at our weekly painting session, this time at The Gulf Restaurant in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. I chose the view of Brooks Bridge crossing from Okaloosa Island to FWB, and I stopped painting when the first raindrops started falling. A tornado touched down not too far from us and a waterspout scared people as it crossed the Choctawhatchee Bay. But it was calm where we were.

Soft pastels painting of Brooks Bridge from The Gulf Restaurant on Okaloosa Island, painted en plein air, looking towards Ft. Walton Beach, FL

(Created using my left hand, with soft pastels on sanded paper.)

Next week I will find out if I can take of my brace to be able to hold a paintbrush again.

Making Art for Themed Shows: One Size Fits All

November 2, 2016 in Landscape, Other Art, Photography, Plein Air

My local arts organization, the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, FL, produces an annual exhibit called One Size Fits All. The Call for Art stipulates that art is to be produced on 10×10 cradled wood panels 1.5″ deep. Participants can submit two panels, using either side, creating any kind of art or craft that they want. The panels will be hung at the Foster Gallery at the Market Shops in Sandestin, and will all be offered for sale for the low price of $125. The Gallery will take 40%. The artist may hang another panel in place of the ones that sell. Most of the artists who produce art for this show, put in far more value than $125, just for the fun of coming up with something creative and new. This year I produced two antiqued photo transfers and today I painted a third panel, a beach landscape, en plein air.

I was painting with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters at our weekly outing this morning. Our location was Beasley Park, on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach, FL. The sky was dark, but the sun was peaking through, highlighting the grasses on the dunes. Three or four old fence posts wandered up the dune, and a mockingbird perched on top of the nearest post. The scene was exquisite. The sun played with the scene off and on all morning, and painting was a delight from the beginning to the end.

Below are my three panels for 2016 One Size Fits All. I will turn in two, and have the other ready when one of the first two sells.

Photo transfer, antiqued, of a color-saturated sunrise over the Choctawhatchee Bay

2016

Photo transfer, antiqued, trees silhouetted against orange back-story

2016

Oil painting of the grasses and dunes at the Gulf of Mexico on a cloudy day, with mockingbird on a fence post

2016

Below are pieces I have done for One Size Fits All in years past.

Oil painting of blue heron standing on purple, brown, and orange stripes

2015

Oil painting of an apple and a half

2014

Oil painting of two apples

2014

Photo of the sunrise over the Choctawhatchee Bay, dramatized with Snapseed App

2015

Photograph of a lily on Ocheesee Pond, between Marianna and Chattahoochee, FL

2015

Oil painting of dune grasses at Henderson Beach State Park, Destin, FL

2015, 6×6, centered on the 10×10 cradle

Plein Air Painting in the Heat

July 23, 2016 in Landscape, Plein Air

Oil painting of pitcher plants painted en plein air at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center in Freeport, FLHeat index is a calculation combining actual temperature with humidity, the result being what the temperature actually feels like, and a good gauge of the stress one suffers in the environment. Plein air painters paint in the open air, so they regularly subject themselves to extreme weather, often without realizing it, since they are absorbed in painting. That was the case when I painted with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters at the E. O. Wilson Biophilia Center near Freeport, FL, this week. We were met by our most gracious guide, Laura Leslie-Sell, herself an artist, who took us on a short tour of the nearby grounds, showing us an old house on the property, with fat, happy, free-range chickens scratching in the dirt, and the tortoise area, where we saw numerous gopher tortoise burrows, and then through the hammock and down towards the creek, and finally back up past the rescued eagle, hawk, and bobcats. Also on the grounds, too distant to trek to, is a large bog filled with pitcher plants, a carnivorous plant that has fascinated me since I saw them for the first time when I moved to Florida years ago. Laura showed us a small patch the Center had for display purposes, and I decided they would be my subject for the day.

Back to the heat index… I set up my umbrella and easel and got to work on my pitcher plants. The shape of the pitcher plant is what interests me the most, a slender tube with a flap suspended over the top, inviting insects to come in to be dinner. With so many grouped together, they presented quite the challenge with the brush size I was using. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. But when it grew time for our soft critique and I began picking up my paints, I discovered that slight bit of disorientation I know is my first symptom of heat stress. I checked my weather app on my phone: the heat index was 107 degrees!!! I had known it was a scorcher; I had drank my refillable bottle of water and the can of LaCroix that I had brought but clearly it was hotter than I was able to endure for much longer. I quickly cleaned up and set out to find the other painters, to check on them. They all seemed fine, and one was painting on the shady front porch of the Center, where the air was moving a little bit. I was reminded of an instructor who said, regarding scene selection, that first she finds a nice, shady place, sets up her easel and palette, and then she turns around in a circle and looks for something to paint. That’s the wisdom of experience!

Paint Your Heart Out! Painting en Plein Air at Least Once a Week!

July 6, 2016 in Landscape, Plein Air

While I was employed full-time in my own business, managing the maintenance of 300+ swimming pools, some commercial, some residential, some high-use vacation rentals, in the resort area of South Walton County, in NW Florida, I was doing good to paint just once a week. I thought that as soon as I sold my business, I would immediately start painting every day. That has not yet turned out to be the case, although it is still a future goal. Currently I am painting for the most part still only just once a week en plein air, while I continue to provide consulting services to ‘my’ business, and while I get my home life organized and start building the business foundation for my art career. I feel very impatient, and it seems like life is moving like molasses, but then I look back and I see that mountains of change have happened. I trust that my closest friends for the most part forgive my thin patience as I find myself feeling stressed nearly to the breaking point. I have resumed more frequent stand-up paddleboarding now that my left hand has healed from CMC arthroscopy and that makes a huge difference in my “Zen”!  Also I began recovering neglected friendships this week, grateful that the people in my community are so rock-solid.

As I work on releasing an employment identity I have had for 35 years, I remember that I also have always identified as an artist. It’s just that there is a big difference between being a hobbyist, and being a career artist. My experience in business will be an asset. For now I am using the shoe-box method of accounting, and I am studying marketing, and I am continuing to improve my technique.

And that leads me to tell you of the encouragement I received from my dear friend this morning when I mentioned my plans for the day. “Paint your heart out!” she texted me. So I did, and I was pleased with my result, an oil painting of the dunes south of Western Lake at Grayton Beach State Park. In the distant background are the iconic “umbrella trees”, with the sugar white sand dunes topped by odd clumps of live oak, slash pine, and wild rosemary, pruned by the wind and the salt spray. I resisted the temptation to put the sweet yellow and red Indian Blanket flowers in the near foreground, since my intention was to capture the more distant skyline. The Indian Blankets will have to be painted another day. Below is today’s painting, 8×10, oil on linen panel.

Oil painting of the dunes south of Western Lake, at Grayton Beach State Park

Last week we painted at Ft. Walton Landing Park in Ft. Walton Beach. An simple orange dinghy caught my eye, my interest being the strong orange light and shadow, as well as the interesting shape. I scrubbed it out twice before I painted it the size I wanted, and then solved a compositional problem by adding another piling on the right. (Thank you for the tip, Weezie.)

Oil painting of an orange dinghy tied to the dock, Ft. Walton Landing Park, Ft. Walton Beach, FL

And the week before last, we painted at the amazing, beautiful “impossibly blue” Morrison Springs, near Ponce de Leon. I got caught up in the staccato of “impossible greens” shining through the dark cypress at the edge of the spring.

Oil painting of the light through the cypress trunks at Morrison Springs, Ponce de Leon, FL

It’s been a good several weeks. Today I mentored a fellow painter on compositional conventions, and I coached her to use tools available to her in today’s day and age, namely, her phone-camera, which serves as an excellent viewfinder. I use mine all the time, often taking a number shots or more before I decide on a particular viewpoint and framing of a composition, and then from there perhaps moving an element or two to create better balance, rhythm, and harmony. In fact, I am making images all the time, with my camera, and I am convinced that it has strongly boosted my feel for good composition.

For people who live on the Emerald Coast or people visiting from Ft. Walton – Destin – Santa Rosa Beach – eastern Panama City Beach areas, if you would like to receive notification of our weekly Wednesday painting sessions, email me at PleinAirEmeraldCoast at gmail.com. I serve as coordinator for the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, which merely means that I am in charge of email!

Sixteen members of our group are exhibiting works at Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast now through August 31, 2016. Stop on by!

ECPAP Show postcard

Buy Original Art Instead of Prints – Here’s Why

April 3, 2016 in General, Landscape, Plein Air

I will never forget the moment I saw the original of Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City as a young adult. Overwhelmed, I felt its impact in the center of my chest, and tears came to my eyes. I had admired the expressionism in Van Gogh’s works since I was a teen, staring at my book of print reproductions of his paintings for years prior to that visit to the museum.

Why then, did the original have such an effect on me? I can only say that for me, the original has the spirit of the artist, his time and his vision. It was as if I was, in a way, actually meeting Vincent Van Gogh. Probably also some of it also was due to the fact that the painting had become iconic to me. But there was the visceral reality of the original painting, its physical presence, seeing the actual paint, the colors mixed by the artist, the brushstrokes, the canvas sometimes showing through the impasto, indicating the haste or the care taken, all of the things one sees when looking at an original painting, providing a glimpse into the artist’s experience. “This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big,” van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo, from France. [Excerpt from the Museum of Modern Art’s webpage, http://www.moma.org/collection/works/79802.]

Isn’t that really what a painting is, a representation of what the artist “saw”, whether in actuality or in his or her mind? That is my intention in sharing my art, to share my vision, to share my experience of my environment, my own appreciation for what I see and how it all fits together, the light in the composition, and the way the elements work together – the lines, forms, colors, and textures. I share my thrill.

While it is true that printing processes are always improving, an original painting is so much more impactful than a print. People see differently than a camera. And in the technical process of reproducing the image of a painting, colors separate and forms change, with the mechanical image sometimes showing the paint layer underneath instead of the one on the surface. My own print-maker brings me multiple proofs, tweaking the cast, correcting a color here and there, and even still, sometimes I feel compelled to go back in with a brush to tighten up some of the details, or I have to make the decision to live with color separation in areas where there was a perfect blend in the original painting. My own photos miss values by as much as 2 steps on a 10-step scale, and fail miserably when it comes to capturing certain colors, most especially the pinks of sunset. The original painting has the energy, the color mixes, the form as the artist intended, while in the end, a reproduction is what we end up settling for.

The solution? Buy original art! Certainly buying prints is better than not buying art at all.  I can supply giclée prints from $50 to $650, depending on whether you want a good paper print or if you want a larger-than-original gallery-wrapped canvas. But a print is still a print. There are reasons to buy print reproductions, such as when something is whimsical or if your taste changes frequently. But it is absurd to buy a house for several hundred thousand dollars, or several million, and then to decorate it with cheap prints. Purchasing original art is a way of honoring yourself. You deserve original art, art that you pick out, art that transports you. Original art has an energy far exceeding that of a print.

I made a decision some time ago to hang nothing but original artwork in my own home. It enhances the energy in my home by tenfold, worth every penny. Every time I enter a room, I actually look at the art on my walls, and I have the same feelings that prompted me to buy it in the first place. Each piece commands attention and contributes to the energy in my home. This is in such contrast to the print calendars I have hanging here and there, the images certainly beautiful, chosen for their theme, but purchased as a necessity and easily ignored. Original works of art contribute far more than prints, in much the same way that real wood carries a stronger energy than veneer or faux finishes.

You and I are sensitive to energy. We can meet a person and know in our gut, instantly, whether we have “good chemistry”. The same is true of inanimate objects, the stuff we surround ourselves with. It’s the reason we want to escape from our plastic-and-concrete workplaces to visit the scenic wonderland of nature. Our home is our haven, and we should surround ourselves with energies that enhance our sense of well-being and our vitality. We honor ourselves by purchasing original art.

CA209-hi-13

Oil painting of the brook line and shadow patterns at Lincoln Park in Valparaiso, FL

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Plein air painting is risky — sometimes the light changes so fast you feel like you are chasing it. But I struck gold with the scene I chose when I joined the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters on Wednesday for our weekly outing this week. We painted at Lincoln Park in Valparaiso, Florida. It had been raining for several days over the previous week and weekend — my garbage can had 18″ of rain in it (warranting yet another note to my garbage man to always turn it over after emptying!). The grassy earth was like a wet sponge, sinking underfoot, each step flooding my painting Crocs. I set up my easel beside the purple splash of a wild iris blooming near the brook at the edge of the park. I was exhilarated by the play of light and shadow in the warmth of the spring day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adjust, Adapt, Accommodate – Painting through Challenges

March 25, 2016 in Figure Drawing, Landscape, Plein Air

After several months of adjusting to challenges on several fronts, things are settling down and I am returning to painting in oils. In early February, I had the first of two surgeries on my hands, to create a new joint for the base of my thumb. I chose to have this done on my left, non-dominant, hand first, so that I could plan for the disability I will have when I am recovering from the same surgery on my right thumb later this year. The surgery I had is called a CMC arthroplasty, and I am fortunate to have nearby one of the best clinics in the country, the Andrews Institute of Orthopedics right here in Northwest Florida (thank you Dr. Steven Kronlage!). I was not comfortable using my oil paints when I started painting again, what with the mess I usually make and my left hand not being of much help, so I switched to watercolor paints for a little while. Below are a few of my watercolors painted en plein air during weekly outings with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters.

2016-0302 Village Church

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2016-0309 Dune Impression

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2016-0309 Dune in Bloom

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2016-0309 Windy Dunes

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2016-0316 Monet Ferns

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I tried out watercolor canvas in my studio for the first time, and I liked it very much. After spraying several light coats of Golden archival spray (matte), the painting can be framed without glass, so the watercolor painting is open to the viewer, instead of being separated from the viewer by glass. I painted the painting below in the studio, to submit to a Cultural Arts Alliance show of watercolor paintings which Melissa Brown and I are coordinating for the A+Art Committee, whose mission is to showcase CAA member artists’ work in our Art in Public Spaces program. The show will open with a reception at 5:00 on April 1, 2016 at the Bayou Arts Center, 105 Hogtown Bayou Lane, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459. It will show through June 1, 2016.

2016-0304 The Red Boat

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I went to the local figure drawing session CAA holds every two weeks, thanks to Nancy Nichols Williams’ persevering efforts, which was managed by Liza Snyder this week. I should draw more often, to stay in practice, and I am looking forward to a reduction in my work hours at my job so that I can do just that. Below is one of my warm-up sketches from this week.

2016-0322 Avatar Light

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And finally, this week, I broke out my oils again, after 7 weeks away from them, for the weekly painting session with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, on my friend Erika Stoyer’s backyard patio. My left hand now is strong enough to be able to wipe my brushes when I am cleaning them during the painting. The day was overcast almost the whole time, with the sun peeking through just as I was finishing up.

2016-0323 Genoa Patio

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