Trying Something Different, en Plein Air

June 4, 2017 in Landscape, Plein Air

I grow faster as an artist if I occasionally try something new, with a technique, a medium, or a subject I don’t normally use. Last week I posted a work in soft pastels. I’ve painted a couple more since then, for more exposure to the medium. Pastels are an excitingly different medium than the oil paints I normally use.

A month ago, I enjoyed oil painting using only black, white, and gray, to meet the requirements of a call for art by my local arts alliance. I painted en plein air, on a 12″ x 36″ stretched canvas, at Salinas Park near Port St. Joe, Florida, on the road to Cape San Blas. The marsh there is one of my favorite scenes. When I was a mentor for the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air in 2016, as a Florida’s Finest Ambassador, I taught 3 sessions at Salinas Park, but there is a difference between painting as a demonstration, and painting for the sheer pleasure of it. I loved doing this painting using only black, white, and gray. The only times I have painted with this palette of neutrals is in classes, either as a teacher or as a student. I really ought to do it more often, making a completed painting out of a value study, such a beneficial exercise! Unfortunately, the painting was not accepted into the my local arts alliance’s exhibit — so I can’t wait to see the art that was accepted! To see a larger view of this painting, CLICK HERE.

Oil painting of the marsh at Salinas Park, Cape San Blas, Port St. Joe, FL, painted en plein air in black, white, and gray

The pastel works I completed last week are below. I specifically worked on creating the illusion of distance in all of these paintings, by softening distant edges, reducing detail,and reducing distant intensity and heightening the values. Pastels are pure pigment, and it is a challenge to reduce the intensity when you only have a couple hundred colors. Painters who work regularly in pastels have probably a hundred shades and tints of each color, perhaps a thousand colors in their box. As an oil painter, I am accustomed to mixing my colors. So it was a lot of fun allowing the brilliance of the pure pigment to show.

As always, message me if you are interested in owning any of my artworks.

Soft pastel study of a the afternoon light on the marsh at Bayou Texar, Pensacola, FL   Soft pastels painting of the marsh and bridge on Bayou Texar, Pensacola, FL

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

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Self-Forgiveness and Transcendence in Plein Air Painting

May 14, 2015 in Landscape, Plein Air

I often say that I meet myself coming and going, when I am plein air painting. By that I mean that I have to do a lot of work on self-acceptance throughout the process of making a painting. Every painting is a struggle – none go exactly as planned. Some paintings go better than others, but some seem like every stroke, every color, every value, every shape, is wrong and needs to be corrected. Those paintings require self-forgiveness and self-acceptance all the way through, or else I would quit and they would end up in the trash. If I don’t forgive myself, then I become angry, and then painting is no fun. I have to reach the “zen” of the process, that point where I start to let be whatever mark I make, without conscious judgement of “good” or “bad”. The artistic analysis and corrections become unconscious, and that is when painting becomes meditative and personally transcending.

I recently have done a number of paintings, some with the local Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, and some at an event in Apalachicola, the Forgotten Coast En Plein Air. Yesterday I did not complete my painting. I often wait until last to develop the focal area of my painting. Yesterday I worked on the focal area first, and I lost track of the time, so the call for group critique came while I still had half the canvas bare.  I quickly slapped in the greenery and a suggestion of the ground to give some context and the following image of the Bruce Cafe was the result.

2015-0513 Bruce Cafe, unfinished

Unfinished — Bruce Cafe

Last week’s regular plein air session was at Oak Marina in Niceville, Florida, yielding my impression of the graphic light on the foreground and the massive oak tree trunk.

Oil painting of the big tree trunks and light patterns on the ground at Oak Marina at Niceville, Florida

I painted 3 paintings during the span of the Forgotten Coast En Plein Air. I painted in the Quickdraw Competition the first weekend and was pleased that my painting sold during the judging! The scene included a row of potted plants in front of a landscapers office, some in the shade, and some in the sun. I called it “Garden Ready”.

Oil painting of potted plants and rocking chair at the 2015 Apalachicola Quickdraw, sold to a festival attendee

The next day my eye was caught by the light on the crumbling stucco wall and corrugated tin covering the windows of the abandoned waterfront Joe Taranto Seafood Company building. Across the street is the iconic wall of buoys, but I just suggested the buoys in order to keep attention of the texture of the wall and tin.

Oil painting of the light on the cracked stucco side of the Seafood building, with the wall of buoys across the street, downtown Apalachicola, FL

I could not stay for the entire event — my pool service business is experiencing a growth spurt, so I needed to be home during the week, but I returned on the weekend for the final showing of the works of the professional invited artists. While there, I painted what was told to me was the oldest structure in town, a building which now is just four walls, with no roof, draped with trumpet vines. The stark shadows of the palms on the wall were what initially attracted me to the scene. Unfortunately, I made a lot of what we painters refer to as mud when I was painting the spaces between the shadows, so I came back to the scene the next morning and cleaned them up. This is my result.

2015-0509 Apalachicola Memories

The week before last, our local plein air group painted at Four Mile Landing in Freeport, FL. I chose the industrial scene of the port, where barges were ready to be loaded, and on one bank, a new fireboat’s water cannons were being tested. The light alternated between a sunny glare and muted overcast as the atmosphere wafted in and out. The result was more impressionistic, with extra emphasis on the lights and darks.

Oil painting of the industrial facilities and barges at Four Mile Landing in Freeport, FL

All of my paintings are available for sale — click on the painting for an individual view showing the price, with a form to contact me.

In addition to “Garden Ready”, the Quickdraw competition painting shown above, the following paintings also recently sold. “Marsh at Indian Pass” sold during the Artists of Apalachicola Area member show two weekends ago, and “Island Plantation” sold this past Monday night at a meeting of the local women artists network.

Oil painting of the marsh, crossing over onto Indian Pass peninsula, Port St. Joe, FL Oil painting of the clearing from the bay boardwalk on St. George Island

 

Morgan Samuel Price Workshop, Apalachicola, March 2015

March 27, 2015 in Landscape, Photography, Plein Air

IMG_0754Last year I took my first workshop in plein air painting. I had been painting weekly with the local plein air group for about 14 months when I took that first workshop with Morgan Samuel Price. But I found each day of this year’s workshop even more challenging than last year. According to Morgan, that is the painter’s life. She says that a plein air painter just keeps finding more and more challenges. The more experienced they get, the harder the challenges they find for themselves. Sigh, I thought this was supposed to get easier!

What an amazing group of artists in this year’s workshop! Lynn Wilson, Carol Drost Lopez, Becky Anderson, Charlotte Hope, Nancy Smith Crombie, Patricia Irish Richter, Brenda Anderson, Sherry Wetherington, Mary Wain-Ellison, Glenda Coleman, Karen Snider, David M. Jones, and I:  thirteen of us. One of the best parts about the workshop was the critique session held each day at the end of the day. We would line up our efforts, even if it was just a few brushstrokes, and Morgan would discuss each and every painting, directing her comments to that artist but for the benefit of us all. This was addition to her amazing morning teaching and demo sessions, and our afternoon practicing painting en plein air, all making for a superb workshop for beginner and advanced painter alike. Blessed with infinite patience and superb focus, Morgan is able to work despite the constant distractions of the excited artists milling and buzzing around her, cameras clicking next to her ear. Below are a few shots of her working. You can click on any of the images to see a larger view.

IMG_0806 2015-0320 MSP demo SGI Preserve
IMG_0864 2015-0318 MSP demo Apalach street scene

OfficeI had confidence to be away from my pool service business. I had worked long hours the weekend before the workshop, to clear my desk, plus I have a fantastic crew in the field and a wonderful office staff. On Wednesday my staff decided to show me what was happening there in the office, with a series of photos that even Tamra’s store helpers (her two dogs) had a part in.  Here’s the worst one, Tamra Thomas, Margaret Bush, and Brenda Osborne. Clearly they do not have enough work to do.

The city and area around Apalachicola is such a scenic place, with the historic buildings, working waterfront with shrimp boats galore, oystermen, grottos and lagoons — it is heaven for painters.  The home of Forgotten Coast en Plein Air, you often can find an artist or photographer at work.

Below are some of my works from the workshop with Morgan Samuel Price. Daily critiques were at a set time. Work had to be halted then if we wanted to hear what Morgan had to say about our progress. Click the photo for a larger image.

2015-0316 Scrub Pine on St. George Island 2015-0317 Pond near Scipio Creek Marina 2015-0318Apalachicola
2015-0319 St. George Island Plantation 2015-0320 Pond on SGI Preserve 2015-0320 Thistle Bloom

On the last day I was captivated by a thistle in bloom, so after I finished my landscape, I captured the pink of the flower by using a tint of color I had not ever used before, quinacridone magenta, which turned out to be perfect for painting thistles and I believe also should make painting azaleas easy. I am finding I generally prefer to mix my colors instead of using specialty pre-mixed tubes, but in this case I was very pleased with the chroma.

I shot the photo below using my iPhone.

2015-0317 Lady Louise photo

Contact me if you are interested in purchasing work from this page or any of my online galleries.

See the next post for the weekly paintings done just before and after this workshop.

 

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

NOTE: light added to 2nd painting above, at  http://joanvienot.com/?p=7003

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