2017, A Year of Letting Go, A Year of Change

December 30, 2017 in Figurative

As the year comes to a close and I look back on it, I find it difficult to put into words how I feel about so many things. I have felt crushing disappointment in our country’s political direction, but have felt helpless to do anything of consequence to help it. But the discomfort of it has used up most of what little patience I have for that sort of thing, and I have instead tried to pour my energies into my art and my mental health. Both have improved noticeably.

I continue to paint en plein air on Wednesdays. The big change is that this past month I also began practicing clothed-model figure painting every Friday with a drawing and painting group, meeting at our Cultural Arts Alliance‘s Foster Gallery. I have considerable experience in drawing the nude figure and enjoy it immensely — it was one of my areas of emphasis for my Fine Arts degree. But I haven’t practiced figure painting a lot. I am learning to handle my brushes better, and I am learning to create skin tones using the Zorn palette, which is very limited – white, yellow ochre, cadmium red, and black. Below are some of my figurative efforts, all with our amazing model Abigail. We post our group’s studies on Facebook under Figurative Artists Atelier.The first painting, in blue jeans, is the one I did this week, and the painting with her wearing the Madame X dress, was last week. These are all 3-hour poses divided into 20-minute segments with 5 or 10 minute breaks. I am purposefully painting profiles or near profiles because they are easier, and that allows me to practice my brushwork and skin tones. Click on the images for purchase information.

I have had an idea in the back of my head for several years, and it will involve figures on larger canvases, a theme I can follow and see what develops. On Christmas Day I built 2 stretcher frames, both  of them 6 feet tall, and stretched raw linen on them each and applied sizing, and have since added three coats of primer, so stay tuned!

Oil painting of thin young woman with dreads, in casual clothes

Sketch of Abigail as Madame X Oil painting of woman in fancy long dress like Sargent's Madame X
Oil painting of young woman posing under a spotlight

This was my first painting with the group, and you can see that I was challenged by the proportions, so the head is considerably larger than it should be. But how about that floodlight!

 

 

Tipping the Balance From Entrepreneur To Artist

December 14, 2014 in Figurative, Landscape, Plein Air

 

Oil painting of crepe myrtle flowers, in Julie Gilbert Pollard workshop
Oil Painting of Reflecting Pool at Eden Gardens State Park
Still Life Encaustic
Figure Encaustic
Encaustic 2012
Seahorses
Oil painting of Shorty's Surfside in Grayton Beach, Florida
2011-1109 Reclining on back
Oil painting of soft grass at edge of Hogtown Bayou
Oil painting of Western Lake looking towards 30A, at Grayton Beach State Park
2012-1216 Tulum Sunrise North
Oil painting of the old pier at Camp Helen State Park, Panama City Beach, FL

Although I earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Fine Art with a certificate to teach, and did teach for 3 years, I actually produced art for only about 6 more years after moving to Florida and becoming consumed by owning and operating a pool service business. Thirty years have come and gone, and now I am reversing the process, practicing more art while allowing my business to run more and more on its own steam. I still depend on my business to pay the bills, while I continue to re-develop my skills as an artist. A few weeks ago I felt the energy shift, tipping the balance from entrepreneur to artist, and I found myself much more highly attuned to my art and my efforts to support the arts. It literally felt like a teeter-totter under my feet had begun to tip to the other side. The column of images to the right shows the number of sales this past week, which greatly reinforces my perception that things have changed.

I continue to paint plein air with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, and also I am excited to be practicing figure drawing again (“life drawing”), thanks to the organization of the program by fellow local artist Melanie Cissone and the generosity of Allison Wickey who is letting us use the space at her A.Wickey Studio-Gallery for our twice-a-month drawing sessions.  I’m a little rusty but find it just as exhilarating as ever — the pace is 100 mph, trying to capture the essence of the pose before the time is up! Below is my final effort in last week’s session.

2014-1111 with the model

Figure drawing of female reclining on side

It was bitter cold at our plein air session this week.  We painted at Red Bay Grocery, in Red Bay, Florida.  The grocery is a favorite for locals, stocked with the bare minimum plus local honey and such. A third of the space is the dining area, and another third is the kitchen, where home-cooked specials are served every day. I had toned my canvas a buff color, and when it was time for critique, I hadn’t painted the sky.  The group almost convinced me to leave the sky the buff background color, but after i got back to my studio, it just wasn’t how I had pictured it, so I quickly dashed in the light blue sky, and heightened a few contrasts to help it “read”. I seldom do much of anything with my plein air paintings when I get back to the studio, firstly preferring the pure plein air experience, and secondly, never quite remembering exactly what it looked like that would be different from how I painted it. Below is my painting of the Red Bay Grocery, and beside it, my friend, fellow painter Ed Nickerson‘s painting of me in my baggy falling-down snow britches.

Plein air oil painting of the Red Bay Grocery, Red Bay, FL

Red Bay Grocery – Joan Vienot

By Ed Nickerson

Joan – Ed Nickerson

Our painters group has members from a wide geographic area. Last week I drove for an hour to meet up with the group. Sometimes I stay home and paint, but it’s good to get out and see things that are new, and it’s always good to meet up with the other painters.  It feels like family. We painted at Lincoln Park, in Valparaiso, FL.  The light and shadows were outstanding, everywhere you looked. But they changed rapidly through the course of the painting — you had to choose a light patterns nd just stick with it.  That underscores the importance of making a value sketch first, to help me remind myself what attracted me to a scene in the first place. Below is my piece.

Oil painting of the autumn view from the south end of Lincoln Park in Valparaiso, FL

 

Types of Lighting

April 24, 2012 in Figurative

I think of lighting as being one of three primary types:  silhouette, which has the most impact if the shape is recognizable by its external contour;  high contrast, which treats all of the lighted areas as one light value, and treats all of the shadowed areas as one dark value, or perhaps using only 3 or 4 values; and the last type of lighting, full gradual shading ranging from white through the entire value scale to black, which sometimes is referred to as chiaroscuro, exmplified by the image found in the Art Studio Chalkboard website.

I rarely work on a figure drawing after I get back to my home studio, except to correct a glaring mistake, or to clean up a smudge here or there.  But two weeks ago, the model gave us a beautiful pose, and I was unhappy with the drawing I made during the figure drawing session.  So I took a new sheet of paper, and redrew the pose using brown ink, showing only the primary two or three values, and leaving a lot of the edges undefined where light was hitting them.  This treatment gives the drawing a completely different feeling.

The pose interested me because the model was leaning down with his elbow and forearm on one knee, which foreshortened his torso.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

The Importance of Warming Up in Figure Drawing

April 23, 2012 in Figurative

I need to warm-up for a little while before my efforts at figure drawing start to flow naturally.  During the initial warm-up period, I try to capture the general directional line of the model, and a few of the light and dark patterns, or perhaps some of the essential contours or textures.  Often it feels like I am drawing a stick figure, just trying to get the general angles and proportions correct.  I draw fast, because our warm-up drawings start with 30-second or 1-minute or two-minute poses.  The model often takes slightly off-balance or less comfortable poses during the warm-up period, knowing that he or she doesn’t have to hold them for long.  I find that effort on the part of the model inspiring, and it motivates me to try harder.  I usually use the broad side of a chalky medium for the warm-up drawings, sometimes even drawing with white nupastel, which helps me to see where the light is striking the model, though white alone usually doesn’t photograph well enough to post here in my blog.  I draw with minimal concern for accuracy, sometimes merely trying to switch gears, from the left-brained thinking about my day-job as I drove to the session, to the right-brain activity of figure drawing.  Drawing is first of all a physical activity, so like an athlete, an artist needs to work at it a little in order to coordinate the hand with the eye, and a period of warm-up drawings helps with that.

As you can see by the examples below, warm-up gestures have strange lines, curves going the wrong direction, places that get overdeveloped, and other places not drawn at all, wrong proportions, and yet an undeniable essence of the figure.  These are warm-up gestures of the same pose from this past week’s figure drawing session at Studio b:  one by me, one by Nancy Nichols Williams, and one by Steve Wagner.

Joan Vienot

Nancy Williams

Steve Wagner

I enjoy the time spent warming-up, but 2-minutes is always too short.  But then too, 5 minutes is too short, and so is 20 minutes, and come to think of it, rarely is a pose long enough for me to feel like I actually finished!  The next drawings include another of my warm-up gestures, and then two longer drawings, perhaps 20-minutes or 30 minutes.  I left early from this session, exhausted from teaching all day, the 2nd of a 2½ day crash-course that I teach at a nearby college, certifying swimming pool operators to meet health department requirements.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

My Livelihood Gets in the Way of My Art

January 26, 2012 in Figurative

The activities of my life are an extension of who I am right now, and so the amount of time I have available to devote to my art is limited.  Knowing that I have made that choice does not stop me from sometimes resenting it.  I have a full-time job, owning and managing a small service business, and I have a second job, consulting for my retail store, and I have a third occasional job, teaching in the same industry as the other two jobs, all of these providing the necessary income to pay the bills so that I can enjoy the lifestyle I want, and also indulge my artistic efforts.  One day I will be brave enough to throw caution aside, quit my jobs, and become a full-time artist. Until then, I must resign myself to devoting limited energy to my art.

The preceding was a long introduction to explain that I was dog-tired last night at figure drawing at Studio b.  I drew slowly, getting lost in details, and losing track of the time.  I completed a couple of warm-up pieces to my satisfaction, at right, and another at left, but none of the extended poses reached any level of completion.  Nevertheless, I am posting them all on this blog entry, just to show what came out of my efforts.  After all, no effort is a waste of time.   Even when I am not satisfied with my results, I know that I have gained experience.  In retrospect, last night would have been a perfect time to experiment with different media, because then I would have had lower expectations.

Our model provided interesting poses.  In one pose, she was on her back, hugging her knees tightly to her chest.  I was at her head, so her pose was nearly symmetrical from my vantage point.  But at left is an image of the extent that I had completed by the time the 20-minute timer went off.  I hadn’t even gotten half-way into the drawing, getting lost in my own “zone” as I explored the shadows and shapes.

All evening we were tantalized by the heavenly smells of a wonderful dinner for a private party downstairs in the main gallery.  Cheese diva Paula Lambert was preparing all manner of delectables, and Studio b. owner Colleen Duffley kept bringing samples to us artists upstairs.  I can’t imagine a better place to practice figure drawing!

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

Figure Drawing: The Power of the Group, Chakra Work, Music and Communication

January 19, 2012 in Figurative

Last week I didn’t draw, except for my practice at home.  Instead I watched and listened to a lot of live music at the 30A Songwriters Festival, which I blogged about in my last post.  And last Friday I attended a yoga presentation on the Root Chakra, the first in a 7-week series, a subject which is all new to me.  Then on Tuesday a friend and I got together and brought each other up to date, all good.  And Wednesday, a whole bunch of artists I hadn’t seen for a while were at figure drawing, at the regular weekly session at Studio b., which was exhilarating.

So whether a positive result of my fledgling efforts to allow more energy to flow through the Root Chakra, or good old-fashioned open communication with a dear friend, or listening to so much good music, I felt very confident in my artistic expression this week.  I found myself very quickly lost in the process of executing each pose.  When I lose myself is when I enjoy it the most and feel the most successful at capturing what to me is the basic emotive and visual essence of the pose, whether I am focused on the light, or mass, or shapes, texture, or line.

Our model struggled with the standing pose at top left.  Supporting herself on one leg with a locked knee, she wasn’t able to hold it for as long as she had intended.  Nevertheless, even with the pose a little shorter than expected, I felt completely comfortable with the end result, leaving portions of the drawing a little sketchy.  In fact I think I am enjoying that more and more, developing only the more important area of each pose, although I need to be careful not to always leave the feet undeveloped, because that might be suspected laziness.  Feet are difficult to draw.

The drawing at upper right is the only drawing I was unsure about, when I was finished, because her right elbow creates a triangular shape above the woman’s throat.  Effective composition  requires the artist to be judicious, to leave out visual description which merely confuses.  So I worked on this drawing when I got home, removing the elbow shape entirely, and then drawing it back in.  Sometimes it is that little quirk of confusion that requires the viewer to puzzle for a moment, and engage a bit more, holding his attention for a bit longer.  And in this day and age of instant communication, holding someone’s attention is like gold to an artist.

Speaking of attention, to those of you who wade through my blogs each week, from the bottom of my heart, thank you!  You don’t even have to say anything, though I love it if you do — I feed off your collective support.  May we all give support to each other for our efforts at creative expression, whatever the avenue!

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

Surrounded by Painters at Figure Drawing

December 1, 2011 in Figurative

On this night at Studio b. at the regular weekly figure drawing session, I was the only artist who exclusively draws the figure.  David Orme-Johnson brought his watercolor paints, and Nancy Nichols Williams brought her acrylics.  Steve Wagner also is an accomplished figure painter, although on this night he worked with charcoal and white on brown paper.  As expected of all students majoring in art in any university, I took my share of figure painting classes, but when it comes to the figure, I like making dry marks on paper.

I warmed up with some small sketches using water soluble graphite pencil on watercolor paper, which I added a wash to later when I got home.

I enjoyed the longer poses.  I feel that I am coming closer to my intended effect as I continue to use graphite and white nupastel.  It is always a challenge to draw the female model we had tonight, who is in constant training for triathlons and is now training for an Ironman next year.  Her musculature is supremely developed, but I find myself minimizing her definition, probably because it becomes very detailed and I always feel like I am rushed and must simplify.

The first pose I have posted above was supposed to be for 10 minutes, but we asked the model to hold it a little longer, so it grew to 15.  The pose below was for 45 minutes, with a break after the first half hour.  That longer pose allowed me to spend a little more time on the face.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

Figure Drawing the Night Before Thanksgiving

November 24, 2011 in Figurative

The model couldn’t make it to Studio b. for our figure drawing session this week, so the owner of the Studio, Colleen Duffley, graciously offered us her time, posing clothed for us.  When the artist knows the model, it seems important to try to be accurate in the drawing, for the sake of not offending the model by one’s poor craftsmanship.  I tried to put that additional pressure out of my head as I drew.

Clothed models are much easier to draw than nudes.  Clothing is very forgiving — I can fudge one way or another with a line or a shadow on clothing without it feeling awkward.  Nevertheless, I still wanted more time, even on the 20 and 30-minute poses.  Between the wire-mesh of the model’s chair, and the leather and denim of her clothing, and her extraordinarily beautiful, curly hair, it was frustrating to be faced with such rich textures that I could only hint at because of the duration of the poses.

Below are two warm-up drawings, and two longer poses.  Click on any image for a larger view.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

Figure Drawing Media – Small Changes

November 17, 2011 in Figurative

I have been working on fairly smooth paper, primarily using graphite and nupastel, for the past few weeks.  This week I opted to use graphite on a textured paper for one drawing, and charcoal with nupastel for the second one.  I confess, I prefer nupastel and graphite, but it’s nice to try different media or different surfaces.  Not having as much control over the media because of less practice, shakes things up a little, requiring me to draw more slowly or else to be more forgiving of my efforts if I am a little clumsy.  The textured paper was Canson Mi-Teintes, which I have used before, but not strictly with graphite.  At 19 x 25, the paper is a little larger than I have been working on, but though I intended to, I could not manage to fit the entire figure onto the page, even though she was sitting hugging her knees.   The pose was our usual 30 minutes long, so I had to use some rough cross-hatching to block in the darker values.

My second drawing was on Stonehenge, one of the the smooth papers I’ve been drawing on recently, but charcoal is not as easily handled as graphite.  Combining charcoal with nupastel certainly made  it easier to graduate the toning, than using charcoal alone.

These drawings were made during the regular weekly figure drawing session at Studio b. in Alys Beach, in Northwest Florida.

I am adding in a minimalist sketch of the sweetest cat I have ever known, my cat Sumi, an adoptee from the Humane Society, a big Maine Coon cat.  She didn’t live long, only 6 years, having compensated renal failure, and she didn’t gain the weight many Maine Coons have.  This drawing shows her thinner summer coat, with wisps coming out of her ears and elbows.  I made a sketch of her many years ago, and recently I transferred that sketch to good paper.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

Artist’s Statement

November 14, 2011 in General

I have added an Artist’s Statement to my Bio page.  I will be exhibiting a few pieces of my work in the  A+Art Committee member exhibit at Okaloosa Walton State College next spring.  The committee functions under the umbrella of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (Florida), selecting artists and organizing shows in the lobby area of the South Walton OWSC business office about 4 or 5 times a year.  This year was our first year, and we decided to avoid any appearance of self-promotion this first year.  But several members of the committee are accomplished artists, so we decided to have a show of committee members’ works for a couple of months next year.

Following is my Artist’s Statement, at least for today, 11/14/11.  No doubt it will evolve.

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Joan Vienot – Artist’s Statement

The greatest pleasure for me as an artist is the capture of the present moment, a little piece of Now.  The challenge is greatest when the subject is the human figure, where the length of a pose is limited by the live model’s ability to remain motionless for any duration. Very little time is available for retractions or corrections, so my marks on the paper have to be certain and authoritative.  Every pose is a challenge of my mastery.  Similarly, plein air painting requires intense focus and present moment awareness in order to execute a scene before the light changes radically.  In both cases, the subject must be portrayed in fairly general terms, with only enough detail to lend unique identity and a bit of atmosphere.  I rarely do anything more than minimal correcting, or perhaps heightening of contrast, when I get back to my studio, preferring to let my interpretation of the moment stand on its own.  My approach might result in what some may call mistakes in proportion or perspective, but I think accuracy should be subordinate to my effort to convey the essence of the subject in a short amount of time.

When time is so fleeting that I could never capture something in either dry or wet media, then I resort to my camera to produce a photograph, which of course records the quintessential moment in time.

My favorite subject for drawing is the human figure.  People’s lives and experiences create lines on their faces and sags on their bodies, and their posture bears witness to their youth or to their years.  The nude figure in particular, with the façade of clothing removed, reveals the essence of a person’s physical existence and might even hint at her spirit.  Most of my figure drawings are of females simply because most of the models I’ve had opportunity to draw are female.  My figure drawings are very simply my personal expression of the beauty and complexity of the human form and my efforts toward mastery of that expression.