Tipping the Balance From Entrepreneur To Artist

December 14, 2014 in Figure Drawing, 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

 

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

 

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

Painting Plein Air in Rosemary Beach

February 3, 2014 in Landscape, Plein Air

Oil painting in purple and yellow, showing the Rosemary Beach Town Hall and Post Office, from Highway 30AWhat a difference in the weather this weekend!  After an ice storm paralyzed the Deep South midweek, I was so happy to be painting in my shirtsleeves on Saturday!  And what a change from last weekend, when I was painting at the Chautauqua Festival in my snowsuit!

The Rosemary Beach Foundation offers a “Girls Getaway on Superbowl weekend, and plein air painters were invited to paint there.  This made the third weekend in a row for me to be painting plein air.  I painted for the sheer enjoyment of it.  I was out in the open, near the road and near the sidewalk, so I had many visitors, making it a fun and interesting day.  I painted the Town Hall and Post Office, at right.  Those buildings actually are white, but what interested me was the face of the Post Office, showing the golden light reflected from the side wall of the Town Hall. From where I was standing, I couldn’t actually see the directly lit side of the Town Hall.  I could see the shady sides of both buildings.  To make the reflected light really obvious, I painted both buildings lavendar.

After lunch, I turned 180º and began painting the street scene northward on North Barrett Square, from Wild Olives towards the Hidden Lantern Gallery where our finished paintings were being displayed.  I worked quickly, trying to catch the gist of the architecture.  Clouds had come so the shadows and lighting I had enjoyed in the morning were diffuse.  I could see that my perspective was warped, but I wasn’t terribly invested in the painting as a finished product.  I continued painting in order to learn how to handle my brushes and make convincing architectural shapes.

Oil painting of the view north near Wild Olives on North Barrett Square in Rosemary Beach, FloridaA student on a bicycle approached and we talked a little and I learned he was an artist.  I asked him his website, but he said he was not yet that “advanced”.  So I told him he could see more of our work in front of the Gallery, which he apparently viewed and then came back to further engage me. He started by saying, “I disagree with what you are doing.”  I should have bid him adieu right then and there, but I was intrigued, and gave him my attention.  He offered his limited view of creativity, that there was no value in painting what someone else had already created, such as architecture.  It sounded like this might not be the first time he had given this speech, and it sounded like some of the pointless arguments I had heard in college, as to what is “legitimate” art.

By this young man’s definition, I doubt that he would have appreciation for a musician playing a symphony written by someone else, or a dancer performing someone else’s choreography.  I lad lost interest as soon as he said he didn’t paint things that were “already painted”.  But he pressed his point until I actually started to get irked.  It became clear that his intention was to dismiss plein air painting, and to elevate his style of expression, whatever that is. I abhor “exclusive” thinking.

One of the things I have so enjoyed among nearly all of the artists I have met at this “mature” (middle-aged) point in my life, is their support and encouragement of each other. an attitude of INclusion, not EXclusion..  I believe that no artist should be discouraged from whatever path they are on at the moment, and their work should not be judged as to its “legitimacy”, but rather that anyone making any effort to express themselves visually, should be encouraged, that all artistic expression should be supported and nurtured.  In fact I think that everyone is an artist, and we ought to help each other retrieve that creative spirit, whether singers, or carvers, or painters, or poets.  It is a shame that so many people, somewhere along the way, stop trying. I guess it takes a good streak of stubbornness to retain creative drive, because somewhere along the way, every creative person must overcome the energy of those claiming their expression to not be “good” enough, or expressive enough, or “legitimate”.  It was when this student dismissed my protests by pronouncing “The truth hurts”, that I realized the depth of his arrogance.  I told the young man that it was better to support and encourage other artists, and not to judge their efforts and try to discourage them.

I thought it was going to rain the next day, so I stayed in my studio, and I repainted the scene I had been painting the day before, using black and white photo references (above right).  Later that day, I about dropped my teeth when I drove back to the Hidden Lantern to pick up the painting I had done the day before, discovering that the street was made of dark gray brick-pavers, not the red-orange color I had painted.  It never even occurred to me that they might be something different — red-orange seemed so right!  So there you are, a true enough representation of the shapes that interested me, coupled with my own sense of what the street “should” look like, Ha!  Another fun thing about plein air painting, or even studio painting from photo references after doing a plein air study, is that if I paint the same scene again, even from the same vantage point, it would turn out to be a completely different painting.

 

Plein Air: Battling With Nature

June 12, 2013 in Landscape, Plein Air

Every geographic area has its plagues, I suppose.  Here in Northwest Florida, our plagues are yellow flies from mid-May through the middle or end of June, and in late summer or fall, dog flies.  I react badly to yellow fly bites, getting a huge hive within minutes.  If I put a good anti-inflammatory cream on the bite right away, I will avert a reaction.  My plein air painting backpack is stocked with a strong repellent, and the best anti-inflammatory salve I can find.  I used both today.

We painted at Eden Gardens State Park, which is just a hop and a skip from my home.  I cajoled my dear friend, Lori Ceier, into coming out and painting with us.  Lori is the producer of my favorite website for local activities, www.waltonoutdoors.com.  Lori claims not to be an artist but I think what she really means is that up ’til now, she has preferred photography to painting.

Oil painting of Tucker Bayou Through the Trees at Eden Gardens State Park

Having recently completed my training as a Reiki Master, and thoroughly convinced of the Law of Attraction, nevertheless, during yellow fly season, I still cover most of my skin with clothing and put repellent on what’s left.  I fared pretty well, until the last half hour when the frustrated flies were fairly spitting their venom.  We all stopped painting soon then, and went to the screened pavilion for our critique.  Lori took a series of Photos showing the progression of my painting, and posted them on her Facebook page for WaltonOutdoors.com.

Plein air critique is interesting.  We each put our paintings up in a row and everyone ooo’s and ahhh’s and then each artist talks about their piece, the challenges they faced, what their intentions were, etc., and then the group might offer a suggestion for this effect or for that one.  If an artist has had enough of that fun, he or she might end the suggestions by saying thank you , y’all have given me a lot of ideas, and then we move on to the next piece.  Generally though, these are what I would call “soft” critiques, in that all of the artists are so encouraging — no one ever tells you that maybe you should take up sculpture or some other art form.

I felt so brave when I was painting, daringly putting a muted purple in the trees in the background, and a bright purple in the shadows in the foreground, and painting the silhouette of the foreground tree leaves a deep red-violet.  But when I look at the painting from any distance, the purples just become dark values, not daring at all!  My intention was to paint the background trees and grasses with brighter colors and more detail, and the foreground with broader brush strokes and less detail.  I think everything turned out more or less as I had hoped, except for the color of the water.  When I put the rich red-violet trees and shadow patterns in the foreground, the water of the bayou in the middle-ground, which I had painted a light pinkish blue, became more muted by comparison, almost a light gray.

In general, I’m pleased with the overall impression of looking out at the bayou through very large trees.  The barely visible picnic tables show the scale of the trees.

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

Plein Air Painting Progress Report: Leaps and Bounds!

March 30, 2013 in Landscape, Photography, Plein Air

Oil Painting of Old Boat "Pompano", Nick's Restaurant, Basin Bayou, FLI am starting to see in color.  That may sound strange, but the fact is that most of the time in my normal everyday activity, I hardly pay attention to color.  When I was focusing on figure drawing, I occasionally used color, but for the most part I was focused on line, shape, and value, usually rendering the whole piece just using a black-white value scale. Now that I am painting again, I am noticing for example, when a white railing is picking up the blue of the sky, or how intense a green becomes when it is contrasted with red.  I am finding that much of what I think I am seeing as different tones of a color are actually the same color which looks different depending on what color is next to it.  I am particularly challenged by all the greens I see, when landscape painting.  If I try to mix an exact shade of green, it often seems muddy compared to what I actually see.  Who knew, that Einstein’s theory that everything is relative applies to painting as well as nuclear physics, that the better way to achieve a color is to find the color next to it which gives it the quality I want.  Resisting the temptation to launch into that as a metaphor for life, I’ll instead move on to my adventures in plein air painting over the past week.  Last week we painted at Nick’s Restaurant, and I bemoaned the fact that I know very little about boats.  The next day I decided to take another run at the featured boat, using my photo references, and came up with the piece at top right.  It was the little paprika-colored spots of rust washing out from the old nails in the hull, that gave the greens and turquoise the punch I wanted.  So I wafted a little of that color into the foreground grasses too.

Oil painting study, Bayou Grass, Point Washington, FLThis week is the largest of the spring-break tourist weeks in the beach resort communities of Panama City Beach, Seagrove Beach, and Destin, FL.  So when the announcement came that the plein air painters would be meeting at the docks again in Destin, I knew the drive would take all the fun out of the adventure, so I opted to paint from my dock in my back yard.  I had thought I would be painting my view of the creek leading into Tucker Bayou, but when I looked upstream, the color of the bayou grasses intrigued me.  My initial 6″ x 6″ study, left, did nothing for me by way of planning my painting, but rather served more like a singer doing la-la-La-LA-La-la-la scales to warm up her voice before performing.

I needed a warm-up!  The temperature was less than 40 and the wind was chilly.  But it was a clear spring day with bright light.  I roughed in the composition and then went to work on the trees at the edge of the Bayou.  The spring gold-greens of the new leaves contrasted with the rich, dark pines and the shadows underneath.  I resisted the impulse to paint the shadows a colorless dark value, which has the potential to suck the life out of a painting.  Instead I darkened my green shadows with a touch of the same deep red I used to tint the pink flowering trees in my distant neighbor’s yard.  I stuggled with the grasses, because the shiny highlights were picking up every color of the palette.  Uncertain whether I was just making a mudpie, I plowed onward through the painting, until I was satisfied I had achieved an approximate similarity to the colors I was seeing.  My two cats initially were scared by my unusual activity on the dock, but they grew braver throughout the 2 hours, wrapping their tails around my legs as I scratched some final textures and highlights into the grasses and the tree trunks.  Upon completion, I stood my painting up against a piling and stepped back from it only to have a bitter wind gust blow it onto its face, requiring repair where it had landed on an edge of a dock board.  Remembering the worm crawling across my finished painting two weeks ago, I decided that paintings are not really finished until restored from an inevitable mishap at the very end.

Oil Painting of Bayou Grass, Point Washington, FL

The day before yesterday I was excited to find a delivery frames on my package stand as I entered my driveway, so even though it was late, I spent the next couple of hours framing my earlier paintings done in November and December of last year, when I first resumed oil painting after a 30-year hiatus.  Looking at them, I realized that I am growing by leaps and bounds.  The rate of my improvement surprises me.  I thought I would progress more slowly, and even be tempted to give up, because oil painting so intimidated me, no doubt from my tortured efforts during and shortly after college.  I find I am enjoying the time limitation of plein air painting, which while still allowing for tortured effort, does not allow it to continue for very long, with only a two hour window before the light changes so much that further attempts at capturing an impression are not worthwhile.

I continue to play with my photography.  I am learning about photo-editing, taking a class in Photoshop Elements from Jackie Ward at Northwest Florida State College, South Walton Center.  She is teaching us what Photoshop can do.  It’s difficult for me to remember.  My poor brain may be overloaded, trying to run my business, my day-job, the one that pays the bills, while I try to learn more about photography and painting.  I still enjoy the easy editing that can be done with Snapseed App on my iPhone.  Yesterday I paddled my canoe on the Bayou with a dear friend, a fellow photographer.  You can’t take a bad picture at sunset!  Most of my editing of my iPhoneography consists of simply straightening the horizon line and perhaps a little cropping, but I had some fun dramatizing and saturating the photo below.

Photograph, Tucker Bayou, Point Washington, FL, Joan Vienot

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

The Ruins at Coba

December 31, 2012 in Landscape

I spent a week in Mexico in mid-December.  Ruins from ancient civilizations fascinate me, and the ruins at Coba were no exception.  A boy there drove our big tricycle-tour-carriage to one of the pyramids, Nohoch Mul, one of the few in Mexico that visitors are still allowed to climb.  Nohoch Mul is the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula, 138′.  At the top, you can see out over the Mexican jungle to other points breaking the treeline in the distance, which I presume are other pyramids.  There was a structure on the platform at the top, with a short doorway which was screened closed.  The walls inside were black, like many fires had been burned inside.  It felt spooky, and I wondered if sacrifices had been made there — maybe some spirits were still hanging around.

Our tricycle guide took us to some of the other structures, including a round temple-pyramid and a Mayan ballcourt.  After we finished our tour, we realized there was another, smaller ball court, near the entrance to the area.

I found the ballcourts to be particularly fascinating.  I could almost hear the cheering for the teams of players trying to pass a ball through the stone rings in the center of the sloped side-walls.  The game was played recreationally, but also ceremonially when it is thought that the captain of the losing team gave up his head.

One of the rings was broken at the second ball court, and its jagged edges and sharp shadow shapes intrigued me.

As often happens when I am first starting a painting, the initial paint-drawing frustrated me and I almost quit.  There was very little color to the ruins — just the black, white, and gray of the rocks and mortar.  But I didn’t want to make it a black-and-white painting.  Near-black, and gray can be made from many colors.  I wanted the areas lit by the sun to be warm, and the shadows cooler, so I chose an orange tint for the sunny rocks, and I used cobalt violet mixed with orange for the shadowed areas.  Where I needed it to be even cooler, I added a little viridian green.  The broken stone ring was the obvious focal point, being so very different from the planes and shapes of the rest of the structure.  To bring even more attention to it, I added a warmer gray to its shadows, with more orange.  The shadows cast from the ring are in sharp contrast to the sunlit area, as opposed to the shadows from the trees overhead, which have soft edges.

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

Early Morning Light

November 4, 2012 in Photography

 

Yesterday I went hiking shortly after sunrise with my friend Jane Burns, who is a fine art photographer.  The sun was rising between the foggy tree trunks, just above the brush, as we hiked the groomed trail through the state forest just north of Grayton Beach State Park.  Jane and I both pulled our cameras out of our packs, to capture the first light.  We continued to have jaw-dropping views at every turn of the trail.  It was the “golden hour” following sunrise, when shadows are long and the light is warm and diffused.  A light fog exaggerated the effect, rendering every scene an ethereal fairy-scape.  The first photo above was taken during those first minutes on the trail.

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The light changed quickly as the sun came up, and the fog began lifting.  Wonderful atmospheric  effects played over the landscape as the cooler, shaded areas maintained a misty quality, and open areas became more clear.  Normally I carry my bigger camera, but since we were going to hike 8 or 9 miles, I opted to bring only my iPhone 5S.  Halfway into the hike, Jane showed me the High Definition function, where the camera shoots two versions, one normal, and one HDR.  The higher quality is obvious on some even when viewed on the camera’s small screen.

As the morning progressed, the fall light became crisper, and the colors became more vibrant.  Dew remained in the shady areas, and in one section, a carpet of bejeweled, glittering moss underfoot.  Both Jane and I tried to photograph the shimmering drops on the moss, but the camera didn’t pick them up.  A tightly focused video would have been beautiful.

I stopped taking so many pictures after the first hour or so.  The light was still beautiful, the sky a crystal clear blue and the colors so typical of autumn.  I still felt like I was walking through a scenic calendar.  But I was so very spoiled by the wealth of imagery during that first hour, the golden hour, that I just enjoyed the views for the rest of the hike.

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

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Great Paintout at Grayton Beach

October 14, 2012 in Landscape, Plein Air

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On Saturday I joined at least 16 other painters at Grayton Beach State Park, in Grayton Beach, Florida, to participate in the local effort for the Oil Painters of America 8th annual Great Paintout.  It was my first try at plein air oil painting in perhaps as much as 30 years, but something I have been intending to do for a long time.  I have occasionally painted outdoors using watercolors or sketched with pencil or ink, but the last time I remember painting the landscape with oils, plein air, was while on a camping vacation in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1978.  That day, so long ago, was memorable for being so hot and buggy.  By contrast, Saturday was the perfect day for plein air painting, being shaded by the park pavilion, and virtually bug-free.

So what’s the big deal about plein air painting, you may wonder.  En plein air is French for “in open air”, a phrase used to describe painting an outdoors scene “from life”, while actually looking at it, in the often changing light and weather conditions.  It requires intense concentration and awareness, and is much more challenging than painting from a photographic reference in a studio.  It appeals to me in much the same way that figure drawing appeals to me, because time is a limiting factor, so one must work fairly quickly, finishing or very nearly finishing the painting in one session.  For that reason, and because I felt so out of practice, I chose to paint on small 8″ x 10″ canvas boards.  I managed to make a passable effort on two boards.

To a certain extent, this was a trial run for me, to see how my equipment worked, and to start remembering how to paint.  I used just 3 brushes — two to paint with and a third one to sign my name, and a palette knife to scratch out some bush branches.  The brush I used for most of both paintings was a Winsor-Newton #6 round, sable, I think.  It worked better than the stiff bristle brushes I used a month ago in my first effort at returning to oils, in the workshop I blogged about on September 9. My new Coulter System easel and palette/box that I purchased last summer worked like a charm.  I used my 35-year old Grumbacher “Pre-tested” and Rembrandt oil paints from my days doing demonstrations as a high school art teacher.  My oil painting medium is about that old too, and while the paints are still good, I’m pretty sure the medium is degraded.  The paintings I did Saturday are dry today, one day later, but the painting I did a month ago in the workshop, in which I used more medium, is still a little sticky.

The sand dunes at Grayton Beach are made of  sand is so fine that it crunches underfoot like dry snow, and it even looks like snow in the bright sunlight, thanks to the clear crystals of quartz that make up the majority of its composition.  The scrubby oak bushes and half-buried scrub pines round over the tops of the dunes, shaped away from the Gulf of Mexico by the salty seabreeze.  Palmetto bushes and dune marsh grasses dot the lower dunes, fringed this time of year by various yellow wildflowers that some of us locals refer to collectively as goldenrod.  I never got around to painting as much as I would like to have, never adding in the finer details of shadows and sea oats.  I might go back in and put in those details, but the photos I have posted here are exactly as I finished on Saturday morning.

After we painted for about 3 hours, we all got together and looked at each others’ works, and we ooo’d and ah’d before giving feedback.  It was an excellent critique, with the masters of the craft commenting on areas of paintings that worked well, and areas that were challenging, and even discussing compositional tricks, like pointing out places where something in a painting might need to recede, made difficult by being light in value.  (Typically, light shapes and colors tend to advance, and darker forms recede, in a picture plane.  That can be overcome by muting or graying the lighter colors, shapes tending to become less bright as they recede, the way that we see things.)  Everyone was kind to me, not being critical at all, but I admit that I gave fair warning, protecting my vulnerability by explaining that I had just returned to oil painting again about a month ago, and that this was my 2nd effort in 30 years.  That was a fairly clear request to cut me some slack, I think.  The regular plein air painters go out every Wednesday, so if I start coming regularly, I’m sure they will feel more free to make helpful comments, and I will not be so scared to hear them.

Shane McDonald

Some of the artists who were there have their work online:

Becky Perrott

Charlotte Arnold

Rosalyn O’Grady

Margaret Ann Garrett

Jeanette Brooks Sherritze

Nancy Nichols Williams

Melody Bogle

Velda Dougherty

Shane McDonald

Matt Craven

And I wish I had the names and websites of the others there — if you read my blog and know the others, please email me with their names, and I’ll include them.

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

 

 

Figure Drawing in a New Venue

April 2, 2012 in Figure Drawing

It was interesting to draw in a new location last week.  Studio b. has moved to a nearby community, and the room was filled with unsorted moving boxes, furniture, and art.  The ordered disarray appealed to me.  The ambience at the new location is much warmer, with rich woods instead of cold plaster and tile, and with plentiful windows which let in light from every angle.  I was in heaven during the warm-up drawings, the low sun adding warm tones.  The model chose her own poses during the shorter warm-up sets.  Light from the multiple sources put complex highlights and subtle double shadows on the model’s skin.  As usual, most of the short poses were standing poses or twisting poses, perhaps even a little off-balance, which would be too hard to hold for any duration.  The longer poses were as always,  more stable as a matter of compassion for the model.

For the final pose, the model sat on the stairway to the second floor, where the single light source simplified the shadow patterns.  I sat at the base of the stairs where I could see her from that unusual vantage point.  What interested me the most was the exposed underside of her chin and her upturned nose.  The foreshortening had to be kept subtle even though it felt extreme, with her arm being larger because of its proximity to me.

I am happy with the end result in every respect except for one — it doesn’t look very much like the actual model!  Generally speaking, when drawing a portrait I count it a success if the positions of the eyes, nose, and mouth seem parallel.  Maybe if I practiced portraiture more often, I would be able to capture the likeness better.

It’s a challenge to create something someone might want to hang in their home.  It seems like the drawing either needs to wow the viewer with technical craftsmanship or else it needs to be someone they know or to remind them of someone they know.  In the end, I draw for my own pleasure and compulsion, trying to simplify what I see, to capture the essential character of the person or the expression I interpreted without concern for whether someone else will like it.

At left is a photo of me making the drawing posted above.

I am excited to announce that a few pieces of my art will be hanging in the lobby/reception area of the South Walton Center of Northwest Florida State College here in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.  The opening reception will be Friday, April 6, 2012, from 5:00 to 7:00 PM.  Titled “A Passion for Art”, the show spotlights the members of the A+Art Committee which serves under the umbrella of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County.  The show exhibits works by Charlotte Arnold, Lauren Carvalho, Betty Cork, Miffie Hollyday, Susan Lucas, Mike McCarty, Robin Wiesneth, and me, Joan Vienot.  The show will close May 15, 2012.

 

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