From Destin to Apalachicola

November 1, 2015 in Landscape, Plein Air

Oil painting of the food vendors and festival-goers at Destin Festival of the Arts, 2015When I take an art workshop, it provides a wonderful break from the full-time management of my pool service business and an opportunity to fully immerse myself in my art. I counted this week as a 6-day vacation, first participating in the two-day Destin Festival of the Arts (Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation) on Saturday and Sunday, then attending a Bill Farnsworth workshop through the Apalachicola School of Art Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and finally, painting with Mary Erickson on Thursday.

IMG_9627-2The Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters had a booth in the Destin Festival of the Arts, with 6 painters representing the group. I enjoyed interacting with the festival-goers, talking to the other artists in our booth, and plein air painting one morning. A lot of work goes into a festival booth. Marian Pacsuta and her husband erected the tent, so it was fully assembled with ProPanels and wind-weights already in place by the time the rest of us arrived to hang our art on the curtain hooks Marian provided. She had a small table set up, covered to the ground with black spandex cloth. I had made some flyers explaining our group, and some group business cards the day before, so those were on the table along with artists’ business cards and a clipboard for folks to sign who wanted to receive the weekly notifications of our painting locations. To make sure the booth was manned at all times, I had scheduled the 6 participating artists and two additional artists helping, in two- and three-person shifts throughout the festival. At the end of the second day, we all converged to pick up our art and take down the tent, a feat accomplished in a mere 20 minutes. Many of us painted en plein air during the festival. I arrived early on the second day and had an uninterrupted block of time to paint my scene en plein air before festival goers came, and then I was able to add in a few people.

Oil painting of a trailered oyster boat on shady private launchAt 5:00 the next morning I jumped in the car to drive the two-hour trip to Apalachicola for the Bill Farnsworth workshop. Bill is one of the featured “plein air ambassadors” of the Forgotten Coast En Plein Air event in Apalachicola. I had seen and admired his work, so when the Apalachicola School of Art advertised his workshop, it was an easy decision to sign up. The workshop was billed as Field to Studio, but the 20 mph winds and rains of the remnants of Mexico’s Hurricane Patricia were emptying out on the Gulf Coast, so we just painted in the studio using photo references that Bill had brought. His demos seemed to build from silhouetted shapes to high contrast to color, first completing much of the detail of his focal area before progressing to the less emphasized parts of the composition. The first day I painted the trailered oyster boat on the left, from a photo that Bill brought, and the second day I painted his photo of a blue truck at a seafood business.

Oil painting of a blue pickup parked beside a seafood marketAt the risk of losing my momentum here, a little rant about artistic ethics: It’s not right to pass off a painting of someone else’s image as your own. Photography is an art in itself. If someone else shot the photo, they made the compositional decisions, and probably did some post-processing. I encourage everyone to always make sure you disclose that you used someone else’s photo reference, and give him or her credit. I know there are an abundance of images available on the internet, and some artists, even recognized artists and instructors, merely download an image from the internet and then paint it. Some artists even copy other artist’s paintings, and call them their own! I’ve coordinated exhibits where artists signed a statement of ownership when  their work is clearly a copy of someone else’s work! Explaining rejections of art due to ethics is difficult when people do not have the same values. Don’t get me wrong, there is a world of benefit in copying someone’s painting, especially a Master. I never learned so much as in one semester in college when I made it my assignment to copy drawings by recognized Masters, from daVinci and Michelangelo to Degas. But it’s wrong to call it your own art, without crediting the artist or photographer. I’ve even had friends download my photos from Facebook and then re-upload them without giving me credit, instead of using the convenient “share” button that Facebook provides. OK, enough about that. So I do sell my workshop paintings that used someone else’s photo, to recover the cost of the workshop, but I always disclose it and would not enter them in an exhibit or competition.

Finally, on the last day of Bill’s workshop, the sun came out and the winds died down and the birds sang! We had opportunity to paint en plein air in the morning and again in the afternoon after Bill’s demo. I tried hard to remember Bill’s focus on relative temperatures of color, as well as relative values. I painted an old but still living tree, and I painted the St. George Island lighthouse and museum.

Bill Farnsworth 2

Bill Farsworth 1

Bill Farnsworth, Apalachicola, October 2015

Oil pain ting of an old misshapen oak tree in Apalachicola, FL Oil painting of the St. George Island light and museum Click painting

The day after Bill’s workshop, I took a bonus day away from work, since my staff had handled everything well in my absence, my only concern being when my office manager used the words “creative accounting” to explain how she resolved a cash-flow situation, oh dear.

I used my extra day to paint with Mary Erickson, the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air’s Artist in Residence at St. Joe Buffer Preserve. With my sweet host and fellow classmate and painter extraordinaire Lynn Wilson (On the Waterfront Gallery) and other friends and fellow classmates, I had attended Mary’s introduction a couple nights before, where she had shown her amazing paintings in support of the buffer preserve’s mission of appreciation and conservation of the wildlife and exquisite dune and marsh habitats.

We found Mary at sunrise Thursday morning, and watched her deftly capture the pink and orange light on the clouds and the dunes. I decided to paint on some 4×6 miniature linen panels that I had bought by mistake, intending to buy a different size, and only 5, not 50! I painted 3 studies of the wildflowers in the changing light over the course of the day.

Mary Erickson 1

Mary Erickson, Salinas Park, Oct 2015

Mary Erickson 2 Mary Erickson 3
Oil painting of wildflowers in Salinas Park, mid-morning light Oil painting of wildflowers in Salinas Park, mid-morning light Oil painting of wildflowers in Salinas Park, mid-afternoon light

All in all, a fabulous week, and delivering 5 newer paintings to be shown at On The Waterfront Gallery in Apalachicola, to boot!

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