I attended the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air and Plein Air South again this May, taking time out for painting between demo’s and discussions. I practice painting en plein air to study the transient effects of light, to become more adept at composing, to learn more effective technique, and to develop a stronger instinct for decision-making. Many times a plein air painting will be worthy of framing. All are learning experiences. My intention is to study something different every time I paint, even when I paint a scene I have painted before. Every painting is making it easier to paint the next painting, but I challenge myself even more the next time, so I can’t say that painting is easy. I can say that I am seeing better.
I am happy to report that my Quickdraw painting, Scallop Republic Marsh, was selected by Quickdraw judge Lori Putnam to be one of the 40 on display throughout the Forgotten Coast event, and that it was purchased, as was Eastpoint Oyster Shack, one of my paintings in the Florida’s Finest en Plein Air Ambassador exhibit.
The more exciting news happened the week following the Forgotten Coast event, which was Plein Air South, a convention in the same location with back-to-back educational sessions, lectures, and demonstrations. Approximately 160 artists attended. We were invited to display up to 3 plein air paintings, the best to be selected by artists’ vote. I thought they were just going to award a Best in Show, but they also awarded second place, which one of my paintings won, Spring Dune at St. George Island, pictured below! I received $485 of paintbrushes from Rosemary & Co., my favorite brush manufacturer! (Iin addition to the $180 of brushes I had just purchased!) I don’t guess I will run out of brushes for a while!!
Below are the studies I painted over the two weeks, in between listening to the speakers and watching the demo’s. Click any photo to learn purchase information.
Artist and art marketing guru Leslie Saeta periodically offers a 30-day challenge, to paint 30 paintings in 30 days. Since I managed to complete Mary Gilkerson’s Five-Day Challenge, I thought I’d give this one a whirl. Eventually, there should be 30 paintings on this blog post, and I will also post to Instagram at @JoanVienotArt and to Facebook at Joan Vienot Art. The 30-day challenge will start February 1, 2018 and will run through the first couple days in March.
The 30-Day Challenge is now complete, and I am happy to say that I managed to paint every day! It’s not so hard, if it is a priority. Granted, many of them are small, just 6×6, but I made each one of them count as a learning experience. At the same time, I had scheduled 5 workshops during this 30 days, so it indeed was a period of learning. Probably the most difficult part of it was posting to my blog and to social media — that took a minimum of 30 minutes each day, and if I wasn’t careful, I could find myself stuck on social media for another couple of hours, catching up on friends’ activities and generally being entertained by the mishmash of news and minutia one finds on Facebook. Below are my 30 paintings.
Day 30, 3/2/2018: Cotton Stalk, 12×6 oils on canvas panel, painted from still-life set up in studio. This was a fun to paint. I purposefully painted a light background, so that the cotton bolls would be harder to see, requiring the stalk in order to be identified. Somehow this seems to me to be a picture of my life, that the things I think are important, are nothing without the thread or the stalk that binds them together.
Day 29, 3/1/18: Calming the Waters, 16×20 oils on linen panel, painting in progress in Dorothy Starbuck workshop at the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County. We are each using a different reference photo, to learn to paint a translucent breaking wave, and the lacy foam left on the surface after a wave has come in. Our paints are cadmium yellow light, alizarin crimson, burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, thalo blue, thalo green, viridian green, and titanium white. At right is the finished piece.
Day 28, 2/18/18: unfinished Tupelo Pavilion Study, 11×14, oils on linen panel, painted en plein air at Seaside, Florida. I am taking a workshop from my neighbor and friend Dorothy Starbuck which it started today, my local plein air group’s day to paint. So I went to our plein air location early, right after the sun came up, and got started, but 2 hours was not enough time for me because I struggled so much getting the architecture right before I started applying color. I still have the roofline wrong — the roof on the right side of the arch needs to be a foot taller at the eave.
Day 27, 2/27/18: Recovery Notes, 9×12 mixed media on Yupo paper. I had a definite idea before I started, so this is not entirely experimental art, but enough so that I am calling it experimental. Most of that is because I am not very familiar with the media I was using — acrylic paint, alcohol inks and Yupo paper. I live on a bayou, just a few miles from the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. I think that living near a large body of water accelerates interpersonal and spiritual growth. It’s like walking in a labyrinth with everyone else, and side-by-side, when all of a sudden you find yourself going in the opposite direction, or perhaps even in the same direction but several tracks away from the people you were walking with. Who moved – them or you? No doubt both, but either way, it takes some adjustment and some getting used to, hence my title for this piece, Recovery Notes, as I recover from a growth spurt.
Day 26, 2/26/18: Jekyll Island Twilight, 6×6 oils on Gessobord. I’ve been taking a workshop from Jason Sacran through Anderson Fine Art Gallery, St. simons Island, GA. On my last day in the area, I drove back out to Jekyll Island to see “Driftwood Beach”, where many very old trees have been laid bare by the winds and water, the unbleached wood completely de-barked, and many of the trees tipped over but still anchored into the beach. (Driftwood is a misnomer.) As I was crossing the causeways and the bridges, the sky was brightening, and the sun was finally just peaking over the marshes as I was approaching Jekyll Island. This is my impression of the sun-kissed clouds, painted after I returned home.
Day 25, 2/25/18: Jekyll Island Crone 2, 16×20 oils on linen panel, painted en plein air. I am attending Jason Sacran’s plein air painting workshop sponsored by Anderson Fine Art Gallery on St. Simons Island, GA. We are painting on Jekyll Island. A crone is a woman in the latter third of her life, after childbearing is over. She is wise, nurturing, soulful, creative, weathered, a bit stooped and twisted, but hard as nails, a survivor. Birds nest in her hair, she holds the weight of the world on her broad shoulders, and animals shelter under her canopy. My dad is 98 and still going strong. If that is how long I will live, then I have just entered my crone years.
Day 24, 2/24/18: Jekyll Island Crone 1, 16×20 oils on linen panel, and Study for Jekyll Island Crone, 8×6 watercolor on paper, painted en plein air. I am attending Jason Sacran’s plein air painting workshop sponsored by Anderson Fine Art Gallery on St. Simons Island, GA. We are painting on Jekyll Island, intending to work on the same painting for two days. There are a lot of ancient cedars and live oak trees on the west side of the island.
Day 23, 2/23/18: Jekyll Island Marsh, oils on canvas panel, a plein air study, painted in Jason Sacran workshop. Tomorrow we will be painting larger paintings of the same scene we studied today.
Day 22, 2/22/18: Morning Sketch, 8×6 graphite on cream paper. Today was the first day of a workshop with Jason Sacran, and I didn’t want to be worried about posting for my 30-day challenge, so I just posted my morning sketches.
Day 21, 2/21/18: Good Night, Sleep Tight, 8×8 watercolor and ink on paper, a color sketch of Tucker Bayou, Point Washington, FL, at sunset. Today I don’t have a lot of time for the 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge. I am embarking on another adventure, this time to study from Jason Sacran, who is teaching at the Mary Anderson Gallery on St. Simons Island, GA. That scenic area has a strong pull for me, and I am excited to be going there for this workshop. I hope my cats will forgive me these absences!
Day 20, 2/20/18: Roots, 12×9 oils on aluminum panel, produced at the end of the Mary Garrish workshop at the Artist Cove Studio-Gallery in Panama City, FL. I was attempting to make this painting using the new materials we were introduced to, which were the Scott Christensen landscape oil colors by Vasari (Bluff, Ship Rock, Adobe, Shale, Jasper, Silver Point, Cedar, and Bice), painted on an aluminum panel. On the first day, I was a little early for the workshop, so I stopped and walked around at the Historic Marker just down the way from the gallery, on Beach Drive. Erosion had bared the roots of several pines there. This painting is an abstraction of the pattern of the exposed roots. I used my rubber tipped tool to make the weeds, revealing the shiny aluminum underneath.
Day 19, 2/19/18: Florida Dawn, mixed media on paper, an exercise in glazing and scumbling in the Mary Garrish workshop at The Artist Cove Studio-Gallery in Panama City, FL.
Day 18, 2/18/18: Fog on the Point Again, 6×12 oils on canvas panel, painted in Mary Garrish workshop at The Artist Cove Studio-Gallery in Panama City, FL. Our task was to paint a scene in all values, but to vary the color within areas of one value, and to add light in the clouds.
Day 17, 2/17/18: Fog on the Point, 6×8 oils on canvas panel, painted in Mary Garrish workshop at The Artist Cove Studio-Gallery in Panama City, FL. Our task was to paint a scene in only 3 values, in black, white, and gray, and then to paint it again in 5 values. After that, we could add color or colors, but the values had to remain the same.This was my 5-value color piece.
Day 16, 2/16/2018: Mid-September Lily, 6×6 oils on Gessobord, a bittersweet painting from a photo I took on my last paddle with three dear friends last summer.
Day 15, 2/15/2018: Onion 1, 6×6 oils on Gessobord, painted from life. This onion kicked my butt. Painting an onion is much harder than you might think! I will paint an onion whenever I start feeling accomplished. It will humble me.
Day 14, 2/14/18: Freeing the Phantom of the Aqua, 8×10 oils on canvas panel, painted en plein air. Last fall this sailboat, the Phantom of the Aqua, was damaged during Hurricane Nate and its captain had to be rescued from it far offshore. He thought the boat would just sink in the stormy Gulf, but instead, it drifted up to the shore at Miramar Beach in Northwest Florida, just 15 miles from my house, and became firmly entrenched in the beach. I paint with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters every Wednesday, and we decided to paint the Phantom last week. Alas, the weather forecast was awful, so we postponed it to this week, only to read in the paper that the new owner would be towing it to his salvage yard to refurbish it, this very week. Nevertheless hopeful, we arrived today to find the roadside lined with onlookers, the crowd growing to hundreds as the day progressed, many going down to the beach with their beach chairs, to watch the proceedings from behind the yellow caution tape forming barriers from dunes to the sea, several hundred yards out from the boat in either direction. Distant fog was providing a wonderful atmosphere. A Caterpillar excavator was parked on the low side of the boat, near the water, and four Code Enforcement pick-up trucks were parked on the beach, and a few groups of workmen were standing around the boat and the pick-ups. The crowd lined the street-level sidewalk, the elevation affording everyone excellent vantage. Nothing much was happening yet, so we all found our various locations to paint, in and amongst the onlookers. After a while, the excavator started digging on the water side of the boat, and piling sand nearby, but it was slow going. We all were able to produce fair paintings without the boat moving, thankfully. Later, I came back by the scene after we had lunch down the road — at left is a photo showing the considerable progress they had made, and the excavator now up on the higher part of the beach..
Day 13, 2/13/18: Pears 1, 6×6 oils on Gessobord. I named this painting Pears 1, because I am certain there are many more pears in my future. I love the colors and shapes of pears!
Day 12, 2/12/18: Dinner After Plein Air, 6×6 oils on hardboard. In this painting I made an effort to create larger shapes, and not try so hard to model the interior of the shapes, but rather to leave them flatter, and to show receding space through temperature and overlapping. The idea for this painting came from a plein air workshop I took in Taos a couple of years ago. I think I’d like to refine the legs of the person with the yellow sweater — I want them to look like they are crossed above the knee, but I lost the lower knee.
Day 11, 2/11/2018: Storm Warning, 6×6 oils on canvas panel. We’ve had incredible rains here in Northwest Florida yesterday and today, and seasonal affective disorder is setting in — everything is gray, and dark, my phone receiving continuous updates of FEMA warnings for the potential for flooding. This color scheme, and in fact this composition, is very very common in this area, and super easy to paint — I’m allowed an easy one now and then, right? I used a palette knife to challenge myself. I really should practice with a knife more often.
Day 10, 2/10/2018: The Phoenix Will Rise, 20x16x1.5 acrylic/mixed media on stretched canvas, texture started in Jan Sitts workshop last week. I refined the texture today, and painted this expression of earth tones, and am pondering if it should go further. Non-objective work is outside of my comfort zone, but this experimental artworkshop left me feeling charged up!
Day 9, 2/9/2018: Norah, 12×9 oils on canvas, painted from a live model at this week’s Figurative Artists Atelier, an uninstructed open studio with a live model. Typically we have 5 one-minute warm-up sketches, and 2 5-minute warm-up sketches, and then we launch into a single pose for the remainder of the 3-hour session, in 20-minute segments with 5-10 minute breaks between the segments, to allow the model to regain circulation and ease any tension from the pose. I will be tweaking this just a little, now that it is back at my studio, but not much. I really liked this model’s attitude and haughty expression.
Day 8. 2/8/2018: Champagne on the Emerald Coast, 16 x 20 acrylic mixed media on gallery-wrapped canvas, painting Jan Sitts acrylic / mixed media workshop at the Cultural Arts Alliance in Santa Rosa Beach, FL.
Day 7, 2/7/18: Emerald Sounds, 6×6 acrylic on canvas panel,painted in Jan Sitts workshop. The stripes resembling the waves of the Gulf of Mexico on the Emerald Coast of Northwest Florida, were created using multiple layers of paint.
Day 6, 2/6/18: The Faeries’ Forest, 6×6 acrylic on panel, painted in Jan Sitts‘ experimental workshop hosted by the Cultural Arts Alliance. The visual texture on this piece was created using Saran wrap.
Day 5, 2/5/18: Rip Tide, 6×6 acrylic / mixed media on Gessobord, painted in Jan Sitts experimental workshop hosted by the Cultural Arts Alliance. I am totally outside of my comfort zone. Today we textured our supports with acrylic gel medium and various tools and supplies, but mine were not dry enough to paint on, so I created this small piece, texturing only with pinstriping tape. Our assignment was to not have a subject in mind while we worked, but rather to apply texture and color intuitively.
Day 4, 2/4/18: Angel Light Over Lake Powell, 6×6 oils on Gessobord. Today I was going to paint something easy. Then this view of Lake Powell, caught my eye, and having never painted “angel light” before, I thought, why not! I spent far too long on this exercise, thanks to being on the phone a good part of the time. Distracted, I found myself playing with the clouds, and then wishing I hadn’t and fixing them, and fixing them a little too much — play-fix-fix again, and repeat –while the phone call continued. It reminds me of the time I was having my hair cut, and the stylist had just returned from a trip to Russia. It was a long trip and a long story, and as she told it, my hair got shorter and shorter. 😯
Day 3, 2/3/18: Bay View from Okaloosa Island, 6×6 oils on Gessobord. I shoot a lot of photos to help me choose a location I want to paint with our local plein air painting group, and this is one of those locations. We paint here every 4 months or so. There are palms, pines, cedars, scrub oaks, mockingbirds, kite-sailors, a changing sky, tugboats and barges, winding paths through the grass, sand, water — did I mention it’s a National Seashore? Gulf Islands, on Okaloosa Island, to answer that.
Day 2, 2/2/18: Figure with Red Coat, 6×6 oils on Gessobord. On Fridays I attend the Figurative Artists Atelier, a live-model painting session at the Foster Gallery. Usually we have an extended pose, but today we had a different pose every 20 minutes.
Day 1, 2/1/18: Coraline, 6×6 oils on Gessobord. This is one of my two cats, a rescue cat I adopted from Alaqua Animal Refuge.
Thank you for visiting. Many of my paintings are available for purchase. Click on the image to see pricing and to contact me to purchase or to commission a painting.
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!
I am struggling with an absence of routine. Without it, certain basic maintenance tasks are neglected. I like to get up in the morning, have a cup of coffee, read something inspirational, and write my 5 gratitudes, and do a short meditation before I get my day underway. But lately I have been getting sidetracked into the day’s business as soon as I get my coffee — starting with email correspondence, news, and social media updates, and I never get back to my morning quiet time. My life has been complicated by a pesky knee injury which has required a good deal of physical therapy and greatly reduced my physical activity. I am coming out of that phase in my life, increasing my activity, improving my nutrition, and I intend to restore routine to my life.
I used to blog weekly. I couldn’t believe my eyes this morning when I saw that my last post was 2 months ago. This was a certain message that I need to re-organize my life.
It’s not that I haven’t gotten things done, or that I have neglected my spiritual and psychological health. But I have neglected a lot of things, obviously blogging being one of them.
So why does that matter? Because blogging is one of my chief way of assessing progress, with a little introspection on the side. Self-assessment is essential for monitoring progress.
In brief, projects accomplished and actions taken over the past two months:
Continued coordinating and attending weekly Wednesday morning plein air painting excursions with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, with the goal of maintaining community among the painters, and maintaining if not improving my skills.
Organized and hung a small exhibit of works by the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters in the lobby of Northwest Florida State College South Walton Center, with the goal of constantly exposing young minds to plein air painting, and with the end goal of creating appreciation for the genre, encouraging young artists, and perhaps inviting future participation and patronage.
Served as coordinator for a juried exhibit of plein air paintings for my local arts alliance at the Foster Gallery, preliminary to an event we are planning for this fall.
Completed my 4 months of physical therapy for IT Band Syndrome due to knee arthritis (what a pain!!)
Vacationed in Montana for a week with my sisters from Colorado, and their families, and visited my 97-year-old Dad in his senior home in Colorado, and shared pie with my brother and his family there.
Completed a commissioned painting for a patron.
Exhibited in two special exhibits at the Foster Gallery – showing two plein air paintings in Outdoor Magic 2017, and a figurative piece in Faces & Figures.
Studied DVD’s by plein air painters Laurel Daniel and Joseph McGurl.
Below are studies and works done over the past couple of months.
As always, contact me if interested in available art or a commission.
Last February I had surgery on my left hand to reconstruct my thumb joint (CMC arthroplasty), and in November, the day after Election Day, I had the same surgery on my right hand. ( I mention Election Day because the surgery the day after the election meant that I could go through the next few days on pain medication, a relief on several levels.) I had opted to have my left hand repaired first, in February, even though the right hand was worse, so that I could know the level of disability I would have and be able to project the recovery time more accurately. The adjustment I made in February was to change from oil painting to watercolor painting, so there would be less clean up. I blogged about it under the title Adjust, Adapt, Accommodate — Painting Through Challenges. But this time, my right hand, my dominant hand, was immobilized, so I had to use my left hand express myself. Handwriting left-handed is difficult to say the least. By the time I finish writing anything, I have totally lost my enthusiasm for whateverit is I am writing about. And controlled brushwork is nearly impossible. So I switched to soft pastels, which are pure pigment, pressed into chalk-like sticks. The support I am using is 12×9 fine grit sandpaper made for this purpose. I’ve tried to keep my compositions fairly simple, being quite challenged both by the medium and by having to use my left hand. I’ve painted 3 times in the 4 weeks since my surgery. The rest of the time has been consumed with recovery, Thanksgiving holiday, and installing my part of the exhibit at The Foster Gallery, which i mentioned in my last post.
The first painting, at our weekly plein air painting session at Watercolor, Florida, was incredibly enjoyable, as I sat beside a large grouping of butterfly bushes that were sparkling with at least a hundred monarch butterflies, visiting during their annual fall migration to Mexico.
The second painting was a respite from a football game that was being cheered by my Thanksgiving week hosts and their other guests. I wanted to convey my impression of a tree I had seen a few days before. I had a photo to remind me, but I wanted to portray the feeling of awe that I had when I first saw the tree. It had turned completely red, and was dropping its leaves, but all the leaves on the ground were pink, instead of red. I did not investigate to find out why — I guess they were falling face down, so only the pink backs showed.
And the third painting was again with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters at our weekly painting session, this time at The Gulf Restaurant in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. I chose the view of Brooks Bridge crossing from Okaloosa Island to FWB, and I stopped painting when the first raindrops started falling. A tornado touched down not too far from us and a waterspout scared people as it crossed the Choctawhatchee Bay. But it was calm where we were.
Next week I will find out if I can take of my brace to be able to hold a paintbrush again.
After several months of adjusting to challenges on several fronts, things are settling down and I am returning to painting in oils. In early February, I had the first of two surgeries on my hands, to create a new joint for the base of my thumb. I chose to have this done on my left, non-dominant, hand first, so that I could plan for the disability I will have when I am recovering from the same surgery on my right thumb later this year. The surgery I had is called a CMC arthroplasty, and I am fortunate to have nearby one of the best clinics in the country, the Andrews Institute of Orthopedics right here in Northwest Florida (thank you Dr. Steven Kronlage!). I was not comfortable using my oil paints when I started painting again, what with the mess I usually make and my left hand not being of much help, so I switched to watercolor paints for a little while. Below are a few of my watercolors painted en plein air during weekly outings with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters.
I tried out watercolor canvas in my studio for the first time, and I liked it very much. After spraying several light coats of Golden archival spray (matte), the painting can be framed without glass, so the watercolor painting is open to the viewer, instead of being separated from the viewer by glass. I painted the painting below in the studio, to submit to a Cultural Arts Alliance show of watercolor paintings which Melissa Brown and I are coordinating for the A+Art Committee, whose mission is to showcase CAA member artists’ work in our Art in Public Spaces program. The show will open with a reception at 5:00 on April 1, 2016 at the Bayou Arts Center, 105 Hogtown Bayou Lane, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459. It will show through June 1, 2016.
I went to the local figure drawing session CAA holds every two weeks, thanks to Nancy Nichols Williams’ persevering efforts, which was managed by Liza Snyder this week. I should draw more often, to stay in practice, and I am looking forward to a reduction in my work hours at my job so that I can do just that. Below is one of my warm-up sketches from this week.
And finally, this week, I broke out my oils again, after 7 weeks away from them, for the weekly painting session with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, on my friend Erika Stoyer’s backyard patio. My left hand now is strong enough to be able to wipe my brushes when I am cleaning them during the painting. The day was overcast almost the whole time, with the sun peeking through just as I was finishing up.
You cannot draw and paint frequently and with intensity, without it changing how you know yourself. And with knowing yourself, comes self-acceptance, forgiveness, and eventually, compassion for others. My revelation this past week was that I am less certain that I see the whole picture. I say that with regard to my art, but also with regard to life situations.
I prove it to myself every time I pick up a pencil or a paintbrush. But this past week it was just as clear and obvious in my management of certain sticky business situations. I found I easily was able to let go of a lost cause, when I realized the customer was locked into his perception of the situation and couldn’t see the bigger picture. Ordinarily I would have struggled a good bit providing more information, but in this case, I knew I wasn’t going to change his mind, so I was able to calmly release him to his certainty that my crew was doing a bad job. And in the second situation, the first conclusion of someone having made a bad mistake evolved into someone having nearly hurt themselves badly in making that mistake, and finally to the conclusion that no one made a mistake — the situation was caused by an electrical problem and not humanly caused at all. So by not seizing on the first apparent explanation, and continuing to keep my mind open and not alienate the variously involved people in the process, I eventually was able to reach the truth. I see this as a direct metaphor for how I have to approach my drawing and my painting. I make huge mistakes when I go with my first impression, and then if I am patient with myself and with the process, I can come closer to the truth.
Blue moon is the term for the second full moon in a single month. The color of the moon is normal, not actually blue. It happens about every 3 years. Painting the blue moon is an opportunity that comes, well (forgive me), only once in a blue moon. So I had to paint, instead of beating a drum, at the Blue Moon Drum Circle last night. My dear friend Leslie Kolovich organizes drum circles once a month, usually in her studio. It had been touch and go whether we would be able to meet on the beach for the moonrise, the weather forecast changing by the hour. The night before, she and I had actually come up with Plan B in case we were rained out, creating a slide presentation of images of the blue moon (most of them tinted blue) that we found on the internet, that we would project onto one wall of her studio, sized to cover the whole wall. But we were thrilled that Plan A worked out. Being a plein air painter and a nature enthusiast, I think that anything outdoors is infinitely preferable to being indoors.
I quickly set up while the drum circle participants socialized. I used a wash of red and black acrylic paint to tone my 8×10 stretched canvas before I started. I was eliminating the stark white of the canvas, so that distracting white hollows of the canvas texture would not show underneath if my hasty brushstrokes skipped across the canvas in my hurry to capture what I knew would be quickly-fading light. I am an oil painter, and I wanted my wash to be dry before I started – the reason for the wash being acrylic.
I joined the drum circle for the stating of goals. Leslie explained that the energy and timing of the blue moon is perfect for enlisting the support of others in the attainment of our goals, if spoken out loud. We all listened to each others goals — mine to someday retire and become a full-time painter. Afterwards the group began drumming, an easy gentle beat, while I returned to my easel to lay in the basic shapes of the beach, the dune skyline, the Gulf of Mexico, and the sky. The sound of the waves added an ebb and flow to the rhythm of the drums. Occasionally someone would start chanting, and I smiled when someone led everyone in a couple of wonderful howls, calling to the moon that was still beneath the horizon.
When it became difficult to distinguish the colors on my palette, I turned on my tiny book lights — one for my canvas and one for my palette. Shortly after that, I heard someone “Ohhhhh” over the sound of the drums, and a couple of people stood and craned their necks towards the distant coastline,and I saw a glow behind one of the structures on the beach. They, with their view unobstructed, saw the reddish moon peeking over the dunes. In a few minutes I did too, a beautiful red-orange orb, bright enough to make the close clouds glow.
Every painter is familiar with the anxiety of having a nervous twitch just at the moment of laying the brush tip on the canvas to render a detail. It’s worse when you are painting a starkly contrasting color. Especially orange. “Confidence, my lady, do not fear!” And just that fast, the moon was in the painting! Soon after that, I stopped, picked up my paints and backpack and trekked back to my car. I took a photo of my painting and texted it to Leslie along with a few photos of the group at sunset.Then I rejoined the group for a little drumming of my own.
But there was something bothering me about the painting that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Later, when Leslie received my texts, she texted back, “The beach looks like snow.” That’s a common description of our sugar-white sand beaches here on the Emerald Coast of Northwest Florida, but I wondered what I needed to do to make it look more like a beach. Then it dawned on me — beach vegetation! So this morning I popped in a little vegetation suggesting sea oats in front of the dunes, and that made all the difference. I pronounced the painting Done.
Below is a pen-and-ink sketch of another one of our drum circles, drawn inside Leslie’s studio during the drumming.
Certain pursuits are referred to as a practice. We think of the practice of law, the practice of medicine, the practice of meditation. I consider my art to be a practice — I practice figure drawing, I practice plein air painting. I think of it as lifelong learning, each painting or drawing a new experience.
I stopped figure drawing a few years ago when the logistics became more difficult, and instead I began plein air painting. Now, when I go to the life drawing sessions my local arts alliance supports, I find my practice a little rusty. But thanks to my friend Melanie Cissone for bringing the local figure drawing opportunities back to life, figure drawing is getting easier again. Bohlert-Massey Interiors in Seacrest Beach, Florida, has been selling my figurative pieces and suddnely I am hard-pressed to re-supply their stock, so I am happy that my practice is paying off.
Below are some recent works from both of my practices. Click on them and use the attached form to message me if you are interested.
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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.
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.
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.
2nd Place "Marsh at Nick's Hole"
2018 St. Geo. Is. Plein Air Invitational Eastpoint, FL, and workshop instructor
2017 CAA Open Paint Out
2nd Place Quickdraw "Nature Trail"
And workshop instructor
Santa Rosa Beach, FL
2nd Place "Wharf at Glenorchy" 2017
1st place photography, 2016
Artists of Apalachicola
Annual Members Shows
Apalachicola Museum of Art
Solo show, Nov. 2013
Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet
Grayton Beach, FL