Before making a firm decision to move to the Northeast to learn to paint the rocky shoreline, I decided to test my tolerance for the winter weather by living there for a couple of months. So I found a rental in South Portland, Maine, and on this past New Years Eve I started my drive north with my cat and some art supplies. For the most part my winter gear was perfect for my sightseeing and adventuring, thanks to new insulation technology. I think my coldest venturing was around 0°F, with a wind chill of 15 below. I did need to buy some different hiking shoes – “Arctic Grip” soles are a prerequisite for safely traversing trails any amount of snow or minimal ice. My “Yak-Trax” worked well for more seriously icy walks. But my fingers nearly froze during the three seconds I would unglove in order to shoot a photo with my iPhone. Chemical hand warmers inside my mittens just couldn’t re-warm my fingers fast enough. So I broke down and bought some rechargeable electric gloves — Best. Invention. Ever. for cold-weather photography. My raingear and snow pants did well to block the wind, which was fairly constant at the shore. There were some days that it might have been warm enough to paint outdoors, but hauling my gear up and down 2 flights of stairs wasn’t something I relished, so I painted from memory and from reference photos when I got back indoors.
My experience was fairly tame, since it was a mild winter in a very civilized city. There was only one true Nor’easter and just a few storms with freezing rain. I would guess around two feet of snow fell over the two months I was there but my host did all the shoveling and snow-blowing, and the city was immediate in plowing and salting the roads.
My exploring took me as far northeast as Schoodic Point, Acadia National Park, and south to Cape Ann and Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
The area around Acadia National Park has every kind and color of rock and all of the ocean drama that I want to learn to paint. Most certainly cities have more cultural opportunities and events, but for my goal of learning to paint the rocky shoreline, it is better to be closer to my subject. I can always make day trips to the art museums in Rockland, Portland, and Boston. I anticipate that I will be more inconvenienced by the winter weather than I was in South Portland and Cape Elizabeth, but I don’t think it will be unmanageable. To be frank, the tourist season may be more of an aggravation to me than the weather. A friend of mine says our lives are ruled by the availability of parking!
And now I am back in Florida, waiting for a callback from the apartment complex where I will be renting when I move to Maine. I expect to be making the move sometime around mid-summer. I will be taking my paddle board and my canoe, but I am starting to pare down my other belongings, including my piles of paintings and drawings. Stay tuned, if you are following my Facebook page — I may be posting some amazing bargains and some freebies!
My life began taking a radical turn in a new direction a year ago while I was taking a course mentored by Dr. Michelle Gordon. The misfortune of having my official “launch” as a serious artist foiled by the pandemic in 2020 had stalled me, and Dr. Gordon’s program proved to be a good reset. The segment on healthy thinking included a fun exercise, visualizing my ideal day. I knew where this was going to go — if I could picture my ideal day, then I could start living it now, at least the parts that could immediately be put into action!
I pictured living in a grand house on a grassy cliff with giant windows looking out to sea. The view from the side windows would be the rocky cliffs receding into the distance. There would be a path down to the beach so I could easily transport my plein air painting supplies on my electric cart. The gorgeous scenery would provide infinite inspiration. Art exhibits, live theater and the symphony would be in town a mere 10 or 20 minutes away, and my daily routine would include a walk on a trail near the road. Evenings would be filled with laughter and camaraderie of small gatherings of fellow creatives sharing dinner with me, the meal prepared by my award-winning chef of course. To cement the visualization, I got out a slatted, cradled wood panel that I had picked up on a whim, and I painted the imaginary view from my house looking out to sea, and a few weeks later I painted the view I was visualizing through the side window, the receding line of cliffs. Without my knowing it, the mysterious wheels of change were already starting to turn, as I was being pulled towards my visualization. On one of my walks near my home in Northwest Florida I even caught myself experiencing the happiness of being in that ideal place — one part of my road actually was lined with the same type of grasses I imagined would be on the path through the grassy cliff!
I had no idea where this coastal cliff might be, but that detail did not matter. What would be fulfilling to me was to be in an area of exciting, endless inspiration to paint. After living for 40 years on the beautiful but flat Emerald Coast, I hungered for more dramatic landscape, scenes with a lot of angles and contrast; water crashing on sharp rocks would fit the bill. I spent a lot of time looking at the US coastline on Google Maps, looking for rocky shores with easy access, and then image-searching those areas. Northern California is supremely beautiful, as is the Pacific Northwest. But then I looked at other factors, like climate, wildfire and wind. I have vacationed on the jaw-droppingly beautiful coasts of Maine and Nova Scotia, so I started thinking more and more about New England, even though the winter might be unappealing.
Meanwhile, back to reality… A dearly departed friend used to say, “When uncertain, chop wood and carry water.” In other words, maintain routine, do your chores. For me, the chores that needed doing were necessary repairs on my house, postponed until I retired from my non-art career, and now it was time to take care of them. So, with the experienced guidance and support of my real estate friends Kim and Keen, I repaired and renovated my house and my studio and had the slightly wild-looking yard cleaned up. My contractors re-shaped the trees, graveled the driveway and carport, installed a water feature for my geothermal heat-pump, and replaced a few aging appliances. Kim and Keen then sold my house for me and my dream became a possibility.
That dream has evolved — I would like to spend the next productive part of my life learning to paint gorgeous scenery in different parts of the country — first maybe two years on the rocky coastline in New England, and then maybe a couple of years painting the spires and arches around Moab, and then possibly northern California or the Pacific Northwest, and perhaps down around Sedona or north to Glacier National Park, just letting my heart call me to the next beautiful place to paint. Or I could fall in love with the first area I go and decide to put down roots, who knows! Colorado will always be home because my family lives there, and I grew up there.
And now, just one year after visualizing my ideal life, here I am, in Maine. Actually I am here for only two months, January and February, to test my tolerance for the worst of the winter weather before I commit to moving here, and to do recon on longterm rentals. I’ve been staying in South Portland, Maine, for the month of January, exploring the scenic coast here and enjoying a little of what this sweet area has to offer. If you follow me on my personal Facebook Page, you know that I have not found winter to be a deal-breaker. February will include a widening of my circles as I look for longterm rental options. Next week I will drive up to Acadia National Park. At the end of February, I will return to my apartment in Florida to gather up my life. On the way home I will look at the coast of New Hampshire and then Cape Ann in Massachusetts.
Stay tuned to follow my adventures in this giant, intentional upheaval of my life.
And, if you have a home on a grassy cliff overlooking the sea somewhere, I would be happy to discuss house-sitting for you, if my cat Rafiki approves!
…for the prospect of an exhibit at Anne Hunter Galleries in Seaside, Florida in the spring of 2020 gave way to floundering aimlessly for a while. Did you get the COVID-Blues? I sure did!
Initially my world was turned upside-down by the abrupt closure of my just-opened exhibit and the resulting kibosh on my art marketing strategy. And then the nightly news turned ghastly, and I became a victim of what has been called “doom-scrolling” on my phone, hopping from one awful news story to the next, constantly searching for true assessments of how bad it all really was, a sure-fire way to kill your muse. My routines were disrupted completely. In a desperate attempt at regaining control over something, anything, in my life, I started having my morning coffee and doing my morning readings and meditation downstairs in my studio instead of in my quiet room. At least that got me into the studio every day. It was a start!
I have partnered with fellow-artist and friend Cheryl Ploegstra for monthly accountability progress reports on art production and goals. That helps a lot with pandemic survival – it requires a little bit of record-keeping, and record-keeping proves to me that I am not really floundering — I actually am producing a good deal of work. Sales are slow, so I am grateful to have completed a few commissions. I’ll show you a couple, later on in this post.
I’m using my more plentiful free time to to refresh my painting and drawing skills. And I continue to step outside of my comfort zone by learning new media. The illuminated letter “E” at the beginning of this post is one such effort, in which I learned how to apply gold leaf in a workshop taught by fellow local artist Elia Saxer, and I received an introduction to water-miscible oil paints in a workshop taught by Patti Overholt. Below are samples of those media.
Palette-knife painting is a technique of applying paint which I don’t use very often, so I have been practicing on a few pieces. Below are some recent efforts using a palette knife, that I completed at one of my weekly plein air group sessions.
Being grateful helps to ward off what I call the COVID-Blues. One large gratitude I have is for social media — I use it to stay inspired and to share my own work. I find Instant refreshment in the steady stream of awe-inspiring work from the artists I follow on Instagram. My account on Instagram is @JoanVienotArt. It includes my weekly plein air work, other paintings, commissions, demo’s, and workshop efforts. Posts on my Instagram account also post to my Facebook Page, https://www.facebook.com/JoanVienotArt/. Take a look — I’ve been busy!
Commissions, yes, commissions! I will paint the scene in person at your event. You can find more information about my live event painting on my Weddings page,30AWeddingPainter.com. Two months ago I painted at a garden party / birthday party, pictured below. The optimal lighting happened right after the sun went down, when there was enough contrast for the decoration lights to really begin to glow while the brilliant colors of late daylight still bathed the scene. Because the lighting effect was momentary, I ended up completing some of this painting over the next few weeks in the studio. This one was so much fun. Even the drink glasses had lights in them!
The piece pictured above was commissioned by my friend and retirement manger Shelley Albarado. It was based on a photo of the famous Fearless Girl and Charging Bull sculptures on Wall Street, as photographed by Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images. I did not paint an exact copy, but it certainly is obvious as derivative. I felt the people standing behind the bull in the photo did not contribute to the effect I wanted, so I re-composed it without them. I noted in the caption that I had purchased from Getty Images a license to use this image. That’s important to me, to always acknowledge and have the express permission of the photographer if I am using someone else’s image. After all, photographers are artists. I know that it takes a long time for a photographer to get the composition and lighting exactly right, and then to do the post-processing to enhance and improve the image. My preference is to shoot the photo myself if I am going to use reference photos, so that I have made all of the decisions about the composition, and have a memory of the atmosphere of the scene. But that would have entailed a trip into the past, because the Fearless Girl has been moved to another location.
One of the cartoons during this pandemic shows an artist at work, contrasted with an artist at work during a pandemic, and the two cartoon frames are identical. If only that were the case. Personally, I struggle to keep my spirits up. So much sickness and death! In my state alone the total number of deaths is 2½ times the number of people killed in 9/11. My hope is that I never become numb to this tragedy. If I were to become numb, then I would have to hang up my paintbrushes. As an artist, I feel it is imperative that I stay in touch with all of my feelings so that the art I produce does not become superficial. I wish health and safety for everyone reading this, and comfort in our losses.
This post is for everyone who has subscribed to my blog updates through the WordPress RSS feed over the years. (If you’re subscribed, it means that this blog automatically sends you an email each time I make a new post; it should be coming from “email@example.com” and look something like the screenshot below).
Over the last few months, I’ve taken some time to update and expand my website’s newsletter. As a result, I’m changing subscription providers. If you have been receiving email notices of new blog posts from “firstname.lastname@example.org” and want to continue to receive updates, you will need to subscribe to my new newsletter using the form below.
New Art Newsletter
I’ll be sending an email every month or so with blog posts from my site and the occasional show or art news update. I’m also offering all of my new subscribers a free download of my work “Grayton Fog.” This is a high-resolution image suitable for printing. I recommend ordering a print at your local print shop that you can display in your home or rental property. You can also use it as a digital wallpaper on your computer or phone.
I regret the inconvenience of asking you to sign up a second time; unfortunately there is no way for me to access the database collected by the RSS feed. As a result, you may receive duplicate emails if you were signed up for the RSS feed and now enroll in my new newsletter. I cannot remove you from the RSS feed emails, but you can easily remove yourself. See instructions at the end of this blog post if this applies to you.
Welcome to all new subscribers, and thank you to my long-time readers for continuing to follow my journey.
Receiving duplicate emails? Here’s how to fix that.
If you’re receiving 2 emails each time I publish a new blog, it means you’re on both the new and old newsletter lists. Unfortunately, I can’t remove you from the old list myself – but it is easy for you to remove yourself from that old list. First, identify which email sent from the “old list.” It will be sending from email@example.com and look something like the screenshot below.
Scroll to the very bottom of the email. You’ll see the following text:
You are subscribed to email updates from Joan Vienot. To stop receiving these emails, you may unsubscribe now. Google, 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043, United States
Click the “unsubscribe now” link.
You’ll be taken to the following FeedBurner page to confirm your choice. Click “Yes, unsubscribe me now.”
That’s it! Please contact me if you have any questions or issues with the process.
I have just returned from a weeklong artist retreat I shared with three friends at High Ridge Gardens near Charlotte, North Carolina. It was wonderful!
Several years ago I attended a talk by master artist Mary Erickson, and she had mentioned that artists are welcome to stay in the guest house on her large acreage near Charlotte, North Carolina. For a long time I had thought about going by myself for a week, having in the past taken marvelously inspiring and productive solo “art-vacations” in Nova Scotia and in Maine. I ended up inviting three artists to come with me to North Carolina for a week, three women for whom I have great respect as goal-driven emerging artists and as caring, sharing people: Brenda Osborne, Heather Clements, and Brenda Pinnick.
The first day, arrival at our artist retreat: Brenda O., Joan, Heather, and Sally the Goat. Heather’s photo.
Last fall Heather wrote about a solo residency that she gave herself in the mountains of North Georgia. Her personal creativity had dried up when a series of losses occurred in her life, beginning with Hurricane Michael in October, 2018, which devastated her community, damaging every single home, many beyond repair, and mowing down almost all of the mighty oaks in her neighborhood, one crashing into her house. Since the storm and until her trip last fall, Heather had been making a living teaching workshops and classes. Her trip last fall jump-started her personal production of art again. Reading it, I thought about inviting her to come with me on my artist retreat in North Carolina.
I had met Heather Clements many years ago. My fast-growing pool service business had my nose to the grindstone. The recession of 2007 brought that fast growth to a screeching halt, and that gave me time to look up and see what else was going on. I found out that Colleen Duffley was offering weekly Wednesday evening figure drawing sessions at her gallery, Studio B, in Alys Beach, Florida. Colleen invited Heather Clements to instruct the participants. Life drawing was one of my two areas of emphasis for my art degree, and I was thrilled for the opportunity to dust off my pencils, and to be guided by someone with as much command of the figure as Heather has.
I met Brenda Pinnick when I gave myself a trip to New Zealand to celebrate my retirement. Plein Air Magazine offers an annual Publisher’s Invitational trip overseas to tour, paint, and to experience the culture and cuisine, and in 2017 the destination was New Zealand. I think I only talked to Brenda a few times on that trip, but since then I have followed her on Facebook. She is incredibly productive, a wonderful plein air painter, her work easily competitive with some of the better artists I’ve seen. Brenda completed an artist residency for Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Alliance last fall.
Of the three, I probably know Brenda Osborne the best. Brenda served as the chair of our committee that arranged member art exhibitions for the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County where I live, and she also was the office manager for my business. A couple of years ago, shortly after I sold the business, Brenda sold me her car and took off sailing the eastern seaboard with her husband and her art supplies. Plein Air Magazine online wrote a story about her (https://www.outdoorpainter.com/itinerant-painter-on-the-waves/). Over the past year we have been getting together every month or two for progress reports as we work on our art goals.
So these three self-motivated and residency-experienced artists came to mind when I thought about including others on this artist retreat. Being self-motivated and residency-experienced turned out to be the recipe for success for our artist retreat.
I had had a busy year. I was the artist-in-residence for the 2019 Forgotten Coast en Plein Air last spring, one of the highlights of my life so far, combining my love of nature and natural science with my love of painting. I poured a lot of energy into it, so it was an intense endeavor, and highly rewarding. For the rest of the year, I worked on a theme of clouds and waves, my first effort at painting large canvases in studio, in preparation for a solo exhibit of 20 paintings this-coming spring. The trip to North Carolina was to be a concentrated break away from home, my personal intention being to paint en plein air (outdoors, in open air) the whole time I was there.
When I invited the two Brendas and Heather, the only structure I suggested was for each person to be in charge of a couple of dinners, with breakfast and lunch on our own, and that we would review and critique each other’s work after dinner each night. I left it to everyone to decide how much and what and when and where they wanted to paint or study or just relax. Mary’s sitting room has a whole wall full of art books from floor to ceiling, and the house has numerous paintings of her own and also by other wonderful artists, so there was plenty to study indoors too. Outdoors there were birds everywhere, and Mary has several feeders near the house which bring the birds close. I loved watching the birds, especially the male cardinals with their flashy red feathers contrasted against the golds and tinted grays of winter. A short walk past the pond and up the hill, there were two horses, Cherokee and Angel, and Sally the goat. Inspiration was plentiful. And if that wasn’t enough, the surrounding countryside and town nearby provided scenic charm. Plus Mary opened her studio to us, which allowed for more controlled study and also was a respite from occasional weather challenges. The furthest we ventured was to the Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge, about 20 miles from the house.
As it turned out, our artist retreat was more pleasantly social than I had envisioned. We all were early risers so we shared coffee time in the morning, and we bumped into each other throughout the day, sometimes sharing rides on a 4-wheeled cart called a Gator. Great conversations with a whole lot of laughter and an occasional tear, delicious food, and a shared motivation to become better artists, made for a wonderful, largely unstructured week of growth. Leaving the husbands at home probably increased our art production by at least double.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so enjoy these I am posting of the grounds and of each artists study, many of them sketches or incomplete works in progress. Message me if you are interested in owning any of the artists’ paintings shown here.
I suffered from over-choice, so many beautiful and interesting scenes on the farm. It was greener than I had expected, and the weather was mostly good, so I never got the snow scene I was hoping for. But we did have some nice, atmospheric, gray days. These are my oil paintings, all but one painted on the property at High Ridge Gardens. This page, of course, is my website, https://joanvienot.com.
As an artist, there is something different about being away from home that makes it worth missing one’s cats, dog, and family. Being away for short periods allows for concentrated focus. At High Ridge Gardens, it helped that the house had no TV. Whether solo or with others, I am convinced that an artist retreat gives me a little catapult forward in my journey as an artist. Many thanks to Mary Erickson for offering her beautiful property for such an affordable suggested donation!
Hurricane Michael’s surge breached St. Joseph Peninsula, Cape San Blas, Port St. Joe, Florida, October 10, 2018, flattening a thousand yards of ancient tall dunes and leaving behind a tidal channel between the Gulf of Mexico and St. Joseph Bay. I studied the breach along with other aspects of “Healing in the Natural Environment” as the Artist-in-Residence for the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air this past spring, making 17 paintings to exhibit and giving a presentation on May 7, 2019, at Cal Allen’s Coastal Art Gallery in Carrabelle, Florida. I subtitled the residency “Hope”, because throughout my studies and visits, I found the natural environment healing on its own at a rapid pace, as well as from the boosts it was receiving from mitigation efforts such as the students of Marquette High School in St. Louis giving up their spring break to plant sea oats and build living shorelines here thanks to Franklin’s Promise.
I found the breach to be the most fascinating “healing”. The first time I visited in early March, 2019, the thousand yard breach was a field of flat sand, and I estimated the channel to be maybe 100 yards wide. A dune-covered tree was now fully exposed on the island across the channel, and the relative size of that tree turned out to be my gauge for assessing the closing of the breach. When I returned in mid-March, my photos showed the tree to be relatively larger, due to my being able to stand closer as the sand filled the channel to a 50-yard width. Two weeks later in April the tree appeared even larger, the channel being about 20 yards across. When I returned in May, the tree was gone, the sand eroded out from underneath it, and only the tangle of old roots remained. The channel was about 10 yards across. Surveyors were there, fact-finding for plans to restore access to the island now that the sand was unstable. They told me people had been wading across the week before, although a storm had deepened the channel since then.
Florida’s Finest Ambassador and Artist-in-Residence
This is the final post of a 5-part blog (scroll down for earlier posts) about my experiences this spring as Artist-in-Residence and as a Florida’s Finest en Plein Air Ambassador for the 2019 Forgotten Coast en Plein Air, the invitational event held annually in the communities of Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe, Apalachicola, Eastpoint, St. George Island, Carrabelle, and Alligator Point, in Northwest Florida. These coastline communities together with Panama City and all points northward, encompass most of the area of Florida impacted by Hurricane Michael on October 10, 2018.
As Artist-in-Residence, my last tasks were to help hang my work at Cal Allen’s Coastal Art Gallery in Carrabelle, FL, and to give a formal talk about my work at the public reception on Tuesday of event week. I had the day off from my Ambassador duties that Tuesday, which allowed me to visit for the first time, St. Teresa and Alligator Point, at the easternmost edge of the Forgotten Coast. Alligator Point reminded me of the coastal communities of Seagrove Beach and Dune Allen when I first moved here from Colorado in 1980. Many of the roads of St. Teresa and Alligator Point are dirt, and the coastal live oak trees form a thick brush starting low to the ground at the top of the dune, the tops thickly arcing upwards to form a dome over the squatty, single story houses with low roofs, which is smart design for windstorm areas. One street in Alligator Point was closed due to erosion, and I had to detour for a few blocks. I could see more severe erosion near the “neck” of the peninsula, if you want to call it a neck, similar to the erosion at the Stump Hole on Cape San Blas. It is my understanding that barrier islands become islands when the peninsula is eroded through the “neck”.
Florida’s Finest en Plein Air Ambassador and Artist-in-Residence
The work I produced during the Forgotten Coast artist residency and the month following was hung at Cal Allen’s Coastal Art Gallery in Carrabelle, FL, last week with the help of the Carrabelle Artists Association. I gave my presentation at the event reception on Tuesday. Then the collection was moved to the event wetroom in time for the collector’s dinner last night and for the event gala tonight. The wetroom is at Ft. Coombs Armory at 66 4th Street in Apalachicola, FL. I have one space and all the rest is filled with the most amazing and beautiful works the 20 invited artists who painted this week. What a show!
A huge thank you goes to event chair Cheryl Ploegstra and her team of volunteers and the board of the Forgotten Coast Cultural Coalition, producers of the event.
Here is a raw, unedited video of my presentation – thank you Karen Weir-Jimerson for sharing it with me! And below the video are the image notes I posted with each piece, in a close approximation of the order in which I talked about them, if you play the 25-minute video as you look at each piece.
Florida’s Finest Ambassador and Artist-in-Residence
“Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.” ~John Muir
I was honored to be invited to be the Artist-in-Residence for the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air this spring. My artist residency is split into two parts over three weeks. I spent 4 days on the Forgotten Coast of Florida last week and I will spend another 3 days there again next week, continuing to study and to paint the 2019 theme for Forgotten Coast en Plein Air, which is “Recovery in the Natural Environment” relative to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael in October of 2018. My personal approach to this project focuses on Hope.
I am hosted by a sweet couple, George and Maggie Jones on Cape San Blas, just a few miles south of St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. They didn’t see much of me while I was there last week because I was out every day, observing, painting, photographing, and absorbing, from first light until sunset.