Last week I completed a painting of the early morning light on part of the hogback [rock formation running along the front range of the Colorado Rockies] at Devil’s Backbone Open Space at Loveland, Colorado, a Larimer County Natural Resources Park. I blogged about painting en plein air there 6 weeks ago, “A Quick Trip to Colorado, Paints in Hand“.
I am a believer in painting only what you experience. There is the occasional commissioned painting of someone’s scene from their own photo, or their dog or child, but I feel more strongly about the scene if I actually was there and I think that I make a better painting when I have a memory or feelings about the scene.
This certainly was true with Devil’s Backbone First Light. I blogged about looking one whole morning for the part of the hogback formation that I had remembered from my childhood, and about going the next day to Loveland to another part of the hogback with my sister and brother-in-law to hike, and then hiking it myself with my paints the following day while the sun was coming up, painting all morning, and hiking the trails again that afternoon with both sisters and their husbands and a couple of the grandkids. I was filled with powerful memories of the scene, made more significant by spending time with family there, and I had my 3 plein air studies, and my iPhotos. Only my memory held the actual lighting I wanted to portray — the photos were much less colorful than I remembered or than my plein air paintings indicated, but they provided better value comparisons and better perspective. My plein air works provided truer color, and the time spent painting en plein air imprinted certain details on my memory. If I had merely photographed the rocks, and not painted en plein air, I would not have remembered the yellow-green of the lichen and the pinks and lavenders of the sagebrush, and the tufts of grass growing between the rocks on top of the hogback.
I was thrilled to realize just how much the process had helped to make the painting. Below is Devil’s Backbone First Light, followed by the three studies I painted en plein air.
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.
I had an unscheduled week between painting in the St. George Island Paint-Out in mid-April and the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air in early May which I attend as a spectator, so it was a perfect time to take a quick trip to Colorado for a family visit. I stayed in the guest room at the retirement home where my 98-year-old Dad has an apartment, and I accompanied him to the on-premises cafeteria for meals in the daytime, but otherwise left him to maintain his routines and nap undisturbed while I entertained myself. One day I took him to the local state park, Barr Lake, where I think he enjoyed reminiscing with the ranger about old buildings that used to be in town as much as he enjoyed the scenic outing. His eyesight is still pretty good – he could see the herd of deer and a circling hawk after I pointed them out to him.
I had packed my small Guerrilla Painter kit, so I broke it out one afternoon to study the fountain in Dad’s courtyard. The light was changing fast, so I just settled for trying to get the shapes right for the overflowing bowls.
The next morning I left at sunrise to try to fine a land formation I remembered from my childhood, a part of the Hogback that we used to drive past sometimes on our way home from family day-trips to the mountains or to visit my cousins in Golden.
The Dakota Hogback is an outcropping of rock that lifted up at a slant all along and in front of the Rockies. The sandwiching layers of earth and softer stone eroded away, leaving dramatic formations of of exposed rock, sometimes so beautiful that they are established landmarks, like Red Rocks Amphitheater and the Boulder Flatirons. The part I was interested in just looks like the spiny bladed back of a stegosaurus, and the road ran right alongside it. I drove out on I-70 towards the mountains, and I exited on Hogback Road. I stopped every now and then to take photos, but I drove all the way down to Littleton without finding the formation I remembered. On my return trip, I had high hopes for an area called Dinosaur Ridge, but the Hogback was not visible from the road there. Finally I crossed back over to the north side of I-70, and there it was, although as with all childhood memories, I remembered it being significantly bigger and also dramatically lit by the sunset instead of the midday sun. Of course the road is now paved, and travel is at 60 mph instead of a bumpy 45 over gravel. So there it was, and then it was gone. But I was thrilled to have found it.
That weekend I drove to Greeley to visit with my sister Sherrie and her husband Mark, and we went to the Hogback west of Loveland, a county-maintained recreational area called Devil’s Backbone Open Space. We scouted the hiking trail for a place for me to paint the next day. We found a beautiful overlook, and the next morning I hiked up at sunrise with my painting gear, and I painted in bliss all morning. At noon my other sister Trudy and my brother-in-law Steve were joining us, so I went back down for lunch and then we again hiked the easy trail along the beautiful, craggy Hogback formation there.
It was interesting painting the Hogback at sunrise. Normally, vertical shapes are darker than flat horizontal surfaces, because horizontal surfaces receive more light from the sun and the sky. But early in the morning the opposite was true, because the sun was lighting the side of the rock formations. As the morning progressed, both surfaces seemed to be equally lit, and then finally at midday, the ground colors became washed out as the vertical rocks grew darker.
I was puzzled by the receding meadows of sage and grass. The near field was a mix of dusty-green and lavender shapes, but the more distant fields seems to be a brighter yellow-green. Normally, more distant planes become bluer and lighter, and much less saturated. I decided the Colorado air was deceiving me. But later, as we hiked along the rock formation and passed beside those fields, I saw that they actually were made up not of sagebrush and grasses, but instead they were carpeted with small, bright yellow wildflowers! When I was painting, my eyes did not deceive me, I simply did not believe my eyes!
I so enjoyed painting at Devil’s Backbone Open Space that I would like to go again, and spend about a week there. As I think about my art career which only just now is really getting off the ground, now that I have fully retired from my career in swimming pool service, this would be the ideal way to travel, going to an area and instead of trying to see it all, finding something that particularly excites me, and then spending a whole week painting it.
I see and experience so much more when I paint. If I am driving, I will stop and shoot a lot of photos, but being still for several hours in one spot, painting, affords an absorption of experience that is unsurpassable. And the process also includes just getting there! On my hike I surprised a couple of deer near the trail, and also a rabbit who eyed me warily. And on the opposite cliffs, 4 deer walking the ridge were silhouetted against the sun. The day before, we watched a kestrel trying to scare away a big owl perched on a ledge in the cliff of the Hogback. And I found the most brilliant yellow in the lichen on the rocks, as bright as any wildflower! These are things you just don’t see if you are moving too quickly. I so love the Great Outdoors, and strongly feel the necessity of preserving and protecting it. So I document it, or at least my impression of it.
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.
Opportunities materialize when you keep saying “Yes!” It’s easier to say “Well, maybe, maybe not…”, but if I do that, inertia keeps me rooted. Saying “Yes!” moves me forward and opens doors.
Recent “yes’s” include…
Painting a demo December 16 at the Open House for The Joe Center for the Arts in Port St. Joe, Florida, which in May will be the epicenter of The Forgotten Coast en Plein Air and Plein Air South this year;
Accepting an invitation to speak to the Emerald Coast Meditation Society about the Zen of plein air painting at their regular third Thursday session, 6:30 PM, January 18, 2018, Christ the King Episcopal Church, 480 N. County Hwy 393, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459.
Agreeing to give a presentation on plein air painting to the local Library in their winter programs series, 10:00 AM, January 31, 2018, at The Coastal Branch (South Walton) Library, 437 Greenway Trail, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
I think that speaking about plein air painting to the meditation group will be the most challenging. It will require me to put some thoughts into words, about things I don’t share very much. This blog will help. The first time I went to a plein air event, I remember noticing that the painters seemed extraordinarily friendly and welcoming. Most people are cordial when you meet them, but the plein air painters as a group seemed more aware, more present, looking directly into my eyes, holding my gaze for longer. It may be that they were merely thinking about what colors they would use to create the exact shade of my blue eyes, but it felt like they were more tuned in, more mindful. With few exceptions, they emanated kindness. I now know these same characteristics describe many people who meditate regularly – most seem to have more present-moment awareness, are more engaged in the immediate, have good focus, more compassionate attitudes, and generally seem to be more self-accepting and thus more accepting of others. That is how I want to be described someday.
People we know intimately often project their own issues onto us and vice versa — it seems to be human nature to have an affinity for people with whom we can play out unhealed trauma or drama. If they don’t grow at the same rate as us, then these people pass out of our lives after the lessons are learned, because we no longer fit into the box that they have built for us, which at the time we willing went into but now have outgrown. Some people project onto everyone they meet, and those are the people who use generalities, like everyone is a certain way, and this always happens. But for everyone else we in our lives, they and we present in a way that demonstrates the stage of our spiritual and psychological development. That development, I believe, is the purpose of our life. We each develop spiritually and psychologically through the choices we make and the activities of our lives. There is no one right way or better way. Every way offers a necessity of sacrifice and eventually, a transcendence of suffering. And that is what I think those plein air painters were demonstrating.
As a representational outdoor landscape painter, I try to capture the beauty that I see, and paint it onto a small canvas in just two or three hours. The fact that time is a factor requires a lot of compromise, because the light/shadows change, the weather can worsen, I might discover that I am standing near an anthill, or someone can park a semi-truck in front of my scene. At some point along the way, a good painter must commit to one time, one arrangement of shadows and light, one impression, and try to represent that impression. Otherwise, they are constantly “chasing the light”. If a painter is terribly attached to the outcome of his effort, time alone will be a source of endless suffering. Likewise, so many other aspects of plein air painting can sorely test one’s spirit. For a long time after I started painting en plein air, every painting was an epic journey. About 20 minutes into it, I would find myself wondering whatever made me think that I could be a outdoor painter. I would descend into the chasm of despair as I soldiered on, frustrated by my incapability of rendering on the canvas anything even close to the beauty that I was seeing, perhaps questioning the value of my art degree, and maybe even my right to exist as a human on this planet. I would descend into the abyss, and somewhere near the bottom I would have to accept my effort for what it was, and thus forgive and accept myself. Eventually I would paint my way out again, working out my redemption as I went. I would stop painting only when my timer went off. As if that journey was not enough, I would willingly participate in what our painting group calls a “soft” critique, where we show our paintings to our fellow painters, another exercise in courage, humility, and non-attachment. We explain what our challenges were and then the braver artists will even ask if anyone has any suggestions, the ultimate act of vulnerability and trust. Some artists deprecate their own work first, before anyone else can, inviting consolation and reassurance. Others immediately defend their painting against the suggestions they just asked for. But most will listen, and perhaps receive a few good tips as a bonus for their labor. They get to be better painters. And along the way, they gain more ability to compromise, more commitment, self-forgiveness, self-acceptance, courage, humility, vulnerability, trust, compassion, and non-attachment.
These are the same benefits that we get from meditation. And that’s what I will talk about to the meditation group. A mindful approach to anything can yield these same results. It is by facing it head-on that we are able to transcend suffering.
And then we re-attach, putting our signature on our painting. Ha!
Below are some of my recent paintings. The first series is the preparation for my demo at The Joe Center for the Arts. I decided to use a painting I had painted en plein air shortly before. When I was doing the demo, I surrounded myself with my references: my value studies, my plein air painting, and my app’d photo and watercolor sketches where I had solved some temperature and contrast problems, so that I would remember everything that I had been thinking about. The demo was about 3/4 completed there at the Open House — with Christmas season upon us, I am forgiving myself for not finishing it yet.
The following are three paintings I did on my regular weekly outings with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, and the last image is the cover for our end-of-year album for that group, a collection of the paintings the regular painters feel are their best. Click on any image to see a larger version, and click on the album cover to go to the ECPAP “Best of 2017” album. We are still collecting photos for that album.
And lastly, a photo of me painting the Martin Theater in Panama City, FL, during the Fringe Gallery’s “Everything Under $100” Sale. Photo by Julie Roberts Logsdon.
It’s about time to start thinking about New Year’s resolutions again. I prefer to think of it as setting goals to pursue, or objectives I would like to attain, or even challenges I am setting up for myself. Somehow I feel less threatened by those words than by “resolutions”, which seem to me to be things that I resolve NOT to do, like eating a carton of ice cream in one day, versus goals, objectives, and challenges which are things I plan to work towards. Here are some of mine:
Paint every day either plein air or in the studio, for 30 or 60 days, maybe longer. To do this, I plan to have a palette and brushes ready all the time, in my studio, as well as in my plein air backpack. I have ordered a whole bunch of 6×6 panels for this effort. I can use larger canvases, which I keep on hand all the time, but for this goal to be achievable, I want to be able to finish my daily painting in just 30 minutes, so it makes more sense to use small canvases.
Learn to paint shapes common to our local landscape. Or to paint them better. Shapes such as, palmettos, palm trees, blue herons and other shorebirds, tugboats and fishing boats and pleasure boats, paddlers, waves and choppy water, clouds, live oaks and scrub oaks, sand dunes, twisted dune pines, etc. If I spend a week on each of those subjects, that covers at least 2 months, without even considering that nothing is carved in stone, fortunately for this easily distractible artist, where every shiny spot of light cries out to be captured, now!
Learn to simplify, simplify, simplify!
Figure out what appeals to me about paintings I admire, and then practice that — compositional design, color combinations, contrast, development of focal area, etc.
Practice putting people in some of my paintings. Participate in the upcoming figure painting sessions to be held every Friday at the Cultural Arts Alliance’s Foster Gallery on Grand Boulevard in Miramar Beach, Florida. Learn how to use the “Zorn Palette” to create skin tones (cadmium red light, yellow ochre, titanium white, and ivory black).
Here’s my first one, painted today.
Recent paintings and studies are below. The first two, which are (first image) a pencil and nupastel quick-sketch of artist friend David Boyd drawn from a live pose, and (second image) a small painting of a posing elderly woman in her Sunday dress, were completed last May at Plein Air South, a gathering of artists for lectures, demonstrations, panel discussions, and painting sessions. I gave both to the respective models.
This painting below was painted with the DeFuniak Springs group represented by artist Jackie Wagoner last weekend.
The paintings below were painted some time ago. I retouched or completely reworked some, and others simply have been pulled up from my piles of studies. I will be taking these to Panama City next weekend for the Fringe Gallery’s “Under $100” sale.
Contact me if you are interested in any of these paintings.
at a wedding, oils on stretched canvas, 24×20, finishing the details in the studio. The plein air painting captured the basics, but I needed to tie the composition together better in the studio, which made it quite a bit more formal, and I corrected the proportions of the figures. I scumbled the chandelier, which I had greatly exaggerated on purpose because it set the tone for the scene, and I softened the white curtain behind the couple to create a glow around them, with the foliage creating a heart-shape over their heads.
I enjoy painting at weddings. It is a command performance, so I have butterflies when I first start, but they disappear soon after I start painting. Typically I have contact with the bride’s mother or the bride or couple as much as a year ahead of time, which gives me plenty of time to find out their relative heights, the location of the venue, their colors and styles of clothing, their flower colors, etc. I have a page on my website dedicated to event painting called Weddings, Etc.
I presented my one-day workshop, Effective Shape-Making and Atmospheric Perspective en Plein Air, in Ft. Walton Beach in October, and in Santa Rosa Beach in November the day before our first local plein air paint-out. The discussion and exercises centered around the use of recognizable silhouettes or external contours for effective shape-making, and exaggerating receding space by making distant shapes lighter and bluer and less detailed, perhaps even completely silhouetted, and with “soft” edges.
My goal in workshops is to give tools and techniques to the beginner, and to review and practicing those tools for the more advanced painter so that he or she may use them with more authority.
The third workshop is one I took, instead of taught, again from the instructor I consider my mentor, Morgan Samuel Price, at The Art Loft in Dahlonega, Georgia. Sometimes the learning is faster than I can absorb, and when that happens, it is difficult for me to paint. That seemed to have been the case in this three-day workshop – only one day resulted in an effective painting, and I struggled to reach a finishing point. Morgan gave me a number of suggestions, but in the end, I had to make my own decisions, and simplification, eliminating busy texture, is what ended up making it work.
I continue to paint weekly with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters when I am home. Below are a couple of little studies I enjoyed.
And there is the occasional photograph demanding to be shared…
And that brings me to the paint-outs. A paint-out is an invitation to paint any number of paintings over a period of several days, and often also includes a “Quickdraw” timed contest of usually 2- or 3-hours to paint within a particular area, the paintings to be framed and judged immediately afterwards. The first paint-out was in Gulf Shores, Alabama, produced by Craig Reynolds for the Alabama Plein Air Artists and guests. I am a member of the APAA. Living in the Florida Panhandle, APAA paint-outs are closer to me than most of the Florida paint-outs. Below are the paintings I produced there.
The Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County is the arts association where I live, in Santa Rosa Beach, FL. For 25 years the CAA has produced the Flutterby Festival, an autumn event geared primarily toward children, celebrating the migration of the monarchs and other butterflies through our geographic area. This year, they added a plein air paint-out to the event, and 20 excited and enthusiastic painters participated on the beautiful grounds of Watersound Origins. I won some awards, taking second place in the Quickdraw, and honorable mention for a painting in the Wet Room. We were allowed to exhibit one piece we had painted prior to the paint-out, in the Wet Room, so that the Wet Room would have some paintings in it right away, and my piece that was honored, Pathways Pond, is the one that I had painted on a previous outing there with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters.
And now I have some time to clean out my studio, and re-organize. I will be retrieving the paintings I have been exhibiting at the local library, and I need to make space for them. It’s surprising how quickly more paintings can fill up a space! Sometimes it fills with projects for upcoming exhibits. Our arts alliance is calling for art for the annual One Size Fits All, the requirement being that all art is produced on a 10′ x 10′ cradled wood panel. I like to use special exhibits like this as an opportunity to do something a little different. This year I painted a simple sandpiper on one of the panels and on the other one today I learned how to make an acrylic pour, marbled using silicone, and I put some coquina shells on it that look like butterflies, and I titled it Migration.
This fall I am investing my time in cultivating my community’s appreciation for plein air painting, as well as promoting my own work. Many people in my community have never heard of plein air painting, so that is taking extra effort. My local arts association, the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, is very supportive. The CAA will be adding a plein air paint-out to our existing Flutterby Festival at Watersound Origins here in Santa Rosa beach, FL, in November. I will be teaching a one-day workshop the day before the festival, the lesson being effective shape-making to start a plein air painting in a way that will offer a high likelihood of success.
Art marketers say that 20% of your time as an artist should be spent on marketing. I am spending more than 20% of my art energyright now, but I expect it to level off. I actually had intended for last year, my third year of plein air painting, to be my marketing year. The transition and adjustment after selling my pool service business took more time than I had anticipated.
As I see it, the main task is the creation of opportunities for press releases and posts on social media. To accomplish that, I have filled my calendar for the next 6 weeks.
The first event coming up is thanks to an avid supporter of the arts in my area. Cheryl Gray, herself an artist, lines up artists to show their work in the local library. I will be showing my work during the months of October and November. Cheryl sends out press releases to local media. I made my own postcard to give out printed announcements to a few people, and I posted it on Facebook and created a Facebook event. I will send a press release to several other media in my community. I regard the press releases to be of equal importance or even greater importance than the actual exhibit, because public awareness of plein air painting is my primary goal.
This-coming weekend I will paint at a wedding reception, and next week I will be framing paintings for the library exhibit. Somewhere during that time I would like to change out and replace the paintings hanging in the lobby of Northwest Florida State College’s South Walton Center. My local weekly painting group, the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, is showing plein air paintings there. My goal with that exhibit is to foster awareness and appreciation within the high school and college students attending there.
The first week of October I will be taking another painting workshop in Dahlonega, Georgia, with my mentor, Morgan Samuel Price. I want to continue to challenge myself to paint better.
The second weekend of October I will paint on-site at the library during the annual book sale, during my exhibit. The third weekend of October I will teach the same one-day workshop as I will be teaching in November, but for the arts association in the neighboring county, the Arts and Design Society of Ft. Walton Beach, FL.
The first weekend in November I will participate in a painting event in Gulf Shores, AL, and the second weekend of November will be the CAA’s Flutterby Festival and Paint-Out.
Hopefully I can breathe after that. It’s exciting, to have so many art events and activities lined up. This past year was the first year that I kept track of art expenses, after I sold my career pool service business, and as I was expecting, I spent more than I earned. It would be nice to break even this year. When I achieve that, I should be able to cut back on my promotional efforts, for the recommended 20% of my time.
I started plein air painting four years ago. I painted in the Quickdraw at the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air, my first such event. I knew none of the artists. Afterwards, I chanced to be lunching at the table next to the one where master painter Morgan Samuel Price was sitting. Morgan had just won an award in the Quickdraw. My friend and I introduced ourselves and began talking with her, the usual niceties. Afterwards, I looked up her website to see who she was, and I was appropriately amazed by her paintings, both the skill and the affect. I was thrilled when I found out that she was offering a plein air painting workshop in Apalachicola that next spring. Apalachicola is only 100 miles away from my home. It is a village with an interesting history, and great painting subjects ranging from the working shrimping trawlers and oystering boats to decrepit shotgun houses and restored mansions. What a great place to take my first workshop in plein air painting! I blogged about Morgan’s amazing patience – that was in March of 2014.
I took two more workshops from Morgan – one the next year, in Apalachicola, and one last year, in Taos. This year I signed up to take her workshop in Dahlonega, Georgia, in October. I like learning to paint in different locations – it forces me to learn to paint things that are new to me. I got a call from Morgan in late spring, saying that she had space in her Estes Park workshop. I decided to go. Having grown up in Colorado, I was familiar with Estes Park, but I had not looked at it with artist’s eyes in over 40 years, and certainly not with plein air painter’s eyes. I had gone to Estes Park for a family get-together for my Dad’s 90th birthday, but it was wintertime, and the landscape is completely different when covered with snow. So I was completely agog as we drove Hwy 36 through the foothills to Lyons and then up the North St. Vrain Canyon. My awe grew as we continued up the canyon to finally stop at a quaint cabin just north of Estes Park, which would be home base for the week.
Whether it was the demos, the instruction, my awe with the geography, or simply the good company, and no doubt a combination of all that, I enjoyed this workshop like no other, and feel that I learned volumes! And that brings me to the reason I am writing this blog, which is to attest to the value of finding a mentor and repeatedly studying with that person. Of course it certainly helps if the mentor is a master painter!
With a good mentor, you develop a trusting relationship, which makes you more receptive to their suggestions and criticism, and more self-confident in your painting. You become better at the language of painting, better at explaining your challenges, better at asking the right questions, and you learn to observe at the right times, and to pay attention to what has previously eluded you. You even learn better teaching progressions for your own workshops. You become more in tune with your own motivations and you paint with more personal authority, trusting your instinct more. And you develop a stronger eye for assessing your own work, as well as that of others. I’m not saying there isn’t value in taking workshops from different artists — I have learned from a number of instructors. But the value in a mentor is the trusting relationship that develops, which makes it possible to listen to their feedback without feeling as defensive. I confess I still have some resistance, still wanting to justify why I painted something less effectively than I could, but I am able to understand and agree much more than I used to. I also am acquiring attitudes and standards of excellence which will be helpful to me in my career.
I can’t wait to get into the studio now and start working on larger paintings! The grandeur of the glacier-carved Rockies, especially on Fall River Road and Trail Ridge Road, simply begs for large canvases. Below are the studies I did in this workshop.
As always, contact me if you are interested in purchasing my work.
I am starting to more and more realize the value of paint sketches. Even when they don’t seem to have any merit at all – I always have learned from them. Below are some of my paint sketches. In the first one, I was looking for the right colors for the mountain and the sky. In the second, I was studying the colors and shapes of some rocks, and in the third, I was looking at the difference between ponderosa pines and blue spruce.
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.
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