Since moving to Maine I have discovered that summertime here is very hectic, no doubt making up for lost time in the winter. Summer activities near the coast Downeast seem to begin in earnest on July 1 and they don’t stop until around mid-September or October. Sometimes the events overlap each other, and it’s hard to set time aside for the business of keeping my website up to date.
I’ve been able to get outdoors to paint once or twice a week almost every week this summer, as well as complete some commissioned work in my home studio in Maine and also in Colorado. I have a stack of smaller Maine-inspired paintings you’ll want to look through, to pick out one or two for your collection. The problem is that I haven’t uploaded them to my website yet — they are in my inventory system, which I maintain using Artwork Archive. So you will have to go outside of my website to view them for the time being. Message me about purchasing, either by using this CONTACT FORM or by using the INQUIRE button on the detail page that opens up when you click on the images that interest you in Artwork Archive. The images below are just a teaser. I’ve also included a few studies from my adventures in Maine in 2021 and 2022, prior to my permanent move here. Click HERE to advance to Artwork Archive and see what I’ve been doing.
The 10,000 hours rule postulates that one cannot become truly proficient at a study or skill until they have spent a lot of time at it – the “10,000 hours rule”. Now that the weather is warm here on the coast of Maine and I am comfortably able to be painting outdoors, I have 5 hours down and 9,995 to go, on my mission of learning to paint the rocky coastline.
There are winter plein air painters, but I think I might be just a fair weather painter. Much of my time outdoors this past winter in Maine, my first winter, was spent scouting out scenic locations and taking reference photos to document places I might want to paint. I probably can count that towards my 10,000 hours, since observation is key.
While I could have been using my photos as reference for painting rocks all winter, I have discovered that most of my motivation to paint comes from spending time with my actual subject rather than just using a photo of my subject. Beyond the initial attraction, it is by being present with it that I fall in love with it and want to paint the excitement I feel. Painting en plein air and drawing from life give me that direct connection to what I can only describe as the spirit of the imagery. I lose track of time and self-awareness (if the bugs are cooperating); that is when it is easier to pass into the state of consciousness where there is no separation of existence.
Last week the weather turned shirtsleeve-warm. I invited a couple of other plein air artists to paint with me at the part of Acadia National Park that is closest to my apartment, Thompson Island, the gateway to Mt. Desert Island. The painting above was painted en plein air.
The next day I went to the same location again by myself, this time trying to paint the rocks using just a palette knife. Some paintings you keep, and some paintings you scrape off and salvage the canvas, and that’s all I will say about that.
And the painting at the top of the page and at left was painted a few days later, with a rapidly rising tide requiring two relocations of my easel further up the shore. There are countless glacial erratics on Mt. Desert Island, rocks transported some distance by glacial activity 16,000 years ago during the last Ice Age. Balance Rock is of particular note because of its prominence on the shoreline. It was part of a granite rock formation some 25 miles north, quite obviously a different composition than the sandstone ledge it is balanced on.
On cold weather days I am practicing sketching rocks from the many photos I have taken. I’m learning to simplify, especially the myriad of surface textures.
Rocks need to be described through the planes of the surface. When painting them, I will have to be very sparing if I paint textures at all. I made the mistake of trying to paint the textures with a palette knife, last wek. After several hours and copious amounts of paint, I ended up scraping it all off, to salvage the canvas from the resulting mess. I’ll spare you that photo!
Presently I am exhibiting two works in the Acadia Senior College Members Exhibit, including the new painting above, “Shoreboats”, painted after a visit to one of the working docks I found when I first moved here last fall.
Also The Gardener, at right, was accepted into the Bangor Art Society’s juried member exhibition. The Gardener was created during the time warp at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Our world had ground to a halt with a nationwide “shutdown” and my group plein air painting activities had ceased. So my friend Serena Robison, who supplies many local retail florists from her huge garden, invited me to paint there, a welcome respite from the forced isolation and uncertainty of the pandemic. At the back you see sweet Serena, tending her garden. This is one of my most favorite paintings.
The pandemic made me realize how just valuable newsletters and web-based platforms can be. Last month I volunteered to help out with the local arts organization’s website here where I live in Maine, helping to create a Member Artists page and an Exhibits page for their website. I am most proud of the virtual exhibit / slide show I made after our most recent Members Exhibit, for people who were unable to see it in person: Spring, Sprang, Sprung.
Moving Forward with Plein Air
A loose-knit group of plein air painters in the area communicate largely through text threads, but being new, I am not yet very-well-known here. So I also opened a group on Facebook for plein air painters interested in joining up with each other to paint here. It is called Plein Air MDI, Blue Hill, and Region. You are welcome to view it, though it is in its incipient stages, and most painters seem to be waiting for consistently warm weather.
I look forward to sharing more with you, now that I am outdoors painting again.
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.
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.
Florida’s Finest Ambassador and Artist-in-Residence
Every year the Forgotten Coast Cultural Coalition hosts a plein air painting event, inviting twenty professional artists to paint the area of Northwest Florida known as the Forgotten Coast. It includes the communities of Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe, Cape San Blas, Indian Pass, Apalachicola, Eastpoint, St. George Island, and Carrabelle. On October 10, 2018, the Forgotten Coast was hit hard by Hurricane Michael. The City of Mexico Beach was decimated, and the surrounding communities also were heavily impacted. The theme for this year’s annual Forgotten Coast en Plein Air event will focus on the natural environment as it recovers from the impact of the Hurricane.