Point Washington resident Joan Vienot is on the path to fulfilling a lifelong desire of becoming a professional artist. After 45 years in the aquatic industry and only occasionally investing time, Vienot is now dedicating two days a week to creating fine art.
Growing up in the small town of Brighton, Colorado, Vienot always enjoyed drawing and painting, and knew at a very young age it was something she wanted to pursue.
“The first publication of my art was when I was seven years old. My second-grade teacher asked the class to illustrate and write stories about astronaut John Glenn circling the earth. Many of my classmates’ stories were printed in the local newspaper, but mine was the only drawing published. I was so embarrassed that my story didn’t merit publication, not realizing how special it was for my drawing to be recognized,” said Vienot.
Vienot’s passion for creating has now fully evolved into lush, colorful interpretations of our surroundings. Landscapes, figure drawings, still life and photography are just a few of the mediums Vienot has facilitated to create remarkable works of art.
Be on the lookout for Vienot’s work in local galleries in the near future. Meanwhile, you just might find her plein air painting one of our scenic landscapes in and around Walton County.
Vienot has a BA in Fine Art from the University of Northern Colorado. In addition to teaching art to high school students, she is involved as a volunteer for the arts in Walton County, serving on the board of directors for the Cultural Arts Alliance and co-chairing the A+Art Committee for CAA, which showcases member artists’ work at the South Walton Center of Northwest Florida State College.
A good friend of mine is preparing to backpack the Appalachian Trial. Last month, over the long weekend after Thanksgiving, I accompanied her on her “shakedown” trip where she tested a lot of her new gear and her cooking methodology. We camped on her mountain property near Mount Pisgah, near Brevard, NC, Jane in her fancy Hennessey Hammock, and me in my REI quarter-dome tent. Having backpacked through the Smokies and in New Hampshire, I know that much of any backpacking experience is consumed with ordinary survival — food, clothing, and shelter — and this trip was no exception, with nighttime temperatures in the low 20’s (F). Jane cooked on a lightweight backpacker’s alcohol-fueled stove, and I had my minimalist pan support with dry Esbit fuel, to rehydrate and heat our dehydrated food and make tea. But we weren’t that far away from town, so even though we were “roughing it”, our evening meals were accompanied by good wine. Each evening we would go for another walk, as if our mountain trail hikes had not provided enough exercise for the day, and then we would talk in between handfuls of “gorp” for dessert (good old raisins and peanuts) before crawling into our sleeping bags for the night.
The mountain imagery was overwhelming. Jane is a fine art photographer, so spending time with her doubled the opportunities for the mountain splendor to imprint on my soul. If there is a simple purpose to producing one’s art or vision, it may simply be to point out the beauty/order/harmony we see and to share it with those who might not have noticed. I learned a lot about the limitations and capabilities of my iPhone camera.
I came home with my head and heart overflowing with the mountain colors and shapes. Having only recently begun my return to oil painting, I was surprised to find myself wide awake and compelled to paint at 4:00 the very next morning after we got back. By compelled, I mean that there was no option not to paint — it felt like a dam would break if I didn’t get an image made. This happened twice in that week following our adventure, forcing me to focus my sleepy eyes 2 hours earlier than my usual wake-up time. I painted the 8×10″ canvas panel very quickly, finishing before showering and leaving to be on time for my day job. Above are my paintings which of course contain the colors and memories of my experience more so than the photographic references below.
Most of my images are available for purchase. Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot
On Saturday I joined at least 16 other painters at Grayton Beach State Park, in Grayton Beach, Florida, to participate in the local effort for the Oil Painters of America 8th annual Great Paintout. It was my first try at plein air oil painting in perhaps as much as 30 years, but something I have been intending to do for a long time. I have occasionally painted outdoors using watercolors or sketched with pencil or ink, but the last time I remember painting the landscape with oils, plein air, was while on a camping vacation in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1978. That day, so long ago, was memorable for being so hot and buggy. By contrast, Saturday was the perfect day for plein air painting, being shaded by the park pavilion, and virtually bug-free.
So what’s the big deal about plein air painting, you may wonder. En plein air is French for “in open air”, a phrase used to describe painting an outdoors scene “from life”, while actually looking at it, in the often changing light and weather conditions. It requires intense concentration and awareness, and is much more challenging than painting from a photographic reference in a studio. It appeals to me in much the same way that figure drawing appeals to me, because time is a limiting factor, so one must work fairly quickly, finishing or very nearly finishing the painting in one session. For that reason, and because I felt so out of practice, I chose to paint on small 8″ x 10″ canvas boards. I managed to make a passable effort on two boards.
To a certain extent, this was a trial run for me, to see how my equipment worked, and to start remembering how to paint. I used just 3 brushes — two to paint with and a third one to sign my name, and a palette knife to scratch out some bush branches. The brush I used for most of both paintings was a Winsor-Newton #6 round, sable, I think. It worked better than the stiff bristle brushes I used a month ago in my first effort at returning to oils, in the workshop I blogged about on September 9. My new Coulter System easel and palette/box that I purchased last summer worked like a charm. I used my 35-year old Grumbacher “Pre-tested” and Rembrandt oil paints from my days doing demonstrations as a high school art teacher. My oil painting medium is about that old too, and while the paints are still good, I’m pretty sure the medium is degraded. The paintings I did Saturday are dry today, one day later, but the painting I did a month ago in the workshop, in which I used more medium, is still a little sticky.
The sand dunes at Grayton Beach are made of sand is so fine that it crunches underfoot like dry snow, and it even looks like snow in the bright sunlight, thanks to the clear crystals of quartz that make up the majority of its composition. The scrubby oak bushes and half-buried scrub pines round over the tops of the dunes, shaped away from the Gulf of Mexico by the salty seabreeze. Palmetto bushes and dune marsh grasses dot the lower dunes, fringed this time of year by various yellow wildflowers that some of us locals refer to collectively as goldenrod. I never got around to painting as much as I would like to have, never adding in the finer details of shadows and sea oats. I might go back in and put in those details, but the photos I have posted here are exactly as I finished on Saturday morning.
After we painted for about 3 hours, we all got together and looked at each others’ works, and we ooo’d and ah’d before giving feedback. It was an excellent critique, with the masters of the craft commenting on areas of paintings that worked well, and areas that were challenging, and even discussing compositional tricks, like pointing out places where something in a painting might need to recede, made difficult by being light in value. (Typically, light shapes and colors tend to advance, and darker forms recede, in a picture plane. That can be overcome by muting or graying the lighter colors, shapes tending to become less bright as they recede, the way that we see things.) Everyone was kind to me, not being critical at all, but I admit that I gave fair warning, protecting my vulnerability by explaining that I had just returned to oil painting again about a month ago, and that this was my 2nd effort in 30 years. That was a fairly clear request to cut me some slack, I think. The regular plein air painters go out every Wednesday, so if I start coming regularly, I’m sure they will feel more free to make helpful comments, and I will not be so scared to hear them.
Some of the artists who were there have their work online:
In the fall of 2008, I took my second solo “artist” vacation. Once you get past the aloneness of it, there is something almost sacred about solitude. I had packed up two boxes of art supplies and shipped them to myself General Delivery at Stonington, Maine, on Deer Isle. Due south of Stonington is Isle au Haut, most of which is a part of Acadia National Park.
On this particular trek I rode out to the island on the mail-boat, intending to hike the cliffs trail. It was an easy hike to the other side of the island. I rounded the first curve and the view of the cliffs opened up in front of me. I saw no need to hike further! I ate my cheese and crackers and fruit lunch, and then set about sketching the cliffs.
I was completely absorbed for a long time. I had even lost awareness of how hard the rocky ledge was that I was sitting on. All of a sudden I was attacked, literally, by a very territorial American Kestrel, who dove at my head repeatedly, screaming at me the whole time. At first I was amused and awed by the small falcon, but after one fairly close call, it dawned on me that I might want to keep my scalp, so I stood up and raised my arms, and he flew up to the top of a nearby tree.
Shortly after that, he flew away the length of the cliffs and disappeared. I guess he just wanted to make sure I understood that this was his territory. Several hikers walked past me over the next hour or so, and I asked them if they had seen him, but none had. I was left a little unsettled by the experience, to have caused such drama just by sitting there. Usually when painting plein air, critters come either ignore me or they come right up to me. I must have posed some kind of threat. It certainly made for an unforgettable experience!