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Scenes of South Walton, 2012

A local group focused on environmental and growth issues in the mostly rural community where I live, in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, is called South Walton Community Council.  Missioned especially with protection of our fabulously beautiful, pristine environment, relative to development and community growth issues, SWCC also puts on a Back-to-Nature Festival every fall.  Last year for the first time, Hidden Lantern Gallery partnered with SWCC to produce a juried art show called Scenes of South Walton, comprised of art inspire by the local natural setting.

Aster Reflected

I decided to enter a few of my photographs this year, and I was pleased to receive notice that my work had been accepted.  I usually shoot photography for fun, for Facebook, and because I love the process of capturing images.  If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you know that I also shoot for Leslie Kolovich of The Stand Up Paddle Radio Show, but working for her is so much fun I hardly call it work.

Being a visual artist, of course, line, shape, size, position, color, texture, and density, all of the elements of composition, and repetition, harmony, and unity, the principles of composition, factor into my artistic evaluation of any of my photographs.  Ultimately, though, my chief interest in my own photography, is the play of light over the forms.  I rarely do much with post-processing, primarily enjoying the act of shooting the photo much more than the infinite tweaking that can happen after the image is on the computer.

Tree Frog

To my pleasant surprise, one of my pieces was selected for Honorable Mention.  There were works by 12 other artists and photographers, all of whom I consider my superiors in craftsmanship, experience, and sheer expression.  But my pieces do have impact, and the piece I submitted that received the Honorable Mention, “Aster Reflected“, also has enough of an abstract element to be just a little confusing.  It is a photo of an aster hanging out over the creek, and perfectly reflected in the creek.  Actually, the reflection is a more distinct image of the flower than the actual flower, which is over-exposed.  The confusion comes from there being such a perfect reflection of the aster, stems, and leaves, in contrast to some pine straw and debris that is just floating on the surface without any reflection.  When you look at it, you have to stop to figure out why there isn’t a double image of everything, how there could be just a single image, unreflected, mixed in with all the double imagery of the reflections.

Water Lily

The juror, KC Williams, didn’t mention the composition when she talked about my photograph, but instead discussed how it clearly represented an image that could be found in South Walton.  She actually talked quite a bit about each piece she that she had chosen, and also about the superb craftsmanship and artistic expression of all of the works in the show, but when mine was announced, I was smiling too wide to be able to listen.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

Juror KC Williams is Director of the Galleries at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, and she along with the Director of the South Walton Center of NWFSC, Julie Terrell, facilitate the exhibition of Cultural Arts Alliance members works through the A+Art Committee, on which I serve as co-chairman.

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Great Paintout at Grayton Beach

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.

Shane McDonald

Some of the artists who were there have their work online:

Becky Perrott

Charlotte Arnold

Rosalyn O’Grady

Margaret Ann Garrett

Jeanette Brooks Sherritze

Nancy Nichols Williams

Melody Bogle

Velda Dougherty

Shane McDonald

Matt Craven

And I wish I had the names and websites of the others there — if you read my blog and know the others, please email me with their names, and I’ll include them.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot



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The Artist’s Way Workshop

I am two weeks into a workshop on  The Artist’s Way:  A Spiritual Guide to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron.  Joyce Hogue is leading the workshop for our group of 10 or 12 women, at A. Wickey Studio-Gallery in Rosemary Beach, Florida.  I bought the book eons ago, when it first came out, and I started it several times, but my interest always waned after not even one week of studying it by myself.  One of the exercises in the first chapter, which is to continue I guess for the rest of your life, is to write 3 pages about anything, every morning.  I found out in this workshop that I don’t have to use a big notebook, so I can finish my 3 pages inside ½ hour every day.  I think using a fullsize notebook is what cost me my enthusiasm in previous attempts.  I expect the energy of the group to keep me focused.

I am more in touch with my desire to produce art now, and I expect The Artist’s Way workshop to reinforce the direction I am heading.  Anyone following my blog knows that I am not a “blocked” artist, that I have been producing quite a bit of art over the past few years, especially considering that I also have a full-time job and several part-time jobs.  Also I have been much more involved in my local art community, serving on the Board of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA), and working especially hard on CAA’s A+Art Committee.

One of my part-time jobs has been to occasionally produce photographic images for Leslie Kolovich, host of  The Stand Up Paddle Radio Show, a blog with online podcasts of her interviews of interesting people and events connected by the theme of standup paddling.  She also writes “On the Road with Leslie” segments for the Standup Journal, where some of my photography has illustrated her adventures.

So it should not be not a surprise that I took my cameras with me on my “artist date”, an exercise assigned by the Artist’s Way workshop.  I got up early last Saturday, and launched my canoe in the bayou behind my house, and paddled out on the glassy-calm Choctawhatchee Bay at sunrise.  The buoys marking the Intracoastal Waterway captured me, and my half-hour artists date turned into two hours.  I played with some of my photos right there and then, in my canoe, using an application on my iPhone.  I’ve included a couple in this post.  Most of my photography is done with my Sony Cybershot which I dearly love, but which requires a computer for any post-processing.

My practice of photography is paying off.  Next week is the opening of  “Scenes of South Walton“, a juried art exhibit at Hidden Lantern Gallery in Rosemary Beach, Florida, and I am one of the 12 artists selected for the show.  I submitted 3 photographic images.  All of the art is nature-inspired from South Walton County, Florida, my home community, as a part of the Back-to-Nature Festival hosted by South Walton Community Council.  The show opens Thursday, 10/18/12, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

The next night, 10/19/12, A+Art’s “Top of the Class” juried art show opens at Northwest Florida State College, in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.  I served as show coordinator with the Co-Chair of the A+Art Committee, Miffie Hollyday, for the production of this show.  Every member of the committee provides invaluable assistance, and I’m excited to be a part of this team effort.  Working behind the scenes certainly has given me an appreciation for the process.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

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