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Plein Air Painting Progress Report: Leaps and Bounds!

Oil Painting of Old Boat "Pompano", Nick's Restaurant, Basin Bayou, FLI am starting to see in color.  That may sound strange, but the fact is that most of the time in my normal everyday activity, I hardly pay attention to color.  When I was focusing on figure drawing, I occasionally used color, but for the most part I was focused on line, shape, and value, usually rendering the whole piece just using a black-white value scale. Now that I am painting again, I am noticing for example, when a white railing is picking up the blue of the sky, or how intense a green becomes when it is contrasted with red.  I am finding that much of what I think I am seeing as different tones of a color are actually the same color which looks different depending on what color is next to it.  I am particularly challenged by all the greens I see, when landscape painting.  If I try to mix an exact shade of green, it often seems muddy compared to what I actually see.  Who knew, that Einstein’s theory that everything is relative applies to painting as well as nuclear physics, that the better way to achieve a color is to find the color next to it which gives it the quality I want.  Resisting the temptation to launch into that as a metaphor for life, I’ll instead move on to my adventures in plein air painting over the past week.  Last week we painted at Nick’s Restaurant, and I bemoaned the fact that I know very little about boats.  The next day I decided to take another run at the featured boat, using my photo references, and came up with the piece at top right.  It was the little paprika-colored spots of rust washing out from the old nails in the hull, that gave the greens and turquoise the punch I wanted.  So I wafted a little of that color into the foreground grasses too.

Oil painting study, Bayou Grass, Point Washington, FLThis week is the largest of the spring-break tourist weeks in the beach resort communities of Panama City Beach, Seagrove Beach, and Destin, FL.  So when the announcement came that the plein air painters would be meeting at the docks again in Destin, I knew the drive would take all the fun out of the adventure, so I opted to paint from my dock in my back yard.  I had thought I would be painting my view of the creek leading into Tucker Bayou, but when I looked upstream, the color of the bayou grasses intrigued me.  My initial 6″ x 6″ study, left, did nothing for me by way of planning my painting, but rather served more like a singer doing la-la-La-LA-La-la-la scales to warm up her voice before performing.

I needed a warm-up!  The temperature was less than 40 and the wind was chilly.  But it was a clear spring day with bright light.  I roughed in the composition and then went to work on the trees at the edge of the Bayou.  The spring gold-greens of the new leaves contrasted with the rich, dark pines and the shadows underneath.  I resisted the impulse to paint the shadows a colorless dark value, which has the potential to suck the life out of a painting.  Instead I darkened my green shadows with a touch of the same deep red I used to tint the pink flowering trees in my distant neighbor’s yard.  I stuggled with the grasses, because the shiny highlights were picking up every color of the palette.  Uncertain whether I was just making a mudpie, I plowed onward through the painting, until I was satisfied I had achieved an approximate similarity to the colors I was seeing.  My two cats initially were scared by my unusual activity on the dock, but they grew braver throughout the 2 hours, wrapping their tails around my legs as I scratched some final textures and highlights into the grasses and the tree trunks.  Upon completion, I stood my painting up against a piling and stepped back from it only to have a bitter wind gust blow it onto its face, requiring repair where it had landed on an edge of a dock board.  Remembering the worm crawling across my finished painting two weeks ago, I decided that paintings are not really finished until restored from an inevitable mishap at the very end.

Oil Painting of Bayou Grass, Point Washington, FL

The day before yesterday I was excited to find a delivery frames on my package stand as I entered my driveway, so even though it was late, I spent the next couple of hours framing my earlier paintings done in November and December of last year, when I first resumed oil painting after a 30-year hiatus.  Looking at them, I realized that I am growing by leaps and bounds.  The rate of my improvement surprises me.  I thought I would progress more slowly, and even be tempted to give up, because oil painting so intimidated me, no doubt from my tortured efforts during and shortly after college.  I find I am enjoying the time limitation of plein air painting, which while still allowing for tortured effort, does not allow it to continue for very long, with only a two hour window before the light changes so much that further attempts at capturing an impression are not worthwhile.

I continue to play with my photography.  I am learning about photo-editing, taking a class in Photoshop Elements from Jackie Ward at Northwest Florida State College, South Walton Center.  She is teaching us what Photoshop can do.  It’s difficult for me to remember.  My poor brain may be overloaded, trying to run my business, my day-job, the one that pays the bills, while I try to learn more about photography and painting.  I still enjoy the easy editing that can be done with Snapseed App on my iPhone.  Yesterday I paddled my canoe on the Bayou with a dear friend, a fellow photographer.  You can’t take a bad picture at sunset!  Most of my editing of my iPhoneography consists of simply straightening the horizon line and perhaps a little cropping, but I had some fun dramatizing and saturating the photo below.

Photograph, Tucker Bayou, Point Washington, FL, Joan Vienot

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

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Painting Plein Air at Nick’s

Oil Painting of Boats at Nicks Restaurant
My view of the boats at Nicks

Today the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters painted at Nick’s Restaurant on the north side of the Choctawhatchee Bay.  When I first arrived, one other painter was already setting up.  I walked around the derelict boats and dinghies decorating the grounds, following the Bay beach to the inlet and then up around the aged structure of the restaurant itself, shooting photos with my iPhone as I went.  A painting could be made from everywhere I looked.  I settled on the old boats lined up in the front yard. By the time I had gotten my easel set-up and made a preliminary pencil-on-paper sketch to try to lay-out my composition, about 10 to 12 more artists had arrived.

Most boats around here are white, but the boat in the foreground was red, and that color was the element that interested me.  I painted nearly every other part of the picture first, saving the red boat for last.  But as I worked, I cursed my choice of subject matter, having once again chosen to paint boats, which I know almost nothing about.  My biggest struggle was with the shape of the boat in the background.  The cabin morphed into an odd shaped roof over what I presume might have been sleeping quarters, but which now sported a gaping hole, a mate to the hole in the deck at the back of the boat.  Its one redeeming feature, besides its mass, was the turquoise color of the bottom.

Boats at Nick's

A tiny sliver of the Bay on the far left, and a nondescript structure in the background were the only hints at the location, but anyone who has eaten at Nick’s will recognize the boats.  The sandy beach was dotted with little grasses and vines, and I took liberty with that part of the painting, bringing in a few taller grasses, to break up the large area of plain beach, and to repeat a few reds.

When we lined up our paintings for the critique before lunch, I again was amazed and overwhelmed by the talent in the group.  One of the artists made a comment that caught my curiosity.  He was expressing frustration about a car pulling up and blocking his view, after he had already mixed all his colors and was ready to paint.  I have never approached my painting that way, instead mixing my colors as I go.  I may have to watch him paint sometime, to see how that works.

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

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Plein Air Light

Oil Painting of Reflecting Pool at Eden Gardens State Park
Reflecting Pool at Eden Gardens State Park

Joining the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters at their weekly painting location was a short trip today.  We met at Eden Gardens State Park in Point Washington, Florida, just a half a mile from my home.   The azaleas are in full bloom right now, brilliant clusters of alizarin, rose madder, coral, and white, in a sea of green and yellow leafy trees.  Gray Spanish moss hangs from 500-year-old giant live oak trees, with resurrection-fern-covered branches so long and heavy they curl back around and down, even all the way down to the ground in places.  Magnolias, tupelos, aromatic cedars, long-leaf pines, and so many flowering plants, especially camellias, roses, and the butterfly garden flowers are punctuated by statuary, the whole of it complimenting and ready to replace the present seasonal palette of the azaleas.  Koi play between the overflowing bowls and spray feature in the large reflecting pond facing the restored antebellum mansion in the center of the grounds.

I had arrived at 9:00, which was very nearly 8:00 since we had just changed to daylight savings time this past weekend.  The early light created high contrast, with bright sunlight highlighting the east sides of the trees, the other sides colored in muted grays in the long shadows.  I painted until 11:30, but when I stepped back away from my painting to see what I had done, I saw how much the light had changed over the 2½ hours.  Gone were the muted grays, and in their place were the dark greens of live oak leaves, and the shadow underneath them had taken on a much cooler cast than the warmth I had seen in the early light.  I decided to leave the painting that way, a testament to it being painted plein air.

My Vantage Point

I walked around the park to see what the other artists were doing, and to see if they would be joining us for a critique.  When I got back to my painting which I had left fastened onto the easel support but lying on the ground, I couldn’t believe my eyes — there was a thin vertical streak going right through the middle of the azaleas, the reflecting pond, and my carefully blended grass.  I could not imagine when I had brushed against it, and with what.  Looking more closely, I realized the streak was getting longer, right before my very eyes.  There, close to the bottom of the canvas panel, was a very small worm, happily crawling through the wet oil-painted grass!  What to do?  I had already cleaned and put away all of my brushes and paints.  So I picked up a long-leaf pine needle and flicked the worm off, and then used the pine needle to drag the paint crosswise back across his trail.  I actually was surprised at how successful I was.  Within just minutes, no one could tell a worm had ever been there.
Many of the artists opted to return to work on their paintings after we finished the critique.  I made a mental note to plan on painting longer the next time I paint.  It might mean that my blog will have to wait, but it seems like I really am just getting warmed up when the session is over.  It would be to my advantage to start another painting immediately, while my color-mixing skills are at their peak, and after my eye is seeing the shapes and colors correctly.

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



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Story by Lori Ceier, on

Oil Painting of The Al-Lin in Destin Harbor

Bringing our surroundings to life a natural process for South Walton artist Joan Vienot

Lori Ceier, Walton Outdoors


Joan Vienot paints plein air along the Destin Harbor. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors
Joan Vienot paints plein air along the Destin Harbor. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

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.




Recent work from journey to North Carolina. Photo courtesy
Recent work from journey to North Carolina. Photo courtesy

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.

To learn more about Joan Vienot and her work, go to






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Rules For Being a Professional Artist



Mark Gould’s

10 Rules for Being a Professional Artist


1. Creative efforts take priority over other activities

whenever possible.

2. Simplify all aspects of life in order to think and act


3. Ensure the creative process is always challenging

and enjoyable; always balance a risk of failure

with the potential for success in order to keep

efforts honest and engaging.

4. Be the eternal student, always willing to learn.

5. Welcome other opinions—good, bad or indifferent

—but never relinquish final judgment to another.

6. Seek out people who are positive in their approach

to the creative process and welcome their

constructive critique. Avoid negative people and

their attitudes, even when personal sacrifice is


7. Think before committing time, money or other

resources to any future aspect of the creative

endeavor. Be certain that both feeling and logic

regarding the decision are sound.

8. Release to the public only those works that are

fully “competent and satisfactory,” those that are

properly executed with a high degree of creativity.

9. Never become problematic for any gallery or

collector. Be sincere and forthright in all gallery

dealings. Require absolute honesty in return.

10. Be truthful and self-aware in regard to your

creative efforts. Only then can artistic vision be

trusted and improved.

My coach suggested that I look up the 10 Rules for Being a Professional Artist by Mark Gould, published by the Artists’ Network.  She regularly suggests reading a particular book or this reference or that article, to help me to think outside of  my immediate box.  It’s not easy, this business of changing my life.  Epiphanies are happening right and left, as I discover yet more boxes I’ve been living in, which define and limit me.  A very difficult realization happened just yesterday, and that is that for more than 50 years (yes, telling my age), I’ve had my mother’s voice echoing in my head, telling me to finish my chores before I start drawing again.  Since I was for the most part an obedient littl girl, this Rule evolved into an unproductive lifestyle, artistically.  I do chores very well, and I am very good at finding new chores that need to be done.  But I have to be honest.  Certain tasks and chores are useful for maintaining a grounded life — one must pay the bills, after all, and basic housekeeping is a must.  But my idea of doing-the-chores spread into my method of running my non-art business, and essentially took over my life.  In recent years I have carved out some time and space for doing art, but yesterday I realized that I have to create a completely new psychological construct, one in which it is not just permissible, but required, to do art before all my chores are completed, perhaps to do all the art I can before doing any of my chores.  There probably is no danger in the latter ever actually happening, because the chores-first pattern is so deeply embedded.  But to break the habit, I will  need to try to go overboard the other direction.  Since my goal is to become a full-time artist at least two days a week by the end of this year, then that still allows a lot of time for chores, including running my non-art business.

I  am adhering to none of Mark Gould’s Ten Rules.  Some I might possibly be making some progress towards.  But others don’t make sense to me, or I downright disagree with, as I try to hide from the light they are shining on my life.  Certainly, I often have broken Rule #8 within my blog, showing the public many incompetent or unsatisfactory works, as befits my purpose in writing this blog, which is to share the artistic process, including the stops and starts and do-overs.  Sharing my less-than-totally-satisfactory works has made me less self-conscious.  It also has made me much less of a perfectionist, a crippling condition which can prevent an artist from ever showing their work.  But I understand Rule #8.  Though very public, a blog is not actually a “release” of art as would be an exhibit, where I would expect the viewers to come dressed in something other than their pajamas, my usual casual attire when I am drafting and publishing a new post.

I probably should write my own Ten Rules for Being a Professional Artist, and see how they evolve as I become one.

I don’t want to publish a post without an image attached, so here’s my image for today, a big overflowing bowl in the reflecting pool at Eden State Gardens in Point Washington, Florida, shot with my iPhone.  I loved the greens.  I loved the movement of the water.  I loved the reflections.




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

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