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Plein Air with One Brush, #8 Bright

Oil painting of coral bean flowers

Oil painting of coral bean flowersI have hired Saramae Dalferes to help me take the fast track in my transition to becoming a full-time artist at least two days a week by the end of the year.  Saramaeis a Nationally Certified Counselor, Mentor, and Personal Coach.  I told Saramae this week that I was going to set up a challenge for myself at the weekly plein air outing of the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters.  My plan was to paint using only one single brush for all parts of the painting, so that I would paint faster and more loosely.

Once you tell your coach that you are going to do something, there is no going back.  So today at the plein air outing, I chose a #8 bright, a brush which is approximately 1/2″ wide, with stiff bristles that are about 5/8″ long.

Our location was an exquisite house with beautiful gardens.  After walking the grounds, I opted to paint the flower of a coral bean plant that I found in an ungroomed part of the backyard.  I choose a smaller canvas panel, 6″ x 6″, unsure whether I would just be making a huge mess by using only one size brush.  To my surprise, I finished the painting in just one hour.  I had time to paint another!

For my second painting, I chose the house itself, which had a turret and a roofline with many planes.  I struggled with the perspective of the structure.  But while I was painting, I found I was less concerned with accurate perspective, and more concerned with the general “feel” of the place.  I was moderately successful, especially considering that I was still using only the #8 Bright.  The roof angle is a little confusing in my painting, and I did not correct it when I noticed, preferring to focus on color and light and shadow.

Oil Painting of Chrissie's HouseAt the critique afterwards, Sue Carol Knight Woodley mentioned that towards the end of her painting, she was thinking about the elements and principles of art, particularly the elements of line, form color, and texture.  I’ve focussed on the elements (7 in my book: line, shape, size, position, color, texture, density) and principles of design (balance, rhythm, and harmony) when figure drawing, but I confess, much of my plein air effort is simply trying to figure out what colors to mix together to get the color I am seeing, and then trying to figure out what shapes to make with that color.

While painting the house, I came to have an even greater appreciation for the skill of artists such as Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper.  I regret that the photograph at right does not show the dark blue-green of the roof shingles.  The more I paint, the more I am noticing that the camera rarely captures color accurately.

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

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Essential Character of a Place: Plein Air Nature Trail

Oil painting of Nature Trail at Grayton Beach State Park

I was privileged to paint plein air beside my artist friend Betty Cork yesterday.  I am the proud owner of one of Betty’s paintings, the bright colors of a path under the oaks of Eden Gardens greeting me when I walk into my business office every weekday.  I met Betty through the Cultural Arts Alliance.  We both drew at the figure drawing sessions at Studio b for 3 years.  And it was she who twisted my arm to be on the A+Art Committee which I now Co-Chair with Robin Wiesneth, showcasing CAA member artists work in the reception area and conference room of the South Walton Center of Northwest Florida State College.

The plein air painters met at Grayton Beach State Park this week.  Most of the painters went to the beach to paint the misty shoreline and emerald waves, but Betty and I hiked a short way up the nature trail and set up to paint under the canopy of scrub oaks. I was looking towards the sun, so that much of the foliage was beautifully backlit, but with the sun in my eyes, it was a bit of a chore seeing the brilliance of the colors.  The gnarly tree trunks were silhouetted against the bright light.

I post on Facebook photos of my work in progress and also the finished piece. I found it interesting that one of the comments on my finished piece was “That is so here!”  I wonder, what is the specific visual imagery that depicts the essential character of a place, making it “here”? In this case, I think it was the combination of the palmetto bushes underneath with the twisting shapes of the scrub oak trees.  The live oaks at the beach are very small, hugging and conforming to the dune line, sheared off at the top by the salty winds. On the bay, the same trees grow into massive giants, with Spanish moss dripping from the acre-wide branches.

One of the constrictions of plein air painting is that you don’t have a lot of time.  Because the scene before me was so chock-full of brush and foliage, my challenge was to simplify it into layers. I painted the background foliage first, so that I wouldn’t have to take the time to try paint the negative space around the foreground shapes afterwards. The gnarly tree trunks came next, and the palmettos in the foreground were last.  Betty suggested to me to put some of the oranges and very bright yellows in the palmetto leaves.  She is an expert with bright color.

Below is the start of my painting, and the finished piece.  Contact me if you are interested in purchasing this piece, with or without frame. — Joan Vienot

Oil painting of Nature Trail at Grayton Beach State Park


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Plein Air Painting in the Rain

Oil Painting of Boats in a Boatyard, Freeport, FL

Oil Painting of Boats in a Boatyard, Freeport, FL

It rained for the plein air group’s outing yesterday, deterring the less intrepid (ha!) painters. Three of us were silly enough to go anyway.  I went just to see if I could paint in the rain.  I have no idea why the other two artists persisted.  It seems like anyone with any experience would have stayed home to paint in the comfort of their studio or perhaps just gone to the movies.

I parked my pickup where I could sit under the hatchback, and set up for the morning. My shelter was less than perfect, with drips coming through the seam of the hatch on either side of me.  I caught one steady drip in an extra paint-thinner bowl, emptying it frequently, and I put a towel under the other drip.

The subject?  My nemesis, more boats!  The agreed upon location (nobody asked me) was Fisherman’s Boatyard, in Freeport, Florida.  Shapes, I told myself, you are just painting shapes.  It doesn’t matter what the shapes are, it’s just shapes.  Except the shapes probably ought to look a little bit like boats.  The colors were dimmed by the cloudy skies, and the boat-shapes were sharp against the trees on the other side of the creek.

I painted for 2½ hours before the chill crept up from my freezing wet feet into all of my bones.  My painting was unfinished when I stopped, lacking the top of the tree line, the standards supporting the boats, and the catamaran’s mast wires.  So I took a few shots with my iPhone to help me remember what the scene looked like, to finish it in my studio.

The three of us met for a country lunch at the local restaurant.  It was a good 40 minutes and two cups of hot tea before I was warm again.

One of the other artists mentioned that she didn’t care for blogs, that she felt that people don’t have time to read a blog, and it would be a better use of an artist’s time to paint instead of blogging.  I considered her opinion, and realized that the primary reason I blog is because I want to preserve my own feelings and thoughts about the process.  If others enjoy it, fine, but as long as I offer the option to bypass the blog and go straight to my galleries, then hopefully I can please most everyone.

Below are a few photographs from this weekend’s jaunt in one of our coastal dune lake state parks, Camp Helen.  I faded and increased the contrast on the first three and I increased the saturation and the detail on the fourth one.  Click on photo for larger image.

Photograph of Grasses and Reflections in Water Photograph of Scrub Oaks Following Dune Line Photograph of Dune Grasses at Camp Helen State Park, Florida Photograph of Sunset at Camp Helen State Park, Florida

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

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