Posted on Leave a comment

Middle-Aged Artists

Oil painting, study of water lilies

Oil paining, study of water liliesI sit in my studio, with the sound of soft pastels marking on paper in the background, as my friend makes a study of a peach on the other side of the room.  She is finding Art now, as the duties of raising her children near completion.  It helps that she has an eye for composition, being a photographer.  Natural talent makes her a quick student – if I show her something once, she can do it, and she is brave, discovering tricks and technique on her own.

I am realizing that this is a common occurrence.  People spend the first half of their lives doing one or both of two things, earning a living, and raising a family, and then re-discover their creative expression in middle-age.

Oil painting on canvas panel, Cattail Pond at Cessna LandingThis certainly is true in my community.  We have a loosely organized network of women artists here.  One dedicated member, Donnelle Clark, maintains the list of email addresses and the schedule of members’ homes where we meet once a month for potluck and for show-and-tell.  Each member brings one or two things they have been working on, and has 3 minutes to talk about what they have produced.  Weavings, handmade dolls, paintings, quilting, stained glasswork, story-telling and bookmaking, sometimes poetry, you-name-it, are shared in the space of just a couple hours, and I always come away amazed at the creativity.  Most of them, like my friend, have finished raising their children and now have time to devote to creative expression.

I know from my own experience, though, that it takes some effort to overcome inertia.  For about 8 years, I had been receiving the email notices of when and where the local plein air painters’ group was meeting the next Wednesday, always intending to go, someday. For 8 years, there had always been a conflict of some sort or another, and I had always allowed the conflicting event to win out.  In February of this year, I was attending some meetings on Wednesdays for a project I am volunteering for, and when I hesitantly told the chairman I wanted to start plein air painting the next Wednesday in March, she immediately changed our meetings to Tuesdays!  She honored my intention more on one shy request than I had myself for 8 years!

Of course I have to be flexible.  Last week I had to miss painting with the plein air group because I had scheduled the hanging of an art show I was coordinating for A+Art at the local branch of Northwest Florida State College on Wednesday.  I got up early and using a few photo references, painted the study of water lilies (above right) before the show installation.

Today I was again back out with the group, painting at Cessna Landing, on Hogtown Bayou, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.  The weather was beautiful, with a pleasant soft breeze and only one quick-passing shower that barely spattered us.  My painting from today is above left.

Below are my friend’s studies of a peach.  We worked with the shape, color blending, intensifying color by using compliments in the background, the shape of the shadow, and the importance of small details that identify the subject.  I demonstrated with a quick sketch, and then Leslie produced these two studies.  Her first one we agreed came out looking a little like a tomato, but the second one is definitely a peach.  It’s fun to have such a good student, with natural talent.  Look out, art-world, here comes Leslie Kolovich!

Pastel painting, Study of a Peach, by Leslie Kolovich Study of Peach by Leslie Kolovich



Share this:
Posted on Leave a comment

Plein Air: Battling With Nature

Oil painting of Tucker Bayou Through the Trees at Eden Gardens State Park

Every geographic area has its plagues, I suppose.  Here in Northwest Florida, our plagues are yellow flies from mid-May through the middle or end of June, and in late summer or fall, dog flies.  I react badly to yellow fly bites, getting a huge hive within minutes.  If I put a good anti-inflammatory cream on the bite right away, I will avert a reaction.  My plein air painting backpack is stocked with a strong repellent, and the best anti-inflammatory salve I can find.  I used both today.

We painted at Eden Gardens State Park, which is just a hop and a skip from my home.  I cajoled my dear friend, Lori Ceier, into coming out and painting with us.  Lori is the producer of my favorite website for local activities,  Lori claims not to be an artist but I think what she really means is that up ’til now, she has preferred photography to painting.

Oil painting of Tucker Bayou Through the Trees at Eden Gardens State Park

Having recently completed my training as a Reiki Master, and thoroughly convinced of the Law of Attraction, nevertheless, during yellow fly season, I still cover most of my skin with clothing and put repellent on what’s left.  I fared pretty well, until the last half hour when the frustrated flies were fairly spitting their venom.  We all stopped painting soon then, and went to the screened pavilion for our critique.  Lori took a series of Photos showing the progression of my painting, and posted them on her Facebook page for

Plein air critique is interesting.  We each put our paintings up in a row and everyone ooo’s and ahhh’s and then each artist talks about their piece, the challenges they faced, what their intentions were, etc., and then the group might offer a suggestion for this effect or for that one.  If an artist has had enough of that fun, he or she might end the suggestions by saying thank you , y’all have given me a lot of ideas, and then we move on to the next piece.  Generally though, these are what I would call “soft” critiques, in that all of the artists are so encouraging — no one ever tells you that maybe you should take up sculpture or some other art form.

I felt so brave when I was painting, daringly putting a muted purple in the trees in the background, and a bright purple in the shadows in the foreground, and painting the silhouette of the foreground tree leaves a deep red-violet.  But when I look at the painting from any distance, the purples just become dark values, not daring at all!  My intention was to paint the background trees and grasses with brighter colors and more detail, and the foreground with broader brush strokes and less detail.  I think everything turned out more or less as I had hoped, except for the color of the water.  When I put the rich red-violet trees and shadow patterns in the foreground, the water of the bayou in the middle-ground, which I had painted a light pinkish blue, became more muted by comparison, almost a light gray.

In general, I’m pleased with the overall impression of looking out at the bayou through very large trees.  The barely visible picnic tables show the scale of the trees.


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

Share this:
Posted on Leave a comment

Plein Air at Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet

Oil painting of the bridge over the coy pond at Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet

I live in an area of unparalleled natural beauty on the Gulf Coast of Northwest Florida. Many people let the palmettos and pines grow wild in their yards; others plant the usual look for Florida – oleanders, palms, and lawns. But tucked away near Grayton Beach, behind a wonderful building called Monet Monet, is a beautiful garden with flowing fountains and statuary everywhere you turn. Cheri Peebles has opened a coffee shop there, serving delicious breakfasts and pastries, and hosting wonderful music and festivities for fundraisers and general enjoyment.

After a large cup of coffee and a breakfast of quiche with my best friend, I dosed every inch of exposed flesh with repellent to ward off the annual plague of yellow flies, set up my easel and tackled the bridge and coy pond. One of those pesky flies found its way inside the wrist of my gloved left hand, the only place the repellent had not reached. I slathered a hefty dollop of my home remedy of Preparation H on the bite (best anti-inflammatory in the world!!) and picked up the pace of my painting. Below is a progression of the 10 x 8 oil on canvas painted at Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet,

Color shapes

Highlights and Structure

Oil painting of the bridge over the coy pond at Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet
Bridge Over Coy Pond at Grayt Grounds

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

Share this: