In early March I received an email from Susan Bohlert Smith, which began “I love your figure drawings.” The email turned out to be an offer to show my drawings at Bohlert Massey Interiors. Bohlert Massey is in the Village of South Walton in Seacrest, an upscale development next to Rosemary Beach, Florida.
I brought about 15 or 20 figure drawings to my first meeting with Susan that Saturday, and discovered that she had already printed many of them from my website as references for the type of work she liked. The next morning she came over to my home/studio and went through my entire inventory of figurative work, leaving with a dozen pieces she wanted to showcase, and directing me to produce more in that same style. Fortunately, the style she liked was my favorite way of working, using white nupastel and graphite on toned paper, and leaving less important parts of the piece undrawn. (So twist my arm!!!)
The drawings are mostly of nudes in various poses, most of them drawn at Studio b when it was located in Alys Beach. (For those of you who are asking, Studio b is presently in between locations — stay tuned.)
Figure drawing, or life drawing, as it is known in the art world, excites me as much as plein air painting, both genres produced in the moment, from direct perception of the immediate subject. Both are constrained by time, plein air painting by the changing light and weather, and life drawing by the duration of the pose, requiring complete, undistracted focus of the artist.
Bohlert Massey Interiors is my sole representation for figurative work on Scenic Highway 30A in South Walton County, Northwest Florida. They will be having a Grand Re-Opening later this summer. Check out a portfolio of Bohlert Massey Interiors at http://www.bohlertmassey.com/portfolio.cfm.
Don Demers, one of my workshop instructors last week, tongue in cheek, said “Plein air painting creates bad drivers.” He explained the hazard, that as a practicing plein air painter, one could be driving along and become mesmerized, staring at the shape or color of something, perhaps even something so interesting as the shadow of an underpass. We all laughed of course, but I recognize the truth of his statement. After practicing plein air painting for 8 days, I can’t look anywhere now without noticing wonderful value contrasts, delicious color intensities, and patterns of light leading my eye through compositions waiting to be painted.
The first workshop I attended was by invitation. Twelve painters were selected to be in the “pilot” course for the Apalachicola School of Art Plein Air Academy. Master plein air artist Don Demers is designing the curriculum, and Joe Taylor of the Apalachicola School of Art is planning the logistics. Together they will come up with a course to be offered as professional development for the advanced plein air painter. Don spent a good bit of time talking with each of us, as well as offering constructive tips with our paintings. Of most practical value to me was his suggestion to set intention before starting a painting, and then to stick to that intention. He suggested we draw “thumbnail sketches” of our intended paintings first, studying the value relationships and evaluating whether the composition would work as a whole, before we spent 3 hours painting it. Some of my sketches progressed into paintings, some were mere studies of shapes or ideas discarded as perhaps too complicated or logistically difficult (the one above left required me to stand in an ant pile; the one above right was too complicated for my limited knowledge of fishing boats).
I learned something about photography after doing one such value study, and that is that my iPhone camera does not see the light the way I do. In fact my camera hardly picked up the power of the light at all. Here’s a comparison:
I completed two paintings and a couple of studies in the Plein Air Academy workshop. Integrating what I am learning is always difficult — there has to be a period of intense, grinding focus, because painting is for the most part so visceral, and newly learned information so very intellectual. I found myself completely exhausted by the end of the first several days. I must have had every muscle in my body tensed as I tried to incorporate what I was learning. I literally came home, ate supper, and went straight to bed, for the first 3 days.
Here are a few of my paintings from the Apalachicola School of Art Plein Air Academy workshop.
Over the next few days I attended the Forgotten Coast En Plein Air event workshop with Greg LaRock and Ken Dewaard. I wish I could remember everything they said. It was fun to watch the different approaches of two accomplished artists. Both were very strong on compositional tips. LaRock often mentioned ways to lead the viewer’s eye through the painting, and Dewaard pointed out subtle color changes to look for, like the change in the tint of shadows depending on how much of the sky color they might be acquiring, or how much of the color of the ground. Hopefully I absorbed a lot of it, even though I can’t recite it. Below are the paintings I produced during their workshop. In the first one, my challenge was to make the pile of rubble, mostly chunks of concrete, look interesting, like a rocky shoreline. The paintings of the boats and of the shirts for sale both challenged me to simplify.
I actually had energy to paint a few small studies outside of class, the last several days, below. Apologies for shooting the photos slightly crooked!
NOTE: light added to 2nd painting above, at https://joanvienot.com/?p=7003
And now back to my day-job! But the shadows of those underpasses are starting to look mighty interesting!!
Coastal Georgia was a beautiful place to be, last week. I drove from my home in Northwest Florida to St. Simons Island for a plein air painting working with Laurel Daniel, a fabulous artist whose work I have been watching for years, following her blog even before I ever decided to try plein air painting. Laurel is a master at ‘definitive suggestion’ in her work, leaving out just enough of the smaller details which invites the viewer to participate. I am a fan of this kind of work, because the longer the viewer will look at the piece, the more they will appreciate it, and not just see it and walk away.
Laurel worked hard for us, teaching us to show distance by muting intensity and tapering values to mid-range, but her primary focus was teaching us to block-in the basic shapes and values before getting down to the business of painting. Each day she demo’d a different way of blocking-in, before painting luscious scenes “From Marsh to Seaside.” Her three block-in methods include dry brush sketch in a dark neutral; mid-toning with a neutral and then wiping out lighter values and adding darks; and the most difficult, blocking in with true colors at correct value. Laurel put the dark elements in the painting first, leaving the lighter values for later. Her reasoning was to get down the shadow patterns first, so that we would be able to hold onto them throughout the painting, because the light and shadows change throughout the two hours you are painting. In this location, the tide changed as well. A marsh full of water might be nearly bone dry by the time you were finishing a painting, so what started out to be a pattern of light on water, could be dark mudflats by the time you finished. Laurel blogged about her workshop at http://www.laureldaniel.blogspot.com/2014/05/marshside-palms-demo-georgia-workshop.html. We were treated to an opening of Laurel’s works at Anderson Fine Art Gallery on St. Simons Island on Friday evening, midway through the workshop. There were a lot of red dots on the labels by the end of the evening, indicating “SOLD”. I would have loved to have brought one home with me, but it already had a red dot on it, sold before I arrived. I was happy to see works by other amazing artists in the other rooms of the gallery, including Morgan Samuel Price from whom I took a workshop in April. On the last day of the workshop, my muted phone started buzzing while I was shooting some progress photos of the instructor’s demo — it was Joe Taylor calling, the organizer of the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air. I will be attending a workshop by Ken Dewaard and Greg LaRock after that event, so I thought it might be some details about that. But no. Joe started by asking me if I had received his email, and I drew a blank. I went from confusion to shock, when he said he had emailed me to ask if I would like to be one of the students in a pilot workshop that is being designed as Advanced Plein Air for the Apalachicola School of Art. I managed to compose myself enough to say Yes! So I will be taking 2 workshops, back-to-back, next week. When I set the intention of taking as many plein air workshops as I could afford this year, I didn’t know that I would be getting more workshops than I can afford! (This one will be free!) I am delayed in getting this blog posted. We had a flooding rainstorm that shut down the entire Florida Panhandle, closing roads and bringing everything to a standstill. About 2 feet of rain fell in a 24-hour period. I was fortunate that my home and business did not suffer any damages, other than a sign blown down. Many others are not so fortunate. The same storm spawned killer tornados in other states. Nevertheless, it kept me from getting back into the studio to practice my new awareness gained from Lasurel Daniel’s workshop. Here’s a quick video of the bridge over the slow moving swamp I cross every day, a half-mile from my home. http://youtu.be/3cGH-p9XM00