The clouds were threatening when I arrived at our painting location last week, at Baytowne Marina in Sandestin, Florida. The rain was predicted to come later, but I had driven through a good shower on the way over from my home in Point Washington, and I was pretty sure we were going to get another one. The marina waters were glassy flat, beautifully reflecting the docked boats. It reminded me of my experience the last time the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters painted here, in early September. That day was beautiful. Overwhelmed by the geometry of the boats and the reflections, I painted the subject with only squares, triangles, and lines (at right).
Photos of the marina before the rainstorm
But last week the weather was not so nice. After shooting a few photos of the marina, I took a walk along the shoreline boardwalk only to have the rain start. I returned at a faster pace and found a blue triangular tarp stretched over a kiosk, for shelter. It leaked. The shower only lasted about 15 minutes, and the trees were still dripping when two of the painting group, Ed Nickerson and Celeste Jones, came strolling up warm and dry. Clearly their shelter was superior to mine. Judy Dewar joined us, and we had a wonderful day of painting, critiquing, and lunch afterwards at the Baytowne Marina Cafe, which was the subject of my painting, below.
I enjoy photography, and every once in a while I play with photo app’s on my iPhone. Below is an example I posted on our group Facebook page to promote the location
It’s been a hectic two months. I will summarize with pictures.
In early November, I painted with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters at Bruce Cafe. We also had painted there last May, but I didn’t finish that painting. After we went back and painted there in November, I realized I just needed a few more dashes of color to finish capturing the essence on the May painting, so I finished it in the studio. Below are both paintings.
The next week we painted at Alaqua Animal Refuge. I had a lot of help from the young horses there. (Click on images for a larger view.)
Click painting for purchase information.
Early the next morning, very early, at 3 AM, I got up to get ready to help Helen Ballance with a television interview for the 2015 Local Color Plein Air Festival in Lynn Haven, Florida, an hour drive from my home. Paris Janos, WJHG Channel 7, was at Roberts Hall to talk with Helen about the festival, and I was one of two plein air painters providing color by painting during the multiple interview spots. It was dark when I started, so for the first time ever, I started with a black canvas. I struggled — the streetlight was stronger than my palette lamp. Things improved when first light hit the bank. Below is my painting, and my own part in the interview is at http://www.wjhg.com/news/newschannel7today/headlines/Color-Plein-Art-Festival-346679182.html.
The actual paint-out and festival was two days later, at Roberts Hall in Lynn Haven. To my pleasant surprise, I won People’s Choice Best in Show, which included a check for $300 and a solo show at Palms Conference Center in Panama City Beach in late January and February, 2016. Below is a [glare-y] photo of my painting a shot of how I look after an afternoon of competitive plein air painting, ha!
Working on a new map for the hiking trails for Friends of Camp Helen State Park (watercolor and lots of graphics work);
Painting en plein air, completed in studio, at a big wedding reception (can’t post a pic yet, because it’s still drying — the owner gets to see it first);
Starting a little arthritis maintenance which may slow me down a little next year 😥 ;
Agreeing to teach a 2-day Plein Air Painting Workshop at the Florida Chautauqua Assembly January 29 and 30, 2016, with a half-day pre-workshop on Selecting a Plein Air Subject, details at Joan Vienot Plein Air Workshop;
I’m also pleased that my three submissions to the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County’s A+Art “One Size Fits All” have sold. Below are those images — two using photographic transfer onto the 10×10 panels, and the third a plein air painting floated in the 10×10 panel reversed, using it as a frame. The photographic images remain available if you would like a print.
When I take an art workshop, it provides a wonderful break from the full-time management of my pool service business and an opportunity to fully immerse myself in my art. I counted this week as a 6-day vacation, first participating in the two-day Destin Festival of the Arts (Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation) on Saturday and Sunday, then attending a Bill Farnsworth workshop through the Apalachicola School of Art Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and finally, painting with Mary Erickson on Thursday.
The Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters had a booth in the Destin Festival of the Arts, with 6 painters representing the group. I enjoyed interacting with the festival-goers, talking to the other artists in our booth, and plein air painting one morning. A lot of work goes into a festival booth. Marian Pacsuta and her husband erected the tent, so it was fully assembled with ProPanels and wind-weights already in place by the time the rest of us arrived to hang our art on the curtain hooks Marian provided. She had a small table set up, covered to the ground with black spandex cloth. I had made some flyers explaining our group, and some group business cards the day before, so those were on the table along with artists’ business cards and a clipboard for folks to sign who wanted to receive the weekly notifications of our painting locations. To make sure the booth was manned at all times, I had scheduled the 6 participating artists and two additional artists helping, in two- and three-person shifts throughout the festival. At the end of the second day, we all converged to pick up our art and take down the tent, a feat accomplished in a mere 20 minutes. Many of us painted en plein air during the festival. I arrived early on the second day and had an uninterrupted block of time to paint my scene en plein air before festival goers came, and then I was able to add in a few people.
At 5:00 the next morning I jumped in the car to drive the two-hour trip to Apalachicola for the Bill Farnsworth workshop. Bill is one of the featured “plein air ambassadors” of the Forgotten Coast En Plein Air event in Apalachicola. I had seen and admired his work, so when the Apalachicola School of Art advertised his workshop, it was an easy decision to sign up. The workshop was billed as Field to Studio, but the 20 mph winds and rains of the remnants of Mexico’s Hurricane Patricia were emptying out on the Gulf Coast, so we just painted in the studio using photo references that Bill had brought. His demos seemed to build from silhouetted shapes to high contrast to color, first completing much of the detail of his focal area before progressing to the less emphasized parts of the composition. The first day I painted the trailered oyster boat on the left, from a photo that Bill brought, and the second day I painted his photo of a blue truck at a seafood business.
At the risk of losing my momentum here, a little rant about artistic ethics: It’s not right to pass off a painting of someone else’s image as your own. Photography is an art in itself. If someone else shot the photo, they made the compositional decisions, and probably did some post-processing. I encourage everyone to always make sure you disclose that you used someone else’s photo reference, and give him or her credit. I know there are an abundance of images available on the internet, and some artists, even recognized artists and instructors, merely download an image from the internet and then paint it. Some artists even copy other artist’s paintings, and call them their own! I’ve coordinated exhibits where artists signed a statement of ownership when their work is clearly a copy of someone else’s work! Explaining rejections of art due to ethics is difficult when people do not have the same values. Don’t get me wrong, there is a world of benefit in copying someone’s painting, especially a Master. I never learned so much as in one semester in college when I made it my assignment to copy drawings by recognized Masters, from daVinci and Michelangelo to Degas. But it’s wrong to call it your own art, without crediting the artist or photographer. I’ve even had friends download my photos from Facebook and then re-upload them without giving me credit, instead of using the convenient “share” button that Facebook provides. OK, enough about that. So I do sell my workshop paintings that used someone else’s photo, to recover the cost of the workshop, but I always disclose it and would not enter them in an exhibit or competition.
Finally, on the last day of Bill’s workshop, the sun came out and the winds died down and the birds sang! We had opportunity to paint en plein air in the morning and again in the afternoon after Bill’s demo. I tried hard to remember Bill’s focus on relative temperatures of color, as well as relative values. I painted an old but still living tree, and I painted the St. George Island lighthouse and museum.
The day after Bill’s workshop, I took a bonus day away from work, since my staff had handled everything well in my absence, my only concern being when my office manager used the words “creative accounting” to explain how she resolved a cash-flow situation, oh dear.
We found Mary at sunrise Thursday morning, and watched her deftly capture the pink and orange light on the clouds and the dunes. I decided to paint on some 4×6 miniature linen panels that I had bought by mistake, intending to buy a different size, and only 5, not 50! I painted 3 studies of the wildflowers in the changing light over the course of the day.
All in all, a fabulous week, and delivering 5 newer paintings to be shown at On The Waterfront Gallery in Apalachicola, to boot!
As if I didn’t already have enough challenge painting en plein air, I recently tried out a new color, “cobalt green” on a couple of plein air outings. In both cases, the bright color was perfect for representing what I was seeing at the time, but it challenged me because I was unfamiliar with how it mixed with my other colors. At the Ft. Walton Beach Indian Temple Mound, I painted a bushy palm study, and at Grayton Beach State Park I painted a front-lit scene showing the colors to be much warmer and brighter than when viewed from my usual position of looking into the light.
The next week our Wednesday painting group, the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, met at the restored train depot in DeFuniak Springs, and we each painted various views around the depot and the surrounding lake yard. I chose a limited palette which included cobalt violet, a color I have carried in my paint-kit for a long time, but rarely use. It mixed well to create many of the red-violets I used to tie my painting together.
This past weekend I took a workshop from Keith Martin Johns hosted by my friend Lynn Wilson through her On the Waterfront Gallery in Apalachicola, FL. Keith taught us to paint using a 9-step value-scale from white to black for our method of changing the value of our colors. I never use my ivory black. It was a bit stiff when I squeezed it out of the tube, and I realized the tube may have been as much as 30 years old! Keith and Linda had provided us with photo references, and the assignment was to take two photos with two very different kinds of lighting, one predominantly sky, and the other a landscape, and compose a 24 x 36 painting from the two photos. I felt uncomfortable with the unfamiliar methodology, so it really forced me to stretch and grow, trying something new, with a sky I never would have attempted except for having attended this workshop! My effort is below.
These below are the two photo references the instructor provided that I used to create the composition above.
Considering all of the exposure opportunities today, no artist should be “unknown”. With a little footwork and by using my few computer skills, I have solidified my presence as an artist, both in my community and also elsewhere.
First, I try to do my part to support the arts. I volunteer as a member of the Board of Directors of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, serving on the A+Art Committee whose mission is to exhibit member artists work in the community. That, plus my attendance at the local art network meetings, and now serving as Coordinator for the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, have put me in touch with many other artists and art opportunities. And I share literally everything on Facebook. My friends tell me I should be on Instagram too, but for now, I am limiting my time budgeted for social media.
Being involved in public activities gives me opportunity to have my work seen.
It all started when I suddenly found I had a lot more free time after my pool service business growth slowed during the drop in the economy in 2007. I returned to my practice of figure drawing in 2009. In late 2012, I decided I wanted to pursue my art more seriously and I hired a coach, SaraMae Dalferes, for 10 twice-a-month sessions to help me make some changes in my thinking which was very effective in propelling me into action. One change was so simple as putting intended activities on a calendar and making them a priority — it’s amazing how that simple action and a little resolve opened the doors! In 2013, after about 8 years of receiving the weekly notifications, and 8 years of having intended to do this, “someday”, I finally began painting with the local group of plein air painters. My three-year plan was to regain my skills with color-mixing and brushwork in oils, 30 years mostly dormant. Way back then, my medium was watercolor. I dug out my college-era oil paints, identified the ones that were still viable, and started putting together my plein air backpack. The next week I started painting!
While I was practicing figure drawing, in 2010 I started blogging about my work. I have no idea how many people actually read what I write — I don’t study the analytics — because the writing itself is what benefits me as an artist, helping me to realize and absorb what I am doing and how my work and my spirit are growing.
I also exhibit whenever possible at our local arts organization’s events. I filled one of the Summertime Tour of Homes houses with plein air works in June of this year for the Cultural Arts Alliance fundraiser. Also one of my paintings was juried into CAA/A+Art’s Top of the Class Show in Santa Rosa Beach, FL, and one of my submissions was selected for Celebrate the Masters in DeFuniak Springs, FL. I also showed two pieces in the annual members’ show for Artists of Apalachicola Area, and I showed two in the member’s exhibit at CAA’s Artsquest Art and Music Festival in the spring. This fall I will be showing 8 or 10 pieces in the Destin Festival of the Arts (Mattie Kelly Art Festival) with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, and two in A+Art’s One Size Fits All. I also participated in the Quickdraw timed paint-out at “The Forgotten Coast En Plein Air”, with the good fortune of selling the piece I painted, on the spot!
I have been attending the Florida Chautauqua Assembly Plein Air Paint-Out for the past couple of years, and have been asked to instruct a plein air painting workshop at next year’s event. This will launch me on the next step in my career, sharing what I have learned and helping others to enjoy plein air painting!
Also there are the donations to fundraisers, which benefit organizations I wish to support.
It takes some effort, but it has served me well. It’s one thing to be an artist, but it’s another to be recognized, and I am grateful to those individuals and organizations along the way who encourage, support, and provide opportunity. Most especially, I am grateful to the patrons who appreciate and purchase my art! Sales not only validate my efforts; they also pay for the art supplies! After all, a lot of paint goes onto a lot of canvases before one catches the eye of a buyer!
At left is “Jackson Pollock at the Beach”, which was accepted into A+Art’s upcoming show, “Celebrate the Masters”, an exhibit of artwork derivative of and inspired by a recognized master. I also painted and submitted for the same show, “Mark Rothko at the Beach”, at right, but it was was rejected. Making lemonade out of lemons, since I really love the colors and the idea, I am hanging it where I get to see it every day, in the hallway of my businesses, 331 Pool & Beach Supply and Pool Pal.
You cannot draw and paint frequently and with intensity, without it changing how you know yourself. And with knowing yourself, comes self-acceptance, forgiveness, and eventually, compassion for others. My revelation this past week was that I am less certain that I see the whole picture. I say that with regard to my art, but also with regard to life situations.
I prove it to myself every time I pick up a pencil or a paintbrush. But this past week it was just as clear and obvious in my management of certain sticky business situations. I found I easily was able to let go of a lost cause, when I realized the customer was locked into his perception of the situation and couldn’t see the bigger picture. Ordinarily I would have struggled a good bit providing more information, but in this case, I knew I wasn’t going to change his mind, so I was able to calmly release him to his certainty that my crew was doing a bad job. And in the second situation, the first conclusion of someone having made a bad mistake evolved into someone having nearly hurt themselves badly in making that mistake, and finally to the conclusion that no one made a mistake — the situation was caused by an electrical problem and not humanly caused at all. So by not seizing on the first apparent explanation, and continuing to keep my mind open and not alienate the variously involved people in the process, I eventually was able to reach the truth. I see this as a direct metaphor for how I have to approach my drawing and my painting. I make huge mistakes when I go with my first impression, and then if I am patient with myself and with the process, I can come closer to the truth.
I can’t remember the last time I painted my subject dead center in a symmetrical composition. But the live oak tree at Oak Marina had such a commanding presence yesterday morning that I decided to give it a go. It probably is 500 years old, with at least three main trunks coming up out of a common root, typical of live oaks in the wild. I remember learning when I was running a campground near where I now live, that when a branch of a live oak is plowed under, soon there will be several sprouts coming up from it, and which if allowed to grow, will form a small grove, all with a common root. Some trunks might join together, like this giant oak appeared to. It’s crown stretched at least three-fourths of the way across the water-frontage of the marina.
I was painting with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, the local group of weekly-painting plein air artists. I have volunteered to be the group’s coordinator of this year. Every Sunday I email everyone with the coming Wednesday morning location, and whoever shows up paints. For myself, I find that painting plein air with a group provides a social component that gets me out to paint when I otherwise might just blow it off, like when things are hectic at work or the weather is iffy.
The clouds came and went, rapidly changing the colors of the subject. sometimes the reflected light on the hard shiny leaves was blue, and then when the sun came out again, the colors would warm and glow. The Spanish moss swung underneath with the light breeze. The tree is so big that when you stand underneath it, it gives a feeling of rock-solid fortress-like security, but from a distance, it looked young again. This was one of those days that I personally identified with my subject.
Contact me if you are interested in purchasing my paintings, or click on the photo of the painting and a specific form will come up.
With the heat index over 100, any activity requiring intense focus, such as plein air painting, can actually become dangerous, because staying cool and hydrated is not the first thing on your mind. Instead you are focused on capturing just the right amount of rose in that barely orange chunk of concrete, or the touch of sky blue reflected on a shadowy surface. But the heat has no mercy. So only 3 die-hard painters without good sense showed up this week to paint. I was glad I was one of them — every time I paint, I learn.
I was painting with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters at Coffeen Nature Preserve in Miramar Beach, Florida. World War II bunkers and missile tracks punctuate the beautiful nature trails wending through the wild. A few small areas of the preserve are groomed for recreational use and sight-seeing. Outside of the preserve are the houses of Four Mile Village. Caretakers Bruce and Susan Paladini watch over the preserve, welcoming guests and providing information. You have to call ahead and get their permission to visit.
I have fond memories of the area. Long ago I used to visit my dear friend Jane Henkle who lived in Four Mile Village. She would take me over the dunes to the coastal dune lake bordering the preserve, and we would sketch and paint. The last time I came to the Village was to visit her daughter after Jane died.
Every time I have come to the Preserve and to Four Mile Village, I have avoided looking at the giant barn, the first structure you come to after checking in at the office. I have always thought it generally to be a monstrosity, such a big building situated in the middle of the wild, natural beauty. But yesterday in the morning light, it caught my eye.
I sketched in the light and shadows first, to help me remember what it looked like when I finished the painting at the end of the allotted 3 hours. I left the sky until last, not sure whether it was going to cloud over or not. What initially interested me in the composition were the dark openings of the doors in the broad sunlit side of the barn, but I also noticed the sky blue reflected on the shady side of the building, and the brightly lit tree in front of that side. And then I got distracted by the intricacies of the trailer full of brush trimmings, and then the light behind the sand pile! What a fun painting, every part of it!
I finished it and then drank about a gallon of water!
Uncertain whether it would rain or not, I deployed my sun umbrella when I set up to paint with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters at our weekly outing, this week at Deer Lake State Park. The beach breeze promptly blew it over and inside-out despite my wraps of rope around the stem. I was a little craftier in in how I tied it down the second time. I had to head it into the wind a little, which meant it initially was useless but 45 minutes later, it shaded my palette and canvas perfectly. And it never rained while we painted.
Deer Lake State Park contains beautiful, unspoiled, pristine sand dunes. The very long boardwalk is elevated to provide superior views in all directions, protecting the habitat below from feet beating a trail to the beach. Clouds came and went, but that didn’t matter as I blocked in the skyline of dunes and water. However, when I looked for the light and shadow the next time the sun came out, I realized I had forgotten to put my whites on my palette. I looked for them in my collection of tubed paints – nope, not there. Apparently still sitting on my table in my studio. Now what? The other painters were all a good hike away from me, so I decided to paint without borrowing white for as long as I could. I had toned the bottom half of the canvas with beige acrylic before I started, so it wasn’t stark white. The dunes were very white though, where the bare canvas showed in between the painted bushes and grass. I decided that was a good thing. I decided that I might not need white, if I could be disciplined enough to not paint where the white needed to be.
Park visitors walked past me, on their way to the beach, but some stopped to watch. They complimented my work, and some talked to me. I enjoyed that. There are times when I am seriously challenged by my painting, when I might not be in the friendliest of moods, but today’s painting was fun and interesting. Working without white made me a bit nervous, but it also provided an excuse if the painting didn’t turn out good, so I think I may actually have been fairly relaxed.
The group met in the picnic shelter back at the parking lot, for our “soft” critique, and we then packed up and met at a local restaurant for lunch.
Blue moon is the term for the second full moon in a single month. The color of the moon is normal, not actually blue. It happens about every 3 years. Painting the blue moon is an opportunity that comes, well (forgive me), only once in a blue moon. So I had to paint, instead of beating a drum, at the Blue Moon Drum Circle last night. My dear friend Leslie Kolovich organizes drum circles once a month, usually in her studio. It had been touch and go whether we would be able to meet on the beach for the moonrise, the weather forecast changing by the hour. The night before, she and I had actually come up with Plan B in case we were rained out, creating a slide presentation of images of the blue moon (most of them tinted blue) that we found on the internet, that we would project onto one wall of her studio, sized to cover the whole wall. But we were thrilled that Plan A worked out. Being a plein air painter and a nature enthusiast, I think that anything outdoors is infinitely preferable to being indoors.
I quickly set up while the drum circle participants socialized. I used a wash of red and black acrylic paint to tone my 8×10 stretched canvas before I started. I was eliminating the stark white of the canvas, so that distracting white hollows of the canvas texture would not show underneath if my hasty brushstrokes skipped across the canvas in my hurry to capture what I knew would be quickly-fading light. I am an oil painter, and I wanted my wash to be dry before I started – the reason for the wash being acrylic.
I joined the drum circle for the stating of goals. Leslie explained that the energy and timing of the blue moon is perfect for enlisting the support of others in the attainment of our goals, if spoken out loud. We all listened to each others goals — mine to someday retire and become a full-time painter. Afterwards the group began drumming, an easy gentle beat, while I returned to my easel to lay in the basic shapes of the beach, the dune skyline, the Gulf of Mexico, and the sky. The sound of the waves added an ebb and flow to the rhythm of the drums. Occasionally someone would start chanting, and I smiled when someone led everyone in a couple of wonderful howls, calling to the moon that was still beneath the horizon.
When it became difficult to distinguish the colors on my palette, I turned on my tiny book lights — one for my canvas and one for my palette. Shortly after that, I heard someone “Ohhhhh” over the sound of the drums, and a couple of people stood and craned their necks towards the distant coastline,and I saw a glow behind one of the structures on the beach. They, with their view unobstructed, saw the reddish moon peeking over the dunes. In a few minutes I did too, a beautiful red-orange orb, bright enough to make the close clouds glow.
Every painter is familiar with the anxiety of having a nervous twitch just at the moment of laying the brush tip on the canvas to render a detail. It’s worse when you are painting a starkly contrasting color. Especially orange. “Confidence, my lady, do not fear!” And just that fast, the moon was in the painting! Soon after that, I stopped, picked up my paints and backpack and trekked back to my car. I took a photo of my painting and texted it to Leslie along with a few photos of the group at sunset.Then I rejoined the group for a little drumming of my own.
But there was something bothering me about the painting that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Later, when Leslie received my texts, she texted back, “The beach looks like snow.” That’s a common description of our sugar-white sand beaches here on the Emerald Coast of Northwest Florida, but I wondered what I needed to do to make it look more like a beach. Then it dawned on me — beach vegetation! So this morning I popped in a little vegetation suggesting sea oats in front of the dunes, and that made all the difference. I pronounced the painting Done.
Below is a pen-and-ink sketch of another one of our drum circles, drawn inside Leslie’s studio during the drumming.