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Here’s a plein air painting I completed recently, from LuLu’s Restaurant in Destin, FL. It was a breezy, sunshiny day, and the bright colors of the chairs immediately caught my eye. The scene was so busy that I felt like a kid, playing with the shapes and using colors I seldom use, very different from the tones of natural landscapes.
Last February I had surgery on my left hand to reconstruct my thumb joint (CMC arthroplasty), and in November, the day after Election Day, I had the same surgery on my right hand. ( I mention Election Day because the surgery the day after the election meant that I could go through the next few days on pain medication, a relief on several levels.) I had opted to have my left hand repaired first, in February, even though the right hand was worse, so that I could know the level of disability I would have and be able to project the recovery time more accurately. The adjustment I made in February was to change from oil painting to watercolor painting, so there would be less clean up. I blogged about it under the title Adjust, Adapt, Accommodate — Painting Through Challenges. But this time, my right hand, my dominant hand, was immobilized, so I had to use my left hand express myself. Handwriting left-handed is difficult to say the least. By the time I finish writing anything, I have totally lost my enthusiasm for whateverit is I am writing about. And controlled brushwork is nearly impossible. So I switched to soft pastels, which are pure pigment, pressed into chalk-like sticks. The support I am using is 12×9 fine grit sandpaper made for this purpose. I’ve tried to keep my compositions fairly simple, being quite challenged both by the medium and by having to use my left hand. I’ve painted 3 times in the 4 weeks since my surgery. The rest of the time has been consumed with recovery, Thanksgiving holiday, and installing my part of the exhibit at The Foster Gallery, which i mentioned in my last post.
The first painting, at our weekly plein air painting session at Watercolor, Florida, was incredibly enjoyable, as I sat beside a large grouping of butterfly bushes that were sparkling with at least a hundred monarch butterflies, visiting during their annual fall migration to Mexico.
The second painting was a respite from a football game that was being cheered by my Thanksgiving week hosts and their other guests. I wanted to convey my impression of a tree I had seen a few days before. I had a photo to remind me, but I wanted to portray the feeling of awe that I had when I first saw the tree. It had turned completely red, and was dropping its leaves, but all the leaves on the ground were pink, instead of red. I did not investigate to find out why — I guess they were falling face down, so only the pink backs showed.
And the third painting was again with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters at our weekly painting session, this time at The Gulf Restaurant in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. I chose the view of Brooks Bridge crossing from Okaloosa Island to FWB, and I stopped painting when the first raindrops started falling. A tornado touched down not too far from us and a waterspout scared people as it crossed the Choctawhatchee Bay. But it was calm where we were.
Next week I will find out if I can take of my brace to be able to hold a paintbrush again.
Joan Vienot, Melody Bogle, Carol Ann Cain, Donnelle Clark, Kathy Schumacher, Krista Schumacher, Margaret Biggs, Mary Redmann, Melissa Brown, Polli Youngbeck, Robin Wiesneth, Sarah Stewart, Susan Lucas, Victoria Guennewig, and Roslyn O’Grady are the 15 artists juried into The Foster Gallery’s Winter Rotation. Depending on the sizes of their works, each artist is showing from 5 to 15 pieces. “The Foster Gallery is an artist co-operative led by the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County that features at least a dozen artists on a seasonally rotating basis, along with special exhibits. Named for the late Susan Foster, founder of the Cultural Arts Alliance and one of the area’s first professional artists and gallery owners, The Foster Gallery also symbolizes the support the CAA strives to provide for artists in our community. Conveniently located in the Market Shops at Sandestin, The Foster Gallery is available as a venue for meetings, parties, social gatherings and other small events.” (https://www.culturalartsalliance.com/local-arts/foster-gallery/) The Foster Gallery is located beside Ben & Jerry’s in the Market Shops, at 9375 Emerald Coast Parkway, Miramar Beach, FL 32550.
My local arts organization, the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, FL, produces an annual exhibit called One Size Fits All. The Call for Art stipulates that art is to be produced on 10×10 cradled wood panels 1.5″ deep. Participants can submit two panels, using either side, creating any kind of art or craft that they want. The panels will be hung at the Foster Gallery at the Market Shops in Sandestin, and will all be offered for sale for the low price of $125. The Gallery will take 40%. The artist may hang another panel in place of the ones that sell. Most of the artists who produce art for this show, put in far more value than $125, just for the fun of coming up with something creative and new. This year I produced two antiqued photo transfers and today I painted a third panel, a beach landscape, en plein air.
I was painting with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters at our weekly outing this morning. Our location was Beasley Park, on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach, FL. The sky was dark, but the sun was peaking through, highlighting the grasses on the dunes. Three or four old fence posts wandered up the dune, and a mockingbird perched on top of the nearest post. The scene was exquisite. The sun played with the scene off and on all morning, and painting was a delight from the beginning to the end.
Below are my three panels for 2016 One Size Fits All. I will turn in two, and have the other ready when one of the first two sells.
Below are pieces I have done for One Size Fits All in years past.
My art/life vision is starting to manifest. A few years ago, after more than 30 years in a non-art career, I began to get a serious itch to be done with that work so that I could paint more. I continued to paint just once a week, and often blogged weekly, and late last year I sold my business. Now, I am lucky if I can get a blog written once a month, because I am painting so much more.
There often is a social element to painting en plein air, several artists painting together, working silently most of the time, but supportively interacting before and after painting. I find I enjoy that aspect immensely. It can take the sting out of challenging experiences, and it can reinforce the successful ones. The former was the case when 4 of us painted at Coastal Dune Lake Appreciation Day at Grayton Beach State Park in September. The weather was threatening, and the food vendor left soon after the festival started. There event was not very well attended, and our pavilion became the gathering place for the few die-hard sponsors and supporters. But we had each other, and that kept us there painting through the drizzle. At right is the painting I completed, showing the rich reds underneath the near grasses and bushes, and the beach dunes in the background.
I also enjoyed my first plein air painters trip that was independent of any festival or workshop. Three of us went to the mountains of North Georgia and North Carolina to paint for half a week. Our host, Theresia McInnis, had researched and mapped out a number of wonderful, scenic locations for us to paint, and we were absolutely in heaven. Below are the paintings I completed on that trip. I am happy to report that the painting titled Dry Falls sold to a tourist right off my easel.
The annual Bagdad-Milton (near Pensacola, FL) plein air “paint-out” was Saturday, October 1, 2016. I was honored to win Best in Show. The judge was Fred Myers, retired professor of Fine Art (University of Northern Colorado, my alma mater). He said that he initially judges art on two primary qualities — Does it invite you in? And does it have unity? The exhibit of plein air paintings produced that day will hang at the Santa Rosa Arts and Culture Foundation’s Dragonfly Gallery at 6815 Caroline Street in Milton, FL 32570 until November 11, 2016.
Gallerist Sally Miller invited the Pensacola area plein air painters to tour interesting scenes in Milton and Bagdad the day before the event.
Both days were exceptional, a clear and sunny 62° in the morning and 80° midday. On Saturday, the day of the paint-out contest, all artists were asked to go to the gallery first, have their blank canvases stamped to certify that the canvases indeed were blank, and then everyone went out to paint. I chose to paint at the Bagdad Boat Landing, one of the locations we had visited on Friday. There were many possible scenes there. The one I had liked on mid-morning on our Friday tour, two chairs on a dock walkway, backed by kayaks and a ton of nautical stuff under a house, did not have the same light early Saturday, so I looked again at the flower-lined fenced entryway to a house, the view from the private dock, and finally, a neighboring yard where a big bull mastiff glared and barked at me from the other side of the fenced until he figured out I wasn’t going away. I painted his yard. We were friends by the time I finished painting.
I am working with a new, smaller, James Coulter palette, and I am leaving my leftover oil paints on the palette, stowing it in the freezer at night. The paints are staying workable for longer than they would if I didn’t keep them in the freezer, but even so, I often find them at different consistencies the next time I use the palette. That was certainly true on Saturday, but once I start painting en plein air, it seems like the challenges just become part of the process. More than once it occurred to me to scrape out the old paint and squeeze new paint onto my palette, but somehow that seemed like it would take up too much valuable time. I was painting on a larger canvas than I usually use, 12 x 24, and I knew I had a lot to cover, so I hung in there, using a medium to modify the paint consistency, finishing at the stroke of noon, right on time. It took six minutes to pack up to go, 8 minutes to drive back to the gallery, and 15 minutes to unload and frame and wire my painting, turning it in at the last minute, at 12:30, for the judging.
Below is my painting as completed there in the paint-out.
Joan Vienot painting, photo by Morgan Samuel Price at MSP workshop in Taos, NM, August, 2016. At right is the painting Joan was working on: https://joanvienot.com/galleries/landscape/attachment/2016-0817-taos-storm-coming.
In mid-August I traveled from my home in Northwest Florida, to Taos, New Mexico, for a plein air workshop with my favorite instructor and friend, Morgan Samuel Price. I traveled with Beckie Perrott, also my friend and a member of the group I paint with every week, the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters.
The sunlight is positively beautiful in Taos, especially early in the morning. The landscape is greener than I had imagined it would be, probably because it rained usually once a day.
Beckie and I stayed at the extraordinary B&B called Adobe & Pines Inn, which I rate with 5 stars! Our host, Christine, was so sweet and accommodating, and prepared fantastic breakfasts for us every day.
One of the artists in the class was local — Don Wallis, who helped find interesting places for us to paint, and shared his studio one afternoon when it was too rainy to paint outdoors..
Much of what Morgan taught seemed to me to be the first time I heard it, but she said she teaches generally the same concepts in every class. Maybe it has taken me three workshops to hear what she is saying!!
Below are the paintings I produced in Taos, each done with specific goals from what I was learning. Several are quite small, my intention being to make little practice pieces before I dug in with the concept I wanted to focus on. There were so many shapes I had never painted before — by painting a practice piece first, I was hopeful that the subject then in the second painting would not present as much of a challenge, so that I could pay more attention to the goal of the lesson. This strategy was not very successful — most of the time I bogged down and used up all the painting time on the practice pieces, leaving precious little time to do a second painting!
Labyrinth at Adobe & Pines Inn, Taos, NM
San Francisco de Asis Mission, Taos, NM
San Francisco de Asis Mission, Taos, NM
Wildflowers in the back 40 at Overland Sheepskin Co., Taos
There were 4 — one got away unpainted!
Sage in bloom, Taos
Taos Art Supply Courtyard
Bridge at Hacienda Martinez, Taos, painted indoors, photo reference provided by the instructor. The other paintings were done en plein air.
Heat index is a calculation combining actual temperature with humidity, the result being what the temperature actually feels like, and a good gauge of the stress one suffers in the environment. Plein air painters paint in the open air, so they regularly subject themselves to extreme weather, often without realizing it, since they are absorbed in painting. That was the case when I painted with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters at the E. O. Wilson Biophilia Center near Freeport, FL, this week. We were met by our most gracious guide, Laura Leslie-Sell, herself an artist, who took us on a short tour of the nearby grounds, showing us an old house on the property, with fat, happy, free-range chickens scratching in the dirt, and the tortoise area, where we saw numerous gopher tortoise burrows, and then through the hammock and down towards the creek, and finally back up past the rescued eagle, hawk, and bobcats. Also on the grounds, too distant to trek to, is a large bog filled with pitcher plants, a carnivorous plant that has fascinated me since I saw them for the first time when I moved to Florida years ago. Laura showed us a small patch the Center had for display purposes, and I decided they would be my subject for the day.
Back to the heat index… I set up my umbrella and easel and got to work on my pitcher plants. The shape of the pitcher plant is what interests me the most, a slender tube with a flap suspended over the top, inviting insects to come in to be dinner. With so many grouped together, they presented quite the challenge with the brush size I was using. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. But when it grew time for our soft critique and I began picking up my paints, I discovered that slight bit of disorientation I know is my first symptom of heat stress. I checked my weather app on my phone: the heat index was 107 degrees!!! I had known it was a scorcher; I had drank my refillable bottle of water and the can of LaCroix that I had brought but clearly it was hotter than I was able to endure for much longer. I quickly cleaned up and set out to find the other painters, to check on them. They all seemed fine, and one was painting on the shady front porch of the Center, where the air was moving a little bit. I was reminded of an instructor who said, regarding scene selection, that first she finds a nice, shady place, sets up her easel and palette, and then she turns around in a circle and looks for something to paint. That’s the wisdom of experience!
While I was employed full-time in my own business, managing the maintenance of 300+ swimming pools, some commercial, some residential, some high-use vacation rentals, in the resort area of South Walton County, in NW Florida, I was doing good to paint just once a week. I thought that as soon as I sold my business, I would immediately start painting every day. That has not yet turned out to be the case, although it is still a future goal. Currently I am painting for the most part still only just once a week en plein air, while I continue to provide consulting services to ‘my’ business, and while I get my home life organized and start building the business foundation for my art career. I feel very impatient, and it seems like life is moving like molasses, but then I look back and I see that mountains of change have happened. I trust that my closest friends for the most part forgive my thin patience as I find myself feeling stressed nearly to the breaking point. I have resumed more frequent stand-up paddleboarding now that my left hand has healed from CMC arthroscopy and that makes a huge difference in my “Zen”! Also I began recovering neglected friendships this week, grateful that the people in my community are so rock-solid.
As I work on releasing an employment identity I have had for 35 years, I remember that I also have always identified as an artist. It’s just that there is a big difference between being a hobbyist, and being a career artist. My experience in business will be an asset. For now I am using the shoe-box method of accounting, and I am studying marketing, and I am continuing to improve my technique.
And that leads me to tell you of the encouragement I received from my dear friend this morning when I mentioned my plans for the day. “Paint your heart out!” she texted me. So I did, and I was pleased with my result, an oil painting of the dunes south of Western Lake at Grayton Beach State Park. In the distant background are the iconic “umbrella trees”, with the sugar white sand dunes topped by odd clumps of live oak, slash pine, and wild rosemary, pruned by the wind and the salt spray. I resisted the temptation to put the sweet yellow and red Indian Blanket flowers in the near foreground, since my intention was to capture the more distant skyline. The Indian Blankets will have to be painted another day. Below is today’s painting, 8×10, oil on linen panel.
Last week we painted at Ft. Walton Landing Park in Ft. Walton Beach. An simple orange dinghy caught my eye, my interest being the strong orange light and shadow, as well as the interesting shape. I scrubbed it out twice before I painted it the size I wanted, and then solved a compositional problem by adding another piling on the right. (Thank you for the tip, Weezie.)
And the week before last, we painted at the amazing, beautiful “impossibly blue” Morrison Springs, near Ponce de Leon. I got caught up in the staccato of “impossible greens” shining through the dark cypress at the edge of the spring.
It’s been a good several weeks. Today I mentored a fellow painter on compositional conventions, and I coached her to use tools available to her in today’s day and age, namely, her phone-camera, which serves as an excellent viewfinder. I use mine all the time, often taking a number shots or more before I decide on a particular viewpoint and framing of a composition, and then from there perhaps moving an element or two to create better balance, rhythm, and harmony. In fact, I am making images all the time, with my camera, and I am convinced that it has strongly boosted my feel for good composition.
For people who live on the Emerald Coast or people visiting from Ft. Walton – Destin – Santa Rosa Beach – eastern Panama City Beach areas, if you would like to receive notification of our weekly Wednesday painting sessions, email me at PleinAirEmeraldCoast at gmail.com. I serve as coordinator for the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, which merely means that I am in charge of email!
Sixteen members of our group are exhibiting works at Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast now through August 31, 2016. Stop on by!
Jan Faubel, Educational Advisor and Adjunct Professor at Northwest Florida State College, is a member of the DeFuniak Springs Art Co-Op, and she has taken on the task of writing about each member for the local paper, the DeFuniak Springs Herald Beach Breeze. Ms. Faubel has Masters Degrees in Art Education, Humanities – Art History, and English Literature. Following are the three chapters she wrote about artist Joan Vienot, published April 7, 14, and 21, 2016.
Fresh off the Easel, Part 1, By Jan Faubel
Plein Air painter, extraordinaire, Joan Vienot of Santa Rosa Beach, embraces oils, watercolor, and graphite, as well as nupastel media to capture both the beauty of landscapes and the nuances of the human figure. “Plein Air,” refers to painting outdoor, on site, rather than in the studio, and completing at least 80% of the painting outside. Consequently, Joan, along with most other Plein Air painters, tends to create smallish works due to the time constraints of changing light. Joan claims not only a Bachelors of Fine Art but also a Bachelors in Health/Physical Education/Recreation. In addition to her formal Fine Art training, Joan has also studied under some of the best contemporary artists via their workshops. Those notable names include Morgan Samuel Price, Greg LaRock, Laurel Daniels, Julie Gilbert Pollard, and Tom Lynch.
In addition to these world-class artists, Joan is particularly influenced by the “drybrush and pencil drawings of Andrew Wyeth,” the great 20th century New England artist. Joan comments, “Even as a teenager, I could immerse myself in my treasured books of his works, feeling the warmth of the sun shining on the old jacket hung near the door, smelling the musty interior of the barn, hearing the rushing of the breeze through the grasses, the crunch of the boots on the snow.” She continues, “[Wyeth’s] certainty of the light, the composition, his ability to catch a single moment, thrill me like no other artist, even in the absence of color with his detailed pencil sketches. In fact, his drawings may be the reason I take so much pleasure in drawing as an art form in itself. They stop me and make me look, and they thrill my heart.” Indeed, Joan’s intuitive landscapes reflect the homespun, grounded, heartfelt, internalized reality so well-associated with Wyeth’s work. She has a clear connectivity to both land and sea, embracing all that is nature.
Joan recounts her, initially embarrassing, first Art honor, which came in second grade: “my crayon drawing of John Glenn walking up to his rocket was chosen to illustrate the news feature of my classmates’ stories about him orbiting the earth. Now I appreciate that experience as my ‘first public recognition’ as an artist!” More recently, in October 2015, Joan won the People’s Choice/Best in Show, Local Color Plein Air Festival, in Lynn Haven, FL; in January 2016, she received Third Place, Southeast Regional Juried Art Show, at the Mattie Kelly Art Gallery at Northwest Florida State College, Niceville, FL.; and also in January 2016, Joan was the Featured Plein Air Artist and Workshop Instructor, 2016 Florida Chautauqua Assembly, DeFuniak Springs, FL. Joan’s personable teaching style engaged her workshop participants. Joan and her followers were a fun group to watch as they painted around the lake yard and throughout the Chautauqua events.
Joan shares that she admires those who provide opportunity for others to experience the arts and who support the various art programs throughout her community. She appreciates the hard-working volunteers and staffs of numerous arts organizations, arts educators, and art networks. But most significantly, Joan values her dearest friends who put up with her “endless photography and the frequent halting of an adventure as” she “gets lost admiring the color of a rock or the shadow of an underpass.”
Joan informs us: “As an art educator, I know there are many studies that indicate students participating in [arts classes] consistently perform better in both arts and sciences and have higher standardized test scores. . . . I know that solutions in business and life come to me more easily when I am regularly practicing art, and my sense of spiritual well-being is greater when I am creative. I believe that communal soul is expressed through a community’s encouragement of the arts. I was thrilled with the amount of public art [in] Toronto . . . , and I treasure that experience as a frame of reference for a community which supports the arts.”
Because Joan was so forthcoming in her interview, this column is a first installment. She shared much that I know you will find fascinating. Meanwhile, stop by the DeFuniak Art Co-op to enjoy Joan’s amazing paintings.
Fresh off the Easel, Part 2, By Jan Faubel
More of the Joan Vienot Story
“Being an artist is a state of awareness, coupled with a spirit of sharing,” observes Joan Vienot. “Being an artist requires me to be truthful, brave, humble, playful, attentive, forgiving, attached and yet detached, expressive, focused, open-minded, persevering, and studious. It requires me to pay attention, but also to relinquish attention, to own and then to release, to surrender and to conquer, to respect the ebb and flow of the cycles of energy and effort,” she explains. From a philosophical standpoint, Joan comments, “I believe that Creativity is the closest humans can come to practicing our own divinity. Problem-solving, harmonizing, expressing, sharing, birthing, all of these are aspects of creativity, in contrast to violence, harm, and destruction. The making of art and the enjoyment of art are essential human activities; not to allow for this is barbaric. In any final analysis, from foreign relations to growing a garden, it goes better if there is an art to it: a dance, give and take, a gracefulness. Art and artfulness provide the je ne sais quoi. There are two aspects to art—throughout the larger part of our lives, art is the enhancement to our lives as an end product which we enjoy. But for me as an artist, during the time while I am producing art, I experience and survive and have memory of the process, with the end product simply being a coming and going, where my inspiration takes my soul through the valley of the shadow of death before I climb out on the other side, a changed person. The process of making art is, for me, an essential part of my spiritual and psychological evolution.” As a final note, Joan admits, “Well, OK, that may be a little dramatic—because besides all that, it’s just fun!”
When asked how her work has grown within the past 10 years, Joan shared that ten years ago her pool business was thriving—a mixed blessing for her. It provided a good living but left her little if any time to make art. A few years later, when the economy shifted, she found herself with a slower pace at work, thus leaving her with time to be creative. Her first step was to join a figure drawing class. Since Joan had specialized in figure drawing at the university, she was in her comfort zone. That reawakening of her creative spirit led Joan to carve a studio out of her guest house with the intention of painting. In 2012, after having received 8 years of invitations to join the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, Joan decided to embrace her desire to paint landscapes on-site. Encouragement from the group fueled Joan’s need to paint, but she still had not totally committed to being a full-time artist.
Stay tuned as we continue to delve into Joan Vienot’s life as an artist. All artists have different stories which lead us simultaneously inward to discover our inner artist and outward to engage the world. We are forever works in progress!
Fresh off the Easel, Part 3, By Jan Faubel
Joan Vienot: A Work in Progress
Last week we left Joan transitioning into a full-time artist. This week we find her commenting, “I was committed to making changes in my life, to be that full-time artist I had dreamed of being.” To reach that goal, Joan credits the influence and direction of friends Leslie Kolovich and Jane Burns, as well as life coach Saramae Dalferes. An epiphany revealed to Joan that throughout her life, she had placed Art as something “nice, [but] an optional extra, not a necessity” thus repressing her innate need to paint, to make Art. As a result, Joan makes a solid date every Wednesday with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters. To reinforce her new life plan, Joan elaborates that as her painting skills improve, she paints more, and her passion grows, compelling her to paint even more; “So in the fall of 2014, I set [my] intention to sell my pool service business, and I began taking the necessary steps so that I can indeed be a full-time artist.” To that end, Joan developed a 3-year plan: learning to paint Plein Air regularly, taking as many workshops and classes as possible, and studying marketing, a phase that merged into Year #4.
Part of that Marketing phase includes local recognition, something that Joan has realized by being awarded a one woman show because of exemplary performance in the Local Color Plein Air Festival. Additionally, she won third place in the Southeast Regional Juried Art Show (ADSO), with all three of her entries being accepted in the show—a noteworthy accomplishment! And in January 2016, she was the Featured Plein Air Artist at the Chautauqua Assembly, conducting a well-received workshop: “Teaching, sharing my passion, and helping others to achieve their [passion] has always excited me, and it feels so easy, so I will continue to look for teaching opportunities as I further progress in my art career.”
When asked what famous art she has seen and been impacted by, Joan cited her love for the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists in NYC’s Museum of Modern Art where she came face-to-face with Van Gogh’s Starry Night: “Teary-eyed, I was not prepared for the power of the piece seen in person, having looked at it for hours in photographs.” Joan’s goal is to make viewers of her art stop in their tracks, be captured by the moment, and feel her thrill of painting!
The DeFuniak Springs Art Co-Op is located at 782 Baldwin Ave., DeFuniak Springs, FL 32433.