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Hurricane Michael was a brute.
The destruction starts just 20 miles east of my home, essentially ripping out all civilized services and damaging or destroying nearly all of the homes and businesses in Panama City, Lynn Haven, Marianna, Blountstown, Mexico Beach, and Port St. Joe, with wind or flood damage significant in Apalachicola, St. George Island, Eastpoint, Carrabelle, St. Marks and points further east and north. The storm increased in intensity from a Category 2 to almost a Category 5 practically overnight, make it the third-lowest-pressure storm to ever hit the United States in recorded history.
I spent half of August and half of September on a month-long adventure of travel and plein air painting. Two weeks were in Colorado at the Estes Valley Plein Air event where I painted almost every day in beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park near the town of Estes Park, Colorado. And one week was in the spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains, near Blue Ridge, Georgia. I completed 11 paintings.
It was an honor to be juried into the Estes Valley Plein Air event, which was sponsored by the Art Center of Estes Park, and managed by the very capable team of Lars and Kristi. I opted to drive, instead of fly, from Florida to Colorado to reduce expenses. I had a cabin to stay in while I was there, thanks to the generosity of my friend Dr. Cynthia Reedy, but while traveling to and from, I tent-camped. I used love being in the great outdoors, “roughing it”. By camping and driving, I saved a $500 flight and a $900+ car rental and probably at least $500 in motels. I also saved the trouble and expense of shipping my frames and canvases and tools and equipment. I did buy new tires before I left, which I paid for by instructing a course for the employees of the business I had recently sold. Even so, except for the fact that I have family in Colorado, traveling this distance for an event is worthwhile as a business venture only if sales are generated.
With today’s technology, we are taking photos every day, and some of them are really good. But why isn’t that enough for the plein air painter? Why not just paint from the photograph? I’ll try to answer that.
First of all, even the best cameras don’t pick up the values and colors exactly right. That’s why every good photographer is an artist, both with their composition of the scene and with their use of photo-editing software afterwards. But certainly we can do many of the things in the studio that we do en plein air, can’t we? Like re-composing, and leaving certain things out, or moving a tree a smidge to the left in order to provide contrast behind the focal area? Well yes, except that we are working with changing light, so we also have to make a lot of decisions on the spot, and try to mix colors right the first time.
But here’s a big difference. Imagine yourself driving down the highway, seeing some pretty scenery, and stopping to take a picture. Years later, or even days later, maybe even hours later, you are looking back at your photos, and you wonder what it was that made you snap that photo, what it was that caught your eye, why it was significant, why it impressed you enough to stop the car.
Last week I completed a painting of the early morning light on part of the hogback [rock formation running along the front range of the Colorado Rockies] at Devil’s Backbone Open Space at Loveland, Colorado, a Larimer County Natural Resources Park. I blogged about painting en plein air there 6 weeks ago, “A Quick Trip to Colorado, Paints in Hand“.
I am a believer in painting only what you experience. There is the occasional commissioned painting of someone’s scene from their own photo, or their dog or child, but I feel more strongly about the scene if I actually was there and I think that I make a better painting when I have a memory or feelings about the scene.
This certainly was true with Devil’s Backbone First Light. I blogged about looking one whole morning for the part of the hogback formation that I had remembered from my childhood, and about going the next day to Loveland to another part of the hogback with my sister and brother-in-law to hike, and then hiking it myself with my paints the following day while the sun was coming up, painting all morning, and hiking the trails again that afternoon with both sisters and their husbands and a couple of the grandkids. I was filled with powerful memories of the scene, made more significant by spending time with family there, and I had my 3 plein air studies, and my iPhotos. Only my memory held the actual lighting I wanted to portray — the photos were much less colorful than I remembered or than my plein air paintings indicated, but they provided better value comparisons and better perspective. My plein air works provided truer color, and the time spent painting en plein air imprinted certain details on my memory. If I had merely photographed the rocks, and not painted en plein air, I would not have remembered the yellow-green of the lichen and the pinks and lavenders of the sagebrush, and the tufts of grass growing between the rocks on top of the hogback.
I was thrilled to realize just how much the process had helped to make the painting. Below is Devil’s Backbone First Light, followed by the three studies I painted en plein air.
I am excited to announce my acceptance into the Estes Valley Plein Air Paint-Out! The following was posted on Facebook 6/4/18, by the Art Center of Estes Park, Colorado:
Drumroll, please…We are please to announce these are artists who have been selected to participate in our Estes Valley Plein Air event, which will take place in August and September. Thanks to eveyone who applied, and welcome to all! Painting by Kathleen Lanzoni.
I attended the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air and Plein Air South again this May, taking time out for painting between demo’s and discussions. I practice painting en plein air to study the transient effects of light, to become more adept at composing, to learn more effective technique, and to develop a stronger instinct for decision-making. Many times a plein air painting will be worthy of framing. All are learning experiences. My intention is to study something different every time I paint, even when I paint a scene I have painted before. Every painting is making it easier to paint the next painting, but I challenge myself even more the next time, so I can’t say that painting is easy. I can say that I am seeing better. Continue reading The Forgotten Coast en Plein Air and Plein Air South 2018
I had an unscheduled week between painting in the St. George Island Paint-Out in mid-April and the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air in early May which I attend as a spectator, so it was a perfect time to take a quick trip to Colorado for a family visit. I stayed in the guest room at the retirement home where my 98-year-old Dad has an apartment, and I accompanied him to the on-premises cafeteria for meals in the daytime, but otherwise left him to maintain his routines and nap undisturbed while I entertained myself. One day I took him to the local state park, Barr Lake, where I think he enjoyed reminiscing with the ranger about old buildings that used to be in town as much as he enjoyed the scenic outing. His eyesight is still pretty good – he could see the herd of deer and a circling hawk after I pointed them out to him.
Postscript, 10/21/18, 11 days after Hurricane Michael
I am in shock, seeing that places I painted are heavily damaged or perhaps even have disappeared. When I painted “Spring Dune”, the third painting pictured below, I remember feeling like the huge old dune was a big protective bear guarding the edge of the park. Today I saw video that gives me every reason to suspect that this dune does not exist anymore. https://youtu.be/EVkRgeqgcdI
The Plantation of St. George Island is a beautiful gated community situated on the west end of St. George Island, one bridge away from Eastpoint and and two bridges away from Apalachicola, Florida. The Arts Committee of the community, led by Bunnie Ison, produced the 2018 St. George island Paint-Out, an invitational plein air event. The artists participating were Catherine Hillis, Olena Babak, Craig Reynolds, Vernia Moore, Lynn Wilson, Debby Brienen, Randy Pitts, Janyce Loughridge, Randy Brienen, Karen Margulis, and Kelly Rysavy, Alison Menke, Natalia Andrea, Ed Nickerson, and me, Joan Vienot.. This was my first invitational plein air paint-out. I was a little worried because I thought that most of the other artists have been in invitational paint-outs before, and I had the impression that all were extremely talented. So it was to my surprise at the end of the week when I found one of my paintings, ” Marsh at Nick’s Hole” decorated with a 2nd place ribbon by judges Sandi Shaw of Pines and Palms Gallery of Thomasville, GA, and Ann Kozeliski of LeMoyne Gallery, Tallahassee, FL. The other winners were Alison Leigh Menke, Best in Show; and Natalia Andreeva,1st Place; and Ed Nickerson, 3rd Place. Continue reading 2018 St. George Island Plein Air Paint-Out
Artist and art marketing guru Leslie Saeta periodically offers a 30-day challenge, to paint 30 paintings in 30 days. Since I managed to complete Mary Gilkerson’s Five-Day Challenge, I thought I’d give this one a whirl. Eventually, there should be 30 paintings on this blog post, and I will also post to Instagram at @JoanVienotArt and to Facebook at Joan Vienot Art. The 30-day challenge will start February 1, 2018 and will run through the first couple days in March.
The 30-Day Challenge is now complete, and I am happy to say that I managed to paint every day! It’s not so hard, if it is a priority. Granted, many of them are small, just 6×6, but I made each one of them count as a learning experience. At the same time, I had scheduled 5 workshops during this 30 days, so it indeed was a period of learning. Probably the most difficult part of it was posting to my blog and to social media — that took a minimum of 30 minutes each day, and if I wasn’t careful, I could find myself stuck on social media for another couple of hours, catching up on friends’ activities and generally being entertained by the mishmash of news and minutia one finds on Facebook. Below are my 30 paintings.
I am participating in Mary Gilkerson’s Art+Work+Living Five-Day Challenge, which is to paint a painting in 20-30 minutes every day for five days. The purpose is to develop a daily painting practice, using a knife or #6 brush or larger. I plan to add an to add a painting to this blog every day for 5 days.
And Day 5, January 22, 2018: Apple, 6×6 oils on hardboard. I painted this while looking at the Apple. This concludes the Five-Day Challenge, so now the question is, will I continue this daily painting practice? I intend to, at least puttering in the studio whether not I produce anything worth looking at. In the process of doing this, I also have straightened out a glitch in my Instagram account so that now it will post both to Instagram and to Facebook at the same time. It was something about how I had created the account, that it just would not post no matter how hard I tried. I ended up having to dissociate the accounts, delete them from my phone, and re-upload them, and then change the IG account to a business account, and then re-associate the accounts. Now I am learning all about hashtags.