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A Month of Adventure: Estes Valley Plein Air and Blue Ridge Mountains Paint-Out

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.

The mountains of Colorado were very smoky the first week, from the bad forest fires further west. The smoke washed out mid-distant and distant colors. The second week the winds blew the smoke down to Denver, clearing the skies in the high country, but the winds also made it very difficult to work with an easel. I adapted as best I could, at one point even clamping my canvas to the bottom of my tripod, with my palette on the ground. There were other challenges. It threatened to rain most afternoons, and a few times it poured.

My days began by waking up in the dark, packing my lunch snack, and driving the slow trip up the 9 miles of one-way gravel switchbacks of Old Fall River Road, to get up to Mile 8 where I could pull off and hike out a short distance to my view of the entire glacial cirque just below the Alpine Visitors Center. I had wanted to paint this view since seeing it anew the previous year when I went to Estes Park for a pain ting workshop with Morgan Samuel Price. Some days it was far too windy and cold or too gray to paint plein air. I think I made the hour-long drive 7 days but was able to work on this painting only 3 mornings. I wanted to capture the grandeur of the morning vista.

Fall River Glacial Cirque, 15×30 oils on canvas panel, en plein air

The barometric pressure high altitude  is much much lower than at my sea level home where it is usually around 30 inHg. A barometer at the Visitors Center displayed 19.28 inHg. I did suffer a mild case of altitude sickness the first few days I drove to the top, mainly a headache and just generally feeling unwell.  After the third time, I wasn’t bothered anymore. The area of the glacial cirque was chilly. The air temperature decreases 3.6° for every 1000′ increase in elevation, and the Visitors Center sits more than 4000 feet higher than the city of Estes Park. In addition, it was almost always windy, or at least gusty, which increased the chill considerably. But when I am painting en plein air, my focus becomes so intense I often lose track of discomforts. A few hours into my painting up there on the first day that I painted, I noticed a small marmot out of the corner of my eye, and turned around; there were four marmot pups busy running and grubbing near me, one almost at my feet! I guess if you stay quiet in one place for long enough, they think you are part of the landscape! I’ve posted longer videos on Facebook — here’s a shorter one:

My sisters and brothers-in-law rented a condo above Estes Park the first weekend I was there. Trudy and Steve came up from their home in Westminster and Sherrie and Mark from Greeley, and one of their daughters, Caitlin, came up from her home in Cheyenne. I think their chief entertainment is creating irresistible, delectable foods, and this weekend was no exception. I have no idea how they stay so fit. We hiked up to Gem Lake from Lumpy Ridge, my mentor and friend Morgan Samuel Price joining us. Morgan was there to teach a workshop, which I had taken the year before. I of course could hardly breathe at that altitude but after the 2-mile climb, was it ever worth it when we finally reached our destination. Below, a photo of Gem Lake.

Gem Lake, above Lumpy Ridge, Estes Park, Colorado
Nocturne oil painting of the south entrance to Riverwalk Park / Riverside Plaza in Estes Park, Colorado
Riverwalk at Night, 11×14 oils on canvas panel, en plein air

The artists of Estes Valley Plein Air were invited to paint a nocturne or a painting in town, in Estes Park, and I opted for the nocturne. I started when the sun went down, about 8:30, and finished close to 11 PM. Meanwhile the temperature dropped, quickly. I was dressed in light jeans and a fleece sweatshirt. As I said before, I don’t notice discomforts while I am painting, but I certainly noticed that I was shivering towards the end. I couldn’t feel my fingertips when I put my gear away. I couldn’t believe it when I got in my car — the display said it was 46°! No wonder it felt a little chilly. Coming from the humid deep south, the dry Colorado air felt cold, but not that cold! If it had been Northwest Florida, I would have quit after just 30 minutes!

Another special category was a sweet little park called Mrs. Walsh’s Garden. It had a meandering path, a pond and small waterfall, and lots of hummingbirds. Even Peter Cottontail came hopping up to within 10′ of me, becoming a statue when he saw me, and then fleeing fast as lightning. The hummingbirds thought my bright shirt was a flower. Here’s a video of a hummingbird taking a bath on the rock beside the waterfall:

Oil painting of a hummingbird feeding on gentian in Mrs. Walsh's Garden, a city park in Estes Park, Colorado
Mrs. Walsh’s Gentian Visitor, 11×14 oils on canvas panel, en plein air

I enjoyed painting the gentian flowers in “Mrs. Walsh’s Gentian Visitor,” one of the few times I have used color straight out of the tube, as intense as it could be. I may accent the hummingbird a little more when the painting returns to me from the exhibit at the Art Center of Estes Park. I think people don’t notice it unless I tell them to look for it.

One day I hunted high and low for a location where I would be sheltered from the high winds and finally decided to deploy my Under The Weather Pod for the first time. I staked down the two back corners of the floor, and tied the top two back corners to the tree behind me. This allowed me to set up my easel and paint without freezing to death or getting bowled over by the wind. I still had to be on guard for the twisting gusts, but I managed to complete a painting beside Big Thompson Creek in Moraine Park, below.

Oil painting of the Big Thompson River flowing through Moraine Park above Estes Park, Colorado
Moraine Wind, 11×14 oils on canvas panel, en plein air

We were asked to frame a reserve painting so the Art Center would have something to fill the space if a painting sold. My reserve painting is “Where Are The Sheep?”, expressing my frustration that no bighorn sheep ever came down to Sheep Lakes in the Fall River Valley the whole time I was there! A herd of elk grazed in the distance one morning, but nary a single sheep! Nevertheless, the colors were beautiful in the early morning.

Oil painting of Sheep Lakes in Fall River Valley near Estes Park, Colorado
Where Are The Sheep? 10×20 oils on canvas panel, en plein air
Oil Painting of the bridge over the creek at Riverwalk Park in Estes Park, Colorado
My Quickdraw Painting at Estes Park, 9×12 oils on canvas panel, , en plein air

I also participated in the Quickdraw in Estes Park, which was held in the same area where I had done my nocturne. I am pleased to report that mine sold in the very entertaining auction held immediately after the awards were announced. We only had 90 minutes to complete our painting, which was the fastest I had ever had to painting, at least until Blue Ridge two weeks later!!

The next time I drive across the country, I am going to take an extra day or two to see the sights along the way. I went past Amarillo, where just 30 minutes south is the Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the United States. I was on a timeline, so I drove past, both going and coming back. On the return trip, I was heading to Blue Ridge, Georgia, to meet up with my painting buddies from home. We were all going to paint in the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association Paint-Out. We stayed in Young Harris, GA, at the mountain home of John and Theresia McInnis. Theresia is an accomplished watercolorist and hostess extraordinaire. Elia Saxer, Beckie Hart, Brady DeGrasse, and Charlotte Arnold came up to paint as well, and we had a wonderful time painting, eating, and socializing. And I am happy to report that one of my paintings, Stanley Rapids, was awarded third place in the BRMAA Wet Room!

Stanley Rapids, 10×20 oils on canvas panel, painted en plein air.

I also painted the terraced waterfalls of the creek running through Taccoa Valley Campground. My sensations while painting were the roar of the Taccoa River behind me, campfire smoke in the air, light filtering through the trees and glittering in the waterfalls, children playing, soft leaves underfoot.

Toccoa Valley Campground, 15 x 30 oils on canvas panel

Oil painting of two horses and two goats on Chris Tilghman's farm in Blue Ridge, Georgia
On Chris’s Farm, 11×14 oils on canvas panel

On the last day I looked up a stand-up paddleboarding friend who lives in Blue Ridge, and painted some of the critters on his farm.

I learned a lot about my ability to organize for a trip like this, and for next time, what to bring and what to leave at home. Certainly I could have ordered my frames to be shipped to Estes Park so that I wouldn’t have had to carry them in my car — that would have lightened my load and improved my gas mileage a little. That also would have allowed me to sleep in my car instead of my tent on the one night that rain threatened. I doubt I will reduce the amount of oil painting supplies I bring, but I probably will leave my gouache set and my watercolors at home if I do this trip again. The thing is, you just never know when you might want to do a study, and I want all options available, even though I always make my paintings using oils. I was surprised to find that I needed my back-up easel and clamps that I had brought in case I broke mine. My panel holder broke one day – a screw became stripped, so I was very happy to have an alternate way to hold my painting, but the main reason I used it was to hold my sign advertising the Art Center of Estes Park where the paintings were to be exhibited. Up in the high country it was too windy to try to clamp the sign to my easel.

Joan Vienot painting with college friend Daniel Sprick at Lumpy Ridge, Estes Park, Colorado, 8/29/2018

I met many of the other artists both locations, and am sure I will run into many of them again. I remain a little intimidated — some have been painting for 20 or 30 years or more, all during the time that I was in my business career. But all were very friendly, and the icing on the cake in Colorado was to meet up with and paint with my college friend Daniel Sprick, who came up from Denver for the Q&A after the showing of a PBS documentary on his development as an artist, put on by the Estes Park Art Museum. Dan is a recognized contemporary master painter, and he will be the keynote speaker at the Figurative Arts Convention in Miami next month.

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Why Not Just Take A Picture? Why Bother With Plein Air?

By all means, take a picture with your camera!

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.

Now instead imagine yourself somewhere away from home, enjoying the sunset, shooting a photo now and then as the sunset progresses, listening to the soft rush of the waves coming in to the shore, and the call of seagulls and banter of children playing, with the smell of someone’s barbecue wafting over your beach chair, knowing your friends are up in the vacation house having drinks and telling stories. The sand is gritty between your toes, there is a pesky fly that wants to bite you, and the bottoms of your pant legs are sticking to your skin from getting wet because you walked out to return to the sea a flipping baitfish that had stranded itself on the sand. The key element here is the time it takes to absorb all of those sensations, so that depending on your present-moment awareness, a unique memory can be imprinted, so rich that years from now you might recall the scent of barbecue and the feel of the ocean breeze on your skin and the pleasure of rejoining your friends afterwards, when you look at the one or two photos of that sunset that you decided to keep.

In much the same way, a plein air painter experiences their environment for an extended period of time while painting, and that is the reason not to just settle for a photo. The time invested in the experience allows for the absorption of volumes of sensory information, some of which inevitably will make its way into the painting, whether intentionally or not. If you’ve ever marveled at the difference between seeing a good photo of a painting, and seeing the same painting in person, you know exactly what I am talking about. The painting itself contains an energy that came from the experience of the artist. I remember that tears came to my eyes, I was so overwhelmed when I saw “Starry Night” in person, even though I had stared at photos of the painting many times. It’s like the difference between reading Maya Angelou’s poetry, or listening to Maya Angelou herself reading it to you. She lived it.

It’s interesting when someone compliments an artist by saying a painting looks like a photograph. If it is a photograph of the painting, that might be an apt compliment indeed. But if they see the painting in person, hopefully they will feel the solid mass of rock underfoot and hear the call of the loon in the distance, and her mate answering, and they will know that a photograph could never give the same sense that the painting does. Well, except of course when it is a photograph by a really good photographer – I feel the crunch of the glacier moving and I sense a coyote looking at me, when I look at Ansel Adams’ photos.

So last week I painted through a rainstorm. To be honest, when it started to sprinkle and I went to the car to get my big, wide, painting umbrella, the weather App on my phone said the rain was going to diminish after a bit, not get worse, and by the time I finally figured out that the App was wrong, all of my gear was soaked, and I found myself wondering, why don’t I just take a picture? Thankfully, Florida’s summer rains are not too chilly, because the umbrella only shielded me from most of the rain. I posted a video of the misadventure on my personal Facebook page, 6/13/18, gum-chomping and all..

Here’s the end result, “After The Downpour” – sorry you have to view it as a photo. Even so, I will guarantee you that I would not have gotten this effect if I had just shot a photo and then painted it in the studio. Interestingly, even as I am writing this, my friend Janice Frossard just commented on Facebook about the painting that I blogged about yesterday, Devil’s Backbone First Light: “You can almost smell the sage brush and feel the cool morning air.” That’s what I’m talking about!

In this painting, can you smell the rain?

After the Downpour, 11×14 oils on canvas panel, en plein air

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From Plein Air Studies to Studio Painting

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.

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Accepted: Estes Valley Plein Air Paint-Out!

Art Center of Estes Park, Estes Valley Plein Air event | Painting by Kathleen Lanzoni

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.

Continue reading Accepted: Estes Valley Plein Air Paint-Out!

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The Forgotten Coast en Plein Air and Plein Air South 2018

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

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A Quick Trip to Colorado, Paints in Hand

Study of the fountain in the courtyard at Inglenook, Brighton, COI 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.

I had packed my small Guerrilla Painter kit, so I broke it out one afternoon to study the fountain in Dad’s courtyard. The light was changing fast, so I just settled for trying to get the shapes right for the overflowing bowls. Continue reading A Quick Trip to Colorado, Paints in Hand
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2018 St. George Island Plein Air Paint-Out

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

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And Now, a Thirty-Day Challenge

Collage of the 30 Paintings in 30 Days artwork

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.

Thank you for visiting. Many of my paintings are available for purchase. Click on the image to view the painting in my online store. You can also contact me to purchase or commission a painting.


Day 30, 3/2/2018: Cotton Stalk

12×6 oils on canvas panel, painted from still-life set up in studio.

This was a fun to paint. I purposefully painted a light background, so that the cotton bolls would be harder to see, requiring the stalk in order to be identified. Somehow this seems to me to be a picture of my life, that the things I think are important, are nothing without the thread or the stalk that binds them together. 


Day 29, 3/1/18: Calming the Waters

16×20 oils on linen panel, painting in progress in Dorothy Starbuck workshop at the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County.

We are each using a different reference photo, to learn to paint a translucent breaking wave, and the lacy foam left on the surface after a wave has come in. Our paints are cadmium yellow light, alizarin crimson, burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, thalo blue, thalo green, viridian green, and titanium white. At right is the finished piece, and below is a photo of the work in progress.

Oil painting in progress, waves coming in from the Gulf of Mexico

Day 28, 2/18/18: unfinished Tupelo Pavilion Study

11×14, oils on linen panel, painted en plein air at Seaside, Florida

I am taking a workshop from my neighbor and friend Dorothy Starbuck which it started today, my local plein air group’s day to paint. So I went to our plein air location early, right after the sun came up, and got started, but 2 hours was not enough time for me because I struggled so much getting the architecture right before I started applying color. I still have the roofline wrong — the roof on the right side of the arch needs to be a foot taller at the eave.


Day 27, 2/27/18: Recovery Notes

9×12 mixed media on Yupo paper

I had a definite idea before I started, so this is not entirely experimental art, but enough so that I am calling it experimental. Most of that is because I am not very familiar with the media I was using — acrylic paint, alcohol inks and Yupo paper.  I live on a bayou, just a few miles from the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. I think that living near a large body of water accelerates interpersonal and spiritual growth. It’s like walking in a labyrinth with everyone else, and side-by-side, when all of a sudden you find yourself going in the opposite direction, or perhaps even in the same direction but several tracks away from the people you were walking with. Who moved – them or you? No doubt both, but either way, it takes some adjustment and some getting used to, hence my title for this piece, Recovery Notes, as I recover from a growth spurt.


Day 26, 2/26/18: Jekyll Island Twilight

6×6 oils on Gessobord

I’ve been taking a workshop from Jason Sacran through Anderson Fine Art Gallery, St. simons Island, GA. On my last day in the area, I drove back out to Jekyll Island to see “Driftwood Beach”, where many very old trees have been laid bare by the winds and water, the unbleached wood completely de-barked, and many of the trees tipped over but still anchored into the beach. (Driftwood is a misnomer.) As I was crossing the causeways and the bridges, the sky was brightening, and the sun was finally just peaking over the marshes as I was approaching Jekyll Island. This is my impression of the sun-kissed clouds, painted after I returned home.


Day 25, 2/25/18: Jekyll Island Crone 2

16×20 oils on linen panel, painted en plein air

I am attending Jason Sacran’s plein air painting workshop sponsored by Anderson Fine Art Gallery on St. Simons Island, GA. We are painting on Jekyll Island. A crone is a woman in the latter third of her life, after childbearing is over. She is wise, nurturing, soulful, creative, weathered, a bit stooped and twisted, but hard as nails, a survivor. Birds nest in her hair, she holds the weight of the world on her broad shoulders, and animals shelter under her canopy. My dad is 98 and still going strong. If that is how long I will live, then I have just entered my crone years.


Day 24, 2/24/18 – two works from Jekyll Island

Study for Jekyll Island Crone, 8×6 watercolor on paper, painted en plein air

I am attending Jason Sacran’s plein air painting workshop sponsored by Anderson Fine Art Gallery on St. Simons Island, GA. We are painting on Jekyll Island, intending to work on the same painting for two days. There are a lot of ancient cedars and live oak trees on the west side of the island.

Oil painting of an ancient live oak tree on Jekyll Island, painted in Jason Sacran workshop
Jekyll Island Crone 1, 16×20 oils on linen panel. Not for sale.


Day 23, 2/23/18: Jekyll Island Marsh

8×10 oils on canvas panel, a plein air study

Painted in Jason Sacran workshop. Tomorrow we will be painting larger paintings of the same scene we studied today.


Graphite sketch of farmhouse scene
Sketch not for sale.

Day 22, 2/22/18: Morning Sketch

8×6 graphite on cream paper

Today was the first day of a workshop with Jason Sacran, and I didn’t want to be worried about posting for my 30-day challenge, so I just posted my morning sketches.


Watercolor and ink sketch of Tucker Bayou, Point Washington, FL, at sunset
Watercolor not for sale.

Day 21, 2/21/18: Good Night, Sleep Tight

8×8 watercolor and ink on paper, a color sketch of Tucker Bayou, Point Washington, FL, at sunset.

Today I don’t have a lot of time for the 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge. I am embarking on another adventure, this time to study from Jason Sacran, who is teaching at the Mary Anderson Gallery on St. Simons Island, GA. That scenic area has a strong pull for me, and I am excited to be going there for this workshop. I hope my cats will forgive me these absences!


Day 20, 2/20/18: Roots

12×9 oils on aluminum panel

Produced at the end of the Mary Garrish workshop at the Artist Cove Studio-Gallery in Panama City, FL. I was attempting to make this painting using the new materials we were introduced to, which were the Scott Christensen landscape oil colors by Vasari (Bluff, Ship Rock, Adobe, Shale, Jasper, Silver Point, Cedar, and Bice), painted on an aluminum panel. On the first day, I was a little early for the workshop, so I stopped and walked around at the Historic Marker just down the way from the gallery, on Beach Drive. Erosion had bared the roots of several pines there. This painting is an abstraction of the pattern of the exposed roots. I used my rubber tipped tool to make the weeds, revealing the shiny aluminum underneath.


Day 19, 2/19/18: Florida Dawn

6×6 mixed media on paper.

An exercise in glazing and scumbling in the Mary Garrish workshop at The Artist Cove Studio-Gallery in Panama City, FL.


Day 18, 2/18/18: Fog on the Point Again

6×12 oils on canvas panel.

Painted in Mary Garrish workshop at The Artist Cove Studio-Gallery in Panama City, FL. Our task was to paint a scene in all values, but to vary the color within areas of one value, and to add light in the clouds.


Day 17, 2/17/18: Fog on the Point

6×8 oils on canvas panel.

Painted in Mary Garrish workshop at The Artist Cove Studio-Gallery in Panama City, FL. Our task was to paint a scene in only 3 values, in black, white, and gray, and then to paint it again in 5 values. After that, we could add color or colors, but the values had to remain the same. This was my 5-value color piece.


Day 16, 2/16/2018: Mid-September Lily

6×6 oils on Gessobord.

A bittersweet painting from a photo I took on my last paddle with three dear friends last summer.


Day 15, 2/15/2018: Onion 1

6×6 oils on Gessobord, painted from life.

This onion kicked my butt. Painting an onion is much harder than you might think! I will paint an onion whenever I start feeling accomplished. It will humble me.


Day 14, 2/14/18: Freeing the Phantom of the Aqua

8×10 oils on canvas panel, painted en plein air.

Last fall this sailboat, the Phantom of the Aqua, was damaged during Hurricane Nate and its captain had to be rescued from it far offshore. He thought the boat would just sink in the stormy Gulf, but instead, it drifted up to the shore at Miramar Beach in Northwest Florida, just 15 miles from my house, and became firmly entrenched in the beach.

I paint with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters every Wednesday, and we decided to paint the Phantom last week. Alas, the weather forecast was awful, so we postponed it to this week, only to read in the paper that the new owner would be towing it to his salvage yard to refurbish it, this very week. Nevertheless hopeful, we arrived today to find the roadside lined with onlookers, the crowd growing to hundreds as the day progressed, many going down to the beach with their beach chairs, to watch the proceedings from behind the yellow caution tape forming barriers from dunes to the sea, several hundred yards out from the boat in either direction.

Distant fog was providing a wonderful atmosphere. A Caterpillar excavator was parked on the low side of the boat, near the water, and four Code Enforcement pick-up trucks were parked on the beach, and a few groups of workmen were standing around the boat and the pick-ups. The crowd lined the street-level sidewalk, the elevation affording everyone excellent vantage. Nothing much was happening yet, so we all found our various locations to paint, in and amongst the onlookers.

After a while, the excavator started digging on the water side of the boat, and piling sand nearby, but it was slow going. We all were able to produce fair paintings without the boat moving, thankfully. Later, I came back by the scene after we had lunch down the road — at left is a photo showing the considerable progress they had made, and the excavator now up on the higher part of the beach.


Day 13, 2/13/18: Pears 1

6×6 oils on Gessobord.

I named this painting Pears 1, because I am certain there are many more pears in my future. I love the colors and shapes of pears!


Day 12, 2/12/18: Dinner After Plein Air

6×6 oils on hardboard.

In this painting I made an effort to create larger shapes, and not try so hard to model the interior of the shapes, but rather to leave them flatter, and to show receding space through temperature and overlapping. The idea for this painting came from a plein air workshop I took in Taos a couple of years ago. I think I’d like to refine the legs of the person with the yellow sweater — I want them to look like they are crossed above the knee, but I lost the lower knee.


Day 11, 2/11/2018: Storm Warning

6×6 oils on canvas panel.

We’ve had incredible rains here in Northwest Florida yesterday and today, and seasonal affective disorder is setting in — everything is gray, and dark, my phone receiving continuous updates of FEMA warnings for the potential for flooding. This color scheme, and in fact this composition, is very very common in this area, and super easy to paint — I’m allowed an easy one now and then, right? I used a palette knife to challenge myself. I really should practice with a knife more often.


Day 10, 2/10/2018: The Phoenix Will Rise

20x16x1.5 acrylic/mixed media on stretched canvas.

Texture started in Jan Sitts workshop last week. I refined the texture today, and painted this expression of earth tones, and am pondering if it should go further. Non-objective work is outside of my comfort zone, but this experimental art workshop left me feeling charged up!


Day 9, 2/9/2018: Norah

12×9 oils on canvas.

Painted from a live model at this week’s Figurative Artists Atelier, an uninstructed open studio with a live model. Typically we have 5 one-minute warm-up sketches, and 2 5-minute warm-up sketches, and then we launch into a single pose for the remainder of the 3-hour session, in 20-minute segments with 5-10 minute breaks between the segments, to allow the model to regain circulation and ease any tension from the pose. I will be tweaking this just a little, now that it is back at my studio, but not much. I really liked this model’s attitude and haughty expression.


Day 8: 2/8/2018: Champagne on the Emerald Coast

16 x 20 acrylic mixed media on gallery-wrapped canvas.

Painting Jan Sitts acrylic / mixed media workshop at the Cultural Arts Alliance in Santa Rosa Beach, FL.


Day 7, 2/7/18: Emerald Sounds

6×6 acrylic on canvas panel.

Painted in Jan Sitts workshop. The stripes resembling the waves of the Gulf of Mexico on the Emerald Coast of Northwest Florida, were created using multiple layers of paint.


Day 6, 2/6/18: The Faeries’ Forest

6×6 acrylic on panel.

Painted in Jan Sitts‘ experimental workshop hosted by the Cultural Arts Alliance. The visual texture on this piece was created using Saran wrap.


Day 5, 2/5/18: Rip Tide

6×6 acrylic / mixed media on Gessobord.

Painted in Jan Sitts experimental workshop hosted by the Cultural Arts Alliance. I am totally outside of my comfort zone. Today we textured our supports with acrylic gel medium and various tools and supplies, but mine were not dry enough to paint on, so I created this small piece, texturing only with pinstriping tape. Our assignment was to not have a subject in mind while we worked, but rather to apply texture and color intuitively.


Day 4, 2/4/18: Angel Light Over Lake Powell

6×6 oils on Gessobord.

Today I was going to paint something easy. Then this view of Lake Powell, caught my eye, and having never painted “angel light” before, I thought, why not! I spent far too long on this exercise, thanks to being on the phone a good part of the time. Distracted, I found myself playing with the clouds, and then wishing I hadn’t and fixing them, and fixing them a little too much — play-fix-fix again, and repeat –while the phone call continued. It reminds me of the time I was having my hair cut, and the stylist had just returned from a trip to Russia. It was a long trip and a long story, and as she told it, my hair got shorter and shorter.  😯


Day 3, 2/3/18: Bay View from Okaloosa Island

6×6 oils on Gessobord.

I shoot a lot of photos to help me choose a location I want to paint with our local plein air painting group, and this is one of those locations. We paint here every 4 months or so. There are palms, pines, cedars, scrub oaks, mockingbirds, kite-sailors, a changing sky, tugboats and barges, winding paths through the grass, sand, water — did I mention it’s a National Seashore? Gulf Islands, on Okaloosa Island, to answer that.


Day 2, 2/2/18: Figure with Red Coat

6×6 oils on Gessobord.

On Fridays I attend the Figurative Artists Atelier, a live-model painting session at the Foster Gallery. Usually we have an extended pose, but today we had a different pose every 20 minutes.


Day 1, 2/1/18: Coraline

6×6 oils on Gessobord.

This is one of my two cats, a rescue cat I adopted from Alaqua Animal Refuge.


Thank you for visiting. Many of my paintings are available for purchase. Click on the image to view the painting in my online store. You can also contact me to purchase or commission a painting.

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Five-Day Challenge

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.

Oils on hardboard

Day 4, January 21, 2018: Aloe, oils on hardboard, 6×6. Last month I bought about 20 6×6 pieces of hardboard last month, planning to start a daily painting practice and not wanting to use expensive linen panels. I wanted to feel free to experiment and have less investment in the outcome, both emotional and financial. I realized I hadn’t primed them, so I gesso’d 12 of them, all that I had space for. I use clear gesso on panels or board that is not white; that way I don’t have to tone it to reduce the glare of white gesso. Now… what to paint? I have potted aloe on top of the microwave near the kitchen window, and it receives beautiful high-contrast morning light. I decided that would be my subject, and I squeezed out some greens that are not normally on my palette — sap green, thalo yellow-green, and viridian. (Normally I mix my greens, for plein air painting and for painting the figure.) For the Five-Day Challenge, we are supposed to be reducing the amount of time we paint, from 30 minutes to 20, not counting color-mixing. Since I mix as I go, I adidn’t worry about the time. My timer stopped me at 30. I squinted at my work to evaluate it — not enough contrast. I took another 10 minutes to add some darks, and I cleaned up some edges, and then added a few scalloped edges on some of the leaves, to help identify it as aloe. I’d like to give this subject a second try, reducing the amount of reflected blue light and making it more distinct. Also I will place the pot differently, so it doesn’t look like it is ready to fall off a table. I wasn’t thinking much about composition when I started this painting, just the luscious greens.


Day 3, January 20, 2018: Sunrise on Eden Drive, oils on canvas panel, 6×6. Today’s painting used a photo I recently took looking out over my yard from my front deck. My house has a bayou in my back yard, and behind the lot across the street from me, a freshwater creek, which together provide wonderful atmosphere on winter mornings when the air is colder than the water. I learned my lesson yesterday, today painting with a well-shaped brush. It’s a #6, as recommended by the guidelines for this project. A well-shaped brush can be turned on it’s edge to deliver very thin strokes. The wet paint created a little glare on the left side of this photo of my painting.


Day 2, January 19, 2018: Four Views of Merritt, oils on canvas or birch panels, 6×6 each. On Fridays, I enjoy studying the figure in the open studio with a model at the Foster Gallery on Grand Boulevard in Miramar Beach, just 10 miles from my home.  Since I am doing this five-day challenge, I decided I would use figure painting to fulfill my challenge commitment. We break up the long pose into 20 minute segments, so I painted four 20-minute versions of the same pose, moving my easel for each segment so that I would have a different view. The first painting was on a canvas panel, and the other three were on clear-gesso’d birch. The small format was pretty restrictive, and painting with a number six brush was very difficult because it was not a well-shape brush, rather like painting with a dogs tail, I imagine. But no excuses, because I know some artists who can paint with a stick if they forget their brushes so it’s all a matter of experience. 


Initial version

Oil painting of two palms in a meadow, the first of a Five-Day challenge, to paint a painting every day for five days
Corrected, final version

Day 1: January 18, 2018, Two Palms, oils on canvas, 6×6. Apologies for the glare on the canvas — it actually is pretty well covered — the canvas texture is showing because of the wet glare. It was difficult to put down my #6 brush after only 30 minutes. I’m not sure what’s happening with that gigantic branch hanging down on the right. So much refinement can be done in just a few more minutes, but I’m going to try to follow the rules for this Five-Day challenge. I was working from a photo on my iPhone, and was timing myself with my meditation timer app. I had app’d the photo into 3 values – black, white, and gray – with “Notanizer” so that I could simplify the darks and lights, and had sketched even more of the darks on a print-out from that app, to remind myself to make a workable silhouette with my darks from the get-go. When i started, I used pure ultramarine blue for my darks. Unfortunately I never got around to warming my trees so my eye tends to go to the warm grass in the foreground instead of to the trees. Now the decision — whether to keep it and refine it, or to wipe it off and salvage the canvas.

 

 

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2017, A Year of Letting Go, A Year of Change

As the year comes to a close and I look back on it, I find it difficult to put into words how I feel about so many things. I have felt crushing disappointment in our country’s political direction, but have felt helpless to do anything of consequence to help it. But the discomfort of it has used up most of what little patience I have for that sort of thing, and I have instead tried to pour my energies into my art and my mental health. Both have improved noticeably.

I continue to paint en plein air on Wednesdays. The big change is that this past month I also began practicing clothed-model figure painting every Friday with a drawing and painting group, meeting at our Cultural Arts Alliance‘s Foster Gallery. I have considerable experience in drawing the nude figure and enjoy it immensely — it was one of my areas of emphasis for my Fine Arts degree. But I haven’t practiced figure painting a lot. I am learning to handle my brushes better, and I am learning to create skin tones using the Zorn palette, which is very limited – white, yellow ochre, cadmium red, and black. Below are some of my figurative efforts, all with our amazing model Abigail. We post our group’s studies on Facebook under Figurative Artists Atelier.The first painting, in blue jeans, is the one I did this week, and the painting with her wearing the Madame X dress, was last week. These are all 3-hour poses divided into 20-minute segments with 5 or 10 minute breaks. I am purposefully painting profiles or near profiles because they are easier, and that allows me to practice my brushwork and skin tones. Click on the images for purchase information.

I have had an idea in the back of my head for several years, and it will involve figures on larger canvases, a theme I can follow and see what develops. On Christmas Day I built 2 stretcher frames, both  of them 6 feet tall, and stretched raw linen on them each and applied sizing, and have since added three coats of primer, so stay tuned!

Oil painting of thin young woman with dreads, in casual clothes

Sketch of Abigail as Madame X Oil painting of woman in fancy long dress like Sargent's Madame X

Oil painting of young woman posing under a spotlight
This was my first painting with the group, and you can see that I was challenged by the proportions, so the head is considerably larger than it should be. But how about that floodlight!

 

 

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