|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.
Day 1, Monday, April 9, 2018: On the first day of the St. George Island Paint-Out the weather was predicted to be rainy. I set up near on the boardwalk near a pavilion in St. George Island State Park. I was amused that despite the strong wind and boisterous surf, the warning flag for swimmers was merely a yellow caution flag. Where I live, a surf like that would have closed the waters — we would have had a red or even a double red flag. I decided that St. George Islanders must be a tough bunch. I painted the whipping flag and the surf, and called it “Yellow Flag Day”.
After lunch on Day 1, I painted the big, protective, mother bear of a dune, the primary dune, looking eastward, in the St. George Island State Park. It peaked some distance from me so that I could not see it guarding the coast to the end of the island. The day continued to be blustery. That evening all of the artists were treated to dinner at the Clubhouse at the Plantation of St. George Island, and we were asked to bring the day’s paintings. I was floored buy the talent, skill, and expressiveness of my fellow artists. This was going to be a great week!
Day 2, Tuesday, April 10, 2018: I left my host’s house at dark-thirty on Tuesday, and crossed the bridge from Apalachicola to St. George Island just as the sun was coming up. I stopped to catch a few photos of it, vowing to be there earlier the next day so that I could try to capture some of the color.
My host and fellow artist Lynn Wilson had mentioned the dunes in the Plantation, so on I went, on a mission to find them. I must have taken 100 photos — even though the day was fast becoming gray. One dune was drifting over a boardwalk, and I prepared to paint it by first sketching it and then painting a small 4×6 study of the basic shapes. And then the rain came. It got cold, and breezy, and I made a mad dash, lugging most of my gear back to my car before the torrential rain started. Time for a nice, big, late breakfast at The Beach Pit, one of our paint-out sponsors. When the rain stopped and I returned to my scene but it was not nearly as charming as it had been in the morning. So I changed my angle and painted the dune beside it, which had a huge scoop of out of it where the winter winds had blown the sand from the dune to now cover the boardwalk. I called it “Sands of Time.”
Day 3, Wednesday April 11, 2018: I had a half-day workshop for 3 people that lasted well into the afternoon. Painting while teaching is not the same for me as painting by myself — my demo’s rarely have the same immediacy, probably because I am explaining everything as I go along. The left half of our brain is the logical, sequential, linguistic side; the right side is the creative, intuitive, expressionistic side. The two sides are connected by the corpus colossum, so that the two halves can exchange and coordinate information. I think my corpus colossum could use some calisthenics. I find running both halves of my brain at the same time to be quite a challenge. So as frustrating as it was, it wasn’t really a surprise to me that I was less than thrilled with my painting at the end of the workshop. It was excellent practice, but not a “keeper”, so I wiped it off. So I had no painting to show for my efforts that day. Frustrated, I walked out onto the dock at Nick’s Hole, and was greeted by my favorite scene on the island, the marsh grasses. I am always struck by the lime-green of the foliage in the barren sand where water sometimes floods in from the bayou. This year it is a particularly abundant, and begged to be painted. My painting of this scene was awarded second place by the event judges at the opening reception at the end of the week.
Day 4, Thursday, April 12, 2018: Finally, I got a chance to capture some of the color of the sky just as the sun was coming up. I painted one painting, and started a second one, but then it was too far into the morning — all of the color was gone. I would finish the second one the next day.
Several of the artists offered demo’s or workshops throughout the week. On Thursday, Craig Reynolds demo’d the Lighthouse at the center of the island. I set up my easel to paint at the back of the class. I enjoyed the oh-so-subtle shadow wrapping around the right side of the white lighthouse.
Day 5, Friday, April 13, 2018: I finished my second sunrise from the previous day, and painted a third! I see neither the sunrise nor the sunset from my home, being surrounded by tall trees on the feeder creek to a bayou. Clearly I am thirsty for them. I predict some early morning walks on the beach in my future.
Friday was my birthday, and I can think of no better birthday present than to have spent this week painting on St. George Island! It defined happiness! Uncertain what to paint after the bright colors of sunrise, I drove to the center of the island, thinking I might do the street scene, but I looked up at the lighthouse and was blinded by the sun behind the lens and the catwalk railings. Why not give it a go, I thought. The resulting painting was definitely plein air but also was extremely expressive of my state of mind, without concern for the true color of the lighthouse but rather an attempt to show the blinding light. I was thrilled with the result. I have always been fairly disciplined in my plein air efforts, trying to be true to form and color, saving expressive painting for occasional studio works. This painting was for me a breath of fresh air.
Freshly inspired I drove back to the Plantation of St. George Island to again paint in the dunes area of Resort Village, but this time facing northward towards the developed area instead of south towards the beach. A path from the nearby houses in Resort Village passed through the wild on its way to the boardwalks to the beach. I set up my easel beside the path, my eye caught by two pines standing sentinel over the scrub. The late afternoon light was bright on the spring colors, and the shadows were casting beautiful blue-gray contours over the lay of the sand. Members of a family passed me a few times, and one, Carl, stopped and gave me his card when I was about to stop for the day, and he said, “I want that painting!” I told him it wasn’t finished yet, and he said that was OK, but he would be gone the next morning, to go ahead and finish it and to let him know when it was done. So I went to that evening’s Meet-and-Greet where I and Debby Brienen and Randy Brienen were the honored guests, and the next morning, Saturday, I finished “Carl’s Path”.
How can I sum this up? What a wonderful week! A mountain of thanks to Bunnie Ison and Buena Brown, and to my host and painting buddy Lynn Wilson, and to my resource person and Girl Friday, Barbara Iman, event judges Sandi Shaw, Pines and Palms Gallery, Thomasville, GA, and Ann Kozeliski, LeMoyne Arts, Tallahassee, FL, and to the Plantation of St. George Island, the visitor’s center, and the community supporters, and all the sponsors…
St. George Island Paint Out Sponsors: