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Simplification in Plein Air

Photo of plein air painting in progress, Henderson Beach State ParkLast week I was unable to paint due to a hectic schedule with my “day jobs”.  This week I made up for it by painting two paintings during the weekly plein air outing of the Emerald Coast Plein Air painters.  We went to Henderson Beach State Park, in Destin, Florida.  When I woke up this morning, it was raining, and I thought I was in for a challenging day.  But by the time I got to our painting location, the sky was still very gray but all I had to contend with was a stiff breeze.  I tied my easel to a picnic table and got busy.

I had painted our coastal dunes many times in the ’80’s when I was using watercolors, so the shapes and colors were very familiar.  For my challenge, I opted for the sky textures.  It was enjoyable, and I finished my first painting quickly, by simplifying the landscape.  I resisted the temptation to exaggerate the oranges and blues in the gray clouds.  It was fun to see those same oranges and blues in the other artists’ paintings when we critiqued our work.

I’m excited about next weekend.  Our local arts association, the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, puts on a very successful outdoor juried exhibition, ArtsQuest, on Mother’s Day weekend every year.  The exhibit draws artists from all over the country.  This year, I will have 3 oil paintings in the CAA members’ tent, which will require me to volunteer 4 hours at the festival, and I also will be one of the artists’ exhibiting in the Plein Air Painters’ tent, also requiring some volunteer time, and will be painting plein air on site off-and-on during the festival.  Last year I demonstrated figure drawing, so I know this will be a lot of fun.

NOTE, 11/7/13:  I brightened the foreground considerably after deciding the first painting did not have enough impact.  The final version is at

Oil painting at Henderson Beach State Park Oil painting at Henderson Beach State Park

Most of my paintings and images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

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