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Forgotten Coast en Plein Air 2019: Part 2

Florida’s Finest Ambassador and Artist-in-Residence

“Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.” ~John Muir

I was honored to be invited to be the Artist-in-Residence for the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air this spring. My artist residency is split into two parts over three weeks. I spent 4 days on the Forgotten Coast of Florida last week and I will spend another 3 days there again next week, continuing to study and to paint the 2019 theme for Forgotten Coast en Plein Air, which is “Recovery in the Natural Environment” relative to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael in October of 2018. My personal approach to this project focuses on Hope.

I am hosted by a sweet couple, George and Maggie Jones on Cape San Blas, just a few miles south of St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. They didn’t see much of me while I was there last week because I was out every day, observing, painting, photographing, and absorbing, from first light until sunset.

The Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast

Joe Taylor, CEO of Franklin’s Promise Coalition, invited me to see the mitigation efforts of the Conservation Corps and Disaster Corps that were happening last week. Marquette High School (Rockwood School District, St. Louis, Missouri) sent 120 students to spend their spring break here to assist in hurricane recovery and mitigation. They were planting sea oats, building living shorelines, picking up trash, and helping to restore longleaf pine forests. Accompanied by teacher and staff volunteers and two principals, Dr. Dan Ramsey and Amy Blumenfeld, Marquette High School chose the Forgotten Coast for their service project this year.

When people are motivated and leadership is effective, a lot of work gets done. The Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast posted on their Facebook page, “What an awesome Spring Break! Our CCFC GulfCorps and Disaster Corps Crews hosted 120 of the most energetic and hard working teens from Marquette High School in St. Louis, MO. They completed 6 service projects in three days. They helped restore the dunes by planting sea oats on the beach behind the SGI Lighthouse, they rebuilt the living shoreline on Sawyer Street, they removed hurricane debris from Unit 4 (East Hole) on SGI, at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Visitor Center grounds, and throughout Tate’s Hell State Forest. And they cleaned, weeded, and layed fresh pine straw for the Reid Avenue businesses in Port St. Joe. They were such fun young people and they really worked hard to help our communities recover from Hurricane Michael.”

I was interested to learn that the leadership development for this effort is funded by the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill settlement. The program crosses five states — Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. The Forgotten Coast chapter and a chapter in Mississippi are the pilots, models for the others. I met crew manager Holden Foley who is one of these trained leaders. He was supervising one of the groups of students.

Per the website:  “The GulfCorps initiative is a major part of The Corps Network’s activities on the Gulf Coast. Made possible by a $7 million RESTORE Act grant administered by the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA), GulfCorps officially launched in August 2017. Over three years, funds will be distributed evenly to the five Gulf Coast states to support existing local Corps in hiring young adults to conduct restoration and conservation activities. The Corps Network, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Student Conservation Association (SCA) will facilitate recruitment, training, and identification of projects. GulfCorps is expected to provide jobs to 300 young adults over the coming years.” ~CorpsNetwork.org  

Planting Sea Oats

The first couple of days were cloudy or hazy, not the best light for plein air painting. I sketched a lot and took photos. I was impressed by how fast the job went when I watched the kids planting sea oats in front of the lighthouse on St. George Island. 4000 sea oats had been purchased, their root masses still in the shape of nursery pots. Holden, the crew leader, gave shovels to some of the kids and to some he gave plants, and some took the super-absorbent polymer, a product holding moisture which is placed in the bottom of the hole under the seedling root mass. The kids were models for us to see what we all can do to get along, cooperate, and do good in our community in real, impactful ways. Below are a few pages from my sketchbook.

Joe pointed out to me the difference that last year’s planting of sea oats had made. Even though some had washed away in Hurricane Michael, they greatly stabilized the foredune, versus the area in front of neighboring private property bordering the planted area. There, the berm was heavily scarped by erosion, forming a 4-foot cliff.

Construction of a Living Shoreline

The light was a little brighter the second day, so I was able to produce a plein air study of the students organizing into a “bucket brigade” to carry bagged oyster shells out to the living shoreline they were building on the Bay at Sawyer Street on St. George Island. A living shoreline is the placement of barriers in the Bay near the shore, which break the force of waves and trap sand brought in by wave action. The shoreline rebuilds as a result, eventually covered by cordgrass. Oyster shells are used because they are natural to the area. The students had loaded the shells into biodegradable mesh bags in an assembly line of shoveling, scraping, and tying. TURN DOWN YOUR VOLUME — it was windy that day.

Cait Snyder, the ANERR’s land management and stewardship specialist and advisor for the project, introduced herself to me and offered any research advice I might need. ANERR, the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve, focuses on scientific research, natural resource management and environmental education and stewardship and partners with local, state, and federal agencies for a multitude of projects.

Construction of a living shoreline requires a permit from the State and the Army Corps of Engineers, specifying where and how it will be built, with periodic gaps in the barrier so that the Bay critters and fish can swim back out with the tide. Where I stood when I set up to paint was exciting evidence of the success of prior barriers. Sand had accreted to a depth of more than a foot, and the spartina (Spartina alterniflora aka smooth cordgrass) had held up through Hurricane Michael, probably helping to prevent the road from being washed out. I visited with a local who thought the accreted dirt had come from the road. But I could see that the sand inside the living shoreline was very different from the dirt making up the road, so there was no confusion in my mind as to the Bay source of the sand. Cait told me that there even was a red mangrove tree coming up at the edge of the spartina, but that it didn’t appear to have survived the storm. I had no idea mangrove trees grew this far north. Cait said that historically red mangroves have existed in the northern Gulf, but have often been limited by cold events. She said fewer cold events, less intense temperatures, and shorter durations of freezing temps may be allowing mangrove expansion at the northern edge of their ranges in recent years.

Trash and Debris Collection

I also saw a couple of groups of the Marquette students cleaning up storm debris from ANERR Unit 4 on St. George Island and from Millender Park in Eastpoint. This task was very familiar to me, being the bulk of my own experience from cleaning up after tropical storms – there is so much trash, windblown, of course, and also waterborne by storm surge flooding. Hurricanes are giant mess-makers. The students had made piles of contractor bags full of trash, and grouped it into mountains for collection.

St. Joseph Peninsula State Park

Later that afternoon the sun came out, and I went to T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park to see the amazing breach again. I accidentally came upon a couple of deer, one full-grown, and the younger one nearly grown, certainly born last year, both of them survivors of the storm. They represent exactly the Hope I want to convey as my personal focus for the recovery theme of the residency, the reason I chose the John Muir quote to open this blog post.

Dawn brought bright sunshine on my third day there, and anticipating it, I was waiting at the entrance to the state park for the 8 AM opening of the gates. I was not disappointed. The area of the breach caused by Hurricane Michael’s storm surge has turned out to be a scenic wonder, different every time I see it. This morning, there were large tide pools on the Bay side, left by the tidal current running through the breach from the Bay to the Gulf. When time is fleeting, I use my phone-camera for my sketchbook. I took photos to document everything from the color of the water to the myriad of different kinds of ripples left in the tidal flats. I stood at the edge of the water for 20 minutes watching a new sand bar being formed, starting to enclose another small pool. Mother Nature was working to close the breach before my very eyes! I wonder how long it will take. When I first saw the breach 4 weeks ago, much of what had been a roiling hurricane current already was a sand flat, and this week I found the channel already only half as wide as it had been just four weeks ago. The sand on the Gulf side has piled up into a berm 4-feet thick. High winds of 18 to 20 mph overnight had glazed the plain of sand smooth as snow, with harrow marks where small shells dotted the surface.


I find the breach to be one of the most fascinating things I have ever seen, my imagination entranced by the majestic power of the Hurricane that carved through a peninsula hundreds of years old, perhaps thousands. The aerial imagery of the floor of the Bay in that area shows where a channel might have cut through before. Native American artifacts found there indicate activity over the length of the peninsula for a long time, but I guess they would have come on boats if the breach ever was open during their time on the peninsula. So I don’t know how old the peninsula is, or how long it’s been since it last was breached.

I stood my easel near the water’s edge to paint the far shore across the channel. I chose a small 6”x12” canvas because of the high winds. My study shows the old tree that was unburied by the sweeping storm surge, now standing alone by itself, a sentinel between the dunes and the channel. It seems to have a net or something hung up in its lowest branches, giving the trunk an odd silhouette. The early sun cast long shadows from the scarped dunes; they shortened while I was painting.

That afternoon I revisited St. George Island to see how the living shoreline looked with the sun shining, but when I got there, smoke from a distant fire was filtering the sunlight. I returned to Cape San Blas for cocktails and dinner with my hosts and their friends.

St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge

On my last morning there, I took a walking tour on St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge. I had registered for it on the Friends of SVNWR website a month prior.  30 people came across Indian Pass on the shuttle in 5 trips. We divided into several groups for the tour. The path we took skirted the protected bird-nesting area, winding up on the Gulf side of the island tip. The beach was flat where until Hurricane Michael, the guide told us, tall, 800-year-old dunes had protected the island. We walked inland over the 26’-elevation highest point and down to the old dirt logging roads. 70% of the island was inundated during the storm by a surge and waves of 13′. Most of the wildlife survived the storm, including the native deer, the exotic Sambar deer, and the recently introduced red wolf mates and their two pups. We saw lots of tracks showing the recent activity of deer, wild boars, and even the wolves. Happy birds filled the forest with the sounds of spring. It was a beautiful hike through natural Florida, slash pines mixed with swamps and palms, and wildflowers everywhere. I highly recommend it. Remember to bring mosquito repellent.

During Hurricane Michael, the sand around these dead pines flowed from the 800-year-old dunes that used to be on the beach at the horizon where the people are standing. This is on St. Vincent Island.

The Next Part of the Artist Residency

This week I have been reviewing my photos and thinking about what I would like to paint en plein air when I return for the second half of my residency next week. Wednesday, April 3, will be “Field Day”, when people can come watch or even paint along with me, and we will meet at the end of the day for show-and-tell and wine at Scallop Republic. I chose the breach in St. Joseph Peninsula State Park for the area I would like to paint on that day. I’d like to try two or three paintings. Registration for attendees is at https://forgottencoastculturalcoalition.wildapricot.org/event-3330246.

On Thursday of this week I will paint half a day, and the other half day I will take a class on Oyster Ecology at ANERR, where I hope to learn how Hurricane Michael affected the oyster industry in the imperiled Apalachicola Bay, and how it is recovering. On Friday I will paint and later that afternoon I will prepare to give a presentation to the Board of the Forgotten Coast Cultural Coalition which is funding this residency. The public is invited. My presentation will be at 6:30 Eastern Time at The Joe Center for the Arts, 201 Reid Avenue, Port St. Joe, FL 32456. After that I will have a month to refine my plein air paintings and to also produce studio works for the theme.

The Exhibit of My Residency Paintings

My residency work will be displayed at the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air May 3-May 12, 2019. For the first part of the event, the exhibit will be at Cal Allen’s Gallery at 109 Avenue B South, Carrabelle, FL 32322. I will give a presentation at the FCenPA reception there on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, at 6:30 pm. On Friday, May 10, 2019, my paintings will be moved to hang at the Fort Coombs Armory at the corner of 4th Street and Avenue D in Apalachicola, FL, for the Maecenas Dinner that evening and for the final day of the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air and the Collector’s Gala. Click HERE for the event schedule.

Stay tuned for my next blog post, “Forgotten Coast en Plein Air 2019:  Florida’s Finest Ambassador and Artist-in-Residence, Part 3!”

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Forgotten Coast en Plein Air 2019: Part 1

Florida’s Finest Ambassador and Artist-in-Residence

Every year the Forgotten Coast Cultural Coalition hosts a plein air painting event, inviting twenty professional artists to paint the area of Northwest Florida known as the Forgotten Coast. It includes the communities of Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe, Cape San Blas, Indian Pass, Apalachicola, Eastpoint, St. George Island, and Carrabelle. On October 10, 2018, the Forgotten Coast was hit hard by Hurricane Michael. The City of Mexico Beach was decimated, and the surrounding communities also were heavily impacted. The theme for this year’s annual Forgotten Coast en Plein Air event will focus on the natural environment as it recovers from the impact of the Hurricane.

Florida’s Finest Ambassador

I am happy that for the second time I have been selected to be a Florida’s Finest en Plein Air Ambassador for the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air event. Every year, four to six Florida artists are selected for this honor. I also served as an Ambassador in 2016, so I know it to be a big job, some of the hardest work but also some of the most rewarding work I have ever done. It involves mentoring artists new to plein air, one-to-one, in two hour sessions, 3 sessions a day with a different artist each session, working with 15 artists over 5 days. The program is underwritten by Duke Energy, with all tools and materials supplied.

In the past, participating painters have been charged only $25 for what I would estimate is a $200 private lesson when you count supplies and equipment plus the compensation and housing provided to the Ambassadors. Watch the event website for the opening of registration for the “Painting Stations”: https://forgottencoastculturalcoalition.wildapricot.org.

Artist-in-Residence

I also am honored and deeply humbled to be invited to do the artist residency for the event. Residencies traditionally have been offered only to an invited professional artist, and not to Ambassadors. Being an artist-in-residence for the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air means that I will be housed there for a week this spring, to observe, learn, and paint scenes relating to the event theme focusing on the natural environment as it recovers from the impact of Hurricane Michael. In particular, I will be looking at mitigation efforts including the installation of living shorelines, planting sea oats, erecting sand fences, mitigating the combustible fuel overload in the forests, and restoring the longleaf pines.

I will be observing the work of the Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast which is managed by Franklin’s Promise Coalition. For background knowledge, I also have scheduled a walking tour on St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge, and I will take two workshops from the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve, one on Oyster Ecology, and the other one a Bay Estuary class.

My residency is split into two parts. The first four days are this-coming week, and the last 3 days are in the first week of April. I will be observing, sketching, and painting en plein air, and in the month following, I will be refining some of my plein air works and also producing some studio works from my observations. If you are interested in painting with me, or observing, the Artist’s Field Day will be all day Wednesday April 3, 2019. At the end of the bring-your-own-lunch day will be an informal critique and wine. (!!!) Contact Cheryl at forgottencoastenpleinair@gmail.com for details. In early May I will present my residency work at the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air event, at a reception at Cal Allen Gallery in Carrabelle, FL, Tuesday May 7 at 6:30 pm Eastern Time.

Reconnaissance

On Monday of last week I drove over to Cape San Blas and St. George Island to take a look at some of the areas I have painted. Driving through Mexico Beach is still such a shock, even though a great deal of the storm mess and destruction has been swept clean. Seeing blocks and blocks of land where homes used to be, is something I can’t get used to. I drove on to Port St. Joe, to Salinas Park which is on the way to Cape San Blas. The marsh on the Bay side looks healthy, but the Gulf side of the park surprised me, a big cut coming all the way from the Gulf to the parking area at the southernmost boardwalk.

The inlet to the cut had filled in, leaving a large tide pool, and the county had bulldozed sand to form two dune-like mounds to restore the geography. The concrete floor of the pavilion next to that boardwalk was sloped and askew where the current of the storm surge had eroded the dirt from beneath it. A truckload of inmates were clearing debris from the park. I was disturbed to see green branches on the ground where still living pine trees had been removed along with the dead, but I confess I have no knowledge of how soon the living trees will die anyway because of saltwater inundation.

The rock-hardened curve of the road on the Cape was one lane, repairs and reinforcement being done. That road certainly would have been completely washed away if it hadn’t had a barrier of big rocks 5′ high. I saw some of those boulders washed all the way across the road, resting in the marsh.

Inside T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, everything looked pretty typical for a barrier island hit by a storm, the foliage wind-burned and some pine trees snapped in half, until I got to the first beachfront boardwalk and restroom just past Eagle Harbor. There ahead was the 1000-yard breach in the peninsula, where the Gulf of Mexico washed through to St. Joseph Bay. I parked and walked out on the large sandy area bordering the south side of the channel. It is an awe-inspiring sight, imagining the power of the storm to move that much sand. I have been told that Mother Nature is filling in the channel already, that it was 35 feet deep when the breach first happened, and that now you can wade across at low-tide, though that is not advised because of the dangerous currents.

The island part of the park is still closed, dangerous with storm debris, broken buildings, exposed utilities and what-not. On the opposite shore from me was an oddity: a tree that had been buried in the dune was completely exposed, the branches balanced on top of a massive tap-root still holding it erect. Who knows how old that tree was. I expect it will provide stability for the new dune when one forms there. I returned following the eroded face of the dunes, past a second place where you could see how the dune eroded into the start of another cut, which would have further widened the breach but instead left a large tide pool. The sand is already collecting in front of the dunes and on the sea oats that are already growing up from their rhizomes deep under the wind-swept beach.

Below are images of a couple of scenes I painted last spring in 2018, and at right, the site where I was standing when I painted them, now a wide breach in St. Joseph Peninsula.

You can learn more about the damages in the state park in this article.

I drove over to the recently reopened St. George Island State Park, and found the scene of another one of my paintings, the massive dune I had painted no longer there, the beach scoured flat. A park ranger, Assistant Manager Lance Kelly, was very gracious in taking time to talk to me about their efforts to re-open the park. He said Hurricane Michael was so strong that a good deal of the dunes blew over to the other side of St. George Island, actually widening the island a bit. He told me how resilient the sea oats are, sending up new leaves even after being uprooted by the storm, run over by bulldozers, and plowed into the long hills of sand the rangers put between the road and the beach to encourage the start of new dunes.

Below is a scene I painted there on SGI last spring in 2018, and at right, the vast emptiness now where that massive dune used to stand.

On my way back off St. George Island, I stopped at East Hole (ANERR Unit 4), and walked out to the Apalachicola Bay shoreline, where I found bordering the marsh a wide stretch of new sand about a foot deep, tossed up onto the shore by the wave action in the Bay. No doubt this was some of the gulf front dune sand the ranger had been talking about. A pair of blue herons were fishing a short distance from me, signaling spring nesting coming soon, continuing the cycle of life on the barrier island.


This is the first of a five-part series on my experiences as a Florida’s Finest Ambassador and an Artist-in-Residence for the 2019 Forgotten Coast en Plein Air.

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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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The Need to Paint

Soft pastels painting of an old leafy treeI have been in Apalachicola, Florida, for two weeks, immersed in plein air painting.The first 10 days were the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air, where some 25+ artists are invited to paint, demonstrate, and share their talents and stories, with hopes of generating sales of works produced throughout the event. The second 4 days were a convention of sorts called Plein Air South, with demo’s by multiple artists painting in the same general location at the same time, panel discussions, lunch-and-learn sessions, lectures, and paint-along sessions, from early morning to late evening, a marathon of learning, painting, and networking, generally refilling the well, creatively-speaking. One of the demonstrations I attended was given by Marsha Savage, who painted with soft pastels en plein air. Oil paint is my usual medium, but I like to explore other media for a change of pace. A month prior I had signed up for a local plein air pastels workshop which was scheduled two days after my return from Plein Air South, and although I was exhausted, I happily attended, freshly inspired in particular by the freshness of Marsha Savage’s pastel painting. The instructor of the local workshop was Fred Myers, who used to teach art at the University of Northern Colorado, where I received my art degree in the late 70’s. Fred was my favorite art professor, teaching figure drawing and painting. After his demonstration at this workshop, I made several thumbnail sketches of scenes, to study and figure out the darks and the lights, and I found my mind also wandering back to Marsha’s demo as I sketched. Then I tackled my subject, a gnarly, aged magnolia tree, covered with the buds of the blossoms that would surely be decorating it in the coming weeks. While the painting I produced is probably typical of the paintings I do, no doubt my work was influenced by having watched both Fred and Marsha work.

I think that every exposure to plein air painters and plein air painting brings me closer to the level of awareness that I strive for personally and in my paintings, which in this case was the mood of the tree scene. I had the overwhelming feeling that it was a good tree to sit underneath to think, perhaps even sharing its wisdom as well as its shade. It satisfied my compulsion, my need to paint, at least for that day.

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Keeping up With Inventory: Sales, Week of April 13, 2017

Oil painting of two immature barn owls recently flown from the nest, St. George Plantation, St. George Island, FL

LABEL BY ARTWORKARCHIVE.COM

Inventory record keeping can be a chore. I have many paintings. Some are on my studio walls, some are in storage, some are entered in shows, some are entered in competitions, some are in galleries, and some are out on loan. I used to simply upload my works to my website. But I might want a list of the paintings in a collection at a particular gallery, and my website cannot make reports. For that I rely on an online inventory system called Artwork Archive. This site allows me to assign my artwork to various collections (galleries, competitions, locations, etc.). It generates nice reports, and it can create gallery labels with as much or as little information on them as I want. For example, for a recent show at St. George Plantation on St. George Island, FL, I opted to include the one-paragraph “description” on each 4 x 6 label, because each of the paintings had a story, my experience and observations while I was painting it there on location, with which I knew the viewers would identify.

Artwork Archive also allows me to immediately mark a piece sold, and to record where it was sold and by which gallery or exhibit. It was a valuable tool this week, when a number of sales happened through various avenues. I sold a plein air painting off the easel on Wednesday, to the owner of the house in my painting. I also sold 3 paintings this weekend at the the St. George Plantation show. One of the galleries showing a number of my paintings called to say they had sold one painting, and also a small figure drawing, and the interior design shop representing me sent me a check for the proceeds from 3 paintings sold. Plus I received an order for a commissioned painting. It was a good week! Artwork Archive made simple the record keeping for these sales.

It also can make a beautiful report on any single painting, complete with image.

Before I started using Artwork Archive, I used to try to keep a spreadsheet of sorts, but it was cumbersome, to say the least. I still keep a spreadsheet of due dates and delivery dates for competitions and exhibits, but the bulk of my record keeping is on Artwork Archive.

Below are my sales for the week, a sample of the necessary record keeping. The first five are recent paintings.

Oil painting of General Miller's relocated house, in Point Washington, FL

Oil painting of two immature barn owls recently flown from the nest, St. George Plantation, St. George Island, FL

Oil painting the marsh view at Nick's Hole , Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve

Oil painting o the Egrets' Pond on Leisure Lane, St. George Plantation, St. George Island, FL

 

The following paintings also sold this week.

Oil painting of the bright light on the water of the Gulf of Mexico at Henderson Beach State Park, Destin, Florida

Oil painting of misty palms in Marler's Park, painted en plein air

Oil painting of the beach foliage and beach umbrellas along the gulf-front at Seaside, FL, painted en plein air

Oil painting of the dunes south of Western Lake, at Grayton Beach State Park

All of the above paintings have sold. If you have a scene that you would like memorialized in a painting, contact me on this website’s “Contact Form”. I am happy to do commissioned work.

 

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The Practice of Plein Air Painting

We “practice” yoga, we “practice” meditation. Plein air painting is “practiced”. Like yoga, and like meditation, plein air painting is performed, hopefully, with increasing awareness and perhaps with increasing skill, but I don’t know of any painter who thinks their practice is “perfected”. Even though a plein air painter might occasionally paint the best painting of her or his life, the next painting still begins with the proverbial blank canvas. I paint weekly with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters. Actually, I coordinate the weekly sessions, sending out the location to the email list of 240 people, and meeting the group of 2 to 15 painters who might show up. We paint for 3 hours, and then have a soft critique, followed by lunch at a local restaurant. The social aspect of the weekly get-togethers reinforces my practice.

In January, it was foggy for one of our sessions, at Turkey Creek in Niceville, FL. By the time we finished, the fog had lifted and colors had appeared, but initially my scene appeared to be monochromatic. I used a different approach for this foggy scene. Normally when painting en plein air, the darks are laid in first. But to create the atmosphere of light through the fog in this painting, I painted the light brownish-gray sky and water and the very light value background shapes, layering the darker, closer shapes on top.

Oil painting of the dunes at Henderson Beach State Park

The last week of January we painted at Henderson Beach State Park in Destin, Florida. The Florida Panhandle coast from Panama City to Pensacola is covered with sugar-white, fine quartz sand from thousands of years of erosion carried down to the Gulf of Mexico by the Apalachicola River. The white sand picks up reflected color from everything around it, and sometimes the compliments of those colors are sensed by the viewer. The sand might appear pink next to the green foliage topping a dune, or warmer and yellower near cool shadows.

The next week we painted at Camp Helen State Park, which is on the Walton County / Bay County border. The park contains hardwood live oak and pine hammocks, marsh ecosystems, and sandy beach. I hiked out to a view of the dunes, where I could just make out the skeleton of the old pier. I was challenged by the puffy little clouds covering most of the sky, with a little blue peaking out just here and there.

The first weekend of February, I drove two hours east to the village of Apalachicola to meet up with my friend Lynn Wilson, owner of On the Waterfront Gallery and President of the Artists of Apalachicola Area. Lyn is sponsoring monthly Weekend Warrior painting workshops, and this weekend was the first, taught by Atlanta artist Debra Nadelhoffer. I took the workshop both to learn and also to observe the logistics, since Lynn has invited me to teach the workshop in May. Debra likes to paint the sky with different colors of the same value in order to impart the shimmer or movement of the air that she sees. I painted the above painting, and later was painting on a new canvas, trying to learn how to paint the blinding glimmer of sunlight on water, when passers-by stopped and asked to purchase the above painting. The following paintings were also painted in the Nadelhoffer workshop, as I tried new color combinations, and exaggerations of color.

After returning home, I painted with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, and found myself experimenting with color temperatures in order to enhance the feeling of space and mood. I did not finish the painting (below) and did not keep it, satisfied with what I learned in the process.

All of these paintings are available for purchase. Contact me for information, using the form that comes up when you click on the painting.

 

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From Destin to Apalachicola

Oil painting of the food vendors and festival-goers at Destin Festival of the Arts, 2015When I take an art workshop, it provides a wonderful break from the full-time management of my pool service business and an opportunity to fully immerse myself in my art. I counted this week as a 6-day vacation, first participating in the two-day Destin Festival of the Arts (Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation) on Saturday and Sunday, then attending a Bill Farnsworth workshop through the Apalachicola School of Art Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and finally, painting with Mary Erickson on Thursday.

IMG_9627-2The Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters had a booth in the Destin Festival of the Arts, with 6 painters representing the group. I enjoyed interacting with the festival-goers, talking to the other artists in our booth, and plein air painting one morning. A lot of work goes into a festival booth. Marian Pacsuta and her husband erected the tent, so it was fully assembled with ProPanels and wind-weights already in place by the time the rest of us arrived to hang our art on the curtain hooks Marian provided. She had a small table set up, covered to the ground with black spandex cloth. I had made some flyers explaining our group, and some group business cards the day before, so those were on the table along with artists’ business cards and a clipboard for folks to sign who wanted to receive the weekly notifications of our painting locations. To make sure the booth was manned at all times, I had scheduled the 6 participating artists and two additional artists helping, in two- and three-person shifts throughout the festival. At the end of the second day, we all converged to pick up our art and take down the tent, a feat accomplished in a mere 20 minutes. Many of us painted en plein air during the festival. I arrived early on the second day and had an uninterrupted block of time to paint my scene en plein air before festival goers came, and then I was able to add in a few people.

Oil painting of a trailered oyster boat on shady private launchAt 5:00 the next morning I jumped in the car to drive the two-hour trip to Apalachicola for the Bill Farnsworth workshop. Bill is one of the featured “plein air ambassadors” of the Forgotten Coast En Plein Air event in Apalachicola. I had seen and admired his work, so when the Apalachicola School of Art advertised his workshop, it was an easy decision to sign up. The workshop was billed as Field to Studio, but the 20 mph winds and rains of the remnants of Mexico’s Hurricane Patricia were emptying out on the Gulf Coast, so we just painted in the studio using photo references that Bill had brought. His demos seemed to build from silhouetted shapes to high contrast to color, first completing much of the detail of his focal area before progressing to the less emphasized parts of the composition. The first day I painted the trailered oyster boat on the left, from a photo that Bill brought, and the second day I painted his photo of a blue truck at a seafood business.

Oil painting of a blue pickup parked beside a seafood marketAt the risk of losing my momentum here, a little rant about artistic ethics: It’s not right to pass off a painting of someone else’s image as your own. Photography is an art in itself. If someone else shot the photo, they made the compositional decisions, and probably did some post-processing. I encourage everyone to always make sure you disclose that you used someone else’s photo reference, and give him or her credit. I know there are an abundance of images available on the internet, and some artists, even recognized artists and instructors, merely download an image from the internet and then paint it. Some artists even copy other artist’s paintings, and call them their own! I’ve coordinated exhibits where artists signed a statement of ownership when  their work is clearly a copy of someone else’s work! Explaining rejections of art due to ethics is difficult when people do not have the same values. Don’t get me wrong, there is a world of benefit in copying someone’s painting, especially a Master. I never learned so much as in one semester in college when I made it my assignment to copy drawings by recognized Masters, from daVinci and Michelangelo to Degas. But it’s wrong to call it your own art, without crediting the artist or photographer. I’ve even had friends download my photos from Facebook and then re-upload them without giving me credit, instead of using the convenient “share” button that Facebook provides. OK, enough about that. So I do sell my workshop paintings that used someone else’s photo, to recover the cost of the workshop, but I always disclose it and would not enter them in an exhibit or competition.

Finally, on the last day of Bill’s workshop, the sun came out and the winds died down and the birds sang! We had opportunity to paint en plein air in the morning and again in the afternoon after Bill’s demo. I tried hard to remember Bill’s focus on relative temperatures of color, as well as relative values. I painted an old but still living tree, and I painted the St. George Island lighthouse and museum.

Bill Farnsworth 2

Bill Farsworth 1
Bill Farnsworth, Apalachicola, October 2015
Oil pain ting of an old misshapen oak tree in Apalachicola, FL Oil painting of the St. George Island light and museum Click painting

The day after Bill’s workshop, I took a bonus day away from work, since my staff had handled everything well in my absence, my only concern being when my office manager used the words “creative accounting” to explain how she resolved a cash-flow situation, oh dear.

I used my extra day to paint with Mary Erickson, the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air’s Artist in Residence at St. Joe Buffer Preserve. With my sweet host and fellow classmate and painter extraordinaire Lynn Wilson (On the Waterfront Gallery) and other friends and fellow classmates, I had attended Mary’s introduction a couple nights before, where she had shown her amazing paintings in support of the buffer preserve’s mission of appreciation and conservation of the wildlife and exquisite dune and marsh habitats.

We found Mary at sunrise Thursday morning, and watched her deftly capture the pink and orange light on the clouds and the dunes. I decided to paint on some 4×6 miniature linen panels that I had bought by mistake, intending to buy a different size, and only 5, not 50! I painted 3 studies of the wildflowers in the changing light over the course of the day.

Mary Erickson 1
Mary Erickson, Salinas Park, Oct 2015
Mary Erickson 2 Mary Erickson 3
Oil painting of wildflowers in Salinas Park, mid-morning light Oil painting of wildflowers in Salinas Park, mid-morning light Oil painting of wildflowers in Salinas Park, mid-afternoon light

All in all, a fabulous week, and delivering 5 newer paintings to be shown at On The Waterfront Gallery in Apalachicola, to boot!

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Plein Air Painting With New Colors

As if I didn’t already have enough challenge painting en plein air, I recently tried out a new color, “cobalt green” on a couple of plein air outings. In both cases, the bright color was perfect for representing what I was seeing at the time, but it challenged me because I was unfamiliar with how it mixed with my other colors. At the Ft. Walton Beach Indian Temple Mound, I painted a bushy palm study, and at Grayton Beach State Park I painted a front-lit scene showing the colors to be much warmer and brighter than when viewed from my usual position of looking into the light.

Oil painting of a palm tree at Indian Temple Mound in Ft. Walton Beach, FL Oil painting of the fall grasses in the sunes of Grayton Beach State Park

The next week our Wednesday painting group, the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, met at the restored train depot in DeFuniak Springs, and we each painted various views around the depot and the surrounding lake yard. I chose a limited palette which included cobalt violet, a color I have carried in my paint-kit for a long time, but rarely use. It mixed well to create many of the red-violets I used to tie my painting together.

Oil painting of the train depot and tracks at DeFuniak Springs, FL, facing east

This past weekend I took a workshop from Keith Martin Johns hosted by my friend Lynn Wilson through her On the Waterfront Gallery in Apalachicola, FL. Keith taught us to paint using a 9-step value-scale from white to black for our method of changing the value of our colors. I never use my ivory black. It was a bit stiff when I squeezed it out of the tube, and I realized the tube may have been as much as 30 years old! Keith and Linda had provided us with photo references, and the assignment was to take two photos with two very different kinds of lighting, one predominantly sky, and the other a landscape, and compose a 24 x 36 painting from the two photos. I felt uncomfortable with the unfamiliar methodology, so it really forced me to stretch and grow, trying something new, with a sky I never would have attempted except for having attended this workshop! My effort is below.

Oil painting of amazing pink clouds swirling into the sunset over a marsh scene, painted in Keith Martin Johns workshop

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These below are the two photo references the instructor provided that I used to create the composition above.

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Self-Forgiveness and Transcendence in Plein Air Painting

I often say that I meet myself coming and going, when I am plein air painting. By that I mean that I have to do a lot of work on self-acceptance throughout the process of making a painting. Every painting is a struggle – none go exactly as planned. Some paintings go better than others, but some seem like every stroke, every color, every value, every shape, is wrong and needs to be corrected. Those paintings require self-forgiveness and self-acceptance all the way through, or else I would quit and they would end up in the trash. If I don’t forgive myself, then I become angry, and then painting is no fun. I have to reach the “zen” of the process, that point where I start to let be whatever mark I make, without conscious judgement of “good” or “bad”. The artistic analysis and corrections become unconscious, and that is when painting becomes meditative and personally transcending.

I recently have done a number of paintings, some with the local Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, and some at an event in Apalachicola, the Forgotten Coast En Plein Air. Yesterday I did not complete my painting. I often wait until last to develop the focal area of my painting. Yesterday I worked on the focal area first, and I lost track of the time, so the call for group critique came while I still had half the canvas bare.  I quickly slapped in the greenery and a suggestion of the ground to give some context and the following image of the Bruce Cafe was the result.

2015-0513 Bruce Cafe, unfinished
Unfinished — Bruce Cafe

Last week’s regular plein air session was at Oak Marina in Niceville, Florida, yielding my impression of the graphic light on the foreground and the massive oak tree trunk.

Oil painting of the big tree trunks and light patterns on the ground at Oak Marina at Niceville, Florida

I painted 3 paintings during the span of the Forgotten Coast En Plein Air. I painted in the Quickdraw Competition the first weekend and was pleased that my painting sold during the judging! The scene included a row of potted plants in front of a landscapers office, some in the shade, and some in the sun. I called it “Garden Ready”.

Oil painting of potted plants and rocking chair at the 2015 Apalachicola Quickdraw, sold to a festival attendee

The next day my eye was caught by the light on the crumbling stucco wall and corrugated tin covering the windows of the abandoned waterfront Joe Taranto Seafood Company building. Across the street is the iconic wall of buoys, but I just suggested the buoys in order to keep attention of the texture of the wall and tin.

Oil painting of the light on the cracked stucco side of the Seafood building, with the wall of buoys across the street, downtown Apalachicola, FL

I could not stay for the entire event — my pool service business is experiencing a growth spurt, so I needed to be home during the week, but I returned on the weekend for the final showing of the works of the professional invited artists. While there, I painted what was told to me was the oldest structure in town, a building which now is just four walls, with no roof, draped with trumpet vines. The stark shadows of the palms on the wall were what initially attracted me to the scene. Unfortunately, I made a lot of what we painters refer to as mud when I was painting the spaces between the shadows, so I came back to the scene the next morning and cleaned them up. This is my result.

2015-0509 Apalachicola Memories

The week before last, our local plein air group painted at Four Mile Landing in Freeport, FL. I chose the industrial scene of the port, where barges were ready to be loaded, and on one bank, a new fireboat’s water cannons were being tested. The light alternated between a sunny glare and muted overcast as the atmosphere wafted in and out. The result was more impressionistic, with extra emphasis on the lights and darks.

Oil painting of the industrial facilities and barges at Four Mile Landing in Freeport, FL

All of my paintings are available for sale — click on the painting for an individual view showing the price, with a form to contact me.

In addition to “Garden Ready”, the Quickdraw competition painting shown above, the following paintings also recently sold. “Marsh at Indian Pass” sold during the Artists of Apalachicola Area member show two weekends ago, and “Island Plantation” sold this past Monday night at a meeting of the local women artists network.

Oil painting of the marsh, crossing over onto Indian Pass peninsula, Port St. Joe, FL Oil painting of the clearing from the bay boardwalk on St. George Island

 

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Morgan Samuel Price Workshop, Apalachicola, March 2015

IMG_0754Last year I took my first workshop in plein air painting. I had been painting weekly with the local plein air group for about 14 months when I took that first workshop with Morgan Samuel Price. But I found each day of this year’s workshop even more challenging than last year. According to Morgan, that is the painter’s life. She says that a plein air painter just keeps finding more and more challenges. The more experienced they get, the harder the challenges they find for themselves. Sigh, I thought this was supposed to get easier!

What an amazing group of artists in this year’s workshop! Lynn Wilson, Carol Drost Lopez, Becky Anderson, Charlotte Hope, Nancy Smith Crombie, Patricia Irish Richter, Brenda Anderson, Sherry WetheringtonA, Mary Wain-Ellison, Glenda Coleman, Karen Snider, David M. Jones, and I:  thirteen of us. One of the best parts about the workshop was the critique session held each day at the end of the day. We would line up our efforts, even if it was just a few brushstrokes, and Morgan would discuss each and every painting, directing her comments to that artist but for the benefit of us all. This was addition to her amazing morning teaching and demo sessions, and our afternoon practicing painting en plein air, all making for a superb workshop for beginner and advanced painter alike. Blessed with infinite patience and superb focus, Morgan is able to work despite the constant distractions of the excited artists milling and buzzing around her, cameras clicking next to her ear. Below are a few shots of her working. You can click on any of the images to see a larger view.

IMG_0806 2015-0320 MSP demo SGI Preserve
IMG_0864 2015-0318 MSP demo Apalach street scene

OfficeI had confidence to be away from my pool service business. I had worked long hours the weekend before the workshop, to clear my desk, plus I have a fantastic crew in the field and a wonderful office staff. On Wednesday my staff decided to show me what was happening there in the office, with a series of photos that even Tamra’s store helpers (her two dogs) had a part in.  Here’s the worst one, Tamra Thomas, Margaret Bush, and Brenda Osborne. Clearly they do not have enough work to do.

The city and area around Apalachicola is such a scenic place, with the historic buildings, working waterfront with shrimp boats galore, oystermen, grottos and lagoons — it is heaven for painters.  The home of Forgotten Coast en Plein Air, you often can find an artist or photographer at work.

Below are some of my works from the workshop with Morgan Samuel Price. Daily critiques were at a set time. Work had to be halted then if we wanted to hear what Morgan had to say about our progress. Click the photo for a larger image.

2015-0316 Scrub Pine on St. George Island 2015-0317 Pond near Scipio Creek Marina 2015-0318Apalachicola
2015-0319 St. George Island Plantation 2015-0320 Pond on SGI Preserve 2015-0320 Thistle Bloom

On the last day I was captivated by a thistle in bloom, so after I finished my landscape, I captured the pink of the flower by using a tint of color I had not ever used before, quinacridone magenta, which turned out to be perfect for painting thistles and I believe also should make painting azaleas easy. I am finding I generally prefer to mix my colors instead of using specialty pre-mixed tubes, but in this case I was very pleased with the chroma.

I shot the photo below using my iPhone.

2015-0317 Lady Louise photo

Contact me if you are interested in purchasing work from this page or any of my online galleries.

See the next post for the weekly paintings done just before and after this workshop.

 

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