I attended the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air and Plein Air South again this May, taking time out for painting between demo’s and discussions. I practice painting en plein air to study the transient effects of light, to become more adept at composing, to learn more effective technique, and to develop a stronger instinct for decision-making. Many times a plein air painting will be worthy of framing. All are learning experiences. My intention is to study something different every time I paint, even when I paint a scene I have painted before. Every painting is making it easier to paint the next painting, but I challenge myself even more the next time, so I can’t say that painting is easy. I can say that I am seeing better. Continue reading The Forgotten Coast en Plein Air and Plein Air South 2018
I 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.
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.
The following paintings also sold this week.
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.
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.
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.
When 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.
The 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.
At 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.
At 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.
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.
All in all, a fabulous week, and delivering 5 newer paintings to be shown at On The Waterfront Gallery in Apalachicola, to boot!
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.
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.
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.
These below are the two photo references the instructor provided that I used to create the composition above.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last 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.
I 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.
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.
See the next post for the weekly paintings done just before and after this workshop.
Don Demers, one of my workshop instructors last week, tongue in cheek, said “Plein air painting creates bad drivers.” He explained the hazard, that as a practicing plein air painter, one could be driving along and become mesmerized, staring at the shape or color of something, perhaps even something so interesting as the shadow of an underpass. We all laughed of course, but I recognize the truth of his statement. After practicing plein air painting for 8 days, I can’t look anywhere now without noticing wonderful value contrasts, delicious color intensities, and patterns of light leading my eye through compositions waiting to be painted.
The first workshop I attended was by invitation. Twelve painters were selected to be in the “pilot” course for the Apalachicola School of Art Plein Air Academy. Master plein air artist Don Demers is designing the curriculum, and Joe Taylor of the Apalachicola School of Art is planning the logistics. Together they will come up with a course to be offered as professional development for the advanced plein air painter. Don spent a good bit of time talking with each of us, as well as offering constructive tips with our paintings. Of most practical value to me was his suggestion to set intention before starting a painting, and then to stick to that intention. He suggested we draw “thumbnail sketches” of our intended paintings first, studying the value relationships and evaluating whether the composition would work as a whole, before we spent 3 hours painting it. Some of my sketches progressed into paintings, some were mere studies of shapes or ideas discarded as perhaps too complicated or logistically difficult (the one above left required me to stand in an ant pile; the one above right was too complicated for my limited knowledge of fishing boats).
I learned something about photography after doing one such value study, and that is that my iPhone camera does not see the light the way I do. In fact my camera hardly picked up the power of the light at all. Here’s a comparison:
I completed two paintings and a couple of studies in the Plein Air Academy workshop. Integrating what I am learning is always difficult — there has to be a period of intense, grinding focus, because painting is for the most part so visceral, and newly learned information so very intellectual. I found myself completely exhausted by the end of the first several days. I must have had every muscle in my body tensed as I tried to incorporate what I was learning. I literally came home, ate supper, and went straight to bed, for the first 3 days.
Here are a few of my paintings from the Apalachicola School of Art Plein Air Academy workshop.
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Over the next few days I attended the Forgotten Coast En Plein Air event workshop with Greg LaRock and Ken Dewaard. I wish I could remember everything they said. It was fun to watch the different approaches of two accomplished artists. Both were very strong on compositional tips. LaRock often mentioned ways to lead the viewer’s eye through the painting, and Dewaard pointed out subtle color changes to look for, like the change in the tint of shadows depending on how much of the sky color they might be acquiring, or how much of the color of the ground. Hopefully I absorbed a lot of it, even though I can’t recite it. Below are the paintings I produced during their workshop. In the first one, my challenge was to make the pile of rubble, mostly chunks of concrete, look interesting, like a rocky shoreline. The paintings of the boats and of the shirts for sale both challenged me to simplify.
I actually had energy to paint a few small studies outside of class, the last several days, below. Apologies for shooting the photos slightly crooked!
NOTE: light added to 2nd painting above, at https://joanvienot.com/?p=7003
And now back to my day-job! But the shadows of those underpasses are starting to look mighty interesting!!
A few weeks ago I bought myself a toy, a “Guerrilla Painter” thumb-box, which is a small wooden box that opens into a plein air panel holder and palette and brush and paint holder. The box fits into a small carry case and has a hole in the bottom for your thumb so you can hold it like a painter’s palette. It comes with one 6×8 gesso’d hardboard panel, and I also bought 10 resin-impregnated 6×8 cards to paint on. I primed the cards even though you don’t have to, so I would be painting on a familiar white surface.
I thought a camping trip to a local state park might be the perfect opportunity to try out my “thumb-box”. A friend had made reservations at the best primitive campsite Torreya State Park has to offer, and Friday afternoon found us backpacking the short one-mile trail to set up camp. I also had packed my full plein air set just in case i didn’t like the Guerrilla Painter, so I carried it in on the next trip when we went back to the truck to get water. My full set has arm straps and a campstool attached, but no hip belt, so you carry the whole thing on your shoulders. It became very heavy on my shoulders, so getting a hip belt is now a high priority!
I had never camped with painting being the sole purpose to the trip. My friend took off for a hike each day, and I was left to paint to my heart’s delight. I tested the Guerrilla Painter, using a limited palette, only 4 colors and white. At right are the three 6×8 pieces I did. I used less paint than I would have on a textured canvas. I learn something on every painting I do. The first day I was determined not to use green straight out of the tube, even though I was surrounded by green in the forest. So I mixed some greens using of course blue and yellow, but I also put blue next to yellow in many places, to give the illusion of green. On my third painting, I painted the grasses near the edge of the campsite sometimes using red instead of green. That interested me — I may do a series.
There was one challenge I did not resolve, when painting with the Guerrilla Painter. I use my left hand to hold my rag or paper towel, to clean my brush, but holding the Thumb-Box with my left thumb meant that I had to hold my rag between my index and middle fingers, wiping my brush without being able to see it underneath the box.
The second day I opted to paint using my standard plein air easel and full paint set, since I had gone to the trouble of packing it in. I usually end up using a limited palette anyway — it helps to tie the painting together, because the same colors get used in many different places. Below are the two 8×10’s I did with my regular set-up. This time I mixed a lot of different greens, but attempted to keep most of the foliage details a little vague. I felt if I was distinct with the tree trunks and branches, they would explain the foliage.