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

I spent half of August and half of September on a month-long adventure of travel and plein air painting. Two weeks were in Colorado at the Estes Valley Plein Air event where I painted almost every day in beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park near the town of Estes Park, Colorado. And one week was in the spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains, near Blue Ridge, Georgia. I completed 11 paintings.

It was an honor to be juried into the Estes Valley Plein Air event, which was sponsored by the Art Center of Estes Park, and managed by the very capable team of Lars and Kristi. I opted to drive, instead of fly, from Florida to Colorado to reduce expenses. I had a cabin to stay in while I was there, thanks to the generosity of my friend Dr. Cynthia Reedy, but while traveling to and from, I tent-camped. I used love being in the great outdoors, “roughing it”. By camping and driving, I saved a $500 flight and a $900+ car rental and probably at least $500 in motels. I also saved the trouble and expense of shipping my frames and canvases and tools and equipment. I did buy new tires before I left, which I paid for by instructing a course for the employees of the business I had recently sold. Even so, except for the fact that I have family in Colorado, traveling this distance for an event is worthwhile as a business venture only if sales are generated.

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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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2018 St. George Island Plein Air Paint-Out

Postscript, 10/21/18, 11 days after Hurricane Michael

I am in shock, seeing that places I painted are heavily damaged or perhaps even have disappeared. When I painted “Spring Dune”, the third painting pictured below, I remember feeling like the huge old dune was a big protective bear guarding the edge of the park. Today I saw video that gives me every reason to suspect that this dune does not exist anymore. https://youtu.be/EVkRgeqgcdI

The Plantation of St. George Island is a beautiful gated community situated on the west end of St. George Island, one bridge away from Eastpoint and and two bridges away from Apalachicola, Florida. The Arts Committee of the community, led by Bunnie Ison, produced the 2018 St. George island Paint-Out, an invitational plein air event. The artists participating were Catherine Hillis, Olena Babak, Craig Reynolds, Vernia Moore, Lynn Wilson, Debby Brienen, Randy Pitts, Janyce Loughridge, Randy Brienen, Karen Margulis, and Kelly Rysavy, Alison Menke, Natalia Andrea, Ed Nickerson, and me, Joan Vienot.. This was my first invitational plein air paint-out. I was a little worried because I thought that most of the other artists have been in invitational paint-outs before, and I had the impression that all were extremely talented. So it was to my surprise at the end of the week when I found one of my paintings, ” Marsh at Nick’s Hole” decorated with a 2nd place ribbon by judges Sandi Shaw of Pines and Palms Gallery of Thomasville, GA, and Ann Kozeliski of LeMoyne Gallery, Tallahassee, FL. The other winners were Alison Leigh Menke, Best in Show; and Natalia Andreeva,1st Place; and Ed Nickerson, 3rd Place. Continue reading 2018 St. George Island Plein Air Paint-Out

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Goals, Objectives, and Challenges for the Coming Year

It’s about time to start thinking about New Year’s resolutions again. I prefer to think of it as setting goals to pursue, or objectives I would like to attain, or even challenges I am setting up for myself. Somehow I feel less threatened by those words than by “resolutions”, which seem to me to be things that I resolve NOT to do, like eating a carton of ice cream in one day, versus goals, objectives, and challenges which are things I plan to work towards. Here are some of mine:

  1. Paint every day either plein air or in the studio, for 30 or 60 days, maybe longer. To do this, I plan to have a palette and brushes ready all the time, in my studio, as well as in my plein air backpack. I have ordered a whole bunch of 6×6 panels for this effort. I can use larger canvases, which I keep on hand all the time, but for this goal to be achievable, I want to be able to finish my daily painting in just 30 minutes, so it makes more sense to use small canvases.
  2. Learn to paint shapes common to our local landscape. Or to paint them better. Shapes such as, palmettos, palm trees, blue herons and other shorebirds, tugboats and fishing boats and pleasure boats, paddlers, waves and choppy water, clouds, live oaks and scrub oaks, sand dunes, twisted dune pines, etc. If I spend a week on each of those subjects, that covers at least 2 months, without even considering that nothing is carved in stone, fortunately for this easily distractible artist, where every shiny spot of light cries out to be captured, now!
  3. Learn to simplify, simplify, simplify!
  4. Figure out what appeals to me about paintings I admire, and then practice that — compositional design, color combinations, contrast, development of focal area, etc.
  5. Practice putting people in some of my paintings. Participate in the upcoming figure painting sessions to be held every Friday at the Cultural Arts Alliance’s Foster Gallery on Grand Boulevard in Miramar Beach, Florida. Learn how to use the “Zorn Palette” to create skin tones (cadmium red light, yellow ochre, titanium white, and ivory black).

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A Wedding, Three Workshops, and Two Paint-Outs

The last 8 weeks have been amazingly busy.

Oil Painting of Brian and Megan Robertson's First Dance
Brian and Megan’s First Dance

In September in my capacity as the 30A Wedding Painter, I painted a commission en plein air

Plein air painting of first dance at wedding, unfinished
Unfinished, en plein air

at a wedding, oils on stretched canvas, 24×20, finishing the details in the studio. The plein air painting captured the basics, but I needed to tie the composition together better in the studio, which made it quite a bit more formal, and I corrected the proportions of the figures. I scumbled the chandelier, which I had greatly exaggerated on purpose because it set the tone for the scene, and I softened the white curtain behind the couple to create a glow around them, with the foliage creating a heart-shape over their heads.

I enjoy painting at weddings. It is a command performance, so I have butterflies when I first start, but they disappear soon after I start painting. Typically I have contact with the bride’s mother or the bride or couple as much as a year ahead of time, which gives me plenty of time to find out their relative heights, the location of the venue, their colors and styles of clothing, their flower colors, etc. I have a page on my website dedicated to event painting called Weddings, Etc.

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Finding a Mentor: Morgan Samuel Price

I started plein air painting four years ago. I painted in the Quickdraw at the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air, my first such event. I knew none of the artists. Afterwards, I chanced to be lunching at the table next to the one where master painter Morgan Samuel Price was sitting. Morgan had just won an award in the Quickdraw. My friend and I introduced ourselves and began talking with her, the usual niceties. Afterwards, I looked up her website to see who she was, and I was appropriately amazed by her paintings, both the skill and the affect. I was thrilled when I found out that she was offering a plein air painting workshop in Apalachicola that next spring. Apalachicola is only 100 miles away from my home. It is a village with an interesting history, and great painting subjects ranging from the working shrimping trawlers and oystering boats to decrepit shotgun houses and restored mansions. What a great place to take my first workshop in plein air painting! I blogged about Morgan’s amazing patience – that was in March of 2014.

I took two more workshops from Morgan – one the next year, in Apalachicola, and one last year, in Taos. This year I signed up to take her workshop in Dahlonega, Georgia, in October. I like learning to paint in different locations – it forces me to learn to paint things that are new to me. I got a call from Morgan in late spring, saying that she had space in her Estes Park workshop. I decided to go. Having grown up in Colorado, I was familiar with Estes Park, but I had not looked at it with artist’s eyes in over 40 years, and certainly not with plein air painter’s eyes. I had gone to Estes Park for a family get-together for my Dad’s 90th birthday, but it was wintertime, and the landscape is completely different when covered with snow. So I was completely agog as we drove Hwy 36 through the foothills to Lyons and then up the North St. Vrain Canyon. My awe grew as we continued up the canyon to finally stop at a quaint cabin just north of Estes Park, which would be home base for the week.

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Habits and Routines in the Artistic Process

I am struggling with an absence of routine. Without it, certain basic maintenance tasks are neglected. I like to get up in the morning, have a cup of coffee, read something inspirational, and write my 5 gratitudes, and do a short meditation before I get my day underway. But lately I have been getting sidetracked into the day’s business as soon as I get my coffee — starting with email correspondence, news, and social media updates, and I never get back to my morning quiet time. My life has been complicated by a pesky knee injury which has required a good deal of physical therapy and greatly reduced my physical activity. I am coming out of that phase in my life, increasing my activity, improving my nutrition, and I intend to restore routine to my life.

I used to blog weekly. I couldn’t believe my eyes this morning when I saw that my last post was 2 months ago. This was a certain message that I need to re-organize my life. It’s not that I haven’t gotten things done, or that I have neglected my spiritual and psychological health. But I have neglected a lot of things, obviously blogging being one of them.

So why does that matter? Because blogging is one of my chief way of assessing progress, with a little introspection on the side. Self-assessment is essential for monitoring progress. Continue reading Habits and Routines in the Artistic Process

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Joan Vienot, Live Event Painter

Several years ago I was asked to paint the bride and groom’s First Dance at their wedding reception. That first request blossomed into more as word got out. I have dedicated a page on my website to Weddings & Live Event Painting.

Last fall I painted at a beautiful wedding which was held outdoors in front of a magnificent private mansion. The weather was gorgeous, the light exactly mirroring the day before when I had visited the site to work out the details with the wedding planner. I arrived about an hour early, so my painting was well underway by the time the first guests arrived. A trio played classical music behind me, to the accompaniment of the splashing sound of the beautiful marble fountain beside me, and pre-wedding cocktails encouraged the convivial atmosphere. Guests looked over my shoulder as I continued to structure the mansion, cheating the color towards the warm glow I knew would be present at the moment I was asked to capture, which would be the bride’s father escorting the bride to her wedding. (I had taken a few reference photos of the wedding planner standing approximately where I thought the bride and her father would be walking, so that I had an idea of scale when I started the painting.) Continue reading Joan Vienot, Live Event Painter

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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

(Added July 26th, 2019: Would you like to purchase the painting featured in this blog post? “Owlets”, the painting above, is available in my store now. Click here for more information.)

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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Plein Air Magazine’s Publisher’s Trip to New Zealand

The Plein Air Magazine Publisher’s Trip to New Zealand, February 22 to March 5, 2017, was everything I expected and beyond. A combination of sightseeing, gourmet dining, and painting opportunities, it was first class from beginning to end, 10 days of delight! I confess that the travel was grueling,  about 18 hours in the air over several flights each way, plus layovers, check-ins, and security. We also had a good bit of travel while in New Zealand, most of it by bus, but fortunately most of that time was compensated by beautiful scenery en route.

Angela Morgan, our tour coordinator from Parnell Partners Group, was simply outstanding. If you can imagine 35 excited and easily distracted adult artists, accompanied by another 15 spouses and partners, many of them excited and easily distracted photographers, you will have an idea of the job Ange and her team had, bringing new illustration to the phrase “herding cats”.

If you count the first couple of days as travel and travel-recovery days, we had 9 days of actual touring and painting opportunities. I had signed up for the trip as a retirement present to myself some 10 months prior, when it was announced at the 2016 Plein Air Convention. Visiting New Zealand had been on my bucket list, but I never thought I would be able to find a travel companion willing to entertain themselves while I sat and painted, and I didn’t want to go so far away alone, so this trip was a godsend. And then my friend Lynn Wilson, owner of On the Waterfront Gallery in Apalachicola, FL, just 100 miles east of Santa Rosa Beach where I live, decided she would come too, and we opted to room together. I found everyone in the group to be very friendly, with instant camaraderie, which came as no surprise, really, since plein air painters seem to attract each other. In fact, I find artists as a whole, and plein air painters in particular, to be especially engaged and engaging.

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Our home base was Millbrook Resort near Arrowtown, near Queenstown, on the South Island of New Zealand, where we enjoyed a delicious buffet breakfast every morning. One night I skipped dinner and painted the scene behind my room, where a tree had fallen and fourteen trees had grown up out of its trunk. The sun went down and I had not yet painted the dark trees, so I merely scraped them out of the background paint, which made for an interesting study.

 

 

 

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Day 1

Painting at Waitiri Creek Winery

Lunch at Gibbston Valley Winery

Painting at Millbrook Resort (or napping to recover from travel fatigue)

Dinner at Jervois Steakhouse

 

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Day 2

Painting at Glenorchy Wharf

Lunch at Glenorchy Café

Adventure: one of the world’s top 10 scenic drives to a nature walk and jet boating up the Dart River in Mount Aspiring National Park in the Te Wai Pounamu World Heritage area

Dinner at Gantleys Restaurant

 

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Day 3

TSS Earnslaw steamboat cruise to Walter Peak High Country Farm

Lunch at the Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant

Painting at Walter Peak

Dinner at Botswana Butchery

 

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Day 4

Painting in Arrowtown or artists choice of location. Lynn and I painted a sheep field at the edge of the resort, backed by a huge mountain. Four sheep on the hill were tended by a single dog, and they gradually made their way out of sight. The pink and yellow colors of the grass on the hill interested me, especially in contrast to the dark mountain behind it.

Dinner at Saffron Restaurant

 

Day 5

Scenic drive to Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park for boat ride to the mouth of the fiord and back, seeing the grand vistas of the glacier-carved fiord, with waterfalls of glacier melt streaking down the nearly-sheer cliffs, box lunch provided.

Buffet dinner at Millbrook Resort.

Day 6

Flight to Wellington on the North Island of New Zealand, for a tour of Weta Workshop where owners Sir Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger and company have created prosthetics, special effects and set design for such movies as Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, BFG, Avatar, and many more.

Dinner at Roxy Theatre

 

I let a little girl paint a few strokes – I love sharing the fever!

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Day 7

Flight to Auckland for ferry ride to Waiheke Island for lunch and painting at Mudbrick Winery

Dinner at Oyster and Chop Restaurant

 

 

 

 

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Day 8

Tour and painting at Hobbiton, the life-size set and location for The Hobbit trilogy, complete with 44 permanently reconstructed Hobbit Holes

Dinner at Euro Reataurant.

 

Day 9 was a free day, so Lynn and I closed out the trip with a visit to the Auckland Museum where we were treated with a show by Maori singers and dancers, as well as the wonderful history and natural history displays.

We flew out of Auckland for Los Angeles late that night, March 5.

I am at a loss for words to describe the beauty of New Zealand. I so enjoyed the entire experience.

The only mar was a pesky knee disorder diagnosed the week before the trip. I had been annoyed by symptoms for some 3 weeks prior, and when they didn’t go away, I went to the orthopedics institute (Andrews Institute, in Gulf Breeze, FL, the best!) and was diagnosed with a Baker’s cyst caused by knee inflammation (I have thin cartilage.) It turns out I also have a massive case of IT Band syndrome from how I have adapted my bad-knee walk, which I did not know at the time. I was able to walk short flat distances and the inflammation usually did not bother me until the evenings and at night, when it imade sleep difficult. It was so bad one night that I nearly decided to cut the trip short. Some TLC over the next few days, including being pushed in a wheelchair through the domestic airports, reduced the walking enough that I was able to finish the trip. (Post trip comment: the doctor is giving me three weekly injections to reduce knee joint inflammation and he gave me a brace for lengthy standing or walking, and I will start physical therapy to strengthen the muscles that support the knee and knee mechanics and to treat and prevent IT Band Syndrome.)

Now I need to finish a few paintings to send to Lynn’s “On the Waterfront” Gallery for her showing of paintings from the New Zealand trip, open to all of the participating artists, during the month of May. I had used very lightweight supports in New Zealand, linen covered multimedia boards, and had used a cardboard wet painting carrier for one size of paintings, and my usual RayMar painting carrier for the other size. The RayMar held up well, but the cardboard carrier collapsed and allowed some of the not-quite-dry paintings to fall face to face. So I have some repairs to make.

The paintings I have posted above are the rough work I did en plein air while there. Below are a few studies from photos since my return, working out some distance perspective issues with watercolor. Click image for larger view.

Walter Peak High Country Farm wc sketch from photo

Fiordland, Milford Sound wc sketch from photo

Hobbiton landscape wc sketch from photo