Dr. Steven Leatherman, also known as Dr. Beach, rates the best beaches in the world every year, using 50 criteria. Grayton Beach, Florida, has been Number One at least once and in the top ten several times. That would be no surprise to anyone who has seen this beach. The reflective white quartz sand consists of small grains with a texture as smooth as sugar, so fine that it crunches and squeaks underfoot like very cold snow. Under the blue sea of the Gulf of Mexico, the white sand bottom reflects turquoise, punctuated by an emerald streak where the sand bar offshore rises to within 10′ of the surface. On days like last Wednesday, you would never know that those same waters could house the fury of a hurricane, like the one last month that destroyed most of Panama City, Mexico Beach, and Port St. Joe, the destruction starting a mere 20 miles east of Grayton Beach. Continue reading Plein Air on the World’s Most Beautiful Beach
By all means, take a picture with your camera!
With today’s technology, we are taking photos every day, and some of them are really good. But why isn’t that enough for the plein air painter? Why not just paint from the photograph? I’ll try to answer that.
First of all, even the best cameras don’t pick up the values and colors exactly right. That’s why every good photographer is an artist, both with their composition of the scene and with their use of photo-editing software afterwards. But certainly we can do many of the things in the studio that we do en plein air, can’t we? Like re-composing, and leaving certain things out, or moving a tree a smidge to the left in order to provide contrast behind the focal area? Well yes, except that we are working with changing light, so we also have to make a lot of decisions on the spot, and try to mix colors right the first time.
But here’s a big difference. Imagine yourself driving down the highway, seeing some pretty scenery, and stopping to take a picture. Years later, or even days later, maybe even hours later, you are looking back at your photos, and you wonder what it was that made you snap that photo, what it was that caught your eye, why it was significant, why it impressed you enough to stop the car.
Now instead imagine yourself somewhere away from home, enjoying the sunset, shooting a photo now and then as the sunset progresses, listening to the soft rush of the waves coming in to the shore, and the call of seagulls and banter of children playing, with the smell of someone’s barbecue wafting over your beach chair, knowing your friends are up in the vacation house having drinks and telling stories. The sand is gritty between your toes, there is a pesky fly that wants to bite you, and the bottoms of your pant legs are sticking to your skin from getting wet because you walked out to return to the sea a flipping baitfish that had stranded itself on the sand. The key element here is the time it takes to absorb all of those sensations, so that depending on your present-moment awareness, a unique memory can be imprinted, so rich that years from now you might recall the scent of barbecue and the feel of the ocean breeze on your skin and the pleasure of rejoining your friends afterwards, when you look at the one or two photos of that sunset that you decided to keep.
In much the same way, a plein air painter experiences their environment for an extended period of time while painting, and that is the reason not to just settle for a photo. The time invested in the experience allows for the absorption of volumes of sensory information, some of which inevitably will make its way into the painting, whether intentionally or not. If you’ve ever marveled at the difference between seeing a good photo of a painting, and seeing the same painting in person, you know exactly what I am talking about. The painting itself contains an energy that came from the experience of the artist. I remember that tears came to my eyes, I was so overwhelmed when I saw “Starry Night” in person, even though I had stared at photos of the painting many times. It’s like the difference between reading Maya Angelou’s poetry, or listening to Maya Angelou herself reading it to you. She lived it.
It’s interesting when someone compliments an artist by saying a painting looks like a photograph. If it is a photograph of the painting, that might be an apt compliment indeed. But if they see the painting in person, hopefully they will feel the solid mass of rock underfoot and hear the call of the loon in the distance, and her mate answering, and they will know that a photograph could never give the same sense that the painting does. Well, except of course when it is a photograph by a really good photographer – I feel the crunch of the glacier moving and I sense a coyote looking at me, when I look at Ansel Adams’ photos.
So last week I painted through a rainstorm. To be honest, when it started to sprinkle and I went to the car to get my big, wide, painting umbrella, the weather App on my phone said the rain was going to diminish after a bit, not get worse, and by the time I finally figured out that the App was wrong, all of my gear was soaked, and I found myself wondering, why don’t I just take a picture? Thankfully, Florida’s summer rains are not too chilly, because the umbrella only shielded me from most of the rain. I posted a video of the misadventure on my personal Facebook page, 6/13/18, gum-chomping and all..
Here’s the end result, “After The Downpour” – sorry you have to view it as a photo. Even so, I will guarantee you that I would not have gotten this effect if I had just shot a photo and then painted it in the studio. Interestingly, even as I am writing this, my friend Janice Frossard just commented on Facebook about the painting that I blogged about yesterday, Devil’s Backbone First Light: “You can almost smell the sage brush and feel the cool morning air.” That’s what I’m talking about!
In this painting, can you smell the rain?
After the Downpour, 11×14 oils on canvas panel, en plein air
Artist and art marketing guru Leslie Saeta periodically offers a 30-day challenge, to paint 30 paintings in 30 days. Since I managed to complete Mary Gilkerson’s Five-Day Challenge, I thought I’d give this one a whirl. Eventually, there should be 30 paintings on this blog post, and I will also post to Instagram at @JoanVienotArt and to Facebook at Joan Vienot Art. The 30-day challenge will start February 1, 2018 and will run through the first couple days in March.
The 30-Day Challenge is now complete, and I am happy to say that I managed to paint every day! It’s not so hard, if it is a priority. Granted, many of them are small, just 6×6, but I made each one of them count as a learning experience. At the same time, I had scheduled 5 workshops during this 30 days, so it indeed was a period of learning. Probably the most difficult part of it was posting to my blog and to social media — that took a minimum of 30 minutes each day, and if I wasn’t careful, I could find myself stuck on social media for another couple of hours, catching up on friends’ activities and generally being entertained by the mishmash of news and minutia one finds on Facebook. Below are my 30 paintings.
Thank you for visiting. Many of my paintings are available for purchase. Click on the image to view the painting in my online store. You can also contact me to purchase or commission a painting.
Day 30, 3/2/2018: Cotton Stalk
12×6 oils on canvas panel, painted from still-life set up in studio.
This was a fun to paint. I purposefully painted a light background, so that the cotton bolls would be harder to see, requiring the stalk in order to be identified. Somehow this seems to me to be a picture of my life, that the things I think are important, are nothing without the thread or the stalk that binds them together.
Day 29, 3/1/18: Calming the Waters
16×20 oils on linen panel, painting in progress in Dorothy Starbuck workshop at the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County.
We are each using a different reference photo, to learn to paint a translucent breaking wave, and the lacy foam left on the surface after a wave has come in. Our paints are cadmium yellow light, alizarin crimson, burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, thalo blue, thalo green, viridian green, and titanium white. At right is the finished piece, and below is a photo of the work in progress.
Day 28, 2/18/18: unfinished Tupelo Pavilion Study
11×14, oils on linen panel, painted en plein air at Seaside, Florida
I am taking a workshop from my neighbor and friend Dorothy Starbuck which it started today, my local plein air group’s day to paint. So I went to our plein air location early, right after the sun came up, and got started, but 2 hours was not enough time for me because I struggled so much getting the architecture right before I started applying color. I still have the roofline wrong — the roof on the right side of the arch needs to be a foot taller at the eave.
Day 27, 2/27/18: Recovery Notes
9×12 mixed media on Yupo paper
I had a definite idea before I started, so this is not entirely experimental art, but enough so that I am calling it experimental. Most of that is because I am not very familiar with the media I was using — acrylic paint, alcohol inks and Yupo paper. I live on a bayou, just a few miles from the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. I think that living near a large body of water accelerates interpersonal and spiritual growth. It’s like walking in a labyrinth with everyone else, and side-by-side, when all of a sudden you find yourself going in the opposite direction, or perhaps even in the same direction but several tracks away from the people you were walking with. Who moved – them or you? No doubt both, but either way, it takes some adjustment and some getting used to, hence my title for this piece, Recovery Notes, as I recover from a growth spurt.
Day 26, 2/26/18: Jekyll Island Twilight
6×6 oils on Gessobord
I’ve been taking a workshop from Jason Sacran through Anderson Fine Art Gallery, St. simons Island, GA. On my last day in the area, I drove back out to Jekyll Island to see “Driftwood Beach”, where many very old trees have been laid bare by the winds and water, the unbleached wood completely de-barked, and many of the trees tipped over but still anchored into the beach. (Driftwood is a misnomer.) As I was crossing the causeways and the bridges, the sky was brightening, and the sun was finally just peaking over the marshes as I was approaching Jekyll Island. This is my impression of the sun-kissed clouds, painted after I returned home.
Day 25, 2/25/18: Jekyll Island Crone 2
16×20 oils on linen panel, painted en plein air
I am attending Jason Sacran’s plein air painting workshop sponsored by Anderson Fine Art Gallery on St. Simons Island, GA. We are painting on Jekyll Island. A crone is a woman in the latter third of her life, after childbearing is over. She is wise, nurturing, soulful, creative, weathered, a bit stooped and twisted, but hard as nails, a survivor. Birds nest in her hair, she holds the weight of the world on her broad shoulders, and animals shelter under her canopy. My dad is 98 and still going strong. If that is how long I will live, then I have just entered my crone years.
Day 24, 2/24/18 – two works from Jekyll Island
Study for Jekyll Island Crone, 8×6 watercolor on paper, painted en plein air
I am attending Jason Sacran’s plein air painting workshop sponsored by Anderson Fine Art Gallery on St. Simons Island, GA. We are painting on Jekyll Island, intending to work on the same painting for two days. There are a lot of ancient cedars and live oak trees on the west side of the island.
Day 23, 2/23/18: Jekyll Island Marsh
8×10 oils on canvas panel, a plein air study
Painted in Jason Sacran workshop. Tomorrow we will be painting larger paintings of the same scene we studied today.
Day 22, 2/22/18: Morning Sketch
8×6 graphite on cream paper
Today was the first day of a workshop with Jason Sacran, and I didn’t want to be worried about posting for my 30-day challenge, so I just posted my morning sketches.
Day 21, 2/21/18: Good Night, Sleep Tight
8×8 watercolor and ink on paper, a color sketch of Tucker Bayou, Point Washington, FL, at sunset.
Today I don’t have a lot of time for the 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge. I am embarking on another adventure, this time to study from Jason Sacran, who is teaching at the Mary Anderson Gallery on St. Simons Island, GA. That scenic area has a strong pull for me, and I am excited to be going there for this workshop. I hope my cats will forgive me these absences!
Day 20, 2/20/18: Roots
12×9 oils on aluminum panel
Produced at the end of the Mary Garrish workshop at the Artist Cove Studio-Gallery in Panama City, FL. I was attempting to make this painting using the new materials we were introduced to, which were the Scott Christensen landscape oil colors by Vasari (Bluff, Ship Rock, Adobe, Shale, Jasper, Silver Point, Cedar, and Bice), painted on an aluminum panel. On the first day, I was a little early for the workshop, so I stopped and walked around at the Historic Marker just down the way from the gallery, on Beach Drive. Erosion had bared the roots of several pines there. This painting is an abstraction of the pattern of the exposed roots. I used my rubber tipped tool to make the weeds, revealing the shiny aluminum underneath.
Day 19, 2/19/18: Florida Dawn
6×6 mixed media on paper.
An exercise in glazing and scumbling in the Mary Garrish workshop at The Artist Cove Studio-Gallery in Panama City, FL.
Day 18, 2/18/18: Fog on the Point Again
6×12 oils on canvas panel.
Painted in Mary Garrish workshop at The Artist Cove Studio-Gallery in Panama City, FL. Our task was to paint a scene in all values, but to vary the color within areas of one value, and to add light in the clouds.
Day 17, 2/17/18: Fog on the Point
6×8 oils on canvas panel.
Painted in Mary Garrish workshop at The Artist Cove Studio-Gallery in Panama City, FL. Our task was to paint a scene in only 3 values, in black, white, and gray, and then to paint it again in 5 values. After that, we could add color or colors, but the values had to remain the same. This was my 5-value color piece.
Day 16, 2/16/2018: Mid-September Lily
6×6 oils on Gessobord.
A bittersweet painting from a photo I took on my last paddle with three dear friends last summer.
Day 15, 2/15/2018: Onion 1
6×6 oils on Gessobord, painted from life.
This onion kicked my butt. Painting an onion is much harder than you might think! I will paint an onion whenever I start feeling accomplished. It will humble me.
Day 14, 2/14/18: Freeing the Phantom of the Aqua
8×10 oils on canvas panel, painted en plein air.
Last fall this sailboat, the Phantom of the Aqua, was damaged during Hurricane Nate and its captain had to be rescued from it far offshore. He thought the boat would just sink in the stormy Gulf, but instead, it drifted up to the shore at Miramar Beach in Northwest Florida, just 15 miles from my house, and became firmly entrenched in the beach.
I paint with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters every Wednesday, and we decided to paint the Phantom last week. Alas, the weather forecast was awful, so we postponed it to this week, only to read in the paper that the new owner would be towing it to his salvage yard to refurbish it, this very week. Nevertheless hopeful, we arrived today to find the roadside lined with onlookers, the crowd growing to hundreds as the day progressed, many going down to the beach with their beach chairs, to watch the proceedings from behind the yellow caution tape forming barriers from dunes to the sea, several hundred yards out from the boat in either direction.
Distant fog was providing a wonderful atmosphere. A Caterpillar excavator was parked on the low side of the boat, near the water, and four Code Enforcement pick-up trucks were parked on the beach, and a few groups of workmen were standing around the boat and the pick-ups. The crowd lined the street-level sidewalk, the elevation affording everyone excellent vantage. Nothing much was happening yet, so we all found our various locations to paint, in and amongst the onlookers.
After a while, the excavator started digging on the water side of the boat, and piling sand nearby, but it was slow going. We all were able to produce fair paintings without the boat moving, thankfully. Later, I came back by the scene after we had lunch down the road — at left is a photo showing the considerable progress they had made, and the excavator now up on the higher part of the beach.
Day 13, 2/13/18: Pears 1
6×6 oils on Gessobord.
I named this painting Pears 1, because I am certain there are many more pears in my future. I love the colors and shapes of pears!
Day 12, 2/12/18: Dinner After Plein Air
6×6 oils on hardboard.
In this painting I made an effort to create larger shapes, and not try so hard to model the interior of the shapes, but rather to leave them flatter, and to show receding space through temperature and overlapping. The idea for this painting came from a plein air workshop I took in Taos a couple of years ago. I think I’d like to refine the legs of the person with the yellow sweater — I want them to look like they are crossed above the knee, but I lost the lower knee.
Day 11, 2/11/2018: Storm Warning
6×6 oils on canvas panel.
We’ve had incredible rains here in Northwest Florida yesterday and today, and seasonal affective disorder is setting in — everything is gray, and dark, my phone receiving continuous updates of FEMA warnings for the potential for flooding. This color scheme, and in fact this composition, is very very common in this area, and super easy to paint — I’m allowed an easy one now and then, right? I used a palette knife to challenge myself. I really should practice with a knife more often.
Day 10, 2/10/2018: The Phoenix Will Rise
20x16x1.5 acrylic/mixed media on stretched canvas.
Texture started in Jan Sitts workshop last week. I refined the texture today, and painted this expression of earth tones, and am pondering if it should go further. Non-objective work is outside of my comfort zone, but this experimental art workshop left me feeling charged up!
Day 9, 2/9/2018: Norah
12×9 oils on canvas.
Painted from a live model at this week’s Figurative Artists Atelier, an uninstructed open studio with a live model. Typically we have 5 one-minute warm-up sketches, and 2 5-minute warm-up sketches, and then we launch into a single pose for the remainder of the 3-hour session, in 20-minute segments with 5-10 minute breaks between the segments, to allow the model to regain circulation and ease any tension from the pose. I will be tweaking this just a little, now that it is back at my studio, but not much. I really liked this model’s attitude and haughty expression.
Day 8: 2/8/2018: Champagne on the Emerald Coast
16 x 20 acrylic mixed media on gallery-wrapped canvas.
Painting Jan Sitts acrylic / mixed media workshop at the Cultural Arts Alliance in Santa Rosa Beach, FL.
Day 7, 2/7/18: Emerald Sounds
6×6 acrylic on canvas panel.
Painted in Jan Sitts workshop. The stripes resembling the waves of the Gulf of Mexico on the Emerald Coast of Northwest Florida, were created using multiple layers of paint.
Day 5, 2/5/18: Rip Tide
6×6 acrylic / mixed media on Gessobord.
Painted in Jan Sitts experimental workshop hosted by the Cultural Arts Alliance. I am totally outside of my comfort zone. Today we textured our supports with acrylic gel medium and various tools and supplies, but mine were not dry enough to paint on, so I created this small piece, texturing only with pinstriping tape. Our assignment was to not have a subject in mind while we worked, but rather to apply texture and color intuitively.
Day 4, 2/4/18: Angel Light Over Lake Powell
6×6 oils on Gessobord.
Today I was going to paint something easy. Then this view of Lake Powell, caught my eye, and having never painted “angel light” before, I thought, why not! I spent far too long on this exercise, thanks to being on the phone a good part of the time. Distracted, I found myself playing with the clouds, and then wishing I hadn’t and fixing them, and fixing them a little too much — play-fix-fix again, and repeat –while the phone call continued. It reminds me of the time I was having my hair cut, and the stylist had just returned from a trip to Russia. It was a long trip and a long story, and as she told it, my hair got shorter and shorter. 😯
Day 3, 2/3/18: Bay View from Okaloosa Island
6×6 oils on Gessobord.
I shoot a lot of photos to help me choose a location I want to paint with our local plein air painting group, and this is one of those locations. We paint here every 4 months or so. There are palms, pines, cedars, scrub oaks, mockingbirds, kite-sailors, a changing sky, tugboats and barges, winding paths through the grass, sand, water — did I mention it’s a National Seashore? Gulf Islands, on Okaloosa Island, to answer that.
Day 2, 2/2/18: Figure with Red Coat
6×6 oils on Gessobord.
On Fridays I attend the Figurative Artists Atelier, a live-model painting session at the Foster Gallery. Usually we have an extended pose, but today we had a different pose every 20 minutes.
Day 1, 2/1/18: Coraline
6×6 oils on Gessobord.
This is one of my two cats, a rescue cat I adopted from Alaqua Animal Refuge.
Thank you for visiting. Many of my paintings are available for purchase. Click on the image to view the painting in my online store. You can also contact me to purchase or commission a painting.
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:
- 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.
- 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!
- Learn to simplify, simplify, simplify!
- Figure out what appeals to me about paintings I admire, and then practice that — compositional design, color combinations, contrast, development of focal area, etc.
- 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).
Here’s my first one, painted today.
Recent paintings and studies are below. The first two, which are (first image) a pencil and nupastel quick-sketch of artist friend David Boyd drawn from a live pose, and (second image) a small painting of a posing elderly woman in her Sunday dress, were completed last May at Plein Air South, a gathering of artists for lectures, demonstrations, panel discussions, and painting sessions. I gave both to the respective models.
These next two paintings were completed at recent weekly Wednesday morning plein air sessions with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters.
This painting below was painted with the DeFuniak Springs group represented by artist Jackie Wagoner last weekend.
The paintings below were painted some time ago. I retouched or completely reworked some, and others simply have been pulled up from my piles of studies. I will be taking these to Panama City next weekend for the Fringe Gallery’s “Under $100” sale.
Contact me if you are interested in any of these paintings.
The last 8 weeks have been amazingly busy.
In September in my capacity as the 30A Wedding Painter, I painted a commission 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.
I presented my one-day workshop, Effective Shape-Making and Atmospheric Perspective en Plein Air, in Ft. Walton Beach in October, and in Santa Rosa Beach in November the day before our first local plein air paint-out. The discussion and exercises centered around the use of recognizable silhouettes or external contours for effective shape-making, and exaggerating receding space by making distant shapes lighter and bluer and less detailed, perhaps even completely silhouetted, and with “soft” edges.
My goal in workshops is to give tools and techniques to the beginner, and to review and practicing those tools for the more advanced painter so that he or she may use them with more authority.
The third workshop is one I took, instead of taught, again from the instructor I consider my mentor, Morgan Samuel Price, at The Art Loft in Dahlonega, Georgia. Sometimes the learning is faster than I can absorb, and when that happens, it is difficult for me to paint. That seemed to have been the case in this three-day workshop – only one day resulted in an effective painting, and I struggled to reach a finishing point. Morgan gave me a number of suggestions, but in the end, I had to make my own decisions, and simplification, eliminating busy texture, is what ended up making it work.
I continue to paint weekly with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters when I am home. Below are a couple of little studies I enjoyed.
And there is the occasional photograph demanding to be shared…
And that brings me to the paint-outs. A paint-out is an invitation to paint any number of paintings over a period of several days, and often also includes a “Quickdraw” timed contest of usually 2- or 3-hours to paint within a particular area, the paintings to be framed and judged immediately afterwards. The first paint-out was in Gulf Shores, Alabama, produced by Craig Reynolds for the Alabama Plein Air Artists and guests. I am a member of the APAA. Living in the Florida Panhandle, APAA paint-outs are closer to me than most of the Florida paint-outs. Below are the paintings I produced there.
The Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County is the arts association where I live, in Santa Rosa Beach, FL. For 25 years the CAA has produced the Flutterby Festival, an autumn event geared primarily toward children, celebrating the migration of the monarchs and other butterflies through our geographic area. This year, they added a plein air paint-out to the event, and 20 excited and enthusiastic painters participated on the beautiful grounds of Watersound Origins. I won some awards, taking second place in the Quickdraw, and honorable mention for a painting in the Wet Room. We were allowed to exhibit one piece we had painted prior to the paint-out, in the Wet Room, so that the Wet Room would have some paintings in it right away, and my piece that was honored, Pathways Pond, is the one that I had painted on a previous outing there with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters.
And now I have some time to clean out my studio, and re-organize. I will be retrieving the paintings I have been exhibiting at the local library, and I need to make space for them. It’s surprising how quickly more paintings can fill up a space! Sometimes it fills with projects for upcoming exhibits. Our arts alliance is calling for art for the annual One Size Fits All, the requirement being that all art is produced on a 10′ x 10′ cradled wood panel. I like to use special exhibits like this as an opportunity to do something a little different. This year I painted a simple sandpiper on one of the panels and on the other one today I learned how to make an acrylic pour, marbled using silicone, and I put some coquina shells on it that look like butterflies, and I titled it Migration.
This fall I am investing my time in cultivating my community’s appreciation for plein air painting, as well as promoting my own work. Many people in my community have never heard of plein air painting, so that is taking extra effort. My local arts association, the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, is very supportive. The CAA will be adding a plein air paint-out to our existing Flutterby Festival at Watersound Origins here in Santa Rosa beach, FL, in November. I will be teaching a one-day workshop the day before the festival, the lesson being effective shape-making to start a plein air painting in a way that will offer a high likelihood of success.
Art marketers say that 20% of your time as an artist should be spent on marketing. I am spending more than 20% of my art energy right now, but I expect it to level off. I actually had intended for last year, my third year of plein air painting, to be my marketing year. The transition and adjustment after selling my pool service business took more time than I had anticipated.
As I see it, the main task is the creation of opportunities for press releases and posts on social media. To accomplish that, I have filled my calendar for the next 6 weeks.
The first event coming up is thanks to an avid supporter of the arts in my area. Cheryl Gray, herself an artist, lines up artists to show their work in the local library. I will be showing my work during the months of October and November. Cheryl sends out press releases to local media. I made my own postcard to give out printed announcements to a few people, and I posted it on Facebook and created a Facebook event. I will send a press release to several other media in my community. I regard the press releases to be of equal importance or even greater importance than the actual exhibit, because public awareness of plein air painting is my primary goal.
This-coming weekend I will paint at a wedding reception, and next week I will be framing paintings for the library exhibit. Somewhere during that time I would like to change out and replace the paintings hanging in the lobby of Northwest Florida State College’s South Walton Center. My local weekly painting group, the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, is showing plein air paintings there. My goal with that exhibit is to foster awareness and appreciation within the high school and college students attending there.
The first week of October I will be taking another painting workshop in Dahlonega, Georgia, with my mentor, Morgan Samuel Price. I want to continue to challenge myself to paint better.
The second weekend of October I will paint on-site at the library during the annual book sale, during my exhibit. The third weekend of October I will teach the same one-day workshop as I will be teaching in November, but for the arts association in the neighboring county, the Arts and Design Society of Ft. Walton Beach, FL.
The first weekend in November I will participate in a painting event in Gulf Shores, AL, and the second weekend of November will be the CAA’s Flutterby Festival and Paint-Out.
Hopefully I can breathe after that. It’s exciting, to have so many art events and activities lined up. This past year was the first year that I kept track of art expenses, after I sold my career pool service business, and as I was expecting, I spent more than I earned. It would be nice to break even this year. When I achieve that, I should be able to cut back on my promotional efforts, for the recommended 20% of my time.
Sometimes our local group of plein air painters receives an invitation to paint at an event. When that happens, usually 4 or 5 of us will show up, and it is always fun. The garden party today, at Clay30A, was no exception. It was the 5th anniversary for the Seagrove Beach, FL, nursery and gift shop. I meant to arrive an hour early, because the party was only scheduled for 2 hours in the afternoon, and I wanted a head start. Alas, somewhere I lost an hour, so I arrived right after the party started. Several fellow painters were already hard at it. The business is a cornucopia for plein air painting – brilliant light and color and contrasting dark shadows galore. I often bite off more than I can chew when we (the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters) paint here, so today I purposefully chose a simple subject, pots of flowers hanging from a tree. I correctly guessed that the sun would be starting to hit the flowers by the end of the party at 5:00, which was when I would be ready to paint the light. From when I started at 3:00 until then, I was busy with simple shape making and background colors. At the end, I was pleased with my result, so I gave it to the owner to thank her for inviting our group. To our surprise, she gave each of us a sweet card and gift. I am so grateful to live in such a classy place! Below is my painting. There was one change I made after shooting this photo — I removed the pot hanger I had started to paint in below the lowest hanging pot on the right. I decided that it would be difficult to identify, and that visually it would be less confusing to have the pots just hanging from the tree.
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.
2016, A Year of Recognition
An art career doesn’t happen overnight.
When I received my degree in Fine Art, I imagined that I would be a fulltime artist by the time I was 40 years old. Instead, I was completely immersed in a growing pool service business, with hardly enough time to produce the occasional donation of art for charity. It would be another 15 years before things would change.
In 2007, with the economy slowing to a crawl, my business growth stopped and I found myself with a good deal of free time. I began producing art every week and I started volunteering for the local arts organization, the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, helping to organize and produce art exhibits. Soon after, I became a member of the Board of Directors. I began painting en plein air in 2012, and in 2015 I volunteered to be the coordinator for the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters. Finally, in late 2015, I sold my pool service business, and I began pursuing my art career more diligently.
And now it is the end of 2016. What a year it has been! I continue to serve for the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, and I continue to coordinate the weekly gatherings of the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters. Here’s my year in review:
In January, the Sunshine Art Center / Beach Art Group produced a solo exhibit of 55 of my paintings, honoring me for winning People’s Choice Best in Show at the Local Color Plein Air Paint-Out in Lynn Haven, Florida, which was held last fall.
Also in January, all 3 of my entries were accepted into the Southeast Regional Juried Art Exhibition at the Mattie Kelley Art Center at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, Florida, and “Western Lake with Umbrella Trees”, my 12 x 24 plein air oil painting, won 3rd place.
At the end of January, I was the featured plein air painter and workshop instructor for the Florida Chautauqua Assembly in DeFuniak Springs, Florida.
I was the February Artist of the Month for the Freeport Art League, displaying work at the City Hall in Freeport, Florida.
In mid-February, I got my left thumb repaired, CMC arthroplasty, which gave me a new thumb joint. I practiced with watercolors while I had use of only one hand, which was less messy and a fun return to my years fresh out of college.
In the spring, I received a phone call from Joe Taylor, from the Forgotten Coast Coalition in Apalachicola, Florida, telling me I would be one of six artists selected from across the state to be a “Florida’s Finest en Plein Air” Ambassador for 2016 until May of 2017. That recognition gave me a good deal of credibility among other artists and attendees of the annual Forgotten Coast En Plein Air Invitational in Apalachicola. I also gained immeasurable experience teaching the fifteen one-on-one plein air painting lessons as an Ambassador.
In June, I coordinated an exhibit of works by the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters at Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast.
I continued my weekly painting excursions with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters through the summer, and was the luncheon speaker at the Arts and Design Society in Ft. Walton Beach in July.
In the fall, I taught two more plein air painting workshops – one in Panama City and one in Santa Rosa Beach.
Also in the fall, I competed in the Bagdad-Milton Plein Air Paint-Out near Pensacola, Florida, where I was honored to receive Best in Show for my 12 x 24 oil painting “Anticipation”.
A month later I was asked to be the judge of the Alabama Plein Air Artists’ Gulf Shores Paint-Out Quickdraw, which allowed me to demonstrate my expertise in evaluating art.
The final honor for the year was being juried into the Foster Gallery, a co-op of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, which exhibits 15 select artists every quarter.
I was the November Artist of the Month for the Freeport Art League, displaying work at the City Hall in Freeport, Florida.
Also in November, I had my right thumb repaired, CMC arthroplasty, the same surgery I had on my left thumb in February. I practiced working with pastels instead of oils, for 5 weeks while my right hand was immobilized, using my left (non-dominant) hand. Pastels are great fun, a welcome addition to my repertoire. I was surprised that using my left hand was not the nuisance I anticipated, just another challenge.
The events of this past year have improved my reputation as an artist, and have given me the confidence to set more ambitious goals. In 2017 I will be making a strong effort toward marketing as I continue to strengthen my painting skills.
My dream is to be able to travel and paint, and I have begun to realize that dream. In August I traveled with local painter Rebecca Perrott, to Arizona to take a workshop from my favorite instructor, Morgan Samuel Price, and in October I traveled with two other local painters, Theresia McInnis and Deborah Scott Mason, to North Georgia for a short week of plein air painting in the Blue Ridge area. In February I will travel with Apalachicola painter Lynn Wilson and a number of other painters to New Zealand for a week of plein air painting and adventure, on Plein Air Magazine’s Publisher’s Trip.
Plein air painting comes with many challenges which include the changing light, the weather, insects, and even by one’s own fitness. Sometimes I think I must be crazy to enjoy it so much. But after years of burning the midnight oil managing a business, which thankfully paid the bills, but did not nurture the soul, I am thrilled to be well on my way in this new career, the career I dreamed of!
It is my joy is to share the beauty I see.
Below are recent paintings. The first painting is the first one painted in oils with my new thumb joint, post-surgery, a bitter cold day. Eden Gardens State Park is one of our favorite locations to paint. It was decorated for the holidays, but I was sufficiently challenged to just get a bit of the structure, my primary interest being the intense color of the resurrection fern growing on the live-oak trees.
The next painting below was painted on a warmer day, outside the Foster Gallery at the Market Shops at Sandestin, Florida, where I was accepted as one of the 15 artists to show work this quarter. It is a small painting, only 6×6, but as is usually the case, something I had never painted before.
The next week we painted the Western Lake Outfall at Grayton Beach, Florida. The coastal dune lakes of our county are a rarity, being found only in a few other places in the entire world. When a coastal dune lake accumulates enough rain run-off, it breaks open and the overfill flows into the Gulf of Mexico, and tides then exchange saltwater with freshwater in the lake, until the beach builds up and closes off the lake outfall again. The outfall was flowing on the day we were there. When I say we, I am talking about the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, a group of avid artists meeting weekly at various locations, to paint en plein air. On this day, the sky was completely overcast, and the entire scene was muted shades of gray, except for a coral strip of sky between the clouds and the Gulf waters. Halfway through our morning painting session, the blinding sun came out, and suddenly the entire scene was in color. The smarter painters set their first canvas aside and began another painting. The rest of us fussed and fumed our way through, perhaps relying on a photo or two to quickly finish our paintings before our memory gave out.
Last week we painted at the Destin Library. Beautiful gardens and landscaping surround the library. Unfortunately, we had a hard freeze the weekend before, so many of the camellia blossoms has dropped off, but on one bush new blossoms had opened since the freeze, and that bush begged to be painted.
Yesterday I was nominated to post a painting a day in the 7-Day Artist’s Challenge on Facebook. The first day I shared Thistle Bloom, which I will be giving away out of my display at the Foster Gallery where I am one of the juried artists exhibiting through February 25, 2017. Today I shared the painting below. This 12×24 oil painting was done almost all en plein air at Twin Oaks Farm last September. When we first got there, the early morning light was beginning to warm the chicken sheds and the rolling fields, and the sheep were just waking up.
Click on any image for purchase information.
Last February I had surgery on my left hand to reconstruct my thumb joint (CMC arthroplasty), and in November, the day after Election Day, I had the same surgery on my right hand. ( I mention Election Day because the surgery the day after the election meant that I could go through the next few days on pain medication, a relief on several levels.) I had opted to have my left hand repaired first, in February, even though the right hand was worse, so that I could know the level of disability I would have and be able to project the recovery time more accurately. The adjustment I made in February was to change from oil painting to watercolor painting, so there would be less clean up. I blogged about it under the title Adjust, Adapt, Accommodate — Painting Through Challenges. But this time, my right hand, my dominant hand, was immobilized, so I had to use my left hand express myself. Handwriting left-handed is difficult to say the least. By the time I finish writing anything, I have totally lost my enthusiasm for whateverit is I am writing about. And controlled brushwork is nearly impossible. So I switched to soft pastels, which are pure pigment, pressed into chalk-like sticks. The support I am using is 12×9 fine grit sandpaper made for this purpose. I’ve tried to keep my compositions fairly simple, being quite challenged both by the medium and by having to use my left hand. I’ve painted 3 times in the 4 weeks since my surgery. The rest of the time has been consumed with recovery, Thanksgiving holiday, and installing my part of the exhibit at The Foster Gallery, which i mentioned in my last post.
The first painting, at our weekly plein air painting session at Watercolor, Florida, was incredibly enjoyable, as I sat beside a large grouping of butterfly bushes that were sparkling with at least a hundred monarch butterflies, visiting during their annual fall migration to Mexico.
The second painting was a respite from a football game that was being cheered by my Thanksgiving week hosts and their other guests. I wanted to convey my impression of a tree I had seen a few days before. I had a photo to remind me, but I wanted to portray the feeling of awe that I had when I first saw the tree. It had turned completely red, and was dropping its leaves, but all the leaves on the ground were pink, instead of red. I did not investigate to find out why — I guess they were falling face down, so only the pink backs showed.
And the third painting was again with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters at our weekly painting session, this time at The Gulf Restaurant in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. I chose the view of Brooks Bridge crossing from Okaloosa Island to FWB, and I stopped painting when the first raindrops started falling. A tornado touched down not too far from us and a waterspout scared people as it crossed the Choctawhatchee Bay. But it was calm where we were.
Next week I will find out if I can take of my brace to be able to hold a paintbrush again.