As the year comes to a close and I look back on it, I find it difficult to put into words how I feel about so many things. I have felt crushing disappointment in our country’s political direction, but have felt helpless to do anything of consequence to help it. But the discomfort of it has used up most of what little patience I have for that sort of thing, and I have instead tried to pour my energies into my art and my mental health. Both have improved noticeably.
I continue to paint en plein air on Wednesdays. The big change is that this past month I also began practicing clothed-model figure painting every Friday with a drawing and painting group, meeting at our Cultural Arts Alliance‘s Foster Gallery. I have considerable experience in drawing the nude figure and enjoy it immensely — it was one of my areas of emphasis for my Fine Arts degree. But I haven’t practiced figure painting a lot. I am learning to handle my brushes better, and I am learning to create skin tones using the Zorn palette, which is very limited – white, yellow ochre, cadmium red, and black. Below are some of my figurative efforts, all with our amazing model Abigail. We post our group’s studies on Facebook under Figurative Artists Atelier.The first painting, in blue jeans, is the one I did this week, and the painting with her wearing the Madame X dress, was last week. These are all 3-hour poses divided into 20-minute segments with 5 or 10 minute breaks. I am purposefully painting profiles or near profiles because they are easier, and that allows me to practice my brushwork and skin tones. Click on the images for purchase information.
I have had an idea in the back of my head for several years, and it will involve figures on larger canvases, a theme I can follow and see what develops. On Christmas Day I built 2 stretcher frames, both of them 6 feet tall, and stretched raw linen on them each and applied sizing, and have since added three coats of primer, so stay tuned!
Opportunities materialize when you keep saying “Yes!” It’s easier to say “Well, maybe, maybe not…”, but if I do that, inertia keeps me rooted. Saying “Yes!” moves me forward and opens doors.
Recent “yes’s” include…
Painting a demo December 16 at the Open House for The Joe Center for the Arts in Port St. Joe, Florida, which in May will be the epicenter of The Forgotten Coast en Plein Air and Plein Air South this year;
Accepting an invitation to speak to the Emerald Coast Meditation Society about the Zen of plein air painting at their regular third Thursday session, 6:30 PM, January 18, 2018, Christ the King Episcopal Church, 480 N. County Hwy 393, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459.
Agreeing to give a presentation on plein air painting to the local Library in their winter programs series, 10:00 AM, January 31, 2018, at The Coastal Branch (South Walton) Library, 437 Greenway Trail, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
I think that speaking about plein air painting to the meditation group will be the most challenging. It will require me to put some thoughts into words, about things I don’t share very much. This blog will help. The first time I went to a plein air event, I remember noticing that the painters seemed extraordinarily friendly and welcoming. Most people are cordial when you meet them, but the plein air painters as a group seemed more aware, more present, looking directly into my eyes, holding my gaze for longer. It may be that they were merely thinking about what colors they would use to create the exact shade of my blue eyes, but it felt like they were more tuned in, more mindful. With few exceptions, they emanated kindness. I now know these same characteristics describe many people who meditate regularly – most seem to have more present-moment awareness, are more engaged in the immediate, have good focus, more compassionate attitudes, and generally seem to be more self-accepting and thus more accepting of others. That is how I want to be described someday.
People we know intimately often project their own issues onto us and vice versa — it seems to be human nature to have an affinity for people with whom we can play out unhealed trauma or drama. If they don’t grow at the same rate as us, then these people pass out of our lives after the lessons are learned, because we no longer fit into the box that they have built for us, which at the time we willing went into but now have outgrown. Some people project onto everyone they meet, and those are the people who use generalities, like everyone is a certain way, and this always happens. But for everyone else we in our lives, they and we present in a way that demonstrates the stage of our spiritual and psychological development. That development, I believe, is the purpose of our life. We each develop spiritually and psychologically through the choices we make and the activities of our lives. There is no one right way or better way. Every way offers a necessity of sacrifice and eventually, a transcendence of suffering. And that is what I think those plein air painters were demonstrating.
As a representational outdoor landscape painter, I try to capture the beauty that I see, and paint it onto a small canvas in just two or three hours. The fact that time is a factor requires a lot of compromise, because the light/shadows change, the weather can worsen, I might discover that I am standing near an anthill, or someone can park a semi-truck in front of my scene. At some point along the way, a good painter must commit to one time, one arrangement of shadows and light, one impression, and try to represent that impression. Otherwise, they are constantly “chasing the light”. If a painter is terribly attached to the outcome of his effort, time alone will be a source of endless suffering. Likewise, so many other aspects of plein air painting can sorely test one’s spirit. For a long time after I started painting en plein air, every painting was an epic journey. About 20 minutes into it, I would find myself wondering whatever made me think that I could be a outdoor painter. I would descend into the chasm of despair as I soldiered on, frustrated by my incapability of rendering on the canvas anything even close to the beauty that I was seeing, perhaps questioning the value of my art degree, and maybe even my right to exist as a human on this planet. I would descend into the abyss, and somewhere near the bottom I would have to accept my effort for what it was, and thus forgive and accept myself. Eventually I would paint my way out again, working out my redemption as I went. I would stop painting only when my timer went off. As if that journey was not enough, I would willingly participate in what our painting group calls a “soft” critique, where we show our paintings to our fellow painters, another exercise in courage, humility, and non-attachment. We explain what our challenges were and then the braver artists will even ask if anyone has any suggestions, the ultimate act of vulnerability and trust. Some artists deprecate their own work first, before anyone else can, inviting consolation and reassurance. Others immediately defend their painting against the suggestions they just asked for. But most will listen, and perhaps receive a few good tips as a bonus for their labor. They get to be better painters. And along the way, they gain more ability to compromise, more commitment, self-forgiveness, self-acceptance, courage, humility, vulnerability, trust, compassion, and non-attachment.
These are the same benefits that we get from meditation. And that’s what I will talk about to the meditation group. A mindful approach to anything can yield these same results. It is by facing it head-on that we are able to transcend suffering.
And then we re-attach, putting our signature on our painting. Ha!
Below are some of my recent paintings. The first series is the preparation for my demo at The Joe Center for the Arts. I decided to use a painting I had painted en plein air shortly before. When I was doing the demo, I surrounded myself with my references: my value studies, my plein air painting, and my app’d photo and watercolor sketches where I had solved some temperature and contrast problems, so that I would remember everything that I had been thinking about. The demo was about 3/4 completed there at the Open House — with Christmas season upon us, I am forgiving myself for not finishing it yet.
The following are three paintings I did on my regular weekly outings with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, and the last image is the cover for our end-of-year album for that group, a collection of the paintings the regular painters feel are their best. Click on any image to see a larger version, and click on the album cover to go to the ECPAP “Best of 2017” album. We are still collecting photos for that album.
And lastly, a photo of me painting the Martin Theater in Panama City, FL, during the Fringe Gallery’s “Everything Under $100” Sale. Photo by Julie Roberts Logsdon.
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.
In brief, projects accomplished and actions taken over the past two months:
Continued coordinating and attending weekly Wednesday morning plein air painting excursions with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, with the goal of maintaining community among the painters, and maintaining if not improving my skills.
Organized and hung a small exhibit of works by the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters in the lobby of Northwest Florida State College South Walton Center, with the goal of constantly exposing young minds to plein air painting, and with the end goal of creating appreciation for the genre, encouraging young artists, and perhaps inviting future participation and patronage.
Served as coordinator for a juried exhibit of plein air paintings for my local arts alliance at the Foster Gallery, preliminary to an event we are planning for this fall.
Completed my 4 months of physical therapy for IT Band Syndrome due to knee arthritis (what a pain!!)
Vacationed in Montana for a week with my sisters from Colorado, and their families, and visited my 97-year-old Dad in his senior home in Colorado, and shared pie with my brother and his family there.
Completed a commissioned painting for a patron.
Exhibited in two special exhibits at the Foster Gallery – showing two plein air paintings in Outdoor Magic 2017, and a figurative piece in Faces & Figures.
Studied DVD’s by plein air painters Laurel Daniel and Joseph McGurl.
Below are studies and works done over the past couple of months.
As always, contact me if interested in available art or a commission.
After several months of adjusting to challenges on several fronts, things are settling down and I am returning to painting in oils. In early February, I had the first of two surgeries on my hands, to create a new joint for the base of my thumb. I chose to have this done on my left, non-dominant, hand first, so that I could plan for the disability I will have when I am recovering from the same surgery on my right thumb later this year. The surgery I had is called a CMC arthroplasty, and I am fortunate to have nearby one of the best clinics in the country, the Andrews Institute of Orthopedics right here in Northwest Florida (thank you Dr. Steven Kronlage!). I was not comfortable using my oil paints when I started painting again, what with the mess I usually make and my left hand not being of much help, so I switched to watercolor paints for a little while. Below are a few of my watercolors painted en plein air during weekly outings with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters.
I tried out watercolor canvas in my studio for the first time, and I liked it very much. After spraying several light coats of Golden archival spray (matte), the painting can be framed without glass, so the watercolor painting is open to the viewer, instead of being separated from the viewer by glass. I painted the painting below in the studio, to submit to a Cultural Arts Alliance show of watercolor paintings which Melissa Brown and I are coordinating for the A+Art Committee, whose mission is to showcase CAA member artists’ work in our Art in Public Spaces program. The show will open with a reception at 5:00 on April 1, 2016 at the Bayou Arts Center, 105 Hogtown Bayou Lane, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459. It will show through June 1, 2016.
I went to the local figure drawing session CAA holds every two weeks, thanks to Nancy Nichols Williams’ persevering efforts, which was managed by Liza Snyder this week. I should draw more often, to stay in practice, and I am looking forward to a reduction in my work hours at my job so that I can do just that. Below is one of my warm-up sketches from this week.
And finally, this week, I broke out my oils again, after 7 weeks away from them, for the weekly painting session with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, on my friend Erika Stoyer’s backyard patio. My left hand now is strong enough to be able to wipe my brushes when I am cleaning them during the painting. The day was overcast almost the whole time, with the sun peeking through just as I was finishing up.
Considering all of the exposure opportunities today, no artist should be “unknown”. With a little footwork and by using my few computer skills, I have solidified my presence as an artist, both in my community and also elsewhere.
First, I try to do my part to support the arts. I volunteer as a member of the Board of Directors of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, serving on the A+Art Committee whose mission is to exhibit member artists work in the community. That, plus my attendance at the local art network meetings, and now serving as Coordinator for the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, have put me in touch with many other artists and art opportunities. And I share literally everything on Facebook. My friends tell me I should be on Instagram too, but for now, I am limiting my time budgeted for social media.
Being involved in public activities gives me opportunity to have my work seen.
It all started when I suddenly found I had a lot more free time after my pool service business growth slowed during the drop in the economy in 2007. I returned to my practice of figure drawing in 2009. In late 2012, I decided I wanted to pursue my art more seriously and I hired a coach, SaraMae Dalferes, for 10 twice-a-month sessions to help me make some changes in my thinking which was very effective in propelling me into action. One change was so simple as putting intended activities on a calendar and making them a priority — it’s amazing how that simple action and a little resolve opened the doors! In 2013, after about 8 years of receiving the weekly notifications, and 8 years of having intended to do this, “someday”, I finally began painting with the local group of plein air painters. My three-year plan was to regain my skills with color-mixing and brushwork in oils, 30 years mostly dormant. Way back then, my medium was watercolor. I dug out my college-era oil paints, identified the ones that were still viable, and started putting together my plein air backpack. The next week I started painting!
While I was practicing figure drawing, in 2010 I started blogging about my work. I have no idea how many people actually read what I write — I don’t study the analytics — because the writing itself is what benefits me as an artist, helping me to realize and absorb what I am doing and how my work and my spirit are growing.
I also exhibit whenever possible at our local arts organization’s events. I filled one of the Summertime Tour of Homes houses with plein air works in June of this year for the Cultural Arts Alliance fundraiser. Also one of my paintings was juried into CAA/A+Art’s Top of the Class Show in Santa Rosa Beach, FL, and one of my submissions was selected for Celebrate the Masters in DeFuniak Springs, FL. I also showed two pieces in the annual members’ show for Artists of Apalachicola Area, and I showed two in the member’s exhibit at CAA’s Artsquest Art and Music Festival in the spring. This fall I will be showing 8 or 10 pieces in the Destin Festival of the Arts (Mattie Kelly Art Festival) with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, and two in A+Art’s One Size Fits All. I also participated in the Quickdraw timed paint-out at “The Forgotten Coast En Plein Air”, with the good fortune of selling the piece I painted, on the spot!
I have been attending the Florida Chautauqua Assembly Plein Air Paint-Out for the past couple of years, and have been asked to instruct a plein air painting workshop at next year’s event. This will launch me on the next step in my career, sharing what I have learned and helping others to enjoy plein air painting!
Also there are the donations to fundraisers, which benefit organizations I wish to support.
It takes some effort, but it has served me well. It’s one thing to be an artist, but it’s another to be recognized, and I am grateful to those individuals and organizations along the way who encourage, support, and provide opportunity. Most especially, I am grateful to the patrons who appreciate and purchase my art! Sales not only validate my efforts; they also pay for the art supplies! After all, a lot of paint goes onto a lot of canvases before one catches the eye of a buyer!
At left is “Jackson Pollock at the Beach”, which was accepted into A+Art’s upcoming show, “Celebrate the Masters”, an exhibit of artwork derivative of and inspired by a recognized master. I also painted and submitted for the same show, “Mark Rothko at the Beach”, at right, but it was was rejected. Making lemonade out of lemons, since I really love the colors and the idea, I am hanging it where I get to see it every day, in the hallway of my businesses, 331 Pool & Beach Supply and Pool Pal.
You cannot draw and paint frequently and with intensity, without it changing how you know yourself. And with knowing yourself, comes self-acceptance, forgiveness, and eventually, compassion for others. My revelation this past week was that I am less certain that I see the whole picture. I say that with regard to my art, but also with regard to life situations.
I prove it to myself every time I pick up a pencil or a paintbrush. But this past week it was just as clear and obvious in my management of certain sticky business situations. I found I easily was able to let go of a lost cause, when I realized the customer was locked into his perception of the situation and couldn’t see the bigger picture. Ordinarily I would have struggled a good bit providing more information, but in this case, I knew I wasn’t going to change his mind, so I was able to calmly release him to his certainty that my crew was doing a bad job. And in the second situation, the first conclusion of someone having made a bad mistake evolved into someone having nearly hurt themselves badly in making that mistake, and finally to the conclusion that no one made a mistake — the situation was caused by an electrical problem and not humanly caused at all. So by not seizing on the first apparent explanation, and continuing to keep my mind open and not alienate the variously involved people in the process, I eventually was able to reach the truth. I see this as a direct metaphor for how I have to approach my drawing and my painting. I make huge mistakes when I go with my first impression, and then if I am patient with myself and with the process, I can come closer to the truth.
Blue moon is the term for the second full moon in a single month. The color of the moon is normal, not actually blue. It happens about every 3 years. Painting the blue moon is an opportunity that comes, well (forgive me), only once in a blue moon. So I had to paint, instead of beating a drum, at the Blue Moon Drum Circle last night. My dear friend Leslie Kolovich organizes drum circles once a month, usually in her studio. It had been touch and go whether we would be able to meet on the beach for the moonrise, the weather forecast changing by the hour. The night before, she and I had actually come up with Plan B in case we were rained out, creating a slide presentation of images of the blue moon (most of them tinted blue) that we found on the internet, that we would project onto one wall of her studio, sized to cover the whole wall. But we were thrilled that Plan A worked out. Being a plein air painter and a nature enthusiast, I think that anything outdoors is infinitely preferable to being indoors.
I quickly set up while the drum circle participants socialized. I used a wash of red and black acrylic paint to tone my 8×10 stretched canvas before I started. I was eliminating the stark white of the canvas, so that distracting white hollows of the canvas texture would not show underneath if my hasty brushstrokes skipped across the canvas in my hurry to capture what I knew would be quickly-fading light. I am an oil painter, and I wanted my wash to be dry before I started – the reason for the wash being acrylic.
I joined the drum circle for the stating of goals. Leslie explained that the energy and timing of the blue moon is perfect for enlisting the support of others in the attainment of our goals, if spoken out loud. We all listened to each others goals — mine to someday retire and become a full-time painter. Afterwards the group began drumming, an easy gentle beat, while I returned to my easel to lay in the basic shapes of the beach, the dune skyline, the Gulf of Mexico, and the sky. The sound of the waves added an ebb and flow to the rhythm of the drums. Occasionally someone would start chanting, and I smiled when someone led everyone in a couple of wonderful howls, calling to the moon that was still beneath the horizon.
When it became difficult to distinguish the colors on my palette, I turned on my tiny book lights — one for my canvas and one for my palette. Shortly after that, I heard someone “Ohhhhh” over the sound of the drums, and a couple of people stood and craned their necks towards the distant coastline,and I saw a glow behind one of the structures on the beach. They, with their view unobstructed, saw the reddish moon peeking over the dunes. In a few minutes I did too, a beautiful red-orange orb, bright enough to make the close clouds glow.
Every painter is familiar with the anxiety of having a nervous twitch just at the moment of laying the brush tip on the canvas to render a detail. It’s worse when you are painting a starkly contrasting color. Especially orange. “Confidence, my lady, do not fear!” And just that fast, the moon was in the painting! Soon after that, I stopped, picked up my paints and backpack and trekked back to my car. I took a photo of my painting and texted it to Leslie along with a few photos of the group at sunset.Then I rejoined the group for a little drumming of my own.
But there was something bothering me about the painting that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Later, when Leslie received my texts, she texted back, “The beach looks like snow.” That’s a common description of our sugar-white sand beaches here on the Emerald Coast of Northwest Florida, but I wondered what I needed to do to make it look more like a beach. Then it dawned on me — beach vegetation! So this morning I popped in a little vegetation suggesting sea oats in front of the dunes, and that made all the difference. I pronounced the painting Done.
Below is a pen-and-ink sketch of another one of our drum circles, drawn inside Leslie’s studio during the drumming.
Certain pursuits are referred to as a practice. We think of the practice of law, the practice of medicine, the practice of meditation. I consider my art to be a practice — I practice figure drawing, I practice plein air painting. I think of it as lifelong learning, each painting or drawing a new experience.
I stopped figure drawing a few years ago when the logistics became more difficult, and instead I began plein air painting. Now, when I go to the life drawing sessions my local arts alliance supports, I find my practice a little rusty. But thanks to my friend Melanie Cissone for bringing the local figure drawing opportunities back to life, figure drawing is getting easier again. Bohlert-Massey Interiors in Seacrest Beach, Florida, has been selling my figurative pieces and suddnely I am hard-pressed to re-supply their stock, so I am happy that my practice is paying off.
Below are some recent works from both of my practices. Click on them and use the attached form to message me if you are interested.
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Although I earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Fine Art with a certificate to teach, and did teach for 3 years, I actually produced art for only about 6 more years after moving to Florida and becoming consumed by owning and operating a pool service business. Thirty years have come and gone, and now I am reversing the process, practicing more art while allowing my business to run more and more on its own steam. I still depend on my business to pay the bills, while I continue to re-develop my skills as an artist. A few weeks ago I felt the energy shift, tipping the balance from entrepreneur to artist, and I found myself much more highly attuned to my art and my efforts to support the arts. It literally felt like a teeter-totter under my feet had begun to tip to the other side. The column of images to the right shows the number of sales this past week, which greatly reinforces my perception that things have changed.
I continue to paint plein air with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, and also I am excited to be practicing figure drawing again (“life drawing”), thanks to the organization of the program by fellow local artist Melanie Cissone and the generosity of Allison Wickey who is letting us use the space at her A.Wickey Studio-Gallery for our twice-a-month drawing sessions. I’m a little rusty but find it just as exhilarating as ever — the pace is 100 mph, trying to capture the essence of the pose before the time is up! Below is my final effort in last week’s session.
It was bitter cold at our plein air session this week. We painted at Red Bay Grocery, in Red Bay, Florida. The grocery is a favorite for locals, stocked with the bare minimum plus local honey and such. A third of the space is the dining area, and another third is the kitchen, where home-cooked specials are served every day. I had toned my canvas a buff color, and when it was time for critique, I hadn’t painted the sky. The group almost convinced me to leave the sky the buff background color, but after i got back to my studio, it just wasn’t how I had pictured it, so I quickly dashed in the light blue sky, and heightened a few contrasts to help it “read”. I seldom do much of anything with my plein air paintings when I get back to the studio, firstly preferring the pure plein air experience, and secondly, never quite remembering exactly what it looked like that would be different from how I painted it. Below is my painting of the Red Bay Grocery, and beside it, my friend, fellow painter Ed Nickerson‘s painting of me in my baggy falling-down snow britches.
Our painters group has members from a wide geographic area. Last week I drove for an hour to meet up with the group. Sometimes I stay home and paint, but it’s good to get out and see things that are new, and it’s always good to meet up with the other painters. It feels like family. We painted at Lincoln Park, in Valparaiso, FL. The light and shadows were outstanding, everywhere you looked. But they changed rapidly through the course of the painting — you had to choose a light patterns nd just stick with it. That underscores the importance of making a value sketch first, to help me remind myself what attracted me to a scene in the first place. Below is my piece.
In early March I received an email from Susan Bohlert Smith, which began “I love your figure drawings.” The email turned out to be an offer to show my drawings at Bohlert Massey Interiors. Bohlert Massey is in the Village of South Walton in Seacrest, an upscale development next to Rosemary Beach, Florida.
I brought about 15 or 20 figure drawings to my first meeting with Susan that Saturday, and discovered that she had already printed many of them from my website as references for the type of work she liked. The next morning she came over to my home/studio and went through my entire inventory of figurative work, leaving with a dozen pieces she wanted to showcase, and directing me to produce more in that same style. Fortunately, the style she liked was my favorite way of working, using white nupastel and graphite on toned paper, and leaving less important parts of the piece undrawn. (So twist my arm!!!)
The drawings are mostly of nudes in various poses, most of them drawn at Studio b when it was located in Alys Beach. (For those of you who are asking, Studio b is presently in between locations — stay tuned.)
Figure drawing, or life drawing, as it is known in the art world, excites me as much as plein air painting, both genres produced in the moment, from direct perception of the immediate subject. Both are constrained by time, plein air painting by the changing light and weather, and life drawing by the duration of the pose, requiring complete, undistracted focus of the artist.
Bohlert Massey Interiors is my sole representation for figurative work on Scenic Highway 30A in South Walton County, Northwest Florida. They will be having a Grand Re-Opening later this summer. Check out a portfolio of Bohlert Massey Interiors at http://www.bohlertmassey.com/portfolio.cfm.