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Plein Air on the World’s Most Beautiful Beach

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.

The State of Florida has named its various coasts, and ours is named the Emerald Coast, for that beautiful green streak over the sand bar. On Wednesday of this week, our local plein air group, the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, painted at Grayton Beach State Park. The temperature was chilly, but the biting wind was from the north, so we were somewhat sheltered on the water-side of the dunes. Our paintings are all posted on our Facebook Page.

Oil painting studying the colors of the Gulf of Mexico on the Emerald Coast, Grayton Beach, FL
Impossible Blue

I purchased an iPhone app called Art Rooms, which places art on the walls of the room you choose out of their stock, appropriate to the size of the painting relative to the size of the furniture. I like this app. I did have to use Photoshop to place my painting behind the lamp in the second example.

Art Rooms app showing “Impossible Blue” over a desk

Art Rooms app showing “Impossible Blue” over a bedside table

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Out with the Old, In with the New: From 2016 to 2017

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.

Oil painting of the mansion at Eden Gardens State Park in Pt. Washington, FL, painted en plein air

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.

Oil painting of pansies, painted en plein air

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.

Oil painting of the Western Lake Outfall in Grayton Beach, FL, on an overcast day, painted en plein air

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.

Oil painting of the camellias and grounds at the City of Destin Public Library, Destin, FL, painted en plain air

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.

Oil painting of the chicken sheds, chickens, sheep, and rolling fields at Twin Oaks Farm in Bonifay, FL, painted en plein air

Click on any image for purchase information.

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Commissioned Works En Plein Air

I recently completed two commissioned assignments in which specific subjects were requested.  In the first case, a specific style also was requested.  Fortunately for me, the stylistic samples I was given, ranged from the light and airy scenes of the French Impressionists to a piece of “outsider art” which had that sort of purely expressive sense of being painted by an artist who has not had formal training.  I was confident I could paint within that wide of a range!

The location of the first commissioned piece was in the gardens at Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet, at a wedding reception, and my job was to paint the bride and groom’s first dance.  When I arrived to get the background started, the Forrest Williams band was setting up, and the people from Grayton Beach Catering were bustling about.  My background was blocked in when the first guests arrived, and I was enjoying the band singing “She’s as Sweet as Tupelo Honey”.  By the time the guests started arriving, my 10×8 painting was well underway, and a few of the guests would wander over and watch as I worked.  I let one of the children put some color on the bottom part.  When the bride and groom were announced and made their entrance onto the dance floor, I put down my brush and picked up my sketchpad and my camera.  After the dance, I laid in the figures on my nearly finished background and then finished the details in the studio using my sketch and my photos for reference.  Afterwards, I decided to paint another painting in the studio, making effort to paint in a more “Impressionist” style, with layers of short, patterned brushstrokes loaded with color, which was great fun.  (See also my later blog “Commissions under Pressure – Plein Air at Events”.)

Sketch of couple dancing outdoors
Plein air sketch

Oil Painting of Couple Dancing Outdoors by Bridge, Painted en Plein Air
Plein air painting, details in studio

Oil Painting of Couple Dancing Outdoors by Bridge, Impressionist Style
Studio painting
For mobile viewing

Sketch of couple dancing outdoors
Plein air

Oil Painting of Couple Dancing Outdoors by Bridge, Painted en Plein Air
Plein air

Oil Painting of Couple Dancing Outdoors by Bridge, Impressionist Style
Studio

 

The second commission was for Channing Gardner, a real estate agent, for a gift for his client.  My task was to paint the Seagrove Beach property as it was when it was purchased, before anything was built on it.  It took me two mornings to complete it, because of the changing light and the heat.  I opted for a wider format, painting it 12×24, which allowed me to include more of the coastal development to contrast with the empty lot.

Oil painting of central Seagrove Beach westward towards Seaside, showing recently purchased empty lot

June is my busiest time of year in my day job, managing my pool service business, so I was not able to join the local plein air painters yet this summer until things lightened up this week.  We met near the pond at Mystic Port, a small collection of shops and restaurants north of Grayton Beach, Florida.  I was intrigued by the fountain, but never having painted one, I gladly accepted the suggestion of a more experienced artist, to put the splash on the surface of the water and then take a palette knife and drag upwards.  I am happy with the results — I can hearing the water falling.  Other works by our group on that day can be found on our Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.520412828081717.1073741866.285985251524477&type=1.

Oil painting of the fountain splashing at Mystic Port, Grayton Beach, FL

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The Present Moment – Artist Joan Vienot

PhotoByJeffreyJonesI am thrilled to be showing my paintings at Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet in Grayton Beach, Florida, November 2-17, 2013.  The opening reception will be November 2, 2013, from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM.  My show is titled “The Present Moment”.  I chose that title because the show features my plein air paintings, which are for the most part painted outside, in the open air, on location.  As such, painting ‘en plein air’ is a very temporal effort, constrained by weather, lighting, bugs, heat or cold, you name it, requiring the artist to be very much “in the present moment”, with mind and senses completely focused on the work and not wandering to yesterday’s political discussion or tomorrow’s fun workshop or how much laundry is waiting at home.  I also will be showing some studio pieces painted in a plein air style.

Here are some of the announcements and stories about  my coming show.  The first one is the one I am especially excited to share with you, a 20-minute live interview with Claire Bannerman, produced by www.supradioshow.com.  You will hear me explain my take on the process of painting and how it can be so very different from the product which the viewer sees, and you will hear a little about my personal history and my involvement in the art scene of South Walton County in Northwest Florida, where I live.

SUP Radio Show — Your Global Art Showcase with Claire Bannerman — Artist Joan Vienot Debuts in Grayton Beach Florida: http://www.supradioshow.com/2013/10/artist-joan-vienot-debuts-grayton-beach-florida-sup-radio/  (The podcast interview media player is at the bottom of the text on that page.)

Walton Outdoors — Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet to Showcase Local Artist Joan Vienot Nov. 2-17 — http://www.waltonoutdoors.com/grayt-grounds-of-monet-monet-to-showcase-local-artist-joan-vienot-nov-2-17/

SoWal — Reception and Exhibit Opening for Local Artist Joan Vienot Nov 2 — http://sowal.com/story/reception-and-exhibit-opening-for-local-artist-joan-vienot-nov-2

Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County — “The Present Moment” Joan Vienot’s Debut Exhibition — http://www.culturalartsalliance.com/node/520

Below is my plein air painting of Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet, in Grayton Beach, Florida, painted across the street from the building and front gardens in September of this year.

Oil Painting of Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet, modeled after Giverny