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.
My local arts organization, the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, FL, produces an annual exhibit called One Size Fits All. The Call for Art stipulates that art is to be produced on 10×10 cradled wood panels 1.5″ deep. Participants can submit two panels, using either side, creating any kind of art or craft that they want. The panels will be hung at the Foster Gallery at the Market Shops in Sandestin, and will all be offered for sale for the low price of $125. The Gallery will take 40%. The artist may hang another panel in place of the ones that sell. Most of the artists who produce art for this show, put in far more value than $125, just for the fun of coming up with something creative and new. This year I produced two antiqued photo transfers and today I painted a third panel, a beach landscape, en plein air.
I was painting with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters at our weekly outing this morning. Our location was Beasley Park, on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach, FL. The sky was dark, but the sun was peaking through, highlighting the grasses on the dunes. Three or four old fence posts wandered up the dune, and a mockingbird perched on top of the nearest post. The scene was exquisite. The sun played with the scene off and on all morning, and painting was a delight from the beginning to the end.
Below are my three panels for 2016 One Size Fits All. I will turn in two, and have the other ready when one of the first two sells.
Below are pieces I have done for One Size Fits All in years past.
The annual Bagdad-Milton (near Pensacola, FL) plein air “paint-out” was Saturday, October 1, 2016. I was honored to win Best in Show. The judge was Fred Myers, retired professor of Fine Art (University of Northern Colorado, my alma mater). He said that he initially judges art on two primary qualities — Does it invite you in? And does it have unity? The exhibit of plein air paintings produced that day will hang at the Santa Rosa Arts and Culture Foundation’s Dragonfly Gallery at 6815 Caroline Street in Milton, FL 32570 until November 11, 2016.
Gallerist Sally Miller invited the Pensacola area plein air painters to tour interesting scenes in Milton and Bagdad the day before the event.
Both days were exceptional, a clear and sunny 62° in the morning and 80° midday. On Saturday, the day of the paint-out contest, all artists were asked to go to the gallery first, have their blank canvases stamped to certify that the canvases indeed were blank, and then everyone went out to paint. I chose to paint at the Bagdad Boat Landing, one of the locations we had visited on Friday. There were many possible scenes there. The one I had liked on mid-morning on our Friday tour, two chairs on a dock walkway, backed by kayaks and a ton of nautical stuff under a house, did not have the same light early Saturday, so I looked again at the flower-lined fenced entryway to a house, the view from the private dock, and finally, a neighboring yard where a big bull mastiff glared and barked at me from the other side of the fenced until he figured out I wasn’t going away. I painted his yard. We were friends by the time I finished painting.
I am working with a new, smaller, James Coulter palette, and I am leaving my leftover oil paints on the palette, stowing it in the freezer at night. The paints are staying workable for longer than they would if I didn’t keep them in the freezer, but even so, I often find them at different consistencies the next time I use the palette. That was certainly true on Saturday, but once I start painting en plein air, it seems like the challenges just become part of the process. More than once it occurred to me to scrape out the old paint and squeeze new paint onto my palette, but somehow that seemed like it would take up too much valuable time. I was painting on a larger canvas than I usually use, 12 x 24, and I knew I had a lot to cover, so I hung in there, using a medium to modify the paint consistency, finishing at the stroke of noon, right on time. It took six minutes to pack up to go, 8 minutes to drive back to the gallery, and 15 minutes to unload and frame and wire my painting, turning it in at the last minute, at 12:30, for the judging.
Below is my painting as completed there in the paint-out.
It’s been a hectic two months. I will summarize with pictures.
In early November, I painted with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters at Bruce Cafe. We also had painted there last May, but I didn’t finish that painting. After we went back and painted there in November, I realized I just needed a few more dashes of color to finish capturing the essence on the May painting, so I finished it in the studio. Below are both paintings.
The next week we painted at Alaqua Animal Refuge. I had a lot of help from the young horses there. (Click on images for a larger view.)
Click painting for purchase information.
Early the next morning, very early, at 3 AM, I got up to get ready to help Helen Ballance with a television interview for the 2015 Local Color Plein Air Festival in Lynn Haven, Florida, an hour drive from my home. Paris Janos, WJHG Channel 7, was at Roberts Hall to talk with Helen about the festival, and I was one of two plein air painters providing color by painting during the multiple interview spots. It was dark when I started, so for the first time ever, I started with a black canvas. I struggled — the streetlight was stronger than my palette lamp. Things improved when first light hit the bank. Below is my painting, and my own part in the interview is at http://www.wjhg.com/news/newschannel7today/headlines/Color-Plein-Art-Festival-346679182.html.
The actual paint-out and festival was two days later, at Roberts Hall in Lynn Haven. To my pleasant surprise, I won People’s Choice Best in Show, which included a check for $300 and a solo show at Palms Conference Center in Panama City Beach in late January and February, 2016. Below is a [glare-y] photo of my painting a shot of how I look after an afternoon of competitive plein air painting, ha!
Working on a new map for the hiking trails for Friends of Camp Helen State Park (watercolor and lots of graphics work);
Painting en plein air, completed in studio, at a big wedding reception (can’t post a pic yet, because it’s still drying — the owner gets to see it first);
Starting a little arthritis maintenance which may slow me down a little next year 😥 ;
Agreeing to teach a 2-day Plein Air Painting Workshop at the Florida Chautauqua Assembly January 29 and 30, 2016, with a half-day pre-workshop on Selecting a Plein Air Subject, details at Joan Vienot Plein Air Workshop;
I’m also pleased that my three submissions to the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County’s A+Art “One Size Fits All” have sold. Below are those images — two using photographic transfer onto the 10×10 panels, and the third a plein air painting floated in the 10×10 panel reversed, using it as a frame. The photographic images remain available if you would like a print.
I can’t remember the last time I painted my subject dead center in a symmetrical composition. But the live oak tree at Oak Marina had such a commanding presence yesterday morning that I decided to give it a go. It probably is 500 years old, with at least three main trunks coming up out of a common root, typical of live oaks in the wild. I remember learning when I was running a campground near where I now live, that when a branch of a live oak is plowed under, soon there will be several sprouts coming up from it, and which if allowed to grow, will form a small grove, all with a common root. Some trunks might join together, like this giant oak appeared to. It’s crown stretched at least three-fourths of the way across the water-frontage of the marina.
I was painting with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, the local group of weekly-painting plein air artists. I have volunteered to be the group’s coordinator of this year. Every Sunday I email everyone with the coming Wednesday morning location, and whoever shows up paints. For myself, I find that painting plein air with a group provides a social component that gets me out to paint when I otherwise might just blow it off, like when things are hectic at work or the weather is iffy.
The clouds came and went, rapidly changing the colors of the subject. sometimes the reflected light on the hard shiny leaves was blue, and then when the sun came out again, the colors would warm and glow. The Spanish moss swung underneath with the light breeze. The tree is so big that when you stand underneath it, it gives a feeling of rock-solid fortress-like security, but from a distance, it looked young again. This was one of those days that I personally identified with my subject.
Contact me if you are interested in purchasing my paintings, or click on the photo of the painting and a specific form will come up.
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.
I paint with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters which meet every Wednesday morning to paint somewhere in the Okaloosa-Walton two-county area in Northwest Florida. Last week we met at Alaqua Animal Refuge. What a treat. Interesting animals everywhere, and fantastic areas of light and shadow between the barns and sheds and trees. I had been at Alaqua only a few times before this, to adopt a couple of cats, so this was the first time I looked at it through a painters eyes, with no other agenda.
After walking much of the immediate grounds, admiring Gorgeous George, the turkey strutting his full regalia, and the pigs, and the horses, burros, goats, and of course the dogs and cats and kittens, finally I found the emus, and decided I wanted an emu in my painting.
Alas, the perspective and the brilliant light in my scene completely dominated the emu. But I still have titled it “Emu at Alaqua Animal Refuge”, honoring my original intention. So often that is the case, that when I paint en plein air, the “what” that I thought I was painting either doesn’t get painted at all, like the Indian Blanket flowers I had intended to paint last week, or else the focus shifts during the painting, to the perspective and the light.
The painting is 12 x 24. I also have posted a detail showing that indeed there is an emu in the painting!
After noticing my tendency to dull my colors when painting in the bright light outside, I decided to paint with brighter colors, sometimes straight out of the tube. The duller colors were exact when I was outdoors, but indoor lighting is never as bright as the sunlight, so I found my paintings looked dull when I brought them indoors. This effort to paint my paintings so that the colors look realistic when indoors, challenges me, because the more intense color seems a little garish while I am painting. I have to battle my instinct to tone it down.
Painting the potted plants in the pavilion at the head of the Turkey Creek boardwalk in Niceville, FL, last week, I was thrilled to find my subject half in the sun and half in the shade. Colors change radically when the sunlight hits them, being more true to what we think of as local color, in the shade. And the reds! Seldom do I get to use strong red! What fun!
This week Wednesday was overcast. The light was strong, but the colors were muted. The Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters were painting at Nick’s Seafood Restaurant in Basin Bayou, west of Freeport, FL. I remembered all the fancy little chickens running around in Trey’s yard next door, and I hoped to paint them. Alas, they were gone, and the only critters to show up were three scrawny young turkeys, two white and one brown. So I decided to paint the play of light around the boats, and the geometry of the chicken coop. Halfway into the painting, Trey came out and I asked him about the chickens, and he said there were about a hundred in the coop. I heard them start cheeping, as a little boy spread food for them. Trey threw some corn between me and the coop and a few adult chickens came out to eat. So I got to paint chickens after all!
Click on image for form to get purchase information.
Last year I took my first workshop in plein air painting. I had been painting weekly with the local plein air group for about 14 months when I took that first workshop with Morgan Samuel Price. But I found each day of this year’s workshop even more challenging than last year. According to Morgan, that is the painter’s life. She says that a plein air painter just keeps finding more and more challenges. The more experienced they get, the harder the challenges they find for themselves. Sigh, I thought this was supposed to get easier!
What an amazing group of artists in this year’s workshop! Lynn Wilson, Carol Drost Lopez, Becky Anderson, Charlotte Hope, Nancy Smith Crombie, Patricia Irish Richter, Brenda Anderson, Sherry WetheringtonA, Mary Wain-Ellison, Glenda Coleman, Karen Snider, David M. Jones, and I: thirteen of us. One of the best parts about the workshop was the critique session held each day at the end of the day. We would line up our efforts, even if it was just a few brushstrokes, and Morgan would discuss each and every painting, directing her comments to that artist but for the benefit of us all. This was addition to her amazing morning teaching and demo sessions, and our afternoon practicing painting en plein air, all making for a superb workshop for beginner and advanced painter alike. Blessed with infinite patience and superb focus, Morgan is able to work despite the constant distractions of the excited artists milling and buzzing around her, cameras clicking next to her ear. Below are a few shots of her working. You can click on any of the images to see a larger view.
I had confidence to be away from my pool service business. I had worked long hours the weekend before the workshop, to clear my desk, plus I have a fantastic crew in the field and a wonderful office staff. On Wednesday my staff decided to show me what was happening there in the office, with a series of photos that even Tamra’s store helpers (her two dogs) had a part in. Here’s the worst one, Tamra Thomas, Margaret Bush, and Brenda Osborne. Clearly they do not have enough work to do.
The city and area around Apalachicola is such a scenic place, with the historic buildings, working waterfront with shrimp boats galore, oystermen, grottos and lagoons — it is heaven for painters. The home of Forgotten Coast en Plein Air, you often can find an artist or photographer at work.
Below are some of my works from the workshop with Morgan Samuel Price. Daily critiques were at a set time. Work had to be halted then if we wanted to hear what Morgan had to say about our progress. Click the photo for a larger image.
On the last day I was captivated by a thistle in bloom, so after I finished my landscape, I captured the pink of the flower by using a tint of color I had not ever used before, quinacridone magenta, which turned out to be perfect for painting thistles and I believe also should make painting azaleas easy. I am finding I generally prefer to mix my colors instead of using specialty pre-mixed tubes, but in this case I was very pleased with the chroma.
I shot the photo below using my iPhone.
Contact me if you are interested in purchasing work from this page or any of my online galleries.
See the next post for the weekly paintings done just before and after this workshop.