Since moving to Maine I have discovered that summertime here is very hectic, no doubt making up for lost time in the winter. Summer activities near the coast Downeast seem to begin in earnest on July 1 and they don’t stop until around mid-September or October. Sometimes the events overlap each other, and it’s hard to set time aside for the business of keeping my website up to date.
I’ve been able to get outdoors to paint once or twice a week almost every week this summer, as well as complete some commissioned work in my home studio in Maine and also in Colorado. I have a stack of smaller Maine-inspired paintings you’ll want to look through, to pick out one or two for your collection. The problem is that I haven’t uploaded them to my website yet — they are in my inventory system, which I maintain using Artwork Archive. So you will have to go outside of my website to view them for the time being. Message me about purchasing, either by using this CONTACT FORM or by using the INQUIRE button on the detail page that opens up when you click on the images that interest you in Artwork Archive. The images below are just a teaser. I’ve also included a few studies from my adventures in Maine in 2021 and 2022, prior to my permanent move here. Click HERE to advance to Artwork Archive and see what I’ve been doing.
…for the prospect of an exhibit at Anne Hunter Galleries in Seaside, Florida in the spring of 2020 gave way to floundering aimlessly for a while. Did you get the COVID-Blues? I sure did!
Initially my world was turned upside-down by the abrupt closure of my just-opened exhibit and the resulting kibosh on my art marketing strategy. And then the nightly news turned ghastly, and I became a victim of what has been called “doom-scrolling” on my phone, hopping from one awful news story to the next, constantly searching for true assessments of how bad it all really was, a sure-fire way to kill your muse. My routines were disrupted completely. In a desperate attempt at regaining control over something, anything, in my life, I started having my morning coffee and doing my morning readings and meditation downstairs in my studio instead of in my quiet room. At least that got me into the studio every day. It was a start!
I have partnered with fellow-artist and friend Cheryl Ploegstra for monthly accountability progress reports on art production and goals. That helps a lot with pandemic survival – it requires a little bit of record-keeping, and record-keeping proves to me that I am not really floundering — I actually am producing a good deal of work. Sales are slow, so I am grateful to have completed a few commissions. I’ll show you a couple, later on in this post.
I’m using my more plentiful free time to to refresh my painting and drawing skills. And I continue to step outside of my comfort zone by learning new media. The illuminated letter “E” at the beginning of this post is one such effort, in which I learned how to apply gold leaf in a workshop taught by fellow local artist Elia Saxer, and I received an introduction to water-miscible oil paints in a workshop taught by Patti Overholt. Below are samples of those media.
Palette-knife painting is a technique of applying paint which I don’t use very often, so I have been practicing on a few pieces. Below are some recent efforts using a palette knife, that I completed at one of my weekly plein air group sessions.
Being grateful helps to ward off what I call the COVID-Blues. One large gratitude I have is for social media — I use it to stay inspired and to share my own work. I find Instant refreshment in the steady stream of awe-inspiring work from the artists I follow on Instagram. My account on Instagram is @JoanVienotArt. It includes my weekly plein air work, other paintings, commissions, demo’s, and workshop efforts. Posts on my Instagram account also post to my Facebook Page, https://www.facebook.com/JoanVienotArt/. Take a look — I’ve been busy!
Commissions, yes, commissions! I will paint the scene in person at your event. You can find more information about my live event painting on my Weddings page,30AWeddingPainter.com. Two months ago I painted at a garden party / birthday party, pictured below. The optimal lighting happened right after the sun went down, when there was enough contrast for the decoration lights to really begin to glow while the brilliant colors of late daylight still bathed the scene. Because the lighting effect was momentary, I ended up completing some of this painting over the next few weeks in the studio. This one was so much fun. Even the drink glasses had lights in them!
The piece pictured above was commissioned by my friend and retirement manger Shelley Albarado. It was based on a photo of the famous Fearless Girl and Charging Bull sculptures on Wall Street, as photographed by Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images. I did not paint an exact copy, but it certainly is obvious as derivative. I felt the people standing behind the bull in the photo did not contribute to the effect I wanted, so I re-composed it without them. I noted in the caption that I had purchased from Getty Images a license to use this image. That’s important to me, to always acknowledge and have the express permission of the photographer if I am using someone else’s image. After all, photographers are artists. I know that it takes a long time for a photographer to get the composition and lighting exactly right, and then to do the post-processing to enhance and improve the image. My preference is to shoot the photo myself if I am going to use reference photos, so that I have made all of the decisions about the composition, and have a memory of the atmosphere of the scene. But that would have entailed a trip into the past, because the Fearless Girl has been moved to another location.
One of the cartoons during this pandemic shows an artist at work, contrasted with an artist at work during a pandemic, and the two cartoon frames are identical. If only that were the case. Personally, I struggle to keep my spirits up. So much sickness and death! In my state alone the total number of deaths is 2½ times the number of people killed in 9/11. My hope is that I never become numb to this tragedy. If I were to become numb, then I would have to hang up my paintbrushes. As an artist, I feel it is imperative that I stay in touch with all of my feelings so that the art I produce does not become superficial. I wish health and safety for everyone reading this, and comfort in our losses.
I have set a goal for this year, to paint 30 or 40 larger paintings of clouds and/or waves. Both intrigue me and call to me, two forms of the same matter, constantly in motion, both capable of transporting such massive energy, or such tranquility and peace. I plan to exhibit this body of work early next year. As I work on this project, I will publish progress reports and photos of paintings or parts of paintings, and I might share my thinking, but some of my work I will save for first viewing at the exhibit. In the meantime, I will continue to practice plein air painting and life drawing. Below is a palette knife acrylic painting Foggy Surf, 12″ x 36″, which I painted during my shift at the Foster Gallery in Ruskin Place Artists Colony in Seaside, and an oil painting Storm Tide produced in my studio, 36″ x 24″. Click on images for more information.
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
I spent half of August and half of September on a month-long adventure of travel and plein air painting. Two weeks were in Colorado at the Estes Valley Plein Air event where I painted almost every day in beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park near the town of Estes Park, Colorado. And one week was in the spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains, near Blue Ridge, Georgia. I completed 11 paintings.
It was an honor to be juried into the Estes Valley Plein Air event, which was sponsored by the Art Center of Estes Park, and managed by the very capable team of Lars and Kristi. I opted to drive, instead of fly, from Florida to Colorado to reduce expenses. I had a cabin to stay in while I was there, thanks to the generosity of my friend Dr. Cynthia Reedy, but while traveling to and from, I tent-camped. I used love being in the great outdoors, “roughing it”. By camping and driving, I saved a $500 flight and a $900+ car rental and probably at least $500 in motels. I also saved the trouble and expense of shipping my frames and canvases and tools and equipment. I did buy new tires before I left, which I paid for by instructing a course for the employees of the business I had recently sold. Even so, except for the fact that I have family in Colorado, traveling this distance for an event is worthwhile as a business venture only if sales are generated.
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.
Last week I completed a painting of the early morning light on part of the hogback [rock formation running along the front range of the Colorado Rockies] at Devil’s Backbone Open Space at Loveland, Colorado, a Larimer County Natural Resources Park. I blogged about painting en plein air there 6 weeks ago, “A Quick Trip to Colorado, Paints in Hand“.
I am a believer in painting only what you experience. There is the occasional commissioned painting of someone’s scene from their own photo, or their dog or child, but I feel more strongly about the scene if I actually was there and I think that I make a better painting when I have a memory or feelings about the scene.
This certainly was true with Devil’s Backbone First Light. I blogged about looking one whole morning for the part of the hogback formation that I had remembered from my childhood, and about going the next day to Loveland to another part of the hogback with my sister and brother-in-law to hike, and then hiking it myself with my paints the following day while the sun was coming up, painting all morning, and hiking the trails again that afternoon with both sisters and their husbands and a couple of the grandkids. I was filled with powerful memories of the scene, made more significant by spending time with family there, and I had my 3 plein air studies, and my iPhotos. Only my memory held the actual lighting I wanted to portray — the photos were much less colorful than I remembered or than my plein air paintings indicated, but they provided better value comparisons and better perspective. My plein air works provided truer color, and the time spent painting en plein air imprinted certain details on my memory. If I had merely photographed the rocks, and not painted en plein air, I would not have remembered the yellow-green of the lichen and the pinks and lavenders of the sagebrush, and the tufts of grass growing between the rocks on top of the hogback.
I was thrilled to realize just how much the process had helped to make the painting. Below is Devil’s Backbone First Light, followed by the three studies I painted 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.
I am participating in Mary Gilkerson’s Art+Work+Living Five-Day Challenge, which is to paint a painting in 20-30 minutes every day for five days. The purpose is to develop a daily painting practice, using a knife or #6 brush or larger. I plan to add an to add a painting to this blog every day for 5 days.
And Day 5, January 22, 2018: Apple, 6×6 oils on hardboard. I painted this while looking at the Apple. This concludes the Five-Day Challenge, so now the question is, will I continue this daily painting practice? I intend to, at least puttering in the studio whether not I produce anything worth looking at. In the process of doing this, I also have straightened out a glitch in my Instagram account so that now it will post both to Instagram and to Facebook at the same time. It was something about how I had created the account, that it just would not post no matter how hard I tried. I ended up having to dissociate the accounts, delete them from my phone, and re-upload them, and then change the IG account to a business account, and then re-associate the accounts. Now I am learning all about hashtags.
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.