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.
Mother, the folk who live up in the clouds call out to me- “We play from the time we wake till the day ends. We play with the golden dawn, we play with the silver moon.” I ask, “But how am I to get up to you ?” They answer, “Come to the edge of the earth, lift up your hands to the sky, and you will be taken up into the clouds.” “My mother is waiting for me at home, “I say, “How can I leave her and come?” Then they smile and float away. But I know a nicer game than that, mother. I shall be the cloud and you the moon. I shall cover you with both my hands, and our house-top will be the blue sky. The folk who live in the waves call out to me- “We sing from morning till night; on and on we travel and know not where we pass.” I ask, “But how am I to join you?” They tell me, “Come to the edge of the shore and stand with your eyes tight shut, and you will be carried out upon the waves.” I say, “My mother always wants me at home in the everything- how can I leave her and go?” They smile, dance and pass by. But I know a better game than that. I will be the waves and you will be a strange shore. I shall roll on and on and on, and break upon your lap with laughter. And no one in the world will know where we both are.
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.
The mountains of Colorado were very smoky the first week, from the bad forest fires further west. The smoke washed out mid-distant and distant colors. The second week the winds blew the smoke down to Denver, clearing the skies in the high country, but the winds also made it very difficult to work with an easel. I adapted as best I could, at one point even clamping my canvas to the bottom of my tripod, with my palette on the ground. There were other challenges. It threatened to rain most afternoons, and a few times it poured.
My days began by waking up in the dark, packing my lunch snack, and driving the slow trip up the 9 miles of one-way gravel switchbacks of Old Fall River Road, to get up to Mile 8 where I could pull off and hike out a short distance to my view of the entire glacial cirque just below the Alpine Visitors Center. I had wanted to paint this view since seeing it anew the previous year when I went to Estes Park for a pain ting workshop with Morgan Samuel Price. Some days it was far too windy and cold or too gray to paint plein air. I think I made the hour-long drive 7 days but was able to work on this painting only 3 mornings. I wanted to capture the grandeur of the morning vista.
The barometric pressure high altitude is much much lower than at my sea level home where it is usually around 30 inHg. A barometer at the Visitors Center displayed 19.28 inHg. I did suffer a mild case of altitude sickness the first few days I drove to the top, mainly a headache and just generally feeling unwell. After the third time, I wasn’t bothered anymore. The area of the glacial cirque was chilly. The air temperature decreases 3.6° for every 1000′ increase in elevation, and the Visitors Center sits more than 4000 feet higher than the city of Estes Park. In addition, it was almost always windy, or at least gusty, which increased the chill considerably. But when I am painting en plein air, my focus becomes so intense I often lose track of discomforts. A few hours into my painting up there on the first day that I painted, I noticed a small marmot out of the corner of my eye, and turned around; there were four marmot pups busy running and grubbing near me, one almost at my feet! I guess if you stay quiet in one place for long enough, they think you are part of the landscape! I’ve posted longer videos on Facebook — here’s a shorter one:
My sisters and brothers-in-law rented a condo above Estes Park the first weekend I was there. Trudy and Steve came up from their home in Westminster and Sherrie and Mark from Greeley, and one of their daughters, Caitlin, came up from her home in Cheyenne. I think their chief entertainment is creating irresistible, delectable foods, and this weekend was no exception. I have no idea how they stay so fit. We hiked up to Gem Lake from Lumpy Ridge, my mentor and friend Morgan Samuel Price joining us. Morgan was there to teach a workshop, which I had taken the year before. I of course could hardly breathe at that altitude but after the 2-mile climb, was it ever worth it when we finally reached our destination. Below, a photo of Gem Lake.
The artists of Estes Valley Plein Air were invited to paint a nocturne or a painting in town, in Estes Park, and I opted for the nocturne. I started when the sun went down, about 8:30, and finished close to 11 PM. Meanwhile the temperature dropped, quickly. I was dressed in light jeans and a fleece sweatshirt. As I said before, I don’t notice discomforts while I am painting, but I certainly noticed that I was shivering towards the end. I couldn’t feel my fingertips when I put my gear away. I couldn’t believe it when I got in my car — the display said it was 46°! No wonder it felt a little chilly. Coming from the humid deep south, the dry Colorado air felt cold, but not that cold! If it had been Northwest Florida, I would have quit after just 30 minutes!
Another special category was a sweet little park called Mrs. Walsh’s Garden. It had a meandering path, a pond and small waterfall, and lots of hummingbirds. Even Peter Cottontail came hopping up to within 10′ of me, becoming a statue when he saw me, and then fleeing fast as lightning. The hummingbirds thought my bright shirt was a flower. Here’s a video of a hummingbird taking a bath on the rock beside the waterfall:
I enjoyed painting the gentian flowers in “Mrs. Walsh’s Gentian Visitor,” one of the few times I have used color straight out of the tube, as intense as it could be. I may accent the hummingbird a little more when the painting returns to me from the exhibit at the Art Center of Estes Park. I think people don’t notice it unless I tell them to look for it.
One day I hunted high and low for a location where I would be sheltered from the high winds and finally decided to deploy my Under The Weather Pod for the first time. I staked down the two back corners of the floor, and tied the top two back corners to the tree behind me. This allowed me to set up my easel and paint without freezing to death or getting bowled over by the wind. I still had to be on guard for the twisting gusts, but I managed to complete a painting beside Big Thompson Creek in Moraine Park, below.
We were asked to frame a reserve painting so the Art Center would have something to fill the space if a painting sold. My reserve painting is “Where Are The Sheep?”, expressing my frustration that no bighorn sheep ever came down to Sheep Lakes in the Fall River Valley the whole time I was there! A herd of elk grazed in the distance one morning, but nary a single sheep! Nevertheless, the colors were beautiful in the early morning.
I also participated in the Quickdraw in Estes Park, which was held in the same area where I had done my nocturne. I am pleased to report that mine sold in the very entertaining auction held immediately after the awards were announced. We only had 90 minutes to complete our painting, which was the fastest I had ever had to painting, at least until Blue Ridge two weeks later!!
The next time I drive across the country, I am going to take an extra day or two to see the sights along the way. I went past Amarillo, where just 30 minutes south is the Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the United States. I was on a timeline, so I drove past, both going and coming back. On the return trip, I was heading to Blue Ridge, Georgia, to meet up with my painting buddies from home. We were all going to paint in the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association Paint-Out. We stayed in Young Harris, GA, at the mountain home of John and Theresia McInnis. Theresia is an accomplished watercolorist and hostess extraordinaire. Elia Saxer, Beckie Hart, Brady DeGrasse, and Charlotte Arnold came up to paint as well, and we had a wonderful time painting, eating, and socializing. And I am happy to report that one of my paintings, Stanley Rapids, was awarded third place in the BRMAA Wet Room!
Stanley Rapids, 10×20 oils on canvas panel, painted en plein air.
I also painted the terraced waterfalls of the creek running through Taccoa Valley Campground. My sensations while painting were the roar of the Taccoa River behind me, campfire smoke in the air, light filtering through the trees and glittering in the waterfalls, children playing, soft leaves underfoot.
Toccoa Valley Campground, 15 x 30 oils on canvas panel
On the last day I looked up a stand-up paddleboarding friend who lives in Blue Ridge, and painted some of the critters on his farm.
I learned a lot about my ability to organize for a trip like this, and for next time, what to bring and what to leave at home. Certainly I could have ordered my frames to be shipped to Estes Park so that I wouldn’t have had to carry them in my car — that would have lightened my load and improved my gas mileage a little. That also would have allowed me to sleep in my car instead of my tent on the one night that rain threatened. I doubt I will reduce the amount of oil painting supplies I bring, but I probably will leave my gouache set and my watercolors at home if I do this trip again. The thing is, you just never know when you might want to do a study, and I want all options available, even though I always make my paintings using oils. I was surprised to find that I needed my back-up easel and clamps that I had brought in case I broke mine. My panel holder broke one day – a screw became stripped, so I was very happy to have an alternate way to hold my painting, but the main reason I used it was to hold my sign advertising the Art Center of Estes Park where the paintings were to be exhibited. Up in the high country it was too windy to try to clamp the sign to my easel.
I met many of the other artists both locations, and am sure I will run into many of them again. I remain a little intimidated — some have been painting for 20 or 30 years or more, all during the time that I was in my business career. But all were very friendly, and the icing on the cake in Colorado was to meet up with and paint with my college friend Daniel Sprick, who came up from Denver for the Q&A after the showing of a PBS documentary on his development as an artist, put on by the Estes Park Art Museum. Dan is a recognized contemporary master painter, and he will be the keynote speaker at the Figurative Arts Convention in Miami next month.
With today’s technology, we are taking photos every day, and some of them are really good. But why isn’t that enough for the plein air painter? Why not just paint from the photograph? I’ll try to answer that.
First of all, even the best cameras don’t pick up the values and colors exactly right. That’s why every good photographer is an artist, both with their composition of the scene and with their use of photo-editing software afterwards. But certainly we can do many of the things in the studio that we do en plein air, can’t we? Like re-composing, and leaving certain things out, or moving a tree a smidge to the left in order to provide contrast behind the focal area? Well yes, except that we are working with changing light, so we also have to make a lot of decisions on the spot, and try to mix colors right the first time.
But here’s a big difference. Imagine yourself driving down the highway, seeing some pretty scenery, and stopping to take a picture. Years later, or even days later, maybe even hours later, you are looking back at your photos, and you wonder what it was that made you snap that photo, what it was that caught your eye, why it was significant, why it impressed you enough to stop the car.
Now instead imagine yourself somewhere away from home, enjoying the sunset, shooting a photo now and then as the sunset progresses, listening to the soft rush of the waves coming in to the shore, and the call of seagulls and banter of children playing, with the smell of someone’s barbecue wafting over your beach chair, knowing your friends are up in the vacation house having drinks and telling stories. The sand is gritty between your toes, there is a pesky fly that wants to bite you, and the bottoms of your pant legs are sticking to your skin from getting wet because you walked out to return to the sea a flipping baitfish that had stranded itself on the sand. The key element here is the time it takes to absorb all of those sensations, so that depending on your present-moment awareness, a unique memory can be imprinted, so rich that years from now you might recall the scent of barbecue and the feel of the ocean breeze on your skin and the pleasure of rejoining your friends afterwards, when you look at the one or two photos of that sunset that you decided to keep.
In much the same way, a plein air painter experiences their environment for an extended period of time while painting, and that is the reason not to just settle for a photo. The time invested in the experience allows for the absorption of volumes of sensory information, some of which inevitably will make its way into the painting, whether intentionally or not. If you’ve ever marveled at the difference between seeing a good photo of a painting, and seeing the same painting in person, you know exactly what I am talking about. The painting itself contains an energy that came from the experience of the artist. I remember that tears came to my eyes, I was so overwhelmed when I saw “Starry Night” in person, even though I had stared at photos of the painting many times. It’s like the difference between reading Maya Angelou’s poetry, or listening to Maya Angelou herself reading it to you. She lived it.
It’s interesting when someone compliments an artist by saying a painting looks like a photograph. If it is a photograph of the painting, that might be an apt compliment indeed. But if they see the painting in person, hopefully they will feel the solid mass of rock underfoot and hear the call of the loon in the distance, and her mate answering, and they will know that a photograph could never give the same sense that the painting does. Well, except of course when it is a photograph by a really good photographer – I feel the crunch of the glacier moving and I sense a coyote looking at me, when I look at Ansel Adams’ photos.
So last week I painted through a rainstorm. To be honest, when it started to sprinkle and I went to the car to get my big, wide, painting umbrella, the weather App on my phone said the rain was going to diminish after a bit, not get worse, and by the time I finally figured out that the App was wrong, all of my gear was soaked, and I found myself wondering, why don’t I just take a picture? Thankfully, Florida’s summer rains are not too chilly, because the umbrella only shielded me from most of the rain. I posted a video of the misadventure on my personal Facebook page, 6/13/18, gum-chomping and all..
Here’s the end result, “After The Downpour” – sorry you have to view it as a photo. Even so, I will guarantee you that I would not have gotten this effect if I had just shot a photo and then painted it in the studio. Interestingly, even as I am writing this, my friend Janice Frossard just commented on Facebook about the painting that I blogged about yesterday, Devil’s Backbone First Light: “You can almost smell the sage brush and feel the cool morning air.” That’s what I’m talking about!
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.
Thank you for visiting. Many of my paintings are available for purchase. Click on the image to view the painting in my online store. You can also contact me to purchase or commission a painting.
12×6 oils on canvas panel, painted from still-life set up in studio.
This was a fun to paint. I purposefully painted a light background, so that the cotton bolls would be harder to see, requiring the stalk in order to be identified. Somehow this seems to me to be a picture of my life, that the things I think are important, are nothing without the thread or the stalk that binds them together.
16×20 oils on linen panel, painting in progress in Dorothy Starbuck workshop at the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County.
We are each using a different reference photo, to learn to paint a translucent breaking wave, and the lacy foam left on the surface after a wave has come in. Our paints are cadmium yellow light, alizarin crimson, burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, thalo blue, thalo green, viridian green, and titanium white. At right is the finished piece, and below is a photo of the work in progress.
11×14, oils on linen panel, painted en plein air at Seaside, Florida
I am taking a workshop from my neighbor and friend Dorothy Starbuck which it started today, my local plein air group’s day to paint. So I went to our plein air location early, right after the sun came up, and got started, but 2 hours was not enough time for me because I struggled so much getting the architecture right before I started applying color. I still have the roofline wrong — the roof on the right side of the arch needs to be a foot taller at the eave.
I had a definite idea before I started, so this is not entirely experimental art, but enough so that I am calling it experimental. Most of that is because I am not very familiar with the media I was using — acrylic paint, alcohol inks and Yupo paper. I live on a bayou, just a few miles from the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. I think that living near a large body of water accelerates interpersonal and spiritual growth. It’s like walking in a labyrinth with everyone else, and side-by-side, when all of a sudden you find yourself going in the opposite direction, or perhaps even in the same direction but several tracks away from the people you were walking with. Who moved – them or you? No doubt both, but either way, it takes some adjustment and some getting used to, hence my title for this piece, Recovery Notes, as I recover from a growth spurt.
I’ve been taking a workshop from Jason Sacran through Anderson Fine Art Gallery, St. simons Island, GA. On my last day in the area, I drove back out to Jekyll Island to see “Driftwood Beach”, where many very old trees have been laid bare by the winds and water, the unbleached wood completely de-barked, and many of the trees tipped over but still anchored into the beach. (Driftwood is a misnomer.) As I was crossing the causeways and the bridges, the sky was brightening, and the sun was finally just peaking over the marshes as I was approaching Jekyll Island. This is my impression of the sun-kissed clouds, painted after I returned home.
I am attending Jason Sacran’s plein air painting workshop sponsored by Anderson Fine Art Gallery on St. Simons Island, GA. We are painting on Jekyll Island. A crone is a woman in the latter third of her life, after childbearing is over. She is wise, nurturing, soulful, creative, weathered, a bit stooped and twisted, but hard as nails, a survivor. Birds nest in her hair, she holds the weight of the world on her broad shoulders, and animals shelter under her canopy. My dad is 98 and still going strong. If that is how long I will live, then I have just entered my crone years.
Study for Jekyll Island Crone, 8×6 watercolor on paper, painted en plein air
I am attending Jason Sacran’s plein air painting workshop sponsored by Anderson Fine Art Gallery on St. Simons Island, GA. We are painting on Jekyll Island, intending to work on the same painting for two days. There are a lot of ancient cedars and live oak trees on the west side of the island.
Painted in Jason Sacran workshop. Tomorrow we will be painting larger paintings of the same scene we studied today.
Day 22, 2/22/18: Morning Sketch
8×6 graphite on cream paper
Today was the first day of a workshop with Jason Sacran, and I didn’t want to be worried about posting for my 30-day challenge, so I just posted my morning sketches.
Day 21, 2/21/18: Good Night, Sleep Tight
8×8 watercolor and ink on paper, a color sketch of Tucker Bayou, Point Washington, FL, at sunset.
Today I don’t have a lot of time for the 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge. I am embarking on another adventure, this time to study from Jason Sacran, who is teaching at the Mary Anderson Gallery on St. Simons Island, GA. That scenic area has a strong pull for me, and I am excited to be going there for this workshop. I hope my cats will forgive me these absences!
Produced at the end of the Mary Garrish workshop at the Artist Cove Studio-Gallery in Panama City, FL. I was attempting to make this painting using the new materials we were introduced to, which were the Scott Christensen landscape oil colors by Vasari (Bluff, Ship Rock, Adobe, Shale, Jasper, Silver Point, Cedar, and Bice), painted on an aluminum panel. On the first day, I was a little early for the workshop, so I stopped and walked around at the Historic Marker just down the way from the gallery, on Beach Drive. Erosion had bared the roots of several pines there. This painting is an abstraction of the pattern of the exposed roots. I used my rubber tipped tool to make the weeds, revealing the shiny aluminum underneath.
Painted in Mary Garrish workshop at The Artist Cove Studio-Gallery in Panama City, FL. Our task was to paint a scene in all values, but to vary the color within areas of one value, and to add light in the clouds.
Painted in Mary Garrish workshop at The Artist Cove Studio-Gallery in Panama City, FL. Our task was to paint a scene in only 3 values, in black, white, and gray, and then to paint it again in 5 values. After that, we could add color or colors, but the values had to remain the same. This was my 5-value color piece.
Last fall this sailboat, the Phantom of the Aqua, was damaged during Hurricane Nate and its captain had to be rescued from it far offshore. He thought the boat would just sink in the stormy Gulf, but instead, it drifted up to the shore at Miramar Beach in Northwest Florida, just 15 miles from my house, and became firmly entrenched in the beach.
I paint with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters every Wednesday, and we decided to paint the Phantom last week. Alas, the weather forecast was awful, so we postponed it to this week, only to read in the paper that the new owner would be towing it to his salvage yard to refurbish it, this very week. Nevertheless hopeful, we arrived today to find the roadside lined with onlookers, the crowd growing to hundreds as the day progressed, many going down to the beach with their beach chairs, to watch the proceedings from behind the yellow caution tape forming barriers from dunes to the sea, several hundred yards out from the boat in either direction.
Distant fog was providing a wonderful atmosphere. A Caterpillar excavator was parked on the low side of the boat, near the water, and four Code Enforcement pick-up trucks were parked on the beach, and a few groups of workmen were standing around the boat and the pick-ups. The crowd lined the street-level sidewalk, the elevation affording everyone excellent vantage. Nothing much was happening yet, so we all found our various locations to paint, in and amongst the onlookers.
After a while, the excavator started digging on the water side of the boat, and piling sand nearby, but it was slow going. We all were able to produce fair paintings without the boat moving, thankfully. Later, I came back by the scene after we had lunch down the road — at left is a photo showing the considerable progress they had made, and the excavator now up on the higher part of the beach.
In this painting I made an effort to create larger shapes, and not try so hard to model the interior of the shapes, but rather to leave them flatter, and to show receding space through temperature and overlapping. The idea for this painting came from a plein air workshop I took in Taos a couple of years ago. I think I’d like to refine the legs of the person with the yellow sweater — I want them to look like they are crossed above the knee, but I lost the lower knee.
We’ve had incredible rains here in Northwest Florida yesterday and today, and seasonal affective disorder is setting in — everything is gray, and dark, my phone receiving continuous updates of FEMA warnings for the potential for flooding. This color scheme, and in fact this composition, is very very common in this area, and super easy to paint — I’m allowed an easy one now and then, right? I used a palette knife to challenge myself. I really should practice with a knife more often.
20x16x1.5 acrylic/mixed media on stretched canvas.
Texture started in Jan Sitts workshop last week. I refined the texture today, and painted this expression of earth tones, and am pondering if it should go further. Non-objective work is outside of my comfort zone, but this experimental art workshop left me feeling charged up!
Painted from a live model at this week’s Figurative Artists Atelier, an uninstructed open studio with a live model. Typically we have 5 one-minute warm-up sketches, and 2 5-minute warm-up sketches, and then we launch into a single pose for the remainder of the 3-hour session, in 20-minute segments with 5-10 minute breaks between the segments, to allow the model to regain circulation and ease any tension from the pose. I will be tweaking this just a little, now that it is back at my studio, but not much. I really liked this model’s attitude and haughty expression.
Painted in Jan Sitts experimental workshop hosted by the Cultural Arts Alliance. I am totally outside of my comfort zone. Today we textured our supports with acrylic gel medium and various tools and supplies, but mine were not dry enough to paint on, so I created this small piece, texturing only with pinstriping tape. Our assignment was to not have a subject in mind while we worked, but rather to apply texture and color intuitively.
Today I was going to paint something easy. Then this view of Lake Powell, caught my eye, and having never painted “angel light” before, I thought, why not! I spent far too long on this exercise, thanks to being on the phone a good part of the time. Distracted, I found myself playing with the clouds, and then wishing I hadn’t and fixing them, and fixing them a little too much — play-fix-fix again, and repeat –while the phone call continued. It reminds me of the time I was having my hair cut, and the stylist had just returned from a trip to Russia. It was a long trip and a long story, and as she told it, my hair got shorter and shorter. 😯
I shoot a lot of photos to help me choose a location I want to paint with our local plein air painting group, and this is one of those locations. We paint here every 4 months or so. There are palms, pines, cedars, scrub oaks, mockingbirds, kite-sailors, a changing sky, tugboats and barges, winding paths through the grass, sand, water — did I mention it’s a National Seashore? Gulf Islands, on Okaloosa Island, to answer that.
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.
Day 4, January 21, 2018: Aloe, oils on hardboard, 6×6. Last month I bought about 20 6×6 pieces of hardboard last month, planning to start a daily painting practice and not wanting to use expensive linen panels. I wanted to feel free to experiment and have less investment in the outcome, both emotional and financial. I realized I hadn’t primed them, so I gesso’d 12 of them, all that I had space for. I use clear gesso on panels or board that is not white; that way I don’t have to tone it to reduce the glare of white gesso. Now… what to paint? I have potted aloe on top of the microwave near the kitchen window, and it receives beautiful high-contrast morning light. I decided that would be my subject, and I squeezed out some greens that are not normally on my palette — sap green, thalo yellow-green, and viridian. (Normally I mix my greens, for plein air painting and for painting the figure.) For the Five-Day Challenge, we are supposed to be reducing the amount of time we paint, from 30 minutes to 20, not counting color-mixing. Since I mix as I go, I adidn’t worry about the time. My timer stopped me at 30. I squinted at my work to evaluate it — not enough contrast. I took another 10 minutes to add some darks, and I cleaned up some edges, and then added a few scalloped edges on some of the leaves, to help identify it as aloe. I’d like to give this subject a second try, reducing the amount of reflected blue light and making it more distinct. Also I will place the pot differently, so it doesn’t look like it is ready to fall off a table. I wasn’t thinking much about composition when I started this painting, just the luscious greens.
Day 3, January 20, 2018: Sunrise on Eden Drive, oils on canvas panel, 6×6. Today’s painting used a photo I recently took looking out over my yard from my front deck. My house has a bayou in my back yard, and behind the lot across the street from me, a freshwater creek, which together provide wonderful atmosphere on winter mornings when the air is colder than the water. I learned my lesson yesterday, today painting with a well-shaped brush. It’s a #6, as recommended by the guidelines for this project. A well-shaped brush can be turned on it’s edge to deliver very thin strokes. The wet paint created a little glare on the left side of this photo of my painting.
Day 2, January 19, 2018: Four Views of Merritt, oils on canvas or birch panels, 6×6 each. On Fridays, I enjoy studying the figure in the open studio with a model at the Foster Gallery on Grand Boulevard in Miramar Beach, just 10 miles from my home. Since I am doing this five-day challenge, I decided I would use figure painting to fulfill my challenge commitment. We break up the long pose into 20 minute segments, so I painted four 20-minute versions of the same pose, moving my easel for each segment so that I would have a different view. The first painting was on a canvas panel, and the other three were on clear-gesso’d birch. The small format was pretty restrictive, and painting with a number six brush was very difficult because it was not a well-shape brush, rather like painting with a dogs tail, I imagine. But no excuses, because I know some artists who can paint with a stick if they forget their brushes so it’s all a matter of experience.
Day 1: January 18, 2018, Two Palms, oils on canvas, 6×6. Apologies for the glare on the canvas — it actually is pretty well covered — the canvas texture is showing because of the wet glare. It was difficult to put down my #6 brush after only 30 minutes. I’m not sure what’s happening with that gigantic branch hanging down on the right. So much refinement can be done in just a few more minutes, but I’m going to try to follow the rules for this Five-Day challenge. I was working from a photo on my iPhone, and was timing myself with my meditation timer app. I had app’d the photo into 3 values – black, white, and gray – with “Notanizer” so that I could simplify the darks and lights, and had sketched even more of the darks on a print-out from that app, to remind myself to make a workable silhouette with my darks from the get-go. When i started, I used pure ultramarine blue for my darks. Unfortunately I never got around to warming my trees so my eye tends to go to the warm grass in the foreground instead of to the trees. Now the decision — whether to keep it and refine it, or to wipe it off and salvage the canvas.
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!
It’s about time to start thinking about New Year’s resolutions again. I prefer to think of it as setting goals to pursue, or objectives I would like to attain, or even challenges I am setting up for myself. Somehow I feel less threatened by those words than by “resolutions”, which seem to me to be things that I resolve NOT to do, like eating a carton of ice cream in one day, versus goals, objectives, and challenges which are things I plan to work towards. Here are some of mine:
Paint every day either plein air or in the studio, for 30 or 60 days, maybe longer. To do this, I plan to have a palette and brushes ready all the time, in my studio, as well as in my plein air backpack. I have ordered a whole bunch of 6×6 panels for this effort. I can use larger canvases, which I keep on hand all the time, but for this goal to be achievable, I want to be able to finish my daily painting in just 30 minutes, so it makes more sense to use small canvases.
Learn to paint shapes common to our local landscape. Or to paint them better. Shapes such as, palmettos, palm trees, blue herons and other shorebirds, tugboats and fishing boats and pleasure boats, paddlers, waves and choppy water, clouds, live oaks and scrub oaks, sand dunes, twisted dune pines, etc. If I spend a week on each of those subjects, that covers at least 2 months, without even considering that nothing is carved in stone, fortunately for this easily distractible artist, where every shiny spot of light cries out to be captured, now!
Learn to simplify, simplify, simplify!
Figure out what appeals to me about paintings I admire, and then practice that — compositional design, color combinations, contrast, development of focal area, etc.
Practice putting people in some of my paintings. Participate in the upcoming figure painting sessions to be held every Friday at the Cultural Arts Alliance’s Foster Gallery on Grand Boulevard in Miramar Beach, Florida. Learn how to use the “Zorn Palette” to create skin tones (cadmium red light, yellow ochre, titanium white, and ivory black).
Here’s my first one, painted today.
Recent paintings and studies are below. The first two, which are (first image) a pencil and nupastel quick-sketch of artist friend David Boyd drawn from a live pose, and (second image) a small painting of a posing elderly woman in her Sunday dress, were completed last May at Plein Air South, a gathering of artists for lectures, demonstrations, panel discussions, and painting sessions. I gave both to the respective models.
This painting below was painted with the DeFuniak Springs group represented by artist Jackie Wagoner last weekend.
The paintings below were painted some time ago. I retouched or completely reworked some, and others simply have been pulled up from my piles of studies. I will be taking these to Panama City next weekend for the Fringe Gallery’s “Under $100” sale.
Contact me if you are interested in any of these paintings.
at a wedding, oils on stretched canvas, 24×20, finishing the details in the studio. The plein air painting captured the basics, but I needed to tie the composition together better in the studio, which made it quite a bit more formal, and I corrected the proportions of the figures. I scumbled the chandelier, which I had greatly exaggerated on purpose because it set the tone for the scene, and I softened the white curtain behind the couple to create a glow around them, with the foliage creating a heart-shape over their heads.
I enjoy painting at weddings. It is a command performance, so I have butterflies when I first start, but they disappear soon after I start painting. Typically I have contact with the bride’s mother or the bride or couple as much as a year ahead of time, which gives me plenty of time to find out their relative heights, the location of the venue, their colors and styles of clothing, their flower colors, etc. I have a page on my website dedicated to event painting called Weddings, Etc.
I presented my one-day workshop, Effective Shape-Making and Atmospheric Perspective en Plein Air, in Ft. Walton Beach in October, and in Santa Rosa Beach in November the day before our first local plein air paint-out. The discussion and exercises centered around the use of recognizable silhouettes or external contours for effective shape-making, and exaggerating receding space by making distant shapes lighter and bluer and less detailed, perhaps even completely silhouetted, and with “soft” edges.
My goal in workshops is to give tools and techniques to the beginner, and to review and practicing those tools for the more advanced painter so that he or she may use them with more authority.
The third workshop is one I took, instead of taught, again from the instructor I consider my mentor, Morgan Samuel Price, at The Art Loft in Dahlonega, Georgia. Sometimes the learning is faster than I can absorb, and when that happens, it is difficult for me to paint. That seemed to have been the case in this three-day workshop – only one day resulted in an effective painting, and I struggled to reach a finishing point. Morgan gave me a number of suggestions, but in the end, I had to make my own decisions, and simplification, eliminating busy texture, is what ended up making it work.
I continue to paint weekly with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters when I am home. Below are a couple of little studies I enjoyed.
And there is the occasional photograph demanding to be shared…
And that brings me to the paint-outs. A paint-out is an invitation to paint any number of paintings over a period of several days, and often also includes a “Quickdraw” timed contest of usually 2- or 3-hours to paint within a particular area, the paintings to be framed and judged immediately afterwards. The first paint-out was in Gulf Shores, Alabama, produced by Craig Reynolds for the Alabama Plein Air Artists and guests. I am a member of the APAA. Living in the Florida Panhandle, APAA paint-outs are closer to me than most of the Florida paint-outs. Below are the paintings I produced there.
The Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County is the arts association where I live, in Santa Rosa Beach, FL. For 25 years the CAA has produced the Flutterby Festival, an autumn event geared primarily toward children, celebrating the migration of the monarchs and other butterflies through our geographic area. This year, they added a plein air paint-out to the event, and 20 excited and enthusiastic painters participated on the beautiful grounds of Watersound Origins. I won some awards, taking second place in the Quickdraw, and honorable mention for a painting in the Wet Room. We were allowed to exhibit one piece we had painted prior to the paint-out, in the Wet Room, so that the Wet Room would have some paintings in it right away, and my piece that was honored, Pathways Pond, is the one that I had painted on a previous outing there with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters.
And now I have some time to clean out my studio, and re-organize. I will be retrieving the paintings I have been exhibiting at the local library, and I need to make space for them. It’s surprising how quickly more paintings can fill up a space! Sometimes it fills with projects for upcoming exhibits. Our arts alliance is calling for art for the annual One Size Fits All, the requirement being that all art is produced on a 10′ x 10′ cradled wood panel. I like to use special exhibits like this as an opportunity to do something a little different. This year I painted a simple sandpiper on one of the panels and on the other one today I learned how to make an acrylic pour, marbled using silicone, and I put some coquina shells on it that look like butterflies, and I titled it Migration.