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Plein Air Painting: Accepting the Challenge

Plein Air Quickdraw from Forgotten Coast facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=481380161933750&set=a.146672628737840.36463.142373012501135&type=3&theater

I started weekly plein air painting in March.  I’m actually impressed with the progress I have made.  I have enough paintings to have a presence this weekend in the Plein Air Tent at ArtsQuest, the regional juried art festival held annually near my home.

But I have begun to discover how challenging plein air painting can be.  At first I thought I would merely be challenged by the chore of re-learning how to mix colors and remembering how to use brushes.   I also expected that the weather might occasionally be a challenge.  I never anticipated my canvas being covered with water or having to blot up rainwater from my palette tray.  Such was my adventure last Saturday in Port St. Joe, Florida, where I had traveled to watch the “Quickdraw” event at the Forgotten Coast Plein Air Invitational.  My best friend accompanied me, and I tied the stand-up paddleboards, onto the top of my truck, expecting that we’d have time for a little paddling after I had checked out the various artists’ methods and madnesses.  She convinced me that I should bring my paints, but I confess I did so more to humor her than out of any expectation that I would use them.

Port St. Joe Plein Air sceneI changed my mind when we drove past the scenic Cape San Blas lighthouse and down the beautiful peninsula highway to T.H. Stone State Park.  The grassy water’s edge and wading birds were mirrored in the gray water reflecting storm clouds.  There was a 40% chance of rain, but the volunteer who took my $10 entry fee and stamped my blank canvas for the event said the present rain shower wouldn’t be around for long, that it was just a narrow band.  A horn blew, and the painting began, and the rain got worse.  I painted from under the shelter of my truck’s hatch, and my friend stood on the windward side trying to shelter my work.  The rain bouncing off the top of the truck became mist and was caught by the wind,  swirling down onto my canvas and palette.  My friend got soaked and chilled for her good Samaritan efforts.

I had never painted on water-soaked  canvas before.  I had no clue whether my oil paint would even stick to the wet canvas panel.  I kept blotting my canvas with a paper towel to remove some of the mist droplets.  Puddles formed in my palette box.  My waste-bucket that I commandeered from  my cab quickly filled with rainwater pouring through the hinged seam of the hatch.

I dug in and finished my painting in the allotted time.  The 54 participating artists brought their finished pieces to the entry pavilion to be judged.  Many brought frames even.  Probably half of the artists were some who had been invited to the weeklong Plein Air Invitational, so I was privileged to see some amazing work.  Afterwards, we stopped at the first cafe outside the state park, to have a bit to eat, and we were pleasantly surprised to have the winner sit at the table next to ours.  Her name is Morgan Samuel Price.  What a treat to talk with her!!

Today the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters met in the historic town of Grayton Beach, Florida.  I was overwhelmed by the many places I would like to have set up my easel.  It was overchoice!  I opted for a couple of adjoining brightly-colored buildings with reflective windows.

But wow, what a struggle!  The straight up-and-down verticals had to be painted free-hand, as did all of the horizontals receding towards one vanishing point or another. With a general lack of knowledge of how buildings are put together, I was scrambling to make sense of the structure.  Ordinarily, if I were using a building to make art, I would print photographs of  it, and then take some time to figure out the structure before i ever started drawing it and then ultimately painting it.  With plein air painting, I generally just sketch the scene on my canvas with a big brush, and then start trying to mix colors and paint shapes.  So it can get confusing even when the shapes are simple.  I honestly did not have much fun today.  It seemed like too much of a challenge for my present skill level.  I turned out a good painting though, with a fairly good likeness to the colors.  Anyone familiar with Shorty’s Surfside Restaurant will notice that I have taken a few liberties with dimensions.  (As an artist, I’m allowed to do that, ha!)

I enjoyed seeing the other artist’s work when we critiqued at the end of the session.  Several painted the same buildings that I painted, but from different angles or from further away.

Most of my paintings and images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

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Simplification in Plein Air

Photo of plein air painting in progress, Henderson Beach State ParkLast week I was unable to paint due to a hectic schedule with my “day jobs”.  This week I made up for it by painting two paintings during the weekly plein air outing of the Emerald Coast Plein Air painters.  We went to Henderson Beach State Park, in Destin, Florida.  When I woke up this morning, it was raining, and I thought I was in for a challenging day.  But by the time I got to our painting location, the sky was still very gray but all I had to contend with was a stiff breeze.  I tied my easel to a picnic table and got busy.

I had painted our coastal dunes many times in the ’80’s when I was using watercolors, so the shapes and colors were very familiar.  For my challenge, I opted for the sky textures.  It was enjoyable, and I finished my first painting quickly, by simplifying the landscape.  I resisted the temptation to exaggerate the oranges and blues in the gray clouds.  It was fun to see those same oranges and blues in the other artists’ paintings when we critiqued our work.

I’m excited about next weekend.  Our local arts association, the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, puts on a very successful outdoor juried exhibition, ArtsQuest, on Mother’s Day weekend every year.  The exhibit draws artists from all over the country.  This year, I will have 3 oil paintings in the CAA members’ tent, which will require me to volunteer 4 hours at the festival, and I also will be one of the artists’ exhibiting in the Plein Air Painters’ tent, also requiring some volunteer time, and will be painting plein air on site off-and-on during the festival.  Last year I demonstrated figure drawing, so I know this will be a lot of fun.

NOTE, 11/7/13:  I brightened the foreground considerably after deciding the first painting did not have enough impact.  The final version is at https://joanvienotart.wpengine.com/?attachment_id=6261.

Oil painting at Henderson Beach State Park Oil painting at Henderson Beach State Park

Most of my paintings and images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

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Plein Air with One Brush, #8 Bright

Oil painting of coral bean flowers

Oil painting of coral bean flowersI have hired Saramae Dalferes to help me take the fast track in my transition to becoming a full-time artist at least two days a week by the end of the year.  Saramaeis a Nationally Certified Counselor, Mentor, and Personal Coach.  I told Saramae this week that I was going to set up a challenge for myself at the weekly plein air outing of the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters.  My plan was to paint using only one single brush for all parts of the painting, so that I would paint faster and more loosely.

Once you tell your coach that you are going to do something, there is no going back.  So today at the plein air outing, I chose a #8 bright, a brush which is approximately 1/2″ wide, with stiff bristles that are about 5/8″ long.

Our location was an exquisite house with beautiful gardens.  After walking the grounds, I opted to paint the flower of a coral bean plant that I found in an ungroomed part of the backyard.  I choose a smaller canvas panel, 6″ x 6″, unsure whether I would just be making a huge mess by using only one size brush.  To my surprise, I finished the painting in just one hour.  I had time to paint another!

For my second painting, I chose the house itself, which had a turret and a roofline with many planes.  I struggled with the perspective of the structure.  But while I was painting, I found I was less concerned with accurate perspective, and more concerned with the general “feel” of the place.  I was moderately successful, especially considering that I was still using only the #8 Bright.  The roof angle is a little confusing in my painting, and I did not correct it when I noticed, preferring to focus on color and light and shadow.

Oil Painting of Chrissie's HouseAt the critique afterwards, Sue Carol Knight Woodley mentioned that towards the end of her painting, she was thinking about the elements and principles of art, particularly the elements of line, form color, and texture.  I’ve focussed on the elements (7 in my book: line, shape, size, position, color, texture, density) and principles of design (balance, rhythm, and harmony) when figure drawing, but I confess, much of my plein air effort is simply trying to figure out what colors to mix together to get the color I am seeing, and then trying to figure out what shapes to make with that color.

While painting the house, I came to have an even greater appreciation for the skill of artists such as Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper.  I regret that the photograph at right does not show the dark blue-green of the roof shingles.  The more I paint, the more I am noticing that the camera rarely captures color accurately.

Most of my paintings and images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

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Essential Character of a Place: Plein Air Nature Trail

Oil painting of Nature Trail at Grayton Beach State Park

I was privileged to paint plein air beside my artist friend Betty Cork yesterday.  I am the proud owner of one of Betty’s paintings, the bright colors of a path under the oaks of Eden Gardens greeting me when I walk into my business office every weekday.  I met Betty through the Cultural Arts Alliance.  We both drew at the figure drawing sessions at Studio b for 3 years.  And it was she who twisted my arm to be on the A+Art Committee which I now Co-Chair with Robin Wiesneth, showcasing CAA member artists work in the reception area and conference room of the South Walton Center of Northwest Florida State College.

The plein air painters met at Grayton Beach State Park this week.  Most of the painters went to the beach to paint the misty shoreline and emerald waves, but Betty and I hiked a short way up the nature trail and set up to paint under the canopy of scrub oaks. I was looking towards the sun, so that much of the foliage was beautifully backlit, but with the sun in my eyes, it was a bit of a chore seeing the brilliance of the colors.  The gnarly tree trunks were silhouetted against the bright light.

I post on Facebook photos of my work in progress and also the finished piece. I found it interesting that one of the comments on my finished piece was “That is so here!”  I wonder, what is the specific visual imagery that depicts the essential character of a place, making it “here”? In this case, I think it was the combination of the palmetto bushes underneath with the twisting shapes of the scrub oak trees.  The live oaks at the beach are very small, hugging and conforming to the dune line, sheared off at the top by the salty winds. On the bay, the same trees grow into massive giants, with Spanish moss dripping from the acre-wide branches.

One of the constrictions of plein air painting is that you don’t have a lot of time.  Because the scene before me was so chock-full of brush and foliage, my challenge was to simplify it into layers. I painted the background foliage first, so that I wouldn’t have to take the time to try paint the negative space around the foreground shapes afterwards. The gnarly tree trunks came next, and the palmettos in the foreground were last.  Betty suggested to me to put some of the oranges and very bright yellows in the palmetto leaves.  She is an expert with bright color.

Below is the start of my painting, and the finished piece.  Contact me if you are interested in purchasing this piece, with or without frame. — Joan Vienot

Oil painting of Nature Trail at Grayton Beach State Park

 

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Plein Air Painting Progress Report: Leaps and Bounds!

Oil Painting of Old Boat "Pompano", Nick's Restaurant, Basin Bayou, FLI am starting to see in color.  That may sound strange, but the fact is that most of the time in my normal everyday activity, I hardly pay attention to color.  When I was focusing on figure drawing, I occasionally used color, but for the most part I was focused on line, shape, and value, usually rendering the whole piece just using a black-white value scale. Now that I am painting again, I am noticing for example, when a white railing is picking up the blue of the sky, or how intense a green becomes when it is contrasted with red.  I am finding that much of what I think I am seeing as different tones of a color are actually the same color which looks different depending on what color is next to it.  I am particularly challenged by all the greens I see, when landscape painting.  If I try to mix an exact shade of green, it often seems muddy compared to what I actually see.  Who knew, that Einstein’s theory that everything is relative applies to painting as well as nuclear physics, that the better way to achieve a color is to find the color next to it which gives it the quality I want.  Resisting the temptation to launch into that as a metaphor for life, I’ll instead move on to my adventures in plein air painting over the past week.  Last week we painted at Nick’s Restaurant, and I bemoaned the fact that I know very little about boats.  The next day I decided to take another run at the featured boat, using my photo references, and came up with the piece at top right.  It was the little paprika-colored spots of rust washing out from the old nails in the hull, that gave the greens and turquoise the punch I wanted.  So I wafted a little of that color into the foreground grasses too.

Oil painting study, Bayou Grass, Point Washington, FLThis week is the largest of the spring-break tourist weeks in the beach resort communities of Panama City Beach, Seagrove Beach, and Destin, FL.  So when the announcement came that the plein air painters would be meeting at the docks again in Destin, I knew the drive would take all the fun out of the adventure, so I opted to paint from my dock in my back yard.  I had thought I would be painting my view of the creek leading into Tucker Bayou, but when I looked upstream, the color of the bayou grasses intrigued me.  My initial 6″ x 6″ study, left, did nothing for me by way of planning my painting, but rather served more like a singer doing la-la-La-LA-La-la-la scales to warm up her voice before performing.

I needed a warm-up!  The temperature was less than 40 and the wind was chilly.  But it was a clear spring day with bright light.  I roughed in the composition and then went to work on the trees at the edge of the Bayou.  The spring gold-greens of the new leaves contrasted with the rich, dark pines and the shadows underneath.  I resisted the impulse to paint the shadows a colorless dark value, which has the potential to suck the life out of a painting.  Instead I darkened my green shadows with a touch of the same deep red I used to tint the pink flowering trees in my distant neighbor’s yard.  I stuggled with the grasses, because the shiny highlights were picking up every color of the palette.  Uncertain whether I was just making a mudpie, I plowed onward through the painting, until I was satisfied I had achieved an approximate similarity to the colors I was seeing.  My two cats initially were scared by my unusual activity on the dock, but they grew braver throughout the 2 hours, wrapping their tails around my legs as I scratched some final textures and highlights into the grasses and the tree trunks.  Upon completion, I stood my painting up against a piling and stepped back from it only to have a bitter wind gust blow it onto its face, requiring repair where it had landed on an edge of a dock board.  Remembering the worm crawling across my finished painting two weeks ago, I decided that paintings are not really finished until restored from an inevitable mishap at the very end.

Oil Painting of Bayou Grass, Point Washington, FL

The day before yesterday I was excited to find a delivery frames on my package stand as I entered my driveway, so even though it was late, I spent the next couple of hours framing my earlier paintings done in November and December of last year, when I first resumed oil painting after a 30-year hiatus.  Looking at them, I realized that I am growing by leaps and bounds.  The rate of my improvement surprises me.  I thought I would progress more slowly, and even be tempted to give up, because oil painting so intimidated me, no doubt from my tortured efforts during and shortly after college.  I find I am enjoying the time limitation of plein air painting, which while still allowing for tortured effort, does not allow it to continue for very long, with only a two hour window before the light changes so much that further attempts at capturing an impression are not worthwhile.

I continue to play with my photography.  I am learning about photo-editing, taking a class in Photoshop Elements from Jackie Ward at Northwest Florida State College, South Walton Center.  She is teaching us what Photoshop can do.  It’s difficult for me to remember.  My poor brain may be overloaded, trying to run my business, my day-job, the one that pays the bills, while I try to learn more about photography and painting.  I still enjoy the easy editing that can be done with Snapseed App on my iPhone.  Yesterday I paddled my canoe on the Bayou with a dear friend, a fellow photographer.  You can’t take a bad picture at sunset!  Most of my editing of my iPhoneography consists of simply straightening the horizon line and perhaps a little cropping, but I had some fun dramatizing and saturating the photo below.

Photograph, Tucker Bayou, Point Washington, FL, Joan Vienot

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

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Painting Plein Air at Nick’s

Oil Painting of Boats at Nicks Restaurant
My view of the boats at Nicks

Today the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters painted at Nick’s Restaurant on the north side of the Choctawhatchee Bay.  When I first arrived, one other painter was already setting up.  I walked around the derelict boats and dinghies decorating the grounds, following the Bay beach to the inlet and then up around the aged structure of the restaurant itself, shooting photos with my iPhone as I went.  A painting could be made from everywhere I looked.  I settled on the old boats lined up in the front yard. By the time I had gotten my easel set-up and made a preliminary pencil-on-paper sketch to try to lay-out my composition, about 10 to 12 more artists had arrived.

Most boats around here are white, but the boat in the foreground was red, and that color was the element that interested me.  I painted nearly every other part of the picture first, saving the red boat for last.  But as I worked, I cursed my choice of subject matter, having once again chosen to paint boats, which I know almost nothing about.  My biggest struggle was with the shape of the boat in the background.  The cabin morphed into an odd shaped roof over what I presume might have been sleeping quarters, but which now sported a gaping hole, a mate to the hole in the deck at the back of the boat.  Its one redeeming feature, besides its mass, was the turquoise color of the bottom.

Boats at Nick's

A tiny sliver of the Bay on the far left, and a nondescript structure in the background were the only hints at the location, but anyone who has eaten at Nick’s will recognize the boats.  The sandy beach was dotted with little grasses and vines, and I took liberty with that part of the painting, bringing in a few taller grasses, to break up the large area of plain beach, and to repeat a few reds.

When we lined up our paintings for the critique before lunch, I again was amazed and overwhelmed by the talent in the group.  One of the artists made a comment that caught my curiosity.  He was expressing frustration about a car pulling up and blocking his view, after he had already mixed all his colors and was ready to paint.  I have never approached my painting that way, instead mixing my colors as I go.  I may have to watch him paint sometime, to see how that works.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

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Laguna de Siete Colores Adventure

After completing the Artist’s Way Workshop led by Joyce Hogue at A.Wickey Gallery, I think I need to start over and really read every word of every chapter of the book.  There were so many times I would read something and think, Oh, yeah, that’s not really about me or my life, when really there is a lot more truth than I was comfortable admitting, descriptions of ways that I sabotage efforts to create art.  Most especially I realized that I am not exactly being truthful when I say I don’t have time to do my art.  I took a good look at how I spend my time, and I noticed that I seem to be able to take off on a 5- or 10-day adventure at the drop of a hat, so it is absolutely untrue that I do not have time — it’s merely that I have not been scheduling time for my art.

So this-coming year, I resolve to expand my definition of myself, this time as an artist, as well as an adventurer.  Oh, I’ve been calling myself an artist my whole life, but when I am honest, I realize that time-after-time-after-time, I have resisted when it comes to actually producing art.  Sometimes it is the inertia of couch-sitting that holds me back, sometimes it is thrill of unknown adventure that I would rather do, sometimes it is the attraction of friendship and companionship, and sometimes the aggravation of bills or work commitments, but I am realizing that just about any excuse not to produce art has resulted in greatly limiting my artistic output.  If I really want for my dream of being a full-time artist to come true, I will need to quit ignoring the call of the paint and to start producing finished works.

At the very least, I will have an additional 3 hours of empty time every week, when I have been attending the 12 sessions of the Artist’s Way Workshop. Last week one of the participants hosted a party for us all, at her house.  Our assignment was to make a small gift using a quote form the Artist’s Way book.  I made and framed a 3×3″ watercolor of an orange, above right, with the quote that “sometimes we shake the apple tree, and the universe delivers oranges.”  This quote is significant to me, in that so many times in my life, I may have had a wish, a dream, or set an intention, and events come to pass which meet and exceed that intention in ways very different from how I had imagined.

I missed class the week before, while I was in Mexico at a retreat called Laguna de Siete Colores, named for Laguna Bacalar, in the southern Yucatan.  I was there to shoot promotional photography for The Stand Up Paddle Radio Show and for Undertoe Mexico Stand Up Paddleboards, the producers of the retreat.  The paintings at left are all oil on canvas panel, and this series is from the sunrise at Tulum, our first morning in Mexico.  Sunrise is always inspirational, and the colors are so warm and bright in the first hour after sunrise, the “golden hour.”  I plan to paint many more from this adventure in Mexico.

My present intention is to review and refresh my skills with painting, since I have only just begun oil painting late this year, after about 30 years of making drawings and watercolor paintings.  My goal is to join up with the local group of plein air painters, who paint every Wednesday morning.  I am limiting my work on these practice paintings to only 2 hours at most, so that I develop a faster and looser style of painting, which is more practical for plein air painting, due to rapidly changing light and weather conditions.

I have found that my brushes are pretty sad, so I have ordered 4 new ones, and also a new tube of titanium white,and new oil painting medium to make my paints more workable and to help them all dry more quickly and with the same degree of gloss.  I’m still pretty stingy with the paint, not mixing big enough batches of each color, which is forcing me to remember which tubes I used and in what quantities in order to get each color.  So far the color mixing has come back to me fairly easily, and I very much appreciate the fact that oil paints dry pretty close to the same color that I mix, as opposed to watercolor paints, which always dry more muted and lighter in value than when they are wet.

I usually post photos of my paintings on Facebook on my Joan Vienot Art page as soon as I finish them.  The tern painting was very popular, selling the same day I posted it.  Contact me if you are interested in any of my paintings.  Since they largely are practice pieces, I am maintaining reasonable pricing.

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Finished piece: Whispering Statue

Around one month ago, the Artist’s Way workshop assignment was to open a book, and select a two-word phrase, and make a piece of art out of it, or write a poem, or whatever mode of expression we chose.  When George Harrison did this, he wrote the song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” after seeing the phrase “gently weeps” in the first random book he picked up.  I didn’t actually open the first book I picked up, but instead selected the title of a Nancy Drew mystery, The Whispering Statue.  I selected for my inspiration a piece of concrete yard art in my own yard, a gift from a dear friend, a statue of St. Francis of Assisi.  Below is the progression of the painting.  The statue stands next to my birdbath.  Click on any of the images for a larger view.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

 

 

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Opening the Floodgates

A good friend of mine is preparing to backpack the Appalachian Trial.  Last month, over the long weekend after Thanksgiving, I accompanied her on her “shakedown” trip where she tested a lot of her new gear and her cooking methodology.  We camped on her mountain property near Mount Pisgah, near Brevard, NC, Jane in her fancy Hennessey Hammock, and me in my REI quarter-dome tent.  Having backpacked through the Smokies and in New Hampshire, I know that much of any backpacking experience is consumed with ordinary survival — food, clothing, and shelter — and this trip was no exception, with nighttime temperatures in the low 20’s (F).  Jane cooked on a lightweight backpacker’s alcohol-fueled stove, and I had my minimalist pan support with dry Esbit fuel, to rehydrate and heat our dehydrated food and make tea.  But we weren’t that far away from town, so even though we were “roughing it”, our evening meals were accompanied by good wine.  Each evening we would go for another walk, as if our mountain trail hikes had not provided enough exercise for the day, and then we would talk in between handfuls of “gorp” for dessert (good old raisins and peanuts) before crawling into our sleeping bags for the night.

The mountain imagery was overwhelming.  Jane is a fine art photographer, so spending time with her doubled the opportunities for the mountain splendor to imprint on my soul.  If there is a simple purpose to producing one’s art or vision, it may simply be to point out the beauty/order/harmony we see and to share it with those who might not have noticed.  I learned a lot about the limitations and capabilities of my iPhone camera.

I came home with my head and heart overflowing with the mountain colors and shapes.  Having only recently begun my return to oil painting, I was surprised to find myself wide awake and compelled to paint at 4:00 the very next morning after we got back.  By compelled, I mean that there was no option not to paint — it felt like a dam would break if I didn’t get an image made.  This happened twice in that week following our adventure, forcing me to focus my sleepy eyes 2 hours earlier than my usual wake-up time.  I painted the 8×10″ canvas panel very quickly, finishing before showering and leaving to be on time for my day job.  Above are my paintings which of course contain the colors and memories of my experience more so than the photographic references below.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

Photo reference

Photo reference

 

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Great Paintout at Grayton Beach

On Saturday I joined at least 16 other painters at Grayton Beach State Park, in Grayton Beach, Florida, to participate in the local effort for the Oil Painters of America 8th annual Great Paintout.  It was my first try at plein air oil painting in perhaps as much as 30 years, but something I have been intending to do for a long time.  I have occasionally painted outdoors using watercolors or sketched with pencil or ink, but the last time I remember painting the landscape with oils, plein air, was while on a camping vacation in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1978.  That day, so long ago, was memorable for being so hot and buggy.  By contrast, Saturday was the perfect day for plein air painting, being shaded by the park pavilion, and virtually bug-free.

So what’s the big deal about plein air painting, you may wonder.  En plein air is French for “in open air”, a phrase used to describe painting an outdoors scene “from life”, while actually looking at it, in the often changing light and weather conditions.  It requires intense concentration and awareness, and is much more challenging than painting from a photographic reference in a studio.  It appeals to me in much the same way that figure drawing appeals to me, because time is a limiting factor, so one must work fairly quickly, finishing or very nearly finishing the painting in one session.  For that reason, and because I felt so out of practice, I chose to paint on small 8″ x 10″ canvas boards.  I managed to make a passable effort on two boards.

To a certain extent, this was a trial run for me, to see how my equipment worked, and to start remembering how to paint.  I used just 3 brushes — two to paint with and a third one to sign my name, and a palette knife to scratch out some bush branches.  The brush I used for most of both paintings was a Winsor-Newton #6 round, sable, I think.  It worked better than the stiff bristle brushes I used a month ago in my first effort at returning to oils, in the workshop I blogged about on September 9. My new Coulter System easel and palette/box that I purchased last summer worked like a charm.  I used my 35-year old Grumbacher “Pre-tested” and Rembrandt oil paints from my days doing demonstrations as a high school art teacher.  My oil painting medium is about that old too, and while the paints are still good, I’m pretty sure the medium is degraded.  The paintings I did Saturday are dry today, one day later, but the painting I did a month ago in the workshop, in which I used more medium, is still a little sticky.

The sand dunes at Grayton Beach are made of  sand is so fine that it crunches underfoot like dry snow, and it even looks like snow in the bright sunlight, thanks to the clear crystals of quartz that make up the majority of its composition.  The scrubby oak bushes and half-buried scrub pines round over the tops of the dunes, shaped away from the Gulf of Mexico by the salty seabreeze.  Palmetto bushes and dune marsh grasses dot the lower dunes, fringed this time of year by various yellow wildflowers that some of us locals refer to collectively as goldenrod.  I never got around to painting as much as I would like to have, never adding in the finer details of shadows and sea oats.  I might go back in and put in those details, but the photos I have posted here are exactly as I finished on Saturday morning.

After we painted for about 3 hours, we all got together and looked at each others’ works, and we ooo’d and ah’d before giving feedback.  It was an excellent critique, with the masters of the craft commenting on areas of paintings that worked well, and areas that were challenging, and even discussing compositional tricks, like pointing out places where something in a painting might need to recede, made difficult by being light in value.  (Typically, light shapes and colors tend to advance, and darker forms recede, in a picture plane.  That can be overcome by muting or graying the lighter colors, shapes tending to become less bright as they recede, the way that we see things.)  Everyone was kind to me, not being critical at all, but I admit that I gave fair warning, protecting my vulnerability by explaining that I had just returned to oil painting again about a month ago, and that this was my 2nd effort in 30 years.  That was a fairly clear request to cut me some slack, I think.  The regular plein air painters go out every Wednesday, so if I start coming regularly, I’m sure they will feel more free to make helpful comments, and I will not be so scared to hear them.

Shane McDonald

Some of the artists who were there have their work online:

Becky Perrott

Charlotte Arnold

Rosalyn O’Grady

Margaret Ann Garrett

Jeanette Brooks Sherritze

Nancy Nichols Williams

Melody Bogle

Velda Dougherty

Shane McDonald

Matt Craven

And I wish I had the names and websites of the others there — if you read my blog and know the others, please email me with their names, and I’ll include them.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

 

 

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Oil Painting with Jan Bennicoff

Jan Bennicoff, Demonstrating

Yesterday I attended Jan Bennicoff‘s oil painting workshop at the City Arts Cooperative in Panama City, Florida.  The day before, I packed up my supplies from the list she had distributed, which I have been gathering over the past 6 months or so in preparation for my plan to start plein air painting.  I had signed up for this introductory workshop as a review, since the last serious oil painting I did was in college, dare I tell my age, almost 40 years ago.  I loaded a couple of small canvases, 11×14, my brushes, my new lightweight easel and palette, paper towels, and some containers.  The solvent, medium and the paints, were provided at the workshop for a mere $5.00 supplies fee.  The workshop was free to members of Panama City Artists.

Jan set up a still life of melons, and she began her demonstration by making a line drawing of the subject using a brush and a dark color, red in this case. She instructed us to then paint from dark to light, that is, to paint the dark colors throughout the entire painting first, covering all of the canvas, and afterwards painting the lighter values.  She helped us to see the different colors, shapes, and values in the subject from our individual viewpoints, and gave tips on how to execute them, and how to mix the colors.

While painting, I found that I need to buy a few better brushes.  Some of the brushes I have that are the perfect size for how I want to use them, are a little stiff in the bristles, so that putting another color on top of an area of wet paint results in the bristles scratching off the other color.

I didn’t have too much trouble drawing the subject onto the canvas, even though I haven’t practiced contour line drawing in a while.  I’ve been practicing figure drawing, focusing on light/shadow, and defined vs. lost edges, rather than all contours.  I worried about the composition from my viewpoint, which was nearly split in half, with only a small area of a tray overlapping the right hand masses with the masses on the left.  Jan helped me see the shadows and highlights that would also help tie the two halves together, and I repeated some of the watermelon reds in the orange pieces of cantaloupe, and added some oranges into the red watermelons, to also help tie the two together.  To make the colors brighter, I heightened the background contrast, deepening the blue-brown until it almost became black.  I liked the end result, especially considering I completed it in just a little over 2 hours.

I have always been of the opinion that things are more interesting when a little is left to the imagination.  I know that my tendency is to try to be exact with my art, but the painting style I want to develop will be a little looser, exact only when absolutely necessary to define an essential element.  This will require me to assume that my audience can “read” the painting without me describing every little detail, a leap of faith on my part.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot