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.
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.
I paint with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters which meet every Wednesday morning to paint somewhere in the Okaloosa-Walton two-county area in Northwest Florida. Last week we met at Alaqua Animal Refuge. What a treat. Interesting animals everywhere, and fantastic areas of light and shadow between the barns and sheds and trees. I had been at Alaqua only a few times before this, to adopt a couple of cats, so this was the first time I looked at it through a painters eyes, with no other agenda.
After walking much of the immediate grounds, admiring Gorgeous George, the turkey strutting his full regalia, and the pigs, and the horses, burros, goats, and of course the dogs and cats and kittens, finally I found the emus, and decided I wanted an emu in my painting.
Alas, the perspective and the brilliant light in my scene completely dominated the emu. But I still have titled it “Emu at Alaqua Animal Refuge”, honoring my original intention. So often that is the case, that when I paint en plein air, the “what” that I thought I was painting either doesn’t get painted at all, like the Indian Blanket flowers I had intended to paint last week, or else the focus shifts during the painting, to the perspective and the light.
The painting is 12 x 24. I also have posted a detail showing that indeed there is an emu in the painting!
Coastal Georgia was a beautiful place to be, last week. I drove from my home in Northwest Florida to St. Simons Island for a plein air painting working with Laurel Daniel, a fabulous artist whose work I have been watching for years, following her blog even before I ever decided to try plein air painting. Laurel is a master at ‘definitive suggestion’ in her work, leaving out just enough of the smaller details which invites the viewer to participate. I am a fan of this kind of work, because the longer the viewer will look at the piece, the more they will appreciate it, and not just see it and walk away.
Laurel worked hard for us, teaching us to show distance by muting intensity and tapering values to mid-range, but her primary focus was teaching us to block-in the basic shapes and values before getting down to the business of painting. Each day she demo’d a different way of blocking-in, before painting luscious scenes “From Marsh to Seaside.” Her three block-in methods include dry brush sketch in a dark neutral; mid-toning with a neutral and then wiping out lighter values and adding darks; and the most difficult, blocking in with true colors at correct value. Laurel put the dark elements in the painting first, leaving the lighter values for later. Her reasoning was to get down the shadow patterns first, so that we would be able to hold onto them throughout the painting, because the light and shadows change throughout the two hours you are painting. In this location, the tide changed as well. A marsh full of water might be nearly bone dry by the time you were finishing a painting, so what started out to be a pattern of light on water, could be dark mudflats by the time you finished. Laurel blogged about her workshop at http://www.laureldaniel.blogspot.com/2014/05/marshside-palms-demo-georgia-workshop.html. We were treated to an opening of Laurel’s works at Anderson Fine Art Gallery on St. Simons Island on Friday evening, midway through the workshop. There were a lot of red dots on the labels by the end of the evening, indicating “SOLD”. I would have loved to have brought one home with me, but it already had a red dot on it, sold before I arrived. I was happy to see works by other amazing artists in the other rooms of the gallery, including Morgan Samuel Price from whom I took a workshop in April. On the last day of the workshop, my muted phone started buzzing while I was shooting some progress photos of the instructor’s demo — it was Joe Taylor calling, the organizer of the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air. I will be attending a workshop by Ken Dewaard and Greg LaRock after that event, so I thought it might be some details about that. But no. Joe started by asking me if I had received his email, and I drew a blank. I went from confusion to shock, when he said he had emailed me to ask if I would like to be one of the students in a pilot workshop that is being designed as Advanced Plein Air for the Apalachicola School of Art. I managed to compose myself enough to say Yes! So I will be taking 2 workshops, back-to-back, next week. When I set the intention of taking as many plein air workshops as I could afford this year, I didn’t know that I would be getting more workshops than I can afford! (This one will be free!) I am delayed in getting this blog posted. We had a flooding rainstorm that shut down the entire Florida Panhandle, closing roads and bringing everything to a standstill. About 2 feet of rain fell in a 24-hour period. I was fortunate that my home and business did not suffer any damages, other than a sign blown down. Many others are not so fortunate. The same storm spawned killer tornados in other states. Nevertheless, it kept me from getting back into the studio to practice my new awareness gained from Lasurel Daniel’s workshop. Here’s a quick video of the bridge over the slow moving swamp I cross every day, a half-mile from my home. http://youtu.be/3cGH-p9XM00
Last week I attended a plein air painting workshop in Apalachicola, Florida, taught by Morgan Samuel Price. The location of this fishing village is just two hours from my home, an easy drive but far enough away that I chose to stay in a rental property rather than commute. I learned so much I hardly know where to begin. It will probably take me years to assimilate it. The difficult thing about an intense learning situation, is that much of it is communicated abstractly in words and absorbed into the left brain, while painting is performed on the right side of the brain. Fortunately, Morgan demonstrated during and after each lecture, to help us make right-brain sense of the concepts she was teaching. And she didn’t seem to mind repeating answers while each of us gained just enough understanding to ask the same question the previous student had just asked. “Morgan, what colors are you using now?” “Ultramarine blue, cadmium red light, and hansa yellow,” Morgan would answer. And the next student would ask, “Morgan, what colors did you mix to get this color?” And Morgan would patiently answer, “Ultramarine blue, cadmium red light, and hansa yellow.” To be fair, though, the different colors we were asking about were entirely different colors — it’s just that Morgan is a wizard at color mixing, and can make any color on the palette out of ultramarine blue, cadmium red light, and hansa yellow.
The first day, Morgan taught us about various materials and how to hold the brush for different angles of brushstrokes, and she taught us about color value, intensity, and temperature. She taught us more about those topicss every single day. She also taught us about color in context, about composition, about creating the illusion of receding space, how light falls on horizontal surfaces vs vertical surfaces, how the eye moves through a painting, and even how to doodle on a scratchpad that sits by the telephone. She taught us about clarity of value and precision of shape. She taught with ease and good humor. And she patiently answered again, “Ultramarine blue, cadmium red light, and hansa yellow.”
We had some good sunshine the weekend before the class, but our only sunny day during the class was the first day, Monday. After watching Morgan paint a simple alleyway with so many luscious values and such obvious perspective, making it look oh-so-easy, she turned us loose to paint in the afternoon. I choose the bright yellow siding of the Inn where everyone else was staying, and tried to capture the perspective of the sidewalk receding toward the church in the background. Even in my frustration (left brain / right brain confusion), I already had begun to learn. It is in the struggle that I find I truly learn, whether the painting shows that learning or not. There is some confusion between the palm tree and the porch roof which makes the porch roof look like it is angled wrong — it’s not. But as we joked in class, sometimes we need arrows and words printed on our painting to explain different elements. My painting of the Inn could use several arrows.
The next day we drove to St. George Island, and I painted a grove of scrub oaks which had a play of light on the tree trunks that interested me. I struggled with that light, but Morgan said to be definite with it — so I put down my tentative little brush and made some bold swaths of light, giving it much more of the feel that I wanted.
On Wednesday, two of the other students and I got lost from the rest of the class. We painted near the base of the bridge to SGI, at a marina. I painted on 16×20 canvas panel instead of my usual 8×10. I enjoyed using bigger brushes, but found myself being very stingy in mixing my colors, never mixing enough paint. It’s difficult to paint with no paint on your brush.
Thursday found us at Scipio Creek, at another marina at the north edge of Apalachicola. The pelicans and seagulls put on a continuous show for us while we caught the hazy pinks and lavenders in the middle ground and the muted grays in the distance, in contrast with the richer colors and more contrasting values in the foreground.
And then, sadly, it was Friday. I painted beneath the overhanging deck of ‘Up the Creek’ Restaurant, with a vicious thunderstorm popping lightning all around me. Nearby strikes three times chased me back further underneath to the center of the marine storage area under the building, which I imagined was safer. All of the colors of my scene were washed out, at times it being so dark there was no color at all. The last thing I painted were the reedy grasses and trees in the background, when suddenly I realized it was time to critique, so I packed up and hurried back. I will dim the intensity of color on that foliage to make it recede more — it’s a little too bright, like the sun is shining on it, which it wasn’t.
A plug for my excellent host, the owner of the property where I stayed, Robert Lindsley: Visit the Robert Lindsley Studio and Gallery at 15 Avenue E near the waterfront in Apalachicola. And to the VRBO agent, my new friend Mike Klema — just search “VRBO Apalachicola” for Vacation Rentals By Owner, and Mike’s units will come up. He was very accommodating, and I loved my place behind the island, right on US 98! I had the thrill of seeing both the sunrises and the sunsets, as well as the parade of fishing boats every morning, and the abundant species of birds. I’ve posted below a few photographs of my week, which all in all I enjoyed very much.
What a difference in the weather this weekend! After an ice storm paralyzed the Deep South midweek, I was so happy to be painting in my shirtsleeves on Saturday! And what a change from last weekend, when I was painting at the Chautauqua Festival in my snowsuit!
The Rosemary Beach Foundation offers a “Girls Getaway on Superbowl weekend, and plein air painters were invited to paint there. This made the third weekend in a row for me to be painting plein air. I painted for the sheer enjoyment of it. I was out in the open, near the road and near the sidewalk, so I had many visitors, making it a fun and interesting day. I painted the Town Hall and Post Office, at right. Those buildings actually are white, but what interested me was the face of the Post Office, showing the golden light reflected from the side wall of the Town Hall. From where I was standing, I couldn’t actually see the directly lit side of the Town Hall. I could see the shady sides of both buildings. To make the reflected light really obvious, I painted both buildings lavendar.
After lunch, I turned 180º and began painting the street scene northward on North Barrett Square, from Wild Olives towards the Hidden Lantern Gallery where our finished paintings were being displayed. I worked quickly, trying to catch the gist of the architecture. Clouds had come so the shadows and lighting I had enjoyed in the morning were diffuse. I could see that my perspective was warped, but I wasn’t terribly invested in the painting as a finished product. I continued painting in order to learn how to handle my brushes and make convincing architectural shapes.
A student on a bicycle approached and we talked a little and I learned he was an artist. I asked him his website, but he said he was not yet that “advanced”. So I told him he could see more of our work in front of the Gallery, which he apparently viewed and then came back to further engage me. He started by saying, “I disagree with what you are doing.” I should have bid him adieu right then and there, but I was intrigued, and gave him my attention. He offered his limited view of creativity, that there was no value in painting what someone else had already created, such as architecture. It sounded like this might not be the first time he had given this speech, and it sounded like some of the pointless arguments I had heard in college, as to what is “legitimate” art.
By this young man’s definition, I doubt that he would have appreciation for a musician playing a symphony written by someone else, or a dancer performing someone else’s choreography. I lad lost interest as soon as he said he didn’t paint things that were “already painted”. But he pressed his point until I actually started to get irked. It became clear that his intention was to dismiss plein air painting, and to elevate his style of expression, whatever that is. I abhor “exclusive” thinking.
One of the things I have so enjoyed among nearly all of the artists I have met at this “mature” (middle-aged) point in my life, is their support and encouragement of each other. an attitude of INclusion, not EXclusion.. I believe that no artist should be discouraged from whatever path they are on at the moment, and their work should not be judged as to its “legitimacy”, but rather that anyone making any effort to express themselves visually, should be encouraged, that all artistic expression should be supported and nurtured. In fact I think that everyone is an artist, and we ought to help each other retrieve that creative spirit, whether singers, or carvers, or painters, or poets. It is a shame that so many people, somewhere along the way, stop trying. I guess it takes a good streak of stubbornness to retain creative drive, because somewhere along the way, every creative person must overcome the energy of those claiming their expression to not be “good” enough, or expressive enough, or “legitimate”. It was when this student dismissed my protests by pronouncing “The truth hurts”, that I realized the depth of his arrogance. I told the young man that it was better to support and encourage other artists, and not to judge their efforts and try to discourage them.
I thought it was going to rain the next day, so I stayed in my studio, and I repainted the scene I had been painting the day before, using black and white photo references (above right). Later that day, I about dropped my teeth when I drove back to the Hidden Lantern to pick up the painting I had done the day before, discovering that the street was made of dark gray brick-pavers, not the red-orange color I had painted. It never even occurred to me that they might be something different — red-orange seemed so right! So there you are, a true enough representation of the shapes that interested me, coupled with my own sense of what the street “should” look like, Ha! Another fun thing about plein air painting, or even studio painting from photo references after doing a plein air study, is that if I paint the same scene again, even from the same vantage point, it would turn out to be a completely different painting.
ArtsQuest Fine Art and Music Festival has come and gone, and in its wake, the familiar feeling of having passed through a wormhole in time and space, a sort of time warp, coming out on the other side with everything the same and yet very much changed.
Members of the sponsoring agency, the non-profit Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, are invited to exhibit 3 pieces of their artwork in the member tent, in exchange for 4 hours of volunteer work at the festival. For my volunteer work, I was asked to defend some No Parking cones and to move them out of the way when exhibiting artists needed to get through to set up their booths. It was the first time that I had seen booths being set up. My only exposure to setting up tents has been for overnight camping, and it is in light of that experience that I can pronounce tent-raising to be a close second to two-person canoeing for the fast track to divorce court, so I was fairly amazed at the calm and congeniality of the artists doing their nesting. The next day I helped set up the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters tent and found it to be not at all unpleasant, so I think the key ingredient is having artists do the job.
The festival opened Friday afternoon. The experience was invaluable. With the tunes of Kelsey Anna and Matt miller and later Cody Copeland wafting over the grounds, I painted plein air near our booth the first afternoon, and again on the afternoon of the third day, the air filled by other musicians. The rest of the time I talked to the passers-by about the plein air art and artists and I explained what plein air painting is to everyone who would listen. Almost no one knew that plein air painting simply means painting in open air, on-site, looking at the scene you are painting.
We enjoyed great exposure at our booth, picking up some 30 email addresses to add to the 95 that already receive weekly notices of our next plein air painting location. One of the regular participants in our outings, Melody Bogle, had submitted her work and been juried into the festival, so she had her own booth. We all were overjoyed when the announcement came that she had won Best in Show for the 2013 Festival. With more than 100 artists juried into the festival, I felt like her win validated plein air painting to the show-goers.
I painted the painting at left on the first afternoon of the ArtsQuest Fine Art Festival. It shows the plein air tent and the row of tents that housed the CAA members’ exhibit in front of the concrete pond in Cerulean Park at Watercolor, Florida. I re-painted the lawn when I got back to my home studio, because the shadows made the pond look like it was higher than the tents. By removing the shadows and instead painting some downward-curving lawn contours, it was a quick fix to make the pond look lower than the tents. Perspective and postion are, after all, merely optical illusions. I compressed the scene to show only the tents, without any of the commercial buildings that were actually there fronting the streets of the beautiful village of Watercolor, Florida.
I own and manage a swimming pool service company as my “day-job”. One of my customers came by the plein air booth, and I enjoyed showing her my work. After the festival closed, she came to my home studio to see more of my work. As I develop my skills and learn the business of being an artist, I am recognizing that every experience is another notch in my belt, each in itself valuable for future actions and interactions. (Thank you for taking the time to visit with me, Becky Arnold. Did you realize you were contributing to my training?)
At right is the completed version of the painting I posted last week, the brightly colored building in downtown Grayton Beach that houses Shorty’s Restaurant. After I got back to the studio, I realized that I had not painted the railings nearest me, or the flower pot that had attracted me to that point of view in the first place! To paint it plein air, I had positioned myself with my back to the sun with the unfortunate result that both my palette and my canvas were so brightly lit that I was “snow-blind” for most of the morning while I painted. It is truly a wonder that my colors turned out to be fairly close to correct! But that’s my excuse for not painting the railing and flowerpot until I got back to the studio.
Below left is the piece I painted this week at the regular weekly Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters outing, at Nick’s Rstaurant on the Bay, west of Freeport, FL. I worked very hard on figuring out how to make convincing pine trees, most particularly the brush strokes and stamps to use to show the so-very-important silhouette edge, and also the layering of values to show the masses of the needles. In this part of my process, that is one of my goals, to be able to learn to quickly portray recognizable forms just by using a few simple brushstrokes. I was not as comfortable with my efforts with the rippling reflections in the water below the trees. I reworked them in the studio, and came up with a fair representation of the lattice-like pattern. I was not at all successful with the muted land-mass on the horizon, across the Bay. I painted it and scrubbed it out 3 times plein air, never able to achieve a straight and level line that I was happy with. The horizon you see now was painted this morning in the studio.
And below right is the beginning of a painting that I started the last afternoon of ArtsQuest. The family in the picture was watching me paint, and asked if I might be able to put them in it, since they had been watching the watercolor workshop while I was painting. They want to see it when I finish it, so now the pressure is on!! I had fun with this painting at ArtsQuest, letting a few of the people in my audience paint a spot of color here or there. It was interesting how without fail, they would at first decline, but once the brush was in their hand, they would start smiling, daubing a little color or texture here or there! I think they all will be making a trip to pick up art supplies this week!
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.
I 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
I 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.
At 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
In February, 2013, I will be offering a “Back to the Basics” Drawing Course at the Bayou Arts Center, in Santa Rosa Beach, FL, for the Cultural Arts Alliance. The course will be four two-hour classes, on Tuesdays from 1:00 to 3:00pm. We will practice line quality, “seeing” shape and drawing what we see, and creating textures. We will practice drawing as preliminary to other art, as well as drawing as the final masterpiece, and we will experiment with several kinds of media.
An otherwise fabulous work of art can be ruined by poor perspective. So in the first of the four two-hour classes, we will review one-point and two-point perspective, which are useful tools for making representational objects look “right” in our attempt to create the illusion of 3 dimensions on a two-dimensional surface. Knowledge of perspective will assist us in seeing correctly.
Above is a drawing I made several years ago, showing the weeds near to the viewer to be much larger, relative to the trees and the structures further back in the picture plane. As objects recede, they should be drawn smaller and there is an orderly way to go about that, which is the tool called perspective.
Below I have posted a simple sketch showing some perspective problems. You immediately get a sense that there’s something wrong with this picture, and you may or may not notice what it is exactly that bothers you, but you will recognize it and agree that the house on the right looks crooked, and the telephone poles seem too tall as they go over the horizon, and the fence underneath them doesn’t seem right, and the tractor looks too small.
Back-to-the Basics Drawing Course
Register at (850) 622-5970. The fee is $100 for CAA members, slightly more for non-members. Below is the suggested supply list.
Ebony pencils — jet black, extra smooth (Prismacolor) or similar very soft, black graphite pencil (6B or 8B)
A water-soluble pencil, i.e., Derwent Sketching pencil – dark wash, 8B, or Derwent Graphtint pencil – nice colors are steel blue(06), port (01), shadow blue (05)
A water-soluble pen, dark (Vis-a-Vis, or Flair) — blue, black, or brown
A white eraser (White Pearl)
12″ ruler — 18″ is even better
Watercolor brushes — nothing fancy, anything will do, but if you have one, a #4 rigger/liner/script and #6 pointed round
Small water container (Dixie cup is fine)
Soft cotton rag for smudging
Old sketchbook for note-sketches and for practicing at home
Assortment of papers — white, cream, mid-tone, and colors, different textures, nothing terribly expensive, but better than newsprint,whatever you have on hand, and perhaps some watercolor paper or illustration board, 12 x 18 or larger
Plus anything else you might want to draw with or on
You may want a to bring your drawing board and table easel or stand-up easel, but we can work on the tabletops.
Optional supplies the instructor will bring for you to experiment with:
Charcoal pencil, paper-wrapped — soft or extra soft (Berol)
Woodless pencil, 6B (Grafstone), or graphite sticks