A Month of Adventure: Estes Valley Plein Air and Blue Ridge Mountains Paint-Out

October 3, 2018 in Landscape

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. To see in image larger, click here, and click again if “+” appears under your cursor.

Oil painting of the glacial cirque near Fall River Pass, just below the Alpine Visitors Center, Rocky Mountain National Park, near Estes Park, Colorado

Fall River Glacial Cirque, 15×30 oils on canvas panel, en plein air

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.

Gem Lake, above Lumpy Ridge, Estes Park, Colorado

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!

Nocturne oil painting of the south entrance to Riverwalk Park / Riverside Plaza in Estes Park, Colorado

Riverwalk at Night, 11×14 oils on canvas panel, en plein air

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 below, 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.

Oil painting of a hummingbird feeding on gentian in Mrs. Walsh's Garden, a city park in Estes Park, Colorado

Mrs. Walsh’s Gentian Visitor, 11×14 oils on canvas panel, en plein air

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.

Oil painting of the Big Thompson River flowing through Moraine Park above Estes Park, Colorado

Moraine Wind, 11×14 oils on canvas panel, en plein air

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.

Oil painting of Sheep Lakes in Fall River Valley near Estes Park, Colorado

Where Are The Sheep? 10×20 oils on canvas panel, en plein air

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!!

Oil Painting of the bridge over the creek at Riverwalk Park in Estes Park, Colorado

My Quickdraw Painting at Estes Park, 9×12 oils on canvas panel, , en plein air

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!

Oil painting of Stanley Rapids on the Taccoa River in Fannin County, Georgia

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 th 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.

Oil painting of the creek flowing through the Taccoa Valley Campground to the Taccoa River in Fannin County, GA

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.

Oil painting of two horses and two goats on Chris Tilghman's farm in Blue Ridge, Georgia

On Chris’s Farm, 11×14 oils on canvas panel

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.

Joan Vienot painting with college friend Daniel Sprick at Lumpy Ridge, Estes Park, Colorado, 8/29/2018

 

Why Not Just Take A Picture? Why Bother With Plein Air?

June 17, 2018 in Landscape

By all means, take a picture with your camera!

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!

In this painting, can you smell the rain?

Oil painting of the patio behind the Bay Restaurant in Santa Rosa Beach, FL, after a torrential downpour

After the Downpour, 11×14 oils on canvas panel, en plein air

 

From Plein Air Studies to Studio Painting

June 16, 2018 in Landscape, Plein Air

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.

Oil painting of first light on Devil's Backbone, Laramie County, Loveland, Colorado

Devil’s Backbone First Light, 10 x20 oils on stretched canvas (click on image for purchase info)

Oil painting (study) at Devil's Backbone Open Space, Larimer County, Colorado

6×8 study, Devil’s Backbone, Loveland, CO

Oil painting (study) at Devil's Backbone Open Space, Larimer County, Colorado

4×6 study, Devil’s Backbone, Loveland, CO

Oil painting (study) at Devil's Backbone Open Space, Larimer County, Colorado

4×6 study, Devil’s Backbone, Loveland, CO

 

 

The Forgotten Coast en Plein Air and Plein Air South 2018

June 4, 2018 in Figurative, Landscape, Plein Air

I attended the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air and Plein Air South again this May, taking time out for painting between demo’s and discussions. I practice painting en plein air to study the transient effects of light, to become more adept at composing, to learn more effective technique, and to develop a stronger instinct for decision-making. Many times a plein air painting will be worthy of framing. All are learning experiences. My intention is to study something different every time I paint, even when I paint a scene I have painted before. Every painting is making it easier to paint the next painting, but I challenge myself even more the next time, so I can’t say that painting is easy. I can say that I am seeing better.

Oil painting of the marsh from the deck of Scallop Republic on the way to Cape San Blas, Port St. Joe, FL

Scallop Republic Marsh

I am happy to report that my Quickdraw painting, Scallop Republic Marsh, was selected by Quickdraw judge Lori Putnam to be one of the 40 on display throughout the Forgotten Coast event, and that it was purchased, as was Eastpoint Oyster Shack, one of my paintings in the Florida’s Finest en Plein Air Ambassador exhibit.

The more exciting news happened the week following the Forgotten Coast event, which was Plein Air South, a convention in the same location with back-to-back educational sessions, lectures, and demonstrations. Approximately 160 artists attended. We were invited to display up to 3 plein air paintings, the best to be selected by artists’ vote. I thought they were just going to award a Best in Show, but they also awarded second place, which one of my paintings won, Spring Dune at St. George Island, pictured below! I received $485 of paintbrushes from Rosemary & Co., my favorite brush manufacturer! (Iin addition to the $180 of brushes I had just purchased!) I don’t guess I will run out of brushes for a while!!

Oil painting of the massive primary dune at St. George Island State Park, FL

Below are the studies I painted over the two weeks, in between listening to the speakers and watching the demo’s. Click any photo to learn purchase information.

Oil painting of the marsh at the kayak and canoe launch on Cape San Blas, Port St. Joe, FL

Kayak Launch at Cape San Blas, oils, 6×12

 

Oil painting of the early morning shadow of the primary dune on Cape San Blas, Port St. Joe, FL

Cape San Blas Morning Shadows, oils, 11×14

 

Oil painting of the shape of the primary dune on Cape San Blas, Port St. Joe, FL, painted with palette knife

Early Summer Dune at Cape San Blas

 

Oil painting of site of oyster shell bagging by the Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast, for maintaining and restoring eroding coastline

Project Worksite, Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast, Oyster Shell Bagging, oils, 6×12

 

Oil painting of the light on the creek at George Core Park, Miss Zola Drive, Port St. Joe, FL

Creek at George Core Park, Miss Zola Drive, Port St. Joe, oils, 12×9

 

Oil painting of the early light at the St. Vincent Shuttle stop, off the tip of Indian Pass, Port St. Joe, FL

Warm in the Morning, Indian Pass, oils, 8×10

 

Oil painting of the artist's impression of the colorful sunrise at the tip of Indian Pass, Port St. Joe, FL

Sunrise Impression, oils, 4×6

 

Oil painting of artist's impression and memories of the marsh at the canoe and kayak launch on Cape San Blas, Port St. Joe, FL

Impression of the Marsh at Cape San Blas Canoe Launch, oils, 11×14

 

Unfinished, Rick on a Break, 14 x 11

 

Unfinished, Cape San Blas Light in Port St. Joe, 16×20

 

Joan Vienot, painting the Cape San Blas Light and lightkeepers’ cottages in Port St. Joe, hurrying to beat the rain!

 

 

 

 

2018 St. George Island Plein Air Paint-Out

April 24, 2018 in Landscape

Postscript, 10/21/18, 11 days after Hurricane Michael

I am in shock, seeing that places I painted are heavily damaged or perhaps even have disappeared. When I painted “Spring Dune”, the third painting pictured below, I remember feeling like the huge old dune was a big protective bear guarding the edge of the park. Today I saw video that gives me every reason to suspect that this dune does not exist anymore. https://youtu.be/EVkRgeqgcdI

The Plantation of St. George Island is a beautiful gated community situated on the west end of St. George Island, one bridge away from Eastpoint and and two bridges away from Apalachicola, Florida. The Arts Committee of the community, led by Bunnie Ison, produced the 2018 St. George island Paint-Out, an invitational plein air event. The artists participating were Catherine Hillis, Olena Babak, Craig Reynolds, Vernia Moore, Lynn Wilson, Debby Brienen, Randy Pitts, Janyce Loughridge, Randy Brienen, Karen Margulis, and Kelly Rysavy, Alison Menke, Natalia Andrea, Ed Nickerson, and me, Joan Vienot.. This was my first invitational plein air paint-out. I was a little worried because I thought that most of the other artists have been in invitational paint-outs before, and I had the impression that all were extremely talented. So it was to my surprise at the end of the week when I found one of my paintings, ” Marsh at Nick’s Hole” decorated with a 2nd place ribbon by judges Sandi Shaw of Pines and Palms Gallery of Thomasville, GA, and Ann Kozeliski of LeMoyne Gallery, Tallahassee, FL. The other winners were Alison Leigh Menke, Best in Show; and Natalia Andreeva,1st Place; and Ed Nickerson, 3rd Place.

Oil painting of the lime-green foliage and purple grasses of the marsh at Nick's Hole on St. George Island, FL

Awarded 2nd Place in 2018 St. George Island Paint-Out: “Marsh at Nick’s Hole”, 6×12, oils.

Oil painting o yellow beach flag on pole with stormy gray sky and waves in background, on St. George Island, FL

Yellow Flag Day

Day 1, Monday, April 9, 2018: On the first day of the St. George Island Paint-Out the weather was predicted to be rainy. I set up near on the boardwalk near a pavilion in St. George Island State Park. I was amused that despite the strong wind and boisterous surf, the warning flag for swimmers was merely a yellow caution flag. Where I live, a surf like that would have closed the waters — we would have had a red or even a double red flag. I decided that St. George Islanders must be a tough bunch. I painted the whipping flag and the surf, and called it “Yellow Flag Day”.

Oil painting of the massive primary dune at St. George Island State Park, FL

Spring Dune on St. George Island

After lunch on Day 1, I painted the big, protective, mother bear of a dune, the primary dune, looking eastward, in the St. George Island State Park. It peaked some distance from me so that I could not see it guarding the coast to the end of the island. The day continued to be blustery. That evening all of the artists were treated to dinner at the Clubhouse at the Plantation of St. George Island, and we were asked to bring the day’s paintings. I was floored buy the talent, skill, and expressiveness of my fellow artists. This was going to be a great week!

Old painting study for Shifting Sands, showing sand drifting over a boardwalk on St. George Island, Florida

Study for Shifting Sands

Ink sketch, study for Shifting Sands, St. George Island, FL

Sketch for Shifting Sands

Day 2, Tuesday, April 10, 2018: I left my host’s house at dark-thirty on Tuesday, and crossed the bridge from Apalachicola to St. George Island just as the sun was coming up. I stopped to catch a few photos of it, vowing to be there earlier the next day so that I could try to capture some of the color.

My host and fellow artist Lynn Wilson had mentioned the dunes in the Plantation, so on I went, on a mission to find them. I must have taken 100 photos — even though the day was fast becoming gray. One dune was drifting over a boardwalk, and I prepared to paint it by first sketching it and then painting a small 4×6 study of the basic shapes. And then the rain came. It got cold, and breezy, and I made a mad dash, lugging most of my gear back to my car before the torrential rain started. Time for a nice, big, late breakfast at The Beach Pit, one of our paint-out sponsors. When the rain stopped and I returned to my scene but it was not nearly as charming as it had been in the morning. So I changed my angle and painted the dune beside it, which had a huge scoop of out of it where the winter winds had blown the sand from the dune to now cover the boardwalk. I called it “Sands of Time.”

Oil painting of the scooped dune where the wind is carving it to drift over the adjacent boardwalk on St. George Island, FL

Sands of Time

Oil painting of the lime-green foliage and purple grasses of the marsh at Nick's Hole on St. George Island, FL

Marsh on St. George Island, also pictured above.

Day 3, Wednesday April 11, 2018: I had a half-day workshop for 3 people that lasted well into the afternoon. Painting while teaching is not the same for me as painting by myself — my demo’s rarely have the same immediacy, probably because I am explaining everything as I go along. The left half of our brain is the logical, sequential, linguistic side; the right side is the creative, intuitive, expressionistic side. The two sides are connected by the corpus colossum, so that the two halves can exchange and coordinate  information. I think my corpus colossum could use some calisthenics. I find running both halves of my brain at the same time to be quite a challenge. So as frustrating as it was, it wasn’t really a surprise to me that I was less than thrilled with my painting at the end of the workshop. It was excellent practice, but not a “keeper”, so I wiped it off. So I had no painting to show for my efforts that day. Frustrated, I walked out onto the dock at Nick’s Hole, and was greeted by my favorite scene on the island, the marsh grasses. I am always struck by the lime-green of the foliage in the barren sand where water sometimes floods in from the bayou. This year it is a particularly abundant, and begged to be painted. My painting of this scene was awarded second place by the event judges at the opening reception at the end of the week.

Day 4, Thursday, April 12, 2018: Finally, I got a chance to capture some of the color of the sky just as the sun was coming up. I painted one painting, and started a second one, but then it was too far into the morning — all of the color was gone. I would finish the second one the next day.

Oil painting of the sunrise at the south end of the bridge to St. George Island, Florida

First Light, St. George Island

 

Oil painting of the lighthouse on St. George Island, FL

St. George Light

Several of the artists offered demo’s or workshops throughout the week. On Thursday, Craig Reynolds demo’d the Lighthouse at the center of the island. I set up my easel to paint at the back of the class. I enjoyed the oh-so-subtle shadow wrapping around the right side of the white lighthouse.

Oil painting of the sunrise at the south end of the bridge to St. George Island, Florida

Sun-Up on St. George Island

Oil painting of the sunrise at the south end of the bridge to St. George Island, painted en plein air

Daybreak on St. George Island

Day 5, Friday, April 13, 2018: I finished my second sunrise from the previous day, and painted a third! I see neither the sunrise nor the sunset from my home, being surrounded by tall trees on the feeder creek to a bayou. Clearly I am thirsty for them. I predict some early morning walks on the beach in my future.

Oil painting in shades of yellow, of the lighthouse on St. george Island with blinding sunlight behind it

Seeing the Light

Friday was my birthday, and I can think of no better birthday present than to have spent this week painting on St. George Island! It defined happiness! Uncertain what to paint after the bright colors of sunrise, I drove to the center of the island, thinking I might do the street scene, but I looked up at the lighthouse and was blinded by the sun behind the lens and the catwalk railings. Why not give it a go, I thought. The resulting painting was definitely plein air but also was extremely expressive of my state of mind, without concern for the true color of the lighthouse but rather an attempt to show the blinding light. I was thrilled with the result. I have always been fairly disciplined in my plein air efforts, trying to be true to form and color, saving expressive painting for occasional studio works. This painting was for me a breath of fresh air.

Freshly inspired I drove back to the Plantation of St. George Island to again paint in the dunes area of Resort Village, but this time facing northward towards the developed area instead of south towards the beach. A path from the nearby houses in Resort Village passed through the wild on its way to the boardwalks to the beach. I set up my easel beside the path, my eye caught by two pines standing sentinel over the scrub. The late afternoon light was bright on the spring colors, and the shadows were casting beautiful blue-gray contours over the lay of the sand. Members of a family passed me a few times, and one, Carl, stopped and gave me his card when I was about to stop for the day, and he said, “I want that painting!” I told him it wasn’t finished yet, and he said that was OK, but he would be gone the next morning, to go ahead and finish it and to let him know when it was done. So I went to that evening’s Meet-and-Greet where I and Debby Brienen and Randy Brienen were the honored guests, and the next morning, Saturday, I finished “Carl’s Path”.

Oil painting of the landscape beside the path to the beach in Resort Village of the Plantation on St. George Island, FL

Carl’s Path

How can I sum this up? What a wonderful week! A mountain of thanks to Bunnie Ison and Buena Brown, and to my host and painting buddy Lynn Wilson, and to my resource person and Girl Friday, Barbara Iman, event judges Sandi Shaw, Pines and Palms Gallery, Thomasville, GA, and Ann Kozeliski, LeMoyne Arts, Tallahassee, FL, and to the Plantation of St. George Island, the visitor’s center, and the community supporters, and all the sponsors…

Community supporters:

St. George Island Paint Out Sponsors:

 

And Now, a Thirty-Day Challenge

February 3, 2018 in Figurative, Landscape, Other Art, Plein Air, Still Life

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.
Collage of the 30 Paintings in 30 Days artwork

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.

 

Oil painting of a stalk from a cotton plantOil painting of a stalk from a cotton plant

 

Day 30, 3/2/2018: Cotton Stalk, 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. 

Oil painting in progress, waves coming in from the Gulf of Mexico

Day 29, work in progress

Final version of oil painting completed in Dorothy Starbuck's workshop on breaking waves, previously posted in-progress

Finished version

 

Day 29, 3/1/18: Calming the Waters, 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.

 

 

 

 

Incomplete oil painting, study of Tupelo Pavilion in Seaside, FL, en plein air

Day 28, 2/18/18: unfinished Tupelo Pavilion Study, 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.

Mixed media work depicting two shorebirds, stamped patterns of spirals and scrubbed out paint, and asemic writing

Day 27, 2/27/18: Recovery Notes, 9×12 mixed media on Yupo paper. 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.

Oil painting of the twilight, with light starting to touch the clouds before sunrise on Jekyll Island, GA

Day 26, 2/26/18: Jekyll Island Twilight, 6×6 oils on Gessobord. 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.

Oil painting of an ancient live oak tree on Jekyll island, GA

Day 25, 2/25/18: Jekyll Island Crone 2, 16×20 oils on linen panel, 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. 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.

Oil painting of an ancient live oak tree on Jekyll Island, painted in Jason Sacran workshop

Watercolor study of a very old live oak tree on Jekyll Island in Georgia

Day 24, 2/24/18: Jekyll Island Crone 1, 16×20 oils on linen panel, and 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.

Study of the afternoon light on the marsh at the north end of Jekyll Island, GA

Day 23, 2/23/18: Jekyll Island Marsh, oils on canvas panel, a plein air study, painted in Jason Sacran workshop. Tomorrow we will be painting larger paintings of the same scene we studied today.

Graphite sketch of farmhouse sceneDay 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.

 

Watercolor and ink sketch of Tucker Bayou, Point Washington, FL, at sunset

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!  

Oil painting of abstracted design of pine roots exposed by erosion on the bay shoreline

Day 20, 2/20/18: Roots, 12×9 oils on aluminum panel, 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.

Example from exercise in glazing and scumbling in Mary Garrish workshop

Day 19, 2/19/18: Florida Dawn, mixed media on paper, an exercise in glazing and scumbling in the Mary Garrish workshop at The Artist Cove Studio-Gallery in Panama City, FL.

Oil painting of Fog on the Point on Beach Ave. in Panama City, FL

Day 18, 2/18/18: Fog on the Point Again, 6×12 oils on canvas panel, 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.

Oil painting of the lifting fog, on Beach Drive in Panama City, FL

 

Day 17, 2/17/18: Fog on the Point, 6×8 oils on canvas panel, 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.Oil painting of lily pads and a single water lily blossom, up close

Day 16, 2/16/2018: Mid-September Lily, 6×6 oils on Gessobord, a bittersweet painting from a photo I took on my last paddle with three dear friends last summer.

Day 15, 2/15/2018: Onion 1, 6×6 oils on Gessobord, painted from life. This onion kicked my butt. Painting an onion is much harder than you might think! I will paint an onion whenever I start feeling accomplished. It will humble me.

Oil painting of the Phantom of the Aqua being dug out of Miramar Beach where it drifted ashore after it was damaged by Hurricane Nate and its captain, without options, was rescued from it, far offshore

Later that afternoon they had turned the boat. Click for larger image.

Day 14, 2/14/18: Freeing the Phantom of the Aqua, 8×10 oils on canvas panel, painted en plein air. 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..

Oil painting of two pears on a gray background

Day 13, 2/13/18: Pears 1, 6×6 oils on Gessobord. I named this painting Pears 1, because I am certain there are many more pears in my future. I love the colors and shapes of pears!

Oil painting of a group of people seated at a table under a cloth umbrella

Day 12, 2/12/18: Dinner After Plein Air, 6×6 oils on hardboard. 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.

Palette knife oil painting of the dunes and Gulf of Mexico on a stormy day

Day 11, 2/11/2018: Storm Warning, 6×6 oils on canvas panel. 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.

Acrylic/mixed media painting, highly textured, earth colors

Day 10, 2/10/2018: The Phoenix Will Rise, 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!

 

An oil painting of Norah in pearls and a big hat, painted from life

Day 9, 2/9/2018: Norah, 12×9 oils on canvas, 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.

Acrylic mixed media painting completed in Jan Sitts workshop, using textures, tissue and gold foil, and netting.

Day 8. 2/8/2018: Champagne on the Emerald Coast, 16 x 20 acrylic mixed media on gallery-wrapped canvas, painting Jan Sitts acrylic / mixed media workshop at the Cultural Arts Alliance in Santa Rosa Beach, FL.

Acrylic painting of patterned stripes resembling waves in the Gulf of Mexico on the Emerald Coast

Day 7, 2/7/18: Emerald Sounds, 6×6 acrylic on canvas panel,painted in Jan Sitts workshop. The stripes resembling the waves of the Gulf of Mexico on the Emerald Coast of Northwest Florida, were created using multiple layers of paint.

Acrylic painting using Saran wrap technique, resulting in nonrepresentational piece subtly resembling a rocky forest

Day 6, 2/6/18: The Faeries’ Forest, 6×6 acrylic on panel, painted in Jan Sitts‘ experimental workshop hosted by the Cultural Arts Alliance. The visual texture on this piece was created using Saran wrap.

Acrylic / mixed media painting, non-objective, diagonal bands of the colors of the Emerald Coast of florida

Day 5, 2/5/18: Rip Tide, 6×6 acrylic / mixed media on Gessobord, 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.

Oil painting of Lake Powell and the Gulf of Mexico, including the old Camp Helen pier, with the sun shining rays through the clouds

Day 4, 2/4/18: Angel Light Over Lake Powell, 6×6 oils on Gessobord. 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.  😯

Oil painting of Gulf Islands National Seashore on Okaloosa Island

Day 3, 2/3/18: Bay View from Okaloosa Island, 6×6 oils on Gessobord. 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.

Day 2, 2/2/18: Figure with Red Coat, 6×6 oils on Gessobord. On Fridays I attend the Figurative Artists Atelier, a live-model painting session at the Foster Gallery. Usually we have an extended pose, but today we had a different pose every 20 minutes.Oil painting of sweet cat looking up, upside-down

Day 1, 2/1/18: Coraline, 6×6 oils on Gessobord. This is one of my two cats, a rescue cat I adopted from Alaqua Animal Refuge.

Thank you for visiting. Many of my paintings are available for purchase. Click on the image to see pricing and to contact me to purchase or to commission a painting.

Keep Saying Yes! Keep Growing!

December 30, 2017 in Landscape, Plein Air

Opportunities materialize when you keep saying “Yes!” It’s easier to say “Well, maybe, maybe not…”, but if I do that, inertia keeps me rooted. Saying “Yes!” moves me forward and opens doors.

Recent “yes’s” include…

  • Painting a demo December 16 at the Open House for The Joe Center for the Arts in Port St. Joe, Florida, which in May will be the epicenter of The Forgotten Coast en Plein Air and Plein Air South this year;
  • Accepting an invitation to speak to the Emerald Coast Meditation Society about the Zen of plein air painting at their regular third Thursday session, 6:30 PM, January 18, 2018, Christ the King Episcopal Church, 480 N. County Hwy 393, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459.
  • Agreeing to give a presentation on plein air painting to the local Library in their winter programs series, 10:00 AM, January 31, 2018, at The Coastal Branch (South Walton) Library, 437 Greenway Trail, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

I think that speaking about plein air painting to the meditation group will be the most challenging. It will require me to put some thoughts into words, about things I don’t share very much. This blog will help. The first time I went to a plein air event, I remember noticing that the painters seemed extraordinarily friendly and welcoming. Most people are cordial when you meet them, but the plein air painters as a group seemed more aware, more present, looking directly into my eyes, holding my gaze for longer. It may be that they were merely thinking about what colors they would use to create the exact shade of my blue eyes, but it felt like they were more tuned in, more mindful. With few exceptions, they emanated kindness. I now know these same characteristics describe many people who meditate regularly – most seem to have more present-moment awareness, are more engaged in the immediate, have good focus, more compassionate attitudes, and generally seem to be more self-accepting and thus more accepting of others. That is how I want to be described someday.

People we know intimately often project their own issues onto us and vice versa — it seems to be human nature to have an affinity for people with whom we can play out unhealed trauma or drama. If they don’t grow at the same rate as us, then these people pass out of our lives after the lessons are learned, because we no longer fit into the box that they have built for us, which at the time we willing went into but now have outgrown. Some people project onto everyone they meet, and those are the people who use generalities, like everyone is a certain way, and this always happens. But for everyone else we in our lives, they and we present in a way that demonstrates the stage of our spiritual and psychological development. That development, I believe, is the purpose of our life. We each develop spiritually and psychologically through the choices we make and the activities of our lives. There is no one right way or better way. Every way offers a necessity of sacrifice and eventually, a transcendence of suffering. And that is what I think those plein air painters were demonstrating.

As a representational outdoor landscape painter, I try to capture the beauty that I see, and paint it onto a small canvas in just two or three hours. The fact that time is a factor requires a lot of compromise, because the light/shadows change, the weather can worsen, I might discover that I am standing near an anthill, or someone can park a semi-truck in front of my scene. At some point along the way, a good painter must commit to one time, one arrangement of shadows and light, one impression, and try to represent that impression. Otherwise, they are constantly “chasing the light”. If a painter is terribly attached to the outcome of his effort, time alone will be a source of endless suffering. Likewise, so many other aspects of plein air painting can sorely test one’s spirit. For a long time after I started painting en plein air, every painting was an epic journey. About 20 minutes into it, I would find myself wondering whatever made me think that I could be a outdoor painter. I would descend into the chasm of despair as I soldiered on, frustrated by my incapability of rendering on the canvas anything even close to the beauty that I was seeing, perhaps questioning the value of my art degree, and maybe even my right to exist as a human on this planet. I would descend into the abyss, and somewhere near the bottom I would have to accept my effort for what it was, and thus forgive and accept myself. Eventually I would paint my way out again, working out my redemption as I went. I would stop painting only when my timer went off. As if that journey was not enough, I would willingly participate in what our painting group calls a “soft” critique, where we show our paintings to our fellow painters, another exercise in courage, humility, and non-attachment. We explain what our challenges were and then the braver artists will even ask if anyone has any suggestions, the ultimate act of vulnerability and trust. Some artists deprecate their own work first, before anyone else can, inviting consolation and reassurance. Others immediately defend their painting against the suggestions they just asked for. But most will listen, and perhaps receive a few good tips as a bonus for their labor. They get to be better painters. And along the way, they gain more ability to compromise, more commitment, self-forgiveness, self-acceptance, courage, humility, vulnerability, trust, compassion, and non-attachment.

These are the same benefits that we get from meditation. And that’s what I will talk about to the meditation group. A mindful approach to anything can yield these same results. It is by facing it head-on that we are able to transcend suffering.

And then we re-attach, putting our signature on our painting. Ha!

Below are some of my recent paintings. The first series is the preparation for my demo at The Joe Center for the Arts. I decided to use a painting I had painted en plein air shortly before. When I was doing the demo, I surrounded myself with my references: my value studies, my plein air painting, and my app’d photo and watercolor sketches where I had solved some temperature and contrast problems, so that I would remember everything that I had been thinking about. The demo was about 3/4 completed there at the Open House — with Christmas season upon us, I am forgiving myself for not finishing it yet.

Value sketches prior to painting en plein air

The plein air painting (click for larger version)

Photo of plein air painting, app’d to warm the palm near the focal area, and the scrub oak cooled and darkened behind the palm to give more contrast and set the oak behind the palm; trunks lightened.

Digital and watercolor sketch to bring out some of the lavender shadows and trunks, and enrichment of the warm ground colors and shapes to direct the eye to back the focal area

 

The following are three paintings I did on my regular weekly outings with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, and the last image is the cover for our end-of-year album for that group, a collection of the paintings the regular painters feel are their best. Click on any image to see a larger version, and click on the album cover to go to the ECPAP “Best of 2017” album. We are still collecting photos for that album.

Oil painting of the trees growing out from the high bank over Chula Vista Bayou in Ft. Walton Beach, FL Oil painting of the Festival of Trees at Grand Boulevard in Miramar Beach, FL, at Christmastime, 2017
Oil pain ting of craggy old tree at Glen Argyle Park, Niceville, FL Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters Best of 2017

And lastly, a photo of me painting the Martin Theater in Panama City, FL, during the Fringe Gallery’s “Everything Under $100” Sale. Photo by Julie Roberts Logsdon.

Goals, Objectives, and Challenges for the Coming Year

November 25, 2017 in General, Landscape, Plein Air

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. Learn to simplify, simplify, simplify!
  4. Figure out what appeals to me about paintings I admire, and then practice that — compositional design, color combinations, contrast, development of focal area, etc.
  5. 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.

Oil painting study of a palmetto bush

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.

Pencil and nupastel sketch of David Boyd at Plein Air South, Apalachicola, FL, 2017

Oil painting of older woman in sunday finery, painted en plein air at Plein Air South

These next two paintings were completed at recent weekly Wednesday morning plein air sessions with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters.

Oil painting of the horse pasture at Alaqua Animal Refuge, Freeport, FL, painted en plein air

Oil painting of Four O'Clocks at Oak Marina, Niceville, FL

This painting below was painted with the DeFuniak Springs group represented by artist Jackie Wagoner last weekend.

Oil painting of the flower garden outside the library in DeFuniak Springs, FL

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.

Oil painting of ethereal scene of sunset and a bridge

Oil painting of the gall colors on Mack Bayou, Santa Rosa Beach, FL, touched up from original painted in 2013

Oil painting of the grassy bayou, Point Washington, FL, retouched from original painted in 2013

Oil painting of the marsh at Sea Island, completely reworked since originally painted in 2013

Oil painting of the Pompano on dry land at Nick's Restaurant, Basin Bayou, FL, touched up, originally painted in 2014

Oil painting of a hibiscus bloom at Clay Garden Shop, Seagrove Beach, FL

Contact me if you are interested in any of these paintings.

 

 

 

 

 

A Wedding, Three Workshops, and Two Paint-Outs

November 18, 2017 in Landscape, Other Art, Photography, Plein Air

The last 8 weeks have been amazingly busy.

Oil Painting of Brian and Megan Robertson's First Dance

Brian and Megan’s First Dance

In September in my capacity as the 30A Wedding Painter, I painted a commission en plein air

Plein air painting of first dance at wedding, unfinished

Unfinished, 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.

Painting of the pelican statue at Ft. Walton Landing, used to demonstrate effective shape-making and atmospheric perspectiveI 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. Oil painting of Deer Leap Falls near Dawsonville, GeorgiaThat 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.

Billy’s Seafood, 11×14

 

Standing Vigil, 10×8

 

Boatyard Cat, 11×14

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.

Pathways Pond, Honorable Mention, Wet Room, CAA Flutterby Festival & Paint-Out

 

Nature Trail, Quickdraw Second Place, CAA Flutterby Festival & Paint-Out

 

Dawn Glow at Watersound Origins, 11×14

 

A Little Bit of Soul, 10×8


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.

 Oil painting of a sandpiper at water's edge  Acrylic pour on cradled wood panel, with seashells embedded

 

Community Awareness and Art Marketing for Plein Air Painting

September 17, 2017 in General, Landscape, Marketing, Plein Air

This fall I am investing my time in cultivating my community’s appreciation for plein air painting, as well as promoting my own work. Many people in my community have never heard of plein air painting, so that is taking extra effort. My local arts association, the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, is very supportive. The CAA will be adding a plein air paint-out to our existing Flutterby Festival at Watersound Origins here in Santa Rosa beach, FL, in November. I will be teaching a one-day workshop the day before the festival, the lesson being effective shape-making to start a plein air painting in a way that will offer a high likelihood of success.
Art marketers say that 20% of your time as an artist should be spent on marketing. I am spending more than 20% of my art energy right now, but I expect it to level off. I actually had intended for last year, my third year of plein air painting, to be my marketing year. The transition and adjustment after selling my pool service business took more time than I had anticipated.
As I see it, the main task is the creation of opportunities for press releases and posts on social media. To accomplish that, I have filled my calendar for the next 6 weeks.
The first event coming up is thanks to an avid supporter of the arts in my area. Cheryl Gray, herself an artist, lines up artists to show their work in the local library. I will be showing my work during the months of October and November. Cheryl sends out press releases to local media. I made my own postcard to give out printed announcements to a few people, and I posted it on Facebook and created a Facebook event. I will send a press release to several other media in my community. I regard the press releases to be of equal importance or even greater importance than the actual exhibit, because public awareness of plein air painting is my primary goal.
This-coming weekend I will paint at a wedding reception, and next week I will be framing paintings for the library exhibit. Somewhere during that time I would like to change out and replace the paintings hanging in the lobby of Northwest Florida State College’s South Walton Center. My local weekly painting group, the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters, is showing plein air paintings there. My goal with that exhibit is to foster awareness and appreciation within the high school and college students attending there.
The first week of October I will be taking another painting workshop in Dahlonega, Georgia, with my mentor, Morgan Samuel Price. I want to continue to challenge myself to paint better.
The second weekend of October I will paint on-site at the library during the annual book sale, during my exhibit. The third weekend of October I will teach the same one-day workshop as I will be teaching in November, but for the arts association in the neighboring county, the Arts and Design Society of Ft. Walton Beach, FL.
The first weekend in November I will participate in a painting event in Gulf Shores, AL, and the second weekend of November will be the CAA’s Flutterby Festival and Paint-Out.
Hopefully I can breathe after that. It’s exciting, to have so many art events and activities lined up. This past year was the first year that I kept track of art expenses, after I sold my career pool service business, and as I was expecting, I spent more than I earned. It would be nice to break even this year. When I achieve that, I should be able to cut back on my promotional efforts, for the recommended 20% of my time.