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I’ve Moved to Maine!

Completely upending my life, I’ve moved to Maine, an area of the country where I know no one nearby and the weather is hostile for at least half of the year, and I am so thrilled to be here! The beauty of the area makes up for any perceived obstacles.

My mission is to paint the rocky coastline. The contrast between the hard, seemingly immovable rocky shore, and the fluidity of the ocean is a visual dynamic that excites me as an artist and easily extends to metaphors for life and spirituality.

I’ve been exploring the area while waiting for my furniture to travel the 1600 miles from my previous home of 42 years in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, to Trenton, Maine, where I have rented an apartment. Most of my explorations have been to the local big box stores for essentials like food, doormats (it rains a lot here), shower curtains, shelf liner, and such, the latter all nicely packed in who knows which box in the moving truck.

Shoreline at Bass Harbor Head Light

My trip to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to register my car in Maine was thwarted by my title being on the moving van instead of in the packet of important papers I brought with me. I remembered my cat Rafiki’s rabies vaccination certificate, but not my car title! Other efforts to become a legitimate Mainer were similarly blocked by not having enough documentation. No worries, they give you 30 days to make those changes.

I did buy an outdoor porch chair, which I am using in my living room until my furniture gets here — my campstools just weren’t adequate for lengthy sitting at the computer on rainy and foggy days when I’ve stayed home. I’ll be out and about in less than ideal weather soon enough, but I’d rather not right now when not knowing exactly where I’m going is complication enough.

On Thursday of this week, a very pretty day, I made it over to the lighthouse at Bass Harbor Head, pictured at left. I stayed there a good while, just drinking it in, and shooting a few photos.

While on that jaunt, I also found the ArtWaves Community Art Center, which I had joined earlier this year. I happened in on their figure drawing session, an art activity that I feel is an indicator of the sophistication of the artists in an area, figure drawing being such a difficult and humbling practice. I met Liz Cutler, prior Executive Director for this nonprofit, who was very welcoming and offered me supplies and a drawing board if I wanted to join them. I had dressed for outdoor weather, so I will join them another week. But I instantly felt at home, and Liz’s welcome confirmed my expectation that wherever I move, when I find artists, I immediately have community.

I also found the sweetest country store, Town Hill Market, open M-F through the winter, and Saturdays too in the summer. I picked up two pieces of fresh-made pizza and some delicious candied ginger, yum! Best of all, it’s only 12 minutes from my home in Trenton and just a short walk from ArtWaves!

These places are on Mount Desert Island, with Bar Harbor as their address.

On my return, I turned at the sign for the Bass Harbor Terminal for the ferry to Swan’s Island, but I was distracted by the visuals of a nearby dock piled high with lobster traps hauled in for the season. The Ferry Terminal will still be there next time I go to that side of Mount Desert Island. Maybe I will ride it over just for the fun of it, a 45-minute schedule interval, $12.50 for off-season walk-on.

I was entertained by a local selling a small outboard boat. Pushing it into the water for the buyer to try it out, he got it stuck on “the only rock on the beach for it to ‘fetch’ on”. I’ve added that to my new vocabulary list.

Since I had been passing signs all afternoon saying “Entrance Pass Must Be Displayed”, I thought I had better go see what that entailed. No one from the park service had ticketed me, but I figured it was just a matter of time.

I made my way to the Hull’s Cove Visitor Center for Acadia National Park, walked up the 52 steps from the parking lot (they warn you), and met the nicest ranger who explained that my National Parks Senior Pass was all I needed, and he gave me a plastic hanger to mount it in so I could hang it on my mirror. While there, I bought a book on the geology of Mount Desert Island — might as well try to learn a little something about the rocks I will be painting!

Only two more days before I get my furniture! Silly me, ever the optimist, I thought the movers would come at the beginning of the time-window they gave, and certainly by the end of it, which was yesterday! I am a good camper, but I didn’t pack for what has turned out to be an 11-day adventure!

I must say I’ve rather enjoyed the peace and quiet of this transition though, sort of a monastic existence, without TV and creature comforts, and with the jaw-dropping gorgeousness of the National Park only minutes away. Even so, I am not inclined to get out much during weathery days. I actually love solitude, and have enjoyed my little private forays around the apartment complex, especially the well-groomed 1-mile nature trail right here on the complex property. The video at left shows a view from the trail, a pretty creek resulting from a gully-washer of a rainstorm last Sunday.

And what am I reading? More Than Meets the Eye — Exploring Nature and Loss on the Coast of Maine, by Margie Patlak.

Stay tuned for art yet to be made!

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Onward to Maine? Hurry Up and Wait

In March 2022 I returned to Florida from my two-month winter adventure in Maine, and started checking off items on my catch-up list.

But three weeks after my return, while innocently crossing the parking lot at the grocery store, I felt something pop at the back of my “good” knee. My orthopedist gave me the bad news: I had torn loose my medial meniscus root. My only guess is that it had just been hanging on by a thread. If I didn’t have it repaired, I would need a new knee inside of a year. He scheduled surgery to repair it. Argh! What a shock to my charmed life! I have run into obstacles before, but being non-weight-bearing turned out to be Full Stop for me. (Picture me bumping around backwards seated on a rolling walker for 6 weeks.) Stuck in my second-floor apartment, and having to stand on only one leg to do anything made a chore of everything and it made Joan quite the dull girl. Following that adventure, rehabilitation has felt like an eternity. I am out of the brace and have finished my work with the physical therapist, and am now working on strength and endurance, and slowly rebuilding cardio by swimming, because I am not yet walking very fast. Hopefully I soon will have a more even gait and able to stand for longer periods of time so that I can return to painting outdoors.

This drama delayed my plans. Instead of early summer, my move to Downeast Maine now will be in mid-October. I never really adapted to being laid up, staying disgruntled most of the time. I kept my dream alive by reviewing my hundreds of photos, and drooling over other artists’ rocky shoreline paintings on Instagram. Now finally, I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, able to stand for short periods, and I have started boxing things up. The first things to be packed, and happily, were my crutches, cane, walker, compression wraps, and my elevated toilet seat! Those will go in the far back corner of the basement in the duplex apartment I will be renting. And as of yesterday, except for what is actually on my walls, all of my loose paintings are carefully packed and ready for the movers, including my collection of other artists’ work. This week I hope to get started on my storage unit.

I thought I would post photos of a few studies I painted a year ago at an artists retreat hosted by Mary Erickson in Port Clyde, Maine. I have these hanging in my “visioning corner” in my dining nook along with the works in my last blog post.

Marshall Point Lighthouse, Port Clyde, Maine, 6×12
View from Eight Bells, Port Clyde, Maine, 9×12 oils
Cove at Artists Retreat, Port Clyde, Maine, 9×12 oils
Leeward Lean, Port Clyde, Maine, 6×12 oils
Pond Rocks Study, Port Clyde, Maine, 8×10 oils
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Adjust, Adapt, Accommodate – Again

My life began taking a radical turn in a new direction a year ago while I was taking a course mentored by Dr. Michelle Gordon. The misfortune of having my official “launch” as a serious artist foiled by the pandemic in 2020 had stalled me, and Dr. Gordon’s program proved to be a good reset. The segment on healthy thinking included a fun exercise, visualizing my ideal day. I knew where this was going to go — if I could picture my ideal day, then I could start living it now, at least the parts that could immediately be put into action!

I pictured living in a grand house on a grassy cliff with giant windows looking out to sea. The view from the side windows would be the rocky cliffs receding into the distance. There would be a path down to the beach so I could easily transport my plein air painting supplies on my electric cart. The gorgeous scenery would provide infinite inspiration. Art exhibits, live theater and the symphony would be in town a mere 10 or 20 minutes away, and my daily routine would include a walk on a trail near the road. Evenings would be filled with laughter and camaraderie of small gatherings of fellow creatives sharing dinner with me, the meal prepared by my award-winning chef of course. To cement the visualization, I got out a slatted, cradled wood panel that I had picked up on a whim, and I painted the imaginary view from my house looking out to sea, and a few weeks later I painted the view I was visualizing through the side window, the receding line of cliffs. Without my knowing it, the mysterious wheels of change were already starting to turn, as I was being pulled towards my visualization. On one of my walks near my home in Northwest Florida I even caught myself experiencing the happiness of being in that ideal place — one part of my road actually was lined with the same type of grasses I imagined would be on the path through the grassy cliff!

Visualizing my ideal home: “View from the Grassy Cliff”
Visualizing my ideal home: “Side View from the Grassy Cliff”

I had no idea where this coastal cliff might be, but that detail did not matter. What would be fulfilling to me was to be in an area of exciting, endless inspiration to paint. After living for 40 years on the beautiful but flat Emerald Coast, I hungered for more dramatic landscape, scenes with a lot of angles and contrast; water crashing on sharp rocks would fit the bill. I spent a lot of time looking at the US coastline on Google Maps, looking for rocky shores with easy access, and then image-searching those areas. Northern California is supremely beautiful, as is the Pacific Northwest. But then I looked at other factors, like climate, wildfire and wind. I have vacationed on the jaw-droppingly beautiful coasts of Maine and Nova Scotia, so I started thinking more and more about New England, even though the winter might be unappealing.

Meanwhile, back to reality… A dearly departed friend used to say, “When uncertain, chop wood and carry water.” In other words, maintain routine, do your chores. For me, the chores that needed doing were necessary repairs on my house, postponed until I retired from my non-art career, and now it was time to take care of them. So, with the experienced guidance and support of my real estate friends Kim and Keen, I repaired and renovated my house and my studio and had the slightly wild-looking yard cleaned up. My contractors re-shaped the trees, graveled the driveway and carport, installed a water feature for my geothermal heat-pump, and replaced a few aging appliances. Kim and Keen then sold my house for me and my dream became a possibility.

That dream has evolved — I would like to spend the next productive part of my life learning to paint gorgeous scenery in different parts of the country — first maybe two years on the rocky coastline in New England, and then maybe a couple of years painting the spires and arches around Moab, and then possibly northern California or the Pacific Northwest, and perhaps down around Sedona or north to Glacier National Park, just letting my heart call me to the next beautiful place to paint. Or I could fall in love with the first area I go and decide to put down roots, who knows! Colorado will always be home because my family lives there, and I grew up there.

And now, just one year after visualizing my ideal life, here I am, in Maine. Actually I am here for only two months, January and February, to test my tolerance for the worst of the winter weather before I commit to moving here, and to do recon on longterm rentals. I’ve been staying in South Portland, Maine, for the month of January, exploring the scenic coast here and enjoying a little of what this sweet area has to offer. If you follow me on my personal Facebook Page, you know that I have not found winter to be a deal-breaker. February will include a widening of my circles as I look for longterm rental options. Next week I will drive up to Acadia National Park. At the end of February, I will return to my apartment in Florida to gather up my life. On the way home I will look at the coast of New Hampshire and then Cape Ann in Massachusetts.

Stay tuned to follow my adventures in this giant, intentional upheaval of my life.

And, if you have a home on a grassy cliff overlooking the sea somewhere, I would be happy to discuss house-sitting for you, if my cat Rafiki approves!

Photo of Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Rafiki

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Forgotten Coast en Plein Air 2019: Part 3

Florida’s Finest Ambassador and Artist-in-Residence

An exhibit of paintings by Joan Vienot, Artist-in-Residence, Forgotten Coast en Plein Air
I have been back and forth all spring between my Santa Rosa Beach, FL, home and Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe, Cape San Blas, St. George Island, Eastpoint and Carrabelle, as the 2019 Artist-in-Residence for the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air, and finally the event has arrived. My paintings are hung, and everyone is invited! Many of my paintings are scenes you may recognize. The one in this invitation is from the wildfire area in Eastpoint. I will be posting my residency paintings in Part 4, along with a short description on each, as to why I feel it was on message for my assigned theme, Recovery in the Natural Environment, which I subtitled Hope.
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Forgotten Coast en Plein Air 2019: Part 2

Florida’s Finest Ambassador and Artist-in-Residence

“Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.” ~John Muir

I was honored to be invited to be the Artist-in-Residence for the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air this spring. My artist residency is split into two parts over three weeks. I spent 4 days on the Forgotten Coast of Florida last week and I will spend another 3 days there again next week, continuing to study and to paint the 2019 theme for Forgotten Coast en Plein Air, which is “Recovery in the Natural Environment” relative to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael in October of 2018. My personal approach to this project focuses on Hope.

I am hosted by a sweet couple, George and Maggie Jones on Cape San Blas, just a few miles south of St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. They didn’t see much of me while I was there last week because I was out every day, observing, painting, photographing, and absorbing, from first light until sunset.

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Forgotten Coast en Plein Air 2019: Part 1

Florida’s Finest Ambassador and Artist-in-Residence

Every year the Forgotten Coast Cultural Coalition hosts a plein air painting event, inviting twenty professional artists to paint the area of Northwest Florida known as the Forgotten Coast. It includes the communities of Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe, Cape San Blas, Indian Pass, Apalachicola, Eastpoint, St. George Island, and Carrabelle. On October 10, 2018, the Forgotten Coast was hit hard by Hurricane Michael. The City of Mexico Beach was decimated, and the surrounding communities also were heavily impacted. The theme for this year’s annual Forgotten Coast en Plein Air event will focus on the natural environment as it recovers from the impact of the Hurricane.

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Presenting at the 2019 Florida Chautauqua Assembly

Joan Vienot discusses student work at the end of a plein air painting workshop at the 2016 Florida Chautauqua Assembly.

This week, January 24-27, 2019, the city of DeFuniak Springs in Northwest Florida will again host the Florida Chautauqua Assembly, a 4-day educational program which this year is themed “A Journey Into Main Street America”. Displays and exhibits will surround the the nearly circular spring-fed lake in the center of town, and presentations will be given at local churches and at Northwest Florida State College Chautauqua Center. I am a member of the volunteer faculty, tasked with giving a presentation on the subject of plein air painting.

Titled An Affair with Plein Air – Painting from the Outside In, my session description states “the practice of painting scenes from life, outdoors, is the biggest art movement in history, and it is happening now! Accomplished artists find that painting outdoors, in the changing light and under changing weather conditions, rapidly improves their perception and artistic decision-making, and this carries over to their studio-practice. Beginners and non-artists find increased levels of present-moment-awareness, satisfaction and serenity akin to the benefits of meditation.

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Plein Air on the World’s Most Beautiful Beach

Dr. Steven Leatherman, also known as Dr. Beach, rates the best beaches in the world every year, using 50 criteria. Grayton Beach, Florida, has been Number One at least once and in the top ten several times. That would be no surprise to anyone who has seen this beach. The reflective white quartz sand consists of small grains with a texture as smooth as sugar, so fine that it crunches and squeaks underfoot like very cold snow. Under the blue sea of the Gulf of Mexico, the white sand bottom reflects turquoise, punctuated by an emerald streak where the sand bar offshore rises to within 10′ of the surface. On days like last Wednesday, you would never know that those same waters could house the fury of a hurricane, like the one last month that destroyed most of Panama City, Mexico Beach, and Port St. Joe, the destruction starting a mere 20 miles east of Grayton Beach. Continue reading Plein Air on the World’s Most Beautiful Beach

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Just Plein Fun and Other Autumn Adventures

This post will have to be more pictures than writing — everything has been moving so fast I haven’t taken enough time to reflect on it all! First, of course, the effects of Hurricane Michael are still heavy upon my neighboring communities, along the coastal towns from Panama City to St. George Island and further, and all points north of there. The fundraiser started by Larry Moore and managed by Denise Rose and team, “Operation Fundstorm”, begun with the hope of raising a mere $10,000, actually raised over $117,000! More than 200 artists donated paintings which then were auctioned online over the course of one week, with 100% of the proceeds going to provide hurricane relief on the Forgotten Coast. I am thrilled to have been a contributing artist, with “Seeing the Light”, at left.

The first week of November, I hung 20 of my paintings at Artful Things in Niceville, FL, where they will be exhibited through December 2018. That same week I also was juried into the Foster Gallery at the Ruskin Place Artist Colony, in Seaside, FL. I have 14 works showing there, through the first week of February. The Foster at Ruskin is the second branch of the Foster Gallery, an artist collective organized by the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County. Upcoming dates are as follows:

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

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.

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