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Representation at Bohlert Massey Interiors — Figurative Works

Iphoto1n early March I received an email from Susan Bohlert Smith, which began “I love your figure drawings.”  The email turned out to be an offer to show my drawings at Bohlert Massey Interiors.  Bohlert Massey is in the Village of South Walton in Seacrest, an upscale development next to Rosemary Beach, Florida.

I brought about 15 or 20 figure drawings to my first meeting with Susan that Saturday, and discovered that she had already printed many of them from my website as references for the type of work she liked.  The next morning she came over to my home/studio and went through my entire inventory of figurative work, leaving with a dozen pieces she wanted to showcase, and directing me to produce more in that same style.  Fortunately, the style she liked was my favorite way of working, using white nupastel and graphite on toned paper, and leaving less important parts of the piece undrawn.  (So twist my arm!!!)

The drawings are mostly of nudes in various poses, most of them drawn at Studio b when it was located in Alys Beach.  (For those of you who are asking, Studio b is presently in between locations — stay tuned.)

2011-1228 Reclining with twist 2011-1109 Reclining on back 2012-0118 Standing 2011-0809 Reclining
2012-0118 Reclining arched back 2011-1228 Reclining with arch 2011-1109 Reclining on side 2011-1109 Reclining tucked, arm out - gestural
2011-0511 Reclining Female 2011-1019 Standing, looking away 2011-0302 Seated showing back No URL

Figure drawing, or life drawing, as it is known in the art world, excites me as much as plein air painting, both genres produced in the moment, from direct perception of the immediate subject.  Both are constrained by time, plein air painting by the changing light and weather, and life drawing by the duration of the pose, requiring complete, undistracted focus of the artist.

Bohlert Massey Interiors is my sole representation for figurative work on Scenic Highway 30A in South Walton County, Northwest Florida.  They will be having a Grand Re-Opening later this summer.  Check out a portfolio of Bohlert Massey Interiors at http://www.bohlertmassey.com/portfolio.cfm.

Can you say EXCITED ABOUT THIS?  That would be ME!

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Essential Character of a Place: Plein Air Nature Trail

Oil painting of Nature Trail at Grayton Beach State Park

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

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

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

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

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

Oil painting of Nature Trail at Grayton Beach State Park

 

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After a Month Away, Returning to Figure Drawing

It was exhilarating, returning to figure drawing after more than a month.  Colleen Duffley, owner of Studio b, has been in Italy and other exotic places fulfilling her professional photography obligations.

I too have been elsewhere, as my last blog post indicated, including two weeks in British Columbia.  So getting out the chalk and paper and easel and coming back to the Studio was like the proverbial oasis in the desert!

I wasn’t too rusty, considering how long it had been, because I had been keeping up with my daily doodling, but more than that, I think what helped me stay in tune was my continuous practice of photography, which is a great tool for maintaining my “eye” and my feeling for composition.

The model this week had amazing turquoise hair,  and it demanded to be noticed.  As it happens, I have a number of sticks of Nupastel of that exact color, which I had bought expecting eventually to use in background imagery with the colors of the Gulf of Mexico here in Northwest Florida where I live.  The Gulf is an impossible blue-green, which looks unbelievable whenever I have used that color in my art, but which is absolutely correct for the color of the model’s hair.

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

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The Importance of Warming Up in Figure Drawing

I need to warm-up for a little while before my efforts at figure drawing start to flow naturally.  During the initial warm-up period, I try to capture the general directional line of the model, and a few of the light and dark patterns, or perhaps some of the essential contours or textures.  Often it feels like I am drawing a stick figure, just trying to get the general angles and proportions correct.  I draw fast, because our warm-up drawings start with 30-second or 1-minute or two-minute poses.  The model often takes slightly off-balance or less comfortable poses during the warm-up period, knowing that he or she doesn’t have to hold them for long.  I find that effort on the part of the model inspiring, and it motivates me to try harder.  I usually use the broad side of a chalky medium for the warm-up drawings, sometimes even drawing with white nupastel, which helps me to see where the light is striking the model, though white alone usually doesn’t photograph well enough to post here in my blog.  I draw with minimal concern for accuracy, sometimes merely trying to switch gears, from the left-brained thinking about my day-job as I drove to the session, to the right-brain activity of figure drawing.  Drawing is first of all a physical activity, so like an athlete, an artist needs to work at it a little in order to coordinate the hand with the eye, and a period of warm-up drawings helps with that.

As you can see by the examples below, warm-up gestures have strange lines, curves going the wrong direction, places that get overdeveloped, and other places not drawn at all, wrong proportions, and yet an undeniable essence of the figure.  These are warm-up gestures of the same pose from this past week’s figure drawing session at Studio b:  one by me, one by Nancy Nichols Williams, and one by Steve Wagner.

Joan Vienot

Nancy Williams

Steve Wagner

I enjoy the time spent warming-up, but 2-minutes is always too short.  But then too, 5 minutes is too short, and so is 20 minutes, and come to think of it, rarely is a pose long enough for me to feel like I actually finished!  The next drawings include another of my warm-up gestures, and then two longer drawings, perhaps 20-minutes or 30 minutes.  I left early from this session, exhausted from teaching all day, the 2nd of a 2½ day crash-course that I teach at a nearby college, certifying swimming pool operators to meet health department requirements.

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

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Studio b.’s New Location

Those of you following my work know that I have been attending the weekly figure drawing sessions at Studio b.  On Easter Sunday, 2012, the owner, Colleen Duffley, has just posted the design for the new venue, which will be constructed out of re-purposed shipping containers, true to the b’s intent, to be creative with immediately available resources.  It will be located in Watersound, Florida, which is on Scenic Highway 30A, approximately 2½ miles west of the previous location.  The temporary location, where we are having the figure drawing sessions, is in Watersound North, which is on North Watersound Parkway, 1 block north of US 98.  Below is a sketch of the new venue.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150719620424660&set=a.89768744659.80226.53523929659&type=1&theater
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Figure Drawing in a New Venue

It was interesting to draw in a new location last week.  Studio b. has moved to a nearby community, and the room was filled with unsorted moving boxes, furniture, and art.  The ordered disarray appealed to me.  The ambience at the new location is much warmer, with rich woods instead of cold plaster and tile, and with plentiful windows which let in light from every angle.  I was in heaven during the warm-up drawings, the low sun adding warm tones.  The model chose her own poses during the shorter warm-up sets.  Light from the multiple sources put complex highlights and subtle double shadows on the model’s skin.  As usual, most of the short poses were standing poses or twisting poses, perhaps even a little off-balance, which would be too hard to hold for any duration.  The longer poses were as always,  more stable as a matter of compassion for the model.

For the final pose, the model sat on the stairway to the second floor, where the single light source simplified the shadow patterns.  I sat at the base of the stairs where I could see her from that unusual vantage point.  What interested me the most was the exposed underside of her chin and her upturned nose.  The foreshortening had to be kept subtle even though it felt extreme, with her arm being larger because of its proximity to me.

I am happy with the end result in every respect except for one — it doesn’t look very much like the actual model!  Generally speaking, when drawing a portrait I count it a success if the positions of the eyes, nose, and mouth seem parallel.  Maybe if I practiced portraiture more often, I would be able to capture the likeness better.

It’s a challenge to create something someone might want to hang in their home.  It seems like the drawing either needs to wow the viewer with technical craftsmanship or else it needs to be someone they know or to remind them of someone they know.  In the end, I draw for my own pleasure and compulsion, trying to simplify what I see, to capture the essential character of the person or the expression I interpreted without concern for whether someone else will like it.

At left is a photo of me making the drawing posted above.

I am excited to announce that a few pieces of my art will be hanging in the lobby/reception area of the South Walton Center of Northwest Florida State College here in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.  The opening reception will be Friday, April 6, 2012, from 5:00 to 7:00 PM.  Titled “A Passion for Art”, the show spotlights the members of the A+Art Committee which serves under the umbrella of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County.  The show exhibits works by Charlotte Arnold, Lauren Carvalho, Betty Cork, Miffie Hollyday, Susan Lucas, Mike McCarty, Robin Wiesneth, and me, Joan Vienot.  The show will close May 15, 2012.

 

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

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Time Warp — Where’ve I Been?

What a whirlwind my life has been for the past month or so.  In my “day-job,” I own and manage a service business which supports the local tourist industry.  Here in Northwest Florida, that translates to being incredibly busy for the 5 weeks of high school and college spring breaks, when families vacation here, and then from late May to mid-August, again coinciding with school summer vacations.  Many companies here begin hiring for the season in February, and as everyone gears up for the onslaught of tourists, seasonal high-wage jobs attract employees away from the more moderately paid year-round jobs such as my company offers.  Consequently, even though I guarantee 40 hours a week through-out the whole winter season, I sometimes lose employees to higher-paying jobs in the spring.  So far this year I’ve lost 2, which is 15% of my staff.  Losing even one employee is unsettling, with the rest of the staff making up the difference in the workload while a new employee is being trained.  I’ve been busier than usual with other activities as well.  My efforts at maintaining inner peace by meditation, working out, and a healthy lifestyle, are taxed by stress, and I think my art reflects that.

All that is introduction to my confession that I wasn’t as focused at the most recent session of figure drawing at Studio b. as I would like to have been.  The group of artists was energized, and there was a lot of activity downstairs below our drawing studio, as Colleen Duffley, owner of Studio b., coordinated the packing for transport to the new location.  Even with all of that going on, she came upstairs to serve us whatever we wanted to drink.  So the environment was supportive, but nevertheless, I struggled with my drawings.

We ran through the usual warm-up gestures and worked our way up to 20- or 30-minute poses by the end of the 2½ hours.  Following are some of my efforts.

   
 

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

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Studio b. presents Light Impressions in Telluride, Colorado

Studio b. was the primary sponsor at the TEDx simulcast presentation in Telluride, Colorado last week.  I had the pleasure of accompanying owner Colleen Duffley and her assistant Garrett Griffis, for the installation of Light Impressions and for  TEDx-Telluride at the Michael Palm Theater.  In the unscripted interview below, Colleen explains the concept of Studio b. and the motivation and production of the Light Impressions exhibit to videographer Sue Rostvold.

While in Telluride, I visited most of the art galleries.  I particularly enjoyed the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art where I thought the graphite drawings and mixed media drawings by Bernie Fuchs are even more sensitive than his beautiful paintings, and Christian Burchard‘s sliced wood sculptures are so very interesting, and at Lustre Gallery, Steve & Katia Pflipsen’s glass and metal works are amazing.  But I have to say the most inspiring work is at Stronghouse Studios, where I met artist Elaine Fischer (except we talked about her issues as a County Commissioner of  San Miguel County instead of her art).  At Stronghouse I saw some of Judy Haas‘ amazing fractals, which have a faceted filter overlay such that they change to a different image as you pass by them.  And Sasha took me across the street to the Stronghouse Gallery, an eclectic collection of incredibly interesting and remarkably affordable art, fabric arts in particular.  My favorite works overall were at the Ah Haa School for the Arts, a series of paintings by Corinne Scheman depicting various interpretations and representations of Stonehenge.  Her works illustrated an excellent command of color.

I did no sketching myself, last week, instead using my camera to try to capture some of the winter wonderland of Telluride.  Here are a few examples.

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Letting Go

It was difficult to let go of whatever was on my mind so I could draw last night.  The room at Studio b. was already set up when I got there, so there really was no reason for me not to be able to clear my mind.  Garrett had my easel standing where I usually stand, and he already had the model’s stand set up, with a tip jar put out, and several chairs were set up around the room for other artists.  Music was playing, as always.

We didn’t warm up quite as long as we usually do, because one of the artists was going to have to leave early, so we jumped right into some longer poses after only four 2-minute warm-ups.  But I don’t think that was the issue — I just kept an undercurrent of distraction going the whole night, about nothing of any consequence.

I wasn’t particularly happy with my drawings, so for the last pose I took out my 5″ x 7″ watercolor blocks and made a couple of small pen-and-ink-wash drawings with water soluble ink.  I made 2 drawings from one half-hour pose.  They are pictured above.

My other drawings are pictured below.

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

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Figure Drawing with Music in my Head

The room was quiet as we drew at Studio b. this week.  The model was extraordinary, performing poses during our one-minute and three-minute warm-up period that would have taxed an accomplished yogi.  We warmed up with gesture drawings for about half an hour, before drawing a few 10 and 20 minute poses, and then finally a 45 minute pose.  I’ve been enjoying a combination of white nupastel with black graphite for a while now, but in my final drawing I opted for a blue pencil with the white nupastel, at left.  The form was very simple from my vantage point, for the most part being only a silhouette with very little modeling.  Her shoulder blade was prominent, and there was a highlight on the muscle edging her spine, so I put a little more emphasis on her hair and the fabric she was lying on, to provide textural contrast.

The night before, I had listened to Amber Rubarth performing there at Studio b., in the courtyard below our figure drawing room.  Her music was still playing in my head as I drew.  I videotaped a few of her songs, but I don’t yet know how to upload them from my whiz-bang new iPhone, so here’s a link to a previous performance by Amber:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Mn9VtIFM0g.

I made a mistake on the drawing pictured at right, something I know I should never do.  I had torn a corner of the page off, to give to another artist who wanted to order the kind of paper I was using.  Then I kept that paper, to draw on.  I’d been carrying it around for several weeks, and last night I decided to draw on it, without trimming off the torn corner.  I used the rest of the borders as my boundaries, treating the torn corner as if it wasn’t torn.  Now that the drawing is completed, I see that I would have to mat out or trim off that torn corner, and with it, lose other essential parts of the drawing.  Since there is excess paper on another side, I think a good framer might be able to patch it, but the patch would show, upon close inspection.  So I have priced it as a sketch, even though the drawing turned out exactly as I wanted it.  Lesson learned, hopefully — If a corner is missing, always trim the paper to square up that corner before using it.

If you are interested in having any of my drawings or sketches, contact me on the contact form through this website.