In a dispassionate sense, plein air painting is documentation of what the artist sees and experiences. I’ve heard workshop instructors use the word documentation. I have used the word to describe the business of keeping records, the primary purpose being to have a defense if someone were to question actions taken. In business, record-keeping is such a necessary evil, that it is difficult to apply the same word to something so joyful as plein air painting. For the most part, I am a truth-seeker, not just about what I see, but about what I perceive, stretching from the mundane to the eternal questions of the universe, of which many are closer to being answered by the time a plein air painting is finished!
Sometimes I like to sit with a plein air painting after I bring it home, and ponder whether or not I want to add a detail or two in the studio, to improve the composition, or the legibility, or the impact. Usually I leave it as is, preferring the spontaneity of expression to accuracy or finesse.
Below is an 8 x 10 I painted yesterday evening, in our county seat, DeFuniak Springs, Florida. There is an old clock on the street corner, with the name of the bank cast into its housing, that fascinated me, with the evening light creating an interesting combination of oddly colorful pastels in the background building and the street. The colors were particularly appealing to me. As sundown approached, the yellows and pinks became more and more intense. It was fun — I would like to go back and paint this scene again.
Earlier in the week I painted with the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters at Eden Gardens State Park in Point Washington, Florida. It is one of our favorite places to paint, with a restored antebellum mansion central to the gardens and massive, Spanish-moss bedecked live oak trees. We had received a good bit of rain as a tropical storm passed south of us in the Gulf of Mexico, and that rain revived the resurrection fern decorating the live oak trees with bright yellow-green new growth. The day was clear but the summer heat made it seem hazy, so I avoided the temptation to detail anything, and instead let the awkward shapes of the trees merely serve as a framework for the fern.
I live on a gorgeous section of the Gulf Coast, with beaches of sugar-white sand so fine it squeaks underfoot like dry snow. This mansion at Eden Gardens is second only to the beach, as a popular venue for weddings. I have painted at several receptions, and have acquired a domain which redirects to a page on my website set aside for my work for weddings: www.30AWeddingPainter.com. 30A is the beach highway where I live, and has become a geographic identifier for the area. I decided to start marketing that work, so a couple of days ago I created a Joan Vienot Wedding Painter Facebook Page. I hope to have more to report soon!