Friday, October 24, 2014

Ringling's Grounds

Ringling's Grounds, 5x5" watercolor plein air sketch, ©Diane Mannion


Found a shady spot on a bench after yesterday's Light Chaser demo (see previous post).  Let the watercolor flow, focusing on light and shadows.  This is a on the path towards the rose garden which was in full bloom but unfortunately, also in full sun with no shady spots to sit and paint.

The grounds at Ringling Museum are filled with incredible banyan trees.  Too bad the roots travel far and crack swimming pools and foundations... now on forbidden to plant list.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ringling's Ca d'Zan

Ringling's Ca d'Zan, watercolor, 5x5"plein air sketch, ©Diane Mannion

Light Chaser Demo in Sarasota

Artist and Light Chaser member, Vladislav Yeliseyev gave a demo this morning on the Ringling Museum grounds surrounded by admirers.  He talked about how important drawing, perspective, and proportions are and spent a lot of time doing a beautiful pencil sketch for his painting.  

Instead of doing a thumbnail by drawing the box first, he drew a large image and cropped it the way it would work best as a painting.  He carefully considered values at this stage, keeping his sketch as simple as possible.  He demonstrated how to enlarge the sketch my measuring proportions when drawing the image on the watercolor paper.

During the painting stage, he became the painter, instead of the designer.  He painted rapidly wet into wet, sky first, then broad washes elsewhere.  Careful planning, loose technique, and extraordinary skill produced a finished product worthy of the applause!
Afterwards, the artists scattered around the grounds producing their own masterpieces.  I painted two small sketches before heading home... a great day!  Will post second sketch tomorrow.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hermitage, October

Hermitage, October, watercolor, 6x8" plein air sketch, ©Diane Mannion

Watercolor Obsession Continues!

Still trying to rest my injured eye... but can't stand not painting any longer!  Decided to allow  myself one quick sketch.  So packed my watercolors and joined the Punta Gorda VAC plein air artists at Blind Pass Beach, Manasota Key.   Fabulous morning!
 Me, happy as a clam!  Thanks for photo, Sharon!
 Tory and Andrea taking a break.
My lightweight watercolor equipment.  Sketchbook, camp stool, paintbox and brushes.
35+ year old Winsor and Newton paintbox!  W&N Series 7, #4 brush for details,  but almost everything painted with #10 Escoda Ultimo (a favorite brush!).  Stillman & Birn Sketchbook, 6x8," 180 lb smooth.
Hermitage Artist's Retreat which faces the Gulf.
Friendly Great Blue Heron

While waiting for my eye to heal, I've been watching videos online.  
Found these two by James Gurney last night... WONDERFUL!  Click to link.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

White Cottage

White Cottage, 8x10" oil, Diane Mannion

Spanish Point

Started this last week during an off the easel event for the Light Chasers at Spanish Point in Osprey.  Took it home and scraped it down...   Reworked from memory and photo reference, that's my reflection in the window which was covered with plastic so I had to make stuff up.  

Have had an eye injury... scary thing for an artist.  Taking it easy for awhile.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Light Chasers

Light Chasers, 8x10" oil/linen, Diane Mannion

Light Chasers!

Light Chasers plein air painters painting the South Jetty, Venice.

At first, I couldn't find a spot to set up my easel.  A lot depends on foreground/background arrangements for composition.  There were a lot of background subjects... the Gulf, the jetty, Intercoastal waterway, and boats, but not many spots where I could visualize a pattern exciting enough to paint.

Passed an artist standing in the sun (said she smeared herself with sunblock) who was doing a fabulous watercolor of the restroom building across the parking lot.  Another artist was sitting on a bench and had just sketched the above painters in pen and ink.  It was as though she did my thumbnail sketch for this painting.  Loved the composition.  Thanks, Donna.

Unfortunately, I had arrived late and these three painters were finishing up and left soon after.  Made color notes, blocked in the scene and finished a lot from memory... and had to make stuff up!  I was really excited about how the sun struck their work bags, doesn't take much.  And later on I added more details and "flattened" some of my color patterns, such as the light and shade on the ground.

My first photo of this painting made the shadow pattern look livid blue.  Shot it again in two ways:  Outside in the shade, first with painting on the ground facing up.  Then propped the painting on a shelf and had it face out towards the light... now I know this way matches the colors most correctly.  There was a dramatic difference in the blue color!  Perhaps, when shooting the painting facing up, it reflects the sky color, even though it was in the shade.  The painting positioned vertically reflected the warm light which was most correct.

Email me for purchase information.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Cloud Study #2

Cloud Study #2, 6.5x9" watercolor, ©Diane Mannion

More Cloud Practice

How do watercolors relate to my oil paintings?  

It's all the same pigments, even pastel, just different binders that hold them together.  Watercolors use the white of the paper as "white," so the transparency has to be maintained, a great challenge.  I consider watercolor the most difficult medium, but still love it.

A wonderful teacher once told me the medium doesn't matter... "a real artist can draw on a brick with a burnt stick." 

There's something spontaneous and addictive about watercolor.  It takes a lot less equipment, is far more portable for travel and sketchbooks, and... brushes are a lot easier to clean! 

These little studies are training my "eye" to see more clearly when I'm out in the field with oils.  I'm hoping to do quick watercolor sketches on location before hitting the canvas.  

For the next few days I'll be painting at the South Jetty in Venice and then, Spanish Point!  I'll be representing the Light Chasers Plein Air Artists for the first of the season Off-the Easel event...  30% of sales donated to Spanish Point on Friday and Saturday.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cloudy Study #1

Cloud Study #1, watercolor, 5.5x9" ©Diane Mannion

Fear of Clouds

Overcoming fear of clouds here... 

I'll be painting outside for the next few days, so thought I'd practice painting clouds in the comfort of my studio.  Clouds are often the most scary part of painting the landscape for me.   They can lend a lot to the composition, mood, and visual interest of a piece, so I'm determined to conquer their amorphous fluffiness.

After an intense cloud practice session,  painted at South Jetty Venice with the Light Chasers Plein Air Artists this morning.  Not a cloud in sight!  Nothing to practice my new skills and knowledge on.  The sky did have an interesting cool yellow glow though.  Will post the results in a couple of days.

Now back to cloud practice.  They're only red, yellow, and blue, nothing to fear!

Click here to purchase this painting.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014


JUICER, watercolor, 8.5x11.5" ©Diane Mannion

1001 blog posts archiving 1001 paintings! 

  Continuing with my watercolor obsession, learning and experimenting.  This painting didn't turn out the way I had hoped... had a mind of it's own.  So, lesson learned:

Don't be in a rush to paint a subject.  I was so excited to play with my new #10 Escoda Ultimo brush that I rushed into painting a subject that would have been more suitable for my old #3 Winsor and Newton Series 7.  

The Escoda brush has a fabulous, playful, loose feel that also comes to a nice point.  But the WN is more suitable to a subject that needs to be controlled or rendered more carefully.  Although I started this watercolor with the hope of painting loose, the subject finally called for tighter handling.  This was a battle between loose and tight.
Painted first layer with Ultramarine using the Escoda only. Really LOVE this brush.
 Second layer, permanent rose, Escoda only.  Allowed blooms, splashes, and bleeds happen.
 Third layer, aureolin.  Some spattering and tapping for drips.  Still trying to keep loose.
 And the final again... used the Winsor and Newton #3 series 7 for details.
And although I wanted to keep the triad of red, yellow, and blue, pulled in Payne's gray for the background and metal, sap green for the lime.

There's always a danger of overworking a watercolor, but who's to say when to stop?  What would have happened if someone had told John Stuart Ingle to loosen up?  Not that I want to paint as tight as he did. 

I have no idea where these watercolor experiments will lead me... but having a lot of fun on the journey.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Hairy Guy

Hairy Guy, watercolor, 12x9" ©Diane Mannion

Venice Portrait Studio

Painted from life at the Venice Portrait Studio.  This handsome model chose the title... Hairy Guy.  Told the story of a little girl who looked at him with her big, curious eyes said he was a hairy guy because he had hair on his head, on his face, and in his nose and ears!  HA!

Played with new brushes and paper here.  One of my self-induced treats for driving back and forth to Bradenton last week were pit-stops at Art and Frame in Sarasota to pet the brushes and indulge in purchasing art supplies.  I don't buy jewelry, take cruises, or play golf... art supplies are my vice.  

And lately, watercolor has been an obsession.  For over thirty years as an illustrator I only used the world's finest brushes, Winsor and Newton Series 7 Kolinsky red sables.  But lately, our country has banned the import of sable hairs... not that they kill baby sables to collect the hairs, I'm sure they're treated kindly to produce more hair!  Probably just trimmed now and then like poodles.   (So this country bans sable hairs but lets in ebola...  go figure.   Have always wanted to stay away from politics in this blog but couldn't resist.)

Back to brushes... purchased Escoda (made in Spain) synthetic sables, #10 and #14 Ultimo, and #12 Prado.  Love the look and feel of these fine quality brushes.  Have only tried the #10 Ultimo which I used on this painting and totally happy with it!  Holds lots of paint, works well loose and also comes to a fine point for more details.  Bravo.

Have always loved Arches and still do but tried a new 100% cotton brand for this painting... 9x12" block of cold press... FLUID 100.  Wow... made in the USA.  Wonderful paper!  Used it for this painting and happy with the texture and lift-ability.  Bravo, again.

And BRAVO for my 1000th blog post... 1000 paintings archived!!!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Cortez Fishing Boats

Cortez Fishing Boats, 9x12" oil on canvas, plein air, @Diane Mannion
Bradenton Paint the Town
Update: Received an Honorable Mention by Judge Bill Farnsworth!  Am honored! 
(Wish I had taken a better photo of this painting, it was under studio lights, will replace later.)

The rest of the story:  The object on the left is a sunken boat and the black dots are cormorant fishing birds drying their feathers in the sun.

Even though I'm cranky about the 15 hours worth of driving this paintout will cost, it has been an interesting adventure.  I enjoyed the company of artists, but except for the Quick Draw, only came across a few.  And because I had to submit the paintings at 10am on the last day and the reception wasn't until 5... decided to head home.  Was tough decision! 

 Here's my setup and view from the dock.  And this is Maxie, a short legged pit bull who peed on my easel but didn't bite me.  His owner who lives in a nearby cabin told the story of how he had to get rid of all his furniture because of bedbugs (yikes!).  
Please check out everyone's paintings at the Art Center Manatee.  Click here for information. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Rebel and the Sexy Lady

Rebel and the Sexy Lady, 11x14" oil, plein air, @Diane Mannion

Bradenton Paint the Town 

 This view is from a dock in Cortez Village and it's the only place I painted during this paintout, except for the Quick Draw on the Riverwalk (RR Bridge).  Went back several times because of the ideal shade and parking.

Rebel... only painted the best part, the rest of the boat is mostly ruble.  And after my block in, it swung on the tide and wind and completely blocked my view.  Here's what is looks like, poor boat.  The bow, the part I painted with it's name, is the only thing left.  Maybe someone's restoring it?
 Met a few other artists on the dock the first time, but on other visits I only had the company of some friendly local fishermen and other creatures like my buddy, Mr Heron. 
 This is Zeke in his snappy white boots who had just saved a friend's boat from sinking.  I asked to take his photo, said I would paint him and he might become famous.  He said, "But I'm already famous!"
There had been a heavy downpour the night before and the bilge pump couldn't keep up with the water flooding his friend's boat.  Here's his friend and the sinking boat.  Maybe another restoration project?
 Will continue the rest of the story tomorrow.  Was only able to complete three paintings.  Cortez Village is an hour an a half from where I live, so I spent three hours driving (not including time getting lost!) each day I painted.  The paintout, including time driving at the end of the month to pick up the paintings... will total 15 HOURS driving!!! And I would rather paint than drive...
Updated this post to say... my sinking feeling about not doing another Bradenton Paintout has changed.  See the next post!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

RR Bridge

 RR Bridge, 9x12" oil plein air, ©Diane Mannion

Bradenton Paint the Town

 Proud to say this painting of the railroad bridge placed third in the Quick Draw.  I was surprised... so many terrific paintings were produced in two hours!  Spending a few days painting in the Bradenton Paint the Town and will have a full report later.

Two artistic endeavors overlapping here... FINISHED Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge!  Report is in previous post. 
 30 Watercolors in 30 Days, collage, ©Diane Mannion

 I've also noticed that I'm getting really close to 1000 blog posts which mean 1000 paintings archived here.

Contact Art Center Manatee in Bradenton for RR Bridge purchase infomation. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pickled Peppers

Pickled Peppers, watercolor, 8.5x12.5" ©Diane Mannion

DAY 30!

While listening to Artists Helping Artists Podcast with Leslie Saeta and Carol Marine, heard this post read online!  An honor.

Day 30 of Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days!  It's been a trip.  Rediscovered a love for watercolor, thanks to this.  A whole lot of stress and pressure even though I started a few days ahead.  Not easy and glad it's over..............but glad I did it.

This is the fourth time I've completed Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge.  Finished in 25 days with the added pressure that I'd be painting in Bradenton, FL for Paint the Town at the end of the month.

Why watercolor?  Spent over thirty years using watercolor as an illustrator so every time I pick up a watercolor brush it seems like work, and compared to oils... at least for me, it is.  Englewood Ringling College of Art invited me to teach watercolor, so I thought it would be a good idea to use this challenge for practice.

It also gave me the incentive to research watercolor techniques and try them out.  Between library books, online websites, and especially Youtube videos... I was overwhelmed and inspired by a flood of new information.  Discovered and communicated with artists on Facebook and through their blogs and websites!   Amazing finding contemporary artists whose work I admire, reaching out and hearing from them minutes later.

What I gained from this 30/30 Challenge:

1. Renewed my love for watercolor.
2. Learned new techniques and approaches.
3. Improved skills with exercise and practice.
4. Experimented with methods and materials.
5. Had fun researching watercolor in books and online.
6. Have a stack of fresh paintings for shows and competitions.
7. Collected enough tips and information to fill an e-book.
8. Enjoyed neglecting housework for artwork.
9. Sharpened my self-discipline!
10. Enjoyed the community of artists also doing the challenge.

3rd: Painted 30 Snippets!  Small, 3.5x2.5" Artist Trading Card size in oils.

4th: Painted 30 experiments in watercolors. 

A few artists that inspire me:

Winslow Homer
John Singer Sargent

Monday, September 29, 2014

Downtown Punta Gorda

Downtown Punta Gorda, watercolor, 6.5x9.5" ©Diane Mannion

Day 29!

One more day to go in Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge.  This watercolor was painted with the VAC Punta Gorda Plein Air Artists, downtown near the old courthouse.  Will write more later... off to the Bradenton Paint the Town Paintout, Cortez today.  Running late.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Star Fruit

Star Fruit, watercolor, 6.75x9.5" ©Diane Mannion
Day 28 of the 30/30

Used extremely limited palette, mainly ultramarine blue and burnt sienna.  Yellow ochre and a touch of Indian yellow.  That's it!  A triade palette... red (burnt sienna), yellow (yellow ochre), blue (ultramarine blue).

Everything that was "white" such as the bowl, had all three colors in it, leaning towards yellow ochre or blue (warm/cool). SIMPLE, natural, and easy-doodle.  Greenish color in the star fruit... yellow ochre and ultramarine blue.  Easy peasy.

Found this bowl in a favorite Goodwill.  Loved the dancing characters and the blue and white patterns.  The star fruit are from our neighbor's tree.  John made a fantastic pie with them... even though they're not my favorite fruit.  The trick is to eat them when the ridges are brown, not green.  They taste much better when ripe.

Only two more days of Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days.  Full report on the 30th.

Won third prize at the Brandenton Paint the Town Quick Draw today!  What a surprise!  Lots of wonderful paintings created in two hours.  Will report on this after the 30/30 is over. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Medusa, watercolor, 6.5x9.5" ©Diane Mannion

Day 27 of the 30/30 Challenge

Painted from life at the Venice Portrait Studio!  Unfortunately, I had left my watercolor brushes at home and had to borrow a few unruly oil painting brushes from a friend.  What a struggle!  

We all gasped when this fabulous model arrived dressed as Medusa!  Plastic snakes, great black dress, even glittery false eyelashes.  Green stage makeup, too!  And she actually drove her car to the art center like this, snakes and all!

This painting was a three-quarter view which included two hands... too much information for a two hour session.  Later at home, I cut off her head, salvaged what I could and reworked from a reference photo... using my own brushes. 

Friday, September 26, 2014


Marina, watercolor, 6.5x9.5" ©Diane Mannion

Day 26 of the 30/30

Started painting this on the dock at Fisherman's Village, Punta Gorda.  Finished it later but had to change a lot to get it to work.  The pilings, for example, were painted white near the tops.  Had to darken them even though I like to be true to the scene while painting plein air.  Also the forground boat was white, changed it to yellow and added more colorful sail covers for visual interest.  It's early season here and several sailboats didn't even have sails on yet.  About the only thing I didn't tinker with was the sky which painted itself in.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Linda Reading

Linda Reading, 10.5x7.5" watercolor, ©Diane Mannion

Day 24 of Leslie Saeta's 30/30 Challenge

Painted from life at the Punta Gorda Visual Art Center Portrait Studio.  Tough painting a subject while she's reading!  So much is communicated through the eyes and if I hadn't put "reading" in the title it would look like she's sleeping.  

Nevertheless, most of the artists did a really fine job of painting and drawing Linda.  She couldn't help moving a bit, so I kept moving my easel to catch up with the turn of her head.  Painting from a live model is a lot like painting plein air while everything changes.

 Robert and his excellent charcoal drawing.
Weimin achieved an oil study filled with energy and flair!

Another experiment... for this one, Linda Reading, I used a random pre-wash rivulet technique.  Discovered this through Susan Avis Murphy's Youtube video.  It uses raw umber and ultramarine dabbed on then wet with sprayer until it flows in streams.  It's rather easy to lift paint later and darken other areas.  An interesting random pattern of transparencies results.  Not much showed in this portrait, but will try this again with a landscape or still life.  Meanwhile, her video will give you an idea.

Happy to announce that I've finished my 30 Paintings in (less than) 30 Days! Ahead of schedule because I will be painting at the Bradenton Paint the Town paintout this weekend and next week.
Will be posting the last 5 over the next few days.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


OJ, watercolor, 6.5x9.5" ©Diane Mannion

Day 24 of the 30/30 Challenge

Found this pitcher in an antique shop in Arcadia, FL, a favorite place to hunt for still life objects!  I'm sure my grandmother had the same one when I was five years old!  

It's fun to see how far I can push watercolor, working in glazes and lifting, although I'm still convinced oils are much easier to work with.  Set this up in front of my still life painting lights and worked from reference photo I took myself.  I'm pleased with the result although I like a painting to look more like a  painting and not a photo.  When folks try to compliment my work and say it looks like a photo, I cringe. 

And even though I did work from my own photo... I changed it quite a bit to add more punch... or juice to the colors.  Also simplified and abstracted a lot.  I think this is a bit too "photographic" for my taste.   What a conundrum!

A bit about glazing in watercolor.
Alert reader, Jo Mackenzie, watercolorist and 30/30 artist asked about glazing.
Here's my answer:

All I know about glazing in watercolor is by experimenting on my own. Think of transparent layers of color like cellophane, when colors are combined they all shine through.  IMPORTANT to let each layer dry then carefully layer another color over it without disturbing the underpainting.

Any color can be used, preferably a transparent rather than opaque watercolor.  Red, yellow, and blue together make a gorgeous neutral... and are much more luminous if applied in separate layers rather than mixing all together on the palette first, which is the simplest way to explain it.

 I don't work this way in every painting or area though. Sometimes ultramarine blue and burnt sienna mixed for first layer, then glaze with another color to create value and depth. This is why watercolor takes so much longer for me to work with... waiting for one area to dry before I glaze over it. I've heard to only use three layers of glazes (which I think is hogwash or nonsense), some artists use as many layers as it takes, maybe twenty or so. But I do like to work faster and will glaze as little as possible.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Daisy Day

Daisy Day, watercolor, 5.5x8" ©Diane Mannion

Day 23 of Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days

Instead of cut flowers, I came home with a pot of daisies to paint, at least they last longer than the cut variety.  Have noticed an awful lot of artificial dyes added to the cut flowers lately, as if the color of fresh flowers is not enough... horrible!  Who buys flowers like that?  

Here's the first layer of paint, painted shapes of flowers first to get a grip on rhythm and compostition.  Started with paint instead of pencil, for a change.

 Second layer, painted the leaf pattern.  These are on white paper, sorry about the gray look of poor camera work here.

Painted background and then painted more layers on everything.  This series is to give you an idea about how to "start" a complex subject... at least one way.