Tuesday, May 23, 2017


MADDIE, 8x5" pastel, Diane Mannion

Can This Pastel Be Saved?

Maddie is usually sitting behind the front desk with her mommie drawing pictures for us to take home after our figure drawing class.  She's a typical four year old who can't sit still.  One night I asked her to pose for me after the model had left and the model stand was still lit.

Snapped a few photos but she had the usual squirmy and silly four year old charming attitude and tried harder than she needed to.  Funny how children are when the camera's aimed at them!  

One impish pose looked interesting so I thought I would do a quick pastel study.  Used an old sheet of dark brown Sennelier Pastel Card.  Worked up a block in, then decided to wash the pastel in for the underpainting with water.  DISASTER!

Was wondering why pure white showed up in the background, at first it was the white pigment, but no, it was the coating on the pastel paper!  Rubbed everything out and was ready to throw it into the trash bin.  

Instead, I asked myself what do I have to lose?  Or can this pastel be saved?  Sprayed it with workable fixative and went to work.  Saved!  But barely.  Learned a lot from this exercise.  Always test the paper.  And for heaven's sake… work larger for portraits!

 Block in

Monday, May 22, 2017


Kevin, 6x6" pastel, Diane Mannion

About a thirty minute sketch during our life drawing session at Ringling Englewood.  It was two twenty minute poses but had leave for a phone call during half of one.  Had planned to post something completely different, another pastel… but something disastrous happened to it which I hope I can post about tomorrow.

Wish I could find some local long pose sessions with costumes, sometimes it seems like just too much pink.  But I realize how important it is to keep skills sharpened and the members of our group are super nice and a joy to work with.  I look forward to next season, unfortunately, this was the last Tuesday night until September, I think. 

Mostly NuPastel, a few Giraults, and some Sennelier softs on Canson Mi Teintes smooth side.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Giant Purple Lilies

Giant Purple Lilies, 5x8" pastel, Diane Mannion

Quick Study 

Set out to do several 30 minutes quick pastel studies, Giant Purple Lilies was one, then let myself fiddle and fuss back in the studio.  Think I like the 30 minute version better!  

Lilies are in the Garden of Five Senses, Northport,  where I painted with the Peace River Painters last week.
30 Minute quick study before working over

 The scene.  These lilies are enormous, about five to six feet tall.  Have tried to paint them in the past with no luck then either.  

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Clara Painting

Clara Painting, 5x7" pastel, Diane Mannion

Garden of Five Senses
Northport, FL
With Peace River Painters

This started as a 30 minute sketch but could not stop!  The spiral palm on the left first caught my eye, Clara came in as the second act.  Hot and humid morning, happiest with the misty background light.  Having lots of fun sketching with pastels. 

This is on sanded UArt pastel paper using mostly Nupastels and Girault, then a few softer Senneliers on top.  Pastels are a beautiful obsession and perfectly matched with the look of oils, my main focus.  

Pardon the brief posts lately, just out of the hospital and zipping around on my walker (sparks are a flying') and high on meds.  I'm now part robot… two new hips and one knee.  Well on the way to recovery and happy it's over with.  Will have to be studio work for awhile but glad I can manage that!

Friday, May 19, 2017


JOHAN PAINTING FAST, 6x6" oil, Diane Mannion

Another Painting Pal

Johan painting fast a few weeks ago at El Jobean.  Good friend and artist.  Check out his work, linked his name.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


FRITZ, 16x16" oil, Diane Mannion

Fabulous Fritz!

Younger children are far less self-conscious when having their photos taken.  Once they're about four (Ryn!) they become actors trying to please the camera too much with exaggerated smiles.  Ryn was the second portrait in this series and it took bits from six photos to paint her, an eye here, smile there…  

On the other hand, Will, the first portrait was so well practiced he fell into the professional photographer's requested cheesy smile.  Had to take many shots to get a more natural expression.  After a dozen shots he told me, "Now, that's enough."  What a hoot.  Fortunately, it was enough.

So back to the two younger, pre-self-conscious children.  Jack at 29 months and Fritz at 17 months.  It was much easier photographing their pure innocent character.  Caught that wonderful sunlit ear glow in both!  And having their mommies there helped a lot.

Had to work from photo reference because children don't hold still and these children live far away.  Photos had to be taken during their brief visits to Florida.  The backgrounds are 90% from my imagination, plenty of plein air practice helped, also many years as an illustrator making things up from  visual memory.

I'm so thankful for having the honor of painting this joyful family!  Four more to go, teenagers (yikes) which I'll report on towards the end of the summer.  

Monday, May 15, 2017


JACK, 16x16" oil, Diane Mannion

Palm Instead of Oats
(#3 of 8 commissions)

Jack's about two years old.  Loved the sunlight glowing through his ear.  At first had him blowing soap bubbles but client wanted him playing with something more natural for the beach.  Easy change.

Sometimes props help a child relax while having their photos taken.  Soap bubbles were replaced with sea oats, thought the golden color would work well.  Well!  While researching sea oats online I discovered there's a problem with sea oats vandalism on coastal sand dunes.  It wouldn't be a good idea having the boy holding them!  So I changed it to a palm frond, instead.  Plenty of those around and they're not endangered.

I thought the checkered shirt would be a problem but actually enjoyed painting it.  It also added an interesting pattern to the group of four.  Kept the Gulf and beach location the same, these four will hang together on the top row, four older children on the bottom row may have different backgrounds (haven't gotten that far yet).

Sunday, May 14, 2017


RYN, 16x16" oil, Diane Mannion

Ryn at Four

Second portrait commission… couldn't resist the Carolina Wren, common bird down here in SW Florida.  Male wrens build several nests to impress the female, found a rejected one in a flower pot.

Ryn, an energetic four year old was challenging to paint.  Rambunctious, made funny faces and wiggled a lot, but a real sweetie.  Thank heavens for photo reference, she could not be still!

Saturday, May 13, 2017


WILL, 16x16" oil, Diane Mannion

First of Eight

It's with sheer joy I'm able to start posting this project at last!  Client is happy with the paintings.  I was chosen to paint eight grandchildren because the client liked my work.  The first four are finished and I'm extremely pleased with them. 

Portrait commissions are the most difficult and challenging subject and artist can attempt… but this one went fairly smoothly.  Of course, I had to work from reference photos which I took myself.  Children can't hold still long enough to paint.  I wanted to capture their character as they visited their grandparents who live on the edge of the sunny Gulf of Mexico.

Eventually, all eight will hang together in two rows.  Painted on Ampersan museum quality panels which are gorgeous and don't need to be framed, about 1 1/2" deep, fine wood edges.

First four together… will post each one during the next few days.

Friday, May 12, 2017


Craig, 6x6" oil, Diane Mannion

Artist Friend Craig

Another painting using the Zorn palette.  Amazing how the shirt looks green with simply yellow ochre, ivory black and white.  Craig has extremely light blue eyes… painted here with just black and white.

Craig's an extraordinary artist who paints with a colorful flair and sensitive talent!  Honored to know him.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Produce Vendor

Produce Vendor, 8x10" pastel, Diane Mannion

Renewed Obsession

Haven't used pastels in a few years so I'm approaching it with a beginner's mind.  I've been watching all the Youtube pastel videos, rereading my pastel books, ordering more, and peeking over the shoulders of a few artist friends that are brilliant with this medium.  

I began using pastels in high school a hundred or so years ago.  Made enough by doing portraits to buy my mom a puppy.  But as an illustrator, no one would touch them!  And a few years ago worked with them for a while, but galleries didn't (and still don't) want anything under glass.  So my main focus is oil, and of course I love it.

Lately, I've decided to do more field studies for studio paintings, drawing with pastel on location.  But this morning, one of my plein air groups met at the local farmer's market… not my favorite place to sketch or paint!  I hurried through clicking random photos with my iPhone, instead.  Depressed because my favorite doughnut vendor wasn't there, but delighted later to find a goldmine of reference photos on my phone, many taken quite by accident!

A wonderful shot of the produce vendor was in behind something else I had focused on.  Zoomed in and was dazzled by the brilliant sun contrasted with the figure's dark shape.  Oh, joy!
Thumbnail sketch

Charcoal pencil on smooth side of gray Canson Mi-Teintes which I lightly sanded with fine sandpaper.
Roughed in local color with NuPastels
Blended to my hearts content with a piece of plastic pipe insulation.
Here's the final after using mostly NuPastels then topping with Sennelier soft pastels.
Treated myself to this new set!
Ahhhh…. color like candy!  Sweet!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


James, 6x6" oil, Diane Mannion

Artist Painting

Had to squeeze out more colors for this one after yesterday's limited Zorn palette!  Painted alla prima, wet into wet, all at once (even though "once" took longer than I thought).  Painted loose with thick impasto strokes, putting them down and leaving them.  There WAS a lot of mushing and blending  at first to block in the colors… saved the fun thick strokes for last.  Trouble was, I was having too much fun and couldn't stop.

Although I'm working from photos (gasp… oh, the horror!), I don't want them to look like photos, more like paintings.  I know folks like to compliment my work by saying they look like photos… but I don't want to be a giant copy machine.  

Having fun with my artist friends series!  This is James, a watercolorist who painted next to me at El Jobean last Monday with the Peace River Painters.   I have a feeling some of my artist friends will run when they see lurking around with my camera once they know about this series.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Caroline Jasper

Caroline, 6x6" oil, Diane Mannion


Portrait of my artist friend, Caroline Jasper while we painted in El Jobean with the Peace River Painters last Monday.

Used the Zorn palette for this painting!  Amazing how it works!  Simply... cadmium red medium, yellow ochre, titanium white, and ivory black.  That's it!  No other colors were used.  How easy is that?

Ivory black has a strong blue cast and actually looks blue when used with white.  Love how yellow ochre and black make a really natural green.  This palette is great for flesh tones, can't miss with yellow ochre and cadmium red… plus black and white to warm and cool hues.

The Zorn palette is often thought to have been used by Anders Zorn, Swedish painter (1860-1920).

Monday, May 8, 2017

El Jobean Post Office

El Jobean Post Office, 5.5x8" pastel, field study, Diane Mannion

Finally Cracked Open the Ol' Pastel Box!

It's been a few years since I attempted a pastel, especially a plein air study!  Was perfect chance to take them for a roll along with the Peace River Painters this morning.  Thought most everyone had gone North already, but about forty artists showed up!

Pleased with this little study, and that's all it is… not a finished product, but enough color notes here to do a studio oil, if I feel like it.  Happy with the sense-of-place and the flow of light.  Perspective's a bit wonky but so was this old historic building from 1922. 

 El Jobean was once a community for circus folks.  Behind where I was painting, almost hidden in the woods there was something that looked like a rusting old animal cage.  Heard the ghosts of lions roar!

Yellow-orange sign on front says, Live Bait, perfect spot of color.  Almost didn't notice it as I raced to capture the moving light.  Sometimes, we're so focused we miss things.  And there were lots of things I had to leave out.  Simplify simplify simplify…. and SQUINT!  

Used mostly NuPastels on Uart 400, with a touch of soft for yellow-orange sign and light in palm tree.

Flattered and honored to be chosen as a Daily Paintworks Featured Artist this month!  Means I have to crack the whip and produce more.  With one week set aside for major surgery this month, it will be a challenge.

Location shot with Heilman's Backpack Pastel Box on tripod (love it! and have ordered the double sketch box also).

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Looking Out

Looking Out, 6x8" oil, plein air, Diane Mannion

While I Was Painting

While I was painting at Manasota Key Beach this morning, a man walked into my view and was a perfect model.  He helped pull the whole composition together!  I quickly sketched him in while he stood there.

Later, he and his wife, visitors from Canada, sat at a picnic table behind me… perfect cheerleaders, freely dispensing compliments and encouragement.  They also cheered on the other artists, an Englewood group scattered around the area.  

Seagrape leaves glowed orange on the ground.  The scene was a bit complicated so I left things out, especially the fence.  Beautiful breezy morning!  Happy with how my new Canadian friend made my painting work.
 Thumbnail sketch in my Moleskine… before nice man showed up.
Manasota Key Beach this morning!  Gorgeous!

Sunday, April 30, 2017


Annika, 10x8" oil, from life, Diane Mannion

The Company of Artists

Honored to paint in the company of artist friends yesterday!  I'm blessed to live where many gather, share their skills and professional camaraderie.  We share a serious obsession and think nothing of painting all day where hours fly by like minutes!  

The intense crackling of focused brains could be heard over the scratching of pastel sticks and paint brushes.  Our fabulous model, Annika forced us to break when her timer buzzed.  During these rest periods we absorbed inspiration from the host artist's artwork that covered the walls of the studio.  

Lunchtime food and stories were shared while a few tried to resist second helpings of my Killer Key Lime Pie!  We all loved the day and promised to make studio parties a new tradition.

This was the first time I used water mixable oil paints and I'm quite surprised and pleased with them.  I purchased a set of Winsor and Newton Artisan which came with it's own linseed oil medium.  I did not use any water to paint with.  Painted on homemade gessoed panel.  The oils acted almost exactly the same as regular oils… and all without having to use Gamsol!  No harmful fumes!  Cleaned brushes with soap and water later.

My water mixable set didn't include black so I borrowed a bit of regular black oil paint and it worked well.  I've researched these paints and was glad to learn they can be used with my regular non-water mixable paints.  Using just a bit will not change the water mixable characteristic, using a lot of regular oil paint will simply turn them into regular oil paints.  They are completely compatible.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Artists Acres Sketch

Artists Acres Sketch, 8x10" oil, plein air, Diane Mannion

Good Morning

Busy with studio work and have not been outside painting in awhile, felt great stretching those plein air muscles!

Mostly cloudy when I started but the sun came out and changed everything, those sun dapples are always a challenge.  But I like how the sun added so much to this composition.  Only spent two hours on this one, at least it's not a wiper.  Good morning!

Artist Acres in Englewood is a private residence so I was glad to have a chance to paint there again when the Englewood Plein Air Painters set the date.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sunday View

Sunday View, 8x10" oil, Diane Mannion

Polished Plein Air

Only spent a few minutes slashing out a quick impression last Sunday.  Wanted to take it further back in the studio.  
Here I am painting this view, hanging onto the umbrella in gusty winds.
(Thanks for the photo, Jane Sither).
This is what I came home with but wanted to say much more.  Blotted with paper towel to remove excess paint and let it dry for a few days before working over.  

I had been dazzled by the orange-red sun burning through the sea grape leaves and how the Gulf sparkled bright and green through the dark foreground.  Loved the relation between the three palms, foreground, middle ground, and distance one.  My sketch needed to be pushed further.  Photo ref didn't do this scene justice, had to rely on memory and imagination.  

Most difficult part was keeping it simple, there's such a temptation to paint every leaf, had to hold the masses together.  Every painting's a struggle, but I think I learned something from this exercise that will help me next time out in the field (beach).
Hasty thumbnail sketch!  Left out the figure on the right standing next to the surf.  
Hmmm… would it be a better painting if I added him?

Sometimes, you just have to stop and move onto the next.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Sunday Morning Rocks

Sunday Morning Rocks, 8x10" oil, plein air, ©Diane Mannion

Sunday Painters

A few of my artist pals have managed to gather together on Sunday mornings recently… Sunday Painters!   Here's a few of the motley crew: Kathleen Crane, Me, Fran Mangino, and Jane Sither. 
It's nice having other artists around when painting for camaraderie, learning from each other, and someone to watch your gear when taking breaks.

Planted my easel near the rocks on Caspersen Beach (Venice, FL) that morning early enough to watch purple palm shadows swiftly move up the shore.  The light and tide changed fast, within an hour, the scene looked completely different.  Let myself simply react and splash paint… but nothing held still!

Caught myself chasing currents and colors, it was as though I was painting paintings on top of paintings like an animated film.  Stopped, put the brush down and let it go.

Scribbled this short-hand thumbnail sketch before I started painting which shows the "bones" of my design.  Towards the end of painting, the sailboat on the horizon really did show up which leads the eye into the background.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


LEE, 18x14" oil, ©Diane Mannion

LEE Long Pose

Had the pleasure of painting Lee during a long pose at the Southern Atelier last week.  Lee's an amazing model who had posed for Dan Thompson during his workshop.  Lee can sit for hours without moving!

But late in the day, her expression seemed stressed, which showed up in my painting.  Someone said, "Lee, you have cheekbones to kill for!" And at that instant, I happened to have my camera out and snapped a split second change in her expression!  That's what I used to finish the painting with. 

Underpainting with tired expression.  I wasn't happy with this at all, thank heavens for photo ref!  
I painted on a panel coated with left-over palette paint which was really rough.  Kept me from tightening up, especially in the background.  Had fun with the fan and dress!