Sunday, April 8, 2018

Selby Gardens, April

Selby Gardens, April, 8x10" oil, DMannion

Why Did I Paint This?
(Or… what the heck was I thinking!)

Arrived early for a day of painting at Selby Gardens, Sarasota. Many thanks to the Light Chasers Group for the opportunity.  Met my painting buddy at the gate, Heather Arenas who had never visited the gardens before!  It was a pleasure to share a first-timers excitement at this incredible horticultural world.

Loaded with backpacks and painting gear, we wandered around the trails and ended up at the gazebo.  There's something to paint everywhere you look!  I set up in the shade while Heather painted nearby.  
 Me under the gazebo
Heather nearby
I was struck by the light pattern in the scene right in front of me.  A quick thumbnail sketch, snapped an iPhone reference photo… and swung my brushes for a couple of hours.  Meanwhile, the light had changed completely.  Weather report warned of rain and wind picked up, so after lunch we packed it in, looking forward to going back and painting there often.
Why the heck did I pick this scene?
 I only saw the light pattern.  Had to simplify, so much to paint!  Forced me to think abstractly.  

I liked Heather's painting of a Buda statue a lot, and admired how she could focus surrounded by curious tourists.  What a champ!  

Meanwhile, I asked myself… why the heck did I pick this scene to paint?  I felt bogged down by details.  My first impression seemed lost.  Had to re-imagine the light pattern that inspired me in the first place.  So back in the studio, this little 8x10" painting was scraped and re-scraped and wrestled to the ground.  I was determined to have something to show for our Selby Gardens morning!
My plein air attempt, 8x10" oil … urgh! 

Thankful to have my original thumbnail sketch and the photo reference.  And I could visualize what first impressed me about the scene.  It's so easy to get lost on location.  
My secret scribble technique for thumbnails, bottom is Selby.  I do most of my thinking and planning in this little Moleshine sketchbook in a few minutes.  Sometimes it helps.

SELBY GARDENS, APRIL, 8x10" oil, DMannion
After the struggle, I like the painting… a little.  It's simply practice for the next one.  Lesson learned, again and again.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Snook Haven March Morning

Snook Haven March Morning, 8x10" oil, plein air

Practice Practice Practice

Painted at Snook Haven, Venice this morning with my painting buddy, Eileen.  We've painted together for about 10 years.  Nothing helps get me out there more than someone saying, "Let's paint!"  
Location shot

Snook Haven is a restaurant next to a waterway filled with gators and kayakers.  By the time we finished painting, the busy lunch crowd was pouring in and we were glad to get out of there.  The morning was so beautiful, it was difficult to image another snowstorm happening up north!

Recently, I went through over a thousand panels painted since 2008 that are stored in cabinets and bookshelves in my studio.  Some will be turned upside down and used again, some will be destroyed, but a few kept as reminders of how much progress has been made over the years.  These are a visual diary of my painting journey, many have been thankfully sold or given away as gifts.  

PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE!!!  When a musician or an athlete practices, they don't have stacks of evidence, unless they have somehow made recordings of each session.  Painters have sketches, panels, and canvases that tend to pile up.  At least all this clutter proves that work has been done.

My painting this morning at Snook Haven is practice for the next one.  As long as I find joy in my practice… I'll paint on!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Boca Range Light

Boca Range Light, 14x17" oil

Catching Up!

With a recent group show at the Hughes Gallery, Boca Grande, FL and eight portrait commissions,
I've neglected my blog.  Still busy painting with several area plein air groups and also teaching a pastel class at Ringling EAC.  And have a new puppy!!!  So please excuse my long neglected blog, at least all excuses are good ones.

My painting, Boca Range Light will be auctioned for the Barrier Island Parks Society's fund for education and restoration.   The following history is from the BIPS webpage:

Built in New Jersey, 1881 and placed in Delaware, then decommissioned in 1918.  1927 was reassembled and installed on Gasparilla Island.  Tower was painted white and lit on January 1, 1932.

The tower is 105 feet tall and still stands as an active navigation aid.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

October Dust

Cool Morning, pastel, 5.5x8" field study, Diane Mannion

October Pastels!
Me!  Pasteling at Punta Gorda History Park with the Peace River Painters.
Thanks to Sharon Yarbrough for photo.

Limited myself to Canson Mi-Teintes, horizontal format 5.5x8" and mostly Nupastels for the Gail Sibley's How To Pastel October Challenge, 31 Pastels in 31 Days.  #31in31HTP.  

Found limitations extremely useful for field studies and sketching.  Was amazed at how much could be achieved with simple supplies!  My backpack was much lighter.

Never blended with fingers!!!
Once in awhile, used rubbing alcohol to blend underpainting or first pastel layer.  
 Blended with another pastel stick, or a bit of paper towel, or a synthetic brush.

Discovered how rapidly information could be gathered for future studio paintings.  Found it even faster than watercolor and gouache.  Was able to do about two studies in a morning and somedays three or four a day, so the challenge went quite fast.  Once the 31 mark was passed… didn't want to stop!  Will continue using pastel for small sketches and studies in the field.  And also watercolor and gouache, and oils of course.  Can't have enough fun!
30 of many more!
 Fishery Cottage, field study
 Angels from Greenwood Cemetery photo ref.
 Angels became a mini series in this challenge.
 Caspersen Beach, field study
 Surf study from ref
 Chadwick Boats.  Rain, sat under car hatch…auto painting!
 Chadwick Canal, ref and fantasy
 Super angel!
 Fishery View, field study
My setup, Moleskine thumbnail sketchbook, mini box of NuPastels
 Fishing for Gold, North Jetty, Nokomis with Lightchasers plein air.  Darn happy with this one!
 Caspersen again, water doesn't hold still!
 History Park, field study
 Caspersen, field study and photo ref
 Larry, from life, Venice Art Center

 North Jetty, field sketch and photo finish
 Used photo ref but mostly from imagination, Stump Pass
 Guardian Pastel Angel
 History Park, field study
 Tom, life study, Ringling model
 Caspersen, field study
 Happy with this study from an oil plein air I painted in Maine!
 Frank, from life, Venice Art Center
 Stump Pass, photo ref and imagination and visual memory
 Caspersen field study… hated it but like it a lot now.
 Quick field study, used that guys head to connect bottom to top of drawing.
 Figure drawing, Ringling Englewood model
 2 10 minute poses
 20 minute pose, sleepy model
20 minute pose… I like this one!  Less is more.
 Dunes on Venice Beach, Cool Morning… one of my favorites!
Fishery building.  Had to yell at a guy who parked in my view, twice!

So that's how the dust's flying in October… and it's not over yet.
Thanks for scrolling this far down!

Sunday, October 15, 2017


 Trees Grow in Brooklyn, oil, 6x8" 9/2017


Playing catch-up here on my long neglected blog!  Has been a hectic but creative time.

      My flight from Maine to Sarasota, Florida was cancelled at JFK because of hurricane Maria.  My daughter was able to pick me up and I had a delightful, unexpected visit with family in Brooklyn.  Thankful for the safe harbor during the storm!  Took two weeks to get a flight back home, unless it was an emergency, and it wasn't. 

Meanwhile in Englewood, Florida…  John, our 95 year old friend Angie, and our dog Shadow sailed through the hurricane without any damage except for one tree down and a torn screen door.  House isn't in a flood zone, far enough inland,  and with 16' elevation… almost a mountain.    Power stayed on!  

The painting above, Trees Grow in Brooklyn, was painted from my daughters kitchen window.  I loved this birds-eye view from the sixth floor.  

I had committed to the Strada Easel 30 Challenge, a painting a day from life, and also the 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge led by Leslie Saeta of Artists Helping Artists.  Worked out well during my visit to Maine and Brooklyn, then finished back home in Florida.  Finished both at the same time.

I find these challenges useful for sharpening skills and motivation.  Now doing 31 pastels for Gail Sibley's How To Pastel blog and loving it! 

 View from Jana's Office, 5x8" watercolor/gouache
 Yummy Taco, 5x8" gouache.  Another kitchen window view.
 Prospect Park, 5x8"gouache.  Park bench view.  Fed ducks here when I was four.
 Water Song, 5x8" gouache.  On the next park bench, a Hasidic Jew sang prayers softly to the water for the hour I painted.  I feel blessed to have experienced it.  
 View from Redhook, 5x8" gouache.  Delightful watching sailboats on a Sunday morning!
My grandfather was a dock master here many years ago.
 Looking East, 5x8" gouache.  This light effect out the living room window was fleeting during sunset.  Painted from life and snapshot.  Love the different styles of architecture and neighborhoods.
Greenwood Cemetery, 5x8" gouache.  Huge contemporary bronze statue, strong emotional feel of grief.  Magnificent work of art.  This cemetery is alive with history and angels.  My daughter and I visited our ancestors… a moving walk.

Gouache tip:  It helps to "seal" the paper first with casein or acrylic.  The gouache above had an ochre casein underpainting which shows through and gives the work a harmonious feel.  It's a mid-value tone, so the darks and lights were easier to judge.  Another reason to seal the paper is it helps the gouache stay on top, rather than sinking in.  

It's a difficult medium at first but well worth getting to know.  It's possible to paint an terrible watercolor and save it with gouache.  Wonderful for sketchbook studies and travel.  All you need to get started are regular watercolors and one tube of white gouache.  Gouache can be rewet and reworked.  When it dries on the palette can be rewet and used again.  Can also be placed on a wet paper towel to keep it fresh while painting.  The only way to learn how to use it is by painting a lot!  Try 30 paintings… tip, keep them small!  

 Please Google James Gurney's knowledge of this medium!