Wednesday, June 1, 2016


WATER PEOPLE, 20x16" oil on linen, Diane Mannion


This is the longest period I've not posted since 2008!  The miserable month of May, I called it, so I'll start off with the good news and then fill in the bad, which is rapidly healing to GOOD.

Honored and thrilled to have my painting, WATER PEOPLE accepted into the American Society of Marine Artists 17th National Exhibition, which will start September 9th 2016 at the Muscarelle Museum at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA.  The show will move through several other museums during the year to end at the Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic, CT 2018.

Had total knee replacement surgery, May 4th.  Thought I could paint through the pain, afterall, just add T to PAIN to get PAIN-T.  Didn't happen.  Healing and physical therapy took all my energy.

My little Moleskin sketchbook was with me constantly, usually reserved for thumbnail sketches, it was also useful for med and physical therapy charts, and a good place for grumbling, especially about hospital food!  They actually served me Kool-Aid Jello which I refused to eat.  Fortunately, was freed after two days and sent home to heal.  Have gone from walker to cane and now four weeks later... cane-free ready to go!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Local Pond

Local Pond, 4x4" gouache plein air, Diane Mannion

Gosh, More Gouache!

Spent a few minutes sketching at a nearby pond.  Still pushing the gouache around and finding it a delightful medium for sketchbook work.  This one was done in a gray sketchbook I purchased to do value thumbnail sketches.  Unfortunately, the paper is quite thin and watercolor and gouache tend to buckle the paper.  
 Two tiny thumbnails from the gray sketchbook.
On left, thumbnail sketch in three values (black, white, and gray of paper for mid-tone).  And on right, a quick gouache color study.  A friend sent me a snapshot taken right after a rainstorm, may do a larger painting from these... one of these days.  But notice how the opaque gouache covers the gray paper completely.

  • Use heavy watercolor paper or illustration board.
  • Work small, great for thumbnails and sketchbooks with heavy paper. 
  • Gouache may crack if used too thick.
  • Light colors dry darker and dark colors dry lighter.
  • Can be used thin like watercolor or thick (almost) like oils.
  • Unlike acrylic,  gouache can be rewet and reworked.
  • Can be varnished (but experiment first) or framed under glass.
  • Gouache dried on the palette can be rewet and used again.
  • Gouache can be squeezed from tube onto wet paper towels to keep it wet longer.
  • Handy to have a spray bottle of water to refresh palette if needed.
  • Gouache can be painted over transparent watercolors.
  • Only buy good, artist quality gouache!
  • Lighten colors with white, opposite of watercolor which uses white of paper.
  • Experiment with different types of brushes from soft to bristle.
  • Have lots of patience... takes awhile to get used to this or any new medium.
  • James Gurney has tons of useful gouache information! 
  • Just received beautiful Pentalic sketchbook like Gurney's... will report later.
  • And check out Nathan Fowkes... land sketches in gouache, brilliant!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Figure Study

Figure Study, 4x6.5" wc/gouache, Diane Mannion

Oh, My Gouache!

 Still messing about with gouache (gwash) and learning to love it for sketchbooks and small studies.  Gouache has a long history and great antiquity.  It was used by the Egyptians and has also been traced back 800 years as a medium used to illustrate manuscripts.  

Figure Study is from my painting, Her Beach, oil, 20x20" (Which, by the way I'm still not satisfied with and will put it through the wringer for the fourth time.)
 Her Beach, still unfinished!

*Technical note:  I use Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache.  Don't waste your time with cheap stuff... it's NOT the same.

For my gouache study, I added clothes and re-imagined the scene... happy to discover I can take a favorite figure reference and do what I want with it.  Below is the first layer painted with transparent watercolor.  Experimented with overworking and muddiness, let myself paint bad knowing the gouache would cover anything! 
Overworked and muddy watercolor underpainting in heavy paper wc sketchbook.
Finish again to compare.  Left bits of transparent wc (blouse and orange bits under knees, and here and there) for extra glow.  Happy with the way I could sculpt and make changes, and could still rewet and work again... but will let this one go. 

And don't forget to study the work of my hero, James Gurney... all you need to know about gouache and more.

Saturday, April 30, 2016


Tonora, 4x6.6" watercolor/gouache, Diane Mannion

Sketchbook Page

Always a treat painting with my friends at the Venice Art Center Portrait Studio!  Worked with watercolor and gouache in a sketchbook.  Interesting how many artists never heard of gouache!  I sent everyone to explore my hero, James Gurney's work.  Gouache was once the mainstay medium of illustrators but has now gone out of fashion, a shame.  

Gouache is opaque watercolor and can be used to paint over regular watercolor or used alone.  Just think of all your overworked watercolors that can be "saved" with this wonderful medium!

Tonora, first sketched in pencil, was painted with watercolor, then the blackboard, nose and eye highlights... gouache.  All you need is one tube of white gouache to transform your watercolors into gouache.  Or you can purchase individual tubes of gouache in every color... or simply red, yellow, and blue to start.  I prefer Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache which can be purchased through Jerry's or Blick.

For excellent instruction and mega gouache inspiration, I can't praise James Gurney enough!

Friday, April 22, 2016

4 Sheep

4 Sheep, 3.5" x 2.5"oil, Diane Mannion


These are some sort of rare Austrian sheep that reside in a nearby ranch here in Florida.  Their coats are kept short because of the heat.  First saw these critters a month ago and there were six pregnant females...  now the herd has more than doubled, some had twins!

I practice color thumbnail sketches for soon-to-come larger paintings that won't look anything like these mini-portraits.  Compositions will include more landscape views.  Exploring a more monochromatic palette, keeping color in reserve for  dramatic impact.  For example, loved how the red ear tag stood out in the top right sheep.

2 lambs
Herd following caretaker


Monday, April 18, 2016

Flower Scraps

Flowers Scraps, each 2.5 x 3.5" oil, Diane Mannion


I have lots of canvas scraps I don't like to waste and sometimes, only a few scraps of time to paint.  Artist Trading Cards, the classic 2.5 x 3.5" size is a perfect way to be productive, use up old palette paint and create something useful.  I've auctioned them on Ebay, sent them around the world to collectors, but most of all I love giving them as gifts!

This is also a great way to practice skills and technique.  The small size may seem cramped but allows for composition, color and value experiments.  Keeping my painting brushwork fairly loose instead of tight, and working alla prima style, they don't take a lot of time to do.   I've recently put ivory black and raw sienna back on my palette and enjoyed learning in a small space how they behave with other colors in a painting. 

More can be learned by doing many small paintings rather than a few large ones.  Once basic techniques are learned by controlling them in a small space... it is easier to translate this skill to larger and larger, even gigantic canvases or murals.

Consider these tiny paintings as thumbnail sketches to spark future creative ideas.  Now collect your scraps of time and canvas and get busy!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Cracker House

Cracker House, 8x10" oil, plein air sketch, Diane Mannion

Bay Preserve

A Cracker House is a Floridian style built during the 19th century, woodframe, porch, and metal roof. Unfortunately this house had had its roof replaced with modern asphalt tiles.  The term "cracker" originated from cowmen in the 1800's that herded cattle by cracking whips.

Painted with the Peace River Painters yesterday at the Bay Preserve in Osprey.  A couple of hours is only enough time to capture color notes, a feeling of the place, and create a loose sketch.  I could have finished this from photo reference, but decided to leave it as it is... simply a record of a pleasant morning painting with friends.  

Added the yellow flowers on the bottom right and broke up the triangle of the roof line later.
The roof was in shadow when I started, the photo below is how it looked with the sun on it.  Decided to leave it alone!  (Don't chase the light!)  The huge stand of bamboo in the background, blocking out the sky was a challenge.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Off Port Clyde

Off Port Clyde, 16x20" oil, Diane Mannion

Maine Last Summer

This delightful sailboat swept across Port Clyde Harbor while I was painting on the dock.  Dropped my paintbrush and focused the zoom lens.  Was able to capture only about 30% percent of the information I needed, although the boat's details were captured, the rest had to be made up.  Left out harbor traffic and there was a lot!

Turquoise hull, sleek and shiny brightwork varnished to perfection!  And the way the captain expertly handled stiff currents and winds dancing across the harbor like a butterfly, deftly avoiding lobster boats, kayaks, and the tangle of tourist's buzzing motorboats... stole my heart!  

This painting will be one of my submissions into the American Society of Marine Artists competition. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Her Beach

Her Beach, 20x20" oil, Diane Mannion REVISED (third version)

Alizarin and Viridian

Have often avoided viridian because I've seen so many horrible, livid greens created by beginning artists in my classes.  I've always warned them to avoid it until they can mix yellow and blue, toned down with pink, sienna, or yellow ochre to make a more natural green. 

But lately, I've allowed viridian back on my palette and have been pleased with the neutral mauves it makes with alizarin crimson.  Useful for flesh tones, and with burnt sienna or black added for shadow areas.  Cadmium red light and yellow ochre for light flesh, toned down with the shadow mixtures.

One of these days, I need to get around to making those color charts! 

Alizarin and viridian make purple... what a surprise.
******Made a few revisions, here's the old version:
 Original first version, didn't like color of sand.
Added more sunlight on sand, enlarged blanket, simplified background, and added reflected light to HER.  When is a painting finished, anyway?  After listening to my respected critics and looking at the thing for several days... decided these changes would make a good painting even better.  Sometimes, it takes guts, at least for me, to change what is "good enough" to something a bit better.
Second version... a lot bothered me about sand color and blanket.  Finally pulled out some plein air beach studies to check sand color.  Should be called Three Strikes and You're Out!  Happiest with third version above and will let it be!  Time to move on to something else.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Katie's Yard

Katie's Yard, 14x18" oil, Diane Mannion

Russian Technique

Worked on Russian oil painting technique this weekend during Katie Dobson Cundiff's two day backyard floral workshop.  Katie demonstrated by painting and showing some of her floral paintings done under the influence of working with Ovanes Berberian.  Even though Katie's work was already amazing, her results of studying with this Russian artist were spectacular!

Artists painted floral still lifes set up on tables under trees and next to a pond.  First day weather was challenging with the sunlight going in and out.  Heavy storms on the second day caused me to stay home, but Katie reported that all went well anyway.  Artists painted under overhangs by the pool and watched her demo in the studio.

Even with only one day in this workshop, I learned a lot:  

Palette setup, paint mixing, wash underpaintings, brushwork (using larger brushes... yikes, missed my #2s), brushwork strokes (no scrubbing or petting!), medium recipes. And all with the emphasis on color creating values.  COLOR CREATING VALUES, while leaving white out until last.  Ouch.
Stage of painting when I left Katie's first day.  Spent most of my time hovering in the background painting the landscape which is where I'm most comfortable, too much of a chicken to tackle the flowers with this new technique.
Spent many hours more in the studio trying to adhere to the Russian method which is SO unlike how I usually paint.  That little blue and white vase was tough...almost caused nosebleeds to get it right.  I know a lot of this new information will eventually trickle into my own style and help it grow.  Artists have to keep growing, if we stop learning and experimenting... we're finished.

Katie Dobson Cundiff's workshop was a joy and well worth taking!  I treasure all I've learned.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Artists Acres Light

Artists Acres Light, 9x12" oil, plein air, Diane Mannion

Magical Place

Perfect weather, slight breeze, surrounded by artists pampered with snacks and water delivered on trays.  Fine music playing in the background.  

Artists Acres is an old Floridian estate with large pond, tall trees with orchids, lots of interesting cabins and sheds, paths, all maintained by Todd and Mary Tracy... inspiration galore.

Then an art show where I was honored with a First Place Ribbon granted by judge Jenny Berry.  Lisa Rector Swift won Second Place and People's Choice Award.  Susan Bunce Ritter won third for her painting of the other side of this shed!

Then... wine cheese and dinner served in the screened Perch which overlooks the pond.  Thanks to the ART ALLIANCE OF LEMON BAY for organizing the Annual Paintout.  

And many thanks to Mary and Todd Tracy, heirs of famous artist Lois Bartlett Tracy's estate, for opening the grounds for the artists to paint yesterday.
My painting spot

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


Snooks, 8x10" oil, plein air, Diane Mannion

Snooks Haven

Peace River Painters were all over the place at Snooks Haven in Venice yesterday.  Wonderful painting with so many friends and getting together afterwards to talk about our paintings.  It's how we learn, gather tips and suggestions no matter what level we are with our work.

Visiting Connecticut artist, Beverly A. Schirmeier inspired us with her beautiful pastel painting.  A few of us, myself included are dusting off the old pastel boxes because of Beverly.
Pastel by Beverly A Schirmeier
This is the spot both Beverly and I painted from, interesting to see two different romantic interpretations.
This photo of me starting my masterpiece was on FB this morning, thanks to Peace
River Painters.

Next Monday, Peace River Painters are meeting in the morning at Whiddens Marina in Boca Grande, one of the last remaining authentic spots frozen in time on Gasparilla Island.

Monday, March 7, 2016


Walkers, 8x10" oil, plein air, Diane Mannion

Figures in Perspective... Yikes!

Painted with the Peace River Painters last Monday.  Someone mentioned that my figures were too short.  Originally, I had their heads on the horizon but as I painted them they got shorter and shorter.  Was trying to make the heads smaller and in doing so, kept adding more background blue from the harbor water.  I've read somewhere that if you keep the heads small, and almost no feet the figures will look more elegant. 

Most perspective instructions base the viewers (my eyes) level with the horizon... with the viewers feet on level ground.  In this case they were... but what if I were standing on a small hill would these figures be correct?  They could have been children or short people.  Also noticed people on the beach last week didn't have all their heads on the horizon. Will have to investigate this and report back later.  Tricky subject indeed!

If you want to learn everything there is about figures in perspective or other classic art information, I suggest the books by Andrew Loomis!!!  I downloaded FIGURE DRAWING FOR ALL IT'S WORTH... here.  This master teacher of illustrators during the golden age of illustration wrote several books.  His family wants them to be free for artists and instructors, but I hope new editions will come out in print someday.  This page from his book that may help explain this "tricky" figure in perspective subject in a much clearer way than I would be able to:
Two color sketch using white, ultramarine blue and transparent red oxide. Kept his head on the horizon.!
 A few fast studies from snapshots taken last Monday.  Sure were a lot of portly walkers!

My not-so-portly friends and critics from the Peace River Painters with their heads both on the horizon and in the clouds!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Wave Study

Wave Study, 9x12" oil, plein air

Practice Practice Practice

Painted this a few weeks ago.  So much of surf painting HAS to be from visual memory!  Nothing holds still, even the rocks change with the rising tides.  The challenge for me is to study repeated patterns, set them down... and leave them alone!  

Fascinating subject!  Gulf color changes so much with weather conditions, from blue gray to pale green and turquoise.  Purple cloud shadows, light blue sky reflections...

Colorful walkers, swimmers, sunbathers, fishermen, children playing.  Beach dogs and birds and boats.  Endless inspiration!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Wave Watcher and Pelican Off Jetty

Pelican Off Jetty, 8x10" oil, Diane Mannion

Wipeouts Saved

Painted in Venice last week, with Tony D'Amico in the morning, then with Albert Handell in the afternoon!  Both of my paintings were wipeouts... but determined to make a record of both events, saved them back at the studio. 
Albert Handell taught a workshop for the North Port Art Center and I was invited to stop by when he gave a pastel demo at the Venice Jetty.  The students were enthusiastic and inspired by his teaching.
Wave Watcher, 8x10" oil, Diane Mannion
This was my morning painting, wiped off and rescued later.  Painted next to Tony D'Amico, wonderful artist and friend who painted an amazing one hour study.
Tony D'Amico working miracles!
It can be disappointing painting outside only to return with miserable failures.  But all is not lost if sketches, notes, photos, and memories are enough to push fresh paint over the wipeouts!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Critter Cottage

Critter Cottage, 9x12" oil, plein air, Diane Mannion

Critter Cottage Creatures

Historic day!  After nine years of grooming my standard poodle, I decided to have her professionally groomed.  And while that was taking place, I was able to paint on the gorgeous grounds of the Critter Cottage.  Oh joy!  I'm much happier painting than grooming.

The grounds were filled with chickens, horses, a dozen pregnant sheep!!!, even an iguana (nasty, invasive creatures), an emu (large, flightless bird from Australia that resembles an ostrich), and peacocks that strutted their stuff. 
 Shadow, before
Shadow, after
Sheepish Grin
Pregnant sheep
 Bossy rooster
 chickens watching me paint by my car

 one of many horses and stalls
 Ugly iguana
Peacock roosting next to me while I painted.
Link here to the Critter Cottage