Monday, July 20, 2015

Farther Along

FARTHER ALONG, 16x20" oil, ©Diane Mannion

Field Study to Plein Air and Back Again
Revised 7/22/15

Painted this from the small sketch on the previous post, studio block in, then painted on location.  Then back to the studio... then back to location where it was soaked with a sudden downpour.  The linen shrunk on the stretcher but will be fine after restretching.  

I paint faster and looser on location but tend to tighten up in the studio.  This was scrapped and repainted many times in the middle grassy section.  I'm torn between the tonalist and colorist style and striving for some place in the middle.

When doing field studies, it's not possible to record everything!  And when working from photo reference, the camera lies,  perspective is flattened and wonky, colors dull or wildly out of whack.  

A lot must depend on visual memory, even when standing on the spot.  It's a challenge to include or simply suggest only necessary details... not every darn blade of grass, which is the trap I fell into here.

Every painting's a learning experience!  Although this was difficult and I'm not thrilled with it... I'm looking forward to going back to the same spot and starting another version... pushing my painting skills farther along.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Farther Along, Sketch

Farther Along, Sketch, 9x12" oil, plein air, ©Diane Mannion

Beach Trail

Caspersen Beach,  Venice again... farther along the trail there's a great spot where the sun sends shadows across the beach early in the morning.  It's impossible to paint fast enough to capture this explosion of light and color.  Took photos with an excellent camera but it doesn't come close what eyes can see.
This is a quick study for a larger painting... will be going back for more! 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Turn Around

Turn Around, 9x12" oil, ©Diane Mannion


Caspersen Beach, Venice, Florida

Even when painting early in summer, it's important to find shade!  This often limits the choice of scenic spots.  But it's amazing how a place usually overlooked will begin to work when you look around long enough.  I had first thought to paint the scene behind me, but the way the light fell across the road in front of me became the subject.
Here's my Strada Mini with a car sunscreen attached with bulldog clips.  Even though I have a painting umbrella, I'm getting ready to travel without it.  The screen folds and fits into my backpack.  Although I was painting in the shade, sun dapples fell across my panel and the screen worked well blocking them out.  It's also a useful device to hang beneath the easel to block glare.  
Location stage of the painting before studio adjustments.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Dune Flowers

Dune Flowers, 9x12" oil, ©Diane Mannion

While I Was Painting

Sat on the beach for an hour early in the morning and painted a little study for this.  Loved the shadows and color but a phone call ended my session.  Painted the larger version in the studio using a lot of color information from the quick study, colors that my camera could not see.  

This is a new approach to plein air painting for me... I usually finish on location.  (All that practice getting ready for two hour quick paint challenges).  Instead, I'm changing the way I work, rather than finishing a painting on the spot, I'm gathering field studies and sketches for larger works.  

It's a relief knowing I'm only a hunter-gatherer of information for later work.  And working more in the studio has made me aware of the information I need to collect for larger paintings when I'm in front of the real thing.  Working in the studio also makes me realize how important it is to get outside and work from life.

The result of this new approach has been for me to slow down.   There's a tendency for a lot of plein air artists to work fast and loose and get locked into a plein air "style."  Although I like how my "style" looks in studies, I want my work to evolve to a more considered and polished level.  Artists should never stop growing, anyway!
Here's the one hour field study for Dune Flowers.
Dune Flowers Study, 4x8" oil, plein air, ©Diane Mannion

My friend, Sharon Yarbrough sent me this quote that says it all!

Plein-air paintings are life, and without them the rest of my work would die. Without it, I would have nothing to say in the studio, because without real-life experience, art is impossible. (Scott Burdick)

The phone call that ended this painting session was of the sudden, instant, and unexpected death of my husband's friend.  Although I hadn't met him yet, he had agreed to let me paint him sitting on the beach.  The painting would have been Summer Santa.  During the holidays, he worked as Mr Claus.  

While I was painting...

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Tide Pool

Tide Pool, 9x12" oil, plein air, ©Diane Mannion

Caspersen Beach, Venice

Thought it would be a good idea to practice painting rocks for my trip to Maine later this month, and Venice rocks never disappoint.  Rocks are not easy to find on Floridian beaches!  This morning there was also a colorful addition of red-orange seaweed.  
Painted from 7:30am to about 10:00am before the heat set in.  Pleasant breeze, two snorkelers and a dolphin swam by.  Had my camera ready when a great blue heron walked through this tidal pool... will definitely be the star a larger studio version.  And by the time my friend and I left, the seaweed had turned dark brown.  Wonderful morning!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Following In Her Footsteps

Following in her Footsteps, 16x20" oil, ©Diane Mannion

Studio Version

Was happy with the 8x10" study, so painted a larger version with more detail and polish.  Although the small version is loose and spontaneous, I'm pleased with the more considered effect of the studio painting.  

My daughter and granddaughter visited during a blustery winter day, too cold to go swimming, so we walked along Englewood Beach.  I snapped photos (of course).  Most were not painting material but there was something about one snapshot that caught my attention.  

Made my granddaughter younger and almost completely painted the water from visual memory.  No photo could capture the feeling of that day.  My granddaughter lives in NY and my daughter is half way around the world on business.  Bittersweet image for me.
Following in her Footsteps, study, 8x10" oil, ©Diane Mannion

Friday, June 26, 2015

Boca Grande Pass

Boca Grande Pass, 8x10" oil, ©Diane Mannion


Boca Grande Pass, world famous for tarpon fishing and HUMONGOUS sharks.

While painting this, a manatee swam by.  The huge shape and slow movement was distinct in the crystal clear water.  Once kayaked around this point and was thrilled when one swam directly underneath. 

Almost July here and HOT!  Didn't get out until late morning, stood under the shade of my tiny painting umbrella for about an hour.  Got the color notes, memorized as much as possible and finished in the studio.  Photo reference was almost useless next to the colors I saw in real life! 

What caught my eye first about this scene was the gorgeous, break-your-heart light blue reflection on the water.  Turquoise and purple, glorious greens, flecks of yellow all playing in swift currents that flow through this pass. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Surf Study

Surf Study, 8x10" oil, ©Diane Mannion


Have read E John Robinson's Painting the Sea books again and again.  Have watched Don Demers, Marine Painting: Art of the Waves about twenty-five times.  Have spent years of my life staring at the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico trying to figure it out.  Have painted at the beach a lot!  I still find painting the surf challenging. 

Surf Study is practice for spending a week in Maine painting the Atlantic this summer.  Water painting is also an important element in my work and I'm determined to figure it out.  

This small painting sat around my studio for months in various stages of frustrated wipe-outs.  One problem was the terrible reference photo I took one gloomy day and started working with.  Finally had to abandon it and use visual memory and imagination. 

After getting tight and loosing up, blurring, scrubbing, and blending... finally got angry and slapped strokes on to finish or else!  And sheesh... now I like it.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Fishery Tree

Fishery Tree, 9x12" oil, plein air, ©Diane Mannion

Placida Fishery

Lovely morning painting with several plein air groups, Lee, Charlotte, and Sarasota counties all joined together for the last paintout for this season of the Peace River Painters.  Cool breeze and shade, although a few tough artists roasted in direct sunlight!

Seminole Trader was still floating and rumor has it, the folks who thought they could sell her for scrap have given up.  Also, the idea of towing her sixty miles out to sea to be sunk as an artificial reef was not approved of by Charlotte County.  (See my last post for the painting.)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Seminole Trader

Seminole Trader, 8x10" oil, plein air, ©Diane Mannion

Last Voyage

Seminole Trader's disappearing fast... roof removed and piece by piece cut apart for scrap.  I've painted this old shrimper in Placida, Florida many times.  Always wondered about the stormy seas survived, and glorious sunrises witnessed.  She'll be missed by many artists!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Cabbage Palms

Cabbage Palms, 8x10" oil, plein air, ©Diane Mannion


Painted with the Heatstrokes yesterday at Manasota Key Beach.  Fine HOT weather!  But we didn't mind while standing in the shade with a sea breeze coming in from the Gulf.  Folks were toasting right out in the sun, turning colorful shades of pink to scarlet orange. 

Another study for a larger painting.  Now that I know my plein air sketches are simply a way of gathering information, I feel less pressure about finishing on location.  A lot more fun!  Happy with this one.  Focused on color, light flow and composition.

Historical notes from Wikipedia: (also, an alert FB friend said they are a favorite food of bears.)
The cabbage-like terminal bud has been eaten as hearts of palm. The bristles on the sheaths of young leaves have been made into scrubbing brushes. The trunks have been used as wharf piles. On June 28, 1776, Charleston patriots under William Moultrie made a fort of palmetto trunks and from it defended successfully against the British in the Revolutionary War.[13]

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Fresh Paint

Fresh Paint, 6x6" oil, plein air, ©Diane Mannion

Fishery Cottage

Took my new Strada Mini on a test drive at the Fishery in Placida, Florida.  This cottage had a fresh coat of paint which made me wish I had brought along some of my pthalo colors.  A few shades of purple and teal simply can't be mixed with my simple limited palette.  

Will be painting here next Monday with the Peace River Painters, last paintout of the season.  Plenty of shade and colorful scenery.  One of the last tiny villages in this area with real old Florida character.  Won't last long, sale signs everywhere.  The shrimp boat, Seminole Trader is being cut up for scrap metal.  Sad.

The Strada Mini... everything I hoped for! 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Two Sisters Again

Two Sisters Again, 16x20" oil, ©Diane Mannion

Plein Air to Studio

Two Sisters are a well known pair of trees on the Venice, Florida shoreline.

Working up some of my field studies into larger versions.  Made so many changes on this one that it's at least three paintings deep!  Got close to my original idea then the painting seemed to have a mind of it's own and pulled me in another direction.

So much of painting on location depends on simplifying what's there; so much of studio painting relies on visual memory and imagination.  Could not have painted this studio version without the experience of painting on this location often.  Photo reference does not capture the sense of place and lies about colors and values.

The other difference between plein air and studio is TIME.  Field studies are painted in a couple of hours before the light changes.  The technique is loose and energetic.  It's always a thrill to drop a few in the box before noon.

Studio works take a lot longer, so PATIENCE is needed!  It takes days or weeks for one painting... polishing and refining and taking the work as far as possible.  Or letting the work take YOU as far as possible.

Hot Floridian summer's a great time to chill in the air conditioning and explore new painting directions.  But I'll still venture outside to paint on location with the Heat Strokes (my private group, usually just me and a friend).  There's always a bit of shade and breeze somewhere early in the morning.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Venice Park

Venice Park, 8x10" oil, plein air, ©Diane Mannion

Peace River Painters in Venice

Beautiful morning painting with the Peace River Painters in Venice.  

Resisted the impulse to fiddle with this later, simply signed and let it go.  I'm sort of pleased with the light.  Someone asked why I had painted the sky yellow... that's the way it looked early this morning.  Was tempted to add the dog obedience class that appeared in the background, but kept it simple instead, true to my first impression of the scene.  It was really all about the light.

I used limited palette of red, yellow, blue, white, plus red iron oxide.  Absolutely NO solvents, and not a drop of linseed oil.  Paint pushed around with stiff Silver Bristlon brushes and paper towels on linen panel.  Simply pulled paint off brush to change colors, or used another brush.  It works!
First stage roughed and rubbed in:
Afterwards, we gathered in Karen Hitt's Studio (who's still away on her Cinderella honeymoon) and enjoyed the cool air conditioning, refreshments, and art talk.  Was wonderful meeting new artists and looking at the morning's output.
Sally, Cory, and me, while leading the critique. 
We learn from each other.
Photo thanks to Marina

Thursday, June 4, 2015


RIPTIDE, 11x14" oil, ©Diane Mannion

Dangerous Riptide

Floridian winter weather can be unpredictable!  Tough to explain to a five year old why she could not go swimming!  Dangerous riptide warnings posted, high winds, rough seas, and darn cold.  This explains her moody, calm before the storm, attitude. 
First stage worked up from a 6x6" study.
One of many middle stages.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Boca Wall Cherubs

Boca Wall Cherubs, 8x10" oil, ©Diane Mannion

Boca Grande Wall Ornaments

Started on location Memorial Day weekend.  Painted from the back of my car under the shade of the hatchback and everything was honky-dory until a huge, shiny SUV parked right in front of me.  Didn't block my view but the glare from it's back window shot sun darts into my eyes every time I looked up.  Had my sunhat pulled down over my nose.  

Cut the session short and was ready to wipe it out when I got back home.  My husband liked something about it, so I finished in the studio.  Glad I did.

Disappearing time, so many of these old places are bull-dozed for new mega mansions.  At one time these cherubs must have been the height of fashion and good taste.  I like how the dying leaf says it all.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Iron Ox

Iron Ox, 8x10" oil, plein air/studio, ©Diane Mannion

Fisherman's Village

Painted with the Peace River Painters in Punta Gorda.  So much detail on this shrimp boat, I only got half-way on location and finished it later in studio.
Here's how it looked on location, photo thanks to Sharon:

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Jacaranda Pond

Jacaranda Pond, 2015, 8x10" oil, plein air, ©Diane Mannion

American Lotus, 5th Year!

Painted with Light Chasers and Peace River Painters this morning, while bullfrogs croaked and a gater drifted nearby. 
Last year... 2014.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Roseate Spoonbills

 Roseate Spoonbills, 9x12" oil, Diane Mannion

Ding Darling, Sanibel

Finally got to see a flock of the elusive roseate spoonbills at Ding Darling, Sanibel!  They flew off  minutes after I arrived.  My first sighting after living in Florida for over twenty years.

Painted with the Peace River Painters, Lee County Plein Air Artists, and Suncoast Plein Air.

My plein air study evolved into studio painting with major struggle:

This painting was first a plein air study that I decided to paint on top of to add the birds... mistake.  Should have kept the plein air study and started a new painting.  After looking at my photo of the first version, decided I liked it much more, but it's lost under layers of paint.

So, lesson learned.  Keep plein air sketches and studies as they are.  Something vital happens while painting on location that can never be duplicated with photo reference in the studio.
Plein air study forever lost under several layers of paint and many wipeouts.
Another version under the final painting.  It was important to illustrate the Spoonbills... but they took over the painting here.  Wiped out a few more times.

This is how they looked that day, off in the distance.  Folks were lined up with huge cameras lenses snapping away.

Painting conditions were difficult, breezy with spotted clouds.  It was a four hour drive, so I didn't want to go back to work on location again.  When I showed my husband the original plein air painting, he said... "You drove four hours for that?"  But I was determined to celebrate my sighting of the Roseate Spoonbills, thus the many, many wipeouts.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Punta Gorda History Park

Punta Gorda History Park, 8x10" oil/linen, plein air, Diane Mannion

History Park Again

Delightful morning painting with the Peace River Painters!  Also present, members of the Monday Morning Painters, the Heatstrokes, the No-Name Painters... and a member of a Fort Myers group! Even though it was almost 90, everyone found a cool spot in the shade and there were no complaints ... only about a sudden shower from some lawn sprinklers.

Two more of my History Park paintings, both oil, plein air from 2013.
 Trabue House on left, same as above.
Cigar Makers Cottage