Yay! This painting is a FASO FAV15% selection for March 2018!
There's a place where I can set up my easel and turn in any direction and "see" a painting. Have been painting there for about ten years early in the morning with a painting buddy. It's in Venice, Florida, not telling exactly where… but it's similar to many places along the Gulf Coast.
Seagrasses and foliage change from season to season, more orange and yellow ochre in winter, more blue flowers in summer. Yes, seasons change in Florida. High season is Christmas to Easter when the tourists crowd the roads. Colorful beach umbrellas sprout like mushrooms along the shore, while sunburned figures bend searching for seashells and shark's teeth.
We set up and start painting early when the beach is nearly empty except for an occasional metal detectorist swinging an instrument back and forth, or a yogi doing a sun salutation in the dunes. A few couples stroll along hand in hand. Pelicans and seagulls squawk and dive while fishermen cast circular nets for bait. A Great Blue Heron waits for scraps while white egrets with yellow-booted feet scurry in and out of the surf with their sandpiper friends.
After a few hours, it's always a shock to snap out of the painting trance and be surrounded by beach blankets and curious onlookers. And to listen again to how someone's aunt was a "real" artist! By that time, the light has changed and we pack up and leave.
The painting above is titled Big Brave Morning because I painted with much larger brushes, #10, 12, and a two inch, instead of my usual 2, 4, and 6. I mainly use synthetic bristle flats almost as stiff as a palette knife, both Rosemary and Silver Bristlon. Centurion OP DLX panels in Raymar Panel carriers are great, 8x10" or 9x12" are right size for quick paintings, 5x7" and 6x8" for sketches and color notes. The painting above was 11x14" on a Frederick's panel that I gessoed several times.
We still paint all summer down here even though it gets a bit hot or we have to break for hurricanes. Once led a group called the Heatstrokes. There's always a spot in the shade somewhere and a cool breeze by the shore. But I'm not telling where my favorite spot is!
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
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.
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!"
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!
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.
Cool Morning, pastel, 5.5x8" field study, Diane Mannion
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
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.