Friday, September 1, 2017


Kayak, sketchbook plein air, 5x8" watercolor/gouache, DMannion


Will be traveling to an artists retreat in Maine next week, so have been practicing sketching with minimalist equipment.  Painted with the Englewood Plein Air Posse at Boca Grande and simplified:

Pocket Palette (
Pentalic Watercolor Sketchbook
Pentel Waterbrush size large
Tiny Moleskine thumbnail sketchbook with pen
Paper towels, a few sheets
And that's it!

Don't know if I'll be able to post much next week without my computer!  And I've signed up for TWO 30 Paintings in 30 Days events!  I know the paintings will get done but may be late posting here.

Happy Painting,

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Free Will

Free Will, sketchbook gouache, 5x8" DMannion

It Happens...

Out scouting around for new places to paint, I pulled into a local boatyard and introduced myself to the owner who gave me permission.  Was almost high noon and blazing hot!   And… It Happens… I forgot  to pack my oil paints!  Using the Palette Garage, a new gadget, which works well if it's taken out of the freezer and deposited in plein air backpack before heading out.  Sigh.  

Took lots of photos and did thumbnail sketches on location soaking up the atmosphere.  Love the shapes and colors, will return!  Found an old Cape Dory 28 that may have been the one we used to sail.  Sold it right before Hurricane Charley, 2013.

Painted Free Will back in cool studio with gouache instead of oils.  Gouache over an acrylic underpainting of lemon yellow.  It helps the gouache stay on top of watercolor paper, unsealed it tends to sink in.  

Love the name Free Will.  What was Will freed from?  From the condition of the boat I fear it didn't go well…

Set up an "invention" a mini shade spot, to take to Maine instead of an umbrella.  Worked well with HomeDepot clamps on the Strada.   Sewed black nylon to a car side window shade.  Curls up and will pack well.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Tracy's Shed

Tracy's Shed, 5x9" sketchbook gouache, DMannion

Artists Acres

Lovely morning painting with Englewood Plein Air Posse friends at Artists Acres.  Steve, Sharon and I were captivated with how red flowers on a bush glowed in the sun and how light spilled over the tin roof.  Steve painted a winner with watercolor and Sharon's oil shone with stunning colors.

Meanwhile, I struggled once again with gouache.  Had it half finished when we got the call to lunch at 
Boca Royal Country Club, about a dozen of us, not bad for off-season. 

Back in the studio, I finished… or rather fought the sketch to something blogable.  Had to cover over the orange acrylic underpainting (which covered another unexciting figure drawing).  Orange showing through took away from the dramatic red flowers.  Tracy's shed is so crooked that it makes my drawing look bad, so it's not my fault! At least I like the reworked version better. 

Have been working in gouache thinking it would be faster for sketching… not.  Meanwhile, working on large oils in the studio which I can't show right now, so little studies at least give me something to post.

Fresh from the field, plein air version
Thumbnail sketch

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Gouache Lesson

Gouache Lesson, sketchbook, DMannion

Jane's First Gouache lesson

After painting outside in the heat Sunday morning, Jane and I set up a still life in the cool studio.  It was her first time painting with gouache.  Told her she could do a lousy underpainting in transparent watercolor and then everything could be covered with opaque gouache.  Unlike watercolor, changes are easy to make.  

But gouache isn't easy the first time… takes practice and patience!  Jane must have enjoyed the lesson because I couldn't get her to stop!  

She tried a few different brushes, from Winsor Newton Series 7 sable for watercolor (one of my illustrator brushes), an old travel synthetic flat (one of my favorites), and a water brush, the type with water in the handle.  All that's needed to get started with gouache is one tube of white gouache and a watercolor box.  
Can do a transparent underpainting and gradually build it up.  If working opaque, mix a good pile of the color.  Stroke it on and LEAVE IT!  NO PETTING!!!   Edges can be softened later.

 What Jane used, along with plenty of paper towels and water.

I worked on the painting above in a Pentalic watercolor sketchbook.  Had painted orange acrylic over an old figure drawing that I didn't like (good way to salvage pages in pricey sketchbook!).  Acrylic allows the gouache to stay on top and not sink into the paper.

My gouache box and Pentalic sketchbook, great for travel!  Limited palette here of a rose color, orange, yellow, ultramarine, turquoise, sepia, and white.  Sepia and turquoise is not really needed.

I use gouache, pastels, or oils with my Strada easel.  Flattered that Strada Easel posted my easel hack on Instagram yesterday!  Had John drill holes in a side panel for holding brushes.

I also paint gouache on the easel by putting tube paint on a wet paper towel which keeps it moist.  Almost like working with oils!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Chadwick August

Chadwick August, 5x8"sketchbook gouache, plein air, DMannion

Painting with a Friend

Chadwick Park in Englewood is a little known small place with plenty of things to paint.  Also a lot of shade provided.  My artist friend, Jane Sither and I spent Sunday morning painting in the heat which didn't bother us at all.  Gentle cool breeze by the water, could have stayed all day but got hungry for lunch.  
Jane, who did a terrific study in oils!
Our view!
My thumbnail sketch

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bait House View

Bait House View, sketchbook gouache, plein air and studio, DMannion

Morning Paint

Nice time painting with friends at the Bait House in Englewood this morning.  Even in this heat we found a cool spot, or were so busy chatting and painting we didn't notice it was 93!

Still figuring out how to use gouache for plein air painting.  Used my Strada with wet paper towel and a sheet of paper on top.  Squeezed out the paints fresh from the tubes (although I had forgotten Ultramarine blue… oh, the horror!)  Had to make do with turquoise, instead.  Also sprayed the paint to keep it moist.  Worked really well!  

Should have left my sketch the way it was when I got back to the studio, sigh.  Will I ever learn?
Had painted over a film of hideous yellow and liked the way it showed through in spots.  At least I took a photo before I reworked it.   Learned about sealing watercolor paper for gouache to stay on top from James Gurney last night, worked well.  But should have left my sketch… just be a sketch!  I have a tendency to want to finish everything.  Over fiddled, it's not bad but, please tell me to stop next time!

This is how it looked before painting another painting on top!
Thumbnail sketch

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Albritton Gallery

Albritton Gallery, 5x7" gouache, 2 day plein air, DMannion.

Oh, Gouache!

Painted for the James Gurney Paintastorefront Challenge

Having spent many years working in watercolors as an illustrator, I know the importance of white gouache for correcting mistakes!  I've discovered a renewed interest in gouache as a plein air medium that can be painted quickly (although this one was NOT quick!).  Gouache is light weight for travel, all that's needed is a tube of white gouache, watercolors, and a sketchbook.  Don't forget the brushes… I found stiffer synthetics, el cheap ones worked much better than soft, expensive sables.

***Discovered this about gouache:  Can start with a horrible, worst ever watercolor and paint over everything with gouache!  What a miracle!  HOORAY FOR OPAQUE!

Put my heart into this painting two mornings in a row (and some time in the studio for those itchy architectural details on the roofline).  The Fishery in Placida, a unique and historic fishing village will most likely be razed for condos.

Talked to the gallery owner, Margaret Albritton right after I finished this.  And, OH, GOSH!  She told me the building was once a post office and store of the Cole family… my maiden name.  Sigh.  If only I could inherit the place.  Now this building is special to me, a distant (really, really remote distant, to the moon and back) link on the family tree.  After learning this, the painting resonates history to me… thinking about my relatives working inside before air conditioning in the 1800's.
Set up the old Strada easel behind my car.  Notice the standing paintbrushes!  John drilled a few holes in the side panel for me.  I use this easel for oils, pastels, and now gouache, too.
Sad… vultures sitting on the roof, guess they know.

Have promised to write more about the Placida Fishery and show the many paintings I've done there since 2008… and I will.  But first, going back to paint there as much as possible before it's gone.

Thanks to James Gurney for suggesting the Paint a Storefront Challenge.  Visit the links below for his excellent gouache information and tons of other great stuff.  Fabulous artist!

Thursday, August 3, 2017


DockOar, 5x7"oil, DMannion

Stump Pass Marina

Found a shady spot this morning while painting with the Englewood Plein Air Posse.  Was having a fine time with this aqua colored boat!  Usually the boat will leave before I finish, this time, two huge boats pulled in blocking the view.  Oh well… thank heavens for iPhone snapshots!  Even caught the pelican while landing on the piling.
How much I got done before view was blocked...
 Thumbnail sketech
Working small for field studies and practice for travel.  Not freaking myself out about creating finished master pieces while painting outside.  Just collecting enough information to use later in the studio.  Makes the whole plein air process much more fun, at least for me.  

Still experimenting with water mixable oils… and getting the hang of it.  Forgot to bring water to clean brushes with, simply wiped with a paper towel.  Used water mixable linseed oil.  Feel a lot better about water mixables after doing more research.  They can be used with regular oils!  They can also be varnished with regular varnish.  Possible to do an underpainting with water mixables, then use regular oils for next layers.  So now that I've invested in these paints, I feel better knowing they won't go to waste.

***Also… struggled with water mixable Hue colors, avoid them if possible and stick with pure colors.  Purchased cadmium yellow to replace cad yellow hue, for instance and it made a great difference.  Holbein sells some high quality pure pigment colors, also Winsor and Newton… check the labels and avoid hue colors if possible.  The problem happened because I started out with "sets" and they contained many "hue" colors.  Hue colors contain more white, they're a tint of the pure colors and not nearly as rich.
Do your research before experimenting with water mixables!  Holbein Duo, Winsor & Newton Artisan, 
and Cobra are a few top rated brands.

Saturday, July 29, 2017


Fishery, 6.5x8.5"pastel, DMannion

Placida Fishery

The bright colors of this historic fishing village are rapidly fading.  Vultures circle this prime property… I fear condos are looming in the near future.  A feral cat or two is always present.  Will be going back to capture what I can before it disappears.  Sad.

A few historical notes (there will be more in future posts):  Once thriving fishing village, was killed by the Net Ban in 1995. An investor purchased this seven acre property from the Albritton family in 2001.  Property was foreclosed in 2010.  

While researching this history, I discovered the Albritton's are descendants of the Gault and Cole families, fishing pioneers of Englewood.  My maiden name is Cole!  An island on the Boca Grande causeway is named Cole Island… perhaps I can charge another toll!

My Fishery pastel(above) was a studio version from a small field sketch.  Used NuPastels only on Pastelmat just to see if I could.   Have been experimenting by using NuPastels only for field sketches.  My tiny box of NuPastels is easy to carry anywhere.
Thumbnail for Fishery

Two quick studies done on location, NuPastels on Canson MiTeintes

Location setup, tiny box of NuPastels fit perfectly in Strada Mini!  Will work perfectly along with oils during my artist's retreat in Maine.

A few of the vultures… waiting!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Just a Bowl of Cherries

Just a Bowl of Cherries, 6x8"oil, DMannion

Still Another Still Life

On those days when the weather outside is awful and I'm feeling under the weather, a still life is perfect for keeping the brushes busy.  Nothing better than painting from life for practice!  

Thumbnail scribble

What John did to my tissues!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Rainy Day Palm

Rainy Day Palm, 8x10" oil, plein air, Diane Mannion


Was beginning to think this painting panel was jinxed!  Fought it through to this stage which I don't hate too much.  Palm trees are difficult subjects, someone once told me it takes years to be able to paint a palm tree that doesn't look like a toilet brush.  

Wanted to catch the neighbor's tree before the gardeners arrived and trimmed the old growth and gorgeous orange seeds off.  There are also lovely bright green ferns that thrive on the upper trunk, all will be chopped off except for a few upper branches.  This is a pineapple palm that grows in the yard across the way.  

Here's the trail of wipeouts and scrapings…

1.Sketched over failed portrait

2. thumbnail sketches

3. First version painted from front doorway…meh.

4.First version after fiddling… too dark and gloomy

5.How it looked after wipeout, good table cloth design.

6.Block in, started to look much better.  Could have (should have) left it like this.

And the finish again.

The palm before the rain started.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lemon Bay Park

Lemon Bay Park, 6x8" oil, plein air, Diane Mannion

Lemon Bay Under Purple Sky

Painted with Englewood artists this morning at a local park.  Had to do a bit of visual bush pruning so the bay would show using my artistic license again.  Also removed another palm tree and railings on a walkway.  But I'm happy with the general feeling of the location!  

The sky was magnificent!  Glowed with purples, blues, and a warm light yellow.  Thunderstorms were moving inland and away, helpful checking the weather app on my iPhone!  It was a treat painting with other artists.

I'm having a struggle getting used to water mixable oils but will persist.  Found they slow me down quite a bit.  I do use the appropriate water based medium and do not use any water after the underpainting.  Have found the colors not as intense as regular oils.  But the beauty of washing brushes later with soap and water is a plus!  Have only done three paintings with this medium so far and I'm pleased with the results.  Will keep at it, but never giving up regular oils!  
thumbnail sketch
Gopher tortoise crawled by checking out our paintings!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Stormy Day Peppers

Stormy Day Peppers, 6x8"oil, DMannion

Floridian Summer

 Late afternoon thunderstorms are fine but lately they've been happening in the morning also.  Early mornings are cool enough to walk the dog and paint outside but not while thunder rumbles.  May paint with a group tomorrow but will stay close to the car… maybe inside it.  

The bright colors of these peppers were irresistible!  Red, yellow, orange, spiced with green looked delicious in the blue bowl.  Set them in a card board box, adjusted the light and had a delightful few hours tucked away in the studio painting away a rainy day.

thumbnail sketch