Monday, November 23, 2015

Fishery Truck

Fishery Truck, 8x10" oil, plein air, Diane Mannion

Placida Fishery

 Placida Fishery is a tiny old fishing village with colorful cottages and boats.  Not many places with "character" left like this, and with the property for sale, it may be high rise condos soon. 

Fishery Truck is a two day plein air painting, started last week with an Englewood group and finished today with the Peace River Painters and the SRQ group.  Could paint with different groups almost any day of the week around here!  

Painted this scene because I was struck by the light patterns on the grass.   And the old red truck.  And the cottage's colors... purple, teal, yellow, and a tin roof!  What more could an artist want?  Had to do a bit of re-landscaping and moved the flower pot into the picture plane.  The place was crawling with fishery cats that wouldn't hold still long enough to paint.  Did leave the telephone pole out which would have cut the scene in half.  

The light on both mornings was exactly the same thanks to our Floridian sun.  Ospreys called to each other while artists chatted in the background.  Snowbirds caught up with news and shared stories.  Towards noon, we gathered around for a gentle critique and admired each others productions.
Went home with a dozen blue crabs for lunch!
 A few Peace River Painters!
Our sign with Johan painting, Vlad of SRQ behind Sharon Yarbrough (our fearless leader looking splendid in the tee shirt we'll be able to order next week).

Friday, November 20, 2015

Hermitage Looking South

Hermitage Looking South, 8x10" oil, Diane Mannion

Ringling Englewood Art Center Paintout

We were lucky!  Promised rain didn't happen and traffic from the Super Boat Race didn't effect us.  Many artists turned out despite the dire warnings.

I'm the judge for this event (well kept secret) and am looking forward to seeing everyone's work next week.  After glancing over a few shoulders, I can tell picking a winner won't be easy.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Hermitage Cottages

Hermitage Cottages, 8x10" oil, Diane Mannion

November Morning

Ran into technical difficulties with this.  Used a fast drying type of oil paint but it turned into chewing gum on my palette.   May have been the strong sun and brisk breeze that caused the paint to congeal like old rubber bands, but whatever the reason... not using that stuff again.  Was happy with my start even though it took lots of scraping to remove most of the goo so it could be rescued.  Then went back on location to adjust the colors and details.  Phew...

Aside from standing on a fire ant nest and having ankles bitten (even though I was coated with bug spray!), it was a beautiful morning painting with lots of happy Peace River Painters on Manasota Key.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Gray Morning

Gray Morning, 8x10" oil, plein air, Diane Mannion

Blind Pass Beach

Painted with friends this quiet Sunday morning on Blind Pass Beach, known to the locals as Middle Beach, located in the middle of Manasota Key.  This is one of the cottages in the Hermitage, an "artists" colony that will open it's gates to the locals for a paintout this Friday.  

The Gulf was smooth and lovely right behind me.  Cloudy, breezy and cool.  Watched a dolphin arching along the shore and pelicans fluttering about.  Thought it would be miserable painting conditions but it was perfect... didn't want to leave.  I don't go to the beach often enough! 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Old Orchid

Old Orchid, 11x14" oil, Diane Mannion

Growing Pains

This one was a struggle.  Wiped, scraped, redesigned and ready to give up several times!  But considered it a challenge to just finish the darn thing.  Kept remembering Qiang Huang's words... "Flowers can never be painted, only indicated."  

The more I rendered the less I liked them.  When I boldly pushed the paint around as I do while painting plein air, I liked them better.  So what happened was that by the time I reached one side, my style had changed and I ended up repainting the whole thing.

Started painting from life in the studio, here's the setup.  Thanks heavens I decided NOT to paint the lovely print on the fabric or I'd still be at it.
I've had this old orchid for at least ten years, fortunately it thrives on neglect.  Once a year it blooms from about Thanksgiving and lasts until Christmas.  As you can see, I had to do a lot of visual trimming to fit the big old thing into my small linen panel.
Worried about studio lights and air conditioning harming the plant, I moved it outside to paint in the healthy heat and humidity.

Here's a progression shot showing the agony of redesigning.  Actually played with it in Photoshop... foolishly thinking my white parakeet might look good flying into the plant.  Glad I rejected that idea! 
So why did I title this post Growing Pains?  I learned a lot about what NOT to paint.  Learned not to render too much, although I'm a fool for details.  And hope my next painting will grow from these painful lessons into the next great stage of my artistic development. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Lifeguard Stand

Lifeguard Stand, 8x10" oil, plein air, Diane Mannion

Fresh Paint

Hit my reset button this morning on Manasota Key Beach!  After weeks of other issues and distractions, it felt great getting out with the Peace River Painters and slashing away with the brush.  Painting and not thinking... or at least only thinking with my eyes. 

Too windy for the umbrella so I painted with sunglasses until the end, then removed them to see the colors.  The lifeguard came over to make sure I had painted him big and muscular... his red shorts and viridian shirt were great accents.  He put up a yellow caution flag because the water was rough and choppy.

I shrunk the distance to the surf and left out the rescue vehicle using my artistic license.  Amazing how much color the camera does not see!
Leslie's shot of me working on a sunburn.
Fran and Helga!
Happy Helga painting in MY favorite painting spot. 
Vincent (wearing his daughter's hat!) was bothered by biting ants and has learned to always spray his shoes with bug spray before painting.
Johan, recently landed snowbird from the far north and excellent artist and I'm happy to report... we're now neighbors, fellow Englewoodians.

Check out Peace River Painters on Facebook for photos of artists I didn't catch and to see their wonderful works.  Great group!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Garden Club

Garden Club, 4x6.5 gouache, plein air, Diane Mannion

Lemon Bay Garden Club

Painted this yesterday morning with a few members of the (affectionately called) Englewood Plein Air Heads on the grounds of the Lemon Bay Garden Club.  Couldn't scare anyone to go along with me to paint at the cemetery later, wonder why.  (See Lemon Bay Cemetery in yesterdays post.)

Used my dried up pan of gouache for this, handy to have if I don't feel like setting up the easel for oils.  Simply painted with my sketchbook and palette balanced on my lap.  Gouache is actually opaque watercolor and takes awhile to understand the difference in technique.  Started with really dark areas for this one, leaving the sunlit spots lighter or white.  Wonderful thing about gouache is the ability to paint lights OVER darks.

The cemetery painting, Buried in Dinghy, was started with thinner washes, almost like painting with watercolor for the first layer, then added opaque areas later, leaving a lot of transparent spots, like the flag alone.

(To my horror, I just noticed I had spelled cemetery wrong yesterday!  Urgh.  Artists aren't good at spelling or numbers, at least I'm not.  Gosh... took forever to learn how to spell gouache!  Please forgive.)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Buried in Dinghy

Buried in Dinghy, 4x6.5" gouache, plein air, Diane Mannion

Noon Graveyard Shift

Painted this for James Gurney's Creepy Halloween October Graveyard Challenge.  Not a place that I would have picked to paint otherwise!  Dinghy grave of Bill Anger, 1915-1990, Historical Lemon Bay Cemetery, Englewood, Florida.

Used limited palette of ultramarine blue, cadmium red, cadmium yellow medium, and white... the basic limited palette I also use with oils.
Ghoulish Selfie!

 Started with pencil sketch and taped edges 
Limited palette of red, yellow, blue dried up and re-wet gouache
Mixed the three colors above to get a great gray for underpainting

Finished in about an hour... just wanted to get the heck out of there!!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Still Another

Still Another, 11x14" oil, Diane Mannion

Still Another Still Life

It's comforting to have a still life to work on when times are hectic.  A few hours or even minutes pushing paint around is meditative and soothing... at least for me.  It's like practicing the piano, finger exercises and skill polishing, especially when painting from life.

Found the silver bowl in a thrift shop.  I'd been looking for shiny things to paint and now have a collection to feed my still life habit...a graceful goblet, a candle stick, and a fabulous silver teapot rescued from layers of tarnish. 

Sometimes, it takes hours just to set up the objects and lighting.  Although I was painting next to a north light window, I found the most dramatic light when I closed the curtains and used a spotlight.  I also placed a sheet of cardboard on the left to cast a shadow.  It's like setting a stage for your painting... painting with objects.  I often start with a few items then add more after I start painting if the composition needs it.  In this case, the blue bottle and the grapes were added a day after.

The flowers are silk.  I'd rather paint real flowers, but knowing I would be working on this for a long time, I cheated with fake ones which don't wilt under lights.

Someone mentioned that my plein air landscape paintings have a calming effect... which is the opposite way I feel when racing to finish a painting or sketch in two hours, then I feel tense, focused and alert.  I can take as much time as needed with a still life, time slows down, painting in minutes or hours, days or weeks. 

Painting progression:

 Studio setup
Revised Spoon... 11/22/15

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sea Oats

Sea Oats, 8x10" oil, plein air, Diane Mannion

Painting Buddy

While painting on the beach yesterday morning, the air was thick with screaming gulls and net casters catching bait fish.  Wonderful time of the year with the beach almost empty... just a scattering of walkers and fishermen.   No tourists looking over our shoulders, a cool breeze and great clouds.

Struck by the orange glow of sea oats against purple clouds, I had to paint fast while conditions rapidly changed.  My artist buddy got her pastel painting to the halfway point when we decided to leave after about two hours.

I wasn't happy with my painting until my friend suggested a mixture of orange to add to the sea oats.  Worked perfectly!  "But don't over-do it," she said... just as I did.  So next morning with fresh eyes I went at it with a palette knife and in a few minutes felt much happier about my painting!

It's great having a talented artist friend with well-trained eyeballs whose opinion I trust!  Every artist needs at least one good artist buddy.
This is how it looked fresh from the beach with over-worked sea oats.  Did not change anything else, the color difference in the sky is a result of camera shot at different time of day.

Monday, October 5, 2015


Grace, 11x14" oil, Diane Mannion

Magic Trick

When petals fall... it's time to stop working on a painting!  But the dropped petals helped with the composition.  Added the branch on the left and the single petal on the right as an after-thought and I'm happiest with these details which I found easiest to paint.  

Sometimes the most impressive parts of a painting are the easiest to paint.  Brushwork, color, values, rendering, edges, composition, all need to work together.  These are the most difficult but necessary concepts to orchestrate in order to achieve atmosphere and the illusion of space.  Painting's a graceful magic trick that fools the eye.  But beauty's in the eye of the beholder, depending on their aesthetic taste of course!

I'm thankful these flowers held together long enough to paint from life. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015


Michael, 10x8" oil, Diane Mannion

Zorn Palette

Two hour painting from life at Venice Art Center using the Zorn palette...  white, cadmium red medium, ivory black, and yellow ochre.   This limited palette has an amazing range and harmonious effect.  There's no blue but ivory black has a bluish tint and appears blue when thinned with white.  Yellow ochre and black make a wonderful muted green.  Cad red med and yellow ochre are perfect for flesh tones. 

The Zorn palette is named after Anders Zorn, a famous Swedish artist (1860-1920). 
 Self-portrait, 1915, Anders Zorn

My painting, Lightkeeper's House was a Boldbrush FAV 15 Winner in August!
Lightkeeper's House, 8x10" oil, Diane Mannion

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Morning Field Study

 Morning Field Study, 8x10" oil, plein air, Diane Mannion

Magnificent Morning

Set up early on Caspersen Beach, Venice.  Refreshing change from still life painting but difficult because nothing holds still!  Simply let loose and pushed paint around.  Much happier with this little study than the last location painting... a wipeout.  

Have a hard time narrowing my field of vision with such a vast panorama, have to force myself not to see what's happening out in left field.  I've always found the sight-size method inhibiting, but attempted to line things up with the curve in the sand and the rocks above. 

Wanted to record everything!  A million paintings happened right before my eyes with only a split second to note each one.   Tried to memorize types of waves and movements that happened over and over. 

Wanted to include a few figures fishing near the rocks, but that will have to wait for another painting. 
Morning office setup, yes... this is work!

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Melon

The Melon, 11x14" oil, Diane Mannion

Making Changes

Thought I was finished with this until I looked at it the next morning (see stage "a" below).  It wasn't working, thought of adding butterflies or another bottle with sticks, anything to break up the teapot and box.  

During breakfast, after discussing the problem with fabulous gourmet cook John, he agreed the painting needed something else.  While he was slicing a melon he said... The Melon!   So, I painted the Chef's Choice.

Sketched melon slices on top of the painting, then wiped off paint with ear swabs and Gamsol to keep the new colors clean.  Here's the demo:
 a. Before change
 b. outlined area
 c. wiped off old paint with ear swabs and Gamsol
d. blocked in new colors... then fiddled with smaller brushes until finished

Don't know if this is the best painting I've ever done, but the melon was the best!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Light Play

Light Play, 11x14" oil, Diane Mannion

Interior Landscapes

Another still life painted from life in the studio... an interior landscape.   This one took a long time to set up.  Kept changing pots and flowers.  First arrangement had a clump of tiny yellow flowers in the green bowl on the left, but by the next morning they had wilted and shriveled.  Easily revived them for another painting.  

Had tiny white flowers in the amber glass bottle until I found a fresh bunch of alstroemeria at the market.  Just used one flower here, the rest are waiting for the next painting. 

The blue ribbon was added later and painted flat but wasn't working visually.  Scraped it off and repainted a twisted version which helped the composition by leading the eye in from the left.

Played with the flow of light, like water, across the painting.  Used plenty of Naples yellow which matched the color of the pot on the right.  Started with natural north light, but constantly passing clouds kept changing everything.  Finally closed the curtain and worked with a spotlight. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Bluebird's Garden

Bluebird's Garden, 11x14" oil, Diane Mannion

Painting Minute by Minute

Set up this still life to have something to work on minute by minute over the past week.  It's not always possible to have large blocks of time without distractions. 

Painting from life, inside or out is a joy!  Working from photo reference, even when displayed on a monitor, seems like drudgery to me.  Having a still life set up and always available is one solution to keep the brush moving.  

I paint outside in two or three hour blocks of time before the light changes.  Painting inside, minute by minute over a few days gave me time to reconsider, change, and reflect on technique, color, values, and composition... the danger was in fiddling too much, over-working, and getting too tight.  

My goal here was to merge polished rendering with some of the spontaneous qualities of my plein air style.  Sometimes, elusive visual goals seem just out of reach, the problem is when to call it "finished" and stop.  Let this one stand as is and move on to the next. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Chadwick Rooftops

 Chadwick Rooftops, 4x7"gouache, Diane Mannion

New Sketchbook

Had fun painting this morning at Chadwick Park, Englewood, with our group affectionately called... Englewood Plein Air Heads. 

 Have painted this view many times but wanted to focus on a small segment, instead.   First time with new Strathmore grey-toned sketchbook.  Wish the paper was heavier, tended to "potato chip" with the wet gouache.  But interesting working from a gray mid-value and love how the gouache is opaque enough to cover pencil lines and mistakes, not that I make any. 
Gouache addiction is getting stronger!  Love the stuff.  Wonder why I never used it before.  Have found a lot of technical information by watching Youtube videos of Robert and Jeff Watts (talented father and son).  Entertaining, instructive, and inspirational!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Gouache Practice

Gouache Practice, 4x6.5" gouache, Diane Mannion

More Gouache Practice

I've been working with gouache in the studio by doing small sketchbook studies.  Once I'm more comfortable with this medium, will take it outside for field sketching.   Gouache will be useful for quick color thumbnails before working in oils on location; a lot of decisions could be made before painting, hopefully avoiding future mistakes and corrections.

Pencil thumbnail sketch for Gouache Practice.   Added the X to warn myself away from putting things in the center. 

Below are more gouache studies from my sketchbook:
Stump Pass Marina, 4x5" gouache, Diane Mannion
Pencil sketch with notes, plein air... painted Stump Pass Marina later from memory and notes.
Value study after a Marc Hanson workshop exercise I found online.  Painted black and white gouache first, then attempted to match color values.  Tricky!  Scene was inspired by Brian Blood's, Coastal Light.  Not a copy of his work, simply attempted to analyze a master.
My gouache experiment using limited palettes.
 Marc Hanson has done some fabulous gouache paintings!  Both he and James Gurney are the inspiration for my gouache addiction.  Downloaded Gurney's GOUACHE IN THE WILD video and learned a lot!  Will write glowing review later... meanwhile, go get your own copy.