Monday, September 7, 2020


Moonscape, watercolor, 9x12" 

Drove to Venice in the dark to meet artist friend, Sally Christiansen just before sunrise.  We painted the entrance to a trail that leads to the beach from the back of our cars in the parking lot.  A full moon was setting in the tree branches.

At just the right time, a man walked his dog into my painting!  I love how figures give the landscape a sense of scale.  And his red shirt was just the shock of color needed to balance the greens.

Tinkered with this watercolor later to strengthen the contrast.  Although a bit overworked, I like the way the light and atmospheric effect turned out.  Sometimes watercolor works its own magic without much help from me.  That's why I love it!


Monday, August 31, 2020

Field Sketch

CHADWICK BOAT, 6x8" watercolor, plein air

Painted in Chadwick Park, Englewood, FL with the Englewood Plein Air Posse.  A few artists were scattered around the area keeping their distance, but plenty of air hugs. 


Lovely breeze… remnants of Hurricane Laura that missed us.  Our hearts go out to people and animals caught in this nightmare storm!  We dodged another one but season’s not over yet.


I was attracted to the large boat docked across the canal and the overall light effect.  Did a quick monochromatic sketch before diving into the painting.


There’s magic that’s captured by painting on location that can never be caught by painting from a photo.   I enjoy setting myself up in front of a scene and responding.  Letting go of past methods, training and just focusing.  Letting the brush go free.  It’s visual meditation. 


Saturday, August 29, 2020


THUNDERHEADS, watercolor, 5x7"

Drove before dawn to meet an artist friend in Venice, Florida.  The sky flickered with lightning, wished I had checked the weather.  Set up in a shelter at the edge of the shore in case of rain.

Looming thunderheads swept across the Gulf glowing from the rising sun.  Magnificent!  Fortunately, they sailed away from us.

It's never easy deciding what to paint in this location... at least a hundred possibilities.  But this time, the clouds were the superstars.  And for the grand finale, a synchronized flock of pelicans winged overhead!


Friday, August 28, 2020

Field Painting

FISHING, watercolor, 6x8"

There's a pond five minutes away from my house that's also a good place to paint from the rolling studio and walk the dog... multitasking perfection.  

Sometimes a painting buddy joins me and we set up easels under the shade of the hatchbacks on our Hondas.  It's never long, an hour and a half at most, starting as early as possible to avoid the Floridian summer heat.

One morning a man was fishing, "catch and release," he said.  His yellow shirt was a perfect painting accent!  Figures add dimension and scale to landscape paintings.  

Another morning, a few monochomatic sketches to study composition and value ideas:

And recently, this same location came in handy for testing a new painting gadget (yes, I'm an art supply junkie).  The Portable Painter Micro is 2x3", plastic, lightweight and inexpensive.  Perfect for small sketchbook work and to keep handy for emergency painting opportunities when time is limited (like waiting in the car for your husband to come out of Homedepot).

Filled the six half-pans with my most basic palette of colors:
Lemon yellow, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, phthalo blue, burnt sienna, yellow ochre.
Taped a nifty color chart to the bottom of the micro palette!

Clipped one wing of the micro palette to the sketchbook, clip also worked as brush holder!
And finished 30 minute sketch!

My watercolor, Fishing is available in my Etsy Shop.

The Portable Painter Micro Palette can be found here:



Thursday, August 27, 2020

Little Bear Sanctuary

Blind Pig, watercolor, 6.25x8.50"

A percentage of the sale of these paintings will go towards feeding this pig and her friends who are lucky enough to live in the Little Bear Sanctuary, Punta Gorda, FL.  



Portrait of Ms Piggy     SOLD
Dancing Goats, watercolor, 6.25x8.50. 

Monday, August 24, 2020

Dancing Goats!

 Dancing Goats!  watercolor on Arches140lb  6.5x8.75"

These goats are celebrating the opening of my Etsy Shop!

A percentage of the proceeds from this sketch and others in my shop will help feed these hungry critters at the Little Bear Sanctuary in Punta Gorda, FL!

The goats do an excellent job of keeping the lawns trimmed and especially enjoy eating the leaves of the live oak trees.

Please visit my new shop and let me know what you think!  Thanks!

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Watercolor News

 Have posted on my website blog,  DIANEMANNION.COM but after so many years here... and so much neglect to this site... cannot and will not abandon it completely.  It's difficult to keep up with everything online!  For now, I'll copy the text from the my website to this site.  

Just posted on my website blog about my watercolor obsession. Please visit my website, DIANEMANNION.COM

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Strada Easel January 2019 Challenge, 31 Days Painting from Life

 ( Paintings can be seen on my Facebook page, Diane R Mannion)

The Strada Easel 31 Day Painting From Life Challenge, 1/2019

I’ve done several 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenges in the past and something good always happened.  This time, the benefits were well worth the struggle!

Painting from life took a lot of effort, focus, and not a little stress.  Previous challenges with other groups didn’t have that rule.  It’s easy enough (at least for some of us) to create a painting from reference photos rather than jumping in the car in search of a landscape, setting up a still life, or finding a model. 

I have nothing against using photo reference that I take myself and indeed, use it often in studio work.  The great difference realized during this challenge was the feeling of authenticity and sincerity that a painting can have when also created from life. 

A photo or computer image is vastly different than the actual scene.  It lacks the color, the sense of space, and especially the values of the subject.  Photography, along with quick sketches, painted from life to record color notes, actual light/dark relationships, and a vital sense of place will be the main way I compose studio paintings from now on.

It was comforting knowing other artists were going through the same experience at the same time.   Viewing work online from across the country and around the world gave the experience a great sense of artistic camaraderie.  I’m happy that a couple of my “real life” friends decided to join in.  They learned the value of how daily practice helped their work, and that sketching and painting faster made their work stronger and more confident.  One friend has decided to keep going after 31 and make it 100 days.  And in a few months, we may create our own challenge, maybe 100 faces or figures or flowers… 

The most difficult painting of this challenge was my self-portrait!  I had my head turned (to my good side) and also had to wear reading glasses to draw.  The next self-portrait will have me looking straight at the mirror, instead of turning to look.  I lied a lot and left out a few wrinkles. 

The scariest painting was when I decided to pull into a local nature preserve.  It was a spur of the moment thing, so I didn’t invite a painting buddy.  Set up under the hatchback and realized it was too lonely.  Not a soul around.  Signs read, this area is under video surveillance, if you see something, say something.  Creepy!  Painted fast and got the heck out of there!  The sketch turned out pretty good though, must have been my nervous fingers.

Every painting has a story, especially this cold-for-Florida January.  Painted on the beach several times with my painting buddy.  Wonderful, not a tourist in sight!  Painted with the Peace River Painters one morning that promised sunshine but the forecast was completely wrong.  Cold, damp, and windy, instead. How we suffered for our art!  My worst sketch of the month!

Painted during a Quick Paint and won enough prize money to keep me in paint for the next few months.  

Somedays, I painted two or three to keep the pressure off.  Sometimes, the more you have to do, the more you get done.  And self-discipline is everything!  Thanks to Strada Easel for reminding me.  That’s what challenges are good for.

What January Looked Like!

Sunday, October 28, 2018


SEA U LATER, oil, 16x20"

New Gallery Season

Delivered a few paintings to the Hughes Gallery for the 2018-19 season which is just getting started down here in SW Florida.  
 GOLDEN MORNING, oil, 16x20"

 HERE COMES THE SUN, oil, 20x16"

WATER PEOPLE, oil, 20x16"
 This painting is back from touring six museums with the American Society of Marine Artists.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

9 New Watercolors

Great Blue and White Herons, sketchbook watercolor, 5x8"
My favorite painting of this group!


Still splashing about with watercolors... haven't stopped since the 30 watercolors in 30 days challenge.  Watercolors in the morning, once in a while a pastel, and oils in the afternoon, not a bad plan.  

I think it's healthy for an artist to work in different mediums, one informs the other.  I've learned a lot about simplifying masses with watercolor, and a lot about color with pastels.  My oil paintings are showing the results (I hope).  Have not been showing oil paintings until my show in March at the Hughes Gallery in Boca Grande.

Here are a few recent watercolors:

Snookhaven Again, sketchbook watercolor and gouache

Morning Splash, Chadwick Park, 6x9" on Arches cold press

Wave Study, sketchbook watercolor and gouache

Card for Angie, watercolor, 8x6" Arches cold press

Farmer's Market, sketchbook watercolor

Safe Anchorage, sketchbook watercolor, Chadwick Park

Poinciana Trees, sketchbook watercolor, Englewood Sports Park

Blue Shed and Poinciana Trees Again, sketchbook watercolor

Have outfitted my Strada easel for watercolor or oil just by changing the original palette with matboard.  Love how an Arches block fits inside.  John drilled holes in the side panel to hold brushes.

Blue shed with the thumbnail sketch

Stormy and my rolling studio setup on location.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Snook Haven Sketch

Snook Haven Light, 5.5x8.75" watercolor, plein air

Let It Flow On the Go

Haven't posted since my September 30 sketchbook watercolors in 30 days but have used those sketches to produce studio work,  translating watercolors into a large, studio paintings.  That 30/30 time and energy wasn't wasted but instead helped energized my creative expression and output.  Watercolor, gouache, even pastels have informed the way I paint with oils.

Thrilled to learn that watercolors are a quick and easy way to gather reference material for "serious" work, which means only taking a sketchpad and watercolor box into the field instead of more cumbersome oil painting equipment.  And (bonus observation)... I can easily sketch almost anywhere, in my car (auto-painting), standing or sitting in public places (urban sketching), or blending in with tourists on the beach.  I've become a stealth-sketcher!

I'm also becoming a minimalist, cutting watercolor supplies down small enough to tuck in a pocket or purse.  Have sketchbook, brush, and paintbox always ready to travel... to let it flow on the go!

Painted at Snook Haven this morning with the Peace River Painters, a talented group of artists.  Sat near the water with an Arches 7x10" watercolor block (140lb paper cold press) on my lap and happily splashed away.  And when I pulled the masking tape off (love those clean edges)... I didn't hate it!  Oh, happy day!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Sweet September

Sweet September, 30 sketchbook watercolors in 30 days


This isn't the first time I've signed up for a 30 paintings in 30 days challenge, a tough decision, difficult at times (especially on weekends)... but always worthwhile.  My self-induced rule was painting from life in watercolor in a sketchbook.  I had used watercolors for many years as an illustrator and wanted to play, instead of work with them.

I've painted with gouache and discovered I could do a pretty awful watercolor and "save" it with gouache.  For this series, I kept a bit of gouache handy as an emergency device but wanted to work mainly with transparent watercolor.  Gouache is an opaque watercolor which can cover mistakes and hide horrible bits (and came in handy it did!).  

During the past 30 days, I studied watercolor books, discovered brilliant watercolor artists online, watched Youtube videos and relearned how to use this medium.  I rediscovered the joy of splashing about with watercolors!

The caps on my old illustration Winsor and Newton watercolors, carefully stored in airtight containers, were so old they crumbled when I opened them.  Thankfully, Winsor and Newton replaced the caps when I reported the problem!

I also used Daniel Smith and Schmincke watercolors.  Treated myself to a nifty little Schmincke travel palette that fits in my purse (12 pans which I refitted with 24 half pans).  

Sketched image with mechanical pencil Graphgear 1000 Pentel 7, or a Pentel waterbrush.  The only brush I used for the main part of painting was the Escoda Versatil #12 travel brush (LOVE IT!), held lots of water, covered large areas or small details with a fine point.

Started series in a Non-watercolor paper 6x8" Moleskine sketchbook, then to a 6x8" Handbook with watercolor paper.  Have a 6x6" Pentalic watercolor sketchbook waiting in the wings.  

Discovered many new directions and possibilities in this challenge.   Watercolor has become my favorite sketching medium and will inform my oil painting.  These 30 watercolors are only the beginning!

Strada Easel 30 Paintings from Life Challenge, Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days September 2018 Challenge

Happy Painting!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Neighborhood Watch

Neighborhood Watch, sketchbook watercolor


Last watercolor of the 30 paintings in 30 days! 
Will give full report soon, right now... it's off to celebrate.

Strada Easel Challenge, and Leslie Saeta's 30/30

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Looking Up

Looking Up, sketchbook watercolor
Day 29

Oh, Coconuts!

Painted with the Englewood Plein Air Posse in the small garden behind South Design Living, a lovely home decor shop.  (2980 Placida Rd)  Interesting how it's possible to stand in one spot and "see" a lot of potential subjects to paint.  Looked up and knew this coconut palm was it!

Had to hold my sketchbook up to glance back and forth to sketch this tree, but a sore arm was worth it.

Thrilled with this little watercolor!  Sometimes they turn out good!  It's what makes painting outside so exciting. 

Strada Easel day 29, and Leslie Saeta's 30 paintings in 30 challenge

Friday, September 28, 2018

Lights Out

Lights Out, sketchbook watercolor

First Layer

Day 28/30

Lights Out!  A familiar phrase in this part of SW Florida during turtle season.  Turn off lights facing the Gulf of Mexico while sea turtle eggs are hatching so they don't travel in that direction, mistaking lights for the moon, and head inland instead of the surf.  

The boat on the left was named Lights Out, thus the title of this watercolor sketch.  Another monochromatic start in Payne's gray.  Thought I'd take it further but liked the way it works as is.
Also took the advice from a good painting buddy who said some of the effects might be lost if I layered it with color, especially the dark area of the middle sailboat.

It was another 93 degrees in the shade, hot and humid day.  Painting in the car, auto-painting even with the air-conditioning running, was not comfortable, headed back to the studio to finish.  

I like the way this sketch captured the blazing sun and humidity.  Was going to add more details to the figure working on the left, but again, leaving it alone shows the strength of the high-noon sunlight.  

Learning a lot with this 30 paintings in 30 days challenge (and I thought I knew it all!).  Give the painting a chance to show you where it wants to go.  Let the paint breathe.  Let it be.  

Watercolor has taken me in new directions with colors and massing, design and spontaneity which will hopefully translate well in my oil paintings.  One medium informs the other!

Strada Easel Challenge Day 28, and Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Offshore Breeze

 Offshore Breeze, sketchbook watercolor

Same Spot One Week Later

Venice Sketch

One brave sunbather (who appears in my Offshore Breeze sketch above)

Stood in the shade by the parking lot in the same spot as last week.  Offshore Breeze is a compressed view, move palm trees closer.  It's also full color, while Venice Sketch is a limited three color palette.

Red tide still lingers, water still brownish.  A group of tourists planted a blue umbrella and settled down, they only lasted about twenty minutes.  The area around Venice pier this time of year is usually crowded with beach people.  Still sad.

My painting buddy and I stayed near the parking lot on a boardwalk.  Later that day I received an email from her.  After several trips taking painting gear back to her car, she had forgotten to take her painting which was left leaning against a railing.  Several hours later, she rushed back and found it still there!  Because there are not many people around, red tide saved the day.  She thought no one liked it, but it's a sweet little painting anyone would have been happy to find.

Strada Easel Challenge Day 27, and Leslie Saeta's 30/30 Challenge 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018


KEEP OUT! sketchbook watercolor

Monochromatic Local Color 

Day 26/30

This watercolor study started as an underpainting, a grisaille using only Payne's gray but loved how it turned out, so called it finished as is.  Was going to build up colors in transparent layers, but this shows the character of the old fish shack... a dark and dreary place.  Located on or near the Placida Fishery which is ready to be bulldozed for development.  Another small piece of Floridian history soon to be lost.

Found Payne's gray wonderful to sketch with because it can be lifted, lightened, darkened, and reworked easily.  Happy with the way values can be adjusted.  This watercolor is an excellent example of a value study.  Values do the work, color gets the credit.  But in this case... who needs color?  

Strada Easel Challenge Day 26, and Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days 9/18 Challenge 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


CATBOAT, sketchbook watercolor
Day 25/30


Local color at a nearby boatyard.  Started as an auto-painting with air-conditioning running, but it's still 93 degrees in the shade here... finished later in the studio.  Although I wanted to do a loose, sketchbook study... had to tighten up to show the details of this boat.

I've always loved the look of classic catboats!  Big sail with one mast on the bow.  Captain John said they don't sail well into the wind, better for downwind conditions.  And they're not easy to paint, either.

Not much to report technically except it took longer than 20 minutes.  Changed the worker's shirt from white to orange.  Thought it worked well with the purple/orange color scheme.  Attempted to mass the warm light and purple shadows.  Fairly happy with this one.

Strada Easel Challenge Day 25, and Leslie Saeta's 30/30 Challenge.  Have noticed these challenges are strengthening my self-discipline muscles.  Self-discipline is everything!  What gets counted gets done!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Those Clouds!

Those Clouds! sketchbook watercolor/gouache

Fear of Painting Clouds

Day 24 of 30 paintings challenge

Folks complain that it's too flat in Florida... but we have the most incredible clouds!  Clouds like mountains!  During an early morning dog walk this week, the sky was filled with drama, huge clouds reflected the sun while soft purple ones drifted below.   

Really wanted to capture this scene... but I have a fear of painting clouds!  My car was parked in a good spot across a pond reflecting all this glory.  Ready for a cloud painting challenge, I snapped open my sketchbook and painted away.  

Fortunately, the first horrible attempt is buried under layers of gouache in the image above.  Again, gouache to the rescue!  Sometimes, an awful watercolor can be saved by painting over it with gouache.  Reworked it back in the studio.  Sorry I didn't snap a photo to compare, wish I had, it's always a good learning lesson.  Not thrilled with my rescue attempt but it's better than it was.

I still have fear of painting clouds!   The only cure will be painting more... (yikes) cloudscapes.

Day 24 of Strada Easel Challenge, and Leslie Saeta's 30 paintings in 30 days 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Becky's Garden

 Becky's Garden, sketchbook watercolor
23/30 of 30/30 paintings challenge

Can This Painting Be Saved?

It was HOT, high noon and over 90 degrees when I painted in Becky's garden last week with a friend.  We found some shade and once in a while a bit of breeze.  So we painted fast and left as soon as we could, planning on returning to this colorful place when the weather cools off.

Didn't like my watercolor at all.  Should have left it as it was but didn't want an ugly page in my shiny new sketchbook.  Decided to rework it as an exercise... Payne's gray and gouache to the rescue.  Still don't like it much, ack.

How it looked fresh from the steamy hot field.
First rescue attempt, over-use of white gouache.
Final attempt, like how Payne's gray darkened the background which made the field look brighter.
High-lighted here and there with toned gouache.  Still don't like it but good practice for the next one.
It's important to learn what not to do!

Day 23 0f Strada Easel, and Leslie Saeta's challenges, 30 paintings in 30 days