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

Saturday, September 22, 2018


Tony, sketchbook watercolor
Day 22 of 30

Watercolor Portrait

Artist and sculptor, Tony posed for us at the Punta Gorda VAC this week.   First twenty minute pose lightly sketched with pencil, the second pose added washes, third more details.  Left before overworking.  Great fun!  

Usually, I work in oils, pastels, or gouache for portrait sessions but haven't used transparent watercolor very often.  Wonderful discovering new techniques and methods!  This 30 paintings in 30 days challenge has been great for experimenting with new possibilities and directions.  Glad I decided to limit it to small sketchbook watercolors.   

When not painting, I love watching painting videos and reading art books.  Recently came across Laurel Hart's generous and absolutely useful watercolor information on her Youtube channel.  Can't wait to try this method: Keeping Washes Clean.  Her videos are long, so I watch small parts at a time to let the information sink in.

Also great for learning on Youtube:

Happy Painting!  (And treat yourself to a good sketchbook.)

Strada Easel Painting from Life Challenge Day 22, Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge

Friday, September 21, 2018

Venice Sea Oats

Venice Sea Oats, 20 minute, sketchbook watercolor

Day 21 of 30

Happy with This One!

This was the second sketch of the morning last Tuesday and I'm happy with it!  Once in a while, one will paint itself.  Let the watercolors and brush flow...  

The umbrella in the background was a photo session for someone's celebration which only lasted a short while.  My painting buddy and I remained close to the parking lot where a breeze blew the red tide fumes away.  Sadly, the beach remains empty.  What's wrong with this picture?

It was a relief not confining myself to a limited three color palette with this sketch.  There are 24 half pans in my paintbox and I used about eight or nine.  Instead of using a single yellow, I let it rip and dipped into lemon, cadmium, even orange.  Used purple, and Moonglow, turquoise, and transparent burnt orange.  A feast of colors.  Fun!
My favorite paintbox with the current color chart!  This was a Schmincke 12 half pan set.  Lightweight and small.  I removed the pan holder and was able to fit 24, instead of twelve half pans.  Could also fit a few full pans along with the half pans.  I fill empty pans with tube paint. 
They're held in with tiny balls of reusable museum putty, which holds well and is easy to remove.
Package of museum putty my husband brought back from California where a whole lot of shaking goes on and stuff is stuck in place with this.

Strada Easel Day 21, Leslie Saeta's 30/30, and last day of ArtWorkLivingChallenge 5 days of 20-30 minute painting.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Venice Sketch

Venice, sketchbook watercolor, DMannion

Another Limited Palette Experiment
Day 20 of 30/30 and 4/5
Painted with a friend this week in Venice.  A good breeze sent the stench of red tide in another direction so we were able to paint for a while.  Found a shady spot near the empty parking lot.  Strange to see the uninhabited beach, usually bustling with tourists... looking so lonely.
This quick sketch took about 30-40 minutes while chatting with my painting buddy, catching up after not seeing her all summer. It's another three color limited palette study which I'm finding very useful.
Again, useful to see how these pigments work together without having to do those boring charts.
transparent yellow oxide, cobalt blue, and permanent rose

Strada Easel Day 20, Leslie Saeta 30/30, and ArtWorkLivingChallenge 4/5

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


 Walker, sketchbook watercolor, DMannion

30 Minute Limited Palette

Day 19 of 30

Another study started in Broadmoor Park, quick pencil sketch and tiny thumbnail.  Too hot to work outside, no shade in this spot.  
Paine's gray thumbnail value study and limited, 3 color palette used for painting.
Permanent rose, cobalt blue, and transparent yellow oxide.
Black and white reference photo.  Artistic license used to remove bird, trees, and change walker.

At least for me, it's much more interesting (and fun!) to study how colors work together by doing a limited palette sketch, instead of color charts.  Also informative to see how far I can push the darks with just these three colors.  Happy with how the watercolors intermingle and create passages without my help by letting them bleed to do their thing.  Fascinating to see unplanned results happen!  

Day 19 of Strada Easel 30 Day Challenge,  Leslie Saeta's 30/30, and 5 day ArtWorkLivingChallenge

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Broadmoor Morning

Broadmoor Morning, sketchbook watercolor, DMannnion

Limited Palette 20 Minute Sketch

Happy with this one, sometimes they turn out good!  This is a view from the trail at Broadmoor Park early in the morning while walking Stormy.  He's usually ready for a break in the shade while I do a quick sketch.  And it only took 20 minutes!

Planned carefully before starting and used a limited, three color palette.  Also did a tiny thumbnail value sketch.  Taped edges and used thin yellow oxide wash over the page which was dry when I set the timer.  Nice to know these little sketches can be completed speedy quick!  

Value sketch in payne's gray.  Colors used:
transparent yellow oxide
cobalt blue
burnt orange
Escoda #12 travel Versatil (only brush used)

Monday, September 17, 2018

Parking Lot

Parking Lot, 5x7" sketchbook watercolor, 30 minutes, Broadmoor Park, DMannion

Another Challenge!

Day 17/30 and 1/5

Signed up for another challenge, as if two weren't enough this month!  I'm a fool for these contests, but always learn something from them.  (Think I would learn not to enter in the first place).  The only prizes are more polished skills... so well worth it.

The new challenge is Mary Gilkerson's 5 Day Challenge to paint a painting in 20-30 minutes!  I'm continuing with my sketchbook watercolors for this also.  

Parking Lot is a 30 minute sketch, not easy in watercolor.  Had to wait for some sections to dry before I could work over them, thank heavens for the Floridian sun!  Although I don't hate it that much, it proves that my brush can move faster.  I'm only using my Escoda #12 Versatil Travel brush for these sketchbook studies.  (My love for this brush has helped rekindle my love for watercolor!)

Realized after doing this that a thumbnail sketch first would have helped.  
Paines Gray thumbnail value sketch on left page was done later as practice for the next four fast sketches in this challenge.

Strada Easel 30 Day Challenge Day 17, Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days 9/18, and Mary Gilkerson's Art Work Living 5 Day Challenge

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Becky's Garden Shoppe

Becky's Garden Shoppe, sketchbook watercolor, DMannion

Becky's Green Thumb

Day 16 of 30/30

Visited a new shop and garden center opened by my friend, Master Gardener Becky.  Colorful and creative, her place rocks!  Fun to visit, buy plants and much more, from crafts to art.  
 6450 Elliott Street, Punta Gorda, FL  Open Tues-Sat 8-4. 

This sketch was tough!  Not easy to simplify, but wanted to show the front of the shop.  Becky didn't hold still long enough to pose, so had to use visual memory.  A lot more to paint there, can't wait to go back!

DAY 16 of Strada Easel 30 Day Challenge,  Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge, and starting Monday... 5 days of 20 minute paintings!  I'm a fool for these challenges but good things happen with each one.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Canoe Launch

Canoe Launch, sketchbook watercolor, DMannion


Day 15, halfway there!

This is the second sketch of the morning while at Lemon Bay Park.  Should be titled, "Diane Discovers DS Lavender!"  After overworking the palm tree and lifting pigment, found Daniel Smith's lavender watercolor works a lot like gouache and stays on top. 
Enjoying my self-induced 30-day painting challenge using watercolors.  Have found it forces me to simplify and invent solutions, to paint not only what I see... but what I know.  For example, the background didn't look like this, had to use atmospheric perspective principles, lighter and more subdued colors.  Have done many of these 30 day challenges, something good always comes from it.

Learning to love the speed and portability of using watercolors for plein air sketching!

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

Friday, September 14, 2018

Lemon Bay Park Sketch

 Lemon Bay Park Sketch, watercolor sketchbook, 4x7" DMannion


Broke in a 5.5x8" Hand Book watercolor sketchbook, first page always a bit scary!  Love the way the pigment flows and stays on top, lies flat when open, nice fabric cover...  A pleasure!

Partly cloudy view.  Painted with Englewood Plein Air Posse.

Day 14, Strada Easel 30 Day Painting from Life Challenge, and Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days 9/18.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Boca Gate

Boca Gate, 4x7" sketchbook watercolor, DMannion


Day 13/30 Painting Challenge

Celebrated painting the last page in my NON-WATERCOLOR Moleskine sketchbook!  Love Moleskine sketchbooks, had planned for only pencil sketches in this one but got carried away with oil paintings, gouache, and watercolors.  It actually held up quite well.  Because the paper was so unforgiving with watercolor, forced me not to overwork them (sometimes).

Parked across from the gate and did an auto-painting, looked like rain but didn't happen.  I like painting in the car, air conditioning, radio, and comfortable.  This was a quick study later tinkered with at home.
Painting assistant, Stormy in backseat.
We were also parked next to an empty dog park, let Stormy have a good run.

Day 13 of the Strada Easel 30 Day Painting from Life Challenge, and the Leslie Saeta 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge 9/18.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


Micro-Sunflowers, sketchbook watercolor, 4x7" DMannion

Day 12 of 30/30 Challenge

These sunflowers were grown in my micro-greens planter a few months ago.  The seeds sprout very fast and the baby shoots can be eaten days later.  If they're not harvested young, sunflower greens get hairy and not fun to eat.  Had no idea the leftover plants would thrive and bloom!   Strong and hardy, they grew to about fifteen inches.  They survived the summer heat, our salads, and my tremendous neglect.   Wanted to immortalize their perseverance and paint their sunny faces!  Next time I'll plant them in the ground where they should grow five or six feet high!

They look gorgeous in the sun contrasted with the dark hedge behind them.  For day 12 of the two 30/30 challenges, I decided to paint them from life.  Not an easy task, the slightest breeze sent them dancing.  Sketched rapidly in pencil, took many breaks while the paint layers dried, and realized I was in trouble.  Lesson learned... choose easier, less complex subjects for quick watercolor sketches!
 Rapid pencil sketch of their dance routine
 Locked in faces, stems, and leaves with waterbrush
 Painted leaves, first pass of flowers, background with DS burnt orange (should have left it at this stage.  Urgh.)
 Painted background with DS Moonglow (love it) mixed with a bit of ultramarine blue.  Thought the dark value would make the flowers look brighter.  Added more oranges and cad yellows to petals.  It's ok, I don't love or and don't hate it too much.  Fine for sketchbook work.  Moleskine NON-watercolor paper is not very forgiving.  But tomorrow is the LAST page!  Have real watercolor paper sketchbooks waiting!

Day 12 of Strada Easel 30 Day Painting from Life Challenge, and Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days 9/18 Challenge

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Local Palms

Local Palms, sketchbook watercolor, DMannion


11 of 30/30

Gloomy and scary kind of day with almost Cat 5 Hurricane Florence heading towards the Carolinas, 9/11 Remembrance Day, and major Red Tide still infesting our area since 9/10/17... from Naples to St Pete.  I usually keep this blog entirely for art and promise more cheerful posts later.  Meanwhile, sending prayers.

Started this watercolor, Local Palms last Sunday on Manasota Key but had to leave because red tide was causing coughing and itchy eyes.  This beach is where a good friend went diving off nearby Venice.  Here's what he had to say on FB,  with permission to share:

Monday, September 10, 2018

Lemon Bay Park

Lemon Bay Park, sketchbook watercolor, DMannion

Along the Trail
Day 10 of 30/30

Wonderful place to paint in Englewood!  Good trails, lots of covered, shady picnic benches, and dogs allowed on leashes!  (Although some folks don't know how to read signs.)  
Stormy on guard, fine painting buddy!
   Have been experimenting with watercolor for this 30 paintings in 30 days challenge.  Only a few pages left in my non-watercolor Moleskine sketchbook.  It's forced me to be brief and not overwork because the paper can't handle too much fussing.  Will be a treat when I crack open my new watercolor paper sketchbook!  

Although I used watercolors as an illustrator for many years, it was an entirely different style and technique.  My main medium now for studio work and galleries is oil paint.  I've found these sketchbook experiments have forced me to loosen up and simplify.  Watercolor will add a new dimension to my oils.  One medium informs the other.

Watercolor has a mind of its own and often does what it wants no matter how hard I try to control its direction.  Easily overworked and often with disastrous results,  it's a joy watching happy accidents happen... when they do!

Strada Easel 30 Day Painting from Life Challenge, and Leslie Saeta's 30/30... 1/3 of the way through,
Day 10!

Sunday, September 9, 2018


RED TIDE, sketchbook watercolor, DMannion

Day 9 of 30/30

Had planned to spend the morning on the beach painting, but was only able to do a couple of sketches.  Red tide, since October 2017 is still horrendous!  Dead fish floating out toward the horizon.  Our usual clear water, Carribean blue is still the color of dark brewed coffee.  Counted less than a dozen birds and the same amount of tourists.  Burning eyes and itchy throat... really stinks... so sad.
Dead Snook and baitfish, coffee colored water, Manasota Key, Florida

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Broadmoor Park

Broadmoor Park, 4.5x7" sketchbook watercolor, DMannion

Shady Bench

Shade didn't last long enough this morning on the only shady bench I found while walking Stormy.  Another hot one.  Have condensed my art supplies to one pencil, one travel brush, small watercolor palette, little jar of water, and Moleskine sketchbook.  All fit into cross-body bag to make walking easier while hanging onto the dog leash.

Challenged myself with the sun-dappled effect on the path.  Simplified the scene and forced myself not to fiddle and overwork.  Attempted to put strokes down and leave them!  Painted light background sky and trees first, then built up the dark masses and foreground trees.  Let each layer dry before painting darks over.  Floridian sun works faster than any hairdryer!

And managed not to be chomped by the gators floating in the nearby pond!  

Friday, September 7, 2018

Dog Park

Dog Park, sketchbook watercolor, 5.5x7" DMannion

Dog Park Watercolor
Day 7

Painted this after walking my dog, and no, not IN the dog park.  This view is from my car on the other side of a pond at a safe distance.  Haven't been back inside the dog park since my dog was attacked by two sharpeis.  Every dog training school I've been to has said... stay out of dog parks!  It's not the dogs, it's the people.  I could go on with horror stories but this blog is about painting.  

Don't feel this is my best attempt, every painting can't be a masterpiece... but good practice for the next one.  The best thing about these 30 paintings in 30 days challenges is the incentive to paint, just paint and paint.  I paint all the time anyway, almost every day.  But have pledged (to myself) to work in watercolor in this challenge in the mornings.  Oils and pastels later.

Strada Easel Painting from Life Challenge 30/30, and Leslie Saeta's 30/30 9/18 Challenge at same time.  A two for one!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Albritton Gallery Watercolor

Vulture on Gallery, watercolor, 3.5x6" in sketchbook, DMannion

The Thrill of Watercolor Plein Air

Totally enjoying the speed and ease of painting watercolor field studies in my sketchbook!  Sat under the back hatch of my Honda this morning and painted with the Englewood Plein Air Posse, chatted with other artists and was finished in less than an hour.  

Realizing that I'm simply doing a sketch, not a finished painting, takes all the pressure off.   Field studies for mornings and "serious" studio work for afternoons!   

Vultures were all over the Placida Fishery this morning, a creepy sign, this gallery and the buildings around it will soon disappear for a new construction project.  The Albritton Gallery was originally a country store and post office owned by the Cole family in the 1800's.  My maiden name is Cole, somewhere on the family tree I may be related.  I have painted in this area for over ten years and live only fifteen minutes away.   Will miss it... another piece of old Florida gone forever.  

Day 6 of Strada Easel Painting from Life Challenge, and Leslie Saeta's 9/18 30/30 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Dog Walk Sketch

 Dog Walk Sketch, 5x7" watercolor, DMannion


Day 5 of Leslie Saeta 30/30 9/18, and Strada Easel 30/30 Painting from Life Challenge

Took my painting buddy to a local park this morning, had good long walk then painted under the open back hatch of my rolling studio.  Also took my new Escoda Versatil #12 travel brush for a test drive.  Was able to complete this entire sketch with this one brush!  Happy, happy!
Painting buddy, Stormy!  

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

My Standing Studio

 WC Palette! DMannion, 7x5"

Watercolor Palettes!

I love my travel size, light-weight and portable Schmincke watercolor palette!   

This is the 12 pan size.  I removed the pan holder it came with and was able to fit 24 pans!  Pans can be purchased empty, these are half-pan size.  The box can also be purchased empty.  It fits on my Moleskine 7x5" and I can stand and paint with all equipment handy.  
Here it is clipped to my Moleskine.  An old cross-body bag holds a screw top jar with water.  I can dip my brush in the bottle as it hangs by my side.  Bag holds rags, brushes, spray bottle, sketchbook, snacks, car keys, phone, etc!  My complete Standing Studio!