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.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Heron in Tidepool

Heron in Tidepool, 16x20"oil, ©Diane Mannion


Knowing when to stop working on a painting is tough.  Kept going with this tidepool scene, pushing it farther, then setting it aside and looking at it again.  Finally, this morning... after a few more angry brushstrokes... let it go.  Had to get angry enough to let my imagination loose, then added the finishing touches.  It was as if I let the visual overpower the controlling part of my wee brain.  Hmmm... something to think about on my next masterpiece... don't overthink!

This painting evolved from plein air studies and reference photos on a brilliant morning when bright red and green seaweed washed ashore after a storm.  By noon, it had turned dark brown. 

My plein air studies were the most useful for the values and color.  And of course, the series of photos I shot of this young heron wading through the tidepool while I painted were invaluable.  Had to paint that heron in!  It's as if he knew my painting would not work without him. 

Love it when critters walk into my paintings.  Same thing happened while painting the Gumbo Limbo tree, last post... that squirrel demanded to be painted.

And now for something entirely different:  I'm a huge fan of James Gurney!  His work inspired me to pry open my ancient box of gouache tubes.  And I'm a fool for contests, so shamelessly submitted my very first gouache sketch on his site yesterday.  It was a lot of fun, but gosh, my gouache is awful.  Will experiment further with this medium for sketchbook work. 
 Taqueria, 5x5"gouache sketch #1, Diane Mannion
 Auto-painting on location
Limited palette, red, yellow, blue
First ever gouache sketch!  Used red, yellow, blue, and white.  My main medium is oil and although I also use watercolors, found gouache difficult, BUT can see the possibilities.  Mistakes can be worked over.  Spelled Taqueira wrong first time, ack!

Auto-painted in the car to about halfway, then finished later.  Had to “imagine” the customers… too hot to eat outside in Floridian August.

Inspired, thanks to James Gurney, to do more plein air sketching with gouache!  
Visit his great blog here... James Gurney!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Gumbo Limbo

Gumbo Limbo, 16x20" oil, ©Diane Mannion

Tourist Tree

"Never thought painting a tree would be so difficult," I said.  
"It's not just any tree," John said.  "It's a Gumbo Limbo!"

His words made me redouble my effort.  And Mary Erickson's, from my recent trip to Maine echoed as I worked:  "Go back and observe..."  

After painting and scraping, wiping out and changing,  I was determined to capture the feeling of this particular tree.  A favorite painting spot at the Placida Fishery, it's an ideal place to work from the hatchback of my car, shady and protected from rain showers.  

I did several small plein air studies; this painting is the studio version.  Also relied on photo reference, visual memory, and my illustrator's  imagination.  Allowed myself to overwork as much as I pleased while also letting areas of light and color blur and remain loose.

The gumbo limbo is sometimes called the tourist tree because of it's unique, reddish color resembling the peeling skin of sunburnt tourists.  It's wood is traditionally used for building carousel horses in the US!  It's leaves and resin have been used to treat for gout, and tests are underway for arthritis. 

Also loved by birds and other critters for it's fruit.  While I was painting, a squirrel scampered up and down the tree.  Snapped a reference photo as he posed in a perfect spot!  Painted him in as a finishing touch that pulled the painting together.  BUT he also had to be repainted when John said my first version looked like a pony. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Blue Moon Tide

Blue Moon Tide, 8x10" oil, ©Diane Mannion

Nanatuck, Port Clyde, Maine
Part 10...last one!

Painted this the last day.  Mary Erickson had warned us... paint the thing that's changing fastest, usually it's the light and shadows, but in this case it was the tide.  While painting the sky and background, the rocky beach below disappeared.  Maybe the tide rushed in faster because of the Blue Moon?

This was the most difficult of all the week's paintings!  Dove in without a thumbnail sketch and paid dearly for this mistake.  Painted the whole thing over on top of the location study.
Location study which is now under the finished painting... showing how the tide rushed in.
Jane painting nearby
 A major highlight of the whole trip was meeting one of my favorite artists... DON DEMERS!!!
He's the guy sitting on the porch in the photos below. 
A BLUE MOON rose the last night at Nanatuck. 
My paintings... a good week's work!
Jane Sither took these photos of me painting at Marshall Point Lighthouse.

Thank you, Mary Erickson for organizing this great event!

Nanatuck, Five Star Review

July, 2015
Nanatuck, Port Clyde, Maine
Diane Mannion's One week Visit
Hosted by Master Artist and Mentor, Mary Erickson

Florida to Maine:  Refreshing change of one gorgeous scenic place for another... palm trees for pine,
sand for rocks, humidity for fog, hot for cool temps, shrimp for lobstahhh!

Renewed and made new artist friends... met Don Demers! 
Painted where Wyeths tread! 

Artistic evening camaraderie.  Gentle critiques.  Toasted our day's "catch" in mini-exhibitions. 
Gained technical and business advice.
Gained inspiration and recharged artistic drives!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Lightkeeper's Garden

Lightkeeper's Garden, 8x10" oil, ©Diane Mannion

Nanatuck, Port Clyde, Maine... Part 8-9

Lightkeeper's Garden, was painted on top of a plein air study done on location at the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum.  Or perhaps, I should call it a painting started on location then finished later.  (Warning: More ranting and raving about this artistic conundrum below.)

Artist, Beth Bathe had been painted in the background of this scene, then later (after Mary Erickson's gentle critique) I wiped her out (sorry Beth!).  I agreed with Mary, the figure took the focus off the flowers which were the original concept of my painting.

It's impossible to study the brushstrokes in Andrew Wyeth's tempera paintings from six inches away and not be influenced!  Although I had seen NICHOLAS (Wyeth's 32x30" tempera portrait, 1955) many times in reproductions, nothing came close to seeing the original at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland.  Every hair on Nicholas's jacket and head... clearly and patiently defined. 

With all the rush and hustle of the current "plein air" scene, many artists have turned into entertainers turning out quick-draw paintings in two hours.  Rather than viewing these works as studies or sketches, they're slapped, wet into frames and sold "as is."  I know, I'm guilty as charged!

The beauty of plein air painting is the exuberant spontaneity, capturing fleeting light, color, and impressions of a moment in time.  I will continue to dash out two hour studies as the vital reference tools they are!  The change in my thinking about plein air painting is to not worry about "finishing" a painting on location.  Although, once in a while it does happen...

Plein air studies have to be small enough to capture a lot of information in the short amount of time before the light changes.  Larger studies have to be taken back during the same conditions several times.  There's also the problem of wind, even a small gust can turn a canvas into a sail.  The solution for me is to work small and use several references, photos (gasp!), sketches and notes.  Then work in the comfort of my studio...  AND SLOW DOWN! 

Never heard of anyone accusing Wyeth of overworking his paintings...

Another Wyeth story:  Years ago, I was in a crowd of people lined up and led through an exhibition of Wyeth's paintings in New York.  I witnessed a woman telling her friends,  "I know how he painted this, with a stick!" as she scraped her long plastic finger nail across the surface of a Wyeth tempera! 

 Part 9 (or my ninth "polished"sketch during my week in Maine)
 Daylilies, 4x8" oil study, Diane Mannion
Field study or first layer of paint

Thank you for your patience, Dear Reader, for scrolling this far down!  I promise, next post, Part 10 will be the last of my week in Maine painting adventure.  But may take me awhile to finish the painting!

Monday, August 10, 2015


GRAMMA, 8x10" oil, ©Diane Mannion

Nanatuck, Port Clyde, Maine Part 7

One of my favorite paintings from Port Clyde!  Early morning about 6:30am, found parking space near docks!  This dinghy was right in front of my car and I painted it from that spot.  The colors!  Unfortunately, I had left my thalo blues home, but touched it up later.  And the dinghy's name!  GRAMMA... love it!

Did have a little problem drawing though.  Kept lining it up with the piling and thought I was  standing in the wrong spot before I realized the entire dock was moving.  Floating dock!  As if drawing boats wasn't difficult enough.

While I was painting, a man rowed his dinghy to shore from his sailboat, which was
anchored out in the harbor.  His gorgeous yellow lab jumped in and out of the dinghy fetching a plastic bottle and finally ran up the boat ramp, catching up with his owner.   Great dog!

View of Port Clyde Harbor

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Lightkeeper's House

Lightkeeper's House, 8x10" oil, ©Diane Mannion

Marshall Point Lighthouse

Nanatuck Part 6:  This building caused a lot of headaches for a few of us during Mary Erickson's artist's retreat  week at Nanatuck!  I returned twice to correct perspective and color.  Not an easy building to paint!

Left the sky and bottom half loose because it captured the late afternoon color just the way I saw it.  The seagull directly above the house was a happy accident... turned a fingernail smear into a bird rather than painting the sky over again. 

The original lightkeeper's house built in 1858, was struck by lightning and destroyed in June 1895, but was replaced by November 1895.  Photo from the Marshall Point Museum showing the original structure.
The lighthouse as it is now without the covered walkway.
My setup
My thumbnail sketch and underpainting

Friday, August 7, 2015

Raspberry Picker

Raspberry Picker, 8x10" oil, ©Diane Mannion

Nanatuck Part 5

Foggy and cool Maine morning.  Painted by the Port Clyde Lighthouse.  Loved the yellow daylillies, but a woman picking raspberries and wearing a red shirt walked into the scene and stole the show. 
This is the rough, as it was right off the easel.  Allowed myself to fuss and fiddle later, letting my visual memory polish the painting.
My setup and below, a couple of painting buddies.
 Durinda Cheek wonderful artist and people magnet!
Fran Mangino starting another terrific watercolor.