Wednesday, February 26, 2014

View from Bay Preserve

Diane Mannion, View from Bay Preserve, 9x12" oil on linen, plein air
Floridian Spring

Painted at the Bay Preserve yesterday morning.  Misty, cool, perfect day... signs of Floridian Spring.  

When I first moved to Florida over twenty years ago, I asked an orchid grower when the best time was to purchase orchids.  He said, "Spring."  And I asked... when is "Spring" in Florida?  "Mid-February!" he replied.  Refreshing answer... not that we suffered too much this winter down here compared to folks up North.

Busy organizing my solo show at the Bay Preserve which will be mid-March-May!  Huge honor!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dr Joerger Cottage

Diane Mannion, Dr Joerger Cottage, 9x12" oil on linen

Bay Preserve

Painted at the Bay Preserve in Osprey, which is between Venice and Sarasota.  This is the
Dr. Albert G. Joerger, Center for Environmental Policy cottage.  Had painting half finished on location then spent the same amount of time in the studio trying to pull it together.  
Location shot:

Felt like Spring here in Florida today.  Cool, misty, slightly overcast.  Birds singing, trees budding. But no sign of snowbirds driving North yet.

Will have fabulous news to report about a solo exhibition of my paintings soon!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Lily White

Diane Mannion, Lily White, 5x8" oil on canvas

White Values

Painted from life by north light window with white curtains.  White lily was "darker" than the white curtains... a valuable value challenge.  Good practice for observing the different "colors" and values of white, some warm, some cool.  The curtain was a cool white, the lily a warm white. The small white flowers were also darker than the curtain.  

Thought this one was finished, but decided later to have light flow into the dark purple flowers on the right.  While I was at it, punched lights up here and there, especially on the curtain.  

Here's the first stage before changes:

Friday, February 21, 2014

Uncommon Grace

Diane Mannion, Uncommon Grace, 10x8" oil on linen, plein air

Painting Palms

Painted with the sun blinking like a strobe light as clouds passed overhead.  Locked in shadow patterns first, then hit the lights from brief glimpses and memory.   Wind kicked up, had to stop sooner than I would have.  Simply signed it in fresh-from-the-field condition.  Darn good morning!

Palms are tricky to paint without them looking like toilet bowl brushes.  Helps to forget about each frond or leaf and think in terms of masses.  The more I study palms, the more I see... easy to get lost in the wild party of details.   Keep it simple, drop in a few sky holes and you're done.  Easy peasy... NOT!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Oscar Scherer State Park

Diane Mannion, Oscar Scherer State Park, 6x8" plein air, oil on canvas/mounted
Painting Outside

Nothing comes close to painting outside... sheer pleasure!  Artists from the Light Chasers Plein Air group circled the lake with easels and brushes this morning.  Wonderful feeling painting along with other enthusiastic souls while groups of bird watchers and hikers passed by chattering encouraging words.

A little white egret poked around in the reeds just at the right moment to be painted in.  Happy with this painting and all it's imperfections.  No fiddling or fussing when I got home.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Valentine Flowers

Diane Mannion, Valentine Flowers, 6x6" oil on canvas/mounted

Artists Learn From Each Other

This was a paint-a-long with my students rather than a demo.   Set up a simple pot of flowers and we scribbled thumbnails for design and composition first.  We painted from life not photos, it's such a pleasure looking at the real thing!  

Took breaks to offer suggestions, compliments, and encouragement.  We help each other out... wonderful group of artists from absolute beginners (we've ALL been there!) to advanced, still growing and will never stop.  We learn from each other!

I've been studying the work of Michael Klein.  Videos and book are available on his website and well worth it!  His palette is muted... almost the opposite of mine.  He's a tonalist, I'm more of a colorist.  His work is quiet, moody, and elegant.

If I find an artist that I admire, historic or contemporary... I try to learn as much as I can from them.  I don't want to paint LIKE them, but a little of their knowledge and vision may help my painting skills grow.  Painting is a life-long learning adventure.   You've gotta love it!

Have also been following Marc Hanson's February painting marathon.  He's another artist that's generous with his knowledge and advice.  His landscapes are fabulous!  I hope some of this information will help me out in the field!  What an inspiration!

Last class for this session at the Punta Gorda Visual Art Center.   Switching from Tuesday mornings to Thursday mornings in March... still a few spots left for a six week workshop.  All levels, all mediums.  Please contact the art center for more information.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Just Before Dark

Diane Mannion, Just Before Dark, 9x12" oil on linen/panel

Can This Be Saved?

Just before giving up on a painting, I ask myself... Can this be saved?  If I'm not afraid of messing it up, it frees me to experiment, perhaps learning something for the next painting.

Another plein air study from the Light Chasers Paintout.  The previous layer of this painting was in the Hub exhibition although I wasn't happy with it at all!

Previous layer of paint now under the above version:
 Location, Beach Club, Manasota Key:
Repainted everything.  Shows late day atmosphere just before rain moved in.  Has this painting been saved?  Maybe.  Fighting the urge to tinker with it again.  Time to let it go...

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Manasota Key Winter

 Diane Mannion, Manasota Key Winter, 9x12" oil on linen.
Is It Finished Yet?
This painting is a DPW Facebook Pick of the Day!
This painting was started on location during the Light Chasers Plein Air Paintout last month.  It sat unfinished on my easel for weeks, giving me a chance to think about how to finish it.  Sorry I didn't take a snapshot of the unfinished stage... it came close to being a wipe-out. 

Most of the sand was the pinkish color on the left.  The painting had been started outside in cloudy, over-cast conditions.  The sun suddenly came out right before I left the beach and I was lucky enough to snap a reference photo.  

Added the sunny, light colored sand, reworked the sky a bit, and suggested some happy tourists.  The orange umbrella caused me the most grief.  Thought the painting was finished but when I first posted it the orange umbrella jumped out like a jellybean.  Here's that version:
The umbrella looked too neatly cut in half.  I enlarged it so it would peek out the other side of the palm tree.  Added a few branches to knock it back.  
Yes, I think it's finished!  But are they ever?  Sometimes... we have to let them go and move on to the next.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Ink Pot Demo

Diane Mannion, INK POT DEMO, 6x6" oil on gessoboard


A thunderstorm was forecast during our Ringling Englewood class, so instead of painting landscapes outside, we painted flowers inside.  Filled small bottles with clippings from my garden and had each student work from their own arrangement.  Classroom lighting is not exciting, but still excellent painting practice.

I took a poll of favorite things to paint:  Landscapes?  Most hands up.  Portraits? Several hands.  Still lifes?  My hand was the only one up.  Then I asked, Flowers?  All hands up!

Interesting that flowers were not thought of as still lifes.  Flowers can also be painted as part of the landscape, or part of a portrait.  Maybe flowers are simply thought of as florals, instead of still lifes.

Asked students to do thumbnail sketches before tackling their canvas or paper.  Thumbnails are the place to figure out composition and think about the subject.  Make design mistakes in a tiny sketch instead of the final project.   This is the place to visualize how the subject will fill the space.  It's important to draw a rectangle about the same proportion of the final canvas or paper.  

Even after all my thumbnail advice, a lot of students ended up with a tiny jar of flowers floating in the middle of a huge empty space.  So next class... I'll bring my bootcamp whistle to warn them of the dangers of not considering the background space as PART OF THE PAINTING!  Visualize this first in the thumbnail sketch!

This is my thumbnail sketch for the Ink Pot Demo.  Not a pretty drawing... simply a roadmap of my thinking on paper.  The notches on the sides were also put on my final board to help me "see" where to put things.
(Notches don't show here... cropped off before posting).  Subject drawn with linseed oil and ultramarine blue, rubbed here and there with a paper towel.  It's not the only way to start a painting.

Next week... after lecturing (nagging?) again about the importance of thumbnails, we'll start painting by toning the canvas and then wiping out with Color Shapers and paper towels.  That is... after everyone has worked out design and composition in THUMBNAILS!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Two Pots

Diane Mannion, Two Pots, 6x6" oil on gessoboard

Painting Outside

Took my Punta Gorda Visual Arts Center class outside this week, was one of those perfect SW Floridian winter days, sunny and about 80 degrees.  We had plenty of sympathy for our Northern friends suffering this horrendous winter!  

Two Pots was my demo finished later from iPhone photo reference.   While busy talking and teaching, it's difficult to finish a painting on the spot... but happy to at least show my students one way to start a painting.  

Several artists had never painted outside before ... was an eye-opening and refreshing experience for them.  Hopefully, my students will be inspired enough to paint outside often in natural light, even if it's just to paint a flower pot on the porch.  The new art center director, MaryAnn Tipton told us new plants and flower pots would be added to the patio the next day!  We can't wait to paint them next week.

Some beginners seem intimidated by the current plein air painting rage and all the fancy equipment.  Think of it instead as simply painting outside.  Drawing in a sketchbook or sketching with watercolors on your lap while sitting in your yard work just as well.  Set up a simple still life on your porch.  Paint in your car... auto-painting, my favorite place is under the open hatchback. 

Or if you're in the freezing wintery North... paint the view out the window.  For inspiration, check out Duane Keiser's fabulous transitory paintings of his window view!

Love this quote from PAINTING ON LOCATION by David Curtis:  "The advantage of painting outside is simply that you are there, living the subject."

Sunday, February 9, 2014


Diane Mannion, Private Outlook, 9x12" oil on linen
Revisited Again

On yesterday's blog, I promised to leave plein air studies alone.  Glad I didn't take my own advice this time!  Actually, this was only started when my subject folded the umbrella and left!  I scolded the poor soul on the way out, but think there was either a language or hearing problem.  Fortunately I had snapped a reference photo.

Pushed the values (darks and lights) and left the foreground unfinished to shift focus to the center of interest... the character in the red cap.  Totally thrilled with this one!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Bidwell House

Diane Mannion, Bidwell House, 9x12" oil on linen

Sometimes I can't let a painting go... in this case, wish I had.  Thought I'd share some of my creative suffering, after all, we learn by our mistakes, right?  Reacted too many times to my own work, and by re-acting... re-painted too many times.

This is the Bidwell House, located in Sarasota, built in 1882 by Alfred Bidwell who was implicated in the murder of the local postmaster.  
On location setup... should have left it alone!  It's an impression of that time, not the historic time.
Unfortunately, I went home and painted over it... a few times!    Felt it looked too cheerful to reflect the true history of the place.  Thought adding crows would give it a creepier feeling.  Sigh.
(One level of re-painting.)
 While re-acting to my painting, I realized my plein air study had morphed into a studio painting which in turn... turned into an illustration.  Not that there's anything wrong with illustration, but I'm not happy with the results here.  Next time... leave  plein air studies alone!  Let them simply be studies.  I should have started a new painting, instead.  I over-re-acted!!!  Ack!

Friday, February 7, 2014


Diane Mannion,  Fancy Hibiscus, 6x8" oil on linen
Painting References

Painted something quite similar last year as a demo at Ringling Englewood Art Center.  A nice person wanted me to "paint it again."  An interesting exercise! 

For the demo painting, I used photo reference that I had taken myself.  ( Nag warning!)  I explain this over and over in my classes.  If you must paint from photos, take your own, not one from a magazine or elsewhere.  Taking the photo is part of your own vision, feeling, and interpretation of the scene.  Taking your own photo reference is a direct link to your work.  The best way to paint is from direct observation... but sometimes it's not possible.  Children and birds don't hold still, etc. Or in this case, the plant was long gone.  However, painting from "scrape" reference can be good practice, but change it a lot and make it your own.  DON'T BE A GIANT COPY MACHINE!!!

Here's the blue acrylic underpainting for the 2014, new version above.  I like the way bits show through in the final layers.  Adds vibrancy and unifies the color scheme.
And instead of using my photo reference... I used my demo painting as reference like a thumbnail sketch.  I let myself nudge and improve it here and there, but still attempted to create the "same" image.  The same but at least in my opinion, a lot better.
 If acrylic is thin it's fine to paint oil on top, but never paint acrylic over oil!

 This is the 2013 Hibiscus Demo.  Blue acrylic underpainting.
 Hibiscus Demo, 2013 cropped view.
The new version took forever to dry!  Although the paint was thick, it took an unusually long time.  Oil paint oxidizes rather than drying.  Can take a few years, but it's usually dry to the touch in a week.  The only thing different has been the weather down here in SW Florida.  It was actually so cold we had to close the doors and windows!!!  Did not have heat on, instead wore sweatshirts (got to wear long pants!) and used extra blankets at night.  SO... I think it was the lack of air movement that caused the paint to stay wet longer.  Next time, I'll take my wet painting for a ride in the car with the windows open.