Sunday, December 4, 2016

Leaving's Sweet Sorrow

Leaving's Sweet Sorrow, 15x17"oil/linen, ©Diane Mannion

(Or when is it time to leave a painting and move on?)

"Parting is such sweet sorrow…"- Shakespeare

Sometimes a title will come while painting, heard Shakespeare's words from Romeo and Juliet, and melded them with the woman leaving.  The title was much easier to create than the painting!

Did a small study last summer and wanted to see if it could work in a larger size, also had a nice scrap of portrait linen, million bucks an inch, not to waste!   Stapled it to a board, set up my study and went to work.  Easy… I thought.

July Leaving, study, 6x8" oil

First sketch on linen with charcoal, then thin paint, which also showed composition "movement," sort of a zig-zag.
Study set up next to linen scrap stapled to board.
First block-in
Got it to this point and decided I didn't like it.  Sigh.  Those umbrellas were giving me a headache!
Blocked in new masses for background.  Pushed darks and lights.
Final painting after changes.  And finally… I like it.

Many of my paintings are available at the Hughes Gallery, Boca Grande, FL!!!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Harbor Secrets

Harbor Secrets, 20x24"oil, ©Diane Mannion

Studio Painting Progression

With over a thousand plein air paintings done on location since 2008, I've got plenty of reference material and visual memory to work from while doing studio work.  This painting used several of these influences.  While painting outside alla prima, or wet into wet and completing a study in a few hours, studio paintings can take weeks or months to complete.  

Many years ago, I snapped photos of waders in Charlotte Harbor, Punta Gorda who were looking at  bottom-dwelling marine life during a guided tour in Ponce de Leon Park.  Armed with nets and buckets, both children and adults delighted in their discoveries of tiny fish, crabs, and other assorted mysterious creatures.  

There was something compelling about one photo of a father and daughter that I kept looking back at.  I used their position and stance but changed the background and foreground.  Painted the same environment in the harbor like a stage set and isolated them from the group of about fifteen others.
As usual, when I use random photos for reference, I change the appearance of the characters to protect their identities. 

A. First sketch was painted on an 14x11" canvas panel.  When I have left-over paint on my palette, I smear it on panels to improve the surface and to give it interesting color and texture.  Wanted to give the characters more "space," so redrew them on a larger canvas. 

B. Figures redrawn same size but with more "breathing room" and also to better illustrate the harbor setting.  Used burnt sienna and ultramarine blue thinned with Gamsol.  Painted sky with added white, red, and yellow.  
C. Blocked in background and foreground.  Let colors remain "darker" than they should be so lights will show up later.  And as my talented artist friend, Christa said recently: "To get light, you've got to have dark!"
 D. Worked on figures.
E. Added details.  Defined water patterns, added sparkles.  Saved leaves on foreground mangrove tree for last.

* These easel shots appear darker than the final painting because they were shot inside with iPhone.  The final painting above was photographed outside with my trusty old Nikon, so the values are closer.

Many of my paintings are available through the Hughes Gallery, Boca Grande, Florida.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Pot Nap

Pot Nap, 8x10" oil, plein air, ©Diane Mannion

Forgot My Brushes!

Drove about an hour to the Pottery Express in Punta Gorda to paint with the Peace River Painters last Monday.  This leaning pot caught my eye, especially the shadow pattern on the ground.  

Set up easel with palette pre-loaded and ready to go... then realized I had forgotten to pack my brushes.  Oh, the horror!  Nearby artist, Jeanette, loaned me two brushes, Robert Simmons natural bristol, a type I'm fond of.  Used one scruffy brush for the entire painting, saving Jeanette the trouble of cleaning two brushes.  

My brush cleaning method is first with paper towels and OMS (usually Gamsol) then rubbing the brushes in half a tennis ball with Murphy's Oil Soap and water until water runs clean.  Then pinch water out and let dry on sides (to prevent wood rotting in handle).  My brushes seem to last for years this way.

I've heard stories of artists forgetting brushes and resorting to sticks, twigs, and fingers!  Thank you, Jeanette for saving me that experience.  Another artist forgot her easel that morning but lived close enough to go back and get it.  These things happen, but painting outside's worth the trouble.

Crista, Susan, Sharon, Jeanette, (Wendi with tail in far background), and me!
A lot more artists were scattered all around the area, too.
Great morning!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Wendi Painting, oil sketch, 10x8" plein air, ©Diane Mannion


(Pronounced NEMMA rhymes with Emma)

Last year… the first time I met Wendi, I didn’t know I was painting next to one of those rare angels!  

Painting at the Punta Gorda Environmental Park with the Peace River Painters, I included Wendi in my plein air oil sketch (above)  and decided to give it to her later after I photographed it and let it dry.  Drove around with it all season and never bumped into her again. 

I usually have a good reason to gift a painting, but this time I thought it was just because it was a sketch of Wendi and she was happy I didn’t make her butt look big!  Little did I know that she really deserved my painting!  Finally found her this season and learned that  Wendi C Smith is a certified Mneme Therapist. 

So what’s Mneme?  The mneme therapy, named after the Greek mother of the muse (inspiration fairy that buzzes around artist’s heads), is also related to memory, as in mnemonic device (hooks to help remember things). 

In Wendi’s words:

“I work with elders with Alzheimer’s and Dementia as well as folks who have had strokes or accidents and children on the Autism spectrum.  I give my clients/artists a choice of 10 Mneme Therapy paintings from my “Inspiration Book.”

Wendi used one of my paintings in her “Inspiration Book” because it evokes JOY!  (I was pleased to hear this!)  Here’s a story of how it worked with one woman in Wendi’s words:

“My client, Pat is 65 years old and resides at Life Care Center of Punta Gorda.  Pat broke her back a number of years ago but it has not broken her spirit.  When I arrive with my painting supplies she is the first to ask if she could paint today. 

Every stroke in the painting is set up to stimulate different areas of the brain to hopefully cause a synapse and build new pathways in the brain.  So Pat chose your sample painting (my version of your painting after changing brush strokes to include strokes needed in all MT paintings). 

It took Pat 30 minutes to complete.  It was framed and hung at our Art Without Boundaries Exhibit last March at the Visual Art Center.  Pat was extremely proud!  She still shows it off to visitors at Life Care.”
Pat and her painting
My painting that inspired Pat's

My hug from Wendi after giving her the sketch
Wendi and me

More Mneme info:

Thanks to Sharon Yarbrough and Susan Hoffman for the photos!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Blue Crab Shack

Blue Crab Shack, 8x10" oil, ©Diane Mannion

Bad Dog!

It's been a while since I've been outside painting, didn't know how much I missed it until this morning.  Painted with the Peace River Painters group and spent half the time walking around chatting with folks I hadn't seen since last season.  

About twenty to thirty artists were scattered all around the area.  Was disappointed that it was cloudy at the Placida Fishery, but at least the colors and values stayed the same all morning.

 Caroline Jasper set up in front of the crab shack and kayak rental place with a yellow Corvette inside.  I liked the way her figure gave the scene a sense of scale.  Vultures sat on the roof either waiting for crab scraps or for one of us to drop.   

Cats roamed everywhere so I painted one in and while I was painting it… a cat walked right into that exact spot!  And one lucky cat had a narrow escape when chased by Duke, the black lab.

 My friend and neighbor,  Johan Bjurman painted across a field with his freshly adopted black lab, Duke.  He and his wife went to the Humane Society to adopt a cat and came home with an eighty pound lab instead!

I brought my standard poodle, Shadow along and they were politely introduced.  Gave Duke another bag of homemade dog cookies.  Shadow enjoys sleeping on the back seat while I paint out of the back under the open hatch of my Honda.

So… Duke (after the cat chase) was tied to a large rock which he could pull around a bit.  When it was time to take our paintings to the show-and-tell area, Duke ran across the field dragging the rock.  His leash tangled around my legs while I was holding my easel with painting in one hand and Shadow on her leash in the other.

Someone grabbed Duke while I picked my painting up which had landed face down on the sandy road!  URGH!  Well, gives it some character and a story to tell.  When the paint dries, I'll brush off more sand, most of it's on the right.  Oh, the adventure and excitement of plein air painting!

Bad dog!  No more cookies for you, Duke!
My view
Before I brushed some sand off
Love this photo Susan E Hoffman took of me and my Shadow
and Johan Bjurman and Duke!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Summer Reading

SUMMER READING, oil, 20x20" ©Diane Mannion

Revised Revision

Once called Her Beach, this painting has gone through so many revisions that it deserves a new post.  
And this is it!  Although I've said that before…  This IS it.  Yes, I'm happy with it now.
And there were many more revisions!

Saturday, November 5, 2016


SPINDRIFTER, 6x6" oil, ©Diane Mannion

Recycled Surface

Painted this on top of an old portrait sketch which was on a gessoed board.  Sanded it first.  Put a bit of linseed oil in the paint for the fat over lean law.  

This is what Spindrifter looked like when first drawn with dark paint on top of some poor man's head.  Don't think the guy minded that I flipped him upside down to make it less confusing.
Sometimes I leave bits of the original surface showing through, didn't work here though.  Took many layers of thick paint to get it right.  This one was a struggle until I gave up and slapped paint down faster, then I liked it.  Funny how that happens

Friday, November 4, 2016

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren, 6x6" oil, ©Diane Mannion

Favorite Bird

Took a break while I was painting this and saw a Carolina wren on a flower pot in the garden.  A male wren woos the female by building several nests for her to choose from.  Was thinking about adding a wren in this painting, the timing was perfect!

Another small painting for a competition deadline this weekend.  They're a joy to paint!  Here's how this one looked when first sketched out on canvas with transparent Payne's gray and Gamsol.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Treasure Hunting

Treasure Hunting, 6x6" oil, ©Diane Mannion

Small Works

Painting a few oils for a small works exhibition…  a pleasure after larger studio projects.  It's a  chance to experiment and think about future subjects.  And the small size is perfect for practicing brushwork and technique.  

Friday, October 28, 2016

Grandfather's Shirt

Grandfather's Shirt, 14x18" oil, ©Diane Mannion

Shirt Came First

Another painting inspired by my summer model, Megan.  Loved the pose and shirt.  Everything else, including the figure's head is from my imagination and memories of painting at the beach.  I'm enjoying the challenge of combining landscape and figurative.

The title came when Megan said, "This is my grandfather's shirt."  Grandfather's shirt echoed through my mind while painting and helped create the narrative feeling of this scene.  A young girl hugging the memories of her grandfather.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sand Sailors

Sand Sailors, 9x12" oil, ©Diane Mannion

Vintage Sails

Came across some vintage photos of sand sailing, a sport that still exists today!  (Go Google it!) Inspired by the classic sails and homemade contraptions of the vintage variety, thought I'd attempt to paint a few.  This one, made up from my imagination based on extensive research, is the tricycle style.

What struck my about this era, was the ho-hum attitude of the sailors, especially the females  who seemed quite bored with the activity.  Folks were dressed in their Sunday best, hats, ties, and dresses with long skirts.  Children weren't even wearing seat belts or helmets!  The characters and the lab in my painting are figments of my seedy imagination.

I'm torn about painting any more of these because they verge on my old illustration style rather than my more sophisticated fine art flair.  But it's all fun!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Simply Sunday

Simply Sunday, 14x18"oil, ©Diane Mannion

Dog Obedience

Simply Sunday sat around the studio for months and went through many changes, most of which I hated.  This painting was a dog (no insults to pooches intended here).   

Changed my summer model to not look like her at all (sorry Megan, they all can't be you).   The window view is from a plein air study that I did at the Hermitage, an artist's retreat on Manasota Key.  
Most everything here, including the non-Megan model, is from my imagination.

At first the figure held a letter with an empty envelope nearby, but who writes letters anymore?  It seemed too sad, like bad news received.  The book worked better, I liked the triangle shape of the white pages and the patch of blue.  Last thing I added was the bookmark to visually flow up to the petals and flowers.

Did not like this painting at all until yesterday… Sunday!  Somehow it came together with the relaxed feeling of a day well spent.  Now I like it even more than yesterday.  Very satisfying bringing this dog to heel!

So my tip of the day is to keep working with those dogs even if they bite, don't give up too easily.
Update:  Love this quote from Johan who posted on FB!

Johan Bjurman Sometimes a rescue dog saves you and becomes a seeing eye dog.

Friday, October 14, 2016

All That Glitters

All That Glitters, 23x32" oil, ©Diane Mannion

Growth of a Painting

Something about a few small sketches I did of my granddaughter kept haunting me… had to follow my instincts and explore the possibilities.   After a long and arduous journey, have found what I was after and at last, am ready to let this one go.

Part 1:  My original small sketches, the first quick block in with payne's gray.  Was excited about the figure but after working on it in the following stages, lost the "older" child of the block in, appeared to look too much like my granddaughter.  I wanted the figure to be someone I didn't know, a figure made up from my imagination, more "iconic."

Part 2:  Final stages.  First major breakthrough happened when I changed the figure to an older child.  Second breakthrough when my husband came in and wrinkled his nose, "Is that girl going to be hit by a giant wave?"  His comment caused me add a horizon and sky.  And final stages, added details and lightened the sky.  ***Having a problem photographing this painting!  iPhone shot came closest, last image.

Sunday, October 2, 2016


My PT, 8x6" oil, Diane Mannion

My Physical Therapist

Tricked my lovely physical therapist, Mylene into posing last week, one way to get her to stop twisting my leg!  Promised her a sketch if she wouldn't hurt me.  I have nothing but good things to say about Englewood Hospital's Rehabilitation center next to the Y… lots of kind, gentle folks with magical healing powers.

All's well, walking without cane already.  Spend half my time working out, the other half painting (with time out for sourdough bread baking)… healthy lifestyle.  

My PT!  Happy with her portrait sketch!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Color Bootcamp

BRAIDS 1 & 2, 5x4", oil on Arches Paper, 30 min studies, Diane Mannion

Color Bootcamp

BRAIDS 1&2 are the first sketches since finishing bootcamp.  Used a reference shot I took of my model, Megan last summer but changed her first into a young girl, then a young woman. 

Spent the last four weeks recovering from surgery, so while stuck in the studio (which is one of my favorite places to be anyway)  was able to take an online course through the NEW MASTERS ACADEMY, link below.  

Finished the Color Bootcamp with Bill Perkins, wonderful experience, great practice, and learned a lot!  Especially how not to be afraid of 30 minute block ins!  This practice will also come in handy for landscape, figurative, and still life painting. 

All 30 head studies completed for the bootcamp on my easel!  Enjoyed the value, black and white studies that came first.  After doing a 30 minute study, Bill Perkins does the same exercise... I often did another 30 minute study after seeing his solutions.  And later, I watched him doing the exercise before I did mine.  Great learning experience!  Bill's a terrific instructor.

I've always attempted to paint what I see, Bill Perkins takes it another step... paint what you know about color.  Exaggerate the play of warm and cool colors.  I'm excited about the colorful possibilities for my future work.

The cost of a year's subscription to the New Masters Academy is less than what folks pay for one workshop!  Fees can also be monthy.  A wealth of information... well worth it!  

Here's the link:  NEW MASTERS ACADEMY

Steve Huston, an incredible classic figurative painter, is one of the founders and another instructor.  I've purchased his book and watched his free three hour head study video on Youtube.

Sunday, August 21, 2016


WATER PEOPLE, 20x16" oil, Diane Mannion


I'm thrilled and honored to announce my painting, WATER PEOPLE will be traveling with the 

Opening September 8th at the Muscarelle Museum, Williamsburg VA.
Then traveling to:
Academy Art Museum, Easton MD
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St Michaels, MD
Quinlan Visual Arts Center, Gainesville, GA
Minnesota Marine Art Museum, Winona MN
Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic CT

Monday, August 15, 2016


CLEARING, 20x20" oil, Diane Mannion

Clear Vision

Another painting revision!  This one has a long history, first titled Her Beach after three revisions.  I had said three strikes and you're out, but here we go again.

My choices now were:
1. Slash and burn.
2. Hang facing wall.
3. Paint over as if I didn't care what happened.

Went with #3 and learned a lot.  Is it better?  Clearly!  At least to me.

Felt I didn't have much to lose, so painted over everything except parts of the hair (which is about all I really liked).  Removed sunglasses, turned head and added beach equipment in foreground.  Wanted painterly brushstrokes, not highly rendered.  Gave the character a tan to increase value difference from background.

 One of the original versions, Her Beach.  
Too much going on.  I really liked the little groups of people but they took away from the main character.  Different feeling, different day.  It was painful painting over them, but they may reappear in future paintings one group at a time.  Left the group under the white umbrella but "hazed" over to push back.

Beach Lady, 6x8" oil study.  
Painted quickly with gusto.  Love the brushwork.  Realized I wanted more guts like this in the larger version.

Here's the link to original version, HER BEACH, three strikes you're out, and lots of suffering.

Solved many problems with this painting.  Tremendous learning experience.
But this is it!  CLEARING is clearly the LAST revision… (NOT!)
SUMMER READING, 20x20" oil, ©Diane Mannion

Saturday, August 13, 2016

New Blue Tube

New Blue Tube, 20x20" oil, Diane Mannion

Fear of Change

This painting hung around in my studio for awhile, I loved the background and the tube but not the character.  Fear kept me from making the changes needed to save the good parts. 

One of my critics didn't like the character either.  At first I couldn't see what was wrong, but after living with the painting I slowly began to see it.  Sometimes, time needs to pass to see a work with fresh eyes.  I moved it from room to room, placed it where I could see from a distance, held it up to mirrors, stood on my head, etc.

When someone thinks a change should be made, I don't do it for them... I have to remain true to my work.  This time, I DID come into agreement with my critic... but not always.

I had three choices:
1. Destroy the painting.
2. Use original as study and paint new version.
3. Keep good parts and make changes on the original.

Number 3 was my choice... if it didn't work I could always revert to number 1 or 2!

Blue Tube, original stage.  Did not like the character's face or hat or neck.
Placed a patch over the part I wanted to change and studied it for awhile.

The original boy was a character from my imagination, so I imagined another character, this time a girl.  Her hair and head rotation solved many problems.  Took courage to tackle this painting again and I'm glad I did.