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.