Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sunday View

Sunday View, 8x10" oil, Diane Mannion

Polished Plein Air

Only spent a few minutes slashing out a quick impression last Sunday.  Wanted to take it further back in the studio.  
Here I am painting this view, hanging onto the umbrella in gusty winds.
(Thanks for the photo, Jane Sither).
This is what I came home with but wanted to say much more.  Blotted with paper towel to remove excess paint and let it dry for a few days before working over.  

I had been dazzled by the orange-red sun burning through the sea grape leaves and how the Gulf sparkled bright and green through the dark foreground.  Loved the relation between the three palms, foreground, middle ground, and distance one.  My sketch needed to be pushed further.  Photo ref didn't do this scene justice, had to rely on memory and imagination.  

Most difficult part was keeping it simple, there's such a temptation to paint every leaf, had to hold the masses together.  Every painting's a struggle, but I think I learned something from this exercise that will help me next time out in the field (beach).
Hasty thumbnail sketch!  Left out the figure on the right standing next to the surf.  
Hmmm… would it be a better painting if I added him?

Sometimes, you just have to stop and move onto the next.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Sunday Morning Rocks

Sunday Morning Rocks, 8x10" oil, plein air, ©Diane Mannion

Sunday Painters

A few of my artist pals have managed to gather together on Sunday mornings recently… Sunday Painters!   Here's a few of the motley crew: Kathleen Crane, Me, Fran Mangino, and Jane Sither. 
It's nice having other artists around when painting for camaraderie, learning from each other, and someone to watch your gear when taking breaks.

Planted my easel near the rocks on Caspersen Beach (Venice, FL) that morning early enough to watch purple palm shadows swiftly move up the shore.  The light and tide changed fast, within an hour, the scene looked completely different.  Let myself simply react and splash paint… but nothing held still!

Caught myself chasing currents and colors, it was as though I was painting paintings on top of paintings like an animated film.  Stopped, put the brush down and let it go.

Scribbled this short-hand thumbnail sketch before I started painting which shows the "bones" of my design.  Towards the end of painting, the sailboat on the horizon really did show up which leads the eye into the background.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


LEE, 18x14" oil, ©Diane Mannion

LEE Long Pose

Had the pleasure of painting Lee during a long pose at the Southern Atelier last week.  Lee's an amazing model who had posed for Dan Thompson during his workshop.  Lee can sit for hours without moving!

But late in the day, her expression seemed stressed, which showed up in my painting.  Someone said, "Lee, you have cheekbones to kill for!" And at that instant, I happened to have my camera out and snapped a split second change in her expression!  That's what I used to finish the painting with. 

Underpainting with tired expression.  I wasn't happy with this at all, thank heavens for photo ref!  
I painted on a panel coated with left-over palette paint which was really rough.  Kept me from tightening up, especially in the background.  Had fun with the fan and dress!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Dan Thompson Workshop

Model Study, 8x6" oil, (my first painting after workshop)©DianeMannion

Learning from a Master

Dan Thompson Workshop
Portrait Drawing
Southern Atelier, Sarasota, Florida

I try to take one or two workshops a year from artists I admire, not that I want to emulate their style, but to discover bits of knowledge that could enhance my work.  I believe artists must keep growing and learning, without this continuing education work can become static and uninspired.

It was an honor and privilege to spend last weekend learning from Dan Thompson! He’s a direct link of artistic knowledge from the late Nelson Shanks who started the Studio Incamminati in Philadelphia.  Dan entertained us with stories of Nelson Shanks while he demonstrated drawing techniques.

Soft spoken and knowledgeable, Dan’s an excellent teacher!  He has the rare capacity to draw and speak at the same time, vividly illustrating with words what he was accomplishing with pencil.  Graceful and elegant, watching him standing at the easel drawing from a live model was like watching a dance.  One hand held several pencils, kneaded eraser, and paper stump, while the other deftly drew delicate straight lines that magically gathered together into a poetic image in no time at all. 
He has an adaptable system that keeps everything loose with lots of space to move around in.  For example, instead of drawing one line to define an edge, he draws several.  Searching out shapes, he explores movements and rhythm, waves of connections with simple straight lines.  He quoted Nelson Shanks, “Curves are death,” at least at the start of a drawing.

Dan’s first stage in approaching a drawing is to react, feel the situation with a rapid response… “Let the pencil flow.”  The beginning has to be visually compelling.  It also had to be fun and filled with joy.

He said there’s an energy exchange between the sitter that doesn’t happen when working from photos.  While continuing to draw with long straight lines, a tonality builds up that connects the head with the background.  These long lines also help him look for opportunities for abstraction, patterns and design.

He keeps forms open as long as possible, rather than setting outlines this keeps the masses fluid.  He scans and plants placemarks, setting in perspective and point of view.  With his well-trained eye, he triangulates visually for measurements, comparing placemarks with background relationships.  Marking the top and bottom of the head, he keeps side measurements flexible.  He triangulated top, bottom and degree of push to sides.

He lectured on anatomical landmarks, cross-hatching for drawing techniques, structures and planes of the head.  He demonstrated the academic stance of holding a pencil at the end, rather than the way we would write, and mentioned paintbrushes should also be held the same way. 

I have pages of notes and miles of inspiration, so glad I took this workshop!  Most everything I learned can be translated into brushes.  I believe drawing is painting and painting is drawing.

Dan stressed the importance of starts!  Quoted William Merrit Chase…
 “A thing not started is a start not finished.” 
(My favorite quote of the weekend! May have to engrave this in my paintbox next to “Paint faster, Stupid.”)

Dan with model, Lee who served tea to all of us.
Dan Thompson's unfinished but brilliant demo.  
Snapshot of Dan Thompson pencil taken in gallery.  Under glass, pardon glare.
My pen sketch of Dan while he was drawing.
Another pen sketch in my Moleskine notebook.
My drawing the first day of workshop.
Second day I drew both models at once.
Kerry Vosler's wonderful drawing.  Many talented artists took this workshop!

Many of us wanted a chance to paint Lee and the Southern Atelier made a date for the following week which will be the subject of my next blog post.  We are indeed fortunate to have such an amazing and friendly place to study and learn in the company of artists and masters!

***Forgot to mention that my first painting after the workshop was also an experiment using a limited palette of Naples yellow light, ultramarine blue, and red iron oxide.  How's that for red, yellow, and blue!  The only touch of titanium white was in the earring.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Venice Rocks

Venice Rocks, 6x6" oil, plein air sketch, ©Diane Mannion

Water Study

Painted at Caspersen Beach, Venice this morning with the Peace River Painters and the Venice Plein Air group.  Artists were scattered everywhere, on the shore, under palm trees, along the boardwalk, even in parking lots.  Serious winds developed... hats blew off, easels tipped, tourists chased umbrellas down the beach! 

The calm blue Gulf turned frothy green as the bottom sand churned up. The scene I had been painting changed completely.  I was far enough along with this sketch to pick up my blown-over equipment for the second time and leave.  

So much of painting water is visual memory, nothing holds still!  Even though this scene is simply bands of sky, water, rocks and sand, I began with a thumbnail sketch.  Always useful for mapping out patterns and rhythms, a design plan of attack before hitting the canvas.  Takes away the fear of approaching the scary blank space.  

My thumbnail sketch this morning was extremely abstract and loose.  I prefer a more detailed design, a notan blocking out darks and lights, but knew the winds were coming and acted fast.
Quick thumbnail sketch in Moleskine sketchbook with black pen.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Busy Beach

Busy Beach, plein air sketch, 4x8" oil, ©Diane Mannion

Shady Studio

Don't want anyone to think I've been slacking off by not posting as often, but I'm busy with eight commissions.  And will be taking a workshop this weekend with Dan Thompson, portrait drawing, promise a full report!

So my blog contribution for today is another little sketch painted during a studio break.  Found a blissful spot on a dune by the edge of a quiet path to the beach with high real estate value… SHADE.
This large gopher turtle crawled right under my tripod.
Messy thumbnail sketch and view

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Boca Pass

Boca Pass, 4x8" oil, ©Diane Mannion


Quick sketch at Boca Grande Pass yesterday near the Light House.  Have a few small linen panels I want to use up, much happier with larger sizes.  Picked a bad spot in the sun and didn't bring an umbrella.  Note to self… get out earlier!

Used an old, favorite paintbox box, 6x8" Alla Prima Pochade… a work of art!  Holds paints, short brushes, medium, and panels in one tidy space.  Love to pop it in a bag and go paint. 

And as long as I'm writing about art supplies, another favorite, my new watercolor box! 
Pocket Palette by, is about the size of a business card!  It has empty pans (held in with magnets) which I fill with tube watercolors of my choice.  I use a Pentel water brush (water is in the handle) and a small Moleskine sketchbook.  Small enough to carry with me always.  Perfect for stealth painting!!!
Paintbox ready to go with thumbnail sketch created with Pocket Palette and Pentel water brush.

Thumbnail sketch,  on hot press paper Moleskine

Finished sketch still on paintbox

Links to a few of my favorite things!

Sunday, March 26, 2017


Judy and Lucy, 24x34", oil, ©Diane Mannion 2016

Commissioned Posthumous Painting

Someone just asked about this painting and I realized I had never posted it, so here it is a year later.

This was a special commission, sensitive portrait of someone's sister who had recently passed.

The project was to use the client's photograph and not make many changes.  I had suggested a window looking out to the ocean or a plant on the shelf, but this was the sister's favorite spot and was asked not to change it.

Judy's book was open in the photograph, I closed it, end of story… and put her name on the spine.  I emphasized the wet footprints of Judy and the dog which were drying and disappearing on the right side.  And did not notice until later that the white pillow behind her looked like angel wings.  

Really sad but hopefully my painting has brought comfort to the family and that this young woman is forever in her favorite spot.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Off Port Clyde Again

Off Port Clyde Again, 18x24" oil, ©Diane Mannion


Recent commission based on an earlier painting.  

While sketching on a dock in Maine, I watched this jewel of a boat sail off in a brisk wind across Port Clyde Harbor.  Followed it along with my zoom lens, snapping reference photos, hoping they'd be useful for future work. 

My client requested more information about the sailboat, so I Googled it.  Typed "small sailboat Maine" in images.  Looked at several hundred!  The classic Herreshoff 12 daysailer looked quite similar.  After viewing several hundred more images, a teal colored hull popped out… EUREKA!!!

Not only had I found the type of boat, but it turned out to be the very one I had photographed that day in Maine!  AMELIA, a Paine 14, owned and built by Chuck Paine.  I immediately sent him an email and a photo.   He replied right away... "That is indeed me sailing my boat, Amelia!" 

Chuck Paine is a yacht builder and also a very fine artist!  

It's alway a good idea to keep a camera handy!  This boat would not have stayed still long enough even for a quick study.  The landscape is based on studies painted on the dock in Port Clyde.  And when I visit there again, my new friend, Chuck Paine has promised me a tour of his studio!

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

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Girl with Sea Blue Hair

Girl with Sea Blue Hair, 15x17" oil, ©Diane Mannion


Portrait of Rachael who's almost 13!  We went to the Sarasota Jungle Gardens and both of us wore the same parrot earrings, perfect accessory for visiting those colorful birds.

This painting was a struggle because of the blue hair which was fading back to blond.  Pulled out every tube of blue and found ultramarine mixed with burnt umber came closest.

Record of my struggle:

Lots of changes!  Decided early on that the arm was needed, first pose was too stiff… that elbow added lots of character. 
(Pardon the canvas wave, it's not stretched yet, just taped to a board which I'll mount it to later). 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Windy Sunday

Windy Sunday, 9x12" oil, plein air, ©Diane Mannion

Sunday Painters

Painted with Jane Sither and Kathleen Crane near the Boca Grande Lighthouse while fierce winds kept us hunkered down.

My painting, Windy Sunday is a view on the west side looking north.  The beach has eroded about five feet down. There once was a great view of the lighthouse from this spot, now only the top shows. Steps are missing on the foreground structure...  now a perfect perch for crows.

This is how my painting looked fresh from the beach.  Above image is after polishing and tinkering in the studio.  Had painted with sunglasses the whole time, felt the painting needed more contrast, details, and people for scale.  I'm not a plein air purist (one who doesn't retouch later).  I'll do whatever it takes to make a painting work!  

Jane Sither, Me, and Kathleen Crane holding her lovely watercolor!

 My view
Wanted to add the woman reading, but will have to wait until another painting!
 Jane and her wonderful lighthouse!
At times, the sky was speckled with tiny birds we thought might be swallows.

Monday, February 27, 2017

No Swimming!

No Swimming! 9x12" oil, plein air, Diane Mannion

Boca Grande Lighthouse

Fabulous morning painting with the Peace River Painters!  Fresh breeze kept red tide offshore, artists dotted the beach (actually more artists than tourists!).  Sailboats scampered out the pass on choppy seas at the perfect time to be painted in!

I picked this view because I loved the No Swimming flag, a slash of bright red surrounded by dark green.  And the limited view of the lighthouse made for easier architectural rendering ( those front porch railings gave me lots of headaches on previous paintings).  

Used Tombow N15 and N55 markers for my thumbnail sketch in my Moleskin sketchbook because it doesn't bleed through the pages as much as the Copic markers did.  (Image on left is two minute pose from figure drawing session.)  This sketch showed I had to make lighthouse smaller. It's not pretty... simply visual notes and thinking on paper.  I like to make mistakes in these thumbnails rather on the canvas.  

My blissful view while painting on location.

A few artists during the gentle crit led by Sharon Yarbrough.  We learn a lot from each other!
Our group is open and free, and as Sharon said, "It's an AAA meeting for Artists Addicted to Art!"