Monday, September 30, 2013

Beach Sunflowers

Diane Mannion, Beach Sunflowers, 6x6" oil on gessoboard
#21 of the 30/30

September 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge

Today's the last day (phew!) of Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge.  Last January, I was able to complete 30 paintings, but not this time.  (That is unless I crank out nine more before midnight...)  Do I feel bad because I only completed 21?  Heck NO! 

The month was filled with unexpected interruptions (stress) that made it impossible to paint on some days.  Life happens.  The 30/30 challenge was another bit of nagging stress always in the background.  When I set goals and don't achieve them I feel guilty.  This time, I'm forgiving myself and giving thanks for creating 21 paintings!  Good practice and I actually like some of them. 

October's a fresh new month with another set of goals that I'm setting for myself.  Already painted 121 for the year!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Shed Some Light On It

Diane Mannion, Shed Some Light On It, 10x8" oil on linen


"What if".. the theme of my painting class yesterday.  Working from a photo, I challenged the students to think... what if there was something else happening.  What if the shed door was open?  What if there was a chair?  What if the garbage container wasn't in the  photo?
This is the rather plain photo I took at the Bay Preserve on a cloudy day.  There was something about the blue, tin roofed shed that I liked a lot.  How could this be made into a painting?  What if?....
Scribbled a few ideas in a thumbnail sketch.  Had flower pot and figure which I took out later.  Worked on the open door... liked the idea of light shining through the door's window.
Roughed in on Indian yellow toned panel with ultramarine blue, then wiped out lights with paper towels.
Blocked in colors.  Didn't like how the corner of the shed fell dead center.  Decided to make changes.
Changed roof perspective and raised bottom of shed.   Working in studio the next day, I could focus  without having to explain everything. 
The finished painting again:  Added chair, sky holes, lengthened door... and CAT!  For such a small painting, thought a figure would be too much. 
Happy with it!

John Times Six

Diane Mannion, John Times Six, 12x9" oil on canvas

Mini Lesson

Created this chart as a teaching reference illustrating different ways to approach a painting.  Mini studies, or color thumbnails are helpful for deciding how color and values will look before starting a project.

A.   Simple sketch with transparent orange oxide and brush.  Burnt sienna works just as well.

B.   Sienna toned area, added darks and "erased" highlights with paper towel and Gamsol.

C.   Sienna, ultramarine blue, and white.

D.   Black and white.

E.   Full color.  Ahh, the thrill of pushing colors, playing with vibrations! 

F.  Zorn type palette.  Cadmium red, yellow ochre, black, and white.  An amazing range with such   limited colors!  Perfect for portraits. 

Fall classes have started in Ringling Englewood and VAC Punta Gorda.  Come paint with us!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pool House

Diane Mannion, Pool House, 8x10" oil on linen

Studio Practice for Plein Air

Bay Preserve, Osprey.
This ivy covered building is the former pool house... marks on the deck indicate where the pool had been... now filled in with concrete.

Worked from reference photos I took yesterday at Bay Preserve between rain storms. 

 Thumbnail sketch
 Chicken-scratch drawing with ultramarine blue thinned with Gamsol on Indian yellow toned linen panel.  Not a pretty drawing, simply indicates landmarks like a roadmap.
Massed darks with thin ultramarine and painted sky and water.  I like working from the background forward.  Nail the sky and everything grows from there.
*Gamsol put away after massed darks.  I only use paint from tubes, no medium at all.  Brushes are cleaned by wiping with paper towel or using another brush.  Mainly use one for lights and one for darks, on smaller one for details.  Bristles, #2,4,6.
 From here (sorry, no photos), painted green things, then warm sidewalk and deck.  Finished flower pots and building.  Worked fast, pretending I was outside where I always paint fast.  The trouble with working in the studio is I get slow, fiddle and fuss, over-work and over-worry.  But made myself work fast with this one.  Put thick paint down and left it alone.  
Happy with it!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Haunted Boathouse

Diane Mannion, Haunted Boathouse, 8x10" oil on linen

Bay Preserve, Osprey

A few years ago, I did the best painting of my life of this boathouse.  While packing things in the car someone handed me a bag of oranges.  Half way to Sarasota, I freaked out when I realized my painting was still on the roof of the car.  Stopped, looked, of course it was gone.  Drove all the way back to the Preserve... no sign of it.  Figured it must have flown up and landed on someone's windshield, yes, it always rains art in Sarasota.  Or maybe it stuck to the wheel of a truck and went to Alabama.  Never found it.

Drove to the Bay Preserve to meet some artists friends this morning, but they were smart enough not to go out when huge rainstorms were predicted.  Took snapshots, memorized the atmosphere and headed home before the deluge.

It's never the same working from photo reference even though the location was fresh in my visual memory bank.  Took much longer than working on location.  Finished it anyway and thought it ine, not as fine as the best-painting-of-my-life, but would do.  This is when the haunted or at least jinxed thing happened. 

As I walked outside to photograph it... it flipped up in the air and attacked my teeshirt.  Here's proof.
 All my bold and spontaneous brushwork, my brilliant highlights... gone!  
Reworked several passages and saved it, but it's not the same as it's original glory.
Think I'll stay away from that darn boathouse, at least for awhile. 
 Here's the thumbnail sketch.  

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Diane Mannion, BILL, 12x9" oil on linen


Spent an afternoon at the Venice Art Center Portrait Studio painting Bill who posed for two hours.  Open portrait studio meets Friday 1-3:30 ($8 members, $10 non-members). 

BILL is  #17 of the Leslie Saeta 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge... I'm a bit behind schedule but happy with the quality of my recent work and that's what really counts.  Had no trouble keeping up with the challenge in January... but this month, well... life happens.

Started BILL by rubbing an area with transparent orange oxide.  (Transparent red oxide or burnt sienna would work just as well).  Rubbed in and wiped down with paper towel leaving white canvas on the bottom.  Had no idea I would leave it white, but like how it looked in the end and left it alone.

Painted fast and bold.  Did not do a thumbnail, time flies in this studio with all the model breaks, two hours is all you can hope for.  After simple brush sketch with ultramarine and orange oxide (road map for size and proportions), slapped in the dark masses.  Mixed light colors during model breaks and worked on shirt.  Painted light side of head melding with darks.  Added a few half-tones in dark areas but kept it simple.

The collar on the right side was tough.  A yellowish white that turned green when I tried to darken it.  Finally mixed cad orange with ultramarine blue and found what I was looking for.

Added highlights and glasses during the last few poses and worked on background.

Didn't take any progression photos, too busy painting to stop.  And during breaks had a lot of catching up to do with artist friends I hadn't seen in a while and getting to know new ones.

Bill's posing again next Friday... we've asked him to bring some hats and wear a different shirt.  Excellent model, gets back in position perfectly and holds still as granite.  Great fun and practice! 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Time to Go

Diane Mannion, Time to Go, 8x10" oil on linen

Timed Quick Studies

This is the third while painting with the Light Chasers group at Caspersen Beach last Thursday.  Painted fast because rain clouds were moving in and lightning creeps me out. 

If I can convince myself these plein air paintings are quick studies, gathering information for larger works, color note taking, simply SKETCHES... then I let go and don't over-work them.  

I'll be painting with the Punta Gorda VAC plein air painters next Monday at the Bay Preserve in Osprey.  Setting a timer and will try to do several SKETCHES. 

With speedy painting in mind, the title of this painting, Time to Go takes on a new meaning: Time to let go, let it go before overworking.  Every artist has heard the expression it takes two to paint... one to push the paint and another to make it stop.  One to paint, the other with a hammer to hit the artist over the head before she ruins it!   I'll use my timer, instead.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Girl Fishing

Diane Mannion, Girl Fishing, 8x10" oil on linen

Tweeking Plein Air

A few notes about tweeking plein air paintings back in the studio.  There's something fresh about studies done on location and usually I like to leave them as they are.  But in the end, it's what makes a good painting that's important.  Therefore, I attempted to improve one back in the studio.

This morning I took a look at the first painting I did yesterday and decided to change it.  It's a dangerous operation but had to be done.  The orange beach bag in the foreground screamed, "Take me out!"  And so I did.  

Here's the first version and the tweeked one:
Diane Mannion, Morning View Tweeked, 8x10" oil on linen

Took out orange beach bag, detailed forground figure, faded other figures into background, fiddled with sun-struck palm on left, and added a few more lights in the foliage.  Lightened some of the shadows.  

Does it look any better?  What do you think?

Girl Fishing is the second plein air painting I did yesterday and I'm quite pleased with it.  Softened a few spots in the background this morning, but other than that it's the way it was created at the beach.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Morning View

Diane Mannion, Morning View, 8x10" oil on linen
(Pre-tweeked version)

Light Chasers Plein Air!

Painted with the Light Chasers at Caspersen Beach in Venice today.  Great catching up with painting buddies, fresh start for a new season. Think there were about ten of us scattered around the area.
Painted on my own private deck from 8:30am to 2:00 without a break.  (Some tourists stopped by and I told them Venice built the deck especially for me).
And here's a photo snapped by Mark from Sandtastic (a new Light Chaser!)... check out his site.

Waved to a few painters in the distance and several stopped by to visit, but I was glued to the spot and could not would not leave to go visit anyone.  Lulled by the sound of waves gently splashing under my feet and the incredible views... painted three!  Will post the other two later.

Just want to mention Light Chaser, Cory Wright who did an outstanding painting today!
 And there were a lot more masterpieces by other artists created this morning!
What a group!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Just the Three of Us

Diane Mannion, Just the Three of Us, 8x10" oil on linen

Palm and Sky Practice

Thought it might be a good idea to practice painting sky and palm trees in the studio.  They seem to cause me the most grief and anxiety (fear of clouds and palm trees)... combined with AA, Artist's Anxiety.  Then when I get outside to paint the real life subjects I'll be more relaxed and able to knock out masterpieces. 

Note...  Sarah Sedgewick coined the term AA for Artist's Anxiety.  Just want to give credit where credit's due.  Her work is fabulous!  Check it out... but not until you finish reading this post, thanks.

Here's my thumbnail for today's painting.  Wanted the trees to be inside the frame but they had a mind of their own and blossomed right off the canvas.  Palm trees are wild things, very difficult to control.
This is how the underpainting looked.  Indian yellow toned panel, painted sky and clouds in first.

And here's the finish again.  Didn't take any more progression photos because I fell into a trance and couldn't stop my frenzied, nail-biting paint slinging.  

I have no fear of painting objects or portraits.  I think clouds and palm trees are difficult for me because it's mostly made up.  There's not much to measure from like a nose or windows.  The fluffy, ephemeral quality of clouds and trees can be almost any shape.  Therefore, I worry too much and make too many changes while painting them.  And with palm trees... have to fight their ability to mimic toilet bowl brushes.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Purple House

Diane Mannion, PURPLE HOUSE, 8x10" oil on linen
#11 of the 30/30 Challenge

Catching Light

First meeting of the season for the Punta Gorda Visual Arts Center Plein Air Painters. Having a friendly group of artists to paint with is a joy!  There were about eight of us this morning, good number for early season.
Kathy, Andrea, and that's me on the right wearing my lucky painting hat.
And my view of the Purple House, a famous Punta Gorda landmark, now home to the Charlotte Sun Herald newspaper.
Had to paint fast... the sun was gorgeous when it hit the side of the building and roof, a great contrast to the dark trees behind it.  After two hours, forced myself to stop and leave it alone.  Could have gone on forever with details but my main intent was to simply capture the light.  Put in shadows first and left the brushstrokes alone (well almost, blended greens to simplify).

This Thursday, Sept 19th... I'll be painting with the Light Chasers at Caspersen Beach, Venice.  And next Monday, Sept 23... VAC Plein Air will meet at the Bay Preserve in Osprey.  All are welcome to join us.  

It's great to live in a place where the season is just starting and we're thinking of turning off air conditioning and opening the windows for winter.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

On the Way to the Beach

Diane Mannion, On the Way to the Beach, 8x10" oil on linen

#10 of the 30/30 Challenge

Plein Air Practice from Photo

Pretended I was on location at Manasota Key Beach while in the studio today.  Practiced mixing colors and creating a design from my reference photo.  Sometimes, it's easier to concentrate and solve painting problems while in the studio.  Getting ready for a busy plein air season here and want to sharpen my skills inside before I go outside.

Photo I took at the beach recently.  Notice how it's not very exiting.  The camera flattens forms, changes values and colors.  A lot of this painting came from visual memory built up by painting outside for many years. 

The thumbnail sketch.  Shortened the palm tree with my artistic license.  Liked the way the trunk was dark against the sky and light against the background trees.  Rearranged the clouds to relate to the design.  Considered where the darks and patterns would be.

Painted on Indian yellow toned panel with Transparent Orange Oxide and ultramarine.

Started with sky and rapidly blocked in color areas.

Painted sand and started working on palm tree.

Almost finished... had to wipe out palm tree several times.  I have a fear of clouds AND palm trees!

Finished painting again.  Quite pleased!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Boca Church

Diane Mannion, Boca Church, 8x10" oil on linen

#9 of the 30/30 Challenge


Photo Reference I snapped with iPhone of Catholic Chuch in Boca Grande, Florida

Started with the all important thumbnail sketch!

Sketched on Transparent Orange Oxide toned linen panel with ultramarine blue and the orange oxide.

Painted light areas in first.  I know... yesterday I suggested starting with the dark masses.  But wanted to focus on the brilliant light and color effects here without them getting muddy.  REMEMBER, THERE ARE NO RULES, IT'S WHATEVER GETS THE JOB DONE!  Some darks WERE indicated in the sketch and the panel is a mid-tone, so the painting's well on it's way already.

Color blocked in without blending or working edges or getting lost in details (tough for me).

Here's the finish again.  I just noticed how much colder the yellow looks in the final.  The above photos were shot in the studio, the final outside with my good camera. 
Yes, the yellows in the final are much warmer, closer to the above unfinished version.
Will post a better shot tomorrow.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Great White Heron

Diane Mannion, Great White Heron, 8x10" oil on linen
#8 of the 30/30 Challenge
Brushwork Tips

Toned three linen panels this morning, hoping I'd be able to paint three today... sigh.  Not happening.  Always trying to paint faster but keep seeing things to change.  
 Toned with Indian yellow, transparent orange oxide, and quinacridone magenta.  Used the magenta under today's painting... Great White Heron.  Fought hard to let bits of that color show through!

After spending yesterday showing students how to apply paint with meaningful brushstrokes... decided to follow my own advice.  This advice goes for the finishing, polished strokes... fell free to scrub away on the underpainting.  (A painting is an underpainting until you declare it finished).

*Mix colors on the palette.

*Scoop up a good amount of paint.

*Hold brush almost parallel to the canvas.

*Lay the paint on in one careful stroke and LEAVE IT!  Blend as little as possible.

*It's only possible to get two or three "clean" strokes with each loaded brush.  Wipe paint off with paper towel (don't clean brush with Gamsol or OMS between strokes).

*Use more brushes to keep strokes clean.  One for lights, one for darks... etc.

*For oils... paint with darks first, then build up the lights.  

*Keep darks thin and transparent.

*Experiment with different kinds of brushes.  Artist quality only!  Don't waste your money on the cheap ones or you'll spend time picking bristles out of the paint.  I love Silver Bristlon, good stiff brush, almost like using a palette knife.  Also Rosemary Brushes soft un-natural mongoose, for refining and detail.  Grumbacher bristles are great and many, many others.  You'll find the best for your purpose only after putting in miles of painting strokes.  Never throw out an old worn one... they're great for scrubbing underpaintings.  Sometimes, good quality housepainting brushes come in handy for large paintings.

*Numbers 2,4, and 6 are perfect sizes for bristle (natural or un-natural) to get started with.  I love filberts and flats.  Rarely use rounds.

*For underpainting I love to smear and blot with those blue Homedepot or Walmart car cleaning paper towels.  Have found Viva towels (recommended by lots of artists) too thin and leave a lot of lint.  Kleenex tissues are great for blending and pulling paint off brushes between strokes (a tip I learned from CW Mundy.  Check out his work!

*Once in a while the palette knife comes in handy!  Especially for sea oats stems.  And a meat skewer stick (what I scratch my signature with).  Just about anything handy will do... but keep those fingers out of the stuff (it's bad for you!)... use plastic gloves if you must.

(Sargent started with the middle values and then worked to dark and light, so it's whatever works for you).

First stage... started with darks then wiped lights with Gamsol.
How painting looked at lunch break.  Feeling out patterns and composition.
Finished painting again, a few hours later.  The scene is Caspersen Beach in Venice, a favorite hangout for both artists and birds!