Monday, August 25, 2014

Pressing Dimensions

Pressing Dimensions, 11x14" oil/linen panel, ©Diane Mannion

Trompe d'Oil
Pressing the three dimensional world into two!

Found out about a trompe d'oil competition two days before the deadline and (ha) thought I could do it... but was fun trying anyway.   Have wanted to experiment with this genre so this was a good excuse to try one.  

Found the iron in an antique shop in Maine over twenty years ago.  Has been used as a doorstop ever since (even survived a "bad" poodle that liked to lift his leg on it).  This iron also brings chills to the hearts of my students because I've made them play spin-the-iron and draw it from every angle.  I've always wondered what poor soul wore the paint off the handle with hard working fingers.

Tore the fabric patch off a robe that belonged to my mother.  I remember the day we bought it!  While trying on clothes in a large dressing room in a fashionable store, I managed to get stuck in a bathing suit.  "Mom?" I called, asking for help... and heard six or seven other moms answer.  Must have been lots of mother/daughter shopping teams that day.  

John built the cabinet which I changed a lot to suit the design.  Had to add a few dings and scratches for artistic drama.  

The flowers were silk, not my favorite type to paint but hold up well under  lights.  Dried white flowers on bottom shelf were real.  But this is a trompe d'oil... a genre that attempts to fool the eye, so artificial flowers fit right in.

First stage and set up.

NFS (for now)

Thursday, August 21, 2014


SANGRIA, 11x14" oil/linen, ©Diane Mannion

Summer Studio Painting

I'm happily tucked into the cool studio during the dog days of Floridian August!  After fast and loose plein air landscapes, it's a treat slowing down to a quiet and considered practice, sharpening technique, and painting things that hold still.  Refreshing change rearranging light and objects, playing with color and design.  And nice not having to dodge lightning bolts outside.
Stage 1: objects placed and values indicated.  
Stage 2: first layer of color blocked in.  
Painting was worked in alla prima method, no glazing.  
Widened bottle to strengthen composition.
Thanks for the word, Joseph Palmerio..."JUICY."


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fruitful August

Fruitful August, 11x14" oil/linen panel, ©Diane Mannion

Painting from Life

Set this still life up by a north window and was too eager to start.  Should have worked a design... a thumbnail sketch first.  Kept adding and subtracting objects to get it to work.  

By the time I was ready to paint the flowers, they had wilted and dropped a few leaves.  The flowers had to be painted from photo reference and memory.  But the leaves added the perfect transition.  Moved the leaf in front to guide the eye into the painting.  The leaf on the right side of the jar dropped into the perfect spot... painted it in right away!

Here's how the painting looked at the start.  Easy to see the changes!  Main subject is the play of light on the objects, and how the color works throughout.  A struggle with fruitful results.  I'll give myself a pat on the back for this one.
 It's a shock going from a daily painting to a weekly one!  Wish I could paint faster... but slow is fine, too.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Outside Sketch

Outside Sketch, 6x9" watercolor, plein air, ©Diane Mannion

Plein Air Still Life!

 This little sketch is a first for me.  Clipped some flowers from the garden, set up a still life outside in the sun, and painted it with WATERCOLORS! 

Forced me to paint faster because the light and shadows moved rapidly.  Wanted to keep it loose, which is difficult for me.  Guess I'm more of a control freak and love getting lost in details.  Accidents are wonderful in watercolor... I don't give them enough of a chance.

Not comfortable with the wet into wet techniques, will have to experiment more.  My experience with watercolor as an illustrator was working in transparent layers, painting wet over dry and controlling the bead, the wet edge of the paint as I applied it.

#100!  One-hundred paintings so far this year and getting close to 1000 since I began blogging in 2008.  962 posts with a painting for each post, to be exact.  Only 38 to go!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Paddle Your Own Canoe

Paddle Your Own Canoe, 6x8.5" watercolor, ©Diane Mannion

More Watercolor Practice

Painted from old snapshot I took at Snook Haven.  Kept grumbling to myself about how much faster I would have been able to paint this in oils, alla prima style.  More patience and practice needed.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

Orchid Study

Orchid Study A, 3.5x5"watercolor, ©Diane Mannion


Teaching a class in watercolor next season at Ringling Englewood, so I've been practicing.  After using watercolor for over thirty years as an illustrator, this medium meant "work" to me.

Have saturated my eyeballs with videos and watercolor books, have studied old and new master's work.  I've learned there's a lot I didn't know.  Now it's time to process this information and experiment with my "beginner's mind."  And I'm having fun!  Watercolor doesn't seem like work anymore.  There's a lot of truth in the old saying that if you want to learn something... teach it. 

Used photo reference I took myself.  The visual excitement starts here as part of the creative process.  I nag students over and over about how important this it!  Take your own photos!  Nothing replaces painting from life, but photos are a useful tool as long as they are not "copied" to look like a photo.  I look at a photo, on my monitor, iPad, or flat screen TV and pretend I'm standing in front of the subject, pretending I'm working from life.  I redesign and move things around to suit my composition.
My photo reference for this project snapped outside the front door.
Worked on 9x12" Arches 140lb cold press block.
Wanted to try four different versions, so I used masking tape and divided the block in four.  I love the crisp edge this gives when the tape's removed.
Orchid Study B.
Orchid Study C.
Orchid Study D.
All were sketched lightly with a standard #2 pencil that I erased here and there when the paint dried.  Study A and B worked with transparent, staining, and more opaque watercolors.  Study C and D worked with mostly transparent and limited palette colors.  

I like version, A best... but this was a project to loosen up and practice.  I like a little something about each version and maybe I'll try it in oils next.
Doing small studies is a great way to get better faster.  More is learned by doing ten small studies than one large painting.  So grab that masking tape and try a few small ones!  Works with oils, pastels, and acrylics also!

I'll be joining Artists Helping Artists in another, my fourth! 30 paintings in 30 days challenge for September.  I'll be working in watercolor this time.... hoping to do 1 hour studies.  Last I heard, over 400 artists from around the world and from almost every US state, have signed up.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Small Shrimper

Small Shrimper, 8x10" oil/linen, ©Diane Mannion


Set my easel up on a rickety dock near the Bait Shop on Beach Road last week, and as usual... the boat I started to paint... left.  Took a snaphot.  Continued the painting leaving a "hole" where the boat would be and worked the rest like a "stage-set" to finish later.  

Wish it had painted itself like my Whidden's Marina painting in the last post.  This one was a struggle.  Scraped twice and almost gave up, but I think I learned a few things in the process.

This is how it looked before the second scraping.  Whites were too cool and chalky.  Warmed the white with Indian yellow and after lots of fiddling, noodling and overworking, managed to salvage it.  The re-vision captured the hot and humid Floridian feeling... and at least I didn't have to scrape it again! 

Me having fun handing out ribbons to some of the winners at the Punta Gorda Exhibition I judged last week!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Whidden's Marina

Whidden's Marina, 8x10" oil/linen, plein air, ©Diane Mannion

It's a Keeper!

Plein air painting's a lot like fishing... never know what you'll catch.  This morning I hauled in a good one!  Doesn't happen that often.  Everything was completed on location except for lettering on the sign.

Whidden's Marina was founded by Sam Whidden in 1926!  Run by the Whidden family ever since, it's one of Boca Grande's oldest marinas.  Was once a dance hall and restaurant!  Still has plenty of "Old Florida" character.

When I first looked at the scene, I was not inspired, almost left.  But thought someone else might show up from the VAC Punta Gorda Plein Air Artists, even though fearless leader, Sharon Yarbrough was ill and cancelled.
Planted myself on one spot and simply let the the paint fly.  Good practice painting something that I thought would not work.  This scene let me "discover" it.  The colors and shapes, even the clouds worked together.  The more I looked, the more I saw, but still attempted to simplify.  I was thrilled at the last minute when I noticed the fishing rod attached to the boat that led right up to the sign. 
My view.
 Me painting.
 Audrey Painting.
 Audrey's fabulous block-in!
 Goat that bleated all morning.  Yes, goats and pigs at a marina!
Well-fed Mr Pig.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Pink and Amber

Pink and Amber, 11x14" oil/linen, ©Diane Mannion

How I Judge A Work of Art

I was invited to judge an art exhibition at the Visual Arts Center Punta Gorda and asked to show up for the opening reception last night.  Afterwards, an artist asked why her abstract painting wasn't selected but another one was.  Then she asked me to crit her work... I'm honest with my opinions and also attempt to explain why.  It was a good question and I hope she understood what my ideas about realism and abstraction are all about.

I believe that behind every good painting or craft... realistic or abstract... the basic ideas of visual language, the music of seeing, the joy (or angst as some artists prefer to exhibit)... come into play.  A painting has to have something that visually sounds like a song or compelling piece of music.  Color, light, composition are the elements that make up a good painting... whether realistic or abstract.  A fine work of art must have a feeling of life!

When judging, I need to see the results of concentrated study, practice, and skill necessary to create a valid piece of art or craft.  Another analogy could be watching a dancer perform with grace and skill.  Sometimes, it's a natural talent, but even this has to be fine-tuned with hours and hours of rehearsal and practice.  A good artist never stops growing, learning, and practicing... a life-long process!

This is the value-sketch of Pink and Amber.  Behind every good painting are the abstract bones of value, composition, and rhythm.  Value does the work, color gets the credit!
Putting your work OUT THERE is an important stage of every artist's journey, unless you're content with hanging on your mom's refrigerator door, or decorating your own walls.  Every artist that enters an exhibit is a winner whether they win a ribbon or not!  And no one ever agrees with the judge's decisions... unless of course, they won first prize.  Congratulations to Nancy Colby!