Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pickled Peppers

Pickled Peppers, watercolor, 8.5x12.5" ©Diane Mannion
DAY 30!

While listening to Artists Helping Artists Podcast with Leslie Saeta and Carol Marine, heard this post read online!  An honor.

Day 30 of Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days!  It's been a trip.  Rediscovered a love for watercolor, thanks to this.  A whole lot of stress and pressure even though I started a few days ahead.  Not easy and glad it's over..............but glad I did it.

This is the fourth time I've completed Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge.  Finished in 25 days with the added pressure that I'd be painting in Bradenton, FL for Paint the Town at the end of the month.

Why watercolor?  Spent over thirty years using watercolor as an illustrator so every time I pick up a watercolor brush it seems like work, and compared to oils... at least for me, it is.  Englewood Ringling College of Art invited me to teach watercolor, so I thought it would be a good idea to use this challenge for practice.

It also gave me the incentive to research watercolor techniques and try them out.  Between library books, online websites, and especially Youtube videos... I was overwhelmed and inspired by a flood of new information.  Discovered and communicated with artists on Facebook and through their blogs and websites!   Amazing finding contemporary artists whose work I admire, reaching out and hearing from them minutes later.

What I gained from this 30/30 Challenge:

1. Renewed my love for watercolor.
2. Learned new techniques and approaches.
3. Improved skills with exercise and practice.
4. Experimented with methods and materials.
5. Had fun researching watercolor in books and online.
6. Have a stack of fresh paintings for shows and competitions.
7. Collected enough tips and information to fill an e-book.
8. Enjoyed neglecting housework for artwork.
9. Sharpened my self-discipline!
10. Enjoyed the community of artists also doing the challenge.

3rd: Painted 30 Snippets!  Small, 3.5x2.5" Artist Trading Card size in oils.

4th: Painted 30 experiments in watercolors. 

A few artists that inspire me:

Winslow Homer
John Singer Sargent

Monday, September 29, 2014

Downtown Punta Gorda

Downtown Punta Gorda, watercolor, 6.5x9.5" ©Diane Mannion

Day 29!

One more day to go in Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge.  This watercolor was painted with the VAC Punta Gorda Plein Air Artists, downtown near the old courthouse.  Will write more later... off to the Bradenton Paint the Town Paintout, Cortez today.  Running late.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Star Fruit

Star Fruit, watercolor, 6.75x9.5" ©Diane Mannion
Day 28 of the 30/30

Used extremely limited palette, mainly ultramarine blue and burnt sienna.  Yellow ochre and a touch of Indian yellow.  That's it!  A triade palette... red (burnt sienna), yellow (yellow ochre), blue (ultramarine blue).

Everything that was "white" such as the bowl, had all three colors in it, leaning towards yellow ochre or blue (warm/cool). SIMPLE, natural, and easy-doodle.  Greenish color in the star fruit... yellow ochre and ultramarine blue.  Easy peasy.

Found this bowl in a favorite Goodwill.  Loved the dancing characters and the blue and white patterns.  The star fruit are from our neighbor's tree.  John made a fantastic pie with them... even though they're not my favorite fruit.  The trick is to eat them when the ridges are brown, not green.  They taste much better when ripe.

Only two more days of Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days.  Full report on the 30th.

Won third prize at the Brandenton Paint the Town Quick Draw today!  What a surprise!  Lots of wonderful paintings created in two hours.  Will report on this after the 30/30 is over. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Medusa, watercolor, 6.5x9.5" ©Diane Mannion

Day 27 of the 30/30 Challenge

Painted from life at the Venice Portrait Studio!  Unfortunately, I had left my watercolor brushes at home and had to borrow a few unruly oil painting brushes from a friend.  What a struggle!  

We all gasped when this fabulous model arrived dressed as Medusa!  Plastic snakes, great black dress, even glittery false eyelashes.  Green stage makeup, too!  And she actually drove her car to the art center like this, snakes and all!

This painting was a three-quarter view which included two hands... too much information for a two hour session.  Later at home, I cut off her head, salvaged what I could and reworked from a reference photo... using my own brushes. 

Friday, September 26, 2014


Marina, watercolor, 6.5x9.5" ©Diane Mannion

Day 26 of the 30/30

Started painting this on the dock at Fisherman's Village, Punta Gorda.  Finished it later but had to change a lot to get it to work.  The pilings, for example, were painted white near the tops.  Had to darken them even though I like to be true to the scene while painting plein air.  Also the forground boat was white, changed it to yellow and added more colorful sail covers for visual interest.  It's early season here and several sailboats didn't even have sails on yet.  About the only thing I didn't tinker with was the sky which painted itself in.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Linda Reading

Linda Reading, 10.5x7.5" watercolor, ©Diane Mannion

Day 24 of Leslie Saeta's 30/30 Challenge

Painted from life at the Punta Gorda Visual Art Center Portrait Studio.  Tough painting a subject while she's reading!  So much is communicated through the eyes and if I hadn't put "reading" in the title it would look like she's sleeping.  

Nevertheless, most of the artists did a really fine job of painting and drawing Linda.  She couldn't help moving a bit, so I kept moving my easel to catch up with the turn of her head.  Painting from a live model is a lot like painting plein air while everything changes.

 Robert and his excellent charcoal drawing.
Weimin achieved an oil study filled with energy and flair!

Another experiment... for this one, Linda Reading, I used a random pre-wash rivulet technique.  Discovered this through Susan Avis Murphy's Youtube video.  It uses raw umber and ultramarine dabbed on then wet with sprayer until it flows in streams.  It's rather easy to lift paint later and darken other areas.  An interesting random pattern of transparencies results.  Not much showed in this portrait, but will try this again with a landscape or still life.  Meanwhile, her video will give you an idea.

Happy to announce that I've finished my 30 Paintings in (less than) 30 Days! Ahead of schedule because I will be painting at the Bradenton Paint the Town paintout this weekend and next week.
Will be posting the last 5 over the next few days.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


OJ, watercolor, 6.5x9.5" ©Diane Mannion

Day 24 of the 30/30 Challenge

Found this pitcher in an antique shop in Arcadia, FL, a favorite place to hunt for still life objects!  I'm sure my grandmother had the same one when I was five years old!  

It's fun to see how far I can push watercolor, working in glazes and lifting, although I'm still convinced oils are much easier to work with.  Set this up in front of my still life painting lights and worked from reference photo I took myself.  I'm pleased with the result although I like a painting to look more like a  painting and not a photo.  When folks try to compliment my work and say it looks like a photo, I cringe. 

And even though I did work from my own photo... I changed it quite a bit to add more punch... or juice to the colors.  Also simplified and abstracted a lot.  I think this is a bit too "photographic" for my taste.   What a conundrum!

A bit about glazing in watercolor.
Alert reader, Jo Mackenzie, watercolorist and 30/30 artist asked about glazing.
Here's my answer:

All I know about glazing in watercolor is by experimenting on my own. Think of transparent layers of color like cellophane, when colors are combined they all shine through.  IMPORTANT to let each layer dry then carefully layer another color over it without disturbing the underpainting.

Any color can be used, preferably a transparent rather than opaque watercolor.  Red, yellow, and blue together make a gorgeous neutral... and are much more luminous if applied in separate layers rather than mixing all together on the palette first, which is the simplest way to explain it.

 I don't work this way in every painting or area though. Sometimes ultramarine blue and burnt sienna mixed for first layer, then glaze with another color to create value and depth. This is why watercolor takes so much longer for me to work with... waiting for one area to dry before I glaze over it. I've heard to only use three layers of glazes (which I think is hogwash or nonsense), some artists use as many layers as it takes, maybe twenty or so. But I do like to work faster and will glaze as little as possible.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Daisy Day

Daisy Day, watercolor, 5.5x8" ©Diane Mannion

Day 23 of Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days

Instead of cut flowers, I came home with a pot of daisies to paint, at least they last longer than the cut variety.  Have noticed an awful lot of artificial dyes added to the cut flowers lately, as if the color of fresh flowers is not enough... horrible!  Who buys flowers like that?  

Here's the first layer of paint, painted shapes of flowers first to get a grip on rhythm and compostition.  Started with paint instead of pencil, for a change.

 Second layer, painted the leaf pattern.  These are on white paper, sorry about the gray look of poor camera work here.

Painted background and then painted more layers on everything.  This series is to give you an idea about how to "start" a complex subject... at least one way.

Monday, September 22, 2014

While Waiting

While Waiting, watercolor, 5.5x8" ©Diane Mannion

Day 22 of the 30/30 Challenge

While waiting for an appointment, I was stuck in the car and did a few sketches.  Hurried home afterwards and painted this.  It was really a "nothing-interesting" view but while doing sketches, I noticed things I would not have before.  

Almost called this, Objects in the Mirror are Closer Than You Think.  While Waiting is the title that has the most meaning for those few boring minutes waiting.  Boring turned into interesting when I started to sketch.  Artists are never bored!  We may be boring, but never bored.

And I wonder what that poor woman was thinking while I stared at her house!

Sunday, September 21, 2014


G, watercolor, 5.5x8", ©Diane Mannion

Day 21 of the 30/30

Another experiment!  Wanted to add some graphics with a watercolor and discovered acrylic ink... worked well.  Used a poem by Edward Lear, but changed it from a "he" to she because it this was not a billy goat.  Always loved Piccaso's She Goat sculpture at MOMA, NYC.  Sketched it when I was a very young artist.

Very limited palette here, ultramarine blue and burnt sienna.  First washed paper with Indian yellow for a sunlight glow.  Worked from a reference photo I took while doing a plein air painting and listened to this little goat bleating for two hours.  She had plenty of food and water... guess she was feeling cranky.  Baaaaaa....  A goat on Boca Grande?

And speaking of using reference photos.  A friend found a painting of her granddaughter online.  The artist (if you could call the scoundrel that) used the photo without permission.  Disgusting.  If any artists are reading this, PLEASE USE YOUR OWN PHOTOS.  Or at least have permission to use the photograph.  The creative impulse that makes it your own work begins when you SEE something that excites YOU.  Using a photo that someone else took is not the way to do it.  That's THEIR image, not yours.  The exception would be if it is impossible to take the photo and you have permission, as in the case of a memorial photo of a person or pet. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Daisies in Garden Cart

Daisies in Garden Cart, 5.5x8" watercolor, ©Diane Mannion

Day 20 of the 30/30 Challenge

Found this garden cart waiting to be painted at a local garden center.  Pleased with how this watercolor turned out, sometimes good things happen with paint and values and color.  At least I didn't want to rip this one up.  

Friday, September 19, 2014

Coffee and Sun

Coffee and Sun, watercolor, 5.5x8", ©Diane Mannion

Day 19 of the 30/30

Almost gave up on this... then put in just one more layer of glaze and got it to work.  Scene from Anna Maria Island of courtyard.  Charming place!

Painted on Arches 140 lb hot press.  Artist quality watercolors, Winsor and Newton, Daniel Smith, and Holbein.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Garden Path

Garden Path, watercolor, 5.5x8" ©Diane Mannion

Day 18 of 30/30 Challenge

Local garden center, a favorite place to paint early in the morning, although this was finished in the studio later.  Painted on Arches hot press paper.  While trying to push values, overworked it in places.  Perhaps, I wanted the effect of oils, but watercolor has a mind of it's own. 

Although I wanted this to be simple, it wasn't.  Kept thinking, maybe one more layer of glazing...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Portrait Studio

Portrait Studio, watercolor, 5.5x8" ©Diane Mannion

Day 17 of the 30/30 Challenge

Took my watercolors to the Punta Gorda Visual Arts Center portrait studio.  Spent first pose, about twenty minutes, doing a careful pencil sketch with a regular number 2 pencil on Arches hot press paper.  Then for the next two hours, used each pose to paint layers from light to dark.

Great group of artists meet every Thursday and paint together.  During high season there are so many artists that two models pose on each side of the room.  All levels, all mediums... still only $5. for three hours, 9am to noon.  Wish I could get there every Thursday but it's also the day that the Light Chasers Plein Air Painters meet, and another group, the Englewood Plein Air Artists.  Have to alternate painting with each group, to many artistic happenings on Thursday mornings!

A few Punta Gorda Visual Arts Center Portrait Painters:

Judy worked in pastel on red mat board.  Trudy, pastels, Jane, pencil, Weimin, oils, and Kathy, acrylic, and another artist used colored pencils.  Excellent work all!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Grapes of Art

Grapes of Art, watercolor, 5.5x8" ©Diane Mannion

Day 16 of 30/30 Challenge

An alert commenter asked a good question about why I painted this in three layers: "Since you did three layers of transparent glazing in all the colors, can I assume that is a way of creating visual continuity?"-Susan  
Three layers with the three colors everywhere does help with harmony, but I had in mind the three color printing process that books used to be published in. I would see three plates, one with each color that formed a full color print when together. Actually, the plates I used to paint on acetate for illustration in the VERY olden days were a layer for yellow, a red layer, and a black layer! The black ink worked as blue. I've also seen watercolor artists work this way. Colors may appear more luminous if mixed on the paper rather than mixing on the palette.

 Painted in layers of transparent glazing with blue, red, and yellow everywhere.
First layer blue which helped to get values down.
Second layer, red which was painted everywhere, especially the flowers and grapes.
Third layer, yellow, also painted everywhere but mainly on the lemon and flower stems.
 Then worked and reworked again with every color to define and finish.

Monday, September 15, 2014


GLADS, watercolor, 5.5x8"©Diane Mannion

Day 14 of the 30/30

Another painting on Arches hot press.  Attempted to put strokes down with minimal blending, let them puddle or flow where they would.  Happier with this one than yesterday's post which I think I'll try to lighten and rework, then repost.

One good thing about insomnia is watching watercolor demos and picking up tips here and there.  Hundreds of videos on Youtube, most pretty awful, but once in a while, a good one.  Later, I'll list a few favorites.  Anyhow, I learned about Mr Clean's Magic Eraser and how it can be used as a tool to lift areas.  Will buy one today, see how that works and report on that later also.

I did myself a favor and took every tube of watercolor and made a Lift-ablility chart.  Used Arches 140 lb cold press paper because it seems to be my favorite.  Painted each color in a line from dark to light tint.  Then took clean water on a brush and stroked the center and lifted off with tissue.

Learned a lot about the colors I own, some of which I've never used before... some were samples, some were gifts.  I left out the metallic and iridescent colors, will test later because I'm not using them during this Challenge.  Have a lot of tubes with mysterious  names, like what in the world is the color of Moonglow?  Now I know!  

I really recommend making a chart like this!  It's clear to me now which colors are more transparent or opaque... and most importantly for me... which are easier to lift!  Also learned which were clear and which were grainy.  Once in a while, changes are helpful, softening edges for example, so lift-ablility is important.  Here's a snapshot of my chart.  Go make your own!
Moonglow, Daniel Smith, middle column, fourth from bottom!  Looks like dark mauve.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Shadow in the Sun

Shadow in the Sun, watercolor, 5.5x8" ©Diane Mannion

Day 14 of the 30/30

My standard poodle, Shadow likes to spend time in the Floridian summer sun on the pool deck.  Must need a break from the air conditioning inside.  We spend so much time during the heat of summer inside that we think of it as our "winter," but it's starting to feel a bit cooler in the mornings now. 

The pool deck is not that hideous yellow, just pushed the color for dramatic effect.  This was painted on Arches hot press, the paint tends to stay on top of the surface.  Not thrilled with this one, but at least I've kept up with the 30/30 Challenge.  These are all experiments anyway.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Chip on my Shoulder

Chip on my Shoulder, 5.5x8" watercolor, ©Diane Mannion

Day 13 of the 30/30

Was going to call this My Sister because my husband thinks it looks like my evil twin.  Self-portraits are not easy, especially at my age.  The parrotlet (world's smallest parrot) is Maxie, couldn't resist using the title, so he is playing the role of a Chip.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Garden Pump

Garden Pump, 5.5x8" watercolor, ©Diane Mannion

Day 12 of the 30/30 Challenge

This garden pump is on the grounds of Artist Acres in Englewood,  a densely shaded area with patches of sunlight filtering through thick foliage.  Not an easy subject to paint.  

Perhaps, I should have titled this "Help!  I'm painting and just can't stop!"  In an attempt to push my darks for the shadows and values, I kept adding layers of paint.  If I paint this scene again, I'll simplify the masses and keep my foreground, middle, and background more distinct.  

Watercolor works best as a transparent medium and is easily overworked.  But I'll let this painting stand as a sketch.  Sometimes, we learn from our mistakes.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cool Swimmer

Cool Swimmer, watercolor, 5.5x8" ©Diane Mannion

Day 11 of 30 Paintings in 30 Days

Painted on Arches 140 lb cold press, my favorite paper!  Pleased with this one, sometimes they're a surprise and if it weren't for the 30/30, I might not have painted it.  From a photo reference I took last summer that I picked out of hundreds in my files.  

I don't like painting from photos, so I changed and simplified this a lot.  Worked on several layers of glazing using transparent colors in a fairly limited palette.  A warm and cool of each primary.  Also used masking for the highlights in the water and on the goggles.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Little Brother

Little Brother, 5.5x8"watercolor, ©Diane Mannion

Day 10 of the 30/30 Challenge

One third of the way there already!  Still not easy even thought it's my fourth time doing Leslie Saeta's Challenge... click here to see how the other artists are doing.  

Thought I'd try painting an extra one last night and ended up with a wipe-out, or tear-up because it's on paper, not canvas.  I have a paintout during the last week of this challenge, so I'm trying to get ahead. 

Practiced the spatter technique in Little Brother (better the boat should be named Little, instead of Big Brother).  I like way the splash dots give a spontaneous effect to the sketch, although this was not painted as quickly as I wished.  These watercolors are taking longer for me to paint than oils!

And I'm not ashamed of using masking fluid when needed, the masts and rope lines are a good example.  Makes more sense to have the background flow over the masks instead of trying to paint around them.  I'm a purist and try to avoid masking fluid but sometimes it works.

This painting is a view of the Royal Palm Marina on the Intercoastal Waterway here in Englewood, Florida.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Swing Under Cedar Tree

Swing Under Cedar Tree, 5.5x9" watercolor, plein air, ©Diane Mannion

Day 9 of 30 Paintings in 30 Days

Painted with the Englewood Plein Air Artists at Artist Acres, a private, former Englewood artist's retreat.  Wrote about the history of the place in the post during the paintout last season.  Click here to read it.
My setup on a cool morning in the shade.  Rigged my James Coulter easel for watercolor.  Have a plastic mixing pan in the middle... on top of my oils which are under plastic wrap.  Worked well!
First stage, painted on a watercolor block.  Lowered the back leg of the tripod to adjust the tilt.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Another Day at the Beach

 Another Day at the Beach, 5.5 x 8" watercolor, ©Diane Mannion

Day 8 of 30 

 Typical local scene, this one a path towards Venice Beach in the morning.  Love hearing tourists say..."Wow, look at the color of that water!"  Some days, depending on the weather, it's vivid turquoise,  or if cloudy,  can range from ultramarine to shades of purple.

Used fairly limited palette based on burnt sienna and ultramarine mixture to keep the greens muted so  bright colors would pop.  Kept background trees light in value for atmospheric depth.  Used spatter technique for splashy and loose effect.

Sketched the figures on tracing paper and moved them around over the painting to find the best placement, before painting them in. 
 First stage using ultramarine and burnt sienna.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Art Lesson

The Art Lesson, 5.5x8" watercolor, ©Diane Mannion
Day 7 of 30/30 Challenge

My mom giving drawing tips to her step-grandson, Jackson last summer.  Loved the intense communication between the two that this reference photo captured.  A watercolor sketch worked well as a study.  

I have a lot of reference photos that would be fun to paint from although I don't like to use them and would rather paint from life.  But this is a good example of why the photo is useful... never would have gotten these to to hold still for long!

Watercolor is a great medium to explore whether or not the subject is worthy of a larger painting in oil.  Design and color can be changed and moved around, values adjusted, patterns added or simplified before tackling a larger canvas.  In this case, The Art Lesson works well as a little study; statement has been made... no need to work it up in oils. 


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Flower Box

Flower Box, 5x7" watercolor, ©Diane Mannion
Day 6 of the 30/30

Found this wooden box at a local garden center.  Like the rough and rusty, weather-worn look about it.  Never know where still life objects will appear.  Will use this box again later for another painting.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Triathlon Director

Triathlon Director, watercolor, 5.5x8.5" ©Diane Mannion

Day 5 of the 30/30 Challenge

Took a reference photo of John directing the runners at a local triathlon along Englewood Beach.  Always liked the vibrant colors of the shirt and vest in the morning light.  Simplified and changed things a lot.  Darkened the background to make the figure appear brighter. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Pickled Ginger

Pickled Ginger, 5.5x8.5" watercolor, ©Diane Mannion

Day 4 of 30/30

Took my time with this one and used layers of glazing.  Background was done in one, wet into wet layer inside each area.  The objects worked wet into dry, then dropped or pulled out beads of color.  Used dabs of masking medium for a few highlights, then softened some of those edges.  Kept palette simple, used ultramarine blue and burnt sienna mix for background.  Pushed values.

 Background worked first over light pencil drawing.
 Worked each object.
 Pickled ginger jar at first layer stage.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Englewood Yard

Englewood Yard, 5x8" watercolor, plein air, ©Diane Mannion

Day 3 of 30/30 Chalenge

Painted with the Englewood Plein Air Painters on a hot summer morning.  Lots of creative energy  happens when artists focus on the same scene.  Interesting to see the variety of interpretations.  

It's not a view I would have chosen, but planted myself in one spot and let the brush react to light and color.  Impossible to actually paint every detail, so much is simply imagined and simplified.  It's an impression... rather than a rendering.

If there's just one piece of advice I have for folks... it's find a group or painting buddy!  Great incentive to "get out there."

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Pond Again

The Pond Again, 5x5" watercolor, plein air, ©Diane Mannion

Day 2, 30/30

Having a great time exploring watercolor!  This was painted in a sketchbook on hot press paper.  The watercolor stays on top of the surface and if left alone (paint a puddle and leave it)... forms hard-edged patches when dry.  It's a technique that I've long admired about Maurice Prendergast's work.   Click here to see an example.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Local Pond

Local Pond, 6x8.5" watercolor, ©Diane Mannion

Day One of 30 Paintings in 30 Days!

 This was started as a plein air watercolor, loved how the sky turned out, but struggled with the rest.  Thought it a good excuse to salvage a work, experimenting with lifting, scrubbing and scraping... all the while thinking, "Can this painting be saved?"  Just barely, I think, but great practice for the next.

Have decided to paint watercolors for this 30/30 challenge, my fourth!  Will paint small watercolors while also doing larger oil paintings and plein air studies.  Last I heard, over 700 artists have signed up for Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge!  Visit site here.