Friday, October 16, 2015

Garden Club

Garden Club, 4x6.5 gouache, plein air, Diane Mannion

Lemon Bay Garden Club

Painted this yesterday morning with a few members of the (affectionately called) Englewood Plein Air Heads on the grounds of the Lemon Bay Garden Club.  Couldn't scare anyone to go along with me to paint at the cemetery later, wonder why.  (See Lemon Bay Cemetery in yesterdays post.)

Used my dried up pan of gouache for this, handy to have if I don't feel like setting up the easel for oils.  Simply painted with my sketchbook and palette balanced on my lap.  Gouache is actually opaque watercolor and takes awhile to understand the difference in technique.  Started with really dark areas for this one, leaving the sunlit spots lighter or white.  Wonderful thing about gouache is the ability to paint lights OVER darks.

The cemetery painting, Buried in Dinghy, was started with thinner washes, almost like painting with watercolor for the first layer, then added opaque areas later, leaving a lot of transparent spots, like the flag alone.

(To my horror, I just noticed I had spelled cemetery wrong yesterday!  Urgh.  Artists aren't good at spelling or numbers, at least I'm not.  Gosh... took forever to learn how to spell gouache!  Please forgive.)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Buried in Dinghy

Buried in Dinghy, 4x6.5" gouache, plein air, Diane Mannion

Noon Graveyard Shift

Painted this for James Gurney's Creepy Halloween October Graveyard Challenge.  Not a place that I would have picked to paint otherwise!  Dinghy grave of Bill Anger, 1915-1990, Historical Lemon Bay Cemetery, Englewood, Florida.

Used limited palette of ultramarine blue, cadmium red, cadmium yellow medium, and white... the basic limited palette I also use with oils.
Ghoulish Selfie!

 Started with pencil sketch and taped edges 
Limited palette of red, yellow, blue dried up and re-wet gouache
Mixed the three colors above to get a great gray for underpainting

Finished in about an hour... just wanted to get the heck out of there!!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Still Another

Still Another, 11x14" oil, Diane Mannion

Still Another Still Life

It's comforting to have a still life to work on when times are hectic.  A few hours or even minutes pushing paint around is meditative and soothing... at least for me.  It's like practicing the piano, finger exercises and skill polishing, especially when painting from life.

Found the silver bowl in a thrift shop.  I'd been looking for shiny things to paint and now have a collection to feed my still life habit...a graceful goblet, a candle stick, and a fabulous silver teapot rescued from layers of tarnish. 

Sometimes, it takes hours just to set up the objects and lighting.  Although I was painting next to a north light window, I found the most dramatic light when I closed the curtains and used a spotlight.  I also placed a sheet of cardboard on the left to cast a shadow.  It's like setting a stage for your painting... painting with objects.  I often start with a few items then add more after I start painting if the composition needs it.  In this case, the blue bottle and the grapes were added a day after.

The flowers are silk.  I'd rather paint real flowers, but knowing I would be working on this for a long time, I cheated with fake ones which don't wilt under lights.

Someone mentioned that my plein air landscape paintings have a calming effect... which is the opposite way I feel when racing to finish a painting or sketch in two hours, then I feel tense, focused and alert.  I can take as much time as needed with a still life, time slows down, painting in minutes or hours, days or weeks. 

Painting progression:

 Studio setup
Revised Spoon... 11/22/15

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sea Oats

Sea Oats, 8x10" oil, plein air, Diane Mannion

Painting Buddy

While painting on the beach yesterday morning, the air was thick with screaming gulls and net casters catching bait fish.  Wonderful time of the year with the beach almost empty... just a scattering of walkers and fishermen.   No tourists looking over our shoulders, a cool breeze and great clouds.

Struck by the orange glow of sea oats against purple clouds, I had to paint fast while conditions rapidly changed.  My artist buddy got her pastel painting to the halfway point when we decided to leave after about two hours.

I wasn't happy with my painting until my friend suggested a mixture of orange to add to the sea oats.  Worked perfectly!  "But don't over-do it," she said... just as I did.  So next morning with fresh eyes I went at it with a palette knife and in a few minutes felt much happier about my painting!

It's great having a talented artist friend with well-trained eyeballs whose opinion I trust!  Every artist needs at least one good artist buddy.
This is how it looked fresh from the beach with over-worked sea oats.  Did not change anything else, the color difference in the sky is a result of camera shot at different time of day.

Monday, October 5, 2015


Grace, 11x14" oil, Diane Mannion

Magic Trick

When petals fall... it's time to stop working on a painting!  But the dropped petals helped with the composition.  Added the branch on the left and the single petal on the right as an after-thought and I'm happiest with these details which I found easiest to paint.  

Sometimes the most impressive parts of a painting are the easiest to paint.  Brushwork, color, values, rendering, edges, composition, all need to work together.  These are the most difficult but necessary concepts to orchestrate in order to achieve atmosphere and the illusion of space.  Painting's a graceful magic trick that fools the eye.  But beauty's in the eye of the beholder, depending on their aesthetic taste of course!

I'm thankful these flowers held together long enough to paint from life. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015


Michael, 10x8" oil, Diane Mannion

Zorn Palette

Two hour painting from life at Venice Art Center using the Zorn palette...  white, cadmium red medium, ivory black, and yellow ochre.   This limited palette has an amazing range and harmonious effect.  There's no blue but ivory black has a bluish tint and appears blue when thinned with white.  Yellow ochre and black make a wonderful muted green.  Cad red med and yellow ochre are perfect for flesh tones. 

The Zorn palette is named after Anders Zorn, a famous Swedish artist (1860-1920). 
 Self-portrait, 1915, Anders Zorn

My painting, Lightkeeper's House was a Boldbrush FAV 15 Winner in August!
Lightkeeper's House, 8x10" oil, Diane Mannion