Sunday, April 30, 2017


Annika, 10x8" oil, from life, Diane Mannion

The Company of Artists

Honored to paint in the company of artist friends yesterday!  I'm blessed to live where many gather, share their skills and professional camaraderie.  We share a serious obsession and think nothing of painting all day where hours fly by like minutes!  

The intense crackling of focused brains could be heard over the scratching of pastel sticks and paint brushes.  Our fabulous model, Annika forced us to break when her timer buzzed.  During these rest periods we absorbed inspiration from the host artist's artwork that covered the walls of the studio.  

Lunchtime food and stories were shared while a few tried to resist second helpings of my Killer Key Lime Pie!  We all loved the day and promised to make studio parties a new tradition.

This was the first time I used water mixable oil paints and I'm quite surprised and pleased with them.  I purchased a set of Winsor and Newton Artisan which came with it's own linseed oil medium.  I did not use any water to paint with.  Painted on homemade gessoed panel.  The oils acted almost exactly the same as regular oils… and all without having to use Gamsol!  No harmful fumes!  Cleaned brushes with soap and water later.

My water mixable set didn't include black so I borrowed a bit of regular black oil paint and it worked well.  I've researched these paints and was glad to learn they can be used with my regular non-water mixable paints.  Using just a bit will not change the water mixable characteristic, using a lot of regular oil paint will simply turn them into regular oil paints.  They are completely compatible.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Artists Acres Sketch

Artists Acres Sketch, 8x10" oil, plein air, Diane Mannion

Good Morning

Busy with studio work and have not been outside painting in awhile, felt great stretching those plein air muscles!

Mostly cloudy when I started but the sun came out and changed everything, those sun dapples are always a challenge.  But I like how the sun added so much to this composition.  Only spent two hours on this one, at least it's not a wiper.  Good morning!

Artist Acres in Englewood is a private residence so I was glad to have a chance to paint there again when the Englewood Plein Air Painters set the date.

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.