Saturday, July 29, 2017


Fishery, 6.5x8.5"pastel, DMannion

Placida Fishery

The bright colors of this historic fishing village are rapidly fading.  Vultures circle this prime property… I fear condos are looming in the near future.  A feral cat or two is always present.  Will be going back to capture what I can before it disappears.  Sad.

A few historical notes (there will be more in future posts):  Once thriving fishing village, was killed by the Net Ban in 1995. An investor purchased this seven acre property from the Albritton family in 2001.  Property was foreclosed in 2010.  

While researching this history, I discovered the Albritton's are descendants of the Gault and Cole families, fishing pioneers of Englewood.  My maiden name is Cole!  An island on the Boca Grande causeway is named Cole Island… perhaps I can charge another toll!

My Fishery pastel(above) was a studio version from a small field sketch.  Used NuPastels only on Pastelmat just to see if I could.   Have been experimenting by using NuPastels only for field sketches.  My tiny box of NuPastels is easy to carry anywhere.
Thumbnail for Fishery

Two quick studies done on location, NuPastels on Canson MiTeintes

Location setup, tiny box of NuPastels fit perfectly in Strada Mini!  Will work perfectly along with oils during my artist's retreat in Maine.

A few of the vultures… waiting!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Just a Bowl of Cherries

Just a Bowl of Cherries, 6x8"oil, DMannion

Still Another Still Life

On those days when the weather outside is awful and I'm feeling under the weather, a still life is perfect for keeping the brushes busy.  Nothing better than painting from life for practice!  

Thumbnail scribble

What John did to my tissues!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Rainy Day Palm

Rainy Day Palm, 8x10" oil, plein air, Diane Mannion


Was beginning to think this painting panel was jinxed!  Fought it through to this stage which I don't hate too much.  Palm trees are difficult subjects, someone once told me it takes years to be able to paint a palm tree that doesn't look like a toilet brush.  

Wanted to catch the neighbor's tree before the gardeners arrived and trimmed the old growth and gorgeous orange seeds off.  There are also lovely bright green ferns that thrive on the upper trunk, all will be chopped off except for a few upper branches.  This is a pineapple palm that grows in the yard across the way.  

Here's the trail of wipeouts and scrapings…

1.Sketched over failed portrait

2. thumbnail sketches

3. First version painted from front doorway…meh.

4.First version after fiddling… too dark and gloomy

5.How it looked after wipeout, good table cloth design.

6.Block in, started to look much better.  Could have (should have) left it like this.

And the finish again.

The palm before the rain started.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lemon Bay Park

Lemon Bay Park, 6x8" oil, plein air, Diane Mannion

Lemon Bay Under Purple Sky

Painted with Englewood artists this morning at a local park.  Had to do a bit of visual bush pruning so the bay would show using my artistic license again.  Also removed another palm tree and railings on a walkway.  But I'm happy with the general feeling of the location!  

The sky was magnificent!  Glowed with purples, blues, and a warm light yellow.  Thunderstorms were moving inland and away, helpful checking the weather app on my iPhone!  It was a treat painting with other artists.

I'm having a struggle getting used to water mixable oils but will persist.  Found they slow me down quite a bit.  I do use the appropriate water based medium and do not use any water after the underpainting.  Have found the colors not as intense as regular oils.  But the beauty of washing brushes later with soap and water is a plus!  Have only done three paintings with this medium so far and I'm pleased with the results.  Will keep at it, but never giving up regular oils!  
thumbnail sketch
Gopher tortoise crawled by checking out our paintings!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Stormy Day Peppers

Stormy Day Peppers, 6x8"oil, DMannion

Floridian Summer

 Late afternoon thunderstorms are fine but lately they've been happening in the morning also.  Early mornings are cool enough to walk the dog and paint outside but not while thunder rumbles.  May paint with a group tomorrow but will stay close to the car… maybe inside it.  

The bright colors of these peppers were irresistible!  Red, yellow, orange, spiced with green looked delicious in the blue bowl.  Set them in a card board box, adjusted the light and had a delightful few hours tucked away in the studio painting away a rainy day.

thumbnail sketch

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sunflower and Friends

Sunflower and Friends, 6x8" pastel, Diane Mannion

The Real Thing

There's a wealth visual information when working from the real thing rather than a photo!  These flowers were wilting but still hanging on from a demo I did a week ago.  Set them up in the studio and went to work while the petals withered and dropped.  

Didn't bother with special backgrounds or lighting.  Attempted to capture the "atmosphere" of the room, rather than fiddling with walls, doors, windows, or studio clutter.   And let the lighting and values glow from the color of the flowers.

We see color and values and how things "live" in space a zillion times more vividly than the best camera out there.  Flowers are forgiving!   Unlike portraits where every measurement must be accurate, flowers are delightful for practice.   For example, I added leaves and flowers where there weren't any to help the composition flow.  Changes can be seen in the thumbnail sketch and the pre-wash underpainting below.  

Every sketch, study, scribble, drawing or painting in whatever practice for the next.  I love pastels for their speed, a great way to work on small, fast pieces while those large… serious oil paintings are developing on the other side of my studio.  

I'm working towards a show next season and also have portrait commissions in progress.  Will not show any of those things for many months.  Meanwhile, these pastels and other small works allow me to keep posting and sharing information on my blog.  Looking forward to teaching one class at Ringling Englewood next season… PASTELS ONLY!

Worked on ochre colored Canson MT smooth side taped to four sides to board, alcohol wash underpainting.  Used Nupastels, Giraults, Rembrants, Great Americans, and Unisons.  

Saturday, July 15, 2017


 Larry, 12x9" pastel from life, Diane Mannion

Venice Art Center Portrait Studio

So glad I went to the Venice portrait studio yesterday!  Happy to see a few artist buddies that haven't gone North for the summer.

Used Canson Mi Teintes, blue paper smooth side.  Sketched placement, roughed in color masses, then washed with alcohol and soft nylon brush.  The paper held up quite well, stretched flat because of the tape on four sides.  Finished with  Nupastels, Giraults, and Rembrants.  Susan let me test out a Terry Ludwig for my first time.  Will add to my shopping list.
Sally on left who fell off a flower pot is healing from a broken shoulder!  Thank heavens it wasn't her drawing arm!  Me and my half done pastel.  Model Larry in background.  Susan and Rita on right.  A few artists were taking a break… lots of talent there.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Just Beachy

Just Beachy, 6x8" pastel, field study, Diane Mannion

Manasota Key Beach!

Found a shady spot under a seagrape tree this morning and sketched with a few Englewood artists.  It's been brutally hot down here, a bit of sea breeze helped.  And almost every afternoon thunderstorms pop up.  (Have to wrap my poodle in a thunder shirt, even so, she still trembles and drools).  So the beach was busy with folks putting in beach time before the next storm.  

Started off with the usual thumbnail scribble in my Moleskine.  Compressed the scene a lot so I could include the palm tree and the red umbrella.  Left out the fence and signs using my artistic freedom.  The sun and shadows disappeared right after I sketched the scene in and didn't reappear.  Tried to hold on to the first impression of light.
First sketched scene with a blue pastel pencil.  Worked on Uart 400 taped on four sides.  After I blocked in all the local colors, used an alcohol wash.  Sorry I didn't snap photos of these stages, once I got going, went into my zombie-artist-zone-trance.  Happy with the way it turned out!  

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Caution Seagrass!

Caution Seagrass! 6.5x8.5" pastel, studio study, Diane Mannion

Caution Seagrass Area!

Met a few artists at a local park last week and sketched on Canson Mi Teintes with an alcohol wash underpainting with mostly Nupastels.
Bay Harbor Sketch, 6x8" pastel, field study

Thumbnail sketch

Location snapshot

Later, back in the studio, I worked on Pastelmat and painted Caution Seagrass!  What struck me first about the site was the sharp blade of morning sunlight on the grass and the three palm trees.  Also liked the bit of orange on the Caution Seagrass Area float in the water warning boaters about the grass.  Dangerous stuff that seagrass!  

Photo didn't capture the color as I remembered it, and wasn't happy with the greens (darn greens!) in  my field study.  Used visual memory and imagination for the studio version.  Sort of happy with it.
Every painting is simply practice for the next...

Sunday, July 9, 2017

1st Pastel Demo

1st Pastel Demo, 6.5x8.5" pastel, Diane Mannion

Why Pastel?

My 1st pastel demo at Ringling Englewood Art Center was unexpectedly fun and exciting!  It's off-season here in SW Florida… thought only a few people would trickle in.  While I set up my equipment, seats filled up and folks stood on the sidelines, standing room only.  

I'm thrilled with the intense interest and enthusiasm for this medium.  I was pelted with questions and happy to share my love for this dusty stuff.  After confessing I was an oil painter, had to explain the reason for working in pastels, watercolor, gouache, pen and pencil.  I use these mediums to strengthen my oil paintings.  

Why Pastel?

1. Color! 
Pastels allow me to "see" color in new ways.  All those sticks of hues I'd never think to mix with oil paint are inspiring.  With oils, I mix what color I "think" is needed… with pastels, there are colors I'd never think to use.  Often because I can't find the "right" color (never enough sticks), I'll use another and suddenly it works (or not).

2. Speed!
A small pastel study can be created quickly which then gives me insight into the direction to take for an oil painting.  These studies are valuable reference material for future paintings.  They're colorful thumbnails sketches that can be scribbled in a few minutes.

3. Portability!  
A few sticks and a sketchbook work well for lap sketching on the beach or anywhere.

4. Fun!
Pastels are simply something I do for myself.  No worrying about creating a finished masterpiece.
Just doing it for fun does makes me feel a bit guilty… but knowing it helps my "serious" work is totally freeing.

5. Sharing!
I realized after witnessing the enthusiasm and curiosity during my demo that I get great joy out of sharing what I've learned.  Had many requests for teaching pastels.

My 1st Pastel Demo (above) was created while TALKING for an hour and a half!  I started by holding up my viewfinder to look at the fabulous bouquet of flowers I had set up in a blue vase.

Explained why drawing and painting from life was so important.  Then did a quick thumbnail drawing in pen in a small notebook, a map of how I would approach the pastel paper.  Quick scribble with enough information of where vase and flowers would be placed.

Worked on white Pastelmat taped on four sides to a board.  Blocked in the "local" colors roughly, not trying to draw.  Wish I could have taken progress shots here but was caught up in dramatic theatrics and not a little stage fright.  
Once the white paper was covered with rough pastel colors there were gasps when I took a brush with alcohol and washed the whole thing like a watercolor.  Explained that the pigment in pastel was the same as watercolor and oils, just different binders held them together.  This underpainting wash could also be done with water but alcohol dries almost instantly.  Vodka could be used in a pinch, but most agreed it would be a terrible waste.  

The underpainting stage could also be rubbed in with tissues, rags, or paper towels, but has a different effect.  By getting rid of the "white" it's easier to judge the values of dark and light.  

Explained that a painting is an underpainting until you decide it's finished.  Many layers of under paintings can be applied if needed.  The same process happens with oils, working thin and wiping off areas.  Pastels can be brushed off and reworked.  The better the quality of paper… the more the drawing can be redone or done over completely.

Nothing's wasted.  Oils can be wiped, turned over and repainted.  Pastels can be brushed off.
Demonstrated how I save my pastel dust, collecting enough in a jar to make a new stick.

This is a practice drawing on Canson Mi Teintes done the night before my demo.  Simply sketched, no underpainting, blended only with Nupastels or Giraults.  I never blend with my fingers, use bits of pipe insulation or tissues or other pastels, instead.  Over blending can make a work look tired.  Let those pastel crystals shine!

 Floral Practice, 6x8" pastel, Diane Mannion
Thumbnail sketch