Sunday, October 28, 2018


SEA U LATER, oil, 16x20"

New Gallery Season

Delivered a few paintings to the Hughes Gallery for the 2018-19 season which is just getting started down here in SW Florida.  
 GOLDEN MORNING, oil, 16x20"

 HERE COMES THE SUN, oil, 20x16"

WATER PEOPLE, oil, 20x16"
 This painting is back from touring six museums with the American Society of Marine Artists.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

9 New Watercolors

Great Blue and White Herons, sketchbook watercolor, 5x8"
My favorite painting of this group!


Still splashing about with watercolors... haven't stopped since the 30 watercolors in 30 days challenge.  Watercolors in the morning, once in a while a pastel, and oils in the afternoon, not a bad plan.  

I think it's healthy for an artist to work in different mediums, one informs the other.  I've learned a lot about simplifying masses with watercolor, and a lot about color with pastels.  My oil paintings are showing the results (I hope).  Have not been showing oil paintings until my show in March at the Hughes Gallery in Boca Grande.

Here are a few recent watercolors:

Snookhaven Again, sketchbook watercolor and gouache

Morning Splash, Chadwick Park, 6x9" on Arches cold press

Wave Study, sketchbook watercolor and gouache

Card for Angie, watercolor, 8x6" Arches cold press

Farmer's Market, sketchbook watercolor

Safe Anchorage, sketchbook watercolor, Chadwick Park

Poinciana Trees, sketchbook watercolor, Englewood Sports Park

Blue Shed and Poinciana Trees Again, sketchbook watercolor

Have outfitted my Strada easel for watercolor or oil just by changing the original palette with matboard.  Love how an Arches block fits inside.  John drilled holes in the side panel to hold brushes.

Blue shed with the thumbnail sketch

Stormy and my rolling studio setup on location.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Snook Haven Sketch

Snook Haven Light, 5.5x8.75" watercolor, plein air

Let It Flow On the Go

Haven't posted since my September 30 sketchbook watercolors in 30 days but have used those sketches to produce studio work,  translating watercolors into a large, studio paintings.  That 30/30 time and energy wasn't wasted but instead helped energized my creative expression and output.  Watercolor, gouache, even pastels have informed the way I paint with oils.

Thrilled to learn that watercolors are a quick and easy way to gather reference material for "serious" work, which means only taking a sketchpad and watercolor box into the field instead of more cumbersome oil painting equipment.  And (bonus observation)... I can easily sketch almost anywhere, in my car (auto-painting), standing or sitting in public places (urban sketching), or blending in with tourists on the beach.  I've become a stealth-sketcher!

I'm also becoming a minimalist, cutting watercolor supplies down small enough to tuck in a pocket or purse.  Have sketchbook, brush, and paintbox always ready to travel... to let it flow on the go!

Painted at Snook Haven this morning with the Peace River Painters, a talented group of artists.  Sat near the water with an Arches 7x10" watercolor block (140lb paper cold press) on my lap and happily splashed away.  And when I pulled the masking tape off (love those clean edges)... I didn't hate it!  Oh, happy day!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Sweet September

Sweet September, 30 sketchbook watercolors in 30 days


This isn't the first time I've signed up for a 30 paintings in 30 days challenge, a tough decision, difficult at times (especially on weekends)... but always worthwhile.  My self-induced rule was painting from life in watercolor in a sketchbook.  I had used watercolors for many years as an illustrator and wanted to play, instead of work with them.

I've painted with gouache and discovered I could do a pretty awful watercolor and "save" it with gouache.  For this series, I kept a bit of gouache handy as an emergency device but wanted to work mainly with transparent watercolor.  Gouache is an opaque watercolor which can cover mistakes and hide horrible bits (and came in handy it did!).  

During the past 30 days, I studied watercolor books, discovered brilliant watercolor artists online, watched Youtube videos and relearned how to use this medium.  I rediscovered the joy of splashing about with watercolors!

The caps on my old illustration Winsor and Newton watercolors, carefully stored in airtight containers, were so old they crumbled when I opened them.  Thankfully, Winsor and Newton replaced the caps when I reported the problem!

I also used Daniel Smith and Schmincke watercolors.  Treated myself to a nifty little Schmincke travel palette that fits in my purse (12 pans which I refitted with 24 half pans).  

Sketched image with mechanical pencil Graphgear 1000 Pentel 7, or a Pentel waterbrush.  The only brush I used for the main part of painting was the Escoda Versatil #12 travel brush (LOVE IT!), held lots of water, covered large areas or small details with a fine point.

Started series in a Non-watercolor paper 6x8" Moleskine sketchbook, then to a 6x8" Handbook with watercolor paper.  Have a 6x6" Pentalic watercolor sketchbook waiting in the wings.  

Discovered many new directions and possibilities in this challenge.   Watercolor has become my favorite sketching medium and will inform my oil painting.  These 30 watercolors are only the beginning!

Strada Easel 30 Paintings from Life Challenge, Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days September 2018 Challenge

Happy Painting!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Neighborhood Watch

Neighborhood Watch, sketchbook watercolor


Last watercolor of the 30 paintings in 30 days! 
Will give full report soon, right now... it's off to celebrate.

Strada Easel Challenge, and Leslie Saeta's 30/30

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Looking Up

Looking Up, sketchbook watercolor
Day 29

Oh, Coconuts!

Painted with the Englewood Plein Air Posse in the small garden behind South Design Living, a lovely home decor shop.  (2980 Placida Rd)  Interesting how it's possible to stand in one spot and "see" a lot of potential subjects to paint.  Looked up and knew this coconut palm was it!

Had to hold my sketchbook up to glance back and forth to sketch this tree, but a sore arm was worth it.

Thrilled with this little watercolor!  Sometimes they turn out good!  It's what makes painting outside so exciting. 

Strada Easel day 29, and Leslie Saeta's 30 paintings in 30 challenge

Friday, September 28, 2018

Lights Out

Lights Out, sketchbook watercolor

First Layer

Day 28/30

Lights Out!  A familiar phrase in this part of SW Florida during turtle season.  Turn off lights facing the Gulf of Mexico while sea turtle eggs are hatching so they don't travel in that direction, mistaking lights for the moon, and head inland instead of the surf.  

The boat on the left was named Lights Out, thus the title of this watercolor sketch.  Another monochromatic start in Payne's gray.  Thought I'd take it further but liked the way it works as is.
Also took the advice from a good painting buddy who said some of the effects might be lost if I layered it with color, especially the dark area of the middle sailboat.

It was another 93 degrees in the shade, hot and humid day.  Painting in the car, auto-painting even with the air-conditioning running, was not comfortable, headed back to the studio to finish.  

I like the way this sketch captured the blazing sun and humidity.  Was going to add more details to the figure working on the left, but again, leaving it alone shows the strength of the high-noon sunlight.  

Learning a lot with this 30 paintings in 30 days challenge (and I thought I knew it all!).  Give the painting a chance to show you where it wants to go.  Let the paint breathe.  Let it be.  

Watercolor has taken me in new directions with colors and massing, design and spontaneity which will hopefully translate well in my oil paintings.  One medium informs the other!

Strada Easel Challenge Day 28, and Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Offshore Breeze

 Offshore Breeze, sketchbook watercolor

Same Spot One Week Later

Venice Sketch

One brave sunbather (who appears in my Offshore Breeze sketch above)

Stood in the shade by the parking lot in the same spot as last week.  Offshore Breeze is a compressed view, move palm trees closer.  It's also full color, while Venice Sketch is a limited three color palette.

Red tide still lingers, water still brownish.  A group of tourists planted a blue umbrella and settled down, they only lasted about twenty minutes.  The area around Venice pier this time of year is usually crowded with beach people.  Still sad.

My painting buddy and I stayed near the parking lot on a boardwalk.  Later that day I received an email from her.  After several trips taking painting gear back to her car, she had forgotten to take her painting which was left leaning against a railing.  Several hours later, she rushed back and found it still there!  Because there are not many people around, red tide saved the day.  She thought no one liked it, but it's a sweet little painting anyone would have been happy to find.

Strada Easel Challenge Day 27, and Leslie Saeta's 30/30 Challenge 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018


KEEP OUT! sketchbook watercolor

Monochromatic Local Color 

Day 26/30

This watercolor study started as an underpainting, a grisaille using only Payne's gray but loved how it turned out, so called it finished as is.  Was going to build up colors in transparent layers, but this shows the character of the old fish shack... a dark and dreary place.  Located on or near the Placida Fishery which is ready to be bulldozed for development.  Another small piece of Floridian history soon to be lost.

Found Payne's gray wonderful to sketch with because it can be lifted, lightened, darkened, and reworked easily.  Happy with the way values can be adjusted.  This watercolor is an excellent example of a value study.  Values do the work, color gets the credit.  But in this case... who needs color?  

Strada Easel Challenge Day 26, and Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days 9/18 Challenge 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


CATBOAT, sketchbook watercolor
Day 25/30


Local color at a nearby boatyard.  Started as an auto-painting with air-conditioning running, but it's still 93 degrees in the shade here... finished later in the studio.  Although I wanted to do a loose, sketchbook study... had to tighten up to show the details of this boat.

I've always loved the look of classic catboats!  Big sail with one mast on the bow.  Captain John said they don't sail well into the wind, better for downwind conditions.  And they're not easy to paint, either.

Not much to report technically except it took longer than 20 minutes.  Changed the worker's shirt from white to orange.  Thought it worked well with the purple/orange color scheme.  Attempted to mass the warm light and purple shadows.  Fairly happy with this one.

Strada Easel Challenge Day 25, and Leslie Saeta's 30/30 Challenge.  Have noticed these challenges are strengthening my self-discipline muscles.  Self-discipline is everything!  What gets counted gets done!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Those Clouds!

Those Clouds! sketchbook watercolor/gouache

Fear of Painting Clouds

Day 24 of 30 paintings challenge

Folks complain that it's too flat in Florida... but we have the most incredible clouds!  Clouds like mountains!  During an early morning dog walk this week, the sky was filled with drama, huge clouds reflected the sun while soft purple ones drifted below.   

Really wanted to capture this scene... but I have a fear of painting clouds!  My car was parked in a good spot across a pond reflecting all this glory.  Ready for a cloud painting challenge, I snapped open my sketchbook and painted away.  

Fortunately, the first horrible attempt is buried under layers of gouache in the image above.  Again, gouache to the rescue!  Sometimes, an awful watercolor can be saved by painting over it with gouache.  Reworked it back in the studio.  Sorry I didn't snap a photo to compare, wish I had, it's always a good learning lesson.  Not thrilled with my rescue attempt but it's better than it was.

I still have fear of painting clouds!   The only cure will be painting more... (yikes) cloudscapes.

Day 24 of Strada Easel Challenge, and Leslie Saeta's 30 paintings in 30 days 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Becky's Garden

 Becky's Garden, sketchbook watercolor
23/30 of 30/30 paintings challenge

Can This Painting Be Saved?

It was HOT, high noon and over 90 degrees when I painted in Becky's garden last week with a friend.  We found some shade and once in a while a bit of breeze.  So we painted fast and left as soon as we could, planning on returning to this colorful place when the weather cools off.

Didn't like my watercolor at all.  Should have left it as it was but didn't want an ugly page in my shiny new sketchbook.  Decided to rework it as an exercise... Payne's gray and gouache to the rescue.  Still don't like it much, ack.

How it looked fresh from the steamy hot field.
First rescue attempt, over-use of white gouache.
Final attempt, like how Payne's gray darkened the background which made the field look brighter.
High-lighted here and there with toned gouache.  Still don't like it but good practice for the next one.
It's important to learn what not to do!

Day 23 0f Strada Easel, and Leslie Saeta's challenges, 30 paintings in 30 days

Saturday, September 22, 2018


Tony, sketchbook watercolor
Day 22 of 30

Watercolor Portrait

Artist and sculptor, Tony posed for us at the Punta Gorda VAC this week.   First twenty minute pose lightly sketched with pencil, the second pose added washes, third more details.  Left before overworking.  Great fun!  

Usually, I work in oils, pastels, or gouache for portrait sessions but haven't used transparent watercolor very often.  Wonderful discovering new techniques and methods!  This 30 paintings in 30 days challenge has been great for experimenting with new possibilities and directions.  Glad I decided to limit it to small sketchbook watercolors.   

When not painting, I love watching painting videos and reading art books.  Recently came across Laurel Hart's generous and absolutely useful watercolor information on her Youtube channel.  Can't wait to try this method: Keeping Washes Clean.  Her videos are long, so I watch small parts at a time to let the information sink in.

Also great for learning on Youtube:

Happy Painting!  (And treat yourself to a good sketchbook.)

Strada Easel Painting from Life Challenge Day 22, Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge

Friday, September 21, 2018

Venice Sea Oats

Venice Sea Oats, 20 minute, sketchbook watercolor

Day 21 of 30

Happy with This One!

This was the second sketch of the morning last Tuesday and I'm happy with it!  Once in a while, one will paint itself.  Let the watercolors and brush flow...  

The umbrella in the background was a photo session for someone's celebration which only lasted a short while.  My painting buddy and I remained close to the parking lot where a breeze blew the red tide fumes away.  Sadly, the beach remains empty.  What's wrong with this picture?

It was a relief not confining myself to a limited three color palette with this sketch.  There are 24 half pans in my paintbox and I used about eight or nine.  Instead of using a single yellow, I let it rip and dipped into lemon, cadmium, even orange.  Used purple, and Moonglow, turquoise, and transparent burnt orange.  A feast of colors.  Fun!
My favorite paintbox with the current color chart!  This was a Schmincke 12 half pan set.  Lightweight and small.  I removed the pan holder and was able to fit 24, instead of twelve half pans.  Could also fit a few full pans along with the half pans.  I fill empty pans with tube paint. 
They're held in with tiny balls of reusable museum putty, which holds well and is easy to remove.
Package of museum putty my husband brought back from California where a whole lot of shaking goes on and stuff is stuck in place with this.

Strada Easel Day 21, Leslie Saeta's 30/30, and last day of ArtWorkLivingChallenge 5 days of 20-30 minute painting.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Venice Sketch

Venice, sketchbook watercolor, DMannion

Another Limited Palette Experiment
Day 20 of 30/30 and 4/5
Painted with a friend this week in Venice.  A good breeze sent the stench of red tide in another direction so we were able to paint for a while.  Found a shady spot near the empty parking lot.  Strange to see the uninhabited beach, usually bustling with tourists... looking so lonely.
This quick sketch took about 30-40 minutes while chatting with my painting buddy, catching up after not seeing her all summer. It's another three color limited palette study which I'm finding very useful.
Again, useful to see how these pigments work together without having to do those boring charts.
transparent yellow oxide, cobalt blue, and permanent rose

Strada Easel Day 20, Leslie Saeta 30/30, and ArtWorkLivingChallenge 4/5

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


 Walker, sketchbook watercolor, DMannion

30 Minute Limited Palette

Day 19 of 30

Another study started in Broadmoor Park, quick pencil sketch and tiny thumbnail.  Too hot to work outside, no shade in this spot.  
Paine's gray thumbnail value study and limited, 3 color palette used for painting.
Permanent rose, cobalt blue, and transparent yellow oxide.
Black and white reference photo.  Artistic license used to remove bird, trees, and change walker.

At least for me, it's much more interesting (and fun!) to study how colors work together by doing a limited palette sketch, instead of color charts.  Also informative to see how far I can push the darks with just these three colors.  Happy with how the watercolors intermingle and create passages without my help by letting them bleed to do their thing.  Fascinating to see unplanned results happen!  

Day 19 of Strada Easel 30 Day Challenge,  Leslie Saeta's 30/30, and 5 day ArtWorkLivingChallenge

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Broadmoor Morning

Broadmoor Morning, sketchbook watercolor, DMannnion

Limited Palette 20 Minute Sketch

Happy with this one, sometimes they turn out good!  This is a view from the trail at Broadmoor Park early in the morning while walking Stormy.  He's usually ready for a break in the shade while I do a quick sketch.  And it only took 20 minutes!

Planned carefully before starting and used a limited, three color palette.  Also did a tiny thumbnail value sketch.  Taped edges and used thin yellow oxide wash over the page which was dry when I set the timer.  Nice to know these little sketches can be completed speedy quick!  

Value sketch in payne's gray.  Colors used:
transparent yellow oxide
cobalt blue
burnt orange
Escoda #12 travel Versatil (only brush used)

Monday, September 17, 2018

Parking Lot

Parking Lot, 5x7" sketchbook watercolor, 30 minutes, Broadmoor Park, DMannion

Another Challenge!

Day 17/30 and 1/5

Signed up for another challenge, as if two weren't enough this month!  I'm a fool for these contests, but always learn something from them.  (Think I would learn not to enter in the first place).  The only prizes are more polished skills... so well worth it.

The new challenge is Mary Gilkerson's 5 Day Challenge to paint a painting in 20-30 minutes!  I'm continuing with my sketchbook watercolors for this also.  

Parking Lot is a 30 minute sketch, not easy in watercolor.  Had to wait for some sections to dry before I could work over them, thank heavens for the Floridian sun!  Although I don't hate it that much, it proves that my brush can move faster.  I'm only using my Escoda #12 Versatil Travel brush for these sketchbook studies.  (My love for this brush has helped rekindle my love for watercolor!)

Realized after doing this that a thumbnail sketch first would have helped.  
Paines Gray thumbnail value sketch on left page was done later as practice for the next four fast sketches in this challenge.

Strada Easel 30 Day Challenge Day 17, Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days 9/18, and Mary Gilkerson's Art Work Living 5 Day Challenge

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Becky's Garden Shoppe

Becky's Garden Shoppe, sketchbook watercolor, DMannion

Becky's Green Thumb

Day 16 of 30/30

Visited a new shop and garden center opened by my friend, Master Gardener Becky.  Colorful and creative, her place rocks!  Fun to visit, buy plants and much more, from crafts to art.  
 6450 Elliott Street, Punta Gorda, FL  Open Tues-Sat 8-4. 

This sketch was tough!  Not easy to simplify, but wanted to show the front of the shop.  Becky didn't hold still long enough to pose, so had to use visual memory.  A lot more to paint there, can't wait to go back!

DAY 16 of Strada Easel 30 Day Challenge,  Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge, and starting Monday... 5 days of 20 minute paintings!  I'm a fool for these challenges but good things happen with each one.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Canoe Launch

Canoe Launch, sketchbook watercolor, DMannion


Day 15, halfway there!

This is the second sketch of the morning while at Lemon Bay Park.  Should be titled, "Diane Discovers DS Lavender!"  After overworking the palm tree and lifting pigment, found Daniel Smith's lavender watercolor works a lot like gouache and stays on top. 
Enjoying my self-induced 30-day painting challenge using watercolors.  Have found it forces me to simplify and invent solutions, to paint not only what I see... but what I know.  For example, the background didn't look like this, had to use atmospheric perspective principles, lighter and more subdued colors.  Have done many of these 30 day challenges, something good always comes from it.

Learning to love the speed and portability of using watercolors for plein air sketching!

Strada Easel 30 Day Painting from Life Challenge, Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days September 2018 Challenge