Saturday, April 21, 2018

Big Brave Morning

BIG BRAVE MORNING, 11x14' oil, DMannion

Favorite Painting Spot!

Yay!  This painting is a FASO FAV15% selection for March 2018!

There's a place where I can set up my easel and turn in any direction and "see" a painting.  Have been painting there for about ten years early in the morning with a painting buddy.  It's in Venice, Florida, not telling exactly where… but it's similar to many places along the Gulf Coast. 

Seagrasses and foliage change from season to season, more orange and yellow ochre in winter, more blue flowers in summer.  Yes, seasons change in Florida.  High season is Christmas to Easter when the tourists crowd the roads.  Colorful beach umbrellas sprout like mushrooms along the shore, while sunburned figures bend searching for seashells and shark's teeth.

We set up and start painting early when the beach is nearly empty except for an occasional metal detectorist swinging an instrument back and forth, or a yogi doing a sun salutation in the dunes.  A few couples stroll along hand in hand.  Pelicans and seagulls squawk and dive while fishermen cast circular nets for bait.  A Great Blue Heron waits for scraps while white egrets with yellow-booted feet scurry in and out of the surf with their sandpiper friends.

After a few hours,  it's always a shock to snap out of the painting trance and be surrounded by beach blankets and curious onlookers.  And to listen again to how someone's aunt was a "real" artist!  By that time, the light has changed and we pack up and leave.

The painting above is titled Big Brave Morning because I painted with much larger brushes, #10, 12, and a two inch, instead of my usual 2, 4, and 6.  I mainly use synthetic bristle flats almost as stiff as a palette knife, both Rosemary and Silver Bristlon.  Centurion OP DLX panels in Raymar Panel carriers are great, 8x10" or 9x12" are right size for quick paintings, 5x7" and 6x8" for sketches and color notes.  The painting above was 11x14" on a Frederick's panel that I gessoed several times.

We still paint all summer down here even though it gets a bit hot or we have to break for hurricanes.  Once led a group called the Heatstrokes.  There's always a spot in the shade somewhere and a cool breeze by the shore.  But I'm not telling where my favorite spot is!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Selby Gardens, April

Selby Gardens, April, 8x10" oil, DMannion

Why Did I Paint This?
(Or… what the heck was I thinking!)

Arrived early for a day of painting at Selby Gardens, Sarasota. Many thanks to the Light Chasers Group for the opportunity.  Met my painting buddy at the gate, Heather Arenas who had never visited the gardens before!  It was a pleasure to share a first-timers excitement at this incredible horticultural world.

Loaded with backpacks and painting gear, we wandered around the trails and ended up at the gazebo.  There's something to paint everywhere you look!  I set up in the shade while Heather painted nearby.  
 Me under the gazebo
Heather nearby
I was struck by the light pattern in the scene right in front of me.  A quick thumbnail sketch, snapped an iPhone reference photo… and swung my brushes for a couple of hours.  Meanwhile, the light had changed completely.  Weather report warned of rain and wind picked up, so after lunch we packed it in, looking forward to going back and painting there often.
Why the heck did I pick this scene?
 I only saw the light pattern.  Had to simplify, so much to paint!  Forced me to think abstractly.  

I liked Heather's painting of a Buda statue a lot, and admired how she could focus surrounded by curious tourists.  What a champ!  

Meanwhile, I asked myself… why the heck did I pick this scene to paint?  I felt bogged down by details.  My first impression seemed lost.  Had to re-imagine the light pattern that inspired me in the first place.  So back in the studio, this little 8x10" painting was scraped and re-scraped and wrestled to the ground.  I was determined to have something to show for our Selby Gardens morning!
My plein air attempt, 8x10" oil … urgh! 

Thankful to have my original thumbnail sketch and the photo reference.  And I could visualize what first impressed me about the scene.  It's so easy to get lost on location.  
My secret scribble technique for thumbnails, bottom is Selby.  I do most of my thinking and planning in this little Moleshine sketchbook in a few minutes.  Sometimes it helps.

SELBY GARDENS, APRIL, 8x10" oil, DMannion
After the struggle, I like the painting… a little.  It's simply practice for the next one.  Lesson learned, again and again.