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

Friday, September 14, 2018

Lemon Bay Park Sketch

 Lemon Bay Park Sketch, watercolor sketchbook, 4x7" DMannion


Broke in a 5.5x8" Hand Book watercolor sketchbook, first page always a bit scary!  Love the way the pigment flows and stays on top, lies flat when open, nice fabric cover...  A pleasure!

Partly cloudy view.  Painted with Englewood Plein Air Posse.

Day 14, Strada Easel 30 Day Painting from Life Challenge, and Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days 9/18.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Boca Gate

Boca Gate, 4x7" sketchbook watercolor, DMannion


Day 13/30 Painting Challenge

Celebrated painting the last page in my NON-WATERCOLOR Moleskine sketchbook!  Love Moleskine sketchbooks, had planned for only pencil sketches in this one but got carried away with oil paintings, gouache, and watercolors.  It actually held up quite well.  Because the paper was so unforgiving with watercolor, forced me not to overwork them (sometimes).

Parked across from the gate and did an auto-painting, looked like rain but didn't happen.  I like painting in the car, air conditioning, radio, and comfortable.  This was a quick study later tinkered with at home.
Painting assistant, Stormy in backseat.
We were also parked next to an empty dog park, let Stormy have a good run.

Day 13 of the Strada Easel 30 Day Painting from Life Challenge, and the Leslie Saeta 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge 9/18.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


Micro-Sunflowers, sketchbook watercolor, 4x7" DMannion

Day 12 of 30/30 Challenge

These sunflowers were grown in my micro-greens planter a few months ago.  The seeds sprout very fast and the baby shoots can be eaten days later.  If they're not harvested young, sunflower greens get hairy and not fun to eat.  Had no idea the leftover plants would thrive and bloom!   Strong and hardy, they grew to about fifteen inches.  They survived the summer heat, our salads, and my tremendous neglect.   Wanted to immortalize their perseverance and paint their sunny faces!  Next time I'll plant them in the ground where they should grow five or six feet high!

They look gorgeous in the sun contrasted with the dark hedge behind them.  For day 12 of the two 30/30 challenges, I decided to paint them from life.  Not an easy task, the slightest breeze sent them dancing.  Sketched rapidly in pencil, took many breaks while the paint layers dried, and realized I was in trouble.  Lesson learned... choose easier, less complex subjects for quick watercolor sketches!
 Rapid pencil sketch of their dance routine
 Locked in faces, stems, and leaves with waterbrush
 Painted leaves, first pass of flowers, background with DS burnt orange (should have left it at this stage.  Urgh.)
 Painted background with DS Moonglow (love it) mixed with a bit of ultramarine blue.  Thought the dark value would make the flowers look brighter.  Added more oranges and cad yellows to petals.  It's ok, I don't love or and don't hate it too much.  Fine for sketchbook work.  Moleskine NON-watercolor paper is not very forgiving.  But tomorrow is the LAST page!  Have real watercolor paper sketchbooks waiting!

Day 12 of Strada Easel 30 Day Painting from Life Challenge, and Leslie Saeta's 30 Paintings in 30 Days 9/18 Challenge

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Local Palms

Local Palms, sketchbook watercolor, DMannion


11 of 30/30

Gloomy and scary kind of day with almost Cat 5 Hurricane Florence heading towards the Carolinas, 9/11 Remembrance Day, and major Red Tide still infesting our area since 9/10/17... from Naples to St Pete.  I usually keep this blog entirely for art and promise more cheerful posts later.  Meanwhile, sending prayers.

Started this watercolor, Local Palms last Sunday on Manasota Key but had to leave because red tide was causing coughing and itchy eyes.  This beach is where a good friend went diving off nearby Venice.  Here's what he had to say on FB,  with permission to share:

Monday, September 10, 2018

Lemon Bay Park

Lemon Bay Park, sketchbook watercolor, DMannion

Along the Trail
Day 10 of 30/30

Wonderful place to paint in Englewood!  Good trails, lots of covered, shady picnic benches, and dogs allowed on leashes!  (Although some folks don't know how to read signs.)  
Stormy on guard, fine painting buddy!
   Have been experimenting with watercolor for this 30 paintings in 30 days challenge.  Only a few pages left in my non-watercolor Moleskine sketchbook.  It's forced me to be brief and not overwork because the paper can't handle too much fussing.  Will be a treat when I crack open my new watercolor paper sketchbook!  

Although I used watercolors as an illustrator for many years, it was an entirely different style and technique.  My main medium now for studio work and galleries is oil paint.  I've found these sketchbook experiments have forced me to loosen up and simplify.  Watercolor will add a new dimension to my oils.  One medium informs the other.

Watercolor has a mind of its own and often does what it wants no matter how hard I try to control its direction.  Easily overworked and often with disastrous results,  it's a joy watching happy accidents happen... when they do!

Strada Easel 30 Day Painting from Life Challenge, and Leslie Saeta's 30/30... 1/3 of the way through,
Day 10!