By the end of May, Florida gets hot. Week-long organized plein air events aren’t even offered during the hot months, and the most intrepid plein air artists migrate northward to paint in cooler climates. I’ll still sneak out to paint with my local group occasionally. But mostly during the warm months I morph into a temporary hermit as I duck inside my summer studio cave.
But oh, while the weather was cooler, I created some awesome paintings out in the marshes and in the oldest city.
Flagler Beach Paintout
I was honored to take first place in the Flagler Beach paint out with my painting, “Still Water Reflections.”
It’s always a surprise and delight to receive recognition, as there are many talented painters out there. I kind of float on a cloud for at least a week after a win. This was painted at the side of an alligator-filled marsh, under clear skies and a sizzling sun. Thank goodness for thermos bottles of ice water.
St. Augustine Paintout
A couple of weeks later, I participated in the St. Augustine plein air paint out. The city was energized by over 50 artists who painted the scenic streets and historic buildings. I managed to finish these three little paintings. The last one, Quiet Pathway, came home with a lovely award from the St. Augustine Art Association.
Artists are obsessives. We talk about art, live art, breathe art. Plan, research, create. All the time. Even on vacation we’re snapping reference photos and stopping by galleries and museums.
However, having a razor-sharp obsession on art doesn’t always equal success. The art world is a very big place. It’s easy to get lost.
And listening to “experts” makes it worse. They command us with “101 Important Things You Need to Do to Be a Successful Artist.” It’s crazy. We’d need to hire 10 assistants to do everything. So, we try to explore different media, subject matter, and techniques. Sell online, through galleries, festivals, direct to customers, and shows. Social media, blog, network, P.R. It’s overwhelming.
And going in too many directions creates superficial art. We risk never reaching our potential because we’re too busy chasing everything.
Instead, I try to stay with the basics. Simplify. Focus. Create art every day. Market only to outlets where it makes sense. Don’t do everything. Spend quiet days in my studio and just paint. I work with just a few important galleries and have a simple online presence. And when my “must do” list gets too crazy, I brutally slash out the dead weight.
I’ve just created a lovely group of minis – small plein air landscape studies of trees in the wind. More impressionistic than abstract, these trees have a soft energy, blowing leaves and shimmying, dancing in the breeze of the day. It’s been quite a nice winter in St. Augustine, Florida and I’ve been out and about doing these quick landscapes more often.
These landscapes are small – 5 x 5 inch studies, and very affordable. They are for sale online at my daily paintworks page.
It helps to do a quick 30-second 2″ thumbnail sketch before starting a painting. With a quick thumbnail, you can work out the composition, play around with different cropping, and indicate the lights and darks before you ever put paint on the canvas. I refer to my thumbnail sketch often as I start a new painting. It’s a plan. It keeps me grounded. And it speeds up that paint process.
A great thumbnail makes all the difference in creating a successful painting. I don’t get lost as much. It’s become a critical part of my process.
But I’ve found over time that I needed more than just a black and white sketch. It just wasn’t enough. I needed to include color in my initial design. Without a good color plan, my larger paintings got lost in grays and browns and mud. These setbacks could take weeks for me to muddle through. So, while I still do pencil sketches for everything, I’ve also started painting small 5×5 color studies in preparation for large-scale work. It saves loads of time, and just like the pencil sketches, they keep me on track.
My new 5 x 5″ small color studies are really full-blown mini paintings, and I’m selling them on my online gallery at Daily Paintworks.
Here’s a brand new painting in my semi-abstract style. You still know they’re trees. But they’re in a new reality landscape, shifted reality. This one shows my little trees having a great party at the bottom, throwing confetti and blowing in the wind.
I call it “new way” for two reasons – first, because it’s a new way of my looking at the world – in a semi-abstract way. Second, because the path, or road, in the painting will take the viewer, or the traveler a new way into the distance, through color and light and pattern.