Tag Archives: oil painting

Forgotten Coast en Plein Air 2018

The Vision
The festival, billed as “America’s Great Paint-out,” brings invited artists into its heart for ten days each May, into an area rich with its own culture, into a setting vivid and rare.

The Setting
Picture Highway 98, running along the coast on the Florida panhandle.  Between Carrabelle to the east and Mexico Beach to the west, coastal fishing towns —Eastpoint, Apalachicola, Port St Joe—slow your progress just enough to take in wide expanses of tranquil bays, inlets, and nutrient rich rivers.  Views of vast marshlands or the breaking waves of the Gulf of Mexico disappear into dense pine woods for dozens of miles until you come back into the light again, rolling through yet another working village and on, along the causeways and bridges, where the road often adds a flounce of sea along its shoulders.


Joe Taylor, left, Kerry and Pollyanne, right, at the reception desk

The Facilitators
Note the people, too.  Two hundred and fifty volunteers make this major event work for the Forgotten Coast Cultural Coalition;  they power through eighty-two miles’ worth of venues.

Panel discussions, one-on-ones, receptions and artist demos are scattered all along this stretch of highway.  The artists have infinite subjects:  working shrimp boats, white-sand beaches, sailboats half afloat, shotgun homes, and shady vintage porches wait their turns.

Completed paintings flood into the Joe, the wetroom in Port St. Joe, where one of the lead volunteers and Vice President of the Coalition, Joe Taylor, explained that, just as Apalachicola is known as “Apalach,” Port St. Joe is called the “Joe” by locals.  The refurbished storefront also known as the “Joe” is new home to the event, a labor of love for Council president Susan Bassett, who negotiated the lease with an offer to purchase option.

The Coalition’s mission is the advancement of culture through art enrichment and community involvement.  Invited artists are charged with sharing knowledge, answering questions, and inspiring conversations.

The Judging
Panel discussions were led by Lori Putnam, who was also tasked with judging.  Her presentation on the subject began by urging artists to consider “going pro,” and allowing more new artists to compete in open class, citing the difficulties she encounters in the process of recognizing and awarding newer talent.

Putnam’s open class selections are based on strong patterns of light and dark—and the use of warms and cools for both—as well as design and drawing skill, hard and soft edges, mood, and details that are not overdone.  “Tight,” she said, “but not tiring.”

Her professional class selections are based on more stringent criteria, such as how a painting leads the eye through itself.  She likes to see artists who break the rules, but with subtlety and strength in their compositions, and she urges abstraction first.  “Tell a lie,” she said, “and make it work, but no corny stuff.”  Painters in the audience were encouraged to “bother” the invited and the “Florida’s Finest” ambassador artists wherever they found them and, for growth, to watch them paint.


Tony Robinson with a few of his paintings

A Sampling of the Artists
One of the panel discussions Lori Putnam led included Tony Robinson, Debra Huse, Mark Fehlman, and Nancie King Mertz, on the art of storytelling through plein air painting.  Putnam drew the artists out through a series of questions, getting their backgrounds, painting preferences, and humorous events from each.

Tony Robinson, who lives in Ireland, likes to paint alleys and bars, and is drawn to people, who often populate his paintings.  His mid-summer “Art in the Open” (www.artintheopen.org) festival, held in southeast Ireland was an effort, he said, “to find artists who did this gritty plein air thing.”  His painting advice includes “going for the particular,” and he urges newcomers to find perspective simply, by using overlapping shapes.

Debra Huse, an Indianapolis native, grew up drawing at the Indy 500.  She now lives in California and works out of a studio in a boatyard.  She loves boats and their histories, and was moved by Alabama shrimpers who spent an hour talking with her during the Forgotten Coast event.

Mark Fehlman always wanted to be an architect, and learned to draw in a way that allowed clients to trust him, thus moving his design forward.  Now a full-time California artist, he said he’d be fulfilled just painting the houses of Apalachicola, that he tries to find beauty or a message in everything he looks at, and aims to “present them as elegant.”

Nancie King Mertz, of Chicago, took an architecture class in college, and she said that she’s fascinated by light and shadow in structures, especially bridges.  “The rustier, the better,” she said.  In response to Putnam’s final question, asking artists how they felt about the concept of artists as historians, she agreed.  “We are historians in some respects,” she said, noting disappearing landmark structures in Chicago.

Fehlman spoke on the humanity and variety of old houses on the Forgotten Coast, and referred to artists as “the chroniclers of history.”  Huse spoke of honoring the old boats before they’re gone, and the changes she’s noted in vanishing landscapes.  She feels that plein air painting adds to the community and the conversations found within it.

Robinson does not think of himself as a “recordist,” at least not consciously.  He agrees that his work has some of that effect, but believes that he doesn’t have answers about the importance of what it is that he does.

The Results
On Sunday, May 13th, the Joe was decked out.  Goblets and plates alike were colored in jewel tones—fruit, fish, and pastries reflecting the rich and abundant paintings.

Joe Taylor, adjusting a microphone for one of the final presenters, made time to tell me:  “Encourage people to come.”

Go to www.forgottencoastenpleinair.com and click on “Art” to view the work.


My blog has been used most often to celebrate the art of dozens of people since I started writing it, or to offer free plans for art supplies.  This time I’m showing my own recent work.  Please feel free to comment!

Oil paintings (and a silk scarf) completed by end of summer, 2016


Silk seascape scarf printed from image of “Northwest Front,” $40 including tax.

Paintings are not shown actual size;  please note a title and find its sizing, location, and price (with or without its frame) in the list below.


Bouquet of Locusts


Running down to the River


Lake Papakeechie from the Cloud


Flood Tide



Blue Squall


Spring Cleaning @ Hill House


Above the Frog Pond @ TC Steele


Wild Weather


Fish House, Point House Trail


Neap Tide one of two studies


Neap Tide one of two studies


View of Useppa


Cold Spell, Fog off Captiva


Ebb Tide


Dry Wash Stream


Cold Front


Autumn Winery

All paintings were started en plein air, and finished in studio.  Pricing is pre-professional, ranging from seventy-five cents per square inch for small paintings to 50 cents per sq. in. for ex-large.

All frames are at my cost (using discounts);  please feel free to decline the frame, and to find one that suits you and your home better!

Land and Seascapes
Above the Frog Pond, TC Steele, Brown County, IN, oil on canvas, 12″ x 12,” framed:  $199.41;  unframed:  $115.56.  Tax included.

Blue Squall, Crystal Beach, TX, oil on canvas, 11″ x 14,” framed:  $211.22;  unframed, $123.59.  Tax included.

Bouquet of Locusts, oil on canvas, Owen County, IN, 28.5″ x 26.5,” framed:  $990.58;  unframed, $762.70.  Tax included.

Fish House, Point House Tr., Upper Captiva, FL, oil on canvas, 20″ x 24,” framed:  $552.12;  unframed, $308.16.  Tax included.

Flood Tide, Port Aransas, TX (Mustang Island), oil on canvas, 11″ x 14,” framed:  $205.11;  unframed, $123.59.  Tax included.

Spring Cleaning @ the Hill House, Owen County, IN, oil on canvas, 24″ x 24,” framed:  $477.11;  unframed, $369.79.  Tax included.

Running down to the River Bottom, oil on canvas, Owen County, IN, 36″ x 44,” framed:  $990.58;  unframed, $762.70.  Tax included.

Lake Papakeechie from the Cloud, Kosciusko County, IN, oil on canvas, 20″ x 20,” framed: $427.71;  unframed:  286.76.  Tax included.

Mustang Island Cold Front, Port Aransas, TX, oil on canvas, 16″ x 20,” framed:  $264.41;  unframed:  $229.41.  Tax included.

Ebb Tide, Port Aransas, TX, oil on canvas, 11″ x 14,” framed:  $205.11;  unframed:  $123.59.  Tax included.

Autumn Winery, Owen County, IN, oil on canvas, 24″ x 24,” framed:  $477.11;  unframed:  $369.79.  Tax included.

Dry Wash Stream, Owen County, IN, oil on canvas, 10″ x 12,” framed:  $162.12;  unframed:  $96.30.  Tax included.

Wild Weather, Escondido Lane, Upper Captiva, FL, oil on canvas, 20″ x 24,” framed:  $544.07;  unframed:  $308.16.  Tax included.

Cold Spell, Fog off Captiva, Upper Captiva, FL, oil on canvas, 15″ x 30,” framed/unframed:  $322.61.  Tax included.

View of Useppa, End of Sol Vista Lane, Upper Captiva, FL, oil on canvas, 20″ x 16,” framed/unframed:  $229.41.  Tax included.

Neap Tide 1 & Neap Tide 2, Port Aransas, TX, oil on panel, 8″ x 10,” framed:  $82.20;  unframed:  $64.20.  Tax included.

All paintings will be given a week’s trial in your home.  No reproductions, please;  I retain my “reproductive rights.”  🙂  

Each oil painting is original work by Laura Lynn leffers.

Email Lauralynnleffers@gmail.com



































How to make a wooden wet painting carrier

selfie with homemade wet painting box

selfie with homemade wet painting box

DIY:  Wet Painting Carrier

I needed a wet painting box that would travel long distance.  Inside a small boat, on a trailer, bouncing down a thousand miles of highway.  …And I wanted it to survive the trip.

Sure, there are commercial wet painting carriers available, and plans shared on the Internet for cardboard varieties.  Most of them, though, are for canvas panels, and I prefer the gallery wrapped, heavy-duty duck, inch-and-a-half thick canvases.

IMG_1113So, I made my own.  They’re the four boxes sitting on top of my first try, a lovely lightweight shelving frame that would have fit perfectly between the bench seats on the boat.  I was finishing it, when my husband asked, “Will that fit through the door?”


Back to the DIY Project (no need to dwell):  For panels, wood supports, or thinner canvases, you can adjust the spacing on the dividing rails to the width of your support–but do add a bit of wiggle room.

Here’s how:  Select Your Size of Canvas, and decide how many you’ll wantstructure_2_close.up to carry on a field trip;  for the inch-and-a-half thick type, a box made of 6″ wide boards (which are not really six inches wide but we’re not in charge of that) will hold three canvases each.

Procure Your Lumber (the small box shown on top is made entirely out of scrap 1×6 pine boards, but the larger boxes are made from lighter weight, half-inch thick poplar boards and quarter-inch oak panels).

Measure and Mark.  I kept it simple (nobody comes around, asking me for dovetails).  Both top and bottom were the width of the canvas plus a quarter-inch tolerance (or a bit less).  Both sides were the height of the canvas plus the depth of the top and bottom boards.

I cut the wood and held the side board against the bottom board on a flat surface, drilled holes, and screwed each into the edge of the bottom board.

Dividers.  I used 99-cent, quarter-inch basswood from Michaels to basswood_divider_close.upmake rails along both sides.  There was just enough room for my three inch-and-a-half deep canvases, three basswood rails, and a bare eighth-inch extra in each space.

I plan to lay the boxes flat in storage, so wet paintings will be “shelved” facing up, and that extra eighth-inch might minimize smearing or sticking on the long trips home.

basswood_dividerMark, Glue, and Tack Dividers.  I started by laying the first basswood rail along an edge of each side.  This rail prevents the top of the wet painting in that slot from touching the inside of the completed box.

Next, I measured and marked, and glued and tacked in the two remaining rails.

Once the other side had its matching rails, I tested the rail spacing, and let it dry poplar_large_lay.inovernight.



Only the two side boards received basswood rails.


Paneling is where I really slipped up, as you’ll see.  Theoretically, it’s simple:  cut your quarter-inch thin panels the same length, and your box will be square as long as your corners are square.

Ummm…  Maybe it was that quarter-inch tolerance, under “Measure and Mark?”

Moving on, it turns out that leftover window oops_wet_painting_carrierblind parts–the unused bits of wood squirreled away when a blind is cut down for a short window–make nice shims.  One could, uh, use shims.

Glue and tack as needed to correct any mis-steps which might cause one canvas to want to fall upon its neighbor.

If this is the case, use the slimmest possible shims.  …And, before the glue dries, make sure the canvases still fit in their slots.  Better yet, re-think my quarter-inch tolerance!

IMG_1109Finishing with stain and varnish was important to me because of the abuse I expect to heap upon these boxes.

I used leftover porcelain knobs from a kitchen project, plastic cable carriers as turnbuckles for the lids, and sewed some old webbing to brass D-rings to serve as straps.  For salt-water painting sites, I bought stainless steel screw-in tie-downs and stainless steel screws, but the SS snap hooks for the straps are costly.  I bought only one set;  the others are plated.  Brass snap hooks would work around salt water, but the hardware stores in my area are selling bronze in place of brass.  I’ll expect to replace the plated hardware.

Travel safe!

IPAPA and the Wawasee Paint-Out

Art En Plein Air

Donna Shortt took this photo of the breaking day on July 13th, at Lake Papakeechie, from an upstairs bedroom at my family’s cottage.  Yep, up at dawn.  These IPAPA painters barely pause for breakfast.

She, Pam Newell, Dave Voelpel, Leanna Arnold, and I were there for the annual Indiana Plein Air Painters Association paint-out at Lake Wawasee, in northern Indiana.  IPAPA people dotted the area lakes’ landscapes for the event, thick as the threatening clouds.  They hunkered under sun hats, umbrellas, and shelters, undaunted.  When they couldn’t find an open (or free) lake view to paint they found flower gardens, street-view scenes of cottages, and crowded shoreside views peopled with the backsides of sailing students.

Try to say that a few times, and you’ll understand their frustration.

Pam Newell, "The Red Cottage," oil on panel

Pam Newell, http://www.pnewellart.com, “The Red Cottage,” oil on panel

The site’s the thing–en plain air painters (think:  in plain air) need a place to stand for a couple of hours. That’s about all they need, they bring everything else with them.

Here’s hoping more Lake Wawasee residents open up their shoreside lawns, their unparalleled views, their access gates for these professional artists, next year.  Lake Wawasee can be a wild and wonderful model on a stormy day, and the weekend of July 12th was brilliant with weather.

Donna Shortt, "The Red Cottage," oil on panel

Donna Shortt, http://www.dshortt.com, “The Red Cottage,” oil on panel

The IPAPAs shown here were working  Lake Papakeechie (off the tail end of Wawasee), with its more intimate water views.  And at least some of the other IPAPAs found painting space near water–Saturday night’s pizza party, at the Wawasee Yacht Club, sported a few lake-themed paintings.  Despite the paucity of water scenes, easels wound around the yacht club yard, blooming with high quality impressions of flowers, boats, and grand old homes.  IPAPA member Dave Voelpel, in a reverent tone, called it “Museum quality work.”

Dave Voelpel at work on a watercolor

Dave Voelpel at work on a watercolor

Leanna Arnold, oil on canvas

Leanna Arnold, oil on canvas

The weekend event ended with a show at Lake Wawasee’s South Shore Golf Club on Sunday, July 13th.  Check IPAPA’s Facebook page for the next group paint-out, or go to the website at http://www.inpainters.org.

Leanna Arnold and I are both new IPAPA members.  She took two of her fresh paintings for the pizza party’s  group display, while I left my one unfinished start at the cottage.  Her abstracted rendition of Lake Papakeechie, shown here, was received with interest.

Leanna painted a total of three canvasses on Saturday and Sunday.  Look closely at the photo of Dave and his watercolor, and you’ll see her painting on the dock, down by the lake.  Examples of her earlier work can be seen on this blog;  go to the January, 2013 archives.

Plein air painters somehow manage to get paintings finished and ready to sell inside a matter of hours.  From what I’ve seen in the few months I’ve been paying attention to these intrepid, on-site, outdoor artists, they carry frames with them and come prepared to deal with anything nature throws at them–including the art loving, art buying public.

Laura's hour-and-a-half start

Laura’s hour-and-a-half start

Here’s mine–an hour or so’s start.

Ah, but I was hosting.  Yes, that’s it.  I was a student last weekend, learning from these masters but not at all in their class.

One thing I’ve learned about painting in the open air is that I work faster, more intuitively.  There’s no time to wallow in angst.

But I need more time.  I’ll have to go back next year, and finish this one.












Dave Voelpel at work










Gladiola Bob and the Bloomingfoods Farmers’ Market

Gladiola Bob & Bloomingfoods Farmers' Market

Gladiola Bob and the Bloomingfoods Farmers’ Market

Last week, Bloomingfoods East, in Bloomington, Indiana, accepted—and hung—this painting.  I’d struggled to “get it right” for many years, and I was thrilled that the manager, Tom Zeta, and several employees received it with a gracious delight.

Why it all happened is a story that takes a bit more telling, but it started with the realization that a grocery store—which is what Bloomingfoods is, after all—is generous to its competition, allowing a farmers’ market to set up out front in its parking lot every single Wednesday of the long market season—for 34 years.

The painting features sketches of some of the farmers who offer their home-grown and/or homemade wares to the public at the Wednesday Market:  Left to right, Bob Wise (Wise Acres);  Jeff Padgett (Padgett Farm);  Chester Lehman (Olde Lane Apple Orchard);  and Marcia Veldman (Meadowlark Farm).

Six years and change have passed since I started this oil painting;  finding time to work on it and trying to capture its early morning spirit (and its tiny, dime-sized faces) proved daunting.  I worked from photos I took a year before Bob Wise—known as “Gladiola Bob”—died, and remembered his kind spirit each time I worked on it.

Now in its 34th year, according to Market Master Don Dunkerley and his partner, Jean Ellis, of Mountain Greenhouse in Bloomfield, Indiana, the Wednesday Market remains independent.  It’s a non-profit, co-operative venture, unconnected to the city’s Parks & Rec farmers’ markets. Dunkerley has been bringing his fresh produce and plants to this market since it began, and is grateful to Bloomingfoods for their support of local farmers.  “They’re so co-operative,” he said, “they help to keep a space open for us.”


large market bag

I was once a vendor at this market.  I’m a writer, with a few novels out under my pen name, Laura Lynn Leffers (.com), but I’d had a bit of trouble with my eyes, and started sewing market bags—focusing on a seam—until I had too many bags to foist on friends and family.  While I awaited a diagnosis (it turned out to be  blepharitis, a simple tear duct problem), this is the market that took me in, allowed me space, and gave me a positive outlet.

small market bag

small market bag

Eventually, Marcia Veldman, who sells produce and flowers at the Wednesday Market but is also the Bloomington Parks and Recreation co-ordinator for the big Saturday Market at City Hall, suggested that I apply to the Saturday Market’s monthly “A Fair of the Arts.”  I did, and enjoyed being an officially “artsy” market bag vendor for a time, while I worked through my vision problem.

It didn’t keep me away from the Bloomingfoods East Wednesday Market, though.  It’s accessible.  No queuing up, and waiting for the McCormick’s corn.  Jeff remembers the names of every single person he’s ever met (I’m sure of it).  There’s a cheerful, low-key, hard working midwest air about it.  Plus, you can finish your grocery shopping at Bloomingfoods.

Chester Lehman defines the 34-year collaboration between the health food store and the farm stands as “Mutually beneficial.”  Marcia Veldman explains it by saying, “Part of their mission is to support local farmers.”

Comanche brief bag

Comanche brief bag

I was grateful to be a vendor at the Wednesday Market.  And that explains the painting.

Was Writing… Now Painting

Art Works/New Chapter Introduction

Last year, in October of 2013, on Crystal Beach, Texas, I set up on the beach to begin a new chapter.  God knows, it was needed. crystal beach set-up

Along came a couple in a golf cart.  They were on their honeymoon, and wanted to buy the painting.

Back in Indiana, I finished it, named it “Gulf Squall,” and shipped it to them.

Here it is, oil on canvas….

crystal beach, cropped


It’s no surprise to anybody who knows me, but I’ve wanted to be a painter since I was a girl, and scared up dribs and drabs of time every year or two, to start a painting.  Some were finished and hang on my walls–most are of my sons as babies.

So, here’s a new section of the blog, and my introductory chapter:  Eight painting starts at Ft. Myers Beach, Florida, Feb., 2014, pictured below;  two of them finished and six yet to go.  My best hope for a good finished painting is the big “Northwest Front,” I think.

But first, there’s another promised painting to finalize and deliver.  …And another painting start done for last weekend’s Owen County Studio Tour.

Is that too many unfinished paintings?  I have plenty more to finish–the results of those dribs and drabs of time, and all rooted in the past.  Yes, I have a full novel–chapters full of unfinished paintings!

But art works.  Right?

Era's pelican, cropped

“Era’s Pelican,” postcard size

northwest front, cropped

“Northwest Front”

turquoise mud, cropped

“Turquoise Mud,” for now

beach day, cropped

“Beach Day”

small craft advisory, cropped

“Small Craft Advisory”

personal space, cropped

“Personal Space,” bad start

FMB pier, cropped

“FMB Pier”

offshore fog bank, cropped

“Offshore Fog Bank”

FMB LLL by Carol

Photo by Carol Spencer



Art Works for Lisa Shelton

Lisa SheltonLisa Shelton’s self-portrait, All Dressed Up, is her first attempt at portraiture.  The canvas version and the real Lisa are shown here on a cold November day, outside the Owen County Art Guild.  Although she’s been an artist all her life, Lisa began painting only a year ago and All Dressed Up was done recently, eight months after she took up painting.

An oil on canvas, Lisa painted it using a “selfie,” a term used to describe a photo taken of oneself using a smart phone.  “The day I took the picture,” she said, “I’d been cleaning my house and had found things I’d forgotten I had.  I started putting them on—dressing up, which I love to do—and taking pictures of myself.  I used the selfie to find out if I could paint a portrait.  My goal is to paint a portrait of my late grandmother for my dad, as a gift.”

When Lisa, a pre-school teacher, joined the art guild, and then the Partners in Painting class a year ago, her artistic interests already included playing the cello, creative writing, sculpture, sewing, knitting, and photography.  As a ten-year-old, she remembers picking up a Polaroid Instamatic and taking her first picture, in which, according to her Great-Uncle Gerald, she’d cut the heads off the people.  Nevertheless, for Lisa, it had been the most exciting thing she’d ever done and, she said, “As a teenager, I got my hands on a camera that used real film!

“I love photography so much because I want to shareWailing Tree the beauty of the world with people who think they don’t have time to look, to see it.  I’m a photographic opportunist—I stop and capture anything that makes me go ‘Oooh!’”  The subject of Wailing Tree, a black & white, 8 x 10 photo, grabbed her attention in that way:  the tree looked as if it were in agony, mourning in a graveyard, in the fall of 2012.

“Art, for me, is emotive,” Lisa added, “it’s not aboutBroken perfect technique.  If a piece of art connects emotionally to anybody, it has fulfilled its purpose.  Broken, another of my oils, was my response to somebody—somebody I care deeply about—whose heart had been broken.  And I had the opportunity to see this piece of art connect with another soul.  To witness that moment—when my work touches somebody—is amazing.  It is an honor.”

Wearable ArtLisa also creates tie-dyed clothing, what she refers to as “wearable art.”  She loves the medium because, she said, “It’s always a surprise!  You bind it, dye it, and you have to wait twenty-four hours to see it.  It’s like Christmas every time I wash out a new item and see it for the first time.

“Something I love about being a pre-school teacher,” she added, “is that I am immersed in art every day.  I also get to share the love of art with the children in my class.  We paint, sculpt with play dough, write stories—it is a wonderland for the creative.  I had the title of the messiest teacher they had ever met.  Then, later, I got the phrase “you can paint with anything” attached to me through one of our in-services.  One of the things that drives me crazy is that, when you walk down a hallway at a school or preschool, and all of the art on display looks just like the one next to it, you know those kids were not allowed to express themselves but, instead, told how to do it right!

“Art is an extension of who I am.  I use more than one medium to express myself because, if you feel blessed with a creative spirit, why would you ever want to limit yourself?  My question to you is, ‘Why not?’”

Lisa Shelton’s artwork is a part of the holiday show at the Owen County Art Guild;  the guild is located at 199 West Cooper Street, Spencer, IN.  Her artwork, as well as those of all the artists featured in this series, can be seen in color online at http://www.lauraleffers.wordpress.com.  The guild’s phone number is  812-829-1877;  Lisa can be reached by e-mail at:  always2dye4@yahoo.com.