Monday, December 15, 2008

Scouting Old Florida

Cortez Village - Scouting Old Florida

As a painter, journeying to a strange but beautiful place can be frustrating. Your first desire is to paint it without exploring, but you know full well that such paintings rarely turn out satisfactorily. It's best to spend a few days exploring first.

I always tell my students when they arrive in the field to drop their gear and take a walk: "Set it down, then scout around." Not only does this keep you from getting worn out lugging your gear, it keeps you from settling for less-than-ideal painting spots.

The idea of exploring a few days before painting a place you're not familiar with is just a larger version of the same concept.

For my Sarasota workshop, I had a full day before the workshop to explore, and I'm glad I did. I was able to take students to some rich painting spots: Myakka River State Park, Selby Gardens and Lido Key.

Now that the workshop is over, I've had a few more days to explore even more - and without my paintbox. Sometimes, it's best to leave the paintbox at home and to explore with a camera. A camera gives you a chance not only to collect reference material but to become familiar with new subjects and to learn what will be demanded of your palette.

Some of my painter friends told me about some of their favorite Sarasota locations - "Old Florida." This is a lost world that the Interstates and real estate developers have somehow missed. Old Florida has ramshackle fish houses, old boats, empty beaches. We found all of these in Cortez Village, Coquina Beach and Anna Maria Island, just minutes from Sarasota.

My discovery of "Old Florida," and places like the Ringling Estate, historic Spanish Point and the others I mentioned earlier, make me want to come back soon. I've been so delighted with my adventure in Sarasota that I've scheduled another for next year. This will be November 30 - December 4, 2009 - and, yes, I'm taking deposits now.

To show you some of Old Florida, I've sprinkled a few photos through this post. You might also check out the following links:

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