Ideas and Issues Presented in My Work
I paint so many farms because I grew up as a citrus farmer in Brownsville, Texas, and fully expected to be a farmer until a simple twist of fate. Climate change hit South Texas in the early 1980’s and froze all the citrus trees. The farm went bankrupt and was sold to developers. I went North to college, and majored in painting and drawing. The loss of the family farm has forever informed my art and activism.
My paintings give you a clear sense of place and the “lay of the land,” I am deeply inspired by “the land that sustains us and the hands that work it.” Also by the remaining wild places and the wildlife that inhabit it.
My Overall Vision
I became an outspoken activist and environmentalist and was offered a weekly column in the regional newspaper called “Sustainable Living.” I encouraged localism and promoted sustainable agriculture. My column became nationally syndicated and was printed in newspapers across the country. This attracted the attention of climate activists that brought Joyce to train with former Vice President Al Gore and other leading climatologists.
At the same time, I began a series of plein air classes on small farms in the Hudson Valley “in an effort to connect people with the land that sustains us” from the class description. People began to flock to these plein air classes and soon, 50 people were showing up on a weekly basis. I hired other teachers and soon started a plein air school called “Wallkill River School” which was inspired by the conservationist philosophy of the Hudson River School, and my own loss of a family farm.
“When you paint the landscape, you see it the way an artist’s sees. You slow down and study it, fall in love with it, notice things that you would never see from a car window on the highway. My goal is to connect people viscerally with the land, and give them a reason to preserve it, and make stakeholders out of tourists and commuters.”
“Bloom Where You Are Planted” was the topic of a TedX talk that I once offered on how to use art to create a sense of place in your community. I relocated to Dunedin Florida, a small Celtic town in Tampa Bay where I immediately developed Plein Air Adventure, a series of weekly outdoor painting classes. I have developed a dedicated group of painters, bringing locals and snowbirds to places off the beaten track. “We visit ‘Old forgotten Florida’ sites like historic theatres, hidden bayous, and quiet beaches, and we paint. These places give you a taste of local color and flavor you wouldn’t find in the more touristy areas.”
How My Practice Fits Into the History of Plein Air
Plein Air in America began with the Hudson River School of Art and Frederic Church. My plein air history started in his footsteps, picking up where they left off. Hudson River School were considered America’s first environmentalist movement as well, using their art to preserve the landscape from iron ore furnaces and steam trains.
Our environment has changed and the challenges we face today have multiplied. Like the Transcendentalists of the Hudson River School, my first goal is to connect people viscerally to the landscape. Then to trail people to see the way an artist sees; not just blocks of color and value, but true beauty in the mundane.
My palette changed along with her landscape, going from the Violets, Siennas and Ultramarines, of Northern climate to the vibrant Thalo blues, orange, and green golds of Florida. Her work became populated by tropical plants and birds instead of farm fields and machinery.
I return yearly to the Hudson Valley and offers workshops and classes in plein air and pastel. This year, I have been invited by Olana State Historic Site, the ancestral home of Frederic Church, founder of the Hudson River School, to offer a month-long series of pastel classes to a selected audience, and a workshop open to the public.
“Painting Olana is like painting on hallowed ground, first thing I notice is the sky is Ultramarine because the elevation is so high, and there’s not as much water vapor in the air as in Florida where skies are Cereleun and Thalo blue.”
What I expect from Audience and What Response has Been
“There’s a reason so many people are attracted to Florida; the wild birds, the beautiful beaches and bayous, but these same areas are under pressure of development by population growth, and climate change. I hope to chronicle this time and place in my work.” I continue to use creative placemaking in my work. Focusing on lost Florida landscapes and minimizing the human footprint on wild places.
I engage people at a heart level in my plein air class. They stand on the land, they connect with it by seeing it they way an artist sees. They study it and preserve it in memory and in paint. You cannot help but fall in love with your subject when you paint it. My weekly plein air class is hardcore and dedicated and travels all over the county to hidden coves and downtowns. They have truly experienced Pinellas County in a way that most people never get the opportunity.
How My Work is Created
I have two studios, a dedicated lanai (Florida speak for enclosed porch), and an indoor smaller studio. Many homes in Florida have open air rooms, so a pastel studio outdoors is a good fit. Ventilation is assured, and dust is easier to filter out. In my outdoor studio, I have a set of weatherproof cabinets for storing well-packed boxes of pastels. my easel is mounted on a taboret with rust-proof storage.
The indoor studio is mainly a recording and broadcasting studio for online classes. I offer a challenging Wednesday night class to her avid pastel followers around the country in everything from color theory to delicate color layering techniques in sunset painting. In addition to online classes, I offer workshops around the country in pastel and plein air, and is faculty at several prominent Florida art centers.
I use a combination of pastels, but mostly Rembrandt (for underpainting) and Mount Vision Pastels (produced locally in Tampa) for layers of rich color. She works exclusively on Ampersand Pastelbord and is an Ambassador for Ampersand Surfaces who supply sample boards for my workshops.
I blend with my hands, the same way I used to work the land. I use a combination of blending techniques and teach layering color with some blending for softening edges and some rich scumbling of pure color.
Shawn Dell Joyce is President of the Pastel Society of Tampa Bay, and has won many prestigious awards for plein air painting, and is a signature member of New York Plein Air Painters (NYPAP), and International Plein Air Painters (IPAP), and has been featured in many national newspapers and magazines like the New York Times and Plein Air Magazine. She has participated in many national exhibits and plein air festivals, and is represented by galleries in NY and Florida. She teaches workshops in pastel and plein air techniques across the country, and is included in collections in the Georges Pompidou Museum in France and the Museum of Modern Art in NY.