By Joseph Weinzettle
Painting in Florida light poses some unique challenges and opportunities. Most art education is in the studio, not en plein air, so for the most part, art students, even in Florida, are not taught how to work in this climate. Further, studio techniques and lessons, even in Florida, are usually derived from northern art schools and European models.
In Coast to Coast: Contemporary Art in Florida, Tracy Ayers explained the implications of Florida light for landscape painters, “In the summer at midday, the light is so intense that the landscape appears washed out” (Libby, 1999).
Similarly, in Reflections: Paintings of Florida 1865-1965, David C. Swoyer observed: “Daylight in the State has a greater intensity as measured in both quantity and quality than any state to the north. The intense sun, often reflected in sand and water, visually bleaches all colors…(Libby, 2009).
Swoyer observed that Florida artists paint in a high key palette to in response to Florida light. However, there are other means to achieve tone and color. One strategy is to paint within swamps and woodlands, which filter the intense light of midday. This painting, “Swamp Light” (2017) focuses on painting the shadows, with thin layers of primary colors, not mixed with white:
Another way to avoid the “washed out” and “bleached” effect on landscapes by Florida light is to simply paint at different times. George Inness (1825-1894) was perhaps the first artist in Florida to extensively paint night landscapes.
Below is a painting started before dawn:
Below are panels for a painting “Nightfall at the Bend”, in progress:
Florida offers a rich palette of colors for the landscape painter. Experience, and trying different times, and different places, will help the landscape painter express the unique climate and light of Florida.