Local artist Joan Vienot is set to open her first solo exhibit today, a big deal for this painter, who says she has been an artist for as long as she can remember.



And as a life-long artist, Vienot has done it all. Earning a bachelor of arts degree, and teaching art at the high school level in Colorado, she has been involved in artistic endeavors her whole life.



Vienot moved to South Walton in the early 1980s to open a campground, which she did and ran it for six years. She was also the featured watercolor artist at Susan Foster's art studio in Seagrove when it was open. In 1986 Vienot opened her pool-cleaning business, something she has focused on managing ever since.



At the first of the year, however, Vienot resolved to redevelop and hone her artistic skills and to devote at least two days a week solely to art.



She began going out with the local plein air artist group that meets once a week to collectively paint en plein air at a specified locations. There they critique each other's work.



"Figurative drawing is my first love," said Vienot. "I have gotten an email every week telling me where the plein air painters were going, but I never joined until recently. But in my plan to become a full-time artist, it was time. They are supportive and constructive in their critiques."



Vienot said painting en plein air with her preferred oils requires skill in the mixing of colors, but painting outdoors lends itself better to oils and to her preferred subject matter landscapes.



"I love to paint anything, but prefer landscapes," she said. "I'm not good at houses because I'm not good at straight lines. Painting en plein air is fast and furious as you are trying to beat moving shadows and changes. It's a challenge to get the essence down. I could get more detailed, but right now I'm working on accuracy and speed."



The group varies where they meet to paint each week and has gone to Destin harbor, Nick's on the Bay, Eden Gardens, and Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet.



Cheri Peebles, proprietor of Grayt Grounds, and artistic director Eileen West took note of Vienot's work and asked her to do a solo show at Grayt Grounds.



West said they chose Vienot when they learned that she had set a clear path for furthering her painting career.



"She has spent the past few years learning her craft and developing her body of work. The next step is to market it, so we were happy to offer her a venue for her professional debut," said West.



"The Present Moment," an exhibit of oil paintings by Joan Vienot, opened Nov. 2 at Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet. The exhibit of 50 paintings, most done en plein air, will be up through Nov. 17.



"I was surprised when they invited me. I am ahead of my schedule and it's exciting," said Vienot.



Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet is located on County Road 30A, just east of CR 283. For more information visit www.graytgrounds.com or call 231-1090.