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A walk in an English woods

A walk in an English woods, oil on linen, 16X20, private collection.

I’ve never starred in one of my own paintings before, and if I were to choose my pose, I probably wouldn’t choose to paint my backside, but there was something magical about this moment. My husband posted a photo of this scene on Facebook, from our hike along Hadrian’s Wall in 2022.

“I should paint that,” I mused.

“Do it,” my friend Kenny said, and a commission was born.

There are some painters who’ve specialized in painting the deep woods: the Barbizon painters and John Carlson come immediately to mind. The trouble is in sorting the screen of trees into a coherent pattern. One can vignette the subject into the deep woods, as Colin Page did in this lovely painting of his daughters. One can use the trees as a vertical screen, as Gustav Klimt did in his birch forest paintings. Or one can group them in masses, as Carlson did here.

Stiles have gone the way of the dodo in the US, but in Britain they’re very common. They’re steps or gates that allow people to pass a fence or wall while keeping the sheep or cows neatly in their enclosures. Some are nothing more than flat stone footholds; nicer ones have a swing gate within a frame box, as here. I think we crossed about 20,000 of these on our 84-mile hike.

Wooden stiles have all the visual charm of a hayrack. They’re of unfinished dimensional lumber and squared off to the path. While the stile is the subject of this painting, it couldn’t be the main focus. Nor should I be; even if I am the largest figure in the painting. Instead, it’s the couple in the distance with their little dog, Poppy.

A walk in the woods

It was a moment I remembered well, because I was sure that Kenny and Martha had chosen the wrong path. I was certain that we should veer to the right. Part of my goal in the painting was to portray that sense of Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Sometimes it isn’t by choice.

The challenge in this painting was finding the right color temperature and brushwork without overriding the peace and solitude of these ancient woods. I’m quite happy with the results, and I don’t often say that.

I’m in Britain on another lovely, long, blister-inducing hike. I’ve turned my phone off and while I’m gone, Laura will be running the office. Just email me as usual if you have questions or problems registering for a class or workshop. (Who am I kidding? She fixes all that stuff anyway.)

My 2024 workshops:

How to describe light: two new Zoom classes

Massif in Sedona, AZ in morning light. Private collection

As you know, I’m on vacation, pummeling the soles of my feet on the Yorkshire dales. That means Laura gets to handle the arrangements for my next series of classes, which is the only set of Zoom classes I’ll do before late autumn. There are limited seats in these classes and when they’re gone, they’re gone. Other than that, you’ll be limited to taking one of my in-person workshops. (Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that.)

Here are two approaches to how to describe light:

Words+Pictures—Monday evenings

In addition to the more concrete examples of combining words and images, we’ll experiment using text as a graphic element.

Words+Pictures has been on my mind for a while. As a graphic designer, I did lots of illustration and as I transitioned to painting full time I wrote and illustrated two books. Despite my love of kids, I’m whimsy-impaired, so that wasn’t the career path for me. However, I love to write and I love to paint, and I spend lots of time at the intersection of the two.

Even if you never plan to illustrate anything, thinking about your paintings in words expands how you approach your visual art.

Sometimes a picture is really a narrative.

This will be an exploration we’ll undertake together, as I’m as excited about it as anyone. We’ll cover:

  • Haiga
  • Storyboarding
  • Illustration—story
  • Illustrated poem
  • Designing type into a painting
  • The travelling sketch book. I’ll be working on this as I amble through the Yorkshire countryside!

This class will meet Mondays, June 10th, 17th, 24th, July 1st, 15th, 22nd, from 6-9pm ET.

Same massif in evening light.

The Color of Light—Tuesday evenings

The Color of Light is more tightly focused on painting. Lighting effects are intimately tied with composition and together these two elements can make a painting sink or swim. If you’ve ever had a painting “go dull” on you, it’s because you haven’t properly integrated lighting effects from the beginning.

This class is designed for people who already know how to handle their material. Once one gets past getting the paint to properly stick to the surface, painting is less about how to paint and more about how to see. We’ll cover:

  • Global color and complements
  • The optics of light (and why a lightbox is a terrible idea)
  • Deep shade
  • Fragmented light: the lessons of Impressionism
  • Reflection
  • Indoor lighting schemes

This class will meet Tuesdays: June 11th, 18th, 25th, July 2nd, 16th, 23rd, from 6-9pm ET.

Although I’ll try to steal moments with my laptop, everything will fall in Laura’s lap while I’m gone. I’ve turned my cell phone off, so email me here instead. Laura has a toddler, so it might take a little longer than usual, but she will help you, I promise.

My 2024 workshops:

Monday Morning Art School: what’s the perfect travel watercolor kit?

Bunker Hill overlook, watercolor on Yupo, approx. 24X36, $3985 framed includes shipping and handling in continental US.

It’s possible that I have too many travel watercolor kits. They include two Winsor & Newton field boxes (cute and cuter) as well as a beautiful antique box that was a gift from my friend Toby. The trouble with prefabricated kits is that they have unnecessary pigments and usually leave out the good stuff. Nobody needs convenience mixes like Sap Green or Payne’s Grey—having them on your palette just results in duller colors.

My watercolor kits for the schooner workshop are a little more complex–more paints and a water pan that doesn’t slide.

That’s why I make a custom one for students of my watercolor workshop aboard the schooner American Eagle. Of course I have one of those boxes, too.

Then there’s my kit for bigger watercolor paintings, which is what I recommend to my plein air students. I have used this 18-well palette successfully for field paintings of up to 36” wide, although I do have to clean it off frequently. Again, it holds more paint than is strictly necessary, since nobody needs 18 different pigments. What’s most useful is a bigger mixing well, and sometimes a disposable plate is just the answer.

My trimmed down box for this trip. Primary colors and white gouache just to use up the space.

Choosing the right travel watercolor kit is always a complicated dance between what is optimal and what I can pack or carry.

I’m hiking in Yorkshire this week, after which I will go up to Scotland. For painting, I’ve limited myself to what I can carry in what the British call a bumbag (because ‘fanny pack’ would be an obscenity over here). I wanted a kit for myself and for my pal Martha, who’s hiking with me.

I started with an Altoids box, because where I live it’s cheaper to buy Altoids than an empty tin. I stuck down four half pans with double-sided tape. Why four, when limited palette in watercolor only needs three paints? I didn’t want to leave a gap next to my mixing well.

I used three primary colors made by QoR. I’m a big fan of these paints, which are made by Golden Artist Colors in upstate New York. They’re bright, clear, and reasonably priced, and they’re tuned to the American palette. To get the broadest range of color, I used:

I filled the last pot with white gouache just for fun.

QoR makes nice field kits, including this one, which has the virtue of not including extraneous pigments. But in addition to wanting to carry as little as possible, I want Martha to have as little choice as possible. Too much choice can drive a new painter nuts.

Since the Strathmore Visual Journal is not negotiable, it determines the size of the final kit.

There are some lovely folding brushes out there, including this nifty travel kit. That was a bit pricey for a gift, so I got each of us a set of Pentel water brushes. I added a Strathmore multimedia visual journal and a bound Strathmore watercolor pad, two mechanical pencils, a pill bottle (for water) and a small flannel rag. Now we each have a kit we can carry and use as the spirit moves us.

Have you ever made a travel watercolor kit for backpacking? If so, how did you do it?

I’m in Britain on another lovely, long, blister-inducing hike. I’ve turned my phone off and while I’m gone, Laura will be running the office. Just email me as usual if you have questions or problems registering for a class or workshop. (Who am I kidding? She fixes all that stuff anyway.)

My 2024 workshops:

Marine art finally escapes drydock

Brigantine Swift in Camden Harbor, 24X30, oil on canvas, framed, $3478 includes shipping and handling in continental US.

This painting benefitted from a good long spell in drydock.

I started it a few years ago on the docks at Camden harbor, for Camden on Canvas. That’s the brainchild of Colin Page, and it’s become a great venue for marine art as well as a successful fundraiser for the Camden Library. (I’m happy to say I’m in again for 2024.)

It was hot, I was parched, and for once the creak of wood and water wasn’t moving me. I threw down my brushes in disgust.

“I hate it,” I spat out as I scraped the canvas down. I almost never do that, but I was riled.

“I like it,” said Björn Runquist.

“It’s not that bad,” said Eric Jacobsen.

“What is the matter with you?” asked Ken DeWaard, who never cuts me any slack.

What’s the point of having friends if you never listen to them?

The only part I really liked was the filtered, haloed sun, but that wasn’t enough to hang a whole painting on. Still, I respect their opinions, so I didn’t use the canvas as a sail for my dinghy. Instead, it went into my giant pile of unfinished marine art. It was bigger than most of the others, so I was constantly catching it with my foot or in the corner of my eye. Gradually, it grew on me.

Its spars (the things the sails hang from) are so delicate that they look as if they couldn’t possibly survive the North Atlantic. Even worse, they looked cockeyed to me. “You’re a better draftsman than that,” I chided myself.

I almost never take reference photos, preferring to whine at my friends if I discover I need one. However, I did find a picture from the dock that day. Those spars looked just as cockeyed in the photo as they did in my painting. The only other square-rigger I know of at rest is Cutty Sark, in Greenwich, England. Her spars are perpendicular to the keel, but she’s not exactly docked; she’s more trapped, like an insect in amber.

Cutty Sark stuck in her permanent installation in Greenwich. She’s going nowhere. Photo courtesy of Ethan Doyle White/

I called my resident expert on all matters maritime, Captain John Foss. He told me that, despite the name, a square-rigger can, in fact, turn its spars. They can be angled from running straight across the vessel (‘square’), to a beam reach or even a close reach.

I learn something new every day, darn it.

Marine art is complicted

Many years ago, I was wrapping up a painting on the Camden docks when two young salts stopped to look at it.

“Should we tell her?” asked one, quietly enough that he thought I couldn’t hear.

“Nah.”

I might love painting boats, but I don’t think I’ve ever done a spot of marine art that didn’t include an error or omission. Sometimes they’re intentional, for compositional purposes. Sometimes they’re oversights, and sometimes they’re mistakes. I think this one is fine, but if not, one of my friends is sure to tell me.

I’m in Britain on another lovely, long, blister-inducing hike. I’ve turned my phone off and while I’m gone, Laura will be running the office. Just email me as usual if you have questions or problems registering for a class or workshop. (Who am I kidding? She fixes all that stuff anyway.)

My 2024 workshops:

What’s your creative block?

The Wave, 9X12, oil on archival canvasboard, $869, includes shipping in continental US.

A creative block is a mental roadblock. You feel stuck, uninspired, and have difficulty concentrating. Your creativity is halted or hindered, and nothing you create meets your standards. We all hit these roadblocks in the creative process.

What creative block do you struggle with?

For me, the worst causes of creative block are overwork, breaks in my routine, and pressing problems crowding out my painting time. But my worst obstacle is clutter. (My engineer husband says he isn’t bothered by it. Go figure.)

Coast Guard Inspection, oil on archival canvasboard, $435 framed includes shipping and handling in continental US.

Here are some other common causes of creative block:

  • Fear of failure, self-doubt and negative feedback (see Monday’s post for help);
  • Perfectionism, which is the enemy of good;
  • External stressors (including for some people, deadlines);
  • Monotony;
  • External distractions. From what many artists have told me, first among these are household chores.
https://www.watch-me-paint.com/product/american-eagle-in-dry-dock/American Eagle in Drydock, 12X16, $1159 unframed includes shipping and handling in continental US.

How do you overcome creative block?

I work at regularly-scheduled times (Monday-Friday). That quiets my squirrel brain, and helps me sink into the painting state more easily.

I also believe in rigorous daily exercise. It’s good for the psyche as well as the back. And for me, deadlines are energizing, at least until they’re too close. There’s a fine line between excitement and panic.

Others have found these ideas helpful:

  • Change up your environment. That’s one of the beauties of plein air; it’s never the same from day to day.
  • Take frequent breaks. Give your brain a chance to recharge. If nothing else, reading the news makes me eager to get back to my easel.
  • Do some creative work that isn’t directly related to your main discipline. That’s why I’m teaching a session on words and art in June, but anything that you enjoy will help. That includes reading, which is a fantastic spur to the imagination.
  • If deadlines panic you, set benchmarks. “Today I’m going to finish the grisaille and then I’ll reward myself with a cappuccino.” Recognizing your smaller accomplishments gives you a sense of momentum.
  • Put ten, and only ten, things away every morning. Five minutes of putting things away every morning stops me from sliding into a big housekeeping binge when I should be painting.
  • Peter Yesis and I both (coincidentally) spent a few years doing small warm-up exercises (fifteen or twenty minutes) before we painted. I no longer need them, but they helped me bridge the gap between real life and my studio during a long period in the creative desert.
Breaking Storm, oil on linen, 30X48, $5579 framed includes shipping and handling in continental US.

Some distractions can’t be ignored

There have been phases in my life (parenting, illness, grief) when my work slowed or even stilled. Yes, I believed at those times that I could never regain my momentum. However, here I am, and if you’re in one of those phases, you will too. It’s helpful to remember that life comes first, no matter what your discipline.

Creative blocks and interruptions are a natural part of life. Be patient with yourself.

I’m in Britain on another lovely, long, blister-inducing hike. I’ve turned my phone off and while I’m gone, Laura will be running the office. Just email me as usual if you have questions or problems registering for a class or workshop. (Who am I kidding? She fixes all that stuff anyway.)

My 2024 workshops:

Monday Morning Art School: What are you good at?

Home Farm, 20X24, oil on canvas, $2898 framed includes shipping and handling in continental US.

Painting teachers can sometimes focus on the negative, because it’s part of our job to point out deficiencies. However, there is a lot we can learn by asking our students, “What are you good at?”

I’ll go first: I’m logical, good with numbers, and I’m disciplined. In art terms, I’m a good composer and draftsman and I’m intrepid. See, that wasn’t too hard.

Lobster pound, 14X18, oil on canvas, $1594 framed includes shipping and handling within the continental US.

Your turn: what are you good at?

Name three qualities that are general and three related to your art. I can easily see a relationship between my strengths on and off the canvas. What about you? Are your strengths as an artist related to your strengths as a person?

No, it’s not bragging

I’m not asking you to talk about your awesomeness to everyone you know. We humans all perseverate on our weaknesses, and as an artist you’ve chosen a career with lots of knocks to the ego. A realistic idea about your strengths is a good counterweight to the negativity of the art world.

Camden Harbor, Midsummer, oil on canvas, 24X36 $3188 includes shipping in continental US.

Why is this important?

Looking at our strengths is an effective learning tool. Reflecting on our strengths helps us understand ourselves better. It allows us to recognize where we excel and what comes naturally to us.

Knowing our strengths boosts our confidence. When we are aware of what we’re good at, we feel more capable and empowered to tackle daunting challenges. Confidence can be a driving force in achieving our goals.

Understanding our strengths also helps us set realistic and achievable goals. By leveraging our strengths, we embark on projects that align with our abilities. That increases our chances of success.

Focusing on our strengths enables us to further develop and refine them. Continuous improvement in areas where we excel can lead to greater mastery in those areas. That in turn enhances our overall competence.

It also allows us to collaborate more effectively with others. I have a show hanging at Lone Pine Real Estate this season. It’s a good symbiotic mesh between experienced brokers and an experienced painter. I recognize their strength at attracting a clientele, but I also understand that my strengths in painting houses and boats gives them subject matter that meshes with their mission.

Above all, recognizing our competence develops resilience. All of us sometimes get to a point where we think, “I can’t do anything right.” Knowing our competence helps us navigate periods of self-doubt or rejection.

Main Street, Owl’s Head, oil on archival canvasboard, $1623 includes shipping and handling in continental US.

Above all, it feels good

Not beating ourselves up all the time is such a relief. Art (and life) is just more fun when we feel good about what we’re doing. What we focus on, we (to some degree) become. As King Solomon wrote some 3000 years ago, “for as he thinks within himself, so he is.”

If you’ve got the courage, answer the question “what are you good at in art and in life?” below. (I promise to not tell anyone.) Can you see a relationship between the two? Can you see a way those strengths can be a building block to future success?

My 2024 workshops:

Footnote: the Red Barn Gallery in Port Clyde, ME, is looking for an artist to join for the 2024 season. It’s a cooperative gallery so you must be able and willing to work shifts there. Having done it myself, I can tell you there are few places more pleasant in which to spend a summer afternoon. The application is here.

Painting sails

Heavy Weather (Ketch Angelique), 24X36, oil on canvas, framed, $3985 includes shipping and handling in continental US.

That red buoy on the left is a nun. Red marks the edge of the channel on the starboard side when a boat is heading in from the open sea. That tells us the ketch Angelique is heading into port, running through a very changeable sea.

Last winter I was asked to do an online demo of a marine painting by the North Weald Art Group in Surrey, England. They didn’t care whether I painted boats or the sea, so I gave them both. As you know, I’ll take any opportunity to paint a boat, paint on a boat, or look at paintings of a boat. But I also wanted to demonstrate painting waves, because they have the potential for great power in their design.

The problem with a split subject is in giving equal weight to each part. That’s good for demonstrating two separate subjects, but not so great in composition. By adding the nun (the red buoy), I was able to tie together and energize the composition, echoing the red of the nun in Angelique’s tanbark sails. If you’re interested in painting sails, Angelique’s are fun because they create a bold dark shape against the sky.

My sketch for Heavy Weather. 5X8, graphite on Bristol-finish paper.

I could have painted a small oil painting in the allotted two hours, but that would have been difficult for the North Weald people to see on their small monitors. Working large meant I had no chance of finishing; I had to preload some of my demo.

I started with an idea board. Except for the nun, none of these photos were to be quoted verbatim (meaning there aren’t any copyright issues). I drew my composition and transferred it to the canvas. Then I made an educated guess about my palette and premixed my colors. All of that took just moments to describe, and that allowed me to get right to the heart of the painting.

My grisaille for Heavy Weather.

Up to that point, my interest was purely pedantic; I just wanted to demonstrate painting sails and painting waves. But once I had my brushes in my fat little hand, the painting grabbed me by the scruff of the neck. My time flew by. “Are you sure you must go?” I asked them. “I’m good for another few hours.”

My problem in painting waves is that I enjoy it so much I can just keep painting the same ones over and over, in a sort of meditative state. Finally, it was time to say “enough is enough” and declare them finished.

This painting is now hanging at Lone Pine Real Estate’s new office at 17 Elm Street, Camden, ME. Broker Rachael Umstead invited me to hang paintings in their newly-decorated space so I brought her an assortment of 16 of my favorites. I shot some video hoping to put together a reel, but I was just too tired, and it flopped. No problem; Rachael shot a super-cute reel, which you can see here.

My 2024 workshops:

What do you think plein air painting is?

Midsummer, 24X36, oil on canvas, $3,188 includes shipping and handling in continental US. This painting was completed on site over several days.

“Do you have a good source for the definition of plein air painting?” a reader asked. “Can the painting be finished in the studio? Can it span a couple days in execution?”

More useless pontification has been done on this subject than almost any other. I’ll start by pointing Tim to this essay by John Morra examining the nature of plein air painting. It stands alone, but let me add a few of my own thoughts.

Main Street, Owl’s Head, oil on archival canvasboard, $1623 includes shipping and handling in continental US. This was done on site on one long day.

Many of us have been in a competitive plein air event and seen something passed off as outdoor painting that was clearly not painted from life. How do we know this? Because we were there. The atmospherics were wrong, that person was never in that spot, or—mirabile dictu—the oil paint has already set up hours after completion.

But mostly, we know because there’s a sort of studied perfection to a studio painting that is never there in plein air. A painting done on site is never quite as innovative as a studio landscape. Plein air can often seem labored or overworked because the artist is trying so hard. This is not necessarily a bad thing; it’s destructive when plein air events reward stylishness over content and design, as they so often do.

Lobster pound, 14X18, oil on canvas, $1594 framed includes shipping and handling within the continental US. I’ve occasionally thought about brightening this up in the studio, but I think that would ruin its genuine moodiness.

Plein air or alla prima?

Plein air means it was done outside. Alla prima means it was done ‘on the first strike’. Plein air is a description of where a painting was done; alla prima is a technique. There is no such thing as plein air style, nor is something that’s painterly more authentically plein air than something that’s linear. Can we all stop apologizing for liking realism?

Vincent Van Gogh is the personification of painterliness. Rackstraw Downes is the personification of linearity. They’re both also definitive plein air painters, even though their work looks nothing alike.

Waiting to play (Boathouse), oil on archival canvasboard, 14X18, $1275 framed includes shipping and handling in continental US. This is a painting that’s experimental and observational rather than stylish.

Can the painting be finished in the studio?

This is where the arbitrary rules of plein air events start to influence the actual practice of plein air painting. To say that a painting should be ‘substantially’ finished in the field is meaningless; to say it should be done 90% in the field is just as meaningless. What are they measuring? Time? The volume of paint? The area of the canvas?

I almost never finish plein air work in the studio. I invariably end up overpainting what I most loved about being outdoors. But I have friends who touch up their plein air paintings at events. If they feel that gives them a better result, more power to them. As my buddy Brad Marshall once mused, “The clients don’t care how much of it was painted outdoors; why should I?”

Sketch or painting?

Composition is one of the hardest skills in painting. The rules of composition are the same whether the piece is done in studio or in the field, and the smart plein air painter puts as much effort into the set-up of a plein air painting as he or she would for a studio piece. That’s different from the plein air sketch, which is about capturing an impression.

How long can I work on it before it stops being plein air?

“A plein air painting should be painted quickly,” Morra wrote. This is one point on which I disagree. Fast, expressive brushwork is the trope of our age, but it’s by no means the only way to paint.

I’ve done many events where we’re given two or three days to produce one work. Sometimes I paint two paintings, but more typically, I squander all my time on planning and just paint one. I inevitably like my work better than when I churn out fast sketch after fast sketch.

In fact, modern plein air painting is often so fast it sacrifices drawing. A badly drawn house or person is a rookie mistake. My own preference is for fast painting paired with meticulous drawing. Want a great contemporary example? Check out Canadian painter Marc Grandbois.

My 2024 workshops:

Monday Morning Art School: what are your artistic goals for the next twelve months?

Forsythia at Three Chimneys, oil on archival canvasboard, $869 framed includes shipping and handling in continental United States.

As I ask you this series of Big Questions About Art (starting here), I’m trying to answer them myself. This one is hard, because for too long, my main goal has been to finish today’s work and get a start on tomorrow’s. I’m a kinesthetic thinker, meaning I figure things out by doing them. The more physical that is, the happier I am. That’s not bad for a painter, since our work is essentially tactile. However, it doesn’t always lend itself to advance planning.

Early Spring on Beech Hill, oil on canvasboard, Carol L. Douglas, 12X16, $1449 framed includes shipping in continental US.

My artistic goals (as of right now)

  1. To develop a broader range of surface-scribing skills. By that I mean more varied brushwork, with the ability to float between ambiguity and detail without overworking the surface. That includes scumbling, impasto and fine line work.
  2. Add more figure and contemporary structures into my landscape paintings. One of the things I most admire about Childe Hassam, George Bellows and other 19th century painters is that they didn’t shy away from their own times. I’m drawn to old things but not everything old is beautiful, and not everything beautiful is old.
  3. I want more time to paint. I love teaching, and I learn a great deal from it, but I need more time with my own brushes.
  4. I must finish building out my new gallery space. I’d hoped to get this done by Memorial Day, but it won’t happen until I get back from Britain in June. What does carpentry have to do with painting? Just about everything.
  5. It’s summer; can I have some time to recharge? I can’t blame this on anyone else; I’m my own worst taskmaster.
Spring Greens, 8X10, oil on archival canvasboard, $652 framed includes shipping and handling in continental US.

How would you like to develop your artistic goals?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Continuously improve your technical abilities. That could be paint handling, drawing, or composition, to name just a few possibilities.
  2. Push the boundaries of your creativity by experimenting with new ideas, techniques, or mediums. (See last Wednesday’s post.)
  3. Focus on expressing your own values, ideals and emotions instead of producing merely-pleasant art.
  4. Spend some time in museums looking at art that moves you.
  5. Read about art and artists.
  6. Build a coherent portfolio: The best way to mount a cohesive body of work is to do a lot of it, and then look at it as a unit. Objective critique from trusted peers or a teacher sometimes points out themes you’ve never noticed in your own work.
  7. Show your work: Displaying your work in public not only gives you the potential for exposure, it pushes you to work very hard. This doesn’t have to be in a gallery; it could be a coffee shop, library, or a show in your own home.
  8. Take classes—iron sharpens iron.
  9. Enter competitive shows. I hate doing this too, especially when the entry fees are high. But set the goal of applying for a few each year. You might be pleasantly surprised!
  10. Fail gloriously. You aren’t really pushing your boundaries unless you occasionally muck up. Embrace that. Failure is a sign of growth; you were willing to take risks and try new things.
Spring Allee, oil on archival canvasboard, 14X18, $1594.00 framed includes shipping and handling in continental US.

These goals are just suggestions; none of us can do them all, at least not right away. What can you take from my brainstorming, and how can you make these ideas your own artistic goals for the coming year?

My 2024 workshops:

Help support Trekkers on their 30th anniversary

Seven Paddles on a Paddle by Carol L. Douglas

When I was asked to paint a paddle for Trekkers‘ 30th anniversary fundraising art auction, I said yes because:

  • I believe in the power of outdoor adventure. That’s not just good for youth; it’s good for everyone. However, we’ve created an artificial, media-driven world for our kids, and it’s important for them to learn to navigate real space and controlled risk with confidence.
  • I love paddling.
  • I was a 4Her as a kid, and I learned some of my best skills through that mentoring program, as well as from neighbors and family friends. Those relationships were invaluable when my family was poleaxed by tragedy.
  • I was asked by a friend, famous art conservator Lauren Lewis.
Hiawatha’s Journey by Susan Lewis Baines

I learned to make a paracord-wrapped handle for my paddle, using coxcombing and Turk’s head knots. Sometimes ideas that seem easy in concept prove devilishly difficult in execution. My knots took a lot longer than the painting.

King Fisher by Lily Hamill

What is Trekkers?

For the past 30 years, Trekkers has cultivated the inner strength of young people through long-term mentoring relationships. These are based in outdoor, experiential, and travel-based education.

Trekkers started in 1994 under the aegis of founders Jack Carpenter and Peter Jenks. Together, they appealed to community leaders to provide support. The first trips were by canoe in the spring and fall of 1994. They included 11 kids from Thomaston along with 11 adult mentors.

Otter and Urchin by Lauren Lewis

This year’s art auction fundraiser features wooden canoe paddles as a nod to that adventurous, outdoor spirit. It’s a real community project: paddles were crafted by Maine Correctional Industries, and Dowling-Walsh Gallery will host the event. You can view the paddles from May 8-15 at 365 Main Street, Rockland, Maine. They’re online here, and there’s lots more than the small sample I’ve shared with you.

There will be a reception and final bidding at the gallery on May 15 from 3:00 – 4:30 PM.

Passages by Jon Mort

I hope you spend some time poring over the entries. And be sure to return to the website on May 8, when bidding will open.

Wading Through Wildflowers (detail) by Tara Morin
Island Lines by Colin Page
Wilderness Makes One Aware of Nature’s Miracles (detail) by Karin Strong

My 2024 workshops: