No roadmaps

Athabasca Glacier, 14X18, oil on linen, $1275 includes shipping and handling in the continental US.

I’ve spent a lot of time this year working on projects without roadmaps. Such is the case with today’s Virtual First Friday. Not only have I never done one of these, I’ve never attended one. (You can preview the paintings here.)

My daughter Mary (the soapmaker) is riding shotgun for this. That’s a funny coincidence, since she is the kid who crossed Alaska and Canada with me. We didn’t follow a map then, either. She and her younger brother love geology; when she was feeling well, she spouted Rock Facts on the dating app Tinder, to the frustration of many young Canadian men. They didn’t understand that to some of us, geology is sexy.

The Whole Enchilada, 12X16, oil on archival canvas. The red-roofed building is Hosteria el Pilar. I just realized none of my Patagonian paintings are on my website; I’ll get right on that.

Mary tells me that the American Cordillera is that chain of mountain ranges that forms the ‘backbone’ of the Americas (and also the volcanic arc that’s our half of the Pacific Ring of Fire). It runs from Alaska’s Brooks Range, through Central America, along the Andes, and all the way to the very tip of Antarctica.

I’ve painted at both ends, in Alaska and Canada, and in Patagonia. While preparing for North to Southwest: A Plein Air Perspective, we considered the relationship between those trips. In one way, they were both defined by illness. Mary spiked a fever as we reached the Arctic Circle. It was mononucleosis, and she didn’t start to recover until we were in Quebec.

Athabasca River Confluence, 9X12, $696 includes shipping and handling in continental US.

Our trip to Patagonia started the day of the world’s lockdown for COVID. Instead of hiking and painting in Argentina’s Parque Nacional Los Glaciares before heading out to Ushuaia, we were penned into smaller and smaller places, until we ended up in a hotel with an armed soldier at the door. Somehow, we all managed to get giardiasis. I don’t recommend it.

At six to ten million years old, the Andes are just babies; the mountains of Alaska and Northern Canada predate them by fifty million years, but both ranges are wild and fantastic.

Los Glaciares is located within the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, and I was able to paint the edges of several glaciers from the hostel grounds before we were sent to our rooms. On our trip across Canada, we brushed past the Kluane/Wrangell-St. Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek Ice Field (that’s a mouthful) and stopped to visit the Columbia Ice Field, where I failed to paint the Athabasca Glacier. Conditions were just too miserable, so I did it later, in my studio.

Mary and I have had a great time reminiscing about our drive. Despite our fantastic adventures, it’s the people who stand out: Heidie and Jerry Godfrey, who let us couch surf in Eagle River, AK; Gabriel-from-Quebec on Tinder, who told us about the feudal ĂŽle d’OrlĂ©ans; Gordon Kish, the last resident of a Saskatchewan ghost town; and Kyle-from-Newfoundland, who told us the best place to get fish and chips in St. John’s.

Me in Patagonia, before I was sent to my room with a fever. The common element of both trips was the cold. (Photo courtesy Douglas Perot)

Then there were Cristina and Guillermo, the innkeepers at Hosteria el Pilar outside of El ChaltĂ©n. When it was clear that they would be stuck with us, they extended their season and stayed with us in the Andes, where it was starting to snow. They had to scrape together meals for us and get us enough gasoline to make a break to RĂ­o Gallegos. And Jane Chapin. When the airline’s computer system crashed and threatened to strand us, she stood in the gate, not moving, until Doug and I were ticketed. Have I mentioned that I don’t speak any Spanish?

Mary and I are already scheming about another Great Adventure. Hopefully we’ll encounter new geology, new friends and no new illnesses. It’s not too late to attend tonight’s virtual opening of North to Southwest: A Plein Air Perspective. And if you’re interested in a Great Adventure of your own where you’ll meet awesome people and do beautiful paintings, registration is currently open for my 2024 workshops. (Use the code EARLYBIRD to get $25 off any workshop except Sedona.)

My 2024 workshops:

Consistent fair pricing vs. Black Friday deals

Brilliant autumn day, 9X12, oil on canvasboard, $696 includes shipping and handling in continental US.

“Black Friday sales usually involve 25-50% off, but you and other artists only offer small discounts on paintings (if any),” a reader noted. “That doesn’t seem like much, so why do you bother?” The answer boils down to margin and markup.

Tamaracks, 8X10, oil on archival canvas, $522 includes shipping and handling in continental US.


Margin is the difference between the product’s selling price and the costs to make and sell that product. High volume businesses, like your grocery store, can afford to work with low margins, whereas a bespoke tailor needs a higher margin to offset his costs.

The problem for artists and other small businesses is that we cut it fine. We’re often working with both low margin and low sales, which gives us very little room to maneuver on price. “Wait a second,” you say. “All you have invested is some canvas and paint.” Not true. We have all kinds of hidden costs ranging from insurance and transportation to the rent and/or upkeep on our studios.

Saskatchewan Grain Elevators, oil on archival canvasboard, 8X10, $522 includes shipping and handling in continental US.

Bloated pricing

Another daughter and I both have the same floor cleaner, for which we each paid about $200 as a regularly discounted price. We were surprised to see the same model in last week’s ads at half off, or $200. Yes, it lists at $399.99, but I doubt many people have paid that in this world of competitive online shopping.

You could buy it for as low as $165 this week, but that’s a far cry from the ‘59% off’ at which it is promoted.

Artists can’t and shouldn’t raise and lower their prices willy-nilly. Part of the tacit bargain we make with collectors is that we strive to make their artwork more valuable over time. Inconsistent pricing undermines that and irritates collectors.

That doesn’t mean we can’t have sales, or have an in-studio bin where we get rid of sketches and old work. But unless we bloat the list price, we can’t offer deep discounts.

Up Ship Creek, 6X8, oil on archival canvasboard, $348 includes shipping and handling in continental US.

Technical snafu means a deal for you

I wanted to end this thankfulness series by offering a deal where the buyer got one painting at 10% off, two at 15% off, and three at 20% off. However, when Laura started to develop the software to drive that, she found it was impossible with the tools we currently have.

I felt badly. But since I can’t do that, how about I throw in frames for anyone who buys two or more unframed paintings today or tomorrow? Laura will never know; she doesn’t read this blog and it’s really a better deal than those discounts would have been.

As November draws to a close, the last ‘gratitude’ offering I have for you is a recital of all that I’ve offered so far:

  • 10% off any painting, with the code THANKYOUPAINTING10.
  • 30% off any class in the Seven Protocols for Successful Painters series, with the code THANKYOU30
  • $25 off any workshop except Sedona, with the code, EARLYBIRD
  • Free frames with the purchase of two or more unframed paintings. No need to enter a code, but this absolutely expires on November 30, 2023.

That’s because on Friday, December 1, I’m doing North to Southwest: a plein air perspective which is my first Virtual First Friday art show. As I’ve written copy for each of the paintings in this show, I’ve found myself remembering many lovely happenings along the way. I’m getting excited to tell you about them.

If you haven’t registered, please do. Laura will be sending out the Zoom link shortly.

My 2024 workshops:

Monday Morning Art School: how important are collectors, anyways?

Marshall Point, oil on archival canvasboard, 9X12, $696, includes shipping and handling in continental US.

The first time you sell a painting to a friend, you feel a little guilty, as if it’s a pity sale. (That’s different from pity marketing, which is when artists relate their struggles to generate sales. Manipulating others’ sympathy is exploitative, it makes all artists look bad, and I wish people wouldn’t do it.)

The second or third time that person buys a painting, you start to suspect that, against all odds, they actually like your work. You have a collector. As you get more well-known, you’ll collect more collectors, but those first ones are everything to the fledgling artist.

Quebec Brook, oil on archival canvasboard, $1449 framed includes shipping and handling in continental US.

My first serious collectors were Dean and Karolina. We went to church together and were friends. I knew they collected art, so when they bought their first painting from me, I was flattered. Then Dean asked me to paint a portrait of his children as a gift for his wife. He gave me an absolute deadline. That was a great lesson, as I realized that I could finish a painting with the same professionalism that I’d once finished design projects for customers.

Karolina was a great support when I was a mother of young kids without family nearby. Once she helped me pull all the wall-to-wall carpet from a house we’d just bought. As you can imagine, I’d love her if she never bought any art from me, but in fact she bought a painting just last year.

Eric’s Barber Shop (midnight walk), oil on archival canvasboard, 9X12, $869 framed, includes shipping and handling in continental US.

I met Martha when she came to my house at 0:dark:30 to watch William and Kate’s wedding. Our mutual friend Mary brought her, but we’d been corresponding for months. Martha bought her first painting from me at a Black Friday sale shortly thereafter. By the time she got married, we were close enough friends that I was invited to her wedding in Scotland; I brought them a painting as a wedding gift.

Her husband asked me to paint her portrait. It turned out to be as much a portrait of their drawing room as of Martha and her dog. Later, the room was destroyed by a catastrophic flood, which makes the painting that much more meaningful. I’m currently in the early phases of another painting for him.

Dean and Karolina were my friends before they ever bought a painting. Martha and I became close friends over subsequent years. I’ve had the good fortune to sell paintings to my friends, and to become friends with people I’ve sold paintings to.

Birches, 6X8, oil on archival canvasboard, $435 framed includes shipping and handling in continental US.

Your friends are perfectly free to ignore your art career. Most of them will, in fact. You may never meet your collectors if they’re buying through a gallery or online. But anyone who likes your work enough to own it is likely to share common emotional and intellectual ground with you, or the work would never have spoken to him or her in the first place. It’s no surprise that the lines of friendship and art often blur.

No artist can survive without collectors. Beyond that, my life has been immeasurably enriched by so many people who’ve pondered my paintings and drawings, corresponded with me about them, and, yes, occasionally purchased them. Thank you all.

For any of you who want to start collecting, here’s 10% off any painting on my website. Just enter the codeTHANKYOUPAINTING10.

My 2024 workshops:

Sunset sail

Sunset sail, 14X18, oil on linen, $1594 framed includes shipping and handling in the continental US.

My husband is under the sweet illusion that I can identify any boat in the Maine windjammer fleet from the top of Beech Hill. From that distance, lobster boats are specks on the water, sloops are brilliant white triangles, and schooners are a blurred sawtooth pattern.

Closer, I find it hard to identify them by their sail plans alone. Some have topsails and some don’t, and the mast heights and rakes are different. The trouble is, I can never remember which are which. I’m much better on hull color and shape, but they are often not visible when a boat is far away.

When painting a boat, the details of rigging matter. Before I moved to Maine, I had a commission to paint one of the schooners in Camden Harbor. I wrestled with it for two days and was happy with the results. Two wharf rats stopped to look at it as I packed up.

“Should we tell her?” said one.

“Nah,” said the other.

I couldn’t figure it out then, and to this day I still don’t know what I’d done wrong. But I console myself with the knowledge that the buyers probably knew even less than I did.

A completely different evening on the water, from this fall’s watercolor workshop.

Sunset Sail is not intended to be any specific boat. She’s meant to be sort of an Everyman of schooners.

You can watch a thousand sunsets across the ocean and none of them will be the same. That’s also true of schooners-by the time they’ve bobbed along the coast for a century or more, they’ve developed their own character. Of course I have my favorites-American Eagle, obviously, because she’s the most beautiful of boats and I get to sail on her every year. Then there’s the ketch Angelique with her sweet red sails and plumb bow, Heritage for its beautiful hull colors… oh, who am I kidding? I love them all.

I have the great fortune to be able to watch the sun rise or set on the ocean any time I want. In this painting, sunset is an explosive kaleidoscope of color. Tomorrow’s sunset will be completely different. In fact, I could paint a sunset every day for the rest of my life and never repeat myself.

Sunrise from Beech Hill, earlier this month.

CODA: I spent some time yesterday perusing Black Friday deals on my phone. Here are my observations:

  • The deals I saw were heavily slanted towards electronics. How many of these does a person need?
  • Nothing seemed like a great deal to me; I compared Black Friday prices with commonly-available discount prices on products I know. I was underwhelmed.
  • Black Friday shopping is boring, whether in person or online.

That leads me to remind you about one of my current anti-Black-Friday deals: you can get 10% off this or any other painting on this website until the end of the year by using the code THANKYOUPAINTING10.

My 2024 workshops:

I’m thankful for my collectors

Marshes along the Ottawa River, Plaisance, 8X10, oil on archival canvasboard, $522 includes shipping and handling in continental US.

Frequently, someone will tell me, “I love art but I can’t draw a straight line,” or, “You are so talented.” I don’t know any artists who can draw a straight line; we use rulers just like everyone else. And ‘talent’ really isn’t the deciding factor in whether a person can paint or not; what makes an artist is a passion for making art.

Having said that, I appreciate all of you who are fans of art but don’t want to do art. We can’t all be nurses, computer programmers, or carpenters, but we call on their services. Our economy depends on that. Similarly, artists depend on you, our collectors.

Athabasca River Confluence, 9X12, $696 includes shipping and handling in continental US.

Since I stopped showing in galleries in 2020, I’ve had much more contact with my collectors. I really enjoy the interactions. Art is a form of communication, so the viewer also brings something to the table. Your questions, your comments, even the things you love or don’t like tell me a lot.

I’m staying at my daughter’s house. As I type this, I can see three paintings: one from our Alaska adventure and two by other artists. Mary was raised in the milieu of artists and art. She understands the difference between real art, sweatshop knock offs, and mass-produced prints. She understands why a well-chosen painting will wear better than other decorations.

That’s an advantage over most of her peers. I’ve talked to young people who point out that they could buy an entire room of TJMaxx ‘art’ for what one of my paintings costs. They haven’t yet figured out the advantages of choosing quality over quantity. I was young once too, and I too didn’t think I could afford good things. But eventually we all outgrow that.

Sand and Shadows, 8X16, $903 framed includes shipping and handling in continental US.

You, my collectors, are the people who’ve made this career possible over the past 26 years. Thank you.

It’s party time!

Those of you who read my newsletter know I’m doing a virtual First Friday on December 1, 2023 at 6 PM EST. But I want to be sure to invite everyone.

Pensive, 8X10, oil on archival canvasboard, $522 includes shipping and handling in continental US.

This show features paintings of Arizona and Alaska. Move past the radical differences in temperature, and there are surprising commonalities. In addition to a behind-the-scenes look at the paintings, you can  share your thoughts, ask questions, and enjoy a suggested wine pairing (BYOB):

Arizona sparkling wines, no pants, on the couch

  • Gruet Blanc de Noirs,
  • Gruet Brut,
  • Gruet Brut RosĂ©,

Arizona sparkling wines, black tie

  • Gruet 2016 Grand RosĂ© CuvĂ©e Danielle,
  • Gruet 2018 Vintage Sauvage,,
  • Gruet Barrel-Aged Blanc de Noirs,

Arizona still wine, no pants, on the couch

  • 2020 Gruet Reserve Chardonnay,
  • 2022 Reserve Still RosĂ©,

Arizona still wine, black tie

  • 2020 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon,

Canadian (Niagara-on-the-Lake) still wine, no pants, on the couch

  • Konzelmann Estate Pinot Noir,
  • Konzelmann Estate Chardonney,

Canadian (Niagara-on-the-Lake) still wine, black tie

  • Château des Charmes Equuleus,
  • Château des Charmes Cabernet Ice Wine:
  • Château des Charmes Vidal Ice Wine:

Canadian (Niagara-on-the-Lake) still wine, no pants, on the couch

  • Konzelmann Estate Pinot Noir,
  • Konzelmann Estate Chardonney,

Canadian (Niagara-on-the-Lake) still wine, black tie

  • Château des Charmes Equuleus,
  • Château des Charmes Cabernet Ice Wine:
  • Château des Charmes Vidal Ice Wine:

Carol’s daily household plonk, no pants, on the couch:

  • Red: La Vieille Ferme Rouge 2021,
  • White: 2021 Anselmo Mendes Contacto Alvarinho,

Sadly, Carol doesn’t have black-tie tastes.


My 2024 workshops:

Gifts for the artist you love

Santa Claus, 6X8, oil on archival canvasboard, $435 framed.

Today I’m thankful for the people who support artists, so here’s a shopping guide that will make their holiday gift-buying easier.

Let’s talk about brushes:

Several years ago, my students bought me a set of Rosemary & Co. brushes. My biggest regret about my lost painting kit is that those brushes were a gift from people I love, but Bobbi Heath and Karen Ames have both sent me spare brushes. That adds another level of gratitude to my brush roll.

Brushes are where quality matters, but they’re pricey, so they’re where most artists flinch. Why not buy a Rosemary & Co. gift card? That means they’ll have to pull the trigger on a brush, as Rosemary doesn’t carry much else. Gift cards come in odd increments because it’s a British firm, but plan to spend at least $130 for it to be useful. They make oil, acrylic and watercolor brushes, so only pastelists need miss out.

One of the nicest gifts I’ve ever received was this set of Rosemary & Co. oil brushes.

Isabey is a French company that makes very nice bristle brushes that stand up to hard use. If your artists have no big brushes, buy a bright, flat or round anywhere between a size 10 and 14. Those big boys are the ones artists never get around to buying.

It’s easy to wipe out tiny brushes. This small bright and even tinier round are perfect for detail. Princeton has rebranded these brushes as Snap! But they’re the same excellent quality that the series 9700 has always provided.

I have a collection of very expensive watercolor brushes but the ones I continually grab are Princeton Neptunes. This nifty travel kit would make any watercolor painter happy.

This Catalyst wedge is lots of fun with any heavy-body paint.

Eric Jacobsen, that incomparable mark-maker, got me a Princeton Catalyst W-06 wedge. You can’t be precise, so it’s a great tool for loosening up your brushwork. In fact, the whole series of these wedges are fun. They’re meant for any heavy-body paints, including oil, acrylic and encaustic.

If I could carry only one watercolor travel brush, it would be an Escoda Reserva Kolinsky-Tajmyr Pocket Brush. It’s compact, comes in a protective tube, and makes an outstanding range of marks. A close second at a lower price point are the Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin Travel Brushes. A hat tip to Heather Evans Davis for introducing me to them.

Gouache is a versatile and portable medium that’s appealing to artists in any medium. I did this when I ran out of painting boards while stranded in Argentina.

Gouache and other colorful things

Many painters are interested in experimenting with gouache, and for good reason-its results are completely on-trend. Schmincke Horadam is a fabulous, high-pigment brand, but a starter set runs a hundred bucks. Instead, you could make up a primary-color kit of Titanium White, Lemon Yellow, Scarlet (Pyrrole Red), Helio Blue (Phthalo), and Ivory Black. That’s everything necessary for limited-palette painting. M. Graham has a primary-color starter set that’s significantly less expensive and nearly as luscious.

A great combo for mixed medium experimentation is oil paint and oil pastels. Sennelier is the clear quality winner in oil pastels. A landscape or iridescent starter kit will give your artist enough information to know if he likes the combination.

Similarly, you can add chalk pastels to watercolor or acrylic paintings. My preferred soft pastel is Unison; a starter color kit is enough to experiment with. I love NuPastel for hard pastels; a set of 24 will provide a full range of color options. Of course, watercolor pencils are fun for everyone. I like Staedtler Karat Aquarell and Faber-Castell Albrecht DĂĽrer Magnus, which are fatter than usual.

Cheap pochade boxes are a false economy. This field kit was pricey, but it’s put up with an incredible amount of abuse, including saltwater, sand, deserts, heat and freezing temperatures.

Easels: the good, the bad, and the ugly

If your painter struggles with a knock-off Gloucester-style easel, you can make him or her ecstatic by buying the Take-It Easel, which costs twice as much and is worth every penny. After breaking one of the cheap ones and then buying a second one that arrived warped, I shelled out for the real thing. I’m glad I did.

As a teacher, I see a lot of pochade boxes and easels, and can steer you away from the bad ones as well as recommend good ones. I’ve had a version of the Mabef Field Painting Easel for decades and recommend it highly as a good starter tool for plein air. It has a swing head so can be used for oils and watercolor. The Leder Easel is simple, effective and light-weight. Tell Ed I sent you and he’ll give you 10% off (and, no, I don’t get a spiff for that).

I use an EasyL Pro on a carbon-fiber Manfrotto tripod with a ball head. It is very lightweight and has survived incredible abuse (including saltwater), but it’s not a cheap combination (and thank goodness it wasn’t in my painting kit when that went missing.) I’m getting an EasyL Lite soon, which will replace my home-built aluminum pochade box for backpacking.

For studio work, I swear by the Testrite #700 Professional Studio Easel. I use its little brother, the Testrite #500, for students. The difference between the two models is in the maximum size canvas they’ll accept. They’re aluminum so they don’t warp or crack. I’ve had them for decades. The only maintenance I’ve ever done was replace parts that wandered off.

My traffic cones ride in the back of my truck, but if you drive a smaller vehicle, you’ll want the collapsible kind.


The danger of “park and paint” plein air is other drivers. One of the nicest gifts I ever received was a pair of safety cones. This set of collapsible ones are reflective, come with LED lights, and will fit easily in a car trunk.

I have an Artwork Essentials umbrella, but I’m equally impressed with the Shade Buddy. However, for many situations, I find a beach umbrella works just as well.

I have more than one taboret cabinet but my current favorite is this simple six drawer rolling cart. Mine sits under my teaching desk and holds all the art supplies I might need while teaching. Watch for discounts; I got mine on a Woot daily deal.

If your artist is starting to frame and sell work, the Fletcher FrameMaster point driver will save him or her a world of aggravation. Mine is decades old and still works fine.

I’d be remiss in not mentioning Rowan Branch Brush Soap. My daughter Mary makes it for me, and I’ve shared it with enough other artists to know that it really works.

This page contains affiliate links for some but not all products. If you choose to make a purchase after clicking a link, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

My 2024 workshops:

Best Buds

Best Buds, 11X14, oil on canvasboard, $1087 framed includes shipping and handling in continental US.

I’ve painted two paintings of spinning children’s rides, Best Buds, above, and Tilt-A-Whirl. Both were an attempt to capture something of the innocence of carnival rides and the warm summer days of our youth.

Occasionally, someone will question whether I did them from life, because they think it’s impossible to paint something spinning. It is doable, although it can be dizzying.

The Adirondack Carousel, which is the subject of this painting, is in Saranac Lake, NY. It features hand-carved woodland animals from the Adirondack Mountains. It was the brainchild of local woodcarver Karen Loffler and took twelve years, countless volunteer hours, and $1.3 million in locally-raised funds.

The result is indistinguishable in craftsmanship from the great carousels that were produced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Yet it’s distinctly local, and clearly beloved by children. John Deer, on the left in my picture, is a particular favorite. The kids told me so.

The pavilion has 24 handcrafted wildlife animals, eighteen of which are on duty at any one time. Do I have a favorite? How could I, when they’re all so perfect? (You can see them here.) I think the black bear, decked out in the colors of the Hudson’s Bay Company point blanket, captured my attention first. But each animal has its own particular charm-except maybe the black fly.

There’s a wheelchair accessible ride in the form of a Chris Craft boat. The overhead scenes of Saranac Lake were painted by local artists (including my friend Sandra Hildreth), as were the floral medallions. A local blacksmith made the weathervane and a local carpenter built the ticket counter. The building was painted and stained by volunteers. The result is distinctly local, happy, and very Adirondack.

The girl is a complete invention, vaguely reminiscent of a kid I knew in Maine named Meredith Lewis (who is now a willowy, beautiful teenager). I debated on the title for quite a while, finally settling on Best Buds. Even if my girl is riding the otter, her heart belongs to John Deer.

Best Buds is oil on archival canvasboard, 11X14 and is in elegant Canadian-made frame with wooden fillet. It lists at $1087, but you can have 10% off it (or any other painting) by using the code THANKYOUPAINTING10.

My 2024 workshops:

Today I’m thankful for the helpers.

Pine Tree State, 6X8, oil on archival canvasboard, $435 framed includes shipping and handling in continental US.

My friend Laura Miner loves to quote Mr. Rogers at me every time there’s a disaster. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

I can’t say I watch much news, scary or otherwise, but I’m keenly aware of the helpers. They always seem to be with me. Most recently, my friend and student Karen Ames learned that my brushes were lost when my painting pack went AWOL in Arizona. She promptly mailed me a beautiful selection of Rosemary hog bristle brushes. “I wasn’t using them and I know you needed them,” she said. I was very touched.

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

Have you ever done a good deed and never received a thank you? When I was 14, my brother was in a crash that killed him, his two classmates, and a passenger in the other vehicle. Our house was pandemonium, so I slipped out and walked to the neighbors. Dear old Mr. and Mrs. Adler took one look at my ashen face and gave me a large glass of brandy. I had no experience with spiritous liquor; I choked and sputtered, but it did make me feel better. Of course, I never thanked them; 14-year-olds are ingrates at the best of times, and that was the worst of times. They’re both gone now, but I’ve never forgotten that simple act of kindness.

Never assume that your small deeds don’t have an impact, or that the recipients aren’t grateful. It may take a snotty teenager decades to realize her indebtedness, but she’ll eventually get there.

It’s not always easy or cheap to be kind. For example, you’re late to work for the third time and the car in front of you is potting along at 20 MPH below the speed limit. (My daughter, who inherited her lead foot from me, says that Maine’s state motto is “35 MPH was good enough for Grandpa, and it’s good enough for me.”) How tempting it is to blow the horn, yell, and tailgate. You finally manage to pass and you realize that the old lady driver has a death-grip on the wheel; she’s the same age your mom would be if she were still alive. You’re suddenly very relieved that you didn’t act like a jerk.

At Rest in Camden Harbor, 12X16, oil on birch, $1159 unframed includes shipping and handling in continental US.

Artists are famously broke. They’re also, paradoxically, among the most generous of people. I left my quinacridone magenta home when I was at the Sedona Plein Air Festival. There was none to be purchased anywhere in town. Casey Cheuvront immediately gave me a big dollop of the closest thing she had, dioxazine purple. Later, Ed Buonvecchio loaned me a tube of magenta. I’ve never run short of something, broken something, or forgotten something that an artist hasn’t immediately stepped forward with an offer to help.

Old Wyoming Homestead, 9×12, oil on archival canvasboard, $696 unframed includes shipping and handling in continental US.

People sometimes talk about ‘paying it forward’ but most helpers aren’t thinking of kindness as a debit/credit sheet. They’re not treating the universe as a giant karmic apparatus that repays their kindnesses with benefits. They’re just being kind. That’s because kindness is not a zero-sum game, but rather something that can fill us to overflowing and never run out.

Today I’m thankful for the helpers. Here’s a discount code for all you helpers, which will give you 10% off any painting on this website: THANKYOUPAINTING10

My 2024 workshops:

This series would not be happening without you

From Step 1: the Perfect Palette

Last year, Laura and I sketched out a seven-part series called Seven Protocols for Successful Oil Painters. Laura had a vision based on the industrial training videos that were part of her prior career. I’ve never watched a training video in my life; the last time I worked for someone else, my instructions were scribbled on foolscap.

I didn’t want to make a tedious video where I did a long, uninterrupted demo. They always make me fall asleep. Laura wanted a series of shorts that explained a specific concept. Each would be followed by exercises and a quiz.

I had no idea how to record video, and no clue how to edit it when it was done. However, I did have a good SLR and audio recorder. My son introduced me to DaVinci Resolve. We bought a subscription to Canva and extra storage on Google. Once we had all those things in place, we realized we had no idea what we were doing.

From Step 2: the Value Drawing

There is nothing more disheartening than spending an afternoon painting, only to find that you hadn’t focused the camera, or the light was wrong, or you forgot to start the audio recorder. If there was a mistake to be made, I’ve made it.

Our goal was to finish all seven classes by the end of the year, but as the summer season heated up, I lost my momentum. We will probably finish the fifth one by Christmas, and the other two by the end of winter. Once that’s done, you’ll no longer need me; you can learn to paint by doing the exercises.

From Step 3: The Correct Composition

This series would not be happening without you. That starts with the people who have asked me over the year to write a book; I got it outlined and then stalled. The outline for that book became the outline for this series.

Then there are the people who beta tested the first class. You gave me incisive and pertinent feedback, which improved later classes. A few loyal testers have been with me through every episode, and I’m especially grateful for you.

I’m grateful for the early adopters of the series. At times I wondered whether Laura and I had lost our minds in devoting a year to such a risky venture. But many of you have taken them, and you seem to have found them valuable. “I took Carol’s online class modules prior to the [Rockport Immersive] workshop and found them to be great preparation,” Beth D. wrote. “I don’t think I could have absorbed all that complicated and practical information while painting plein air on location. The modules were very brief and concise yet enlightening.” Thank you, Beth.

From Step 4: the Essential Grisaille

In appreciation of you all, here’s a code for 30% off one of the Seven Protocols for Successful Oil Painters. Choose from:





Just type THANKYOU30 in the coupon code. And thank you so much!

My 2024 workshops:

How I fell in love (with a boat)

American Eagle in Drydock, 12X16, $1159 unframed.

Shortly after I moved to Maine, I presented myself at the North End Ship Yard in Rockland to ask if I could paint. It was spring, and the annual rite of fit out was just starting. This is when the windjammers are lifted out of the water, their hulls scraped and painted, and below-the-waterline repairs done. Large wooden vessels spend all year in the water, and each boat spends just a few days on the rails. If they pass their Coast Guard inspections, they are allowed to sail another season.

It was there that I met Captain John Foss of American Eagle, and Captains Doug and Linda Lee of Heritage. They’ve co-owned the shipyard for almost fifty years. They are tolerant of artists and allowed me to mooch around the yard all spring.

When that season ended, Captain John said, “Why don’t you go out with us on our last cruise? You can see what this is all about.” I foolishly brought oil paints, which got all over his beautifully-finished deck, but he’s a very even-tempered fellow.

Schooner and double rainbow. That’s almost as good as a unicorn!

The next year, we started our watercolor workshop, because the paint is easier to get off the fittings.

I think American Eagle is the best-looking schooner in the Maine Windjammer fleet. (The ketch Angelique comes a close second.) I’m not saying that just because I sail on her. Some schooners, like Angelique and Heritage, are modern reproductions of 19th century designs. Others are repurposed 19th century working boats. They tend towards the ruffles and ribbons of the Edwardian age.

In contrast, American Eagle was built in 1931, part of the last generation of the Gloucester schooner fishing fleet. She has an elegant, austere silhouette. I’d almost call her Art Deco, she’s so sleek. The graceful arc of her prow, which is all that shows in American Eagle in Dry Dock, is a hint that the whole of her is equally graceful.

That first fit out impressed me with the amount of sheer, hard graft the captains put in readying their boats for the water. Of course, they don’t do it alone; each year they get a new crop of youngsters working as deckhands or messmates. (If I’d known such a gig existed when I was 18 or 21, my life would have been very different.)

Trina Ross, Savra Frounfelker, and Donna Gray playing at ‘Three Men in a Boat.’

Before they ever go out, these hands scrape, strip, varnish, paint, caulk, lug, climb… in short, any difficult physical labor you can imagine, they do. And the captains are right there with them, even up past an age when any sane person would have retired.

What I didn’t realize was that life on the water is as strenuous as life in the winter. Not only does the crew handle the ship (and there are no labor-saving devices on board), they also prepare meals and serve passengers. They take turns staying awake at night to keep watch, because the schooners anchor in deep water.

Everything is done by hand on a windjammer. That’s Mike Prairie holding the line.

Two years ago, Eagle went out with a new captain, Tyler King, who is the same age as my youngest kid. I’d sailed with him as John’s mate, but that’s different from having all the responsibility for boat, crew and passengers on his young shoulders. On our first cruise together, I watched him do a quick evasive maneuver with utter calm and competence. He’s an excellent sailor and a sharp cookie.

The chances that I can convince my husband I need a sailboat are slim to nil. Realistically, I can’t even take out the skiff I own. But I’m blessed to be able to go cruising during my watercolor workshop, and I don’t have to do any of the heavy lifting.

Remember to bookmark December 1 for our first Virtual First Friday, starting at 7 PM. I think it’s going to be a gas.

My 2024 workshops: