Fantastic Places and Magical Realms

I chose the title and theme long before I chose the paintings. Looking at them together in my studio, I thought, they’re oddly autobiographical.

The Camden Public Library will present “Fantastic Places and Magical Realms” on Saturday, December 11, from 1 to 3 PM. The public is invited.

When Julia Pierce asked me to hold my show over through December at the Camden Public Library, I thought, “what’s the fun in that? We might as well switch it up.” Four weeks is short notice to put together a show, but I have a secret stash of quirky paintings. They’re things I painted to amuse myself, or to think through an idea that was on my mind.

Many people commented that Welcome Back to Real Life—which I’m taking down tomorrow—was grounded in mid-coast Maine. They were easily-recognized scenes, with a sense of place. “It’s the Maine I grew up with,” said one visitor.

The Late Bus, oil on canvasboard, $435 framed. 

For this show, I wanted to get as far as possible from that reality. I was looking for themes that are common to all of us, no matter where we live. Some started as plein air paintings that went haywire along the way. Some are real places that could be anywhere. Some are the product of my own imagination.

I could have titled this show, “A look into the recesses of the cluttered cabinet I call my mind.” It’s less polished and more visceral than the work I showed last month.

My classes are focused on narrative painting right now—painting that tells a story that’s greater than mere pictorial prettiness. I tried to select work for this show that operates within that idea, although few of them actually contain figures.

Best Buds, oil on canvasboard, $1087 framed.

Don’t expect Disney here. I’m probably the least-whimsical person in the world. Asked to do a series on Holy Week for children twenty years ago, I produced a set of Stations of the Cross that are black-and-white, gritty, blood and gore.

I’m more influenced by Renaissance genre painting. It depicts everyday life and ordinary people. But they’re never real places or real people, just stories played out in paint. They often tell a folk tale or relate a moral precept.

Thus, a shipwreck, to me, is more than just a bunch of rusty stuff strewn along a beach. It’s a fable about the inevitable end of all earthly endeavor, including my own.

Red buds and red osier, 12X16, oil on canvasboard, $1449 framed.

But striving is built into our human character, and we have to respect that, too.

Boats often stand in for people in my painting. They’re a metaphor for our existence. They remind me of our human journey through life. They sail through all sorts of weather; they are sleek and beautiful, or stout and utilitarian. They can move effortlessly, or they can founder.

Fantastic Places and Magical Realms will open on Saturday, December 11, from 1 to 3 PM. I will be catering with candy again, and I ask—for the sake of my diet—that you eat a little more of it this time.

Welcome back to real life

We’re just beginning to fathom the changes between the pre-COVID and post-COVID worlds.

The last time I was in the Picker Room of the Camden Public Library was for an opening for my pal Peter Yesis. That was the last opening the library had before COVID shut it down, programs coordinator Julia Pierce told me recently.

I’d recently seen my old friend Christine Long at an art opening in Rochester, NY. She’s an epidemiologist, and she muttered that she hoped she’d be able to retire “before COVID hits.” That gave me pause, because Christine is a very smart woman. Until then, I assumed COVID was going to be a flash-in-the-pan, like avian flu had been.

Termination dust, oil on canvasboard, 6×8, $435

It was, however, still a blip on the horizon on the evening of Peter’s opening. That night, Ken DeWaard introduced me to the ‘elbow bump.’ I thought it was funny, but I’ll probably never shake a stranger’s hand again. That’s only one small change between the eras we might call pre-COVID and post-COVID.

That week was the last week I spent in what I might call ‘old time.’ The next Thursday I flew to Argentina, and all hell broke loose. People have asked me why we still went when COVID was marching across the globe. The answer is, simply, that our own government said it was safe to travel. 24 hours later, they changed their minds.

Owl’s Head, 18×24, oil on linenboard, $2318

The calendar notation anno Domini (AD) tells us that something profound happened at that moment that changed the course of human history. No, COVID isn’t on the same scale as the birth of Christ, but it seems to have made lasting changes in our culture. We’re still just beginning to fathom what they are.

It’s both fitting and passing strange that I’m the first artist scheduled in what I hope will be a long, uninterrupted line of post-COVID openings at the library. My show is called Welcome back to real life and it will be up in the Picker Room for the month of November.

Belfast Harbor, oil on canvasboard, 14×18, $1594

The opening will be Friday, November 5, from 3:30 to 5:30 PM. The library asks that masks be worn, which is just one small way in which post-COVID life differs from what we knew before.

2020 was an unprecedented challenge for artists, with galleries closing and classes and workshops cancelled. It also created new opportunities. For example, I would never have taught online before. Now I actually prefer it to live classes. It’s an opportunity to work with students from all over the country, and it allows students to hear everything I say one-on-one to their classmates. That’s impossible in a large room or outdoors.

On that subject, my students reminded me yesterday that the new session starts the week of November 8. There are a few openings. My website is undergoing a redesign, which I don’t think will be finished by then, but you can get the general information here, and contact me here to register.

Welcome Back to Real Life; paintings by Carol L. Douglas
Camden Public Library Picker Room
55 Main Street, Camden Maine
Friday, November 5, 3:30-5:30 PM

The show is hanging through the month of November.

Born in blood

Landscape tells us about our existence, our relationships with each other, and ultimately our relationship with God.

Deadwood, 36X48, oil on canvas, Carol L. Douglas
God+Man

Carol L. Douglas Studio
394 Commercial Street
Rockport, ME 04856
Saturday, February 29, 2020
2 to 5 PM

Painting is a solitary business, which gives you plenty of time to think. At the same time, it’s a form of communication, so it ought to attract people with something to say. That creates a constant pull between seeing and saying, making and showing.
I do as much of my painting as I can outdoors. That inevitably gives me time to think about what the view in front of me means. Landscape tells us about our existence, our relationships with each other, and ultimately our relationship with God. This visible record is subtle, but once you start to notice it, you realize it’s everywhere.
The work in this display was made for an invitational show at the Davison Gallery at Roberts Wesleyan College. It was conceived as a faith statement. This isn’t too much of a reach. God is obviously there in every tree, cloud and sunset. Man is nearly as ubiquitous.
All flesh is as grass, 36X48, oil on canvas, Carol L. Douglas
This was just before I moved to Maine for good. I was working summers here teaching and painting. In mid-October, I went home to Rochester to paint the work for this show. What wasn’t on my schedule was a second cancer diagnosis.
I made my canvases during the four-week recovery period between surgeries. As always, I drenched the canvases with Naphthol Red. This is an excellent undertone for landscape, and my students will recognize it as standard practice for my plein air painting. However, the effect of all that red on those looming large canvases was making me slightly queasy.
Something wasn’t quite right. I was bleeding internally, and in early February I hemorrhaged. This same thing had happened during my cancer treatment in 2000; in both cases, blood loss laid me low in a way my treatment never did.
I ultimately realized there was a connection between this health crisis and the paintings, which were proceeding by starts and fits. Over the summer, I had sketched each canvas out in smaller form. It was supposed to be a simple matter of gridding them up and painting big, but I was having trouble getting them done in the allotted time. In the end, I let the canvas show through, because they were literally born in blood.
Beauty instead of ashes, 36X48, oil on canvas, Carol L. Douglas
Included in this show are several scenes familiar to midcoast Maine viewers, including northern lights over Owls Head and the lime tailings at Rockport.
By the Civil War, midcoast Maine was producing more than a million casks of lime a year. The evidence of this industry is still all over our communities, including in the lime tailings along the Goose River. Although this lime is benign, it is a symbol of greater damage elsewhere. Environmental damage is not just a metaphor for sin; it’s a form of sin itself. The damage take a long time to heal.
The opening is on Saturday, February 29, from 4 to 6 PM, at my studio, 394 Commercial Street, Rockport. The public is invited.

Censored. Me. Really.

I’ll be presenting the nudes that got me closed down this Saturday, from 4 to 6 PM. You’re invited.

In 2014, I was part of a duo show at a university gallery in Rochester, NY with my pal Stu Chait. Stu was doing large abstract watercolors; I was showing equally large nudes. The gallery is enormous, and our show was equally vast: a body of sixty pieces sprawled across three rooms.
I didn’t think much of about edginess in my own work; after all, my own kids had seen these canvases leaning against the walls of my studio for the year in which the work was produced. But I am not much for coy. My work dealt largely with the marginalization of women, exploring issues like religious submission, bondage, slavery, prostitution, obesity, and exploitation. It was serious, and it got a serious reception, featured in the university news and a city newspaper.
Then, college administrators saw the show and closed it down. The paintings have not been shown as a body of work since.
The cynic in me thinks that if I painted Odalisques there would have been no objection. Young people are exposed to sexually-charged but stupid images every day; in fact, this is part of the problem facing women today.
We’re accustomed to market-driven nudity and violence. Consider Kylie Jenner’s Glossesads. I’ve seen two versions, both of which feature Kylie and two other barely-clothed light-skinned women killing dark-skinned black men. They’re offensive to many values we like to talk about, but in 2018, Jenner was estimated to be worth $900 million.
We not only tolerate but glorify the cardinal sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. On the other hand, we are leery of serious conversations, we don’t like serious effort, and we vilify those with whom we disagree.
After years of stepping over these paintings in my store room, I’ve decided to look at them carefully once more. Censored. Me. Reallyopens this Saturday from 4-6 at Carol L. Douglas Studio, 394 Commercial Street, Rockport. I will give a short presentation on the subject, the process, and the impact of censorship on my work. I hope to see you there.

A roadmap to my party

This was sent to me by children’s book author and artist Bruce McMillan, who noted that my December 7 Open House and Studio Party celebrates painter Stuart Davis’ 125th birthday (December 7, 1894).
If going to the Open House make sure to gas up for the trip. The ghost of Stuart Davis may be going with you.
Gas Station, also known as Garage No. 1, Stuart Davis, 1917, courtesy Hirshhorn Museum
Make sure you drive to Rockport ME and not Rockport MA. Oh ME, Oh MA!
Report from Rockport, Stuart Davis, 1940, courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art
Go past the yellow house; there has to be a yellow house somewhere along the drive. [Editor’s note: it’s next door.]
Private Way, Stuart Davis, c. 1916, courtesy Christie’s Auction House

“Davis and his family first went to Gloucester in the summer of 1915, attracted by John Sloan’s enthusiasm. Eventually, his parents acquired a house on Mount Pleasant Avenue, where both Davis and his sculptor mother kept studios; over the next twenty years Davis would spend extended periods on Cape Ann. Gloucester imagery would permeate almost all of the work of this avowedly-urban painter for years to come, but if the accoutrements of the working harbor held a lifelong fascination for him, the particulars of Gloucester space and geography were crucial to his early evolution.” (Stuart Davis: A Catalogue Raisonné, vol. I, New Haven, Connecticut, 2007, p. 55)

Hope it doesn’t snow on Stuart’s 125th birthday, that the driving will be clear and dry.
City Snow Scene, Stuart Davis, 1911, courtesy Christie’s Auction House
Davis combined the principles of Henri’s teaching with the technique and palette of his contemporary and close friend, John Sloan. Davis succeeds in rendering a dreary winter’s day in lower Manhattan. With a generous application of whites, Davis works up the surfaces to portray the texture of the snow which is juxtaposed with the more carefully applied reds to develop the architecture in the background. Broad, heavily applied strokes of black are the only device Davis employs to represent the pedestrians with the exception of a few simple touches of orange that delineate the faces of the primary figures in the foreground. Vigorous dashes of greyish-white provide a sense of the blustery, swirling snow, the drama of which is underscored in the foreground figures who are bracing themselves against the elements. Davis employs strong linear perspective to capture the broad avenue and achieves spatial effect by placing two figures in the foreground marking the entry point into the composition. To carefully define the space, Davis uses planar structures along the left side and staggered vertical lampposts and industrial smokestacks to establish depth. Figures are also used to demarcate space intervals in the scene as they are integrated at varying points in the composition.

Don’t stop to gawk at or sketch any boats along the way; you’ll see boats in Carol’s art once you get there.

Sketchbook 19-7: Rosemarie, Boston, Stuart Davis, ink on paper, 1938, courtesy Cape Ann Museum
Hey, skip the boats—really—and head up to heights above the harbor on Route 1.
Boats, Stuart Davis, 1930, courtesy the Phillips Collection
At last you’ll be at the artist’s studio… Carol’s, not Stuart’s.
Studio Interior, Stuart Davis, 1917, courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art
There will be crowds and crowds, though no servant girls, sorry; it’s self-service. What do you think this is? A restaurant?
Servant Girls, Stuart Davis, 1913, watercolor and pencil on paper, exhibited at the Armory Show. Courtesy Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute
The Association of American Painters and Sculptors originally planned to exhibit only the work of members and those they invited. However, in response to a growing chorus of queries, they asked interested artists to submit works to the Domestic Art Committee for selection. Davis’s work was chosen, and at twenty-one years old, he was one of the youngest artists represented in the Armory Show. In later years, Davis described the 1913 exhibition as a turning point in his artistic development. He called it “the greatest single influence I have experienced in my work,” which prompted him “to become a ‘modern artist.’”

And as the sign says: You Are Here. While everyone wonders, how does Stuart know?

Want to read more of Bruce’s writing? Sign up for his daily postings here. And, my Hidden Holiday Sale has gone public!

Two opportunities to hang out with me next Saturday

I have an opening in Tenants Harbor and am teaching a free modeling class in Camden. If you still miss me after that, it’s your own darn fault!

Glade, by Carol L. Douglas, watercolor on Yupo paper
There will be wine
I’m setting up right now for an opening next weekend, September 7, from 5 to 7 PM. This is a duo show with Midge Colemanat the Jackson Memorial Library in Tenants Harbor, ME. I’ll be showing work I did last September at the Joseph Fiore Art Center. These are eight sets of large paintings. One is in watercolor, its mate is in oils, and each pair is of the same subject. They address the question of how working in alternating media, back-to-back, would influence an oil painter. A year later, I have the answer, which I’ll share with you on Saturday evening.
This is the first time they’ll be shown as an integrated set, and the first time I’ve shown watercolors in a serious way. Students are sometimes surprised that I teach watercolor, but it’s a delightful medium that I’ve been painting in since I was very young. Watercolor has the advantage of being very portable and light.
Round Pond, by Carol L. Douglas, oil on canvas
That isn’t true of these paintings. The size was dictated by a watercolor full sheet, so both the oils and watercolors are 24X36” in dimension.
The Jackson Memorial Library is a gem—a perfect place to display artwork. It’s a new building set close to the school so that kids can walk a short distance through the woods for their library classes. It was tailor-made to be a great art space.
Saturday, September 7, 5-7 PM
Jackson Memorial Library
71 Main Street
Tenants Harbor, ME 04860
Michelle reading, by Carol L. Douglas, oil on canvas
You should be in the pictures!
Earlier, I’ll be teaching a free introduction to figure drawing for models and artists, offered by the Knox County Art Society at the Camden Lions Club. If you’ve ever toyed with the idea of being a figure model but are unsure about what it entails, this is for you. Artists get the free benefit of being there to draw along.
I’m an experienced figure teacher, but this is first time I’ve ever taught models how to strut their stuff. I’m working with an experienced figure model. She will demonstrate short, medium, and long poses. Prospective student models don’t have to doff their clothing for this session.
Artists interested in sampling a life drawing session are also invited to attend, to both observe the instruction and to draw.
I’ll be covering the history, practice and protocols of nude modeling; gestural/athletic poses; reclining, crouching, bending, standing poses; changing direction; considerations of negative space; torso twisting; working with the lighting; positioning of limbs; facial expressions; using props; and incorporating fabric folds.
Couple, by Carol L. Douglas, oil on canvas
If they wish, students completing the session will be considered for paid modeling assignments for Camden Life Drawing.
The session runs from 9:30 to noon and is free to all; the suggested donation for artists is $10. Advance registration is requested. Contact David Blanchard, 207-236-6468.
Saturday, September 7, 9:30 AM to noon
Camden Lions Clubhouse
10 Lions Lane
Camden, ME 04843

Monday Morning Art School: How to throw a party for 200

The artist’s job is to give linear thinkers a respite from their own minds. That starts with your opening.

The artist dancing with her eldest child.

Great gallerists also know how to throw great parties. Regular openings and developing a circle of fans is part of their job. There’s no value in having all that work assembled in one place if nobody ever stops by to see it. Selling—whether it’s art or cars—requires a person to be likeable.

That’s true for the artist too. Art-making may be a solitary job, but the artist needs to be convivial to sell his or her own work. I’ve thrown more brawls for a hundred or more people than I can count. Actually, I’d far prefer to do that than to have you over for dinner, which terrifies me.

An opening done by gallerist Sue Leo at Davison Gallery, for my show God + Man. Photo courtesy 
Iván Ramos .

The invitation is the key

Whether you call it an ‘invitation’ or an ‘advertisement’, the way you announce your event is key. It tells your intended guests the tone of the event, and hints at what kind of good time they’ll have. Graphic design is ruthlessly trend-driven. Spend time on Pinterest and Etsy and pay particular attention to fonts. They’re as fashion-sensitive as shoes.
Hound your guests
You’ll find yourself repeating, “Are you coming to my party?” over and over for weeks. This is a good thing. They won’t be excited if you’re not excited. Scarcity marketing—as perfected by the old Studio 54 in New York—is a great way to pack the house, but it only works if you’ve already demonstrated that your parties are worth attending.

Sue Baines’ hors d’œuvres are not like those in any other gallery.

Play to your strengths

Sue Lewis Baines of the Kelpie Gallery is a wonderful cook, and the hors d’œuvre at her openings could make me rise from my deathbed. Howard Gallagher of Camden Falls Gallery knows how to assemble great bands for a dance party. I can bake. Know your strengths and capitalize on them.
Make a budget and stick to it
I saw the most wonderful fairyland floral arrangements at the Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel three weeks ago. I whipped out my phone and snapped several shots, and then set them aside. To change my decorating scheme at this late date would cost a small fortune. A budget set in stone is the only way to survive to throw another party.

A beer-themed opening of my students’ work at VB Brewery in Fairport, NY.

Work way in advance

Procrastination is the worst possible habit for the host or hostess of a party. I have been working on this upcoming one for months.
Be surprising
Good taste is so highly overrated. What’s important is that people laugh and have a good time. If they can’t figure out how ceramic dogs, moose, and woodland animals go together, they might be overthinking this. The artist’s job, after all, is to give linear thinkers a respite from their own minds.
Ask for help
Nobody can throw a party for 200 without help, so when someone offers to help, smile and accept gracefully. Hire out what you can.
And on that note, I’m shuffling off to Buffalo for my third daughter’s wedding. It’s about time for you to consider your summer workshop plans. Join me on the American Eagle, at Acadia National Park, or at Genesee Valley this summer.

Challenge your assumptions

This evening I will stroll over to PopUp 265: A Fresh ArtSpace in Augusta for the opening of Barbra Whitten’s The Usual Suspects. Since I helped her do the two-person part of her installation a few weeks ago, I’m looking forward to the final project.
A graceful old storefront on Water Street, PopUp265’s plate glass windows act like a kind of fish bowl, magnifying the contents. When I last saw the work, it hadn’t spread over the floor yet. How it’s going to work with a crowd is an interesting question.

The figures were painted in an intentionally amorphous way, giving the viewer lots of room to personify them in their own imagination. I immediately identified with one who seemed to be dressed in evening wear. I felt uneasy seeing this figure later with a pentagram on her chest, for a pentagram is anathema to my religious values. Will tonight’s visitors see past the symbols to personalize the figures, or will they be stopped cold by the symbols? Since this question is at the heart of the work, I’m curious to watch the interactions.
Whitten’s earlier piece, now at the Maine Holocaust and Human Rights Center.
Whitten based her figure on a piece she did six years ago as a student at University of Maine at Augusta (UMA). This piece is currently on exhibit at the Maine Holocaust & Human Rights Center at UMA, in Equal Protection of the Laws: America’s Fourteenth Amendment.
The piece has particular resonance with the current crisis in American politics, where we seem to be interacting with labels instead of people. As Whitten’s artist statement says:
This work invites us to…
…EXAMINE important issues;
…REFLECT on our positions;
…IDENTIFY our values;
…CHALLENGE our assumptions;
…ACKNOWLEDGE our prejudices;
…CONFRONT our fears;
…RECOGNIZE our shortcomings;
…ADMIT our failures;
…ACCEPT responsibility for our choices;
…CONSIDER alternative viewpoints;
…ASK difficult questions;
…SHARE our experiences;
…EXPRESS our feelings;
…LISTEN to each other;
…LEARN from each other;
…FIND the good in each other;
…STAND UP for each other;
… APPRECIATE our differences;
…WORK for social justice;
    and
…CHANGE our world. 

PopUp265 is located at 265 Water Street, Augusta, ME.  There are two artist’s receptions: from noon to 1 PM today and 6-7 PM this evening.

Last week to see these paintings

 Final week! It’s been a good show and well-received, but it comes down November 1. If you want to see it, I’ll happily meet you there.
Address
Gallery Salon & Spa
780 University Ave
Rochester, NY 14607
Hours
Tuesday-Thursday 11am-8pm
Friday 11am-7pm
Saturday 9am-3pm

Why am I quoting Joyce Kilmer?

There is something about this show that is a milestone for me; I’ve finally realized that painting is not perfectible, and in fact I LIKE it that way. I felt no compulsion to “hide my mistakes” or even finish this work. It’s very raw work, and because of that, it is in some way very powerful. I’m actually thrilled with how it’s come out.

And of course you’re invited. If you can’t read the above, it says:

Please join us Saturday evening
for the opening of

ImPERFECTION
Figure and landscape paintings of Carol L. Douglas

Gallery Salon and Spa
780 University Avenue
Rochester, NY 14607
(585) 271-8340
September and October, 2012
Opening reception:
Saturday, September 1, 2012
6 to 10 PM