So you want to paint in Maine

Tell me what you want to paint and I’ll tell you where to go.
Cliff below Owls Head, by Carol L. Douglas, courtesy The Kelpie Gallery.
This afternoon, I’ll show Poppy Balser around my few miles of Maine coastline. It’s the best fun two artists can have.
Belfast lies at the mouth of the Passagassawakeag River. It is a city only in the organizational sense—it has about 6700 people this time of year. Its boom was in the early 19th century, and its mansions and brick-fronted commercial streets reflect that.
Belfast’s real charm to the painter lies in its exceptional harbor access via Harborwalk, which runs along a working boatyard out to the Armistice footbridge. From there, you can see its iconic red tugboats and look back on the harbor from the water side (courtesy of the footbridge).
The Three Graces, by Carol L. Douglas, courtesy Camden Falls Gallery.
Just south of Belfast is Bayside, founded as the Northport Wesleyan Grove Camp Meeting in 1848. At one time, it drew thousands of the faithful to its 30 acres of oceanfront. Today, it’s a sleepy hamlet of historic beachfront cottages, most built between 1870 and 1920. There are no services, no stores, and no stoplights.
Lincolnvilleis low to the ground, a beach fronting its main street, so it has the whiff of more southerly climes. My favorite place to paint here is the mouth of the Ducktrap River, which snakes into Penobscot Bay around a gravel bar.
Poppy will have seen Camden, one of the great summer colonies along the coast. It’s famous for its schooners and pleasure boats. Many of these will be wrapped for the season. But there’s always something to paint in this harbor.
Rockport Autumn Day, by Carol L. Douglas (private collection)
I don’t even need to go that far. Rockport’s fishing fleet is clustered in the mouth of our harbor, bounded by beautiful old buildings and a working boatyard. It’s one of the prettiest villages on the Maine coast.
But if Poppy wants to paint trawlers, she’ll have to go south to Rockland’s Municipal Fish Pier. We could paint at the North End Shipyard or the city’s famous lighthouse. Below the Apprentice Shop, there’s a great view of the working harbor. It’s a city famous for its art, from the Farnsworth Art Museumand Center for Maine Contemporary Art to its innumerable commercial galleries. Like Belfast, it has a beautiful downtown.
American Eagle in Drydock, by Carol L. Douglas, courtesy Camden Falls Gallery.
The St. George Peninsula, however, is my favorite place to paint in this area. We can start at Owls Head, with its lighthouse and beautiful waterscapes in every direction. There’s a good angle on its fishing fleet from Lighthouse Road. Down the road is South Thomaston. The Weskeag River passes through it, changing character with the tide. From Spruce Head to Port Clyde, this peninsula has some of the best rocky shoreline south of Acadia. We might slip down to Clark Island, or over to Long Cove. 
Tenant’s Harbor is a place I haven’t painted enough. It has a lobster pound, a fishing fleet, an inlet and beautiful architecture. Mosquito Harboris lined with low marshes. Then there’s Drift Inn beach, and the Marshall Point Lighthousebefore we get to Port Clyde. This is another famous beauty spot, with a great fishing harbor visible from many angles. It’s also where we catch the ferry to Monhegan.
Lobster Pound at Tenants Harbor, by Carol L. Douglas, courtesy The Kelpie Gallery.
That represents slightly more than 40 miles of driving, but it’s enough to keep a painter busy for a lifetime. Consider, then, that the Maine coast is about 5000 miles long. All the landscape painters in America could come here and we’d never fully capture its infinite variety.

Heading north in slow stages

Frozen paints…
…lead to a frozen sketch.
A week ago today, I drove up the Maine coast in slow stages. Maine is beautiful in winter, but it’s not the same kind of beauty as in August. Mid-coast Maine and Rochester have about the same winter temperatures. (As here, it gets colder the farther away from open water you go.) But there’s far more winter sun in Maine, and it creates the illusion of warmth.
Belfast tugs, last summer. That’s my student Brad Van Auken’s painting start.
I stopped in Belfast, ME for groceries, a gallery call, and a few moments of sketching at the harbor. Belfast often has tugs under repair in its boatyard, and it is a pretty place even in January. I pulled out my watercolor sketch kit and started a fast sketch of the pretty red boathouse. When my paints froze in the pan, it was a sign that I should move on.
North of Ellsworth, US 1 becomes a much quieter, more contemplative road.
After Ellsworth, ME (the turn-off to Bar Harbor), US 1 becomes a much quieter road, especially in winter. My goal was to arrive in Winter Harbor by dusk.  After a quick trip out to Schoodic Point to catch the winter sun setting over the ocean, I settled in for the night.
Sun setting over Schoodic Point.
Not wanting to head into Winter Harbor for a pub meal, I was forced to cook myself dinner. I reminded myself that wine goes with everything, and soldiered on.
Wine goes with everything.
Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park in 2015 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops! Download a brochurehere.

Beautiful, artistic Maine

Camden and Mt. Battie, by Carol L. Douglas
Tomorrow morning, I’m going to the Belfast Creative Coalition’s annual meeting. I’m going because I’m interested in a Land Trust proposal, but mostly to satisfy my curiosity.
Belfast is a city of 6,800 people, located in a county of about 38,000 people. Yet Belfast has enough art galleries to have a Fourth Friday gallery walk, and the Coalition could put together a Columbus Day Farm and Art tour with more than a hundred venues.
Visit Castine, population 1300, and you’ll be given this map of attractions.
Belfast is just one of many art cities on the Maine Coast. There are Rockport and Rockland, which is now home to the Center for Maine Contemporary Art and the Farnsworth. Camden, and Damariscotta are also chock full of galleries, teaching spaces, and studios.
The list of painters with feet in both Maine and New York is extensive and includes Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Childe Hassam, Rockwell Kent, George Bellows, Frederic Church, and Thomas Cole. For them—like me—the draw isn’t primarily the art community, but the land and sea themselves: the ceaseless rise and fall of the tide, the granite outcroppings, and the dark pines.
Damariscotta, by Carol L. Douglas
Later this week I’m heading up to Schoodic to scope out painting sites for next year’s workshop. The class is about half full now, so I recommend that if you’re interested, you get in touch with me soon.

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2015 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops! Download a brochure here.

Lesson #1: sunscreen makes a lousy white paint

Three houses, a bad photo of a decent painting by little ol’ me.
It’s a little hard to get an hourly forecast for a specific spot on the Maine coast. It can be pouring in one place and clear in the next town over. However, not only was the National Weather Service calling for rain, my New York buddies were all talking about the whopping deluge they’d just gotten.
Lyn painting the Fort Point lighthouse.
No painting trip to Maine is complete without a lighthouse, and my intention had been for us to paint the Grindle Point Lighthouse on Islesboro. Without knowing exactly when it would start raining, relying on ferry transportation seemed unwise. Instead we drove north to the Fort Point light, where my charges promptly spread themselves across a quarter mile of terrain to paint. That is why I take my bicycle while teaching, although since the grounds include the ruins of a Revolutionary War fort, a mountain bike might have worked better.
Loren learned that the cover on his truck leaks.
The rain held off until  we could regroup at the hotel for a demo, which I did using Sandy’s kit.
Elizabeth and Sandy did some foraging for the painters.
It’s always hard to use someone else’s paint, and I was complaining that hers mixed poorly. That was partially because it’s not good paint, but it turns out that dab of white at the left of her palette was sunscreen, not paint. I’m not asking why it was there.
Dedicated students watching a demo in the rain. “I learned that you oil painters have it easy,” said Virginia.
A demo is a great opportunity to reach painters of all levels. Earlier in the day, I’d talked to Cecilia and Nancy about a new way of setting up their paintings than straight-up drawing. Both are naturally good compositors, but this technique gives more consistent control over the outcome. I was able to demonstrate that.
Nancy’s first attempt at the view.
After a while, Nancy left and went back to her own balcony to finish a painting she’d started earlier. When she was done with that, she painted the same scene again. I loved seeing how she integrated what I’d told her, and how it made the second painting stronger.
Nancy’s post-demo painting of the same view.

Message me if you want information about next year’s programs. Information is available here.

Rain affects people differently. This is the artist formerly known as Brad.


Let’s start at the very beginning

This is Janith’s second-ever painting, of tugboat reflections.

Lynn managed to find a place to paint where her feet could be in the water. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Coghill.

My favorite places to paint are harbors. I love boats of all kinds, I love the rise and fall of the tide, I love the work that goes on in them. Set into the mouth of the Passagassawakeag River, Belfast harbor is as lovely as any harbor on the coast. It is Newark to Camden’s Manhattan: it’s more industrial and less gentrified.
This is Stacey’s second-ever painting, of the tugboats themselves. Whew, what a lot of drawing!

Marjean ran to the art store and bought herself a palette knife at lunchtime. Since it was new, she used it to cut the cheese before resuming painting. 

But boats are not easy to draw, let alone paint, and I have three absolute beginners in this workshop.
Brad floating on the dock.

I have two youngsters with us who are not properly part of the workshop but who are still painting. Here’s Ilse amid the foliage. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Coghill.

A man and his son stopped to see Marjean and were dumbfounded when she said it was her second day painting. “She’s a ringer,” said the father. We laughed. Marjean has painted walls and windowsills and furniture, but never a painting.
And here’s Sophia with her grandmother, Virginia. Both girls are great young artists. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Coghill.
This is Marjean’s second-ever painting, of the boats in the outer harbor.
But as I told him, painting is a learned process, not some kind of magic trick. If you can break down the process into manageable steps, your students do a lot less fumbling. The process differs in different media, but is remarkably similar in different styles. The same rules apply whether the end result is abstraction or fine detail: if you want the paint to stick and the composition to work, you approach painting in a methodical way.

Cecilia dealt with the comings and goings of boats by working on two paintings. When one boat disappeared, she picked up the other canvas.. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Coghill.
Bernard attempted to recreate his missing boat from memory. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Coghill.

Message me if you want information about next year’s programs. Information is available here.

I must be out of my mind

Painting by the light of the moon in beautiful Belfast.
Next time I schedule a full moon, it’s going to be during midweek in my workshop. We tried, we really tried, but we were too befuddled by travel and packing and unpacking to paint last night. Still, it was a lot of fun wandering down to the beach and watching the moonlight sliver the waves.
Bernard Zellar’s watercolor.
Our biggest problem was battery failure. Stacey was using the flashlight app on her cellphone (an app which always cracks me up) and it killed her battery. Nancy’s flashlight battery died. My two halogen flashlights—which never run down their batteries—both went for an amble.
Ain’t it lovely?
Still, I know the position of my paints on my palette, so how hard could painting in the pitch dark be? I blocked in a lovely soft blue-black for the night sky. Someone danced by with a light, and I realized it was actually bright violet.
On top of traveling all day, we’d had a few glasses of wine on the deck. What a fantastic group!
“Sandy, why don’t you finish this for me?” So she did—also without a light. By 9:30 PM we were all ready to call it a night. Tomorrow is the official first day of painting, and we want to be fresh for it.
Message me if you want information about next year’s programs. Information is available here.

Reconnoitering Belfast, day two

Super-fast wee little sketch of tugboats in Belfast harbor. It came to an abrupt end (see below).
One of the tasks I love best is driving around scoping out painting sites for my students.
After stopping at the Fireside Inn to make sure everyone’s arrangements are in order for August, I started ferreting around Belfast proper.
Classic Maine promontory, outside Belfast.
If you’re looking for an archetypal mid-coast Maine community, you’ll look in vain. Every town and city has its own character; this is far more true than, say, the little villages strung like pearls along the Erie Canal. Rockland has an old brick Main Street that marches along its waterfront. Rockport curves around its harbor and ancient, defunct lime kiln. Camden is crammed full of luxury yachts, wooden boats, gracious inns (and cars). Lincolnville is a beach town. Northport looks like nothing from Route 1, but veer off on a side road and you might stumble across Bayside, with its lovely Victorian cottages marching down to the sea.
Quiet Maine moment, outside Belfast.
The Belfast area has been settled since around the time of the Revolutionary War, with the usual burnings and occupations of contested properties during our two wars with the British. In the 19th century, it developed into a shipbuilding center, a legacy still visible in the boatyards on the waterfront.
The risk you always take painting on a waterfront is that someone will park their boat right in front of you before you finish. Oh, well.
As wooden ship building faded at the turn of the century, the local economy shifted to seafood and poultry. Unlike many Maine cities, it wasn’t completely dependent on water transport; a spur from the Maine Central railroad was built in 1871. The poultry business is now gone, but the busy little city is now home to galleries and artists.

Sorry, folks. My workshop in Belfast, ME is sold out. Message me if you want a spot on my waitlist, or information about next year’s programs. Information is available here.

Whew! That nag very nearly got ahead of me!

A running tide, painted by little ol’ me.
As a former newspaper reporter, I’m embarrassed to admit that I posted about my workshop yesterday without including the date. “Who, what, where, why, when and how” was drilled into my head back in the day. But I’ve gone stupid; as I mentioned yesterday, I used to have a manager, but she’s gone to live in a yurt.
The view from the Fireside Inn. Not bad, not bad at all.
I managed to get a brochure and postcard for this workshop printed in record time. Hopefully, it has all the relevant information and is more or less accurate, because I had a lot of them printed.
A painting by one of my 2013 workshop participants, Nancy Woogen, who’s coming back in 2014.
You can either send me an email and I’ll mail one to you, or you can just print one yourself.
The links are hereand here. Isn’t the internet cool?
Here’s the gist of it:

Sea and Sky Workshop
August 10-15, 2014
Based at the Fireside Inn, Belfast, ME

Basic package includes
Five nights lodging at the Fireside Inn on the shores of Penobscot Bay in Belfast, ME.
American-style full breakfast buffet.
Sunday evening welcome reception.
Morning and afternoon instruction, Monday-Friday.
Ferry fare to Isleboro, ME.

Rates
Single accommodations, double-queen room: $803.25* plus $300 instruction fee.
Shared accommodation, double-queen room: $401.63* plus $300 instruction fee.
*Room rental is subject to 8% Maine state sales tax.

Available on request
Instruction only, no accommodation ($300)
Non-painting partner accommodations (at no charge in single room).
Room upgrades.
Private portfolio critique.
Extended stay to tour galleries and museums.

Register now!
Space is limited! Call or text 585-201-1558 or email PleinairBelfast2014@gmail.com.
And that’s me, in Maine last summer. I like this photo!

OK, I’m going to put a cold compress on my head. All this practical thinking has me prostrated in exhaustion.

A great opportunity

Sea and Sky

August 10-15, 2014
Belfast, ME

Ocean, woods, sea, sky, hiking, birds, sea creatures, waves… what’s not to like about painting in Maine?
As regular readers know, I had a fantastic summer teaching in Maine in 2013, which was followed up with a cancer diagnosis that shook my world. This—combined with my manager quitting the industry to go live in a yurt—put my 2014 workshop schedule in limbo.
Drawing at Owl’s Head last summer.
I’m very picky about venues. From the folksy Great Camp ambience of the Irondequoit Inn to the elegant, gourmet experience at Lakewatch Manor, the last few years have been utterly fantastic. And I wasn’t going to settle for less. So I booted around and inquired of my friends in mid-coast Maine about inns, rental properties, etc.
The answer, when it came, was one of those “oh, duh, why didn’t I think of that?” experiences. I’ve got friends who stay at the Fireside Inn in Belfast every time they’re in mid-coast Maine, and they rave about it. All the rooms face Penobscot Bay, so when you’re not painting with me, you can paint from the balcony of your hotel room. And this locale is close enough to Lincolnville that we can scoot over there to the ferry to Isleboro for an island painting experience.

All kinds of boats in the harbor.
Belfast is one of my favorite places, not only because it has a beautiful harbor and an ambiance all its own, but because I love the little restaurant in the Belfast Co-op.  You crustacean-eaters will love Young’s Lobster Pound. We will have no shortage of good eatin’ on this trip, I promise you.
The view from the Fireside Inn… isn’t this absurdly lovely?
In addition to easy access to painting locations, the Fireside Inn is close to many of Maine’s most picturesque coastal villages and harbors, along with Acadia National Park and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory. Nearby Sear’s Island is home to over 160 species of birds. Kayak or take a sailing trip. Dining, shopping and gallery-hopping opportunities are unparalleled.
I think the rates are great too:
Single accommodations, double-queen room: $803.25* plus $300 instruction fee.
Shared accommodation, double-queen room: $401.63* plus $300 instruction fee.
Instruction only, no accommodation: $300.
*Room rental is subject to 8% Maine state sales tax.
One of Camden’s schooners, which we saw while painting in 2013. 
The Belfast Fireside Inn lets two adults and up to three kids stay in a room (each with their own breakfast) at the same rate. So if your significant other wants to come and sit on the terrace and play his euphonium all day, that’s all just fine.
You can add the following:

·         Non-painting partner accommodations at no charge.
·         Room upgrades.
·         Private portfolio critique.
·         Extended stay to tour galleries and museums.

When I say “space is limited,” I’m not pulling your chain. Hotel rooms in mid-coast Maine in August are at a premium. I reserved eight on my credit card; I had three commitments to the workshop by dinnertime. And this is the only time I’ll be teaching during summer of 2014. If you’re interested, you really should get in touch with me sooner than later.

 For more information, call or text me at 585-201-1558, or email PleinairBelfast2014@gmail.com.