How not to pack for a painting trip

I love travel but loathe packing. My clothes take me fifteen minutes or so, as one pair of paint-stained clamdiggers is interchangeable with any other. It’s the tools, paints and supplies that require thought.  I always print out my student supply list as a starting point. (You can find a copy here.)
I had unexpected company on the weekend. That meant I was even less prepared than usual. Still, with list in hand, I was unlikely to forget anything useful.
I’m on my way to Freeport in the Bahamas to paint with Joelle Feldman and Bobbi Heath. I felt good about my packing job until I saw theirs. Bobbi also works from a list, but hers is separated into “checked luggage” and “carry on.” Bobbi’s painting kit was lost en route to Brittany last year and not recovered until long after she got home. She has learned the painful lesson that some things shouldn’t be checked.
Less attention to my pedicure, more to packing would have helped.
Recently, one of my students arrived at the airport with a new 150 ml tube of paint in her carry-on bag. “Everyone knows you can’t do that,” we think. You’d be surprised at the mistakes you can make if you’re rushed or tired. Mercifully, it was just titanium white instead of a more expensive pigment.
Bearing that in mind, I carefully tucked my paints into my checked luggage. My tools and easel I kept in my carry-on. They are the priciest part of my kit and would be the hardest to replace on the road.
Joelle is a pastel painter. Her entire kit and clothing fit into a carry-on bag. That’s partly because she’s very efficient. Her clothes were vacuum-packed. Bobbi and I have the excuse of being oil painters to explain our extra luggage. We’d also been advised to bring toilet paper and paper towels with us, so our bags were fluffier than normal.
You really packed a half-empty bottle of plonk, Carol?
The first intimation that I might have done a bad job packing came last night when I realized I’d tucked my umbrella into my kit. It’s cumbersome and I never bring it on the road if I can help it. There was no going back, so it is heading to the Bahamas with me. This morning I noticed an odd shape sticking out of my suitcase. Investigating, I found a half-finished bottle of wine. It has been in my luggage since I returned from Canada in October.
Bobbi’s suitcase was far more orderly than mine.
Even we couldn’t face stale red wine before 6 AM. So I rinsed my hair with it.
But my real painting advice for the day is to make sure you put your palette knives, scraper and Leatherman tool in your checked luggage, not your carry-on. The alternative—replacing them or paying for another checked bag—are both expensive, as I now know.
Looking for packing advice? You should probably ask Bobbi or Joelle.

Moving on, or moving back

“Under a milky sky (Hare Bay, Newfoundland),” Carol L. Douglas

I’m happy to announce that as of today, Watch Me Paintreturns to Blogspot. I’d like to thank the Bangor Daily News for the past 17 months of hosting. It’s been a great learning experience, and there are many fine blogs on that platform that I read every day.
Astute readers may have noticed that Watch Me Paint has appeared on several platforms for the past five months. This was market research. The modern internet gives us analytic tools simple enough even for an artist to use. I know who visits my website and where they come from. That information supports what the experts say: when all else is equal, host your own blog. It gives you total control of your brand.
My students have heard me speak of group norming in terms of painting. This is when artists who work closely together influence each other’s style. This is the process by which a painting group becomes a ‘school’. It can be a powerful tool for creating new art movements, or it can be repressive.
For painters, it’s important to find working partners interested in the same questions as you are. That doesn’t mean your work will always look the same. For example, even though he was a founding member of the Group of Seven, Lawren Harris ended up being an abstract painter.
Here in Maine, we haven’t been doing much outdoor group painting recently. Meanwhile, my old friends in Rochester have been out every week. They’re having a rare, snowless winter. So I jumped when Bobbi Heath and Joëlle Feldman invited me to join them to paint in the Bahamas next month. Both of them are interested in the same fundamental questions I am: drawing, color relationships and the simplification of landscape. I expect that tropical climate has far different light than I’m used to, and am going to bring a few pigments that I don’t usually use.
I’m committed to finishing my backlog of Canada paintings before we head out. I’m making slow progress, but I’m starting with the least-finished pieces first.
“Grain Elevators, Saskatchewan,” Carol L. Douglas
Yesterday I worked on a painting started in the tiny village of Hare Bay on the northeast coast of Newfoundland. Hurricane Matthew was moving in. There was a milky sky in the deep gloom of fading light. The lighting seemed to fit the mood of this small, poor, isolated town tucked in under an enormous rocky ledge. It wasn’t until I picked it up again in my studio that I felt the oppressive emptiness of the harbor.
The other painting is of a grain elevator in Neelby, Saskatchewan. This was started in a ghost town now owned by rancher Gordon Kish. Again, the light was fading. There is something immensely silent in that hour before twilight, when the shadows are long and every detail is picked out by the searchlight sun. And yet my painting is hardly still. Who knows why?
This morning it’s 12° F in Neelby and 15° F in Hare Bay. While I love field painting more than anything, there’s a time for central heating, too. 

Holiday greetings from famous artists

Elissa Gore

Elissa Gore
I love getting holiday cards. One of the best things about having so many professional artists among my close friends is the number of cards I get that feature original art. (I seldom send any back, but I do love getting them.) Here’s a small selection from this year’s cache.
The painting at the top is by Elissa Gore. She lives in Manhattan. That is a neat counterpoint to her work, which focuses on serenity. Right now, Elissa seems to be concentrating on things glimpsed through tree screens. That is an interest of mine as well, so I’m curious where she’s going with them.
Renee Lammers

Renee Lammers
Renee Lammers sent me this lovely pen-and-watercolor drawing, which she said she did a long time ago. Added to her note was the suggestion that I try watercolor sometime. In fact, I use watercolor as a sketch medium whenever circumstances don’t allow for oils, such as during my 2015 jaunt to Alaska. Renee lives in Bucksport, and we paint together as often as our schedules allow.
Nancy Woogen

Nancy Woogen
Nancy Woogen didn’t specify what medium she used for the poinsettia above, but she is a master of Golden’s fluid acrylics, so I’m guessing she used them. Nancy is a lifelong resident of the lower Hudson Valley region in New York. I know her through New York Plein Air Painters. She has taken several of my Sea & Sky workshops, where our acquaintance deepened into friendship.

Bobbi Heath

Bobbi Heath
Bobbi Heath and I met at the first Castine Plein Air and have done that show together ever since. Her work focuses on the simplicity of accurate drawing and integrated flat color fields. She splits her time between Massachusetts and Yarmouth, ME. Right now, we’re planning a short mid-winter painting jaunt together—more on that later!
Yesterday, I also got a Thanksgiving card in the mail that had been postmarked on November 18. That’s not an error by the post office, it’s because our mailing address is different from our street address. If you ever need to contact me by mail, it’s PO Box 414, Rockport, ME 04856.

Beat the winter blues with a shot of color

“Spring,” by Carol L. Douglas

“Spring,” by Carol L. Douglas
Wind is whipping around the corner of the house this morning. Our bedroom is unheated, so until one of us runs downstairs and stirs up the woodstove, we’re huddling here under a warm woolen blanket.
I’m going to do some on-line shopping until then. Paintings are a popular Christmas gift. On winter days when the sun barely rises and the wind is shrilling outside, it’s easy to see why. Here are a few painters whose work is broad and graphical and who work in bright, warm palettes. All of them have work in every price point, and they’ve made shopping easy by having good, clear websites.
“York River, Maine,” by Mary Byrom

“York River, Maine,” by Mary Byrom
Mary Byrom lives in North Berwick, Maine, and mostly paints the southern Maine coast. She is a great simplifier of complex scenes. That’s possible because she’s outside braving the weather at every possible moment. Her available work is marked on her website. There’s a contact form here if you see something you like.
“Monhegan Memories,” by Renee Lammers

“Monhegan Memories,” by Renee Lammers
Renee Lammers lives in Bucksport, Maine, and her work is centered in Stonington, Acadia, and the northern end of Penobscot Bay. She works on copper. Her work is priced on her website, which is set up for online sales.
“Sparkle,” by Bobbi Heath

“Sparkle,” by Bobbi Heath
Bobbi Heath splits her time between Yarmouth, Maine and Westford, Massachusetts. Right now, she’s donating a percentage of her sale proceeds to the American Cancer Society, so you can not only score a good painting, but do a good deed at the same time. Her website is set up for online sales.
“Point Look-out Barn,” by Elissa Gore

“Point Look-out Barn,” by Elissa Gore
Elissa Gore lives in New York City but often paints in the lower Hudson Valley. Her work is simple and exuberant. Her website is exhaustive, and you can contact her for information about a painting that interests you.
“Sidelot off Pike Street,” by Kari Ganoung Ruiz

“Sidelot off Pike Street,” by Kari Ganoung Ruiz
Kari Ganoung Ruiz was my monitor for my 2014 workshop at Schoodic in Acadia National Park. She lives and works in the Finger Lakes Region of New York, and her color palette is the softer, warmer tones of that area. She is passionate about painting old cars and other vehicles. Her website has prices, and you can contact her about buying work.
And, of course, there’s me. My website isn’t set up for e-commerce, but if you see something you like, let me know, and I’ll put you in contact with the gallery currently showing it. And of course, you can always get yourself or someone else my summer workshop for Christmas. Do so before the first of the year, and you can have $100 off.

Thrown out of better places

Very unfinished sketch across to Cold Storage Road in Port Clyde.

Very unfinished sketch across to Cold Storage Road in Port Clyde. Yes, the light was pretty dismal.
The Maine waterfront works for a living, and that’s one of the reasons it’s so interesting. The lobster traps and buoys stacked on piers, and the dories and dinghies tied to floating docks are the tools of someone’s trade. In general, I’ve found that I get along fine with working fishermen as long as I don’t trespass on their property.
PAPME’s northern chapter met at Port Clyde yesterday. This place is a special case. Parking is restricted because property owners understandably don’t want the Monhegan Boat Line’s customers leaving their cars parked all over the village.
This would probably have been my subject off Horse Point Road.

This would probably have been my subject off Horse Point Road.
Marshall Point Lighthouse has visitor parking, but it’s too far from the village to paint the harbor. I arranged to meet Bobbi Heath and Renee Lammers on the co-op’s road instead, where we planned to paint on the verge.
Renee knew another site, off Horse Point Road, which had a fine view of Raspberry Island. This spot was just magical. While Renee photographed a dory, Bobbi and I looked at an outstanding fleet of wooden lobster boats. We were about to start painting when a lobsterman came ashore. “Ladies,” he started, and the next minute we were leaving.
There's a beautiful fleet of wooden lobster boats out of Port Clyde.

There’s a beautiful fleet of wooden lobster boats out of Port Clyde.
We drove back to our first site and our first ideas. Cars were parked on this road because there is a community playground at the corner. I figured we were safe enough in joining them.
By this time it was raining fitfully. The wind was too high for umbrellas, so we just took cover during the wet times.  Bobbi took a compass reading for me and I calculated where the light would be if it ever came up. I guessed wrong. When the sky briefly cleared in the afternoon, I realized I had built the light patterns backwards.
Yes, there were interruptions.

Yes, there were interruptions. (Photo courtesy of Bobbi Heath)
Meanwhile, our friends had been driven off Marshall Point by the wind, and a few of them joined us. I wasn’t paying that much attention until the property owner drove by. “How would you like it if I came to your house and painted all over your front lawn?” he asked. His driveway was completely parked in.
No summer squash to be had anywhere.

No summer squash to be had anywhere.
Well, in fact, I wouldn’t mind, but I did see his point. He couldn’t use his own driveway. Painters are generally polite people, so my pals quickly folded up and left.
Neither Bobbi nor I were in fact on his lawn, so I felt fine staying where I was. However, any magic there had been had faded in the ringing of his words. I took a few more swipes at my unfinished canvas. Then I too folded my tent and headed home.

Goodbye, Castine, for another year

Water Street morning, 16X12, oil on canvasboard.

Yesterday, Jacq Baldini asked on FB, ““Is this how you really want to be spending your day?” Brilliant question. Darn, I love spending my days like this.

At the end of a plein air festival, what stays with you the most is the conviviality. I got to see Michael Chesley Johnson’s utterly fantastic painting of the Maine Maritime Academy’s training ship. I got to laugh like a hyena with Olena Babakand Renee Lammers while painting on a deck loaned to us by the owner, who rolled off to dinner as soon as we appeared. I painted with Carol Wileyalong Water Street, and with Michael Vermette at the Revolutionary reenactment at the Wilson Museum.

Dappled light (Revolutionary War reenactment), oil on canvasboard, 20X16.

Dyce Head Light, 16X12, oil on canvasboard.

Shot the breeze with Ted Lameyer at about fifty different locales, and painted his kid’s bike dumped along Perkins Street. I had a glass of wine with Bobbi Heathat the artists’ reception. Mary Byromplotted with me about participating in Saranac Lake, but I only had a brief moment to chat with Laurie Lefebvre while painting—she can set up, paint, and tear down in her inimitable furious style in the time it takes me to choose a brush.

Lunch break, 9X12, oil on canvasboard.

A happy band of brothers are we.
A very unique feature about Castine Plein Air is that they partner artists with local residents. My “host family” are gracious and avid supporters of the community, not to mention phenomenal chefs. When you’re in the field painting from 7 AM until 9 PM, having a real home to come home to is wonderful.

The Path Below the Lighthouse, 6X8, oil on canvasboard
If there was a TripAdvisor for plein air festivals, I’d rate this one tops.
Next week, I’m painting both at Camden Falls Gallery and Waldoboro’s Paint the Town. But today I am going to rest, do my laundry, and peace out.

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.