The maddest, gladdest event of my year

Partying cuts into my painting time, but I’m willing to make the sacrifice.
It’s going to be called Little Toot, if I can find enough time to finish painting the boat in at the top left.
Castine Plein Air is always fun. I see my friends who live here, and many painter friends. Among them is Ben Pahucki, the son of painter Chrissy Pahucki. For years, Chrissy has been bringing her kids to events. This year, Ben took first place in his age group at Easton Plein Air. That’s a stellar accomplishment.
Of course, those of us who’ve watched him grow up are very interested in where he’ll end up. It may be gossip, but we’re talking about him when he’s not around.
Like most young people, he’ll be under strong social pressure to do something other than art—not from his parents, but from educators and his peers. There’s a pernicious lie in our culture that artists can’t make a living. I hear it often when I’m outside working. I just smile and say, “you’d be surprised.”
Laura Martinez Biancotold me a wonderful story from her teaching days. Her principal challenged her about encouraging kids to go to art school. “You were a science teacher, right?” she asked. “Tonight, we’ll each go home and draw up a list—you of people you know making a living in science, me of people I know making a living in art. We’ll see whose list is longer.” The next day, he forfeited. Even though we (properly) emphasize the STEM curriculum, very few people make a living in pure science.
Water Street, by Carol L. Douglas
Last year, I was painting on Battle Avenue when Laura stopped to talk. Her phone had been ringing incessantly while she was trying to work. Finally, she gave in and answered it. It was a call to tell her that she was going to be a grandmother. We both cried. This year, I got to see photos of her grandson, now six months old. I teared up again.
I’ve had dinner with Kirk Larsen and Kirk McBride two nights in a row. That’s because our hosts have taken it in turn to feed us. Since both hosts are good friends of mine, I’ve enjoyed myself immensely.
“Do you guys all know each other?” I was asked. In fact, that’s much true. The plein air circuit is a bit like professional rodeo. There are lots of people doing one or two events, but the core group see each other over and over every season. I’ve known some of these painters for twenty years.
My host and I were unsure whether this was the event’s sixth or seventh year. Since it marks the start of our friendship, I was keen to know. I asked organizer Don Tenney as he stamped artists’ boards on the Common on Thursday morning.
“Seven,” he answered. “You can tell how long it’s been by how much Ben Pahucki has shot up in height,” he said.
Kirk Larson, who was in line in front of me, smiled wryly. “We’ve known that kid since…” and he made a rocking motion with his arms. It’s a slight exaggeration, but most of us have watched all three Pahucki kids grow up.
All this partying cuts into my painting time, of course, but I’m sanguine about it. I don’t get to see my Castine friends that often, and one painting more or less isn’t going to break my career. In the end, friendship is infinitely more precious.

Sorry this post was late, but I had no internet this morning and had to get painting.

What I saw in Castine

We humans really have no idea how tiny we are compared to nature.

Towering Elm, Carol L. Douglas, painted at Castine Plein Air
Trees are the largest living beings surrounding us, but we pay them scant attention. Until one drops a limb, we have no sense of their power or scale. Most of us can’t identify more than one or two species. Gardeners may fuss over the flowering trees, but they pay scant attention to the large masses of green just beyond their fences.
There are about 3.04 trillion trees on Earth, or around 422 for each person. It seems like we ought to pay more attention to them.
As with everything visual, my ‘knowledge’ sometimes overwrites what I see. I told you how I once repeatedly mis-corrected a student’s drawing of a lobster boat. Being able to draw something from memory is a skill. The downside is when we stop observing altogether.
I had a similar epiphany last week in Castine. I’d seen Don Tenney of the Castine Arts Associationover the winter. He told me about a survey map of elms in the town.
Photo of Delaware Avenue near Summer Street, 1939, by Wilbur H. Porterfield, courtesy Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society. 
“Elms?” I asked, disbelieving. I’m from Buffalo, where Dutch Elm Disease first appeared in 1951. By the late 1960s, almost every elm was dead. Buffalo, once known as the City of Trees, lay bare, its Cathedral Arches of about 180,000 trees gone forever. I was a small girl when the city arborists cut down the remaining trees on our block. It went from a magical green tunnel to an unremarkable, clapped-out neighborhood instantly.
I assumed the elms were gone everywhere, gone the way of the American chestnut, into the annals of history.
Dutch Elm Disease arrived in the US in 1928. Of an estimated 77 million elms in North America in 1930, over 75% were gone by 1989. But it turns out there are remaining pockets of elms, most notably in Canada’s western provinces. And there are still a lot of them in Castine.
Once I realized they were there, I couldn’t stop seeing them. They’re even taller and statelier than in my memory. They’re no longer in an unbroken line, except for a stretch of Court Street, but they still arch over Castine’s lovely streets.
In Republic of Shade: New England and the American Elm, Thomas J. Campanella documents the importance of the American elm to our American identity. Elms were planted in formation across the country. 
The Elm Tree, c. 1880, George Inness, courtesy of the Clark Museum.
Dutch Elm Disease notwithstanding, elms were hardy and long-lived. They have a dense canopy with a unique parasol shape, echoing a vase or the Gothic arch. Since they had no commercial usefulness, they were allowed to grow untouched on the edges of fields and in the forest. They came to represent the primeval forest in the American imagination.
I painted the above example of an elm at the corner of State and Court Streets as dusk fell. Next year, I’ll approach the composition differently.  But this painting was useful in setting the scale of the trees. I had to erase the house repeatedly and make it smaller to make it true to reality. We humans really have no idea how tiny we are compared to nature.
I’ve got one more workshop available this summer. Join me for Sea and Sky at Schoodic, August 5-10. We’re strictly limited to twelve, but there are still seats open.

Monday Morning Art School: don’t chase the light

Nice advice. How exactly do you avoid making mush as the light changes?

The Thimble, Carol L. Douglas, oil on gessoboard, sold.

I’m painting bigger this season, with the goal of doing some very large landscapes during my Joseph A. Fiore Art Center residency. Down the Reach from last week, is 24X20; The Thimble, above, is 20X16. Big paintings outlast the light. Having a protocol to deal with shifting light is essential.

One technique is to go back to the same location over many days. In the Northeast, weather is capricious. You’re as likely to come back to a sea fog as to the limpid light of the prior day. The tide doesn’t move in sync with daylight, meaning the light may be the same but the scene will change.
In many cases, it’s impossible to come back and set up at the same spot over and over. A little preparatory work will save you hours of frustration later in your painting.
Value sketch of the Monument.
Make a value sketch.
This is the most important step in painting. I don’t care whether you do this in watercolor, with charcoal, a gel pen, as a notan, or in mixed media. Make a study, or multiple studies. 
In my classes I strongly discourage the use of viewfinders. The value study is where one explores relationships and determines the ‘final cut.’
Don’t make a bounding box and fill it in; instead, do a drawing and then crop it to the shape of your board. It’s in the value sketch that you can make subtle adjustments to the elements of the scene. You can’t do that when you’re slavishly transcribing a scene from a viewfinder.
Value underpainting for The Monument. This early in the morning, the light was warm.
Choose a color scheme.
I’ve written about the color of light many times. One of three situations must prevail:
  • Shadows are warm and the light is cool. This is what happens at midday.
  • Shadows are cool and the light is warm. This is the golden light of early morning and late afternoon.
  • Shadows and light are neutral. This happens mostly on grey days.

Choose one of these and stick with it.
Do a fast underpainting that’s a direct transcription of your value sketch.
I don’t look at the landscape very much at this stage. I have my sketch in my right hand and my brush in my left. I paint in the big dark shapes in an already-mixed shadow color and the big light shapes in an already-mixed highlight color. At this phase, my paint is lightly thinned with odorless mineral spirits or turpentine. Knowing how much thinner to use is a matter of practice. The paint layer should be thin, but there shouldn’t be so much turpentine that everything applied over it turns to mush.
The Monument, by Carol L. Douglas.
Paint the details on top of that underpainting, making sure to retain your original values.
Go ahead and paint in details now, matching values to what’s on your canvas rather than what you see. During the great flat light of midday, you will have a good opportunity to paint into your already-defined shadows and highlights. However, at some point after the sun swings completely over the yardarm, you’re going to have to stop. Your light source will be inverted. 
Make a drawn reference to any spectacular lighting effects that whiz by.

Atmospheric effects like crepuscular rays, breaking clouds and rainbows are transient. Before you add them, be certain they support your composition. If so, and you’re in a position to do so, paint them right in. If you’re not at that point of development, sketch what’s happening so you can refer back to your notes.
They may be beautiful but clash with your existing composition. If that’s the case, just sit back and enjoy them, or record them in your sketchbook for another painting.
Sea Fog on Main Street, by Carol L. Douglas. By the time I finished this, the fog had completely evaporated. My sketch and underpainting saved this painting.
Notice there is nothing in here about capturing effects on your camera.

You should be able to develop a plein air painting without any relying on photo reference at all.
I’ve got one more workshop available this summer. Join me for Sea and Sky at Schoodic, August 5-10. We’re strictly limited to twelve, but there are still seats open.

This has not been one of my better days

It only takes a moment to change your frame of reference.
Down the Reach, by Carol L. Douglas
My father said, “This has not been one of my better days” nearly every day. When I’m having a difficult time, I tell myself that. Then I laugh, remembering that all discomfort is relative. That invariably restores my good humor.
I was hot on the trail of a painting and refused to stop for anything. My pal Berna brought me scones and coffee in the morning. Chrissy Spoor Pahucki and her son Ben brought me cake in the afternoon. Still, I should have taken a break. I stumbled around in the wind and sun breaking things. I tore the end off my tube of ultramarine blue. I broke my framing gun for the second time. I was a filthy mess myself and got blue paint all over a frame. In trying to clean it off, I scoured the frame corners raw. As I fumbled, the wind blew my umbrella into my painting. Yes, it was one of those days.
I’m usually pretty mellow about problems, but I was incandescent, ready to take easel, paints and brushes to the cove and dump them in. A car pulled up. It was an old friend with whom I’ve painted and shared digs at Adirondack Plein Air.
“This has not been one of my better days.” I told her, but this time saying it didn’t help.
Tom Sawyer’s fence, by Carol L. Douglas.

“I was painting something really good,” she responded. “But my phone kept going off. Finally, I checked and the calls were from my new daughter-in-law. They’ve only been married a month.”

We love our families, but we don’t necessarily want to talk to them when we’re working. It’s hard to answer the phone when you’re covered in goop. They generally don’t call unless it’s an emergency, so I completely understood her worry as she looked at her screen.
“She wanted to tell me she’s pregnant,” she explained. I had to laugh, because I fully appreciated what was going through my friend’s head.
“That’s wonderful,” she was thinking, along with, “Now hang up and let me finish this blasted painting.” Well, the painting didn’t happen; instead she burst into tears. Mazel tov, Grandma!
Jonathan Submarining, by Carol L. Douglas. The kids raced around in their 420s while Poppy Balser and I stood in the surf painting. It was a magical day.
That completely restored my good humor. I went home and had dinner with two teenage boys and their grandmothers. One of them modeled in the best painting I ever did at Castine, Jonathan Submarining. That day, he was a little kid bouncing around on heavy seas. Just a blink of an eye, and he’s now a young adult, teaching in the same sailing school.
“You’ve gotten so old,” Berna exclaimed.
“It’s a good thing they don’t say that to us,” I laughed. Castine may be Brigadoon in many ways, but even here, time doesn’t stand still. It’s a reminder that the work will keep; treasure the ones you love.

SRSLY time to watch us paint

Three opportunities to watch well known plein air painters at work on Maine’s rugged coast.
Rachel Carson Sunset, Carol L. Douglas, oil on canvasboard, was painted at Ocean Park.

I had so much fun with Bobbi Heath’s Gloucester easel in Cape Elizabeth that I dragged my old one out of the garage. (It’s such junk compared to hers!) I won’t go as big as I did last week, but I do plan on doing some larger works over the next two weeks.

I’m also packing my super-lightweight pochade box because I’ll be painting on the beach as well. I can’t haul that Gloucester easel over sand. We’re entering the gladdest, maddest weeks of summer and it’s good to be prepared.
Anthony, Russ and Ed painting on the beach at Ocean Park.
Art in the Park starts on Sunday, July 15 at Ocean Park, ME. This is as much a band of happy brothers as it is a paint-out. Ed Buonvecchio, Russel Whitten, Christine Tullson Mathieu, Mary Byrom, Anthony Watkins and I have done it as an ensemble for several years now. There’s no jurying and no awards—just excellent painting in an historic seaside community.
As relaxed as Art in the Park is, I’ve painted some very good things there, because Ocean Park has sand, rocks, marshes, architecture and, above all, ice cream. There are lots of hotels, motels and B&Bs in the area, so if you’ve ever wanted to come see a plein air event in action, this would be a good one to catch.
Jonathan submarining, Carol L. Douglas, oil on canvasboard, was painted at Castine Plein Air. This remains one of my all-time favorite paintings.
Anthony and I then drive straight to Castine for the sixth annual Castine Plein Air Festival. It opens on the village green on Thursday at the absurd hour of 6 AM. I’ve done this event since its inception, and it’s attracting top-flight artists. This year my old pal Laura Martinez-Bianco of New York and my new pal Alison Menke of Maryland will be there for the first time. Alison just earned first place/artist choice at Telluride, so she’s definitely a force to reckon with. And, of course, I’ll see many of my old friends there as well.
Castine is the home of Maine Maritime Academy, which is why the Arctic schooner Bowdoin hangs out in its harbor. It’s out on a neck on the far side of Penobscot Bay, making it a kind of Brigadoon, forgotten by time. Main Street slopes down towards the sea, with just enough shops and restaurants to make it fun to visit, but not so many as to distract from its white-picket-fence charm.
The plein airfestival wraps up with an open reception on Saturday July 21, from 4 to 6 pm. Wandering around and watching the artists is a great way to get to know this postcard-perfect town. If you can’t get a room in the village, Bucksport is not far away.
Before the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta, Carol L. Douglas, oil on canvasboard, was painted at Camden harbor.
The next week, I’ll be painting in Camden Harbor during the Camden Classics Cup. This event brings about 70 sailboats into Camden Harbor to race for the weekend, right before the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta. Camden Falls Gallery is the sponsor, and the event will feature their represented artists. I can’t tell you which ones will show up, but Ken DeWaard, Dan Corey, Renee Lammers, Olena Babekand Peter Yesis are all local, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them—and others.
Camden is accustomed to visitors, so you’ll have no trouble finding a room.
Since I live just down the road and love to paint wooden boats, I’ve blocked out my schedule from Wednesday, July 26 through the weekend. Boat lovers are welcome to walk out on the floating docks to see the boats in harbor, but if I’m lucky, I’ll have found someone to take me out to a float.

Swanning-around song

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep. (Robert Frost)
Full stop, by Carol L. Douglas

Route 3 from Augusta to Belfast is my least-favorite nighttime road. I love my Prius but it’s a small car. I’ve avoided any deer in its quarter of a million miles; I do not want to hit a moose. But inland and over is the quickest route from Ocean Park to Castine, ME. I struggled to see as the road wound and dipped around lakes and hills. As I approached Belfast, I saw a skunk doing his little shuffle on the shoulder of the road. He was small and it was late. Had I hit him, both of us would have been grieved.

Luckily, I only drive this way once a year, on the way from Ocean Park Art in the Park to Castine Plein Air. Since I love both shows equally, the late-night drive is a necessity.
Russel Whitten took a short break to give a painting lesson on his way into the show and sale.
I finished framing yesterday with enough time to paint the small study at the top of this post. Rarely is that last painting worthwhile. I’m tired and rushed and should be cleaning up and preparing for the next event, instead of trying to crank one more painting out. That’s particularly true when doing two events back-to-back. In this case, I was more than happy with the results.
Framing on the road.
I can frame quickly because I work in standard sizes. I keep a log on my phone of the frames I’m carrying and the ones I’ve used so far. I’ve included a small photo essay about the tools and materials for framing. It’s the unglamorous part of plein air events, but it’s very important.
A glazing-point driver is a necessity for the serious plein air painter. This one is made by Fletcher.
I used to carry a cordless drill, but this old fellah is more accurate and lighter.
All the hardware I’ll ever need is in this case.
It is the collectors who make plein air events possible. In Ocean Park, Jean C. Hager-Rich has been a loyal supporter since the beginning. She tries to be the first in, makes quick decisions, and supports everyone with impartiality. A collector like Jean can set the tone for the whole event.
Equally important are our hosts, who open their homes and their lives to us for several days each summer. And then there are the volunteers, whose titles may be grand but whose tasks tend toward the humble.
After leaving Ocean Park, I zoomed around in the hills for what seemed like hours (because it was hours). I arrived at my hosts’ house shortly before 11. Harry met me at the door, concerned at my late arrival. Normally his wife is here to greet me, but she is swanning around the Eastern Seaboard. In the last three weeks, she has zoomed from Maine to New Jersey to Montreal, back to New Jersey, and then to Pennsylvania. She is returning to Maine today.
I need to recruit her as my wingman; clearly we are soul sisters.

Friday flotsam and jetsam

What’s a studio visit all about? And how do you prep for it while prepping to go on the road?
Outrunning the Storm, 30X48, is finished and awaiting delivery to Camden Falls Gallery.

Bobbi Heath is co-hosting Leslie Saeta’s Artists Helping Artists this month. They discussed this blog yesterday in the segment called What We Can Learn From the Top Rated Artist’s Blogs.
Thank you! Artists Helping Artists is the top-rated art show on blogtalk radio.
Bobbi will be recording the next one during the middle of Castine Plein Air. That will be a tough balancing act, since she’s also a participating artist.
My host for Castine texted me yesterday. She’s in New Jersey and wanted me to know that it was 95° F. there and 59° in Castine. That’s perfect painting weather.
We don’t have or need air conditioning here in coastal Maine. The air off the North Atlantic keeps us comfortable. The average high temperature here is 76° in July and 75° in August. Bear that in mind if you’re thinking about my workshop in August.
I’m packing for next week’s events. Yesterday, I got a text from another painter. “I’m bringing 14 frames to Castine,” she told me. “I have four that are a different molding than the others. I want to try them out. And most of them are already wired so they aren’t extra work. And I have seven sizes, mostly in pairs. Am I nuts?”
This is what’s on my easel. It’s based on a pre-dawn sail out of Camden last summer.
That’s a lot of frame for the six paintings she’s limited to, but her car is big enough. I always carry a variety of frames, so I can choose finishes and sizes depending on what I end up finishing.
I’m expecting a studio visit when I get home next weekend. Before I leave, my studio needs to be prepped. I keep regular open hours so it’s always presentable, but there are special considerations for a gallerist’s visit.
Although my studio isn’t vast, it is first and foremost a workshop. What I’m working on right now is part of my story. I don’t clear it away unless it’s unusually fragile.
There are many reasons for a gallerist or collector to visit us: to select work for a show, to see new work, or just to get to know us better. The same rules of hospitality that you apply in your house are appropriate in your studio. Turn off the stereo, ignore your phone and offer your guests refreshment.
Spring at the Boatyard will be going soon as well, en route to the Rye Art Center in Rye, NY.
Some experts recommend preparing a presentation on your work and its evolution. I have a strong internet presence, so I think that’s overkill. If I didn’t, a binder with earlier work, postcards and clippings would be appropriate.
If a person is interested in earlier work, I can pull out representative samples from storage. But most people are not interested in my past, but what I’m painting now.
Ready for visitors: neat, clean but not stripped of my work.
My studio functions as a gallery during the summer months, so there’s already a small selection of work hanging. However, the studio visit isn’t primarily to ‘sell’ art; it’s really to get to know the artist better. Think of it as a professional visit between two peers.
What do we talk about? The work, mostly: where it was done, what it means to me, and where I’m going with the ideas. Artists tend to be shy about this kind of interaction, especially when nervous. It helps me to remember that I don’t need to “sell” myself; the visit itself indicates a genuine interest in my work.

However, you don’t need to fill dead air space either. Give your visitor a chance to really look at your art.

Historic New England, two towns apart

Looking for me? I’ll be in Ocean Park and Castine next week.

Wadsworth Cove garden, 12X9, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
For plein airpainters this is haying season, the time we are working flat-out. However, I’ve had company this week. My nephews are in school, so they can’t visit during the off-season. We shoehorned this visit in between my trips. I hit the road again on Sunday.
My first stop is historic Ocean Park, ME. This invitational event is small, featuring Russel Whitten, Ed Buonvecchio, Anthony Watkins, and Christine Mathieu—and me, of course. This year the lineup is augmented by the return of Mary Byrom. She’s a fixture in southern Maine painting.
Last year, Russ, Ed, Anthony and I ended up painting as an ensemble, larking about together as friends rather than competitors. It was an entertaining, productive plein airexperience, and I can’t imagine how it could be better.
Curve on Goosefare Brook, 8X6, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
Ocean Park is one of about a dozen remaining daughter Chautauquas in the US. It’s the only remaining one in Maine. Another camp meeting site, the Northport Wesleyan Grove Camp Meeting, exists today as the Bayside Historic District in the town of Northport. If there are others in this state, I haven’t run across them yet.
This movement started in 1874 with the New York Chautauqua Assembly, initially to train Sunday school teachers, but eventually dedicated to adult self-improvement. Chautauquas were usually set up in the woods, on lake or ocean shores, within day-travel distance of cities. They provided a potent combination of preaching, teaching, and recreation, and they became a craze. Among my few family photos are pictures of my grandmother and her sisters at Chautauqua, NY, around 1910.
Ocean Park ice cream parlor, 12X16, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
Ocean Park was founded by the Free Will Baptists in 1881. Except for internet and electricity, its Temple, meeting halls, and library remain unchanged. Historic, pretty cottages line its streets.
The sale of work will be at the Temple on Wednesday at 5 PM, but the exciting part of the week is earlier, when the artists are at work. Our whereabouts are posted on a sign outside Jakeman Hall; come see us!
After we pack our tents on Wednesday evening, Mary, Anthony and I will be trundling north for the fifth annual Castine Plein Air. Castine is historically significant for entirely different reasons, but it’s an equally beautiful town.
Wadsworth Cove spruce, 6X8, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
Located at the mouth of the Penobscot River estuary, Castine predates Plymouth Colony by seven years. Much of the town is 19th century New England clapboard and whitewash. Established in 1794 and in the same building since 1833, the post office is one of the United States’s oldest. Set far off the beaten track, Castine retains its small-town feeling even during summer tourism season. In fact, my only recommendation is that, if you want to stay over for the show, you reserve lodgingnow.
Castine has two excellent museums and a fine library that usually features an historical display, so it’s worth visiting on its own merits.

Castine Plein Air is juried and highly selective. With 39 artists painting within the confines of the town, you don’t need to check with the organizers to find us. We meet at the village green early on Thursday, and then paint until Saturday. The reception will be held from 4 to 6pm on Saturday, July 22.

It’s all Michael’s fault

"Berna's rocks," Carol L. Douglas

“Berna’s rocks,” Carol L. Douglas
A few years ago, I plopped down on the front lawn at my pal Berna’s house. I’d just handed in my six paintings to Castine Plein Air. These were done and framed in two and a half days, which is a brutal schedule but one which we itinerant painters are used to.
I’m not sure why I was still fired up to paint, but I picked up my brushes and started the little sketch above. It was late in the afternoon, and Berna and I each had a glass of very cold white wine and some chips. Since I was hot and sweaty and more than a little tired, it may have been more than one glass of wine.
A car pulled up, driven by my friend and fellow painter Michael Chesley Johnson, who was staying next door. Michael’s usually a pretty dapper fellow, but he was looking even dressier than usual.
“Where are you off to?” I asked him.
“Our opening,” he answered. “We’re supposed to be there right now.”
I threw my stuff down and ran to dress. I’ve never looked so bad at an opening, and I blame Michael. It’s all his fault.

What I look like after a day's painting.

What I look like after a typical day’s painting.
Castine will do its fifth plein air festival again on July 20-22. It’s one of my favorite events. It’s well-juried, and the artwork is excellent. Castine itself is an oasis of old-fashioned amiability. I’d call it Mayberry-by-the-sea, except it’s a lot smaller and doesn’t run to a traffic light. If you were thinking of visiting Maine this summer, you might want to add this festival to your itinerary.
That incomplete painting got thrown in the back of my car. “I’ll finish it when I get home,” I told Berna, but of course there was another event and more paintings, and I never got to it. That’s all Michael’s fault, too.
Painting at Castine with Poppy Balser. I don't understand why I'm always a mess.

Painting at Castine with Poppy Balser. I don’t understand why I’m always a mess.
Then a Nor’easter blew into Castine. The tree in my painting, a supple young thing that should have weathered many more storms, suddenly was no more. I had no photos of it, because I’d had to leave in such a hurry. That, of course, was Michael’s fault.
I ran across that painting last week. It’s nothing important: just the rocks in Berna’s and Harry’s yard, incised with their house number, with a now-non-existent tree in the background. Since they still have the real rocks and the real house, they hardly need this painting, but memorizing what it looks like might help get them home at night.
So I finished it and I’ll mail it to them when it dries. And Michael will get no credit for that. That I will do all on my own.

13 paintings in 7 days

"Dyce Head in the early morning light," 12X9, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas

“Dyce Head in the early morning light,” 12X9, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
It’s unusual to come home from a week of painting empty-handed, but it just happened. I painted 13 works in seven days—seven at Ocean Park, six at Castine. Four are on display at Jakeman Hall in Ocean Park for rest of the season. The others have all gone on to new homes.
Every year, tiny Castine, ME (population 1366) turns out crowds of enthusiastic art buyers for Castine Plein Air. There are forty artists producing six works each, meaning there are 240 works on display. Somehow a majority of them get sold.
"Jonathan Submarining," 8X6, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas

“Jonathan Submarining,” 8X6, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
As I walked into the Maine Maritime Academy student center with fellow painterBruce Newman, I commented that every year I think I’ve done good work until I see what my peers have done. He said he always feels the same way. Each year, new artists are juried in, so the quality is being distilled upwards. I get inquiries from enough out-of-state painters about this show that I know it’s ‘got legs’ in theplein air community.
"Wadsworth Cove spruce," 6X8, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas

“Wadsworth Cove spruce,” 6X8, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
On Saturday, Castine’s Witherle Library also held a used book sale. I have inside information about this event because my Castine hosts are the library’s president and treasurer. “There are lots of art books,” Harry told me.  Sadly, the sale ended at 2, which was also our delivery deadline. Even though I finished painting earlier than I had ever done before, I still barely managed to set up on time.
"Wadsworth Cove garden," 10X8, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas

“Wadsworth Cove garden,” 10X8, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
Despite my atrocious driving, I got to the library just as the signs were coming down. However, the Kaiserians took pity on me. Early Sunday morning, I went through the sale with Berna, even though I was sure Castine residents Philip Freedman and Karen Stanley had already nabbed all the best books. I found a book of Sir Stanley Spencer paintings. This odd English artist is one of my favorite painters. Score!
"The British Canal," 12X16, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas

“The British Canal,” 12X16, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
I sometimes think we should have bought a home in Castine instead of Rockport. It’s so darn friendly. However, every mile north is a mile farther from my kids and grandkids. At times I feel those miles keenly. Such was the case on Sunday morning.
I have two ways of fighting sleepiness while driving. The first is writing in my head, but that only works when I’m mentally awake but physically tired. So I sang scales—creaky, raspy, cat-howl vocal exercises I learned in my youth. I don’t know if I’m kept awake because they sound so bad or whether they oxygenate the brain, but they always work as a last resort. They’re especially entertaining when driving through Camden with the windows down.
"J&E Riggins and Bowdoin in Castine Harbor," 12X9, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas

“J&E Riggins and Bowdoin in Castine Harbor,” 12X9, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
The physical crash, when it comes, is terrific. I find that the only cure is sleep—lots and lots of sleep. I crawled into my bed and slept the afternoon away, missing a visit by Mary Byrom and Marcus Gale to my studio. This morning, I feel almost perky enough to look at my calendar and see what I’m doing this week.