And we’re off… We hope.

An angel helps me out.

Jerusalem, by Carol L. Douglas. Yesterday I decided to illustrate Blake’s poem. I got exactly this far.

I’m writing this on my phone in line in the airport, where we and many other Americans have met up to take the last scheduled flight from Argentina.

We left our hotel at 7 AM for an 11:30 flight, expecting to be detained at roadblocks. The inbound traffic lanes proceeded slowly but, outbound, police waved us through. They’re no doubt happy to send us on our way. Nonetheless, our flight is already delayed an hour.

From my fourth-floor aerie I peered into many cars over the past few days. They typically had papers on their dashboard. Before this trip I wouldn’t have understood that these were documents that must be produced on demand. Even though I don’t want to see America as a police state, I understand the impulse to crack down. This is a very large, tightly-packed city, and the pandemic could do terrific damage.

Casa Rosada. That’s as close as we ever got to tourism.

We drove past the Casa Rosada, the Argentine White House, on our way out of town. That’s as close as we have been to seeing the sights. From there to the airport, Buenos Aires is much like any other city in the world: pricey high-rises tapering to smaller, less-lovely structures, to an industrial beltway and then, finally, suburbs and towns. Our national identity may come from places like the Casa Rosada and White House, but the truth is that for most of us, the places we call home are interchangeable.

With the exception of a few cities, Americans don’t have a taste for living in tower blocks. That makes us odd compared to most nations. Even Canadians seem to like living in high-rises, judging from cities like Toronto and Ottawa. But we Americans are suburban in the same way our British and Australian cousins are. For us, “home” is optimally two stories and includes a small patch of green.

Empty airport

Thinking about home, I decided to make my last painting a line from that great British hymn, Jerusalem. It is sort of an unofficial British anthem, and is based on a poem by the visionary artist William Blake. Each line could yield a painting or three.

The cost of this pandemic is borne by all of us. We have incurred some terrific expenses in the form of flights we cannot take and accommodations. The Hilton Buenos Aires was our only option and it did not come cheap. But I was shocked to learn that an individual donor covered the entire bill for all ten of us.

I know who this person is, and that he doesn’t want his name shared. I mention it because it’s common in our culture to vilify people for not giving, or not caring. And yet so many people do wonderful things in very private ways, not so they can be publicly lauded, but simply because they see a need. Remember that next time you want to castigate a political opponent as selfish or uncaring.

[W]hen you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you,” says the Gospel of Matthew. There are a lot of people who live that creed.

No news is good news

What is ‘home’? Why are we so anxious to get there?

I’m getting nowhere with the gouache, but at least I get to think lofty thoughts with a brush in my hand.

In the absence of real information, we like to spin theories. Our current one is that our flight crew needs to arrive in Buenos Aires sometime today to allow for their mandatory rest period. If they do, they’re likely to end up here. We’ll be cheering discreetly from our fourth-floor corridor.
At least our current flight wasn’t canceled or rescheduled overnight. (My restive mind wouldn’t let me stop checking.) Yesterday, a few more Americans drifted in, including a young mother with two small children. Our embassy is moving our fellow citizens into the capital for this last flight, and I expect they will continue until the absolute last minute.
My palette.

That’s only the people who want to go home, of course. We could have chosen to stay in Argentina. This is a lovely country, and far safer than America right now. I asked myself why I felt drawn to get back to Maine. I’m a wanderer by nature. Ultimately, the decision came down to money and the question of when international travel would resume.

If I have a home in this world, it’s where my children and grandchildren are. That’s not a place, because they’re all young and footloose. Right now, they’re encamped in a rural county of New York, keeping themselves out of the urban plague-zones as much as is possible. They’re in two separate groups because one of my sons-in-law has had (presumptive) coronavirus. But they’re close enough to each other to help in an emergency, and they can go outside without violating urban social distancing rules.
Yesterday we walked to the pharmacy (allowed in this lockdown) to get new disinfectant wipes. We saw this wonderful car. 
The peculiar thing about our times is that we can keep in contact with them from another continent. That’s not quite the same as being with them, but it’s close. Even when I get to Maine, I won’t be seeing them any time soon. Non-essential travel is banned in Maine and Massachusetts. But if home is where the heart is, my home right now is with them.
Augustine of Hippo addressed the meaning of home at moment of unprecedented disaster: the sack of Rome in 410. This was the first time in 800 years that the Eternal City had fallen to foreign forces. “The city which had taken the whole world was itself taken,” wrote Jerome.
Traditional Romans saw the failure of their empire as a punishment for abandoning their pagan religion for Christianity. Of course, the empire actually failed because it had become terminally weak and was under pressure during a period of massive human displacement.
The Favorites of the Emperor Honorius, by John William Waterhouse, 1883, courtesy Art Gallery of South Australia. While Rome suffered, the Emperor was in Ravenna, playing with his pet birds.
Christian or pagan, Romans suffered together. Homes and properties were destroyed, people of all castes were raped, tortured and murdered. Families were sold into slavery and separated forever. It truly must have seemed like the end of the world.
Augustine’s response was radical. He wrote that even if Rome failed, the City of God would ultimately prevail. Empires would come and go, but the New Jerusalem would last forever. Regardless of where we wash up, the City of God is our true home. It’s been the consolation of Christians ever since.

Home is where they wear you out with parties

When your car is too ratty for Buffalo, you may have a problem.
Erie Canal, by Carol L. Douglas

I woke up to the smell of lake water in the air—a uniquely Buffalo smell, and one that presages rain. It’s my last day here, and I’ll be glad to head home after eight days on the road. I can’t keep up the pace of all this partying. It’s the official sport of Buffalo, after all.

Buffalo’s always been a hard-partying kind of town. At one time the bars stayed open all night to cater to shift-workers. There are no more manufacturing jobs, and the bars now close at 4 AM. I don’t know any American city more dedicated to drinking than that.
Rock tumble at the Holley canal spillway, by Carol L. Douglas
My childhood chum Tim Wendel is in town promoting his newest book, Cancer Crossings. I’d like to catch up, but I comfort myself with the idea that he doesn’t have any more time than I do. I’d hoped to connect with another childhood friend, dancer Cynthia Cadwell Pegado. She’s one of my oldest friends, actually, since we met at our infant dedication at Delaware Baptist Church. I managed to connect with my sister-in-law and her new husband yesterday. And I had dinner in Ellicott Creek Park with my brother and his family. When your life is in your car, you meet up where you can.
It’s like this every time I go on a road trip, but never more so than when I’m in Buffalo. This is my home town, and I’m proud to be from here. However, I can’t see myself ever coming back to live. I can’t handle the pace.
Bluebells on the Erie Canal towpath. WNY has its moments of fascination, for sure.
Buffalonians are, in general, polite drivers, but I still don’t much enjoy sitting in traffic. There’s more and more of that in my old haunts. After a sixty-year hiatus, my home town is finally coming into its own. I’ve waited for this, but I can’t say that I like it much.
I followed a Lamborghini down Niagara Falls Boulevard yesterday. This was always a city of rusty cargo vans. Suddenly, I’m self-conscious about the condition of the old Mercury Monterey we’re tooling around in. I didn’t realize it was possible to drive a car that’s too ratty for Buffalo.
I drove to Grand Island to look at a replacement for my trusty Prius yesterday. At 257,000 miles, it’s grown fragile. My best option, I think, is a pickup truck. “That’s a rather extreme shift,” my daughter commented.
After 257,000 miles and 13 years, the Prius is growing fragile.
I’m spending more and more time on back roads. My Prius, while indomitable, has broken two springs. It was never designed for the dirt roads of Nova Scotia, for example. It’s too small to camp in, and I had to have the roof repainted after (inadvisably) carrying my canoe on it.
I looked at SUVs, but they all seem designed more for luxury than for off-roading. I hate scrubbing paint out of upholstery, so a truck is starting to look like my best choice. Still, $40,000 is a lot to spend on a vehicle.
I don’t even remember painting this sketch of a NYSDOT tug on the Erie Canal. I wonder where it ended up.
I have one more task—to load my youngest kid’s stuff in my van—and then we can take off. By mid-afternoon, I should be tooling east on US 90 toward Massachusetts. After that, I get to work in earnest. I have a commission to finish, and a piece to write for Saranac Lake, and if I plan to make any money this summer, I’d better deliver some new work to my galleries.

Learn to paint in beautiful Acadia

Christmas
Now is the time to buy an artist you love—possibly even yourself—a special gift for Christmas. Spend a week painting with Carol L. Douglas in one of the most beautiful venues in America—inspirational, mystical Schoodic in Maine’s Acadia National Park. And if you reserve before January 1, you can save $100!
Far from the hustle and bustle of Bar Harbor, Schoodic has dramatic rock formations, pounding surf, and stunning mountain views that draw visitors from around the world.

Instruction10
At 440 feet above sea level, Schoodic Head offers a panoramic view of crashing surf, windblown pines and enormous granite outcroppings laced with black basalt. Across Frenchman’s Bay, Cadillac Mountain towers over the headlands of Mt. Desert Island.
You might look up from your easel to see dolphins, humpback whales or seals cavorting in the waves. Herring gulls will visit while eiders and cormorants splash about.
A day trip to the harbor at Corea, ME is included. Far off the beaten path, Corea, ME is a village of small frame houses, fishing piers and lobster traps. Its working fleet bustles in and out of the harbor.
Your instructor, nationally known painter and teacher Carol L. Douglas, has taught in Maine, New York, New Mexico and elsewhere, and regularly returns to Acadia.
Boo
Concentrate on painting 
Meals and accommodations at the beautiful Schoodic Institute are included in your fee. This former navy base is located right at Schoodic Head. It gives workshop students unrivalled access to the park.

All skill levels and media are welcome
Carol Douglas has more than fifteen years’ experience teaching students of all levels in watercolor, oils, acrylics and pastels. Her Acadia workshops are very popular. “This was the best painting instruction I have ever had. Carol’s advice in color mixing was particularly eye-opening. Her explanations are clear and easy to understand. She is very approachable and supportive. I would take this course again in a heartbeat.” (Carol T.)
Lynne hard at work
Easily accessible
It’s easy to get to painting locations on the Schoodic Peninsula. A ring road with frequent pull-offs means you never walk more than a few hundred feet to your painting destination. And Schoodic itself is only 90 minutes from Bangor International Airport.
To register
The one-week workshop is just $1600, including five days’ accommodation in a private room with shared bath, meals, snacks, and instruction. Accommodations for non-painting partners and guests are also available. Your deposit of $300 holds your space, and if you reserve before January 1, you can save $100 off the price.
At Owl's Head
You can download a registration form here or a brochure here. Complete registration forms should be returned by mail to Carol L. Douglas, PO Box 414, Rockport, ME 04856-0414 with your $300 deposit. Or email the form here and make a credit card payment by phone to 585-201-1558.
Refunds are available up to 60 days prior to start, less a $50 administration fee. Final payment is due 60 days prior to the start of the workshop.

Gonna take a sentimental journey

We’ve had a lot of good times in this studio, including swing-dancing model Michelle Long.
I am frequently asked, “How do you feel about this move? Are you excited? Sad to leave?” I have loved the 21 years I’ve been in Rochester, but I’m ready to move on. Most of my thinking has been practical, not reflective.
Now my studio is dismantled, just a heap of boxes.
Except today.
I was packing my studio with my younger daughter when a Taylor Swift song started playing. If you’ve raised teenagers, you know they tend to play songs until they’re burned into your mind, and this one reminded me powerfully of her teen years. “I don’t want to leave,” I sniffed at her.
“Get real, Mom,” she said. “Of course you want to do this.” And she’s right, but I have had a lot of fun here.
The girl, making me cry.
On that note, I received a lovely note today from a student. I almost declined to take her because I didn’t feel I could accomplish much in the few weeks she had to work with me. And yet, she has turned out to be an amazing pupil and painter.

“I made a list of things I learned in your class,” she wrote. “This is not exhaustive, but some highlights.”
  • Charcoal is a wonderful sketching medium, great for roughing in tones, and very easy to rub out if you aren’t pleased with the results.
  • Don’t hold your paintbrush like a pencil, hold it out closer to the end and magic happens. (Okay, maybe not magic, but the results are much better.)
  • How to mix reds.
  • How to mix greens.
  • How to organize a palette.
  • All about easels.
  • How to fold a plastic bag.
  • Buy paints by pigments, not by their “lipstick” names.
  • Warm light, cool shadows or cool light, warm shadows.
  • Paired primaries—learn them and love them!
  • Don’t belly-up to your painting. Stand back. And sometimes, step back.
  • How to build a painting: establish a tone study on the canvas (using a mix of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna), then block in colors, and then develop them dark to light.
  • Be brave about putting marks on the canvas. And keep putting marks on canvas, or paper, or whatever.
No student every did more color exercises in my class than Matt Menzies. Matt, I’m throwing that big palette away today.

She learned all this in about 18 hours of instruction time.
Which brings me to my Maine workshop. If she could learn so much in just a few half-days, imagine what you can do in an intensive week of study. I have just a few openings left, and I strongly encourage you to register now.
Marilyn Feinberg, Kamillah Ramos and Zoe Clark, on a warm summer day painting at Irondequoit Bay. All three of them left Rochester before me.

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park in August 2015. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops! Download a brochure here.