Weekly painting classes in Rockport, Maine

Painting by student Marilyn Feinberg
Color, light, and composition for outdoor painters
Carol L. Douglas
394 Commercial Street, Rockport
Starting April 4, 2017
10-1 AM Tuesdays, six week session
Fee: $200
Last month two friends took me to lunch at the Waterfront restaurant in Camden. As a bitter wind piled clouds high above the islands of Penobscot Bay, they put a question to me. “When will you stop slacking and start teaching weekly classes again?”
They’re right. My trip to Canada had stretched into the holidays, which had then become a trip to the Bahamas. I’ve been working hard, but not teaching.
 They nailed me down to a commitment. Our next cycle of classes starts on Tuesday, April 4. That will be from 10-1 AM, in my studio at 394 Commercial Street, Rockport. If you’re interested, there are more details available on my website, here.
The goal is intensive, one-on-one instruction that you can take back to your studio to apply during the rest of the week. We’ll cover issues like design, composition, and paint handling. We will learn how to mix and paint with clean color, and how to get paint on the canvas with a minimum of fuss.
And, yes, we’ll talk about drawing. If you ever want to paint anything more complicated than marshes, you must know how to draw. As I’ve demonstrated before, any person of normal intelligence can draw; it’s a technique, not a talent. And it’s easy to learn, no matter what you’ve been led to believe.
Painting by student Jennifer Jones
We’ll start in my studio, but on pleasant days, we’ll paint at outdoor locations. Painting outdoors, from life, is the most challenging and instructive exercise in all of art. It teaches you about light, color and composition.
That, of course, limits the media you work in to oils, watercolor, acrylics, or pastel, since they’re what is suitable to outdoor painting.
Years ago, a friend kept asking me to give painting lessons. “I don’t know how to do that,” I’d answer. We went round and round for several years. Eventually, I caved. Three people signed up. I figured I’d teach one session and they’d realize I was clueless. My studio was on the third floor. I was the model and the instructor and I kept hitting my head on the ceiling as I moved around the room.
Turns out, I wasn’t actually that bad. From there I moved into a nicer room above the garage and enlarged my teaching practice. I started teaching workshops and concentrating on plein air instruction, since that’s what I love best. When I left Rochester, I left a large circle of students behind. You can see a small sample of their work here. One of my great joys is that they formed a group, Greater Rochester Plein Air Painters, and continue to paint together.
“You used to teach on Saturdays,” a student recently pointed out. That’s true, I realize. If you want to study with me but work during the week, let me know. If I have three people interested, I’ll offer a weekend class.

Etsy’s just another craft fair that’s now allowing resale.

Charm bracelet by Jennifer Jones Jewelry.
Jennifer Jones makes handmade statement jewelry from vintage brooches, pins, buttons, and the occasional Tabasco sauce bottle. Since she’s my former painting student and friend, we frequently talk shop. Recently, she’s been telling me that Etsy, the e-commerce website focusing on handmade craft items, has started allowing the resale of manufactured goods.
Maybe the New York Times can wax philosophical about the difference between ‘handmade’ and ‘mass-produced’ but we artists understand the difference. It isn’t about the tools and supplies you use; it’s about personally guiding the work through every step of the process.
Enamel flower necklace by Jennifer Jones. There is no way to mass-produce an assemblage of this nature. 
If you’ve done time on the art-fair circuit, you know that allowing manufactured goods is the kiss of death for a venue’s high-end craftsmen. It adulterates the brand, and it brings in the wrong audience—an audience which can’t distinguish the craftsmanship of a $500 piece from a mass-produced $50 copy. Nevertheless, it seems like sooner or later almost every venue succumbs to the temptation.
Freakonomics had this to say about it:
Etsy’s latest move is entirely in line with the history of handmade goods, a history that is more complicated than the simple term “handmade” implies. The artisans have run head-on into the problem that led to the Industrial Revolution: Making things by hand is slow. Really slow.
That’s kind of missing the point. We don’t live in an age where the major issue is making more stuff in less time. In fact, we are flooded in cheap goods. Right now, we Americans can’t compete in the cheap-goods market. Whether our craft is writing software or creating brilliant jewelry from castoffs, we are not selling a product but a process, one that frequently yields arrestingly good results.
Bracelet cuff made of vintage enameled pansies and some other stuff, by Jennifer Jones.
I had a designer friend with a unique and locally-popular line of clothes. She tried to scale it up, and she got lost in the vagaries of offshore manufacturing. When she was done, she had a product that would have been at home at Target—in fact, she didn’t even have that, because she was a rank amateur at the business of international sourcing. She sacrificed what she did best chasing a mirage, and her product line died completely.
Meanwhile, Jennifer keeps making these one-off items, and her market is worldwide. 

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!

That mysterious synergy between artists

Pokeweed and ferns set off those florist flowers.
When the creative process is working well between two people, there’s what a friend calls “flow.” Solutions seem to flow naturally into the openings created by problems.
Jennifer Jones makes smashing statement jewelry out of repurposed buttons, gems, earrings, brooches (and the occasional tiny hot sauce bottle). She spends most of her days arranging enamel flowers; who better than to help me arrange fresh ones for my kid’s wedding on Saturday?
Jennifer Jones, hard at work arranging baskets.
We chose the flower colors weeks ago (with the bride’s connivance, of course) and were quite smug about them. And they worked fine in the bouquets. But when we got to the flowers for the church, they were, frankly, boring.
Jennifer stood back, eyeballing her creation, and asked, “You got any pokeweed in your back garden?” The chances of someone deliberately leaving pokeweed in one of our highly-manicured, postage-stamp gardens are nil. But I’ve kept one for two years, ever since costume clothier Gail Kellogg Hope and I had a chat about its dyeing properties.
The florist flowers. Yes, that’s goldenrod in the back, and yes, I paid actual money for it (since it’s already passed here in WNY).
Pokeweed has flashy bright-pink stems, large lance-shaped leaves and grape-like clusters of dark purple berries. (Evidently it is used in folk medicine and food in some cultures, but since it also contains plant toxins, I steer clear of it as a food source.)
I went out with a flashlight and clipped several stems of pokeweed and a few ferns, which are now turning gold. The result was far better than anything I could have expected from the florist blooms alone.
My cousins run a fantastic flower shop called Flowerflower. They specialize in using native plants, but since they’re in Australia, that tends to run to crazy-looking banksias and other things suited to their topsy-turvy continent. Yet somehow the pokeweed seems just as exotic, even though it’s as common as dirt in American farmyards.
The final count—27 vases, two baskets, seven bouquets, four corsages, 11 boutonnieres. Oh, and there will be no painting class on Saturday! 

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!