Home from my last trip, I find the scene suddenly shifted to holiday joy
By Julie Haskell. Courtesy of the Kelpie Gallery.
Sue Baines of the Kelpie Gallery is having a party on Saturday afternoon, 3-6. She makes the best hors d’ouevres in the world, and she’s a dab hand with coffee. I, obviously, plan to be there. If you’re in mid-coast Maine, you should go too.
I occasionally feel a frisson of guilt when I invite my pals to Sue’s events, because they really are more party than opening. I should probably offer to help. But she’s so darn talented in the kitchen, anything I did would stick out like a sore thumb. Still, she encourages me to invite you, and I’d like to see you.
By Gwen Sylvester, courtesy of the Kelpie Gallery.
Don’t expect a hard sell. Sue isn’t like that. She doesn’t have to be. Her gallery is filled with absolutely wonderful work, beautifully curated in a light, airy space. I’m not saying that just because she represents me.
By John Bowdren, courtesy of the Kelpie Gallery.
I know she sets up this event so all price points are represented. But that doesn’t mean the less-expensive pieces are any less beautiful. You can come away with a Christmas gift that’s handmade, local, and meaningful at a price that won’t break the bank. Or, if you’d rather break the bank, she can point you to some fantastic paintings.
By Kay Sullivan, courtesy of the Kelpie Gallery.
Speaking of seasonal shifts, the great wooden boat fleet is shrink-wrapped at Camden and Rockport. You can finally find parking spaces at the harbor. Sadly, it also means Camden Falls Gallery will soon be closing for their winter hiatus. They’ve had a stellar collection of marine paintings this season, and you’d be remiss in not stopping by one more time before Howard and Margaret Gallagher set sail for the south. If you see Sandy Quang there, say hi. She’s my goddaughter.
Déjà vu, by Jill Valliere. Courtesy of the Kelpie Gallery
Last, but certainly not least, my next session of plein air classes starts in Rockport next Tuesday. No, I’m not insane; the weather has been fine and the scenes achingly beautiful this autumn. This class runs every Tuesday through December 18, from 10 to 1, and the fee is $200. It’s where the cognoscenti of mid-coast Maine meet, so be there or be square.
Yes, gallery representation is an attainable goal.
“I guess I really don’t know how to get gallery representation,” an experienced artist told me. “I tried a couple times, unsuccessfully.” As with a job search, you have to try many times before you get there.
There are no shortcuts.
Make sure your website is up-to-date. It should include your newest work, dimensions, media, and, optionally, prices. A neat, easily-navigated portfolio of photographic images, including current curriculum vitae (CV), is good to have in reserve, but don’t plan on taking it around and sticking it in gallerists’ faces. Instead, introduce yourself, hand the gallerist your card, and follow up with an email.
Don’t assume you have to talk to the top dog. A good gallerist trusts his or her assistants’ judgment.
Do your research. If you’re mass-mailing enquiries, you’re doing it all wrong. At a minimum, you should have visited all the galleries in an area before you approach even one.
Don’t approach a top gallery if you’re an emerging artist. It’s a waste of time. Be sure you like the galleries you approach. While there are often vast differences in style, there are always commonalities, too. Visualize your work on their walls. Are you a good fit?
When you write, direct gallerists to an online portfolio—either your website or one you made especially for them. Always include a current curriculum vitae (CV). Ask the gallerist to review your work against their future needs. Talk about your experience and why you think you’re a good fit. And remember—there are lots of candidates out there. Rejection may have nothing to do with your skills; the gallery may simply be overloaded.
Doing this event in Camden Harbor started my relationship with Camden Falls Gallery. (Photo courtesy Howard Gallagher)
No stealth visits
When I’m scoping out galleries, I make it clear that I’m an artist, not a buyer. I don’t ask to show my work at that visit; I give them a card and follow up with an email if I’m interested.
Misrepresenting yourself is a terrible way to start a new relationship. Many of my best conversations with gallerists have been because I’m an artist.
Respect their time
Never stop to chat when they’re changing their show. They won’t appreciate the interruption. Likewise, don’t interrupt a potential sale, ever. If they say they review portfolios at a specific time, respect that.
Historic Fort Point, by Carol L. Douglas. This painting at another event started my relationship with the Kelpie Gallery.
Maintain your image on social media
You love Facebook; gallerists do too. Be professional, up-to-date, and informative, and don’t include information that will shoot you in the foot.
Reverse engineer resumes
Identify a few regional artists whose careers you admire. Their CVs are usually on their websites. You can track their progress from local shows to important galleries. This will give you ideas on what paths to follow.
A Little Bit of Everything, by Carol L. Douglas, oil on canvasboard, long since sold.
Choose a smart path in
Almost every gallery invitation I’ve received has been the result of an event I did in that community. Gallery owners pay attention to them, especially when they organized the event. If the gallery you’re interested in hosts group shows, apply to them.
I (almost) never turn down an opportunity to show my work, but I know the difference between my local farm and a university gallery. Not every venue is a resume builder.
The studio visit
Should you be lucky enough to net a studio visit, be neat, clean and organized. This is your workspace, and it shouldn’t look like a party house or boudoir. Don’t expect miracles, and don’t try to push the gallerist into taking work he or she doesn’t like.
Feeling out of place, like a failure? Perhaps the problem isn’t you, but your tribe.
Five Chairs, by Pamela Hetherly, courtesy of Kelpie Gallery. This painting stopped me yesterday. The color is beautifully integrated, something that’s lost in the photo.
I spent a few hours yesterday at the Kelpie Gallery in S. Thomaston. I’d meant to drop paintings off and leave, but it is a very restful place with a clean, open atmosphere. I always spend more time there than I expect to. Susan Lewis Baines, the owner, is so interesting and interested that before you know it, the day is half over.
It’s an airy, light space with grey walls, a grey tiled floor and lots of white trim. What little furniture there is, is elegant and subservient to the art. I look at Sue’s handmade desk (no, it’s not for sale) and wonder if I need one like it. Then I remember that I live in an old farmhouse and it wouldn’t match at all. As a decorator, Sue is light years ahead of me. That’s a great quality in a gallerist.
Sometimes I See, by Kay Sullivan, courtesy of the artist. Kay’s works are small, active, and yet somehow peaceful.
She represents a small stable of painters. These include vibrant small pastels by Kay Sullivan, the austere abstractions of Ann Sklar, mystical landscapes of Julie Haskell and Beth London, moody interiors by Pamela Hetherly, and the idiosyncratic landscapes of the late Erik Lundin. On first glance, the work is widely disparate. but the visitor notices that they all hang together well. They are united by a common color sensibility and composition. That makes it possible for high realism to hang side-by-side with abstraction and have the combination complement both paintings.
As different as the paintings are, there’s definitely a group norm at work, and it’s bound to provoke a response from the visitor.
A crow painting by Beth London, available through the Kelpie Gallery.
I tell people I left New York because I can’t paint like a Hudson River Schoolpainter. It is a continuous tradition in New York, dating back two hundred years. In any other place, painting with that golden light and attention to detail would be an annoying affectation. But in New York, it has some wonderful modern practitioners, including Tarryl Gabeland Patrick McPhee.
Untitled, by Erik Lundin. Courtesy of the Kelpie Gallery. His disinterest in selling made him the most unaffected of painters.
I don’t feel things in that way. I’m thoroughly the product of my time, which means less value modeling and more color and brushwork. As long as I stayed in New York, I was subtly pushed toward painting a different way. Galleries liked it, jurors liked it. And I found it personally disheartening. I needed to seek out my own tribe. I did that by going on the road, and later by moving to Maine.*
This is where a good knowledge of art history proves useful. It allows you to see over the lip of the basket you live in, to see where you fit in the greater scheme of things. I like the basket I have moved to, but if I felt confined in it, I’d be exploring other places and other representation.
*An exception to this is Adirondack Plein Air, which is not style-driven. In fact, I find this true of plein air events in general. They usually attract a much wider variety of painters than from the local catchment area.
Erik Lundin didn’t show his work. What he did was paint, beautifully.
By Eric Lundin
Last winter, Sue Lewis Baines, owner of the Kelpie Gallery, told me about a fascinating collection she had recently discovered. The late Erik Lundin was a long-time resident of Rockland and Thomaston and Madrid, Spain. His work, she said, was wonderful, energetic and prolific. We made tentative plans for me to see it, but life got in the way.
Lundin was a prolific painter who never showed during his lifetime. I was excited to read that Sue is doing a short show of his work. It opens this Saturday, September 9, at 5 PM and runs for a week. Frankly, that isn’t much time.
50% of the proceeds will go to the Sussman House hospice here in Rockport. The way I’m feeling today, I’m more likely a candidate for the hospice than the opening, but I encourage those who can to get out to see it. Not only is the work interesting, but the gallery is beautiful and Sue puts on a nice party.
The Kelpie Gallery is located at 81 Elm Street, S. Thomaston, ME. That’s about five minutes south of downtown Rockland.
Sadly, my breathing is getting worse, not better. I have much to say about art, as always, but no energy with which to say it. I’m sorry, friends.
Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park welcomes us back with its solitude and beauty.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Johnson.
I love Schoodic Point and the Schoodic Institute, but sometimes I toy with the idea of teaching somewhere closer to civilization. Then I drive around Frenchman’s Bay, sensing, rather than seeing, the depth and intensity of it. I stop at Frazer Point, and feel the familiar springy turf under my feet. Then I remember: this is the best place to paint that I know of. And I’ve been in 49 of our fifty states and a majority of our national parks.
I drove up to Corea yesterday to see a man who lets us paint in his backyard. “Any time,” he assures me, but I won’t do it without checking in first. Last year, he surprised me by being out of town. I learned his neighbors are as fiercely protective as geese.
His mother was the mystery writer Virginia Rich. She pioneered a kind of cozy mystery that features recipes. My friend now lives in his mom’s old writing studio, behind a beautiful old general store.
“It’s untouched Maine!” my monitor, Jennifer Johnson exclaimed when we arrived. It’s not much more than a fleet of fishing boats surrounded by old houses and wharves. An old slip next to the store remains from the Down East schooner days, when fish left from these docks and sundries from Boston arrived.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Johnson.
An artist was working along the road near Schoodic Institute. I only knew three of my students, so decided to take a chance. “Are you here for my workshop?” I asked. Turns out she wasn’t; she is a painter from Massachusetts named Victoria Templeton, and she was working on a lovely gouache.
We have the luxury of fine weather ahead. I saw no need to rush into a nocturne before we’d had at least one class. Many of my students had traveled long distances to get here. They were glad to call it an early night after dinner.
Jennifer and I tucked them in and headed out to reconnoiter. It’s always possible that the park service might have an area closed for restoration or construction. It was no trouble; there was a glorious sunset and an equally beautiful moonrise.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Johnson.
I normally do this earlier in the day, but I was delayed. I’d invited one of my workshop students to come to church with me in Rockport. She enthusiastically accepted. It was then that I remembered that I’d signed up to be baptized. “That might be weird,” I thought.
I was baptized as a young woman in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. This means having Holy Water sprinkled over your head with a liturgical implement called an aspergillum. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to think this wasn’t what the Bible had in mind. I’m not implying that any other person’s baptism isn’t valid. I believe that the Holy Spirit directs us in these matters.
By the time I’d changed my clothes and thrown Jennifer’s stuff into my trusty Prius, it was 1:30 PM. That cut it a little fine.
Apple Tree Swing, by Carol L. Douglas, courtesy Kelpie Gallery.
Even that wasn’t the beginning of my day. Before church, I drove to South Thomaston to deliver Apple Tree Swing to the Kelpie Gallery. What a difference a frame makes! This one was built from chops from Omega Moulding; it was wicked expensive and worth every penny.
Of course, I was there long before the gallery opened for the day. What do gallerists do when they’re not talking art? They weed the crabgrass out from around their signs. Art—like every other career path—has its moments of glamour and its moments of hard slog.
It’s August: blueberries, lobster rolls, shimmering seas, lighthouses, ocean breezes and the rock-ribbed coast.
Breaking Storm, by Carol L. Douglas, courtesy Camden Falls Gallery.
Yesterday I drove south to deliver twenty paintings to Brunswick’s Local Market. Suddenly, it’s wild blueberry season in Maine. Little stands dot the shoulder of Route 1.
This show will be up for next week’s Artwalk, and remain up through September. It’s an opportunity to show something in addition to landscape. I brought several still lives, including my all-time favorite, my tin-foil hat. I suddenly realized it needed a new name, so Conspiracy Theory it is.
Conspiracy Theory, by Carol L. Douglas
I didn’t paint this as a political statement, but an experiment in reflective surfaces. Still, I work with social media daily. I’m not oblivious to its faults. Whenever I feel a blast of the inanities, I don that painting as a profile picture. Perhaps someone needs the real thing in their office.
Local Market is at 150 Maine Street in Brunswick. If you stop to look at the art, you can also get lunch or a gift while you’re there. It’s that kind of place.
Two Islands in the Rain, by Carol L. Douglas, is at Wyler’s through the end of September.
Farther south, there are a few of my paintings at Jakeman Hallin Ocean Park. The association holds unsold work from Art in the Park through Christmas. It’s not a hardship to visit Ocean Park; it has a long sand beach so you can combine your visit with sunbathing.
Last time I was in Camden, my painting, Breaking Storm (top) was in the window at Camden Falls Gallery. This large canvas features the schooner American Eagle passing Owl’s Head in a purely imaginary tempest. I like the wind and the water and, of course, the boat is a peach.
Fort Point Historic Site, by Carol L. Douglas, was last year’s Juror’s Choice Award winner at Wet Paint on the ‘Weskeag.
I didn’t schedule my workshop to coincide with blueberry season, but it always seems to work out that way.
Meanwhile, the line at Red’s Eats snakes along the sidewalk, the blueberries are pie-ready, the fog curls its little fingers around the rocky points. I’m not sure why I’m leaving. I’m not sure how anyone can resist coming here.
I know one actual starlet, Keren Coghill. As far as I can see, Keren doesn’t spend much time sitting, at the soda fountain or anywhere else. She’s either working, working out or answering audition calls. That’s of course true of successful visual artists as well.
There are no guarantees. We apply to shows or galleries that ought to be slam-dunks, but are rejected. Others are impossibly beyond our reach; inexplicably, they accept us. This isn’t fate. It’s a numbers game. The more places you apply, the more you’ll be accepted. The more shows you do, the more you’ll be seen. The more you’re seen, the more people will buy your work.
Rachel Carson sunset, by Carol L. Douglas, painted for Ocean Park Plein Air.
My relationship with the Kelpie Gallery started with an event I decided to do at the last minute, Wet Paint on the Weskeag. I had 48 hours between the end of my Sea & Sky workshopand a flight to Scotland. Why not plug one more event into that already absurd schedule? Tired and with no expectation of success, I painted well and won the Juror’s Choice Award.
The Kelpie Galleryis holding an artist reception tonight for Summertide at The Kelpie, from 5-7 PM. If you haven’t visited this gallery, it’s a treasure. Owner Susan Baineskeeps her stable of artists to a manageable number. The space is light, airy, and well-utilized. It’s at 81 Elm Street in South Thomaston, just down the road from the Owls Head Transportation Museum. Since I’m now one of Sue’s artists, I’ll be there.
Jonathan Submarining, by Carol L. Douglas, painted for Castine Plein Air.
Until then, I’ll be in my studio, trying to figure out if a painting is finished. Some artists love these last brush strokes; I do not. An engineer friend once told me that in most projects, 90% of the effort goes into 10% of the results.
Or, as Tom Cargill of Bell Labs said, “The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time.”
I generally like to buy self-help books and put them on my shelf unread, the idea being that I’ll get the message through my credit card statement. It’s better when someone else reads them and tells me the precis.
Boston Post Road Bridge, Mamaroneck, by Carol L. Douglas, painted for Rye Painters on Location.
Bobbi Heath is reading Growing Gills by Jessica Abel. She posits that undone creative ideas are corrosive. They sit in the back of your mind and niggle at you, making you anxious and unproductive.
That is what I think about undone housework and unpaid bills. Are unfinished paintings the same? My studio is full of them. Like most artists, I find finishing work to be the hardest part of painting.
I used to be a font of crackpot ideas, but I’ve noticed that the harder I work, the less I experience off-task mental fizzing. That’s partly because my brain isn’t bored. It’s partly because working at set times trains our minds to concentrate. Whatever the mechanism, it’s a blessed relief.
“Lewis R. French raising her sails,” by Carol L. Douglas
I’m busy finishing plein air work from last season. Some of this needs nothing more than a few brush-strokes and a signature, some of it returned home as nothing more than color notes that need to be fleshed out into a painting.
That was the case with this small painting of the Lewis R. Frenchraising her sails at Pulpit Harbor. I started this in the early morning, knowing I had only a few minutes to finish before the American Eagle sailed out. I probably did fewer than twenty brush strokes on site, but Sue Baines of the Kelpie Gallery saw something in it and urged me to finish it.
Normally, I trust my plein air sketches for color notes. In this case what I’d recorded didn’t match my emotional memory of the day, which told me that this had happened just after sunrise. So I heated up the lighting structure and it much more closely resembles the mood of that early morning in Pulpit Harbor.
“Doe drinking in the woods,” by Carol L. Douglas
Blue shadows on evening snow. (Carol L. Douglas)
I painted Doe drinking in the Woods years ago. It was a demonstration to my students on how the color of light works in practice. The setting and lighting were imaginary.
The photograph of footprints in the ice on a winter evening, above, clearly shows blue shadows across the snow. I think it also gives a sense of my frustration about the condition of the sidewalks.
The exception to the color-of-light rule happens in indirect light. There are many places where an ambient cloudy milkiness is the dominant weather condition. In it, both color temperature and contrast are muted.
Snow shovelers in a snow squall. (Carol L. Douglas)
A snowstorm is an exaggeration of indirect light. There are no shadows; there are merely objects in space. A snowstorm exaggerates atmospheric perspective, too, rendering even middle-distance objects indistinct and neutral.
Artists constantly check themselves against a construct called “color temperature.” There are warm and cool colors, and warm and cool variations within each color. A warm color gives us a sense of warmth and energy and tends to draw our eye, like the life preserver on my painting of the Cadet. A cool color recedes from the eye and gives us a sense of static coldness, like the underside of Rockwell Kent’s iceberg from yesterday.
I’ve written before about the color of light, and it’s one of the most important concepts in painting. The earth’s atmosphere bends light just like a prism does, so what you see is always tinted. Either the light is warm and its shadows cool, or the light is cool and its shadows warm. Which that is depends on the time of day and the season of the year.
In the wintertime, the sun barely crests the treetops here in the North. The ground is often covered with neutral white snow. That gives us textbook conditions to see light temperature in action, for the sun on the horizon always gives us warm light and cool shadows.
“The Cliff under Owls Head,” is among six paintings heading to the Kelpie Gallery today.
I have been the assistant to some fine chefs over the years. I usually get fired. “Needs a high degree of supervision,” said one. “Too slow,” said another. So it was with relief that I allowed my ServSafe food service manager certification to expire this year. (Why I had it is a whole ‘nother story, which I shan’t tell you until the rest of the gang are safely rounded up.) It’s of little use to know that potato starch is a potential food allergen when you have no idea what to do with the stuff in the first place.
Nonetheless, as I sometimes huff, I can bake; it’s just straight-up high-school chemistry. I just don’t do it often. This means I get elected to make the pies at Thanksgiving. Well, that and the fact that nobody wants me in the kitchen on the actual day.
I also make cranberry chutney because the recipe came from my mother’s good friend. Nobody admits to actually liking it, but it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it.
I seem to have turned into a matriarch, something I have a hard time reconciling with my youthful sex appeal. Nevertheless, there appear to be some 18 of us gathering in Massachusetts. That means a lot of pies, and I have to make them early.
Paintings rising on the dining room table. No, wait, that’s bread dough that does that.
I also need to deliver some paintings to the Kelpie Gallery in S. Thomaston. Neither pies nor paintings spring fully formed from one’s imagination; they require actual time and effort, darn it. So the question was how to meet both obligations, and the answer was, imperfectly.
By evening, I had six paintings on my dining room table, which were not the complete inventory she asked for. One of them is putting up quite a fight. It’s been sent to time-out until it sees the wisdom of not changing its value structure in mid-painting. The rest look great, and I’m reminded again how a fresh set of eyes see new things in your work.
Pie crusts make me far more nervous than painting. My solution is to become extremely methodical, measuring the lard and butter into individual sets over here, and the flour and salt into individual bowls over there. The trouble is, my bedtime is 7 PM. My ancient food processor knew I was tired and was throwing tantrums. I called in backup: my unflappable husband. He measured while I laid hands on the dough and pronounced it good.
Pie crusts in progress.
Then I went to bed and debated whether eight pies is really enough for 18 people. This is a recessive Italian gene. One can hide it, just as one can straighten one’s hair, but it still surfaces at the least opportune times.
That had better be enough, I told myself grimly. I need to bake those pies, load our car, and head down the road, stopping only to drop off the paintings and the dog (hopefully in the right places). Have a lovely and blessed holiday, my friends.
While it was fresh in my workshop students’ minds, I shot pictures showing the step-by-step progression of a painting. I took these while participating in the Third Annual Wet Paint on the Weskeag this past weekend.
The site I chose was the ruins of Fort St. George, overlooking Thomaston. Not much remains but a raised berm, but it is peaceful, pretty, and shadowed by oaks. I parked by Wiley’s Corner Spring and eyeballed the stream. It looked perfectly wonderful, but I have been fooled by drinking-water sources before. Putting caution before curiosity, I resisted and turned to hike the half-mile to the fort site. It was an easy trail, but I was glad I had my super-light pochade box.
I settled down on a rock outcropping, bracing my tripod below me on the uneven boulders.
The problem with rocky outcroppings along water is that they can create unbalanced compositions. All the weight is on the land side. On a grey day, there’s little sky action to counterbalance that.
I never use viewfinders of any kind. To me the most exciting part of painting is figuring out how to transfer all that grandeur into an arresting composition. The rest is just details.
First draft of a drawing.
After I had a composition I liked, I transferred it to my canvas. I generally copy my sketch rather than drawing again from the view. After I have the major pieces in place, I go back and redraw to conform to reality.
I always mix my green matrix and tints of my pigments before I start painting. It keeps my color clean. And, yes, I use a palette knife.
For more information on how I chose this palette, see the pigment and color theory posts here.
Next, I map in the colors.
I’m mostly concerned with drawing accuracy and color when I do my underpainting. This is a color map made with thin layers of paint and a minimal amount of solvent. I want it as dry as is possible when I do the next layer. Odorless mineral spirits or turpentine dry faster than linseed, walnut or poppy oil.
If anyone suggests using medium or oil at this phase of your painting, back away slowly. One of the first mantras of painting is “fat over lean.” That means applying oily paint over less-oily paint to create a stable, elastic paint film that doesn’t oxidize. Paintings made this way last for centuries.
I am familiar with some teachers who encourage their students to coat the surface with medium and paint into it to create a sort of faux luminism. These paintings are drowning in oil and varnish, which will darken and crack over time. It’s terrible technique and should not be encouraged.
This is more or less the point at which I start using larger amounts of paint and add medium.
Start adding medium when you start adding paint volume. Go light on the stuff. It can makes an unmanageable soup very quickly. I use a larger brush than you would expect. In the painting above I used a #8 filbert throughout, only pulling out a larger flat to smooth down some surfaces.
As I headed back to the Kelpie Gallery to turn in my finished painting, I took one more long look at Wiley’s Corner Spring. Oh, heck, I thought. Why not live dangerously? The water was smooth and sweet, and created no aftershocks.
The finished piece won the Juror’s Choice award. If I’d expected that, I’d have pressed my blouse.
That was important, because by the time you read this, I should be most of the way to Montreal, from whence I am flying to Edinburgh. I plan to do some simple watercolor sketches along the way, but until I return, keep on painting… and go light on the medium, for heaven’s sake!