A week of channeling other painters

In the end my paintings ended up mostly like me.
Home farm, by Carol L. Douglas
On Monday, I wrote about my WWCD experience, where I tried to channel Colin Page but ended up painting like a Fauve. I continued similar experiments all week, channeling different masters each day. In fact, the ‘What Would So-and-So’ riff was embedded so deeply that I made up one based on Kirk Larson: “WWKD? Never turn down a free bottle of water.”
Yesterday’s painting started off as riff on Paul Gauguin, whose Yellow Christ hangs in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in my hometown of Buffalo. That made it a seminal influence on my young brain.
Swiss Chard and red umbrella, by Carol L. Douglas
I might have started with his color palette, but by the time I finished, the painting was pretty clearly my own. Perhaps that’s because brushwork and spatial design are more deeply embedded than color, which is relatively easy to manipulate. Or, it may be that I was concentrating on color first.
Why did I set out to do this? I had a conversation with Ken DeWaard this summer about trends in painting, particularly about high-key painting and whether an old dog like me can learn new tricks. (Since Ken just took the top prize at Cape Ann Plein Air, he doesn’t need to think about it.) I’ve been teaching about color harmonies, which put it in my mind. Also, it was a way to amp up my energy to finish the season well.
Marshaltown Inn, by Carol L. Douglas
But other than that, I had no great intellectual pretensions; it was a whim and I followed it. That’s one of the joys of being an artist; you don’t have to clear your brainstorm with a committee.
It was a valuable exercise, one that I’m going to subject my students to at the first opportunity. But it takes months for the results of a class or workshop to insinuate themselves into one’s painting style (which is one reason that people who only paint in class seldom make great progress). I won’t be able to tell you how it benefitted me until much later.
The Radnor Hunt, by Carol L.Douglas
Meanwhile, we’re done painting for Plein Air Brandywine Valley, and have a free morning before the opening reception. There are five painters here from Maine, and four of us are heading up to the Navy Shipyard in Philadelphia to paint boats. After that, we’ll get into the serious business of selling, but it’s our reward for working so hard.

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.