A Christmas reverie in paint

Into Swedish Death Cleaning or KonMari? Maybe you should paint that stuff before you toss it away.

Blonde Santa is available through the Kelpie Gallery this month.

I have many friends who do not observe the same Christmas traditions as me: those who aren’t Christian and those who are very Christian. I am under no delusions about the origins of this feast, but I still don’t want to put the Io Saturnalia back in Christmas.

It’s not quite as bad as the Asherah poles and high altars the Old Testament prophets were always lecturing about. Christmas can be a simple celebration of love and joy among one’s family or a chance to ponder the miracle of the Incarnation. Or, if you want, it can be stroll through Manhattan to see the Christmas lights or a bonfire on the beach in Lincolnville, ME. I’m down with it all.
This boa-wearing reindeer is a Christmas decoration given to me by my sister-in-law. I added the double rainbow and setting for effect.
I enjoy setting out my own Christmas decorations. Here are the plaster sheep made by my brother and sister in Sunday school. This January will be the fiftieth anniversary of my sister’s death; my brother followed her into the grave only four short years later. On most days, it no longer stings, but when I unwrap those figurines, I’m reminded that I’m their remaining memory-keeper. Every one of us has such people in our hearts. For me, Christmas is a safe time to unpack and visit them.
Here are my kids’ stockings. Now that they have their own homes, I should mail them to them, but it’s nice to remember the woman who started this tradition, Jan Dunlap, and all the subsequent stocking-makers in our history. So up they go on the bannister.
My Christmas Angel, by Carol L. Douglas
Here are the beautiful crocheted ornaments my mother made for my tree. They need reblocking; the starch has yellowed over the years. By Epiphany I’ll be so sick of Christmas I’ll rewrap them and vow to do it next year. Craft projects scare me.
Here is the Santa given to me by my pal Judie. He has a lush blonde beard, making him look like he has a tobacco problem. Judie and I were a Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz crafting team. We had great ideas, but they didn’t always work. Actually, they never worked.
My mother, on the other hand, was awesome at crafts. In my dining room I have a lighted porcelain tree she made back in the 1950s. It’s spray-painted gold. Recently a young person asked me where I found that amazing vintage decoration.
My only successful craft project is my 4H angel, on top of the tree. I figure she’s 48 years old this year, but I could be wrong. She’s missing her tassels and her burlap dress is fading, but she reminds me of my 4H friends, some of whom still have their own angels from the same day. My mother once bought me a lovely ceramic and lace tree-topper to replace her, but I gave that to my daughter. I prefer my ratty old angel.
Happy New Year! by Carol L. Douglas
Yesterday, I tossed a few things in packages to mail to my kids. I have more of this sorting to do, and maybe I’ll get to it this year.
My friend Kristin Zimmermann had a brilliant idea about what one should do with objects of sentimental value that one doesn’t want to store. She painted them, as here, and then passed them along.
I’ve painted many of my Christmas decorations over the years, which means I’m part of the way along to divestiture. But the heck with Swedish Death Cleaning or KonMari. Come January 6, they’ll all go back in the attic where they belong.

Every good idea I’ve ever had, I cribbed from someone else

I felt so craptastic by the end of the four hours that I asked Sandy to finish my painting for me. As fun as it was to watch her, that really didn’t work, since I’ve never bothered to train my students to be mini-mes. (At G and S Orchards in Walworth, NY.)
Yesterday I challenged another obstacle on the journey back to health—I painted four hours standing up. My surgeon did a fine job of running his knife along an old incision, but it was still abdominal surgery and I’m still recovering.
Drawing in watercolor pencil is something I borrowed from my pal Kristin Zimmermann. It affords better control than charcoal and is completely erasable with a wet paper towel. It’s not appropriate for every setting, but here where I wanted to study the architecture of an individual tree, it was great.
It was pretty painful to paint standing, and that’s sadly apparent in my painting. But it’s something I have to master before we’re truly into summer, because painting from a seated position is so limiting.
The shelf on my tripod was Jamie Grossman’s idea. The panel carrier was suggested by Marilyn Fairman. Using a waterproof stuff sack for my palette… well, I think I came up with that on my own.
While cleaning up, I mused on how much I’ve borrowed from the ideas of others. The pill container I keep my paints in was a gift from Jamie Grossman, who also showed me the tripod shelfthat allowed me to ditch my pochade box once and for all. The PanelPak carrier is something Marilyn Fairman showed me, and although I balked at spending the money on them, they’ve proven to be worth their weight in gold. 
Jamie Grossman also came up with this idea for carrying paints. Since I buy mine in jars, it saves me a ton of time and money on tubing, and it’s easier to manage in the field than tubes.
Using watercolor pencils to draw on my canvas allows me to make fast erasures with a wet rag, but that wasn’t my idea either—it was something my pal Kristin Zimmermann came up with. Kristin is also the person who drilled into me the importance of understanding pigments.
And here it is, another future doorstop.
Brad Marshall has recently been quoting Anders Zorn to the effect that we are not competitors, we are colleagues. So true, Brad.

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. My Belfast, ME, workshop is almost sold out. Click 
here for more information on my Maine workshops!

Painting with Friends

Durand-Eastman in early Spring, 11X14, oil on canvasboard. I am not that keen on early Spring colors, which to me often look clichéd, and I didn’t like this when I painted it. I like it a lot more now. It’s brassy—just like me.

Marilyn Feinberg was raised in Irondequoit, so it is no surprise that she was drawn to Durand-Eastman Park. We painted there in every season, but this painting was done on a cold Spring day when we were still in down jackets and crocheted toques. Marilyn’s coat was orange and her hat purple, which is why (I think) a local news photographer spotted and photographed us. (I’ve been photographed painting innumerable times and never when well-dressed. Yes, that begs the question.)

Marilyn and I painted together forever: when we started, we could jog the trails at High Tor on our breaks, tolerate freezing our paints in a vineyard, or nearly be washed away on a bridge in a torrential downpour. By the time she and her husband retired to Florida, we were somewhat more sedate, and marginally more sensible.
Oakland Shores Motel and Cabins, Rockland, ME, 9X12, oil on canvasboard, painted while traveling with Kristin Zimmermann.
Another painting buddy of long standing is Kristin Zimmermann. She is definitely an urban animal. Occasionally I could cajole her to leave Manhattan, but she isn’t that keen on all that green. That’s fine; I New York too. I’m accustomed to using a car to move my painting kit around, and using the subway requires miniaturization. I learned a lot about efficient packing from Kristin, but she never could stop me from tripping over my own feet.
Lake Champlain from on top of a stupid cliff, 11X14, oil on canvasboard
Then there is my young painting buddy, Matthew Menzies, who is at Rhode Island School of Design now. He painted with me while in high school. Matt spun a tale one day in which I died by falling off a cliff at High Tor, after which he and Marilyn discovered that I had the car keys in my pocket.
Last summer, Matt and I met up in Burlington, VT to paint together. Far be it from us to set up someplace sensible: we found our best view from a narrow ridge, hoisting our kits 25 feet up an almost vertical incline. I am happy to report that I am still alive.
If you’re interested in joining us for a fantastic time in mid-Coast Maine this summer, check here for more information. There’s still room in my workshops.

Merry Christmas!

My male friends can go back to alphabetizing their Beatles collection. My middle-aged women pals will recognize this as a bottle angel—what we were making while they were building forts and playing that ugly Danelectro guitar in the family room.

She was made in 1968 or thereabouts, which is why she is wearing a chic turquoise burlap gown with cotton batting for trim. She’s bedraggled and filthy and her dress is unraveling, but she has been on our Christmas tree ever since my mom decided I was finally old enough to take care of her (I was 35 or thereabouts). This year my mom gave me her own tree angel, a delicate porcelain doll with batiste skirts that glow in the tree lights. My own bedraggled angel moves over to join the psychedelic reindeer and the blonde German Santa in the niche.

My friend Kristin Zimmermann paints portraits of sentimental things that must move along—her Kitchen-Aid mixer, her Christmas ornaments, and her Singer Featherweight sewing machine, among other things. They are delightful paintings. I’m trying to paint a small still life every day before moving on to more important things—6X8, not to take more than an hour. I think I’m going to borrow her idea for a while.

Lilac Preservation Project presents The Water Works Exhibition

October 3-5, 2008 — North side of Pier 40, Manhattan
Migrating Geese, by Carol Douglas, 12X9, oil, is among works by thirty New York artists.
New York, NY – The Lilac Preservation Project (LPP) is pleased to present The Water Works Exhibition, featuring the works of thirty artists from metropolitan New York and the Hudson Valley. The show is curated by Lilac’s artist-in-residence, Amy DiGi. All works are for sale.
Artists featured in the exhibition include: Liz Adams, Yasue Arai, John Baber, Amy DiGi, Carol Douglas, Victoria Estok, Mary Ann Glass, Marilyn Harari, Linda Hubbard, Rick Michalek, Maddy Morales, Sharon Nakazato, Rein Singfield, Christopher Staples, Ruth Ternovitz, Joe Vacara, Diane Waller, Marcia Wiley, Elizabeth Winchester, Kristin Zimmermann and others
The Lilac, built in 1933, is an historic, decommissioned US Coast Guard vessel that served as a lighthouse and buoy tender in New Jersey. She is the last surviving vessel in her class. (For details about her history and the mission and work of the LPP, see here.)
The Water Works Exhibition is open to the public Friday through Sunday, October 3-5, from 10 AM to 6 PM. The public is invited to a reception on Saturday, Oct. 4 from 6 to 9 PM. All Lilac exhibitions are open to the public free of charge.
Subway: Take the #1 train To Christopher Street. Walk west along Christopher Street to West Street (West Side Highway), cross to the Pier and walk south 2 blocks to Pier 40. Or take the #1 train to Houston Street and walk west along Houston Street directly to the Pier.

Bus: Take the 8, 10 or 21 bus lines. PATH directions: To Christopher Street Station. Walk west along Christopher Street to West Street (West Side Highway), cross to the Pier and walk south 2 blocks to Pier 40.

Car: Pier 40 is located 2 blocks south of Christopher Street off of West Street (West Side Highway).