Be careful what you wish for

One in five houses in Maine is someone’s vacation home. The potential implications of COVID-19 are terrible.

Four Ducks, Cape Elizabeth Paint for Preservation, by Carol L. Douglas

One thing I’ve dreaded doing was striking out upcoming events on my website. As I’ve written before, I think the plein air festival has lost its punch. Because of this, I deleted all but a few key events in 2020. The ones I kept had strong revenues or provided unusual opportunities for painting. Then cancellations started flooding in from organizers rightly worried about promoting events they can’t deliver. Now I’m left with what I’d thought I wanted: a summer where I can concentrate on painting here at home, and where I can run my studio-gallery without interruption.

Of course, I don’t know whether anyone will be able to come. Like everyone else, I have no idea what shape the summer will take. The state of Maine is on lockdown. That’s not irrational: one in five houses in this state is someone’s vacation home, the highest percentage in the nation. That makes us very vulnerable to visiting pathogens.
Ottawa House, Parrsboro International Plein Air Festival, by Carol L. Douglas
But tourism is one of our top economic drivers. In 2018, over 37 million people visited Maine, spending $6.2 billion and supporting 110,000 jobs. The cost of this lockdown, if it continues through the summer months, is incalculable. The cultural costs are being felt already. Our bicentennial was March 15, but the state had to postpone a host of celebrations that have been years in the making.
In the near future, I’ll be teaching painting via Zoom. Teaching via the internet is going to be radically different from teaching in person. I need to figure out new ways to prepare, since we won’t all be looking at the same scene, carefully curated to address a specific issue in painting. The issue isn’t technology; it’s creating projects that are doable in students’ homes.
Ocean Park Beach, Art in the Park, by Carol L. Douglas
I’m kicking myself for not paying more attention to Katie Dobson Cundiff while we were in Argentina. She teaches at Ringling College of Art and Design. Her students were all sent home while they were on spring break. While the rest of us were larking around the glaciers, she was creating a template for remote teaching.
The only analogy in my lifetime was the economic collapse of 2008. My income fell by 2/3 in one horrible year. Both painting sales and classes were way down. My strategy was to stop showing and selling until the market had time to recover. Even my teaching practice was reduced. Instead, I used that time to focus on my own development.
I don’t think the current crisis will have the same shape as the 2008 crash, but I’ll probably do something similar. I’m retracting, watching, and trying to be nimble. And I’m really curious about your ideas.

But first I have to feel better. I’m entering week four of being ill. This morning, I’m breaking my quarantine to drive to my PCP’s office for further testing. If I get arrested, you can send me a file in a cake.

A bit of local color

Who painted these lovely, overlooked murals in Rockland ME?
Mural at Ocean State Job Lot, Rockland, ME.
Inside the lobby at Rockland’s Ocean State Job Lot—in the northwest corner where they put promoted seasonal merchandise—is a set of murals. There are more in the breakroom, where we never go. These were painted more than 25 years ago, when the building was a Wal-Mart. To Ocean State’s credit, they’ve never been painted over, but they are badly in need of restoration. The fluorescent lighting in the store is pretty awful.
Mural at Ocean State Job Lot, Rockland, ME.
The murals are an utterly charming look at Rockport and Camden and their fine flurry of sailing vessels. The American Boat Yard sheds are still standing below Mount Battie. An amazing potpourri of wonderful vessels bobs around the light at Rockland, including schooner Victory Chimes and the US Coast Guard Cutter Thunder Bay. The lobster smack Joseph Pike is tied up at its dock.
At first you think the boats were transcribed from photos, but then you take a good look at them and realize that nothing in these murals are real. Rather, they’re fantastical, as if in a dream. Camden has fewer houses than it would have in a 19th century painting by Fitz Henry Lane.
Mural at Ocean State Job Lot, Rockland, ME.
One of the pieces has a clear signature: Ed L. Roberts ’92. An Ocean State employee thought he was someone who worked at the store. A cursory Google search tells me nothing. So, sadly, I know nothing of their provenance. Rather, I’m asking you: who painted these and when? If you have any idea, please comment below.
Mural at Ocean State Job Lot, Rockland, ME.
If you’re visiting Rockland, Ocean State Job Lot is probably not on your bucket list. Still, you might want to stop and take a quick gander at this amazing folk art. If you think of it, thank the manager for not painting over them. They’re a charming part of our local history.

The importance of time off

Most of us were trained to work hard. It may be killing us.
Schoodic sunset, photo by Carol L. Douglas

Yesterday I went to the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. A gigantic cruise ship slowly disentangled itself from Bar Harbor. In the distance I could make out Winter Harbor and the Schoodic Peninsula. As the sun slumped toward the horizon, swarms of leaf-peepers swung their cameras and phones about and clicked away.

I didn’t sketch; I didn’t paint; I took no reference photos. I was there as a tourist, enjoying the changing fall foliage in our oldest national park.
It’s not that I don’t like to paint in Acadia. I’ve taught there for years. In fact, I will head back up later this month to work. (For one thing, the LL Bean outlet didn’t have any insulated boots in my size.) However, sometimes one needs a rest and a beautiful view. That’s true for every worker.
Drying towels, by Carol L. Douglas (private collection)
The Framingham Heart Study is a long-term ongoing cardiovascular study that began in 1948. Among its findings is a correlation between time off and longer, healthier lives. Men who skipped vacations for several years were 30% more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who took annual vacations. These vacations didn’t need to be elaborate or long; they simply needed to be a time when the worker downed tools and did something else, preferably with family and friends.
Then there’s brain function. We need time off in order to do our jobs better. Neuroscientists believe that chronic stress changes neural networks. Cortisol interferes with learning and memory, lowers immune function and bone density, and increases weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease, depression and mental illness.
High Tide, Scott Island, by Carol L. Douglas (private collection)

I understand how the real world lives. My husband would love to take some vacation time, but he’s on a project that’s perennially behind. He works long hours, and when he’s not working, he’s thinking about work. It’s taking its toll mentally and physically. That’s the killer of the American salaryman. As much as you will agree to work, that’s what your company will take.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American works 44 hours per week, or 8.8 hours per day. We have the longest work-week in the world, and even though we’re four times as productive as our grandparents were in 1950, we haven’t seen that translate into more time off. That’s a cultural phenomenon as much as it is a necessity. Most of us were trained to work hard, and we don’t know how to get out from under that except to retire.
Flood tide, by Carol L. Douglas (private collection)
There’s a hidden way in which our workload has increased. The percentage of women in the workforce has nearly doubled since 1950. Housework is now a burden added to the paid workweek, for both men and women.
I’ve read that unemployment is at a 45-year low. Even the U6 rate, which includes marginally-attached workers and people working part time because they can’t find full time work, is approaching historic lows. That gives workers the kind of power we haven’t seen since Nixon was President. I hope as people renegotiate their terms of employment, they remember to ask for more time off. Maine is waiting for you.

A sense of place

I can’t get a painting out of my mind. That means the artist did an unusually good job.
Lobster dock, by Carol L. Douglas, watercolor on Yupo paper.

In September, our days often start with fog, as the cooler, longer nights of autumn dance with the warm ocean. “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” John Keats called it. It’s exquisitely cool on the skin and a delight to paint. But I was having none of that joy on Sunday. In fact, I was miserable.

As the sky cleared, the day emerged perfect. There is a limpid, golden light from now until March in this latitude. Still, it’s not cold; a warm, gentle breeze floated across Damariscotta Lake. September is the most glorious month in Maine, and the knowledgeable holiday-makers know it.
They were out in force, zipping along the water on their jet skies, in power and pontoon boats. I like boats, and don’t generally begrudge them their fun on the water, but the engine sounds were drilling neat holes in my temples. After six hours, I capitulated to my awful headache and packed up my brushes.
I’m not a crank, I have hay fever. Really.
Yesterday morning I noticed that my eyes were swollen. The penny dropped. I used to have fierce autumn allergies when I lived along the Lake Plains. Here, my bedroom overlooks a hundred-acre hayfield. I have hayfever again.
I’d planned on meeting Bobbi Heath to paint in the pickerelweed above Damariscotta Mills. When I showed her my eyes, she suggested that we go, instead, to the shore, where the ocean breezes could clear my sinuses. That is how we ended up at Round Pond, and it suited me to a T.
Private Island, definitely unfinished, by Carol L. Douglas
I’m having fun with Yupo, and doing some interesting work with it, but the medium is driving my painting, rather than being subservient to any sense of place. That’s shifting, but it’s a slow process.
“Sense of place” is difficult to define. Most geographic places have strong identities, although some (like shopping malls) are interchangeable. But sense of place isn’t merely geographical. It’s also perception, based on history and feelings.
A sense of place needn’t be positive. Charles Dickens opened Great Expectations in a miasma of graveyard, swamp, and convict hulks on the river. Charles Burchfieldhas a tremendous sense of his adopted hometown of Buffalo, and it’s threatening. But in painting, sense of place is generally a positive thing.
In the national imagination, Maine has a strong place identity. That is why gazillions of ceramic lighthouses are flogged here every year. But a sense of place is deeper than simple media coverage and souvenir shopping. Digging to its essence is one of the trickiest jobs in landscape painting.
View from Mount Pisgah, by Deborah Lazar, has a tremendous sense of place. It comes from the brushwork as much as from the forms.
I’ve thought a lot about a painting I saw last month at Adirondack Plein Air that has a stellar sense of place. It was a tiny gem, almost unnoticed in the crush, but it’s resonated with me ever since. I asked its painter, Deborah Lazar, if I could share it with you.
Deborah has captured the Adirondacks’ essential color and form in simple terms. I can practically feel the wind in the looseness of her brushwork. She couldn’t have done that had she focused on style rather than content, because her mark-making would have overridden the movement of the wind. 
Style is often what’s rewarded by jurors. But this painting has stuck with me long after the prize-winners have faded from my memory.

Sensible Maine

Not all regional differences are about the landscape, the accents and the buildings. There are also differences in character.
Erie Canal Sketch by Carol L. Douglas. You’re pretty, New York, but don’t let it go to your head.

Last year, Bobbi Heathand I stopped on the road and bought boxes, bubble wrap and tape. We left these, carefully marked, for our work to be returned after a show in New Jersey. Mine were mailed back unsecured and unwrapped. Mercifully, nothing was damaged, but had that $3000 of inventory been ruined, the Postal Service would have been justified in not paying the claim. Our host at that event was gracious and kind, but the slipshod mailing left me thinking poorly of the event.

Compare that to my experience at Santa Fe Plein Air Fiesta earlier this month. When my frames arrived broken, co-chair Jane Chapin loaned me three of hers. That flexible, kind attitude was visible in small and large ways throughout the event. They held three receptions for the artists. They cooked for us and cared for us. Their attitude makes me want to hurry back.
There are invisible differences from place to place in America, and sometimes they’re more important than what you see.
Erie Canal Bridge Sketch, by Carol L. Douglas.
I engage with government in very limited ways—the department of motor vehicles, the town clerk, the planning office, and the post office. In my small town of Rockport, ME (pop. 3,330), I’m accustomed to public officials being accommodating and thoughtful. The other day I visited the clerk’s office to ask what my excise tax would be on a new car I’m considering. It was a few minutes before closing time. The deputy clerk calculated it, commiserated, and made a friendly joke as we left.
In New York, it’s a high crime and misdemeanor if every dot and tittle is not in place. Its clerks guard their prerogatives assiduously. I should have remembered that, but I’ve gotten soft.
Catskill Farm, by Carol L. Douglas
So I was a little blindsided when my daughter ran into trouble at the local town hall. She and her fiancé need a marriage license by the weekend. They had followed the instructions on the New York State website. Of course, like everyone else, they followed them wrong. She was carrying the wrong identification.
Still, the town she is getting married in is very close to the town where she was born. She’s carrying the highest-and-greatest form of identification—her United States Passport. It ought to have been no big deal to just get a new birth certificate.
No way, no how. They won’t give it to her without her Social Security card, one of the most loosely-controlled documents Americans carry. “Homeland Security visits us, you know!” the clerk told her.
The Dugs, by Carol L. Douglas
“This is New York, right?” a friend quipped. “Try bribing them.” I won’t do that, but if it doesn’t get straightened out today, I’m going to try sending a little muscle along. And there’s always ‘the touch’, putting the word out to friends and family to see who knows someone who knows someone. Because in New York, that’s how things get done.
But back to sensible Maine for the answer. I called Camden Falls Gallery and got Howard Gallagher on the phone. “Sure!” he said, and he sent Sandy Quang over to my house to get the requisite documents from my safe. Then she got into her car and left for New York a few hours earlier than she had planned. If all goes well, Mary’s birth certificate and social security card should be in her hand by midday and the wedding will proceed as planned.

Want to make a living in the arts?

Pay attention to the numbers and develop a strategic plan.
Three Graces, Carol L. Douglas (courtesy Camden Falls Gallery). Wherever I go, that’s where the party’s at, especially on the Camden docks. That’s part of my business plan.

Yesterday, we started our day with a tsunami warning scrolling across our phones. Later, they issued a clarification; Accuweather had misread a test alarm. The mighty Atlantic floated serenely on.

A tsunami would have messed up my plans, which were to drive to Ellsworth to attend the Maine Arts Commission’s Arts Iditarod.
I’ve writtenabout my own strategic planning. It’s tremendously important for the artist who wants to go from dedicated amateur to professional. I was chuffed to hear Julie Richard, Maine Arts Commission Executive Director, ask how many artists or organizations have a strategic plan. I wasn’t so chuffed by the response, which was pretty spotty. In fact, I was the only working artist in the group who had such a plan.
Parker Dinghy, by Carol L. Douglas. A commission from a day on the Camden docks.
A strategic plan is just a disciplined exercise in developing goals and objectives for your business venture. If you’re a Maine artist who wants to take that all-important step in self-development, I encourage you to attend the last of the meetings, at Lewiston on February 14. You can register here. Mush!
Artists, for the most part, operate outside a corporate structure. For us, a blueprint is critically important, and yet we’re loathe to embrace planning. When I did my first strategic planning, it seemed a strange and wondrous concept. Twenty years later, I get it. Don’t let the oddity of the process deter you. It really works.
Athabasca glacier, by Carol L. Douglas. My plan never involves giving up fun.
About 22,000 Mainers make their living in the arts, and we’d do a better job of it if we were more organized. That starts with facts about our target audience. There are, of course, a similar set of facts for every locale. If you’re not in Maine, you’ll need to ferret them out on your own.
Arts and cultural tourists tend to spend more, stay longer, and come back more frequently than other kinds of visitors to Maine, according to Maine Cultural Tourism Coordinator Abbe Levin. They’re also more likely to move here after retirement. The Maine Office of Tourism is a big player in drawing them here, although most of their efforts are invisible to us Mainers. 95% of their marketing is done out of state. This year, VisitMaine will have around 3.5 million hits, and the office will send out mailings to a list of more than 800,000 visitors.
“How many visitors are too many?” asked a participant. While that’s something that occurs to us in July, the coastal economy needs people from away.
Russ Island at High Tideby Carol L. Douglas. It was painting off the American Eagle that inspired the Age of Sail workshop this June.
Maine currently sees about 40 million visitors a year, with annual growth of 8-9%. To compare, New York City, which is America’s top-drawing tourist destination, sees 60 million visitors a year. Yosemite gets 4 million people a year. We are, in fact, a very big deal, but we have the capacity to accommodate more, according to Levin. That’s particularly true during the shoulder seasons and in places farther up north.
The question for Maine artists is how to engage these visitors. Is it with more gallery representation, a self-run gallery, signage, advertising, painting on the dock or chatting up tourists?

What about an artist’s residency?

Mature painters can apply for a residency at one of these great Maine art centers.

Courtesy Hog Island

This time of year, I can see the water of Rockport harbor from my bedroom window. I’ve been around the world, and I’m lucky to have landed in one of earth’s great beauty spots.

For those of you who dream about painting here, I’ve assembled a listing of visual artist residencies in the state of Maine. I have only included residencies that do not charge participating artists a fee. There are others, such as Skowhegan’s summer program, that are wonderful but cost the artist money.
Bremen, ME
Applications due February 1, 2018
Residency Length: 2 weeks
Directed toward the artist whose work brings a broader appreciation of the natural environment, culture, and/or history of the coastal Maine ecosystem, and/or supports the mission of the Seabird Restoration Program to promote the conservation of seabirds and their critical habitats.
Applicants should be in good health and should be able to regularly walk the 6/10-mile uneven wooded path to the main campus for services. Expect solitude and immersion in nature, including varied weather and the possibility of ticks and mosquitoes.
At its nearest point, Hog Island is approximately ¼ mile from the mainland. Camp staff can ferry you back and forth if necessary. Residents who are comfortable with ocean navigation are welcome to bring a kayak and tie up at the cottages for their own transportation and at their own risk.
Courtesy Haystack Mountain School of Crafts
Deer Isle, ME
Open application starting January 1, 2018
Residency Length: May 27 – June 8
Haystack’s Open Studio Residency provides two weeks of studio time and an opportunity to work in a supportive community of makers. The program accommodates approximately 50 participants—from the craft field and other creative disciplines—who have uninterrupted time to work in six studios (ceramics, fiber, graphics, iron, metals, and wood) to develop ideas and experiment in various media. Participants can choose to work in one particular studio or move among them depending on the nature of their work. All of the studios are staffed by technicians who can assist with projects. Note: this is not a workshop and participants are expected to be technically proficient.
Courtesy Hewnoaks Artist Colony
Lovell, ME
Applications taken during the month of February, 2018
Residency Length: up to 2 weeks
Magnificently situated on the eastern shore of Kezar Lake, Hewnoaks offers an extraordinary setting of inspiration and beauty. By resurrecting its art-making traditions we aim to honor its creative history and preserve its environmental integrity.
Painters, sculptors, photographers, filmmakers, choreographers, actors, musicians, writers and curators are welcome. Preference is given to Maine artists. Artists are expected to work in their living space.
Courtesy Maine Farmland Trust (Rolling Acres Farm)
Jefferson, ME
Applications opened on December 1, 2017
Residency Length: 1 month/ 6 weeks
Residencies are for Maine artists, except for the Visual Arts program.
Six, month-long residencies: two in July, two in August and two in September, for visual artists. One placement is for an out-of-state or international artist, and one for a Maine artist.
One writing residency a minimum of four and maximum of six weeks long, July through mid-August. Applicants in the following categories can apply: Poetry, Prose, Fiction/Non-fiction.
One performing arts residency a minimum of four and maximum of six weeks long, during mid-August through end of September. Applicants in the following categories can apply: Performance/Dance, Storytelling, Songwriting.
Art & Agriculture- Seasonal Resident Gardener Position
This is a part-time, 5-month seasonal position for someone with at least 2 years of organic gardening experience and an affinity with the arts. The resident gardener will be living on-site with the visual arts and writing residents, and is encouraged to use their time at the Fiore Art Center for their own creative pursuits if desired. 
Courtesy Monhegan Artists’ Residency
Mohegan, ME United States
Applications opened on February 1, 2018
Session length: 2/5 weeks
The Monhegan Artists’ Residency provides free comfortable living quarters, studio space, a stipend of $150 per week, and time for visual artists to reflect on, experiment, or develop their art while living in an artistically historic and beautiful location.
There are two 5-week sessions for artists with significant ties to Maine and one 2-week session for K-12 visual art teachers in Maine.
Courtesy Schoodic Institute
Winter Harbor, ME
Deadline: January 15, 2018
Session length: 2 weeks
In exchange for a two-week immersive experience, artists lead one outreach presentation with the public, and donate within one year one work of art that depicts a fresh and innovative new perspective of Acadia for park visitors.
Three categories of applicants are considered at present: Visual Artists; Writers; and At-Large Participants working in such forms as music composition, performing arts, indigenous arts, and emerging technologies. Applications are reviewed by appointed juries including park staff, community members, past program participants, and subject matter experts.

Courtesy Tides Institute

Tides Institute

Eastport ME
Deadline: February 1, 2018
Session length: 4/8 weeks

Founded in 2013 and now in its sixth year, The StudioWorks Artist-in-Residence Program at the Tides Institute & Museum of Art (TIMA) offers residency opportunities to visual artists from the U.S. and abroad to deepen and develop their practice within a community setting. The studios, museum and housing are located within the historic downtown and working waterfront of Eastport, Maine and overlook the U.S./Canada boundary. 

Strategic thinking

My plein air events for 2017 are all done. It’s time to consider how to improve things in 2018.
Full Stop, by Carol L. Douglas. Part of my self-analysis is to consider what paintings gave me the most joy to paint this summer. This is a small sample.
Mary Byrom asked me why I moved to Maine just to spend so much of my time on the road. It’s a good question, and one I take seriously as I plan for 2018.
Boston is a cork blocking Maine’s access to the rest of the country. I’ve been driving on I-90 for the better part of 40 years. This summer, traffic in eastern Massachusetts seemed particularly bad. Keeping that in mind, we timed our departure from Pittsfield to avoid the worst traffic on I-495. Instead, we sat for nearly an hour on the Masspike outside Worcester. It was a perfect bookend to our trip south eleven days earlier, when we rode the brakes all the way down I-84 to New York City.
Two Islands in the rain, by Carol L. Douglas
It felt wonderful to pull into our driveway. When I got out of my car in the far reaches of the night, there was the Milky Way, hanging directly over my head. It seemed as if I could have reached out a hand and scooped up diamonds.
I’ve spent the last month fighting a wicked bout of asthmatic bronchitis. That’s a dead giveaway that I need to cool my jets.
In the belly of the whale, by Carol L. Douglas. I got to spend a day looking at the guts of a scalloper. What could be better?
Years ago, the organizers of an invitational event told me that they did a three-year running average of sales for each artist. Each year, the bottom 25% of performers were cut from their roster. Friendship and sentiment were never considered. The lowest-performing artists were replaced with new people. By giving painters a pass for the first two years, the event gave new painters a chance to gain a foothold in the community
I’m thinking of doing a similar analysis on my own calendar. I want to spread my work out across a longer season. That means, sadly, cutting some mid-summer events.
Along Kiwassa Lake, by Carol L. Douglas. Is there anything more lake-camp than a clothesline strung along the shore?
However, I must consider distance, convenience, and opportunity costs. An event in New Jersey needs to yield a better return than one in Maine. If it provides housing for its artists, it is better than an event where I need a hotel. And any time I’m painting elsewhere, I’m not on the docks in Camden, which might well have a better return.
I’m not sure I can design a matrix that’s as brutally, beautifully simple as my friends at the art center’s, but I can still think this through objectively.
Penobscot Early Morning, by Carol L. Douglas. Painted from a friend’s deck while drinking coffee.
Another thing I’m considering for 2018 is creating a limited-liability corporation. I’ve never actually lost a painting student yet, and I’m insured, but why expose my family to the financial risk?
I am revisiting the question of online painting sales. I’ve pondered this repeatedly over the last five years. The recurring nature of the question tells me that online marketing isn’t going away. It’s not a question of if, but when. The changeover isn’t going to be easy; it means enabling e-commerce on my website, changing my marketing strategy, and—most importantly—changing the way I think about selling paintings. But it’s our current reality.
That high-level thinking will all wait, though. Today, I’m going to just read the mail and water my tomatoes. I’ll go collect my car from the garage and stop at the post office and the library. Perhaps I’ll walk down to the harbor and see what beautiful boats have floated in. It’s a glorious time of year in the Northeast and I aim to enjoy it.

Maine’s state flower is not a flower

In which our heroine reveals her shocking ignorance about evergreen species of Maine, and vows to do better.

I painted it, but I have no idea what it was.
I had a visitor to my studio this week, a collector who also follows my blog. She read about my recent interest in Eastern White Pines, and mentioned that they are Maine’s state tree. I was surprised, since I don’t see them in my little corner of the state.
“What is Maine’s state flower?” I asked her, figuring it would be either the lupineor rosa rugosa, both of which grow in wild profusion here. Turns out it’s the cone of the Eastern White Pine. It was adopted as the state flower in 1895, after it was used in the National Garland of Flowers at the 1893 World’s Fair.
This may be the Pine Tree State, but its natural trees include many more broadleaf species (52) than evergreens (14). They’re the same species as grow in my native New York, but here conifers provide a much greater percentage of the forest cover.
Sentinel trees, by Carol L. Douglas. Red pines, maybe?
I don’t know evergreens as well as I know deciduous trees. This week, I’ve decided to learn about them in earnest.
We have more evergreens here because we’re closer to the taiga, the broad swaths of boreal forests that run in a ring around the North Pole. (There is no southern-hemisphere equivalent because there isn’t enough land in the proper latitudes.)
The boreal forests dip into the continental United States where it’s mountainous. Here in the northeast, that means along the Appalachians from northern New York to northern Maine. But mostly, they’re in Alaska and Canada.
The Dugs, by Carol L. Douglas. That’s a beaver dam in the southern Adirondacks. I can tell you the red flashes are soft maples, but I can’t tell you what the dark evergreens are.
Coniferous trees are adapted to the taiga. They shed snow easily. Their needles are cold- and drought-resistant, with thick waxy coatings and very little surface area. They can turn photosynthesis on when the temperature goes above freezing on winter days. Broadleaf plants can’t exploit brief moments of warmth; they remain dormant after they shed their leaves. That limits their growing season.
The most obvious difference between spruce and pine is how the needles are arranged. The needles of spruces attach directly to the branches. Pine trees have needles in bundles called fascicles.
The needles of balsam firs also grow individually. However, while spruce tree needles are sharp and flexible, fir needles are flat and blunt. Balsams are notable for their fragrance.
Another evergreen I painted without first asking its name. How rude!
Tamaracks, or larches, are the only deciduous conifer that grows here. Their needles are three-sided and blue-green. They turn bright yellow in autumn.
I only learned recently that jack pines were a species, not a description of a weather-beaten tree. These small, drought-resistant trees have stiff, short needles in bundles of two. Their branches are long and spreading, forming an open ragged crown.  The dark brown bark is irregularly divided into small scales.
Pitch pines are coastal trees. They have long needles that come three to a fascicle. Pitch pines sprout needles from their trunks.
White pine also has long needles, but they come five to a fascicle. Mature, these are huge trees with large cones. Red pines have two needles to a fascicle, but since both species are big, counting the needles may not be practical. Red pine bark is, yes, redder than white pine.
Last are the cedars, which have flat, fanned foliage, and the junipers, which have little blue berries. Just to be annoying, the most common juniper in the northeast is called the Eastern Red Cedar.

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.