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.

Fifty shades of red

"Blueberries," Carol L. Douglas

“Blueberries,” Carol L. Douglas
A patch of blueberries is an amazing confection of red tones, turning the summer-green-foliage question on its head. It’s fascinating to mix those colors. Of course it is easier with a palette knife. I’d pulled mine out of my kit to see if I could do a better fix than I’d done along the road in Canada. Alas, I forgot to return it.
It is very difficult to paint without a palette knife; until yesterday, I’d have said it was darn near impossible. Mixing with a brush is inaccurate and is hard on your brushes. But there were no sticks handy to carve into a mixing knife. I used my brushes.
For those of you who don't live near them, blueberries in their native clime are a very short shrub, similar to heather in stature.

For those of you who don’t live near them, blueberries in their native clime are short, similar to heather in stature.
While they’ve developed highbush cultivars of the blueberry that grow in warmer places, the native blueberry species mostly grow in boreal and tundra areas. Yes, one can get blueberries from New Jersey, but they bear about as much resemblance to the Maine blueberry as plasticulture strawberries do to the ones that grow in my lawn.
I’d intended to spend an hour painting those fantastic reds, but the light was exquisite and the day was warmer than forecast. I was there closer to three. With a start, I realized I needed to be on the road to make Pittsfield before my grandchildren’s bedtime.
By the time I was done, a mackerel sky was building and the light was gone.

By the time I was done, a mackerel sky was building and the light was going fast.
The MassPike is replacing its toll/cash system with overhead gantries on October 28. This system was in place in Australia when I visited in 2008, and it’s a lot faster than toll booths. However, it does mean a higher toll and a bill in the mail for anyone without an EZ Pass.
It’s amazing how fast a drive of five hours seems after traveling across Canada. I blasted the stereo and sang along. A car of young men saw me bouncing and whirled around my car to check me out. I chortled as they realized I was old enough to be their mother.