Why not paint under a false name?

The gender disparity in art is terrible. So why don’t I paint under a nom de pinceau?

Autumn Leaves, Beauchamp Point, is one of the non-nude paintings at the Rye Arts Center’s Censored and Poetic this month.

Last month, when I wrote about the gender disparity in art, a reader asked me why I didn’t believe gender-neutral nom de pinceaus were the answer. I promised  I’d answer the question in my following post, but then Russia invaded Ukraine and it seemed like wars and rumors of war were more pressing.

Last night was the opening of Censored and Poetic at Rye Arts Center, which brought the question back to mind.

Kicki Storm, me, and Anne de Villeméjane at the opening.

The gender disparity is in fact greater than the race disparity in US galleries. According to a 2019 study, an estimated 85% of artists represented on US gallery walls were white, compared to 76.3% in the general population. That is terrible, but a study the prior year found that in 820,000 exhibitions across the public and commercial sectors in 2018, only one third of the works were by female artists. That’s despite the fact that 51% of the US population is female.*

In general, a name cannot tell you whether a painter is white or black. I had a brief chat about this last night with Matthew Menzies, my former painting student. Matt and I both check a lot of the same sociological boxes. We both have Scottish surnames. However, Matt’s not white, although you’d never know that until you met him. On the other hand, my given name tells you immediately that I’m female. I can be rejected in the sorting process.

Last night, Kicki Storm referred to a 1989 art project by the Guerrilla Girls called Do Women Have to be Naked to Get Into the Met Museum? which found that less than 5% of the artists in the Modern art section of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York were women but 85% of the nudes were female.

I’d like to say it’s better now, but a short comparison of the careers of Lois Doddand Alex Katz reveals otherwise. They have oddly parallel careers. Both studied at Cooper Union. Dodd went on to be one of the founders of the Tanager Gallery. She taught at Brooklyn College and Skowhegan.

The Met owns 19 Alex Katz paintings and three of Lois Dodd’s, none of which are on view. MoMA owns one Lois Dodd painting, acquired in 2018, when she was 91 years of age. I lost track trying to count how many of Alex Katz’ paintings they own; there are 137 records.

In light of this, why not hide behind a gender-neutral set of initials, or, even better, a false name? Because to do so is to capitulate to the world, to agree to its assumption that male painters are superior. If my generation doesn’t challenge this assumption, who will?  

There’s also the stubbornness of identity. I am who I am, for better or ill. That’s complex; it involves boats and building as much as it does children and grandchildren. Concealing that complexity simply perpetuates gender stereotypes, which I think have gotten more rigid, not less, during my lifetime.

*Every time I read about a massive survey like these, I wonder who has time to count these things.

I’d rather be painting

We don’t control our legacy; we just do our best work and hope for the best. But, please, if you love me, don’t tell me you like my writing better than my painting.

Pull up your Big Girl Panties, 6X8, is one of the paintings at Rye Arts Center this month.

Next Thursday, I give a short talk at the opening of Censored and Poetic at the Rye Arts Center in New York. It will be livestreamed; you can register here. I’m no stranger to speaking; I generally lecture for 25 minutes each week to my painting classes. That takes me about three hours to research and write.

Cutting that in half increases the prep time exponentially. The more economical the text, the longer it takes to prepare. Certainly, the more emotionally engaged you are with the subject, the more difficult it is to put it in lucid order, and I’m passionate about my subject.

Spring, 24X30, is one of the paintings at Rye Arts Center this month.

The net result is that I’ve used my entire week writing and practicing my talk. I’ll get out tomorrow for a few hours of plein airpainting in the snow, but that’s only because I’m doing a photo shoot with Derek Hayes.

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time recently writing. And yet, I don’t think of myself as a writer, but a painter. This winter, it seems, I’m a writer whose subject is painting. Or, perhaps I’m a painter who writes.

It’s all very annoying. I’ve spent many years learning the craft of painting and almost none learning to write. That comes as naturally to me as talking.

Michelle Reading, 24X30, is one of the paintings at Rye Arts Center this month.

All of us carry these labels. I told someone recently that my husband was a programmer. He corrected me, because he is—of course—a software engineer. Not being in the profession, I don’t understand the difference, but it clearly matters.

Labels can be limiting. Mid-century America used to talk about the ‘Renaissance man.’ This was a polymath, a person who was a virtuoso at many things. That’s very different from the pejorative ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’ that we sometimes use to describe a person who can’t light on any one thing and do it well.

Polymathy was, in fact, a characteristic of the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Gentlemen (and some ladies) were expected to speak multiple languages, pursue science as a passionate avocation, play musical instruments, and draw competently, all while fulfilling their roles as aristocrats and courtiers. Of course, that was only possible because a whole host of peons (that would be you and me) attended to their every need from birth.

This Little Boat of Mine, 16X20, is one of the paintings at Rye Arts Center this month.

Having to work and do your own laundry tends to cut into one’s leisure time. In fact, in America, we have an inversion of the historic distribution of leisure. Our elite are workaholics. Wealthy American men, in particular, work longer hours than poor men in our society and rich men in other countries.

This leaves no time to do other things. It also affects our overall culture, since culture is the byproduct of leisure. We used to love highbrow things like classical music and art because the well-educated had time to turn their hobbies into art. Today our culture is much earthier, for good or ill.

Loretta Lynn made a commercial in the 1970s which opened with, “Some people like my pies better than my singin’.” I remember that and her 1970 hit single, Coal Miner’s Daughter, and, sadly, nothing else of her three-time-Grammy-Award oeuvre.

We don’t control our legacy; we just do our best work and hope for the best. But, please, if you love me, don’t tell me you like my writing better than my painting.

In control

Every day, in every way, things are not necessarily getting better.

In Control (Grace and her unicorn), 24X36, is one of the paintings that’s going to Rye Arts Center’s Censored and Poetic: the works of Carol Douglas and Anne de Villemejane, March 2022.

A visitor to my studio recently asked me about the gender disparity in painting. “Eighty percent of art students are women,” I said—and that may be a low estimate. “But 80% of the top cadre of professional painters are men.” That, too, may be a low estimate.

“Why?” she asked. I was stumped for an answer. If I’d thought about it at all, I’d have attributed it to change—women moving up through the atelier system to take their rightful place in the art world. But since the 19th century women have studied and practiced painting with great seriousness. There were more girls in art class when I was young, and the earning disparity didn’t disappear when we came of age.

Michelle Reading, 24X30, is one of the paintings that’s going to Rye Arts Center’s Censored and Poetic: the works of Carol Douglas and Anne de Villemejane, March 2022.

This is not anecdotal. There have been many studies worldwide that document this phenomenon. The most exhaustivewas done in 2017. It analyzed 1.5 million auction transactions in 45 countries, and found a 47.6% gender discount in prices. The discount was worst (unsurprisingly) in countries with greater overall gender disparity.

Do women drop out, practicing art as dedicated amateurs rather than professionals? No; 51% of practicing visual artists are women.

Are women’s paintings somehow more ‘girly,’ and therefore less attractive to buyers? In blind studies (with the artist’s name excised), participants could not guess the gender of the artist. Women’s art sells for less because the signature is feminine. Period.

The Beggar, 36X48, is one of the paintings that’s going to Rye Arts Center’s Censored and Poetic: the works of Carol Douglas and Anne de Villemejane, March 2022.

My childhood chum Cynthia Cadwell Pacheco was a professional ballet dancer. While she was traveling around the world, her mother regaled me with stories of the culture of submission, abuse and body-shaming that the corps de ballet were subject to.

It’s a miserable career choice for women, but, ironically, serious ballet used to be a women-led art form. That was before it spun money. Today, it’s a multi-billion-dollar business. As it has grown in economic importance, women have been pushed out of leadership. Today’s companies are run by men, the work is choreographed by men, the jurors are men, and the big bucks go to men. Let that be a lesson to you if you believe that every day, in every way, we’re getting better and better.

“Despite the fact that girls outnumber boys 20 to one and pay most of the fees in ballet schools, and despite the audience and donor base being 70% women, female artistic directors are paid 68 percent of what their male counterparts earn,” wrote Elizabeth Yntema.

Saran Wrap Cynic, 20X24, is one of the paintings that’s going to Rye Arts Center’s Censored and Poetic: the works of Carol Douglas and Anne de Villemejane, March 2022.

Our culture actively discourages boys from dancing. That’s foolish and unfair, and it leads to a tremendous imbalance in dance classes. If there is a boy at all, he won’t lack for principal roles, no matter how execrably he dances; the great classical ballets require male dancers. No wonder boys in the dance world grow up thinking they’re the cock of the walk.

No other legal American industry is as gender-skewed as ballet, but the visual arts do share some of its daft values. You only have to compare the career of Lois Dodd with her contemporaries to see that.

Identifying the problem is only the first step. What can we do about it? Young artists might choose a gender-neutral nom de pinceau, but that perpetuates the problem. Women’s role in the arts will only be as strong as women’s role in the greater culture. I’m old enough to have seen some remarkable changes in society, but I’m also alive to the very real risk that we can move backwards, just as the dance world has.

It was the best of tomes, it was the worst of tomes

I’m flailing around in the undergrowth in this new-to-me medium.

In Control (Grace and her Unicorn), oil on canvas, 24X30, is heading to Rye Arts Center for the month of March.

Last fall, I made the commitment that I’d spend a day a week this winter writing a painting book. That should be easy; after all, I’ve been blogging on the subject since 2007 on this platform (and still earlier on WordPress). I’ve almost as much experience as a writer as I have as a painter. Writing is an ‘unconsciously competent’ skill for me, or so I thought.

I have an outline and a plan. That’s the writerly equivalent of a value sketch, right? If I continue with the model of painting, I should then rough out each chapter (my underpainting, in big shapes), and then do a final pass for details.

Saran Wrap Cynic, 24X20, is heading to Rye Arts Center for the month of March

I’m not finding it works that way. I keep forgetting where I am, so I stop to reread what I already have. I then get sucked into editing. But if I forge ahead without checking my place, I inevitably repeat myself.

I need illustrations, especially of the exercises, so I stop to paint them. That’s probably a mistake, but I’m unsure of myself, blundering ahead.

I’m not clear on how long this book should be. I’ve gotten about 9500 words so far, and you, dear student, have just learned how to transfer your sketch to canvas. Arthur Wesley Dow wrote an exhaustive painting book, but I don’t think that will work for modern readers. We like looking at pictures.

Pinkie, pastel, 6X8, is heading to Rye Arts Center for the month of March.

After major surgery eight years ago, I amused myself during my recovery by writing a novel. I had no trouble leaving the hero on the edge of a precipice, taking a nap, and then jumping back to his rescue. Perhaps it was because I was temporarily benched with few other distractions.

I realized that writing just one day a week gives me too much time to forget what I’ve done. I’ve ramped that up to two days a week—just temporarily, mind you, until I find my groove. That’s definitely helped, but it wipes out any time I have for actual painting. Teaching currently occupies the better part of two days. Marketing owns another.

Ten years ago, I’d have felt terrible about that, as if I was a poseur—someone who talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk. Right now, I’m treating it like a necessary evil, and taking my joy in painting the examples for the book.

The paintings are nestled all snug in their beds…

But, if after this predicted Nor’easterpasses, one of my buddies texts me and says, “Carol, let’s go paint snow,” I’m outta here in a flash.

This week, curator Kicki Storm and I worked out the layout for my upcoming show at the Rye Art Center. The paintings are packed and waiting in the middle of my studio. The trailer is ready to roll. I’m chuffed to see these paintings heading down to a larger audience. If you’re on my mailing list, I’ll be sending you out the video tomorrow. If not, why not? Email me here, and I’ll fix that.

The glamorous life of an artist

It’s easy to forget I’m a painter when I’m up to my elbows in minutiae, but it has to be done. Still, so does painting or I’ve lost my raison d’etre.

Clary Hill Blueberry Barrens, Carol L. Douglas. This is one of the pieces I’ve decided (provisionally) should go to New York. Until I change my mind again, that is.

I’ve taken to carrying my to-do list around on my phone. This is probably good organizationally, but it burns a hole in my pocket. As is the way with to-do lists, it never gets any shorter. The advantage of lists on paper is that they’re easier to lose.

I had a visitor in my studio at the first of the year. “I’m drowning in admin,” I told her, as an explanation for the disorder. She’s a successful businesswoman and was, frankly, incredulous. “Admin what?” she asked. After all, I’m an artist. Everyone knows art isn’t about business.

At least they’re neat. That’s not always true.

In fact, it’s totally about business. That’s something you need to know if you’re contemplating crossing from amateur and professional status. It’s about taxes and inventory and planning shows a year or more in advance. It’s very easy to fall into a trap where your painting occupies less and less of your time, while you become more of an entrepreneur. If you want to make a living as an artist, the business of art has to be front-and-center in your consciousness.

I talked to Ken DeWaardon Wednesday. He was booting around Port Clyde looking at stuff (an important part of the plein air painter’s job, and best done with a cup of gas-station coffee in hand). I was torn. It was heavily overcast and pissing snow. On the other hand, talking to him was the closest I’d gotten to a brush all week.

There’s a queen-sized bed under all that stuff. By the time I was done, I had paintings stacked in all three bedrooms and the bathroom.

I was pulling every single painting out of my storage closets, choosing inventory for an upcoming show at the Rye Art Center in New York. It doesn’t open until March, but a good solo or duo show requires a lot of advance preparation. The paintings—which are huge—have come down to my studio, where their frames will get a beady-eyed examination before they’re wrapped for shipping.

Tom and Peggy Root have a show at Ringling College, called Parallel Visions: The Paintings of Tom + Peggy Root. “I told the art handlers that if somewhere in Georgia they are overtaken by a car with flashing lights, it just means I’ve changed my mind again about another painting,” said Tom. That indecision is a powerful impulse.

Once art gets to a certain point, ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘brilliant’ is irrelevant. The real question is whether they support the narrative. Then there is the question of how the work will hang together. Paintings have to get along with their neighbors.

Meanwhile, the fiscal year has ended. People ask me why I do my own taxes. I counter that the tax preparation is the easy part (and I have Laura Turner to answer all my esoteric questions). It’s the record keeping that kills me. Today my 2019 records go up in the attic, to be replaced by pristine 2022 folders. It’s easy, but it takes time.

Sometimes all you have time for is a quick watercolor doodle, but that’s better than nothing.

It’s easy to forget I’m a painter when I’m up to my elbows in minutiae, but it has to be done. Still, so does painting or I’ve lost my raison d’etre.

After I talked to Ken, I gave myself a good shake and went into my studio, where I spent 15 minutes with my watercolors, doing a quick-and dirty-sketch for 45 Day Triple Watercolor Challenge. That’s a Facebook group my students started last year to get us out of the doldrums. If I don’t need it right now, who does?

When you’re in the creative desert

Embrace the uncertainty. Don’t panic. Here are some tips.
Mamaroneck River, Carol L. Douglas. I’m really bad at shooting pictures of my Painters on Location work, but this one is from around 2010.
On Wednesday, I wrote about the tendency to paralysis when we start producing a body of work we think is awful. I see this among students, but it happens to all of us. Old-timers just recognize it as an unavoidable part of the job and plow through it, miserable as it is.
The dry desert is an inevitable stop along any creative journey. You have three possible paths out:
  • Scuttle back to what you were doing before;
  • Quit and do something else for a while;
  • Find ways to quiet that awful voice in your head.

Obviously, I choose the third path, but the other two are very common (and self-limiting) reactions. Start by reminding yourself of a basic fact: you haven’t suddenly forgotten how to paint. Dissonance is part of growth. Even experiments that fail are valuable; they’re an essential part of the painting process.
Beaver Dam on Quebec Brook, available through Gallery of the White Plains County Center through November, 2019. For more information, contact Adam Levi, Rye Art Center, (914) 967-0700.
Trusted friends
This morning I’m at Rye Painters on Location. At the first one, I baulked at the starting gate. Daisy de Pothod told me, “You know how to do this!” It snapped me back into reality.
Sometimes friends will suggest changes, but it’s more likely for them to say, “I really like that.” It helps me see past my own skewed judgment.
Regatta off American Yacht Club, by Carol L. Douglas. This is another painting from Rye of which I didn’t take a very good photo.
Ask a teacher or fellow professional
You may be wrestling with a technical, rather than emotional, block. Good painting teachers watch your process and redirect you. Identifying the trouble is more than half the battle. But what about the teacher who undermines your confidence? If there’s bad chemistry between you, I simply would not go back.
Painting-a-day disciplines
Painting-a-day programs are helpful at riding through low spots. Your goal isn’t greatness; it’s to finish something every day.  In the end, ironically, that’s usually when we do our best work.
There are many of them on the internet, but it’s just as easy to make up your own. I devise all kinds of these for myself and run through them whenever I’m stuck. They’ve taken the form of tree-a-day, still-life-a-day, fantasy-landscape-a-day, and more.
Morning fog over Whiteface Mountain, by Carol L. Douglas, is available through Rye Arts Center until September 14. It’s a silent auction starting at less than half the retail price. If you’re interested in bidding call Adam Levi at (914) 967-0700, or stop by the Rye Arts Center gallery at 51 Milton Road, Rye, NY.
Focus on the process instead of the results
I’ve given you protocols for oilsand watercolor. They’re not the only approach to painting, but they’re good general guides. Focus on them and let the results take care of themselves.
Many people baulk at imposing order on creativity, but it is the basis of every great artist’s practice. And running through the scales is oddly soothing when your soul’s in ferment.
Do exercises that support your weak spots enough that they cease to be weak spots
Are you flummoxed by color? Make color charts or mix matches to paint chips from the hardware. Are you trying to add architecture and people to your paintings but they look awful? Practice drawing. Is your perspective wonky? Find an exercise in perspective and practice until you understand it.

Four workshops this summer

One might be coming to a town near you.

American Eagle and Heritage, photo by Carol L. Douglas

I’m teaching four workshops this year, which is the most I’ve ever taken on. (I’m already in training, hiking around Rockport to get my endurance up.) They’re in different places, appealing to different tastes and budgets. If you’ve ever wanted to study with me, this would be a great year to do so. Who knows? All this exercise might kill me soon.

Yours truly, painting at Rye (photo by Brad Marshall)

Rye, NY, May 11-12: Rye is a quick jaunt out of New York City for those of you who want a pastoral workshop but can’t travel to Maine this year. I’ve painted in Painters on Location for many years, so I know the village and its boats, beach, buildings and waterfront. We’ll meet at the Rye Art Center and move out from there to explore locations around town. This class is for all levels and all media, and will focus on simplifying forms, planning a good composition, gathering the necessary visual information from life, and interpreting color relationships.

Cost: $350 for the two-day workshop. Call the Rye Arts Center at (914) 967-0700 for more information.
The Devil’s Bathtub, on a wetter, woolier day than we’ll be experiencing. (Courtesy LazyYogi)
Rochester, NY, June 2-3: I’ll be teaching at Mendon Ponds for two days under the auspices of Greater Rochester Plein Air Painters. I’m excited about the location, since it’s a designated National Natural Landmark because of its glacial topography, which includes a kettle hole, eskers, a floating sphagnum moss peat bog, and kames. Here, we’ll concentrate on painting the drama in the landscape while remaining true to the subject. We’ll concentrate on skies, slopes, and reflections. The fundamentals of design, composition and color will be stressed.
Cost: $200 for the two-day workshop, with an early-bird discount before March 1. The flyer is here, and the registration form is here.
American Eagle in Penobscot Bay.
On board American Eagle, out of Rockland, ME, June 10-14: “There are many painting workshops on the Maine coast, but The Age of Sail  promises to be the most unusual,” wrote Maine Gallery Guide. This four-day cruise aboard the restored schooner American Eagle is a great way to loosen up your brushwork. We’ll work fast, concentrating on reflections on water and the powerful skies of the Maine coast. All levels of painters are encouraged to join us. It’s an all-inclusive trip, including meals, berth and your materials for water media.
Cost: $1020 all inclusive. Visit here for more information, or email me.
Corinne Avery happily painting at Schoodic.
Acadia National Park’s Schoodic Peninsula, August 5-10: My long-running Sea & Sky workshop remains ever-popular, with many returning students over the years. We spend five days in the splendid isolation of Acadia’s Schoodic Peninsula, far from the crowds on the other side of the bay. There’s wildlife, surf, rocks, jack pines and more. A day trip to the working harbor at Corea, ME, is included. Our accommodations are at the Schoodic Institute—located deep in the heart of the park—and include all meals and snacks so that we don’t have to stop painting.
Cost: $1600 all inclusive. Visit here for more information, or email me.

Let that be a lesson to you

If I’d waited and painted on the second day, I’d have flubbed the whole event.
Playland Boat House, by Carol L. Douglas. A bad photo of a good painting.

I’m bothered by procrastination. I’m not happy unless I’ve finished my work in ample time to meet my deadline. There are good reasons why Rye’s Painters on Location gives us two days to finish one painting. Still, it makes sense to me to get it done early.

I haven’t painted Playlandin several years. This lovely Art-Deco amusement park is entering its 90thyear. It’s carefully maintained, and no major revisions have ever been made to its buildings or grounds. It was also closed, so I was alone as I drew on my canvas. The first glaze of gold was settling on the trees, and a soft onshore breeze cooled my shady corner.
Rye Playland from an angle I could never paint, public domain.
At lunchtime, Tarryl Gabelstopped by. Her timing was fortuitous. I’d just realized I was out of painting medium. Tarryl had some with her that she’d gotten from Jamie Williams Grossman. Jamie is a natural-born fixer, always coming up with solutions for other people’s problems. Here she was fixing something for me from miles away.
Tarryl and I are very dissimilar painters. She’s atmospheric, detailed and ethereal. I’m from the slash-and-burn school. When she handed me that tube of gel medium, she also handed me a lesson in how materials matter. Gel medium is perfect for her style of painting, but it dissolves edges. That was most apparent in the water, where I couldn’t keep the color crisply separated.
Somewhere near the halfway point.
I handed my work in and headed back to Queens. On the way, my car developed a dragging rear brake. In the stop-and-go traffic of rush hour, it rapidly overheated. By the time I arrived at Rego Park, it was screaming. (This car passed its inspection three days earlier.)
I tried unsuccessfully to rustle up a mechanic in Queens. The next morning, I decamped early and headed back to Westchester to try my luck there. On the way, I stopped at Playland. I couldn’t have painted there on Saturday; the park was open and ready for business.
And then my left rear brake pad fell out. I’ve been driving for more than forty years, and I’ve never seen that happen. It’s very bad, since it exposes the caliper—and thus the brake lines—to heat and stress. I wended my way slowly up the Boston Post Road, looking for a mechanic on duty.
The brake pad in question.
The first one I found, on the Boston Post Road in Port Chester, was both knowledgeable and kind. He said he didn’t like to leave travelers stranded, and he did the repair immediately and at a good price. Meanwhile, Tarryl had just arrived in Port Chester. We went to the art store and made our opening with time to spare.
There are several lessons here: don’t procrastinate, check your kit before you leave, use materials you know, be flexible. But more importantly for me, it was a reminder that the vast majority of people in this world are kind, and I don’t need to sweat the small stuff. God’s got my back.

A love affair that’s ended

New York City is no longer the center of the known world for me. How did that happen?
Queensboro Bridge Approach, by Carol L. Douglas

My dream job, when I was young, was to be a cabbie in New York. That had nothing to do with going fast, and everything to do with being aggressive, and in being able to squeeze myself and my car through knot-holes.

I told this to Cornelia Foss one time, as we were scooting north along Madison Avenue. She shuddered. Now I realize that’s because she was older and wiser. (I wish I could take another class from her. At 86, she continues to break new ground as a painter.)
Today I live in a state where the locals, by and large, drive the speed limit and are polite. You’ll never get anywhere here in Maine by driving aggressively. Jump the queue and there will just be another slow-moving vehicle ahead.
Under the Queensboro Bridge, by Carol L. Douglas
This was a strange concept in driving, but I learned to embrace it. Now I roll down my windows and enter that quiet state of pokiness that drives the visitors crazy.
Last time I drove to Queens to meet my pal Brad Marshall, I found myself really irritated with New York drivers. That same exuberance that once goaded me to pass on the right, to joyously sound my horn for no reason, to budge into the box at intersections—it all just annoyed me. We had somewhere to go, and Brad offered to drive. Rare for me, I happily agreed.
In my youth, I said that I would stop going to New York if the vista crossing the George Washington Bridge failed to move me. I saw it a lot in my younger days. I commuted from Rochester to take classes at the Art Students League. I had a crash pad with my friend Peter, on the Upper West Side. We would take classes all day and then I would drive home to Rochester. Rinse and repeat. If I die young, it will be with the consolation that I lived my life very fast.
Underpass, by Carol L. Douglas
I voided that test by moving east. I no longer use the GW to get into the city. Instead, I come down through Massachusetts and Connecticut. There’s no astonishment along that route.
The first sign I was growing cynical about New York came a few years ago, when I met a Southerner for a weekend. She remarked, in passing, at how filthy the city is. That’s one of those things, like your aunt’s fascinating chin hair, that everyone sees but doesn’t mention. But once she commented on it, I began to see detritus everywhere.
I used to love to paint in the city. Now I understand that was the granite calling to me. Much of New York, Washington and Chicago are built of Maine granite. Somehow, I enjoy it more in its natural state.
Staples Street, by Carol L. Douglas
This morning I’m heading back down to Westchester County for Rye’s Painters on Location. Brad’s floating around in the North Atlantic somewhere, but he loaned me his flat. I’m on my own for both painting and driving. Luckily, Painters on Location is always a blast, and I’ll see lots of other friends there.
I still admire New York City, but I’ve met other art scenes that match my personality better. I’ll visit for a blockbuster show, or to see friends. But, as for it being the center of the known world, those days are, sadly, gone for me.

Laid low

Asthma. My body has just told me to spend a little time on self-care. I think that means a pedicure.
Painting at the American Yacht Club with Brad Marshall. (Courtesy Rye Arts Center)

I spent the weekend dealing with asthmatic bronchitis, and yesterday at the ER having it calmed down. This happens. Providing it’s managed, it’s not going to kill me. But it is a sign of fatigue, and it means that I won’t be teaching my regularly scheduled class this morning.

Asthmatic bronchitis is not contagious, but it can be rude. There’s no reason to douse my students with spittle. That’s a pity, because I had a nefariously challenging idea and just the students to rise to the challenge.
One year I shared my painting location at Rye with this fisherman. He explained surf casting in great detail, none of which I remember.
Speaking of this class, there are a few openings. It meets locally in Rockport, ME—outdoors when the weather is fine, and in my studio when it’s not.
Visitors may go home at Labor Day, but we know that the weather in the northeast is at its most beautiful in September and October. It’s cool and crisp. The trees turn in a brilliant panoply of color that contrasts with the lakes and ocean.
The tuition for a six-week session is $200. You can contact me here if you’re interested.
Meanwhile, I’ve cancelled today’s class and I feel badly about it. I have an assignment for my students which I’ll share with you. I will ask them to clip off a bud from an Eastern White Pine and a Black Spruce and render each, in detail, in watercolor, before our next class. If you don’t have watercolor, do it in pencil. This is an exercise in observation, not in artistic sensibility. Assuming I can get out to collect samples, I’ll be doing the same thing.
I must feel better soon because it’s nearly time for Rye’s Painters on Location, September 15-16, in Rye, NY. This show was launched in 2001, making it a granddaddy among plein air events. It certainly has been a major fixture in my calendar. I love going back and seeing old friends in the community and among the artists.
My favorite thing I ever painted at Rye was this painting of the bridge at Mamaroneck. This, alas, is the only photo I have of it.
We set up our easels on Friday and Saturday, September 15-16. For the first time, the Rye Arts Center will post our locations on a Google Map so we can be more easily found. This, I suppose, requires some planning on my part.
I usually paint with my pal Brad Marshall, but he will be in Britain at that time. That leaves me on my own to choose a site. I’m still dazzled by the choices, despite the better part of two decades’ experience: beautiful architecture, a historic amusement park, lots of boats and Long Island Sound itself.
Spring at the boatyard, 14X18, is my silent auction piece. You can bid on it by contacting the Rye Art Center.
Two years ago, Brad and I prepared to paint into a hurricane, but it fizzled. I’m watching the weather reports now, since we seem to be in another season of high activity.
Yesterday I got a note from a reader who lives on St. Martin in the Caribbean, thanking me for publishing Lauren R. Lewis’ information about rescuing water-damaged artwork. The eastern Caribbean islands are, according to the National Weather Service, just now being mauled by this Category 4 hurricane. This isn’t an abstraction. I know people along that string of islands. I pray for their safety.