Gone but not forgotten

Beauty Instead of Ashes, 48X36, oil on linen, 2014, by Carol L. Douglas
Last summer my friend Loren and I went for a hike along the Goose River in Rockport, ME, and discovered vast piles of lime tailings. Rockport is one of America’s beauty spots, but it was once a center of quicklime manufacture. Nature slowly attempts to cover this wound, but it is a slow process.
Midcoast Maine is full of limestone deposits. When limestone is burned, the carbon dioxide burns off and quicklime is left. This is used to make plaster, paper, mortar, concrete, fertilizer, leather, glue, paint, and glass. By the Civil War, midcoast Maine was producing more than a million casks of lime a year.
Eventually God will cover our sins, but it takes a long, long time. Sin can endure through generations, but ultimately, the spirit of the Lord will be with us, “to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3-4)

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!

Limping toward the finish line

The Harvest is Plenty, 36X48, oil on linen, 2014, by Carol L. Douglas
Today I put the finishing touches on the above painting and tipped it into its frame.
Jesus sent out disciples two by two, telling them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Those of us who spend time in the agricultural world understand this metaphor: we sow seeds, we tend plants, and when the harvest comes in, it’s a lot of work and we’re generally short-handed.
But what if the order of things is interrupted? What if a line squall off Lake Ontario flattens the entire field right before the combine arrives?
When wheat ripens, it has heavy, nodding heads on delicate stems. As summer deepens the wheat assumes a color that has no equal in the artificial world—it has a shimmering beauty that’s impossible to capture in paint or photographs—much, in fact, like human souls. Looking at the field from the angle of the threatening storm, we should stand convicted of our need to get busy.
Ack! I have to teach in this space on Saturday!
Speaking of “tip,” my studio is quickly becoming one. I’m generally pretty neat but framing and painting in the same space is difficult. (I have a wood shop in our garage but it isn’t heated and it’s still painfully cold outside.)
I’m running three fans in the hope that these paintings will be dry enough to transport on Thursday, which is my promised delivery date.
Last painting, detail. I’ll finish it tomorrow and tip it in its frame and then deliver on Thursday. Talk about cutting it fine.
I’m finishing my last canvas—hardly where I expected to be when I started this in November, before unexpected surgery and recovery trashed my schedule. On the other hand, the one passage I’ve finished makes me pretty darn happy.

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!

You’re invited…

Join us for the Gallery Opening of


Paintings by Carol Douglas

At the Davison Gallery, located in the Cultural Life Center at Roberts Wesleyan College.

6-10 PM, Friday, March 28

2301 Westside Drive, Rochester, New York 14546

I spend much of my time painting en plein air. The physical environment shows the marks of our existence, our relationship with each other, and ultimately our relationship with God. This visible record is subtle, but once you start to notice it, you realize it’s everywhere.
In mid-October, I returned home after a summer teaching painting in Maine. I had two things to do: put the final touches on my daughter’s wedding and paint the work for this show. What wasn’t on my schedule was another cancer diagnosis.
I’m a systematic person, so I scheduled making canvases during the four-week recovery period between my lumpectomy and hysterectomy. Immediately before my surgery, I drenched the canvases with Naphthol Red, which is a rich crimson color that is an excellent undertone for landscape. I do this regularly for plein air, but the effect of all these looming large canvases dripping blood was disconcerting.
After my surgery, I continued to leak blood. In early February I hemorrhaged, which put my recovery back to square one. I realized there was a connection between my current experience and my current paintings, which were proceeding by starts and fits.
I have tried to let the canvas show through in each of these paintings, because they were literally born in blood. If I’d proceeded along my original course, they would have been polished and buffed to the point where no undertone was visible. But I couldn’t do that, and I don’t regret it.

Waves of Mercy and Grace

Waves of Mercy and Grace, by Carol L. Douglas. Those darn rocks are standing out like their own planet. Need a little refinement.
Yesterday was a perfect day—warm and bright. At noon, I took a break and walked with my posse. First time in weeks we’ve all walked together, because the weather has been atrocious.
The sky was a lovely cornflower blue. Of course even a perfectly clear sky isn’t uniformly blue. Today it was most intense over Jennifer’s house, edging to a softer blue to the south. The horizon softened to a pale tone. It was the perfect sky for my painting.
Three colors for the sky.
I generally mix three different colors for any object: light, medium and dark. A simple blue sky is no exception to that rule.
Detail from Waves of Mercy and Grace. Cute kids.
I set out intending to paint the Maine coast, but it turns out it’s a painting of Australia. The three little boys in this painting are my cousin’s kids, with whom I spent a magical day climbing on rocks. The sea is the color of the Indian Ocean, not the North Atlantic. Painting it gave me a mighty hankering to go back there.
Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!

Secret superpower

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, by Carol L Douglas. Still in draft form, I’m afraid.
I generally feel about clouds the way Winslow Homer felt about rocks: they’re easy to paint. So I wasn’t expecting to be tripped up by this painting. But when I finished my first iteration, I realized it was too monochromatically grey.
I mixed three different greys and went at it with both hands. Most of us Lefties have a secret superpower—we’re more or less ambidextrous. I can write and paint with either hand, although my right one tires more quickly.
Added greys. I think it actually looked better here than when “finished.”
I don’t usually paint two-handed, because I only have one brain. In certain situations, such as when laying down large masses or alternately painting and blending, it’s a useful skill.
Two-fisted painter.
Unfortunately, I fixed the chroma problem but seem to have lost the original organization. I’ll go back in with some darks when this has a chance to set up, but for now I am moving on to my next painting. I have to hang this show a week from tomorrow.

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!

All Flesh is as Grass

All Flesh is as Grass, 36X48, oil on canvas, Carol L. Douglas.
My studio is in my house, so when Winter Storm Vulcan brought blizzard conditions to Rochester yesterday, it didn’t give me day off. Oh, well; I was painting snow anyway.
This apple tree was around the corner from my house. The landowner once told me to pick all the apples I wanted. He’s been gone for several years and his house has stood vacant, but still the old tree thrived.
This year, we picked an eight-quart basket for Thanksgiving pies. Shortly thereafter, a construction crew moved in to start a roof-to-foundation rehab. The first thing to go was the dated landscaping, including this old tree.
There are some things I may tweak, but I’m moving on to finish my fourth painting for my upcoming show at Roberts Wesleyan’s Davison Gallery. 

Then there’s that matter of inspiration

Deer in my brother’s yard, an exercise done several years ago

This Sunday, I was doodling in church when a painting dropped full-blown into my head. That isn’t common, but is always exciting. And in this case, it was fortuitous since I just finished several weeks of flailing around on the previous piece.

Where does a fully-realized idea spring from? First, a thought: in this case, a dilemma that has bedeviled me for almost a year. Then, visual input that is usually jumbling around in one’s cranium solidifies into a concept. In this case:

  1. An email sent by my pal Garrett about how big wolves really are;
  2. A painting I did several years ago as an exercise for my class on how to paint the traps between trees;
  3. A photo taken by my friend Jamie of a waterfalls near her house;
  4. William Holman Hunt’s “Our English Coasts (Strayed Sheep),” which set the light tone for the uplands.


My sketch done in church last Sunday.

When I’m painting observationally, I follow the traditional rules of alla prima painting: dark before light, big masses divided into small masses, fat over lean. When I’m painting from an interior vision, I paint indirectly, starting with a color map, and then modulating with opaque paints.

My color map.

As far as I got today. Tomorrow, I’ll start looking at real reference.

BTW, this is my current easel setup—electronic reference to the left, paper reference to the left.