Are you open for business?

We’re in control of where we’re going and what we’re doing. To ignore that is self-inflicted slavery.
Float, by Carol L. Douglas. Oil on canvas. Available.
For the last several weeks, I’ve had my gallery-studio open every weekday from noon to five. That might not seem like a challenge, but old habits die hard. Noon comes, and I realize I’ve missed the opportunity to walk to the post office, or run to Home Depot, or any of the other errands I used to do when the spirit moved me. If I want to paint en plein air, I must finish before noon. Since daylight is short right now and the air is cold early in the day, that’s difficult.
Being open requires that I keep things looking beautiful. No more carrying in a stack of paintings and dumping it on the nearest flat surface. Everything goes in its place when I finish for the evening. It’s nice to walk into a beautiful space each morning, but it’s a lot of work to maintain. I have a new admiration for Sue Baines, who’s been running the Kelpie Gallery as a workspace-gallery all year.
Blueberry barrens #1, by Carol L. Douglas. Oil on canvas. Available.
Of course, once I put out my Open sign and turn on the lights, I go on with my workday as usual. My gallery-studio is attached to our house. It’s a lot different for someone who has to travel to open, or worse, pay someone to run their gallery. In the latter case it’s just not feasible to be open during the off-season.
Other than the locals, nobody is around in mid-coast Maine right now. A few people will be back for Christmas week, and after that it will be absolutely dead until Spring. So as of today, I’m done with this experiment. I have some painting and trim work to do, which will involve making a big mess. It has to be finished before my next classes start on January 7.
Blueberry barrens #2, by Carol L. Douglas. Watercolor on Yupo. Available.
In some ways, being open has been a spiritual metaphor for me. I know the chances of anyone stopping by the week before Christmas are slim, but if I’m not open, then the chances are nil.
Likewise, if you’re not open to the possibility of good things happening in life, you can’t receive them. Most of the best things that have happened in my life haven’t been by design, but by happy accident. Conversely, my worst mistakes have been repudiating things I didn’t expect because they weren’t what I thought I wanted at the moment.
My friend Barb recently asked me if I’d read The Chronicles of Narnia. Of course; I read them to my kids. She drew my attention to The Last Battle. In the end, the Dwarfs perceive themselves to be locked in a dirty stable, when, in fact, they are dwelling in Paradise. Without faith, even Aslan can’t help them.
Glade, by Carol L. Douglas. Watercolor on Yupo, courtesy private collection.
Sadly, I talk to people every day who think like that. There are people who have been given freedom but see it only as loss. There are those who hate their surroundings or loathe their jobs but can’t move on. Their imprisonment is largely in their minds. There is change available to almost all of us, even if it’s only in the form of insisting that your chair in the nursing home be by the window so you can watch the birds.
I realize there are seasons of crisis, when major change is impossible. All of us have been or will be there at some point in life, sadly. But during the vast majority of our time on earth, we’re in control of where we’re going and what we’re doing. To ignore that is self-inflicted slavery. The greatest gift we give ourselves is a window for opportunity. In other words, we must be open for business.

Group norming

Feeling out of place, like a failure? Perhaps the problem isn’t you, but your tribe.

Five Chairs, by Pamela Hetherly, courtesy of Kelpie Gallery. This painting stopped me yesterday. The color is beautifully integrated, something that’s lost in the photo.

I spent a few hours yesterday at the Kelpie Gallery in S. Thomaston. I’d meant to drop paintings off and leave, but it is a very restful place with a clean, open atmosphere. I always spend more time there than I expect to. Susan Lewis Baines, the owner, is so interesting and interested that before you know it, the day is half over.

It’s an airy, light space with grey walls, a grey tiled floor and lots of white trim. What little furniture there is, is elegant and subservient to the art. I look at Sue’s handmade desk (no, it’s not for sale) and wonder if I need one like it. Then I remember that I live in an old farmhouse and it wouldn’t match at all. As a decorator, Sue is light years ahead of me. That’s a great quality in a gallerist.
Sometimes I See, by Kay Sullivan, courtesy of the artist. Kay’s works are small, active, and yet somehow peaceful.
She represents a small stable of painters. These include vibrant small pastels by Kay Sullivan, the austere abstractions of Ann Sklar, mystical landscapes of Julie Haskell and Beth London, moody interiors by Pamela Hetherly, and the idiosyncratic landscapes of the late Erik Lundin. On first glance, the work is widely disparate. but the visitor notices that they all hang together well. They are united by a common color sensibility and composition. That makes it possible for high realism to hang side-by-side with abstraction and have the combination complement both paintings.
As different as the paintings are, there’s definitely a group norm at work, and it’s bound to provoke a response from the visitor.
A crow painting by Beth London, available through the Kelpie Gallery.
I tell people I left New York because I can’t paint like a Hudson River Schoolpainter. It is a continuous tradition in New York, dating back two hundred years. In any other place, painting with that golden light and attention to detail would be an annoying affectation. But in New York, it has some wonderful modern practitioners, including Tarryl Gabeland Patrick McPhee.
Mary Byrom is at the Smithsonian American Art Museum this week. Yesterday, she commented about Abbott Handerson Thayer’s Roses, “Such a wonderful quiet stillness, from before these modern times. It makes a difference.” Tarryl and Patrick can still tap into that stillness, and they have many fans because of it.
Untitled, by Erik Lundin. Courtesy of the Kelpie Gallery. His disinterest in selling made him the most unaffected of painters.
I don’t feel things in that way. I’m thoroughly the product of my time, which means less value modeling and more color and brushwork. As long as I stayed in New York, I was subtly pushed toward painting a different way. Galleries liked it, jurors liked it. And I found it personally disheartening. I needed to seek out my own tribe. I did that by going on the road, and later by moving to Maine.*
This is where a good knowledge of art history proves useful. It allows you to see over the lip of the basket you live in, to see where you fit in the greater scheme of things. I like the basket I have moved to, but if I felt confined in it, I’d be exploring other places and other representation.
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*An exception to this is Adirondack Plein Air, which is not style-driven. In fact, I find this true of plein air events in general. They usually attract a much wider variety of painters than from the local catchment area.

You don’t need $450 million to buy a painting

Original art comes in all price points. It’s not just for rich people.

Apple Orchard by Chrissy Spoor Pahucki is available at pleinair.store.

Almost everyone in America knows that a painting reputed to be by Leonardo Da Vinci sold for a record-breaking $450 million last week at Christie’s. That’s an amount I can’t even begin to comprehend. It implies that regular folks like you and me can’t afford art.

“When I was a child middle-class people didn’t have original art in their homes, unless one of the family was an artist,” said painter Bobbi Heath. “Things are different now. Original artwork is available at a price point equivalent to buying a poster and having it framed. You can find it online, at art fairs and open studios, especially this time of year. And you don’t need a gallery owner to tell you what you should like. Spread your wings and hang something on the wall that makes you happy.”
This little dinghy by Bobbi Heath is available at Yarmouth Frame and Gallery.
When I was a kid, our public library had an art-lending program. You could borrow a painting or print, hang it on your wall for a while and enjoy it, then return it and borrow another work. That was as profound as checking out books.
Art is a tool by which we can dream. It has the capacity to transport us out of our current situation. The hospital where my friend lay dying had beautiful floral paintings in its cancer wing. When I had to step out of her room while they did a procedure—which was often—I found myself staring into those paintings. They were my path out of a sad situation.
Our choice of paintings is one of the primary ways we express ourselves in our personal spaces. Bob Bahr used to write a column for Outdoor Painter called Artist as Collector. It told you as much about the artist’s personality as the artist’s own work did.

This little mussel by Susan Lewis Baines is available through the Kelpie Gallery.
“One thing I have learned after 20 years working with art is that the ‘price’ of a work of art has nothing to do with its value,” said conservator Lauren R. Lewis. “The value lies in how you connect with a work of art on an emotional level. I have never been able to get on board with the idea of ‘art as investment.’ The art market is fickle, so I never recommend that someone buy a painting with the intention of selling it later at a profit.”
I have clients, a married couple, who pared their lives down to almost no material possessions. They own two large oil paintings—one by Marilyn Fairman and one by me. As nomadic as their life is, they hang those paintings in a prominent place wherever they land. Art brings a language of beauty to our lives,” one of them told me. “We have contentment and constancy from looking at our beloved pieces.”
White Pines and Black Spruce by Carol L. Douglas is available at pleinair.store
“Unlike generic prints from the nearest big box store, original art comes with a story about where you found it, why you bought it, or the super cool artist you bought it from,” said painter Chrissy Pahucki.
Original art is less expensive than you might imagine. I was at a gallery last weekend where there were hand-drawn colored pencil works for less than I was considering paying for a mixer attachment for my daughter for Christmas. Less, in fact, than a coffee-table art book, but with more staying power.
Buy art because you love it,” said Lauren Lewis. “Buy art because it makes you feel good to look at it. Buy art because you need to have it in your life. That is how you tell the worth of a painting.”

You’ll find me out back with the horses.

Come to see the art, stay to feed the horses.

Toy Monkey, by Carol L. Douglas
The Kelpie Galleryis located in front of Pepper Hill Farmin South Thomaston. I’ve never walked back to the barns, because I’m always too busy looking at the paintings. However, gallery owner Susan Lewis Baines promises that if I visit next Saturday, November 18, she’ll give me (and you) carrots to treat the beasties with.
That’s an irresistible deal. Sue is sometimes seen with a furry fellow who might be a Haflinger—I don’t know, because we’ve never been properly introduced—and perhaps I’ll get to meet him. We kept horses in my misspent youth, and I know them pretty well. I doubt I could swing into a saddle now, but I can still whisper sweet nothings in their ears.
I’ll be there because the Kelpie Gallery will be presenting its Holiday Season show, Provenance, with an opening reception on Friday, November 17, from 5 to 8 PM. The party continues all day Saturday. Sue’s offering hot coffee or mulled cider and homemade biscotti, including a gluten-free option. If you’ve never attended an opening at the Kelpie, you don’t yet know that Sue’s a first-rank foodie. The nibbles at her events are always fantastic.
Little White Pumpkin, by Nancy Lee Lovley
I dropped off two pieces for the show yesterday. I never meant to go past the doorway, but was drawn in to look at a small, detailed painting by Jerry Cable that called to me from the farthest room. It was of the white walls and red roof of Monhegan Island Light. It was iconic while still avoiding any hint of cliché. This is a hard trick to pull off, and it’s the best in Maine regional painting. It’s why people come here to look at art.
I’m often compelled to look farther than I intended when I stop at the Kelpie Gallery. Sue’s a painter herself, and I think her arrangement of paintings is a continuation of her own color sense. She treats it fluidly, making it flow from room to room. She can hang disparate works together in a way that flatters them all.
Father Christmas, by Carol L. Douglas
The two paintings I dropped off are silly and sweet—a Father Christmas figurine and a toy monkey. Both remind me of younger days and a house full of noisy kids on Christmas morning.
Represented artists are Tania Amazeen-Jones, Susan Lewis Baines, Holly Berry, John Bowdren, Jerry Cable, Sandra Leinonen Dunn, Maggie Galen, Julie Haskell, Pamela Hetherly, Beth London, Nancy Lee Lovley, the late Erik Lundin, Angela Anderson Pomerleau, Wayne Robbins, Ann Sklar, Kay Sullivan, Gwen Sylvester, and Lucas Sylvester. Oh, and yours truly.
To get to the Kelpie Gallery, just head south on Maine Rt. 73 from Rockland. The gallery is about a mile south of the Owls Head Transportation Museum and on the same side of the road. (That’s 81 Elm Street, S. Thomaston, if you’re using your GPS.)
And, yes, the bridge over the Weskeag is now open.

From Spain to Maine

This reclusive artist never showed his work during his lifetime. It’s worth seeing now.

Untitled, by Erik Lundin. Courtesy of the Kelpie Gallery.

On my way out of town last week, I stopped at the Kelpie Gallery in South Thomaston to see a retrospective exhibition of the works of Erik Lundin. For 45 years, Lundin shuffled between Rockland, Maine and Madrid, Spain. His work has never been shown before.

Lundin received an MA in English Literature from Ohio University and taught English Literature for ten years at Lake Superior State College in Michigan. Eventually, he relocated, spending half the year in Madrid and half in Thomaston, Maine. Lundin then spent the next 45 years painting geodynamic landscapes of Maine, the clay cliffs of Guadalaraja, the Seven Peaks of Cercedilla and the Ontigona Sea of Aranjuez. In 2000, Dr. Antonio Dominguez Rey reproduced a waxing by the artist in his magazine of poetry and poetics, Serta (volume 5). Lundin was also an accomplished pianist.

Untitled, by Erik Lundin. Courtesy of the Kelpie Gallery.

“Lundin surrounded himself with creative and academic friends while living in Spain, yet kept very much to himself while in Maine,” said the Kelpie Gallery’s Susan Lewis Baines. “A true academic and artist, his work is both cerebral and esthetically pleasing. Many of his paintings successfully show the struggle of being two persons in one, the socialite and the recluse.”

Untitled, by Erik Lundin. Courtesy of the Kelpie Gallery.

The paintings on display at The Kelpie Gallery span Lundin’s entire creative life. How he could be an extrovert in Madrid and a loner in Rockport, and why he felt the need to alternate between both existences, is a mystery now shrouded in time. But his social bifurcation is not the only dichotomy in his work.

Untitled (balistraria), by Erik Lundin. Courtesy of the Kelpie Gallery.

His paintings were strongly influenced by Spanish Cubism and Spanish subjects, including the balistraria (arrow slits) of medieval fortresses. Meanwhile, his other self was deeply engaged in painting the granite coast of Maine, particularly the rocks at Pemaquid. While most of his work studies the architecture of natural forms, the collection also includes some traditionally-rendered, sensitive portraits of friends and a lover.

Untitled, by Erik Lundin. Courtesy of the Kelpie Gallery.

Because he wasn’t interested in showing and selling his work, Lundin had the latitude to explore ideas. He did so extensively. For example, the collection includes several composite boards with postcard-sized sketches. Each board explores a single theme.

Lundin’s color sense was particularly strong. He used strong chromatic contrasts in lieu of the neutrals we typically associate with the granite coast.
Untitled, by Erik Lundin. Courtesy of the Kelpie Gallery.

Sales of Lundin’s paintings will benefit end-of-life care at the Sussman House, a seven-bed hospice in Rockport. The Sussman House provides seven-day-a-week/24-hours-a-day compassionate care, pain management, and skilled nursing for patients whose symptoms cannot be managed at home. While the show has officially closed, the works can be viewed by appointment at the Kelpie Gallery.

Newly discovered old artist

Erik Lundin didn’t show his work. What he did was paint, beautifully.

By Eric Lundin
Last winter, Sue Lewis Baines, owner of the Kelpie Gallery, told me about a fascinating collection she had recently discovered. The late Erik Lundin was a long-time resident of Rockland and Thomaston and Madrid, Spain. His work, she said, was wonderful, energetic and prolific. We made tentative plans for me to see it, but life got in the way.
Lundin was a prolific painter who never showed during his lifetime. I was excited to read that Sue is doing a short show of his work. It opens this Saturday, September 9, at 5 PM and runs for a week. Frankly, that isn’t much time.
50% of the proceeds will go to the Sussman House hospice here in Rockport. The way I’m feeling today, I’m more likely a candidate for the hospice than the opening, but I encourage those who can to get out to see it. Not only is the work interesting, but the gallery is beautiful and Sue puts on a nice party.
The Kelpie Gallery is located at 81 Elm Street, S. Thomaston, ME. That’s about five minutes south of downtown Rockland.
Sadly, my breathing is getting worse, not better. I have much to say about art, as always, but no energy with which to say it. I’m sorry, friends.

Back in Paradise

Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park welcomes us back with its solitude and beauty.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Johnson.

I love Schoodic Point and the Schoodic Institute, but sometimes I toy with the idea of teaching somewhere closer to civilization. Then I drive around Frenchman’s Bay, sensing, rather than seeing, the depth and intensity of it. I stop at Frazer Point, and feel the familiar springy turf under my feet. Then I remember: this is the best place to paint that I know of. And I’ve been in 49 of our fifty states and a majority of our national parks.

I drove up to Corea yesterday to see a man who lets us paint in his backyard. “Any time,” he assures me, but I won’t do it without checking in first. Last year, he surprised me by being out of town. I learned his neighbors are as fiercely protective as geese.

His mother was the mystery writer Virginia Rich. She pioneered a kind of cozy mystery that features recipes. My friend now lives in his mom’s old writing studio, behind a beautiful old general store.

“It’s untouched Maine!” my monitor, Jennifer Johnson exclaimed when we arrived. It’s not much more than a fleet of fishing boats surrounded by old houses and wharves. An old slip next to the store remains from the Down East schooner days, when fish left from these docks and sundries from Boston arrived.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Johnson.
An artist was working along the road near Schoodic Institute. I only knew three of my students, so decided to take a chance. “Are you here for my workshop?” I asked. Turns out she wasn’t; she is a painter from Massachusetts named Victoria Templeton, and she was working on a lovely gouache.
We have the luxury of fine weather ahead. I saw no need to rush into a nocturne before we’d had at least one class. Many of my students had traveled long distances to get here. They were glad to call it an early night after dinner.
Jennifer and I tucked them in and headed out to reconnoiter. It’s always possible that the park service might have an area closed for restoration or construction. It was no trouble; there was a glorious sunset and an equally beautiful moonrise.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Johnson.
I normally do this earlier in the day, but I was delayed. I’d invited one of my workshop students to come to church with me in Rockport. She enthusiastically accepted. It was then that I remembered that I’d signed up to be baptized. “That might be weird,” I thought.
I was baptized as a young woman in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. This means having Holy Water sprinkled over your head with a liturgical implement called an aspergillum. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to think this wasn’t what the Bible had in mind. I’m not implying that any other person’s baptism isn’t valid. I believe that the Holy Spirit directs us in these matters.
By the time I’d changed my clothes and thrown Jennifer’s stuff into my trusty Prius, it was 1:30 PM. That cut it a little fine.
Apple Tree Swing, by Carol L. Douglas, courtesy Kelpie Gallery.
Even that wasn’t the beginning of my day. Before church, I drove to South Thomaston to deliver Apple Tree Swing to the Kelpie Gallery. What a difference a frame makes! This one was built from chops from Omega Moulding; it was wicked expensive and worth every penny.
Of course, I was there long before the gallery opened for the day. What do gallerists do when they’re not talking art? They weed the crabgrass out from around their signs. Art—like every other career path—has its moments of glamour and its moments of hard slog.

Niggling

The things that fizz at the corners of our consciousness are distracting. That’s why I share them with you.

Historic Fort Point, by Carol L. Douglas, painted for Wet Paint on the Weskeag.

Earlier this week, I pondered why artists embrace so much hard work for so little return. This question has niggled at me. As I was careening up the twisting streets of Boothbay Harbor to this week’s destination, I decided that artists are like movie starlets. We need to be at the soda fountain if we’re going to be discovered.

I know one actual starlet, Keren Coghill. As far as I can see, Keren doesn’t spend much time sitting, at the soda fountain or anywhere else. She’s either working, working out or answering audition calls. That’s of course true of successful visual artists as well.
There are no guarantees. We apply to shows or galleries that ought to be slam-dunks, but are rejected. Others are impossibly beyond our reach; inexplicably, they accept us. This isn’t fate. It’s a numbers game. The more places you apply, the more you’ll be accepted. The more shows you do, the more you’ll be seen. The more you’re seen, the more people will buy your work.
Rachel Carson sunset, by Carol L. Douglas, painted for Ocean Park Plein Air.
My relationship with the Kelpie Gallery started with an event I decided to do at the last minute, Wet Paint on the Weskeag. I had 48 hours between the end of my Sea & Sky workshopand a flight to Scotland. Why not plug one more event into that already absurd schedule? Tired and with no expectation of success, I painted well and won the Juror’s Choice Award.
The Kelpie Galleryis holding an artist reception tonight for Summertide at The Kelpie, from 5-7 PM. If you haven’t visited this gallery, it’s a treasure. Owner Susan Baineskeeps her stable of artists to a manageable number. The space is light, airy, and well-utilized. It’s at 81 Elm Street in South Thomaston, just down the road from the Owls Head Transportation Museum. Since I’m now one of Sue’s artists, I’ll be there.
Jonathan Submarining, by Carol L. Douglas, painted for Castine Plein Air.
Until then, I’ll be in my studio, trying to figure out if a painting is finished. Some artists love these last brush strokes; I do not. An engineer friend once told me that in most projects, 90% of the effort goes into 10% of the results.
Or, as Tom Cargill of Bell Labs said, “The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time.”
I generally like to buy self-help books and put them on my shelf unread, the idea being that I’ll get the message through my credit card statement. It’s better when someone else reads them and tells me the precis.
Boston Post Road Bridge, Mamaroneck, by Carol L. Douglas, painted for Rye Painters on Location.
Bobbi Heath is reading Growing Gills by Jessica Abel. She posits that undone creative ideas are corrosive. They sit in the back of your mind and niggle at you, making you anxious and unproductive.
That is what I think about undone housework and unpaid bills. Are unfinished paintings the same? My studio is full of them. Like most artists, I find finishing work to be the hardest part of painting.
I used to be a font of crackpot ideas, but I’ve noticed that the harder I work, the less I experience off-task mental fizzing. That’s partly because my brain isn’t bored. It’s partly because working at set times trains our minds to concentrate. Whatever the mechanism, it’s a blessed relief.