Is painting dead?

Despite predictions to the contrary, paintings and books haven’t been replaced by their digital analogs.

Vineyard, Carol L. Douglas, 40X30, oil on canvas.

Yesterday I heard from Sedona Arts Center that my workshop there is sold out. Schoodic and my first section in the Adirondacks are also sold out. (Of course, that still leaves a lot of options all over the country, so don’t imagine you’re free of me—yet.)

But it is part of a bigger trend, and one that points out my current dilemma: teaching is fundamentally limited by the instructor’s stamina and time. I can teach about seven six-week Zoom sessions a year, and they are usually full. Between them and my workshops, I can give one-on-one instruction to a maximum of 300 students a year. That’s if there are no returning students, which there always are. And that’s while maintaining a killer pace, one I’m unlikely to sustain for many more years.

Tom Sawyer’s Fence, Carol L. Douglas, available.

Teaching, as any person who’s done it can tell you, is very much a bespoke industry. It’s individual and personal. As I think about ways to reach larger audiences, I know that I will be sacrificing that intimacy in the process.

This blog started as an exercise in spreading instruction to a broader audience. By their nature, blogs are simply not well-organized or easy to search. Although I’ve covered everything you need to know in the fifteen years I’ve been writing, it takes good research skills to ferret out specific information, especially as I’ve shifted platforms a few times.

The downside of social media is that it has an incredibly short lifespan. As of 2021 it was estimated to be:

  • Twitter: 15 minutes
  • TikTok & Snapchat: Start decaying immediately unless viral
  • Facebook: 6 hours
  • Instagram: 48 hours
  • LinkedIn: 24 hours
  • YouTube: 20 days or more
  • Pinterest: 4 months
  • Blog Post: Over a year

That means few of us are getting past the headlines—or the advertisements. Some platforms, like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, are gatekeepers for more incisive writing, but most social media posts are simple snapshots.

Bracken Fern, Carol L. Douglas, 9X12, oil on archival canvasboard

Americans now overwhelmingly get their news from digital media. In a recent Pew survey, 65% of respondents said they rarely read printed news. At the same time, only 20% of Americans are willing to pay for online news. That means most of us are getting our information in some kind of recycled format. Ouch.

Magazines are doing slightly better, but are still in decline. Print subscription circulations have fallen by 7% over the past two years, while single-copy sales are down 11%. The exception is specialty magazines, dedicated to niche audiences.

Best Buds, Carol L. Douglas, 11X14, oil on canvasboard

On the other hand, industry watchers were confident that book publishing would be moribund by 2022, and that hasn’t happened. Books remain a $27 billion industry in 2022. That compares to e-books, at $3 billion and—weirdly—sliding. Clearly, people perversely cling to reading on paper.

For art books, paper remains the only way to go. I can’t imagine curling up with my phone and browsing a text on Wayne Thiebaud, for example. His luscious, thick paint looks great in life. It looks decent with modern printing technology; it disappears on my computer screen.

In the same way, there’s something about handmade art that cannot be replaced with digital analogs. People have lots of time for digital media—movies, snapshots, television and video—but when it comes to hanging fine art on their walls, they like the feeling of hand-craft. Total sales of art photography were just $80 million in an art market of $64 billion in 2019—and in decline. Despite 137 years of commercially-viable photography, painters and printmakers aren’t obsolete. I have a feeling it’s not going to happen.

Why don’t I teach private lessons?

You only hear what you are ready to hear. That takes time.

Bracken Fern, oil on canvas, available through Maine Farmland Trust Gallery.

I get frequent requests for private instruction. After all, if group lessons are helpful, wouldn’t private lessons be even better? Absolutely not.

I’ve taken harpsichord, voice and piano lessons. There are many similarities between studying music and painting. In either discipline, instruction time actually plays a small part in the student’s development. Most learning happens during practice, as the student masters what he or she has been shown.

On the other hand, there are significant differences. Painting class is not nearly as noisy, for one thing, so we teachers don’t have to try to sort out each player from the cacophony. We don’t demonstrate the minutiae of fingering or sound production, or concentrate on every note, phrase and fingering. There are aspects of music-making that are intensely detailed and physical. Painting in general avoids that.

Blueberry barrens, Clary Hill, oil on canvas, available through Maine Farmland Trust Gallery.

Instead, a good painting class is an ensemble of well-matched peers. They build on each other’s questions, suggestions, successes and failures. They ask questions that are pertinent to everyone. They borrow ideas from each other. My students often have insights that elude me, and I trust them enough to occasionally say, “I don’t know the answer.” I’ve frequently said I learn as much from my students as they do from me.

I have students who drift in and out of my classes and workshops over years. That’s a good thing; it means they’ve taken ownership of their own learning process. Last summer, one of them asked, “Where do I go when I’m done studying with you?”

The truth, to be brutally honest, is: nowhere. And everywhere.

Blueberry barrens, Clary Hill, watercolor, available through Maine Farmland Trust Gallery.

There are people who flit from teacher to teacher, workshop to workshop. They’re looking for a silver bullet that will circumvent the learning process for them. What they don’t realize is that most painting teachers are saying—more or less—exactly the same thing. The ones who aren’t, are selling a gimmick.

Nothing about painting is particularly revolutionary. The basic process is thousands of years old. Yes, it’s been refined, and a good teacher ought to be able to elucidate how it’s changed and why. But paint still gets attached to paper and canvas in a specific way.

Sea Fog, oil on canvas, available through Folly Cove Fine Art.

There are degrees of competence in painting teachers. If your teacher can’t articulate his process or doesn’t know color theory or art history, consider finding someone else. But beyond that, what we’re teaching is pretty similar. It ought to be.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy, or that you can take lessons for a year and nail it. For most of us, learning to paint at a high level of competence takes years. The lessons are deceptively simple. The teacher lays out the same information over and over, but the student is only capable of hearing what he’s ready to hear.

Good teachers repeat things—often—and watch and listen to see who’s getting it and who isn’t. Suddenly, there’s an insight somewhere in the room. When that moment happens, it’s an epiphany for everyone in the class. Everyone leaps forward; everyone benefits. No individual lesson can give you that.

Five opportunities to study with me

And for my workshops, there are early-bird discounts available!

Four Ducks, by Carol L. Douglas. There are so many ways to paint water!

“There’s no phone reception out on the ocean,” I casually mentioned to my electrical-engineer husband. He immediately outlined a low-cost plan to extend coverage offshore. I looked at him in wonder. “Please don’t. That’s the best thing about sailing!”

I leave this evening for my last workshop of the season, aboard schooner American Eagle. (As many times as I see her, I still have a crush on that boat.) I’ve had so many inquiries about upcoming classes and workshops that I pulled them all together for you before leaving.
How to paint water: I’m speaking to the Waterville Art Society on Thursday, October 3 on how to paint water. The meeting starts at 6 PM at Chace Community Forum, 150 Main Street, Waterville, ME. For more information, email here.
Dennis Pollock, right before he went for a swim during our weekly painting class. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Johnson.)
Our next mid-coast Maine painting classes start on Tuesday, October 22. These classes meet on Tuesday mornings from 10-1, and this session runs six weeks, from October 22 to November 26.
This is primarily a plein air class.  Autumn is a fantastic time to paint in mid-coast Maine, as it stays warmer here longer than inland. When weather permits, we paint at locations in the Rockport-Rockland-Camden area. When the weather turns, we meet in my studio at 394 Commercial Street, Rockport. For more information, see here, or register here. (If you’re a returning student, you can just email me.)
Painting aboard schooner American Eagle with Diane Fulkerson, Mary Ellen Pedersen, and Lynne Twentyman.
I’ll be teaching two watercolor sketch workshops aboard the historic schooner American Eagle next year. The first is during the opening run of the Maine windjammer fleet and includes the Gam, the annual fleet raft-up. That’s June 7-11. The second, from September 20-24, is timed for the coast’s peak foliage season.
All materials—and they’re professional grade—are included, and if you want, you can help with the sailing too. More information is here.
Rebecca Bense and me, at Sea & Sky on Schoodic Point. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Johnson.)
Last, but certainly not least, is my annual Sea & Sky workshop at Schoodic Institute. It’s an opportunity to study painting in America’s oldest national park, surrounded by breathtaking nature, but insulated from the ‘madding crowds’.
This workshop is five days long and includes all meals and accommodations. This year we’ve added a commuter option as well. This workshop was waitlisted last year, and for good reason—it’s a fun and informative time, open to students in oils, pastels, watercolor, gouache or acrylic. More information can be found here.
Ellen Trayer and Lynne Twentyman, painting on a deserted island.
All of my workshops include an Early-Bird discountfor those of you signing up before January 1. (Workshops, of course, make great Christmas gifts for the painters in your life.) If you have any questions, you can email me.
I won’t be able to answer until next week, of course, because in a few hours I’m throwing my rope-soled shoes and duffle-bag in the car and heading down to the harbor. That also means no blog on Friday. Fair winds and following seas to you, and I’ll see you on Monday.

The car cures itself

Summer for a professional plein air painter can involve as much driving as painting.

Cape Blomiden makes its own cloud, by Carol L. Douglas, was painted during a rainstorm in the first annual Parrsboro International Plein Air Festival.
One of my students missed last weekend’s workshop due to a painful flareup of plantar fasciitis. Another student, himself a doctor, told me about taking the disease into his own hands. He simply stretched the offending tissue until it audibly tore. “The relief was instantaneous,” he told me as I stared at him aghast.
My little Prius has done something similar. It has, over the last year, developed a loud scream at high speeds. Turning up the radio was useless. I had the tires rotated to see if that helped. No luck. A front wheel bearing was replaced in March; I replaced its mate two weeks ago. The right rear brake locked up while my car was in Logan Airport long-term parking in April. That wasn’t the root of the noise either. Meanwhile, every month I’ve been spending more money on this car than the payment on a Ford F-150.

I appreciate AAA’s tow service, but I’ve seen too much of it recently.
But even the money hasn’t been the real problem. “It’s no longer reliable,” I lamented to my husband. Next week I drive alone to Parrsboro, NS, where I’m painting in the second annual Parrsboro International Plein Air Festival. There are some lonely stretches up that way, and I don’t like the idea of getting stranded. I’ve started car shopping, but I don’t have the time to do proper research.
Meanwhile, I’ve had a busy spring. On the night of my daughter’s wedding rehearsal, I stopped for a light at a busy intersection. I woke up seconds later to find that I’d rolled right into the line of oncoming cars.
I have more than a million miles of accident-free driving under my belt and I’d like to keep it that way.  Yesterday when I found myself blinking away sleep on the New York State Thruway, I did something I never do: I relinquished the wheel to my co-pilot. Thus, it was he, not me, who was driving when a tire burst on the interstate.
Two Islands in the Rain, Carol L. Douglas, also from Parrsboro International Plein Air Festival
In the end, this turned out to be the Prius healing itself. A few hours later, we were back on the road. The sound that’s been plaguing me for months was gone. It was a defective tire after all.
We rolled into Rockport around the time that the fishermen are up rubbing the sleep from their eyes and checking the weather. The thermostat in my car read 43° F. and it was foggy and pouring.
I have a short tight week here in Maine. I leave to teach watercolor on the schooner American Eagle on Sunday evening. After we dock, I leave directly for Parrsboro, NS.
Teaching watercolor aboard American Eagle mercifully involves no driving. The dock is just minutes from my home.
I’ll be missing the opening reception for the latter, but Poppy Balser kindly stopped by on her way to Paint Annapolisto collect my boards for me. She’ll get them stamped so I don’t have to spend half of my first day there trying to find someone to stamp them for me. I’ll just have to find Poppy.
And the eco-warrior is back on the road, all healed.
This is nothing unusual; it’s the life of many of my friends each summer. We sort events into boxes. Sometimes we can stop at home, swap the boxes, and do our laundry. But often we stack our calendars up in the back of our vehicles: frames and supports for the different events share trunk space. If we’re crossing the border, we take a deep breath as we approach Customs. We’re not breaking the law, but a search of our cars will result in an awful mishmash of our supplies.

How dare you speak to me like that?

Criticism is tough to take. Sometimes, that’s because the criticism itself is lousy.

The Raising of Lazarus, by Carol L. Douglas. Really, was it so bad?
I don’t remember the exact words of my first printed review, but they are burned in my memory as, “I can’t believe the curator included this dreck,” and “absolutely amateurish use of color.” My stalwart friend Toby, also an artist, listened to me whine and cry for about an hour. She stoutly agreed that the critic was an ass. That’s a pal.
It was a national show, but the critic and I knew each other slightly and had mutual friends. Knowing me didn’t make him more kindly-disposed. That’s a good lesson in general, by the way: never assume that connections will carry you in the art world. They are just as often a handicap.
I’ve critiqued a lot of paintings myself since then. The older I get, the more I understand that there are few absolutes in art. It’s always childish and supercilious to rip on another artist. There’s almost always something that you can learn from another’s work if you take the time to try to understand his processes or point of view.
Well, heck, you may as well see the whole series. This is Submission. Later, it would be in a show closed for obscenity.
That was an unsolicited review. What is far more common is criticism that we ask for.
The worst mistake we can make is to ask for an opinion when we really want a pat on the back. We sometimes hear home truths we aren’t prepared for. Always ask yourself why you’re asking that particular person for a critique. If it’s because you crave his or her approval, quietly move on.
Even if you are genuinely interested in an objective opinion, what do you intend to do with the information? I, like everyone else, am plagued by self-doubts. I tend to immediately grab on to a criticism and act on it, without thinking it through.

I once paid another artist to critique a large work that had me flummoxed. “It kind of reminds me of an immature Chagall,” she said. She felt I needed to loosen up, abstract more, and conceptualize less. I went home and wrecked the painting entirely. I’ve carried it around for twenty years now as a bitter reminder. Under all that schmaltz lies a beautiful idea that died from an overdose of opinion.

A third painting from the same series. I can’t even remember what it was called, but I have certainly gotten less political in my old age.
Sometimes it’s easy to see what your critic means: darken that sail, raise that cloud cover. But sometimes, he or she is making a subtle but very real point that will take you months and years and many more paintings to understand.
Very few people have earned the right to critique my work. They earned it by being trustworthy, not having an ax to grind, and understanding my goals and motivations. I can count those people on one hand. Ours are relationships of long standing. I trust that they understand my goals in painting, even when those goals are radically different from theirs.
Scrotum man, also from the same series.
“When you ask another painter—unless they’re an experienced painting teacher—they’ll often just tell you how they would have painted it,” Bobbi Heath said. Listen for this and guard against it. The questions the critic should be addressing are broad ones of value, composition and technique.
Even with an experienced teacher, an opinion may still be flat-out wrong. Poppy Balser once asked me what paintings she should submit for an award. I’m glad she ignored me, because the one I didn’t choose won Best Watercolor. The jurors were focusing on different things. In retrospect, I saw their point.
By the time you read this, I’ll be flying to Minneapolis for a weekend of dancing on crutches. Meanwhile, it’s about time for you to consider your summer workshop plans. Join me on the American Eagle, at Acadia National Park, at Rye Art Center, or at Genesee Valley this summer. I plan to be able to walk by then. Really.

Thinking about teaching?

You might be an excellent painter, but make sure you understand your own process thoroughly. 

Me,teaching at Acadia National Park
I started writing Monday Morning Art School back in October. This was in response to my students’ need for continuing education while I was elsewhere. It was also a way to put my scattershot “how to” posts in some kind of framework.
It takes longer than the posts I write the rest of the week, and it’s more complicated. It does funny things to my readership stats as well: Monday Morning Art School gets fewer hits than any other day of the week, but I get more mail about it than about anything else.
The difficult thing about writing a “how to” is slicing and dicing your process. That’s true of teaching in general. It’s one thing to know how to do something, and another to be able to stand outside your work and explain it step-by-step to a beginner. In a classroom, you read your students’ reactions and adjust your method accordingly. Writing (or video) is a one-way street.
Painting by student Catherine Bullinger in a one-day workshop last summer.
A friend took drawing classes at a prestigious art school. I’ve wondered how a person with her mind could manage to not learn to draw in such a setting, but she did. She’s a brilliant woman. Drawing should have been a snap for her.
As I was writing about measuring curves as a series of straight line segments, I asked her if she’d ever been taught this simple skill. “The teacher was a wonderful botanical illustrator herself, but really in retrospect her teaching method was: ‘look at it and sketch it,’” she told me.
I’ve taken a few classes and workshops with great artists who couldn’t teach. At times the instructor thought that watching him paint was enough. No questions were allowed during the demo. That’s a real misunderstanding of the teacher’s role. His focus should be on describing and examining his process, not protecting it.
Students painting at Owls Head.
Anyway, if I wanted to watch someone paint, I’d have just bought the video.
Almost all artists get the idea somewhere along the way that they can teach, especially after their accountants tut-tut over their books. Many artists teach wonderfully, of course, and the world needs more people like them.
Others may be excellent painters, but haven’t analyzed their process thoroughly. Or, worse, they don’t have the communication skills to interact with strangers.
Yes, I demo, but there’s a lot more to teaching than that.
Before you decide to run that class, run a check on yourself as you start and finish a painting. Can you clearly describe all aspects of your process, or is some of it automatic and mysterious even to you? If the latter, do yourself and your students a favor and hold off on teaching until you’ve got it straight in your mind.
This, by the way, is a lesson I learned the hard way.

The perfect size painting class

Bigger art classes are easier for the instructor, but not necessarily good for the students. Neither are very small classes.

A delightful day at Owls Head.
“Do you ever offer private lessons and if so, what advice can you offer me on what I should charge?” a painting instructor asked.
There are very few things I won’t do for money, but private painting instruction heads that list. Learning to paint is all about repetition. I show you a technique, and you repeat it until you’ve got it. The best balance for plein air painting, I’ve found, is a class of 6-9 people. Fewer, and I am crowding my students with too much information. More, and I can’t pay enough attention to their needs.
The wilder the terrain, the fewer students I can teach. That’s why I often use a monitor at my Acadia National Parkworkshop. He or she handles problems of logistics, freeing me to concentrate on painting questions.
The rockier the terrain, the fewer students you can teach.
“How many people are in the class?” a person wrote me this summer. That was one smart cookie. We’ve all taken workshops where the instructor tries to manage a group that’s much too large. Teachers cope by doing long demos, but that’s unfair to the students. They might as well watch a video.
Rushing around on rocks can lead to injury, as we discovered a few years ago.
It’s easier indoors. Classes at the Art Students League were very large, but I wasn’t neglected. I benefitted from the instruction happening around me as much as from what my teachers told me.
A big group is easier to teach than one or two people. Teachers are only human, and humans are essentially proprietary. The longer we spend at a students’ easel, the more we want to take over.
Demos have their place, but they’re no substitute for one-on-one attention.

When I’m first looking at a student’s work, my mind is fresh. One or two things immediately jump out at me for correction or praise. I can articulate them and move on without meddling. That keeps the focus clear and directed.

Give me a enough time there, however, and I start deconstructing the painter’s vision. Students tell horror stories of teachers who have repainted whole sections of their work. That’s hard to avoid when you’re spending too much time with a single painting. You get proprietary.
The right size class makes for lots of attention but no hovering.
Handicapping conditions don’t necessarily require private lessons. They can often be accommodated surprisingly well in a class. Several years ago, I taught a mobility-impaired student in an outdoor workshop. We made sure there was a safe, flat, level site available at every painting location. She brought an assistant with her.
If you choose to teach private lessons, you should charge based on your hourly earnings for teaching a class. Tot up the number of students you usually teach, multiply by the class fee, and divide by the number of hours you spend on that session. Add travel time if you’re expected to go to the students. $50-75 an hour is not an unreasonable fee for your undivided attention.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

What does one artist teach another, in person, that cannot be learned off the internet? Sometimes it’s about accountability.

Dish of butter, by Carol L. Douglas
Yesterday an alert reader sent me a blog post purporting to show how to draw “the top of the flower pot, the lid on a jar, the base of the barn silo,” in perspective. I don’t want to start a flame war, so I’m not going to give you the link, but the instructions were flat-out wrong. The post started off well. Then the writer tried to apply two-point perspective, not realizing that round shapes have no perspective, at least in that sense.
This is a case where knowing a little math would have helped. A column is just an extruded circle. Any point on a circle is the same as any other point. Seen in space, the top of a column is always symmetrical on the vertical and horizontal axes.
That was wild blueberries, yogurt, milk, oatmeal, cinnamon and ginger, in case you’re wondering.
I demonstrated this to my reader by sending her the photo of my breakfast drink, above. If you doubt me, walk around a glass or vase on a table and tell me if the shape changes. I have an explanation of how to draw this, here.
Not that I haven’t said some amazingly stupid things in my time. I remember once trying to explain the art concept of color temperature in relation to the physical temperature of light. My class included a person I think is terribly smart. I grew nervous. I got lost in a hopeless mishmash of misstatements before I was done. At least I hadn’t committed it to paper.
Wineglasses and opossum, by Carol L. Douglas

Sometimes people will repeat the canard that “teaching beginners is easy.” That’s only true in the sense that they don’t know if you’re right or not. Painting technology is almost unchanged since Jan van Eyck created his system for oil painting at the beginning of the fifteenth century. Watercolor and acrylic are newer, but equally methodical. There are rules for painting and drawing, and that is what a teacher should know and teach.

Unpicking bad teaching is some of the most painful work I do. This is why I like and practice the atelier model in my own studio, which I benefitted from so much at the Art Students League of New York. I don’t think in terms of levels of competence; there are just people who each bring their own experience and I try to help them move forward.
Acrylic paint jars, by Carol L. Douglas
Even old dogs can learn new tricks. I’m about to take my workshop in many, many years. I’ve painted with Poppy Balserenough to know that she’s a stellar technician. In May I’m traveling to Cornwallis Park, Nova Scotia to take a two-day watercolor workshop with her. I’m hoping to up my game in watercolor.
I’m glad it’s not this week. While the National Weather Service coyly predicts “plowable snow” for Maine, the Canadian Maritimes are looking at significant weather again.
“If it doesn’t start melting soon, I’ll have to shovel for my first class on Tuesday,” I whined to my husband. That snow pile in our driveway has consolidated to concrete. Ouch.
There is, by the way, one opening left for this session, so if you’re interested, contact me.

Chores are good for kids

You can't do this if you have no experience doing the routine stuff.

You can’t do this if you have no experience with routine repairs.
I’m always getting paint on my laptop screen trying to adjust the angle. To solve this, I have a new monitor and rolling stand for my studio. I hope to get it assembled before it’s obsolete.
To that end, my youngest kid helped me for a while yesterday. He was attaching the confabulator to the thingamajig when I stopped him. “Just hand-tighten that until you have all the screws on that joint in place,” I told him. “Then you can drive them home.”
“How do you know that?” he asked.
Assembling my monitor stand.

My son assembling my monitor stand.
Until the modern era, kids had to hold things for their fathers while they worked. (Kids are not cheaper than clamps, but they’re far more likely to be underfoot.) Today, you could look some of this stuff up on the internet, but that’s an imperfect education.
Don’t believe for a minute that fathers are expendable. Nobody is going to teach you the art of swearing like they can.
I had three tasks on my schedule yesterday. One of them—the easy one, where I filled out some papers and signed my name—is done. The other two never got finished. We had visitors all day. The stopping-by never stopped and although I am feeling very pressured, I was also very glad to see them.
This is how I ended up cooking dinner for 15 people. It was a real loaves-and-fishes kind of affair, cobbled together from leftovers, things from the freezer, and things my daughter picked up at Hannaford on her way home.
Kid, sewing.

Kid, sewing.
I often tell people I can’t cook, and in the usual way, I can’t. However, this was a combination of dishes I have been making since childhood (risotto, fried fish, and fried chicken) and the recipe for scallops that my friends Berna and Harry shared with me last year.
I was on familiar turf. As a kid, I was my mother’s sous chef for many such impromptu dinners. Size up the crowd and assess the refrigerator, the pantry, and the freezer. Quietly send a kid to the store for the missing pieces. Accept any help that’s offered, gratefully.
One of the nicest things parents can do for their children is conscript them to do unpaid, hard labor. That’s how I learned to use a chainsaw, drive a truck, clean windows and even cook for a crowd. Like most of us, I wanted my kids to work less hard than I did, but I’m cheap. No cleaning or lawn services for us. Saturday mornings were a forced march through our house.
The forced march, in 2010.

The forced march, in 2010.
When I collected my son from college in May, his suite was a disaster. His roommates clearly had no idea how to do simple household chores. Given a little guidance, however, they did a great job, and we parted as friends.
Civilization is only in part about great literature, art and architecture. It’s also about things like fixing dripping faucets. I’ve known a lot of kids who could do calculus but not wash pots and pans. If you teach the former and neglect the latter, you’re doing your kids a great disservice. They’ll end up being the ones who have to look up how to clean a toilet on YouTube.

Gonna take a sentimental journey

We’ve had a lot of good times in this studio, including swing-dancing model Michelle Long.
I am frequently asked, “How do you feel about this move? Are you excited? Sad to leave?” I have loved the 21 years I’ve been in Rochester, but I’m ready to move on. Most of my thinking has been practical, not reflective.
Now my studio is dismantled, just a heap of boxes.
Except today.
I was packing my studio with my younger daughter when a Taylor Swift song started playing. If you’ve raised teenagers, you know they tend to play songs until they’re burned into your mind, and this one reminded me powerfully of her teen years. “I don’t want to leave,” I sniffed at her.
“Get real, Mom,” she said. “Of course you want to do this.” And she’s right, but I have had a lot of fun here.
The girl, making me cry.
On that note, I received a lovely note today from a student. I almost declined to take her because I didn’t feel I could accomplish much in the few weeks she had to work with me. And yet, she has turned out to be an amazing pupil and painter.

“I made a list of things I learned in your class,” she wrote. “This is not exhaustive, but some highlights.”
  • Charcoal is a wonderful sketching medium, great for roughing in tones, and very easy to rub out if you aren’t pleased with the results.
  • Don’t hold your paintbrush like a pencil, hold it out closer to the end and magic happens. (Okay, maybe not magic, but the results are much better.)
  • How to mix reds.
  • How to mix greens.
  • How to organize a palette.
  • All about easels.
  • How to fold a plastic bag.
  • Buy paints by pigments, not by their “lipstick” names.
  • Warm light, cool shadows or cool light, warm shadows.
  • Paired primaries—learn them and love them!
  • Don’t belly-up to your painting. Stand back. And sometimes, step back.
  • How to build a painting: establish a tone study on the canvas (using a mix of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna), then block in colors, and then develop them dark to light.
  • Be brave about putting marks on the canvas. And keep putting marks on canvas, or paper, or whatever.
No student every did more color exercises in my class than Matt Menzies. Matt, I’m throwing that big palette away today.

She learned all this in about 18 hours of instruction time.
Which brings me to my Maine workshop. If she could learn so much in just a few half-days, imagine what you can do in an intensive week of study. I have just a few openings left, and I strongly encourage you to register now.
Marilyn Feinberg, Kamillah Ramos and Zoe Clark, on a warm summer day painting at Irondequoit Bay. All three of them left Rochester before me.

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park in August 2015. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops! Download a brochure here.