Monday Morning Art School: it’s plein air season

How can you get the most from a workshop or class? Here are some simple suggestions.

Early Spring, Beech Hill, 12X16, oil on canvas board, $1449 framed.

I’ve been to enough beauty spots in this world that few really astonish me, but the red rocks of Sedona managed it. Brilliant cliffs and spires of sculpted sandstone soar directly above the town. After seeing a dozen or so sites, I turned to my monitor, Ed Buonvecchio, and said, “It’s all wonderful.”

I’m here to teach the first workshop of my season, and it feels great to be out of the cool damp of the northeast, although the temperature there is steadily rising. I’ll be going home to spring painting and it’s time to get prepared.

Lupines and woods, 8X10, oil on canvasboard, $522 unframed.

How can you get the most from a workshop or class? Here are some simple suggestions:

Study the supply list.

Note that I didn’t say, “run right out and buy everything on it.” Every teacher has a reason for asking for specific materials. In my case, it’s that I teach a system of paired primaries. You can’t understand color theory without the right starting pigments. Another teacher might have beautiful mark-making. If you don’t buy the brushes he suggests, how are you going to understand his technique?

A tube of cadmium green that I once bought for a workshop and never opened still rankles. I never want to do that to one of my students. When you study with me, I want you to read my supply lists. If something confuses you, or you think you already have a similar item, email and ask.

Spring Greens, 8X10, oil on canvasboard, is available through the Rye Arts Center.

Bring the right clothes.

I’d forgotten that I didn’t have enough warm-weather painting clothes to take to Arizona; I retired most at the end of last year. It was warm in Phoenix but just 50° in Sedona yesterday. That means a variety of clothing, because you’ll be chilled in the evenings but might need shorts and a tee-shirt during the day. Layer, baby, layer.

I send my students a packing list for clothes and personal belongings. If you’re going on the Age of Sail, Shary will send you a different list, meant for a boat. Follow these instructions, especially in the matter of insect repellent and sunscreen. Bugs and skin cancer are, unfortunately, eternal verities.

End of winter, Wyoming, 8X10, oil on canvasboard, $522 unframed. It will be much warmer when I teach there in September.

Know what you’re getting into.

“How can you stand this? It’s all so green!” an urban painter once said to me after a week in the Adirondacks.

There are amenities in Sedona, but not in other places I teach. If you’re dependent on your latte macchiato, you may find the wilderness uncomfortable at first. There are compensatory attractions. Last night I listened to a duet sung by a coyote and a domestic dog. It was magical.

Be prepared to get down and dirty.

I’m not talking about the outdoors here, I’m talking about change and growth. I am highly competitive myself, so it’s difficult for me to feel like I’m struggling. However, it’s in challenging ourselves that we make progress. Use your teacher’s method while you’re at the workshop, even if you feel like you’ve stepped back ten years in your development. That’s a temporary problem.

You can disregard what you learn when you go home, or incorporate only small pieces into your technique, but you traveled to be challenged, and you can’t do that if you cling to what you know.

Connect with your classmates

I know painters from all over the US. I met most of them in plein air events. There’s power in those relationships. Exchange email addresses. Keep in contact. Follow them on Instagram or Twitter.
Take good notes.

Listen for new ideas, write down concepts, and above all, ask questions. If your teacher can’t stop and answer them mid-stream, save them for after the demo.

Inside the blue line

I’ll be teaching in the Adirondacks on August 13-14. Be there or be square.

Spruces and Pines in a Boreal Bog, painted at the Paul Smith’s VIC and long since gone to a private collector.

I cut my teeth teaching workshops in the Adirondack wilderness, so it’s with great pleasure that I’ll be doing that again, August 13-14, at Paul Smiths College in the High Peaks region. (For more information see hereor contact Jane Davis.) 

My Acadiaworkshop is sold out, so this is your only opportunity to study plein airwith me here in the northeast. It’s part of the Adirondack Plein Air Festival, but you do not have to be a participant in the festival to take the workshop. 

Bracken fern, also painted at Paul Smith’s VIC. 9X12, oil on archival canvasboard, $869 in a plein air frame.

(Of course, I have other workshops that still have openings—see my websitefor the full listing.)

New Yorkers are justly proud of the Adirondack Park. It covers most of the Adirondack Mountain massif and is the largest park in the Lower 48. Unlike most state parks, about half of the land is privately-owned, with state land wrapped around towns, villages and businesses.

I’ve been visiting the Adirondacks since I was a baby, and have painted, hiked, canoed and driven countless hours within it. But nobody can know the whole park intimately. It’s just too vast.

There are 6.1 million acres with more than 10,000 lakes and 30,000 miles of rivers and streams. There are boreal bogs and old growth forests, mountain peaks and roaring rivers. I’ve visited (and painted in) many wild places, and have found none wilder or more beautiful.

The Dugs, painted in the Adirondacks near Speculator, NY. 9X12, oil on archival canvasboard, $869 in a plein air frame.

As parks go, it’s pretty old. In 1885 the state legislature designated lands there and in the Catskills to be forever wild. This would come to be called ‘inside the blue line’. Those land protections were preserved in the state constitution in 1894. In contrast, the National Park System wasn’t formed until 1916.

There are about 130,000 full-time residents within the park and another 7-10 million visitors every year. That puts tremendous pressure on the land, but the relationship between residents, visitors, wilderness and government somehow holds together.

Because the park has so much private land within its borders, there are accommodations for every budget. You can stay at the newly-restored Hotel Saranac, or you can go back-country camping at a state-owned campsite. (The popular camping sites sell out fast, so don’t dither.)

Whiteface makes its own weather, 9X12, oil on archival canvasboard, $869 in a plein air frame. Whiteface Mountain is one of the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks.

My workshop will be held at the Visitors Interpretive Center (VIC) at Paul Smith’s College, which is located in the hamlet of Paul Smiths, NY. Town and college are named after Apollos (Paul) Smith, who started as a humble Vermont fishing guide and ended up an entrepreneur.

The VIC is an assortment of Adirondack habitats. There’s a large pond, running streams, a boreal bog, and lots of woodlands. Mountain peaks rise in the distance. Luxurious for a backwoods workshop, there are bathrooms with running water.

This teaching gig comes with the responsibility of being juror of awards for the Adirondack Plein Air Festival. Sandra Hildreth is the grande dame of Adirondack painting and the founder of the festival. She wanted a juror who was plugged into the ethos of wilderness and plein airpainting in general. These are two things I’m passionate about.

But my intimacy with the venue is also a potential downside—I know many of the painters who participate. Could I be objective? After a point, there are just too many of my acquaintances involved for me to favor anyone. I think I’ll be fine.

Making hay while the sun shines

This, friends, is why I’m not getting everything done!

Beautiful Dream (Rockport Harbor), 12X16, oil on canvasboard, $1449 framed.

I’m a one-man band, which means that in addition to painting, I do all my own accounting, advertising, and vacuuming. Sometimes things slip under the rug—and I’m not talking about just the dog’s duck toy. This time it was advertising my upcoming classes in a timely manner. It didn’t occur to me until yesterday, and my next session of plein air starts tomorrow.

That’s why people will sometimes tell me, “I didn’t know you teach,” or something similar. These pieces are such a big part of my life that it boggles my mind that it didn’t even penetrate their consciousness. That is the price we pay for our divided modern existence—half on-line, half in the real world. One half doesn’t really know what the other is doing.

Balletic sway, 9X12, oil on canvasboard, $696 unframed.

Let me run through my activities this summer and fall:

Plein air class

There are three openings left in this class. It meets on Thursdays from 10-1 AM in the Camden-Rockport-Rockland area. The dates are:

July 15, 22, 29
August 5, 19, 26

The fee for the six-week session is $210.

These classes are strictly limited to 12 people. As always, we’ll be focusing on the water, shoreline, boats, architecture, and outstanding natural beauty of this place we’re blessed to call home.

Early spring, 8X10, oil on canvasboard, $522 unframed.

Zoom Monday evening classes

You don’t need to be in Maine to take these classes. We have students from Texas, Indiana, New York and elsewhere joining us. These are limited to 14 people per session. I can’t remember who’s told me they’re coming back, but I expect that I’ll have 3-4 openings.

We meet on Mondays from 6 to 9 PM EST, on the following dates:

July 26, August 2
August 16, 23, 30

The fee for the five-week session is $175.

Friendship, 9X12, oil on canvasboard, $696 unframed.

Sea & Sky at Schoodic, August 8-13
This workshop is sold out (but you can emailme if you want to be wait-listed).

Age of Sail aboard schooner American Eagle, September 19-23
This workshop is also sold out (but you can email me if you want to be wait-listed).

Authentic West at Cody, Wyoming, September 5-10

Cody’s a small airport, so this workshop has run up against the national car-rental shortage. If you’re interested, contact me and we’ll try to work out a transportation solution.

Gateway to Pecos Wilderness, September 12-16

This workshop has five openings. It’s a place I especially love to teach, with all the grandeur and warmth of the west.

Red Rocks of Sedona, September 26-October 1

For this workshop, you contact the art center directly, here.

Moss-draped oaks in Tallahassee Florida

This is being organized by my friend Natalia Andreeva, so you contact her directly here.

Naturally air-conditioned!

Open air gallery at 394 Commercial Street, Rockport, ME

Meanwhile, I’m running my open-air gallery outside my home five days a week. That’s Tuesday-Saturday, noon-6, at 394 Commercial Street, Rockport, ME

And that, friends, is why I’m not getting everything done!

The not-so-perfect day

A nor’easter was moving in, the light was hazy, but—oh, the colors!

Approaching Nor’easter, 12X16, oil on canvasboard, Carol L. Douglas, $1159 unframed.

I met Eric Jacobsen and Bjorn Rundquist on Monday and Tuesday of this week, but on Wednesday, nobody was willing to paint with me. Not that I blamed them; the forecast was awful. Anyway, I wanted to try out my new backpack by hoisting my gear up Beech Hill. It’s the most expensive backpack I’ve ever bought—a Kelty Redwing—but I’ve been using a crossover bag that’s neither big enough nor good for the back.

I have an ultralight pochade box that I made myself. However, it’s fallen out of favor with me in the steady high winds along the Maine coast. It vibrates. So, instead, I took my smallest wooden box and hoped for the best.

Pretty fancy… and heavy.

It would have to be a fast painting. They were already setting snow records in Buffalo and Rochester, and the same weather disturbance was pushing its way to us.

The light was hazy and the clouds were barreling across the sky. It was ‘not a great day for painting,’ but—oh, the colors! There’s something about subdued light that makes the color of early spring just glow. There’s also something about painting something you know. The glimpse of the sod house on Beech Hill makes me happy every time I round that corner in the trail.

I’m so happy to finally be outdoors without pounds of foul-weather gear. Which means it’s time for me to talk seriously about registering for this year’s plein air workshops. Last year was a mixed bag, as my boat trips were canceled. However, I did teach in New Mexico, Florida and Maine. “It was the first time I felt normal since the start of COVID,” one painter told me.

Beach at Friendship, ME, 9X12, oil on canvasboard, $696 unframed.

This year, registrations for Sea & SkyPecos Wilderness and the September Age of Sail boat trip are all running ahead of normal. There’s still room in the June boat trip—I assume because it’s so close to Maine’s go/no go date. But Captain John says, “we’re a go for sure for 2021,” and he’s the captain, so his word is law.

I’ve added additional workshops this year, so that, no matter what landscape you love, there’s a place for you in my schedule. All of them can be accessed through this link.

And this handsome old tree… maybe I can get back there this afternoon to finish.

AGE OF SAIL, June 13-17 or September 19-23, 2021

Learn to watercolor on the magical, mystical waters of Maine’s Penobscot Bay, aboard the historic schooner American Eagle. All materials, berth, meals and instruction included. Captain John has reduced the number of guests, which puts the schooner well within the state’s COVID guidelines. Beginning May 1st, people traveling to Maine from all states will no longer be required to provide a negative test or quarantine. 

SEA & SKY AT ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, August 8-13
Five days of intensive plein air in the quiet corner of America’s oldest national park. Lodging and meals included at Schoodic Institute. All levels and media welcome. Schoodic Institute did an exceptional job of facilitating social distancing during last year’s workshop, and I am confident this one will be just as good.

AUTHENTIC WEST: CODY, WYOMING, September 5-10, 2021
Study in an authentic western ranch setting in Yellowstone Country. Five days of intensive plein air, all levels, all media welcome. I’ve reserved a block of rooms at the Hampton Inn, Cody, for guests. That’s just a short distance from the ranch, and the restaurants, museums, and resorts of Cody.

GATEWAY TO PECOS WILDERNESS, September 12-16, 2021
High plains and mountain wilderness, in historic, enchanting New Mexico. Five days of intensive plein air instruction, all media and all levels welcome. This year, I’ve reserved a block of rooms at Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey in Pecos. Meals are included, and it’s a quick jaunt to ‘downtown’ Pecos.

RED ROCKS OF SEDONA, ARIZONA, September 26-October 1, 2021
A geological wonderland, with world-class restaurants, galleries, and accommodations. Five days of intensive plein air instruction, all media and all levels welcome. This workshop is offered through the Sedona Arts Center.

And last but certainly not least…

MOSS-DRAPED OAKS IN TALLAHASSEE, FL, January 17-21, 2022.
I’ll be returning to gracious Tallahassee for another great session of painting through Natalia Andreeva Studio. We had a great time last year!

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.

Joy and tragedy are two sides of the same coin

In some ways, 2020 has been a very good year for me. But that is set against loss, both my own and others’.

Happy New Year! by Carol L. Douglas

If I had a bucket list, Tierra del Fuego would certainly be on it. So, when, in March, I had the opportunity to paint there and in Patagonia with my pal Jane Chapin, I jumped. COVID-19 was still just a rumble from China, albeit moving closer. Within 48 hours of our arrival, the Argentines quarantined us in the mountainous region near the Chilean border. As the first snows of the year hit the higher elevations, we painted glaciers and meted out our remaining canvases.

My uncle Bob, from whom I inherited the travel bug, had been in Patagonia a few years back. He was following our exploits by text. He never learned that we made it home, because on March 29, he became an early casualty of the pandemic. It is the worst grief I’ve sustained since the loss of my parents.

Glaciar Cagliero from Rio Electrico, oil on canvasboard, by Carol L. Douglas

I came home feeling very deflated. Painting events were cancelled; my own gallery in Rockport couldn’t open. I asked our local police chief if the new regulations would allow plein air classes; he thought no. The windjammer American Eagle, on which I was scheduled to teach two workshops, cancelled its season. My workshop at Schoodic was rescheduled for October, but it hardly mattered. Nobody was signing up for anything, anyways. By June, my revenues to date were down $10,000 from 2019, and that didn’t include the cost of getting back from Argentina. If I’ve ever been inclined to quit, it was then.

There are two important lessons you can take from your Christian neighbors. The first is to live in faith rather than in fear. That doesn’t mean being foolish. I follow the quarantine and testing regulations of the states to which I travel; I use hand sanitizer and a mask; I avoid unnecessary public exposure. I do not, however, let COVID paralyze me. I recognize that the ultimate disposition of my life isn’t in my hands.

The Dooryard, oil on canvasboard, by Carol L. Douglas, was painted for an event that had to go online; the results were decidedly mixed.

That’s true regardless of your beliefs, by the way. You can do nothing to insulate yourself from the ultimate reality of death. So many Americans (including my uncle) followed the rules punctiliously, but the virus still found them.

The second is that humans need to be flexible to survive tough times. Mature Christians listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, even when it asks them to do odd things. Non-believers may call this ‘listening to their gut,’ but the basic requirement is the same—one has to be open to new ideas. That’s not so easy at my age, when system and structure have had decades to accrete.

On the other hand, Cape Elizabeth’s Paint for Preservation was a hit, even online.

I was extremely resistant to teaching online. I didn’t think it would be a good experience for my students. However, my friend Mary Byrom encouraged and coached me, and today I think it’s at least as good as live classes. It has forced me to be more proactive in designing lessons. That, in turn, has given me the nucleus of the book I’ve always intended to write.

In the end, much happened that was lovely. I suspended minimum enrollment requirements and ended up teaching three successful workshops—at Schoodic, in New Mexico, and in Florida—despite concerns about travel. I learned a new technology, and even made some pretty terrible painting videos. Learning is growth; in that regard, 2020 has been a very good year for me. But that is set against loss, both my own and others’. So much of life is like that, a mix of sorrow and joy.

Have yourself a very educational Christmas

Four options for advancing your skills in 2021.

Painting aboard schooner American Eagle.

A workshop or a class is a great gift for someone who’s working toward better painting skills. If you register for any of these workshops or classes prior to January 1, you’ll get an early-bird discount.

All my workshops and classes are strictly limited to 12 participants. Partners are welcome; these locations are fantastic destinations in their own right. And, of course, you can register after January 1, but it will cost you more.

I’m assuming that COVID will be just a bad memory by 2021, but if not, all workshops are refundable for COVID cancellations.

All supplies are included in the schooner workshops. Also a healthy dose of color theory.

PAINT ABOARD SCHOONER AMERICAN EAGLE—June and September

We’re offering Age of Sail aboard schooner American Eagle twice in 2021. It’s an all-inclusive (including materials) rollicking sail-and-paint class aboard the finest windjammer on the Maine coast.

The June sail coincides with the Gam, a rendezvous of all the boats in the Maine windjammer fleet. There’s live music and visiting between boats. The lobster fleet is hard at work, and we’ll see lupines in bloom as we poke around Penobscot’s quaint harbors.

On the other hand, September is a delightful time to sail on the Maine coast. The ocean is still warm, and the colors are spectacular.

All the information you need about both trips can be found here.

Painting at breathtaking Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park.

SPEND A WEEK AT INSPIRATIONAL SCHOODIC INSTITUTE IN ACADIA NATIONAL PARK—August

My Sea & Sky workshop is a perennial favorite and one of the high points of my year. We paint in the splendor of America’s first national park, but far from the madding crowds.

Schoodic Peninsula has dramatic rock formations, windblown pines, pounding surf and stunning mountain views that draw visitors from around the world. You might see dolphins, humpback whales or seals cavorting in the waves. Herring gulls visit while eiders and cormorants splash about.

A day trip to the harbor at Corea, ME is included. Far off the beaten path, Corea, ME is a village of small frame houses, fishing piers and lobster traps. Its working fleet bustles in and out of the harbor.

 Again, it’s designed to be all-inclusive so that you don’t have to stop and figure out meals or drive in from your hotel. (They’re in short supply in the high season here in Maine.)

Information about this trip can be found here.
 

Painting in an historic settlement near Pecos, NM.

VISIT THE PRISTINE WILDERNESS OF PECOS, NM—September

A fast-moving river, high mountain vistas, hoodoos, dry washes, tiny settlements and the colorful skies of New Mexico all beckon us to this very special place.

The village of Pecos, NM lies below the Santa Fe National Forest. Nearby, Pecos National Historical Park, Glorieta Pass, and Pecos Benedictine Monastery provide superb mountain views. Ranches and small adobe settlements dot the landscape. This is a landscape of pine wildernesses, horses, and pickup trucks. Yet it’s within commuting distance of Santa Fe, so accommodations, necessities and world-class galleries are just a short drive away.

Information about this workshop can be found here.

We have almost as much fun on Zoom as we do in real life, except nobody falls in the water.

Or PAINT FROM THE PRIVACY AND SAFETY OF YOUR HOME

Zoom classes are offered Monday nights and Tuesday mornings. They resume the second week of December. The six-week session stresses all the elements of painting we cover in workshops and plein air classes, but you can access them from anywhere in the world. Returning students have priority, so seats are limited. If you’re interested, contact me soon.

NEED MORE INFO?

First, read the links on my website. Registration is fast and easy and can be done by mail or phone. Of course you can always email me with specific questions. And happy holidays, my friend!

Dare to dream!

And don’t worry; if my workshops are cancelled for coronavirus, I’m giving a full refund.

The lovely American Eagle at rest in Penobscot Bay.

We held out as long as possible, but we’ve been forced to cancel my first summer workshop, our June 7 Age of Sail adventure aboard the schooner American Eagle. Students have been invited to transfer their reservations to the September 20 trip, or they can get a full refund.

These workshops sparkle because of the floating venue, an historic schooner meticulously maintained by Captain John Foss. I saw him yesterday. He was wrestling a snowplow either on or off his truck—it was hard to tell, given the cold. Messmate Sarah Collins was bundled in layers and lying prone in the wind to varnish along the gunwales. This is the part of windjamming the public never sees: the sheer hard graft to keep these boats in perfect nick. Captain John is older now than he’s ever been. He’s making noises about retirement. When he goes, the Age of Sail workshop almost certainly goes too. I can’t imagine anyone else hosting it so well.
Painting aboard the American Eagle. There’s always plenty of time for sailing, too.
If there’s any lesson to be learned from the current crisis, it’s that nothing lasts forever. If you’re interested in that September 20 trip, contact me now and let me know.
We work so hard. Photo courtesy Ellen Trayer.
That still leaves two other workshops for the season, both of which are still very much on. Both concentrate on the same material, but the settings are very different. We work on:
  • Plein air composition
  • Color theory
  • Accurate drawing
  • Mixing colors
  • Finding your own voice
  • Authentic brushwork
Schoodic Point. Photo courtesy Claudia Schellenberg.

Sea & Sky in Acadia National Park is a perennial favorite for good reason. This is the part of Acadia most visitors never visit. Schoodic Peninsula has the same dramatic rock formations, windblown pines, pounding surf and stunning mountain views that draw visitors to the Mount Desert Side. But Schoodic doesn’t suffer the crowds that the main part of the park does. Still, it’s just a 90-minute drive from Bangor International Airport (or a pleasant meander up the coast from Portland or Boston).

A group exercise at Acadia National Park.
Because of the wonderful isolation, we offer this week-long workshop with lodging and meals included. All you have to do is concentrate on painting. Last year it sold out; I don’t expect that in these uncertain times, but you never know. Contact me if you’re interested.
Pecos, NM. Photo courtesy of Jane Chapin.
Last, but certainly not least is my newest offering, Gateway to the Pecos Wilderness, in the high mountain community of Pecos, New Mexico. The Pecos River, Santa Fe National Forest, Pecos National Historical Park, Glorieta Pass, and Pecos Benedictine Monastery are all nearby. All provide superb mountain views. Ranches and small adobe settlements seem to grow organically out of the landscape. This is a place of colorful skies, hoodoos, dry washes, pine wildernesses, horses, and pickup trucks. Yet it’s within commuting distance of Santa Fe, so accommodations, necessities and world-class galleries are just a short drive away. This workshop is five full days long and there is ample accommodation in the area. Read more about it here, or contact me.
Pecos National Historic Park. Photo courtesy Jane Chapin.
Refunds aren’t something I have much experience with, so I’m learning about them now. It turns out they’re a little more complicated than just reversing the sale on a credit card. But don’t worry; if your workshop is cancelled because of coronavirus, I’ll be giving you a full refund. You can make plans without worrying that you’ll lose your deposit.

Where are they now?

I asked last summer’s workshop students to share what they’re working on now. Some are painting like mad; others are weighed down with work, elder-care or other responsibilities, but they’re all doing art. That, to me, is their greatest success.

Ann Trainor Domingue


“I’m using small collage pieces to design much larger paintings. Exploring more graphic, simpler design, with my ‘relationship’ series. I’m basically continued on my coastal-inspired work but contemplating how to include aspects of the sailing adventure. In the above watercolor-and-ink I have used a rocky coastline with evergreens as found along the coasts we sailed past on the American Eagle.
 “Collage has been new for me. It is a way to simplify my designs, and I love using found small flat papers, packaging, fabric to build design I wouldn’t have using a drawing tool.”

(Note: Ann Trainor Domingue will be teaching a workshop in my studio on June 6. For more information, click here.)

Lisa Magoun

“I’ve been painting since this summer in watercolor.  I also take a class painting in acrylics with a palette knife. I sometimes run out of subjects and should paint the same thing more than once.  But I rarely do.” 

Jennifer Johnson


“I am currently enjoying a year full of endless summer by painting in Australia. Most of my efforts have been attempted inside because the annoying bush flies are worse than ever and it is hard to paint wearing a black bug net/veil.”

Patty Mabie


I am ‘wintering’ in Florida for the first time! We are staying in Key West until the end of February, then driving across the country and back in March, to visit our kids in Birmingham and LA, with stops in New Orleans, Austin, Tucson, the Grand Canyon and who knows where else along the way. Then Myrtle beach in April, and Colorado after that to go to the Plein Air Convention and do some painting with friends in the mountains.
I bring paints everywhere and even knock one out in the car once in a while (while someone else is driving, obviously), with my Guerilla pochade box and some Gamsol in the cup holder. I’ve been doing boat studies and palm trees. I found some local art organizations and a plein air group that meets on Wednesdays here, which is great. I’m also doing an online mentoring program with Matt Smith through Tucson Art Academy Online.

Rhea Zweifler


I’ve been very interested in paths and keying up local color and the interplay of compliments together in color instead of just copying one of the Group of Seven.

Jennifer Little


Since I returned from Maine, I have had more energy for painting than I’ve had since my twenties! That week of painting really opened up something, so thank you!  
Currently I am working from photos, some from Schoodic, but a theme I’m working on is related to humans and nature/the sea. I use family photos. There is something about the atmosphere in the candid shots – family dynamics, some have tension, some so serene. I am also exploring glazing geometric and hopefully dynamic skies with these organic sea scenes.

Rebecca Bense


I painted a study of sky every day in June, July and August. Then September came and I went back to my ‘real’ life, thinking I was going to keep this up for a year, but I found on day 10 of September that I was 5 days in arrears and what I had done was phoning it in. So, I stopped. Long and short: not much painting has been going on. I find myself exhausted. I decided to keep a sketch book-journal/planner and I have been doing these mandala type doodles out of ink and whatever I might have a hand. I am finding these so much fun and so little pressure to produce something. Also (not coincidentally) my drawing skills have improved.
I am teaching a drop-in watercolor class and about 80 students at a Montessori school. They range from 3 to 14 years of age. I also teach a differently-abled adults art class.
I get together with my plein air friends as much as I can. We paint outside when possible and often have at least one meal together. Nice bunch of peeps!

Sandy Waldo


The holidays are over and now winter settles in. With the business of the season painting became less of a priority. We had some snow over the weekend which inspired this view of my favorite walking trail.

Mary Ellen Pedersen


I worked on this for months in multiple versions. The boat was too big – too small – didn’t fit the right angles. I was working from a photo.  Then I just said it was my painting, not the photo, and was free. I was able to be creative with it and it now hangs in my daughter’s apartment in Tennessee. I actually like my dory and the age of the vessel. I think it looks old and well used. The water and sky are a combination of dry brush with paint and paper.

Robin Miller

I have applied new learnings to an old backlog of unfinished projects with commendable results, and completed three new paintings. They were not, alas, painted outside. I probably won’t do much plein air until I can retire. But the new tools have definitely been helpful in moving through projects more quickly. And, since I tend to think of my work as a giant art project anyway, it has made that more fun as well. All in all, the Schoodic Workshop was excellent mind expansion, artistically and otherwise.
You can learn more about my workshops aboard schooner American Eagle here, or at Schoodic here. Rumor has it I’ll be teaching in New Mexico in September, but since the details aren’t yet finalized, just send me an emailif you want to learn more.

Monday Morning Art School: holiday gift ideas

Gifts at every price point for the artist in your life (even if that’s you).

Mabef field painting easel M27: Non-artists often buy painters French easels, but please don’t do that. They’re heavy and tough to set up. Instead, choose a smaller, lighter, more efficient easel—the Mabef field painting easel M27. The pivot head makes it useful for both oils and watercolor. It comes with extension arms on which you can set a palette. I’ve had an earlier version of this for two decades. It’s my number one choice for watercolor, and I’m constantly loaning it to new painters. But a word of caution—the cheaper knock-offs of this easel don’t work well. Mabef has been making easels since 1948, and the quality is good.
Want a larger easel? Jerry’s sells a version of a Gloucester easel called the Beauport. Ken DeWaard uses one, as do I. It’s the best easel for large canvases in a stiff wind.
Testrite #500 studio easel: This is the teaching easel I use in my studio. Aluminum is light, easy to move, and easy to stow. Want a larger version? Try its big brother, the Testrite #700. I’ve had one for twenty years without trouble.
Princeton brushes:Over the years, Princeton has provided great value for money, but many professional painters eventually gravitate to something else. Sadly, I can no longer recommend Robert Simmons, because my last two orders have contained defective brushes. I’ve been given so many Princeton SNAP! in goodie bags this year that inevitably one made it into my painting kit. I was pleasantly surprised. Series 9700 is a natural bristle brush made for oil-painting. Series 9800 is a synthetic for oils. Series 9650 is made for watercolor and acrylic.
Despite having a quiver full of upscale watercolor brushes, I’m just as likely to grab my Princeton Neptunes when working in watercolor.
If you really want to surprise someone with your inside knowledge and impeccable taste, choose Rosemary & Co. brushes for watercolor or oil, or New York Central for oil painting brushes.
QoR watercolor kit:QoR (pronounced “core”) is a product of Golden Artist Colors of New Berlin, NY, so you can be assured that they’re a quality product. Golden has created a new binder for a higher-pigment paint that can rival oils and acrylics for vibrance. I use QoR myself, and for my workshops aboard schooner American Eagle, but you can easily buy ready-made sets of 6-12 pigments from any large paint dealer online. For acrylics, I’d recommend a Golden starter set hands down. For oils, buy Robert Gamblin or Winsor & Newton. It’s harder to make a one-size-fits-all recommendation for pastels, but anything sold by Dakota Art Pastelsis a good product.
If your artist has all the paints he thinks he needs, why not surprise him with some gouache? I have some Turner Design Gouache that I trot out whenever I’m thinking through ideas, but there are many fine brands.
In every case, less is more. The artist typically needs no more than a dozen colors, and it’s better to get a better brand with fewer pigments than a large assortment of bad paint.
Sketchbooks: I buy Strathmore 300 series Visual Journals and consume them like candy. They’re Bristol, so you can draw or paint on them. For fast outdoor sketching, I like the Strathmore 400 watercolor series. They’re so affordable, I have no worries about wasting paper.
Palamino Blackwing Pencil: I use mechanical pencils myself, but this was recommended to me by writer Tim Wendel. I’m dying to know what makes a pencil worth slightly more than $2, so I’m asking for it for Christmas.
A workshop: I can’t finish this without a plug for my own workshops. They allow the artist the chance to work with a group of like-minded people, without distractions, in settings of unparalleled beauty.
In 2020, we offer two all-inclusive trips aboard Schooner American Eagle, where I’ll teach the fundamentals of watercolor on the fly (and you get to sail, too). And there’s my annual intensive workshop, Sea & Sky at Schoodic Institute in Acadia National Park. Register by January 1 and get an early-bird discount on any or all of them!