Paint like you’re rich

Being stingy with art supplies will cost you more in the long run.

Terrie’s rig is handmade but very solid. There are many ways to solve the pochade box question, which is why I hesitate to recommend one. 

The discussion started with a student confessing that he didn’t mix enough different greens for his painting of a rill riffling through a forest. “I didn’t want to waste paint,” he said. “Paint is expensive.” Instead, he wasted paint and time.

“Paint like you’re rich,” his classmate told him.

Turns out that was advice from my student and friend Becky Bense.

French easels may be heavy, but at least they work.

I should have known. Becky regularly chides me for my use of cheap watercolor paper for demos. While the paint seems to flow off the brush fine, it dries as if I’d painted with a typewriter. My justification is that I’m trying to demonstrate a principle, not create art. Also, I have a lot of it lying around; it was on sale and I succumbed to the temptation. But I’ve never painted anything good on it and I never will.

If I were a student, I’d be terribly frustrated by the results. Perhaps enough so that I would believe I couldn’t paint and would stop trying. I certainly wouldn’t learn much.

Then there’s always the picnic-table option.

At my Sedona workshop, two students had pochade boxes from Meeden, a low-end art supply vendor. They fill a niche for the casual hobbyist, but their products are not robust enough for serious painting.

One of these boxes was fatally flawed; its mount was not strong enough to hold the box on the tripod. Had Ed Buonvecchio not lent the student his old field easel, she’d have been unable to paint at all. She’d flown in from Hawaii, rented a car, reserved a room, bought top-end paints and brushes—and was stymied by this weakest link.

I provide detailed supply lists for my classes, but don’t specify a brand of pochade box, as there are so many excellent ones out there. It never occurred to me that anyone would buy a Meeden box. No serious art supply stores sell their products.

Minnie Brown combined the French easel with the picnic table option at Sedona.

But if you search Amazon for ‘pochade box’, Meeden is the brand that comes up first. And the world of Google throws us another curve. Because I’d just looked at Meeden boxes on Amazon, when I searched for Easy L Pochade Box (a brand I recommend without reservation) I got a series of ads that led me straight back to Meeden. There’s convenience in online shopping, but a lot of hucksterism, too.

But back to the paint itself—it’s a false economy to not squeeze out a proper amount, to paint on bad substrates, or with lousy brushes. It always ends up costing more in time, materials, and lost opportunities. In fact, none of us are rich enough to be stingy with our art supplies.

Speaking of classes, I have a new session starting next week on Zoom. The key to being a good artist is working at it consistently. For busy people, that’s often the hardest part. We meet for three hours weekly to dissect and practice a key element of painting such as design, color, perspective, foliage, value masses, or brushwork. And as the above discussion indicates, a lot of learning goes on from student to student, too.

I’ve taught on Zoom since the start of COVID. A big reason these classes work so well is the support and encouragement my students give each other. You listen, adapt, critique and think through problems as a group, and we are all better for it.

ZOOM morning Session
We meet on Tuesdays from 10 AM to 1 PM EST, on the following dates:
April 12, 19, 26
May 3, 10, 17

ZOOM evening Session
We meet on Mondays from 6 to 9 PM EST, on the following dates:
April 11, 18, 25
May 2, 9, 16

The fee for either six-week session is $235.

All media are welcome. More information can be found here, or just email me.

I had just one job…

COVID kicks like a mule, which is why I failed at my goal, and why I’m just getting this information out about my next session of classes.

Oops.

I set out two weeks ago on an impromptu excursion with my son to West Yellowstone, Montana. We would look at geysers in the snow, and celebrate his Prius clicking over 300,000 miles, which we calculated would happen somewhere on the NYS Thruway as we returned to Albany, NY.

I was last in Yellowstone 26 years ago with a baby in a backpack saying “bub-ble”. On this trip, her younger brother was more erudite. He’s a newly-minted geologist. I now know more about the Yellowstone Supervolcano than I ever thought possible.

Coyote at Yellowstone, photo courtesy Dwight Perot.

On Monday of last week, my husband told me he had COVID. I was starting to develop cold symptoms myself, but according to the CDC we’d been apart too long for me to have been exposed with him. However, by Tuesday morning, it was apparent that my son and I also had COVID. We decided to beat feet back home.

If you’re not feeling well, a car provides a strange insulation. You stop at roadside rest stops, you eat fast food, you sleep, and then you do it all over again. It’s amazing how fast you can travel 2600 miles when you’re self-quarantined.

Yellowstone in the snow, photo courtesy Dwight Perot.

One problem became evident as we approached Ohio. We would be 55 miles short of our 300,000-mile goal. “No problem,” I said. “We’ll just take a fast run up the Northway when we get back to Albany.”

Except that we couldn’t. Even in its Omicron form, COVID has a wicked kick. I left the boy on his sickbed, drove home and slept all weekend.

Yellowstone River, photo courtesy Dwight Perot.

That’s why I’m just getting around to telling you about my openings for my next session of Zoom classes. There are three seats open in each class. (My current students always have first dibs on returning.)

These classes are open to intermediate painters in watercolor, acrylics, pastels and oils. What do I mean by that? You have a basic understanding of how to apply paint, but want to learn more about how to paint boldly, use fresh, clean color, build commanding compositions, and draw the eye through your paintings. (If you need a beginner class, contact me and I’ll put you in contact with some excellent teachers.)

The great thing about Zoom classes is that they’re one place you can’t spread a virus. And having just done COVID myself, I think that’s an awesome thing.

ZOOM Tuesday morning Session

We meet on Tuesdays from 10 AM to 1 PM EST, on the following dates:

February 22

March 1, 8, 15, 29 (off week of March 21 for Sedona workshop)

April 5 

ZOOM Monday evening Session

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

February 21, 28

March 7, 14, 28 (off week of March 21 for Sedona workshop)

April 4

For more information, see here.

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!

Losing yourself in paint

The time you spend painting is not deducted from your lifespan.

One of my Monday night students told me her father lived to 107. He said, “the time you spend sailing is not deducted from your lifespan.”

He also believed that oatmeal every morning and a wee dram before supper would extend your life. I’ve got that part half right. Unfortunately, it’s the oatmeal; I eat it every morning.

I told my other class this and we speculated on what other activities might qualify. “Cocktail hour,” one suggested. I’m afraid that’s probably situational; some cocktail hours are fraught.

I think there’s something to Carol’s dad’s theory. There are activities that are so deeply satisfying that they flush the cares of the day right out. I’m not saying they’re easy; they are, as my friend Martha said of sewing, both mindful and mindless at the same time. Time doesn’t stand still; it vanishes. We each have our own list. For many, that includes painting. Like sailing and sewing, it rests on a firm technical foundation. It engages the mind and yet lets it roam.

Numerous studies have shown that engaging with the arts increases lifespan,  soothes chronic pain, staves off symptoms of dementia and accelerates brain development in kids.

My next session of classes is starting soon, and the exciting news is that we’ll be painting en plein air in the Rockport—Rockland—Camden area again. These classes will be Thursdays from 10-1 AM. The dates are:

  • May 27
  • June 3, 10, 24 (skips 17th for Age of Sail workshop)
  • July 1, 8

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

If you’re in the midcoast area and want to sign up, please contact me soon. As of last night I had four openings left. These classes are strictly limited to 12 people, because my legs can carry me only so fast. 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.

If you’re not in midcoast Maine, you can sign up for another session of weekly classes by Zoom. Since some of my local students will be moving to the plein air group, there should be a few seats in each online class. These are limited to 14 people per session.

ZOOM morning Session

We meet on Tuesdays from 10 AM to 1 PM EST, on the following dates:

  • May 25
  • June 1, 8, 22, 29 (skips 15th for Age of Sail workshop)
  • July 6

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

ZOOM evening Session

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

  • May 24, 31
  • June 7, 21, 28 (skips 14th for Age of Sail workshop)
  • July 5

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

You don’t need to be in Maine to take these classes. We have students from Texas, Indiana, New York and elsewhere joining us.

As always, registration priority will be given to current students; if you’re interested, contact me to be put on a waitlist.

About these classes:

We cover the same subjects indoors and outdoors:

  • Color theory
  • Accurate drawing
  • Mixing colors
  • Finding your own voice
  • Authentic brushwork

We stress painting protocols to get you to good results with the least amount of wasted time. That means drawing, brushwork and color. I’m not interested in creating carbon copies of my style; I’m going to nurture yours, instead. However, you will learn to paint boldly, using fresh, clean color. You’ll learn to build commanding compositions, and to use hue, value and line to draw the eye through your paintings.

Watercolor, oils, pastels, acrylics and—yes, even egg tempera—are all welcome. Because they are small groups, I can work with painters of all levels.

All my classes are strictly limited to 14 people.

Email me for more information and supply lists.

Signs of recovery?

The post-COVID world is uncharted territory. Navigating it successfully will require local knowledge and lots of common sense.

Blueberry Barrens, 24X36, oil on canvas, Carol L. Douglas

Easter Sunday was the anniversary of my arrival back from our ill-starred trip to Argentina. I left one America and returned to another. It was a nation largely without toilet paper. A year later, the phrase ‘flatten the curve’ is mostly forgotten. We still don’t know how we’re going to reintegrate our society, but the possibility seems to be there.

My mother was a fan of investment guru Peter Lynch He was famous for the phrase, “invest in what you know.” Lynch believed in the street-smarts of Average Joe. He thought individual investors were potentially more capable stock-pickers than fund managers, because they could see the impact of new products on their day-to-day lives. (On the other hand, he famously bought Dunkin’ Donuts stock because he liked their coffee, so he wasn’t always right.)

Bridle path, 11X14, oil on canvasboard, Carol L. Douglas

Any small gallery or artist in business after a year of COVID is navigating uncharted waters. Our local knowledge and our street smarts are going to stand us in good stead, if we listen to that inner voice called ‘common sense.’

I started teaching virtually on April 28 with the coaching and encouragement of my friend Mary Byrom. The following month, I bought an annual subscription to Zoom. It’s had a tremendous return on investment. For most of the past year, my two classes have been waitlist-only.

Best buds, 11X14, oil on canvasboard, available.

Lynch’s worldview was, in fact, borne out in a small way in this tiny niche business. Long before the big art publishers realized the market for virtual learning, teachers like Mary and me were teaching on Zoom.

As I approach the one-year anniversary of my virtual classes, I’m seeing a slight softening of demand. My street smarts are tingling again.

  • Is this the beginning of a return to normal, where we take classes in real life?
  • Have bigger vendors vacuumed up the demand for virtual instruction?
  • Does the approach of good weather mean people would rather paint outside?
In a slippery landscape, we must tread carefully. We should understand why there’s a shift before we start reacting (if indeed any response is necessary). But I’m cautiously hopeful that this is a tiny step toward normalcy, where we can go to school, church, and each other’s’ homes with the free-and-easy nonchalance of the past.

By the way, there are two openings in Monday night’s session starting next week. If you’re interested there’s more information here.

My students make me proud

Lemme show you some pictures…

Linda DeLorey, from a class assignment on painting snow.

I’m turning into one of those old ladies who carries photos around in her phone and shows them to total strangers. However, they’re not pictures of my kids or grandkids (or even the dog). Instead, they’re my students’ paintings. I’m very proud of them.

Amy Thomsen, from a class assignment on painting trees.

People are embracing distance learning, even in the evening after a long day of work. I don’t know if that’s because of the continuing reach of COVID, because it’s winter, or because the limits of geography are lifted.

David Broerman, from a class assignment on painting snow.

It’s turning out to be as much a group of friends as my summer plein air classes. On Monday night, talk turned to baking, a long digression that ended with Mark going to his refrigerator for his sourdough starter. My Tuesday class includes sisters who live across the country from each other. It’s all far warmer and personal than I ever imagined.

Mark Gale, from a class assignment on color substitution.
Lorraine Nichols, from a class assignment on color substitution.

I’ve written extensively about learning how to teach with Zoom. If there’s been a gift from 2020, it’s getting me over the hurdle of video. I used to loathe being on camera; now I don’t even notice it. There’s been lots of trial and error and I’ve upgraded my cameras and monitor. That was worthwhile. With the proper equipment the video barrier seems to evaporate.

Lori Capron Galan, from a class assignment on reflections.

I have Mary Byrom to thank; she’s the one who coached and cajoled me past my resistance. That’s why I pay the favor forward to other teachers when I can.

Carol Durkee, from a class assignment on color substitution.

Beth Carr, from a class assignment on color substitution.

Zoom has made me a better teacher. Instead of teaching reactively, I’ve been forced to be far more proactive in designing lessons. Teaching without geographical boundaries means I’m getting serious students. They’re working extremely hard, and every one of them is improving.

Sharyn Brusie, from a class assignment on reflections.

That’s resulted in a long syllabus that will be the basis of a book, should I ever sit long enough to get some writing done (my New Year resolution.) 

Janice Vierke, from a class assignment on reflections.

We have a Facebook group where my students share recent paintings. I’ve nabbed some for you; I think they speak for themselves. There isn’t enough room in this blog to feature all of them, so I’ll catch up with the rest of them later. In return, I promise to not corner you at the grocery store and show you pictures of my grandkids, cute as they are.

Carrie O’Brien, from a class assignment on reflections.

Patty Mabie, from a class assignment.
Kathy Mannix has sold two paintings since starting my classes earlier this year. Amazing.

Mary Silver lives in the Texas hill country, where snow is generally just a happy dream.

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!

Our time is not unlimited here

We must set priorities if we are going to actually do the things we want.

Catskill Farm, pastel, by Carol L. Douglas, long gone to a happy home somewhere.

I mentioned to my Tuesday morning Zoom class that I needed to run over to the hospital for a medical test after we finished, but that I wasn’t unduly worried.

“Worrying is like praying for something you don’t want,” said one.

“Worrying is the misuse of imagination,” said another.

“Worrying is paying interest on a debt you don’t owe,” said a third.

Demoing painting.

These were brilliant bits of folk wisdom and I wrote them down, to add to the one I always quote, Matthew 6:34. Later, when the radiologist told me I need more testing than they can do locally, I took a deep breath and recollected them.

I’ve already gone two rounds with cancer, so I’m pretty good at gauging what I’m seeing and hearing. There’s cause for some concern, but not for panic. I went for a very brisk walk to work through my reaction. Then I headed to bed remembering one of my favorite aphorisms: “Tomorrow is another day.”

An occasional brush with our own mortality is useful. It reminds us that our time here is not infinite. I suffer from a bad case of believing I can fit in everything. When I wrote about the volunteerism trap, it was partly in response to frustration at having so little time to paint.

That’s my friend Boo.

I’m not a worrier, but I am a planner. I’m planning a show on August 15 featuring work by students from the past five years. To invite them, I had to make a list. I was astonished at the number of people who’ve come through my studio. Many of them started as students and became friends. There is something about learning together that forges relationships.

I’ve known that to be true in real life, but am surprised to realize it’s also true in Zoom classes. That puts me in a happy dilemma. I’d like to collapse my classes down to two a week, but there are people in each class for whom the schedule works best the way it is. I like spending time with them.

Tom Sawyer’s Fence, oil on canvas, by Carol L. Douglas. Available.

So, for now, I’m going to continue to teach three classes—two on Zoom, and one live—and hope I can get some painting done in my spare time (proving that the “you can’t have it all” lesson is a hard one indeed).

I’ve appended the schedules to the end of this post. The dates take us all the way to the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” as John Keats described Autumn. That is, by far, plein air painting’s best season.

I wish I could spend all of September in New Mexico. I’d try to kill myself with hot food at the Hatch Chili Festival. And Fiesta de Santa Fe is America’s oldest continuous festival, running since 1712.

I’ll be there to paint and teach in the Pecos Wilderness September 13-18. The aspen and cottonwoods will be turning gold, set off against the cool greens of spruce, firs and pines. And the heat of summer will have dissipated, making it perfect painting weather.

I have taught Sea & Sky in Acadia National Park in the first week of August for years. But COVID-19 forced me to move it to October 4-9. I like to think of myself as an agile thinker, but I wasn’t happy.

The Dugs, by Carol L. Douglas

I finally remembered how many times I’ve snuck off to Acadia myself in October, because that’s really the most beautiful time of year in Maine. To call the color “eye-popping” does not do justice to the grandeur of a New England autumn. The ocean is warm and the air is clear. If you’ve never seen the northeast in its Autumn finery, this is a great chance to discover it.

Another thing I’ve revisited has been my hesitance to teach in the South, which was just plain stupid. So, when Natalia Andreeva invited me to teach in historic Tallahassee, I jumped at the chance. Around the time the first snows hit the coast of Maine in early November, I’ll be sneaking off to Florida to teach Find Your Authentic Voice in Plein Air, enjoying the spreading live oaks and Spanish moss.

All of these workshops are on my website, of course. And you can read more about upcoming weekly classes here.

Tuesday morning ZOOM classes, 10-1, open to interested painters from anywhere

August 11

August 18

August 25

September 1

September 8

September 22 

Thursday morning plein air classes, 10-1, open to painters in the midcoast Maine region

August 13

August 20

August 27

September 3

September 10

September 24

Monday evening Zoom classes, 6-9 PM

August 17

August 24

August 31

September 14

September 21

October 12