Paint Schoodic

Join us on the American Eagle in June or in Acadia National Park in August. Click here for more information.

Friday, May 30, 2014

More on our student show

Carol L. Douglas Studio Annual Student Show

The VB Brewery, 6606 New York 96, Victor, NY 14564

Opening reception, Sunday June 8, from 1-4 PM


Kitty's Dog, Moke, by Christine Long

I have an elderly Jack Russell terrier with whom I have a love-hate relationship. Yes, he is pea-brained, attacks small animals, and tries to bite the mail carrier, but he’s also affectionate and loyal.

Yesterday, one of my students, Christine Long, dropped off this painting for our student show. It could be my Max, with the breed’s characteristic pose and slightly worried expression. It will be in our student show in June at the VB Brewery in Victor.

Three abstractions, by Cath Bullinger, Brad VanAuken, and Carol L. Douglas. We're auctioning these to raise money for the Open Door Mission.
In April of last year, Cath Bullinger, Brad VanAuken and I collaborated on three abstractions. With the passage of time—and the addition of frames—I think they were quite wonderful.

Of course, they were an experiment, so when I was asked whether one of them was for sale, I was nonplussed and dropped the ball. They’ve been hanging around my studio since.

The three of us have decided to auction off the three paintings to benefit the Open Door Mission here in Rochester. They’ll be hanging in our student show. Just stop by in the month of June and pencil your name and bid in on the silent auction form. At the end of the month, the highest bid wins. And with an opening bid of $50, you have a decent shot of getting a nice painting for a great price, and the satisfaction of knowing you’re helping a great organization.

Camden Harbor Reflections, by Pamela Casper.
Two of my 2013 workshop students have graciously volunteered to send work for the student show. Both are working artists. Pamela Casper lives in NYC and has shown extensively in the United States and Europe. Nancy Woogen paints, teaches and exhibits in the Hudson Valley.

There are still a few openings in my 2014 workshop in Belfast, ME. Information is available here.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Come celebrate with us

Still life by Jingwei Yang
Art-making is in some ways a hard slog. You have to be willing to try again after disappointment, you have to be more enamored of the process than the results—most of all, you have to keep doing it to be any good.

Speedo: A Hermit Crab's Mid-Life Crisis, by Nina Koski.
My students work very hard, and we usually see progress in fits and starts—a wonderful painting glistening on an easel suddenly makes up for the days when it doesn’t seem to be working.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget the progress that’s being made, until you have the honor of having a collection of work piling up on your dining room table in anticipation of a show.

Pericles and Golli, by Nathan Tomlinson.
 A painting in a frame is like a handsome person who dons a suit; suddenly that painting has gravitas, presence, authority. And I suddenly have a large collection of said paintings waiting to be seen.

Maine shore, by Sandy Quang.
So please join us for the opening of our class show at VB Brewery, Sunday, June 8, from 1 to 4 PM. That’s at 6606 New York 96, Victor, NY 14564. The work will be hanging throughout the month of June.

Deck shoes, by Teressa Ramos.
Come paint with me in Belfast, ME! Information is available here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Paintings, paintings everywhere!

The Amathus sarcophagus (5th century BC, Cyprian archaic period) was excavated by General Cesnola in Amathus, Cyprus and purchased from General Luigi Palma di Cesnola in 1874. Frankly, it’s absurd to talk about intellectual property rights for objects purchased from tomb robbers. 
I believe that our shared art heritage should be available to all (especially the parts that were plundered in the first place). The Metropolitan Museum of Art  recently announced that it has released 400,000 digital images of its collection into the public domain. While the Met has always had images online, the new database includes high-resolution views suitable for scholarly study.

Two misconceptions need to be cleared up. First, this is not the Met’s whole collection, which numbers far more than 400,000 items. Also, no online viewer can “let you see the pieces as you might if you visited the museum in New York City, in person,” as one breathless reviewer wrote. There is no substitute for a real walk around a museum.

George Caleb Bingham, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri, c. 1845. It’s a lot more fun to see this in person and enter the inevitable debate about whether that’s a cat and if so, why it’s on a boat. But when it’s on the internet, it’s definitely a cat.
On the other hand, many of these objects can't be viewed in the museum at all, since they're not on display. That makes this online collection invaluable.

The Met is following a general trend in the art world to make access to artwork easier. The Farnsworth Art Museum bucks this trend, and I wish they’d stop. There is so much that can be learned from studying the technique of a master painter, and not all of us can go to Rockland to look at Andrew Wyeth’s preparatory sketches. (But if you want to, join me for my workshop in Belfast this summer.)

Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, 1662-65, Johannes Vermeer. To choose one work to demonstrate the breadth and depth of the Met’s collection is impossible, so why not start here?
The Met allows dissemination of images for scholarly purposes. What does that mean? Essentially, it means anything that isn’t for commercial gain, like reprinting images on umbrellas, scarves, and coffee mugs—those rights they reserve for themselves alone.

You can view the Met’s collection here.


Come paint with me in Belfast, ME! Information is available here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Painting peonies at Highland Park

Peonies by Nina Jarmolych Koski
“If a watched pot never boils, how can a flower completely open while you’re painting it?” asked Nathan Tomlinson at Highland Park on Saturday. I could see his point. At 10 AM when he sketched his idea onto his canvas, the peony in question was half-open. By 2, when we left, it was wilted.

Pretty wilted but still beautiful by mid-afternoon.
The change in the flowers was unusually dramatic, because we were making a dizzying leap from cold spring rain into glorious summer weather. All of Rochester realized it, too, and came out to photograph the flowers.

Peonies, by Nathan Tomlinson.
I didn’t realize it was Memorial Day weekend until we were mobbed by tourists. At one point, Nina Koski leaned over and whispered, “There are four different languages being spoken right next to us.”  Since I love playing tour guide, I had a great time directing people to the lilacs, the pansy bed, and the conservatory, and explaining what a pinetum is.

Peony, by Jingwei Yang.
These three are all very inexperienced painters: Nate has been with me since early February, Jingwei and Nina since the end of February. Their progress has been fantastic in a very short time, and they’re making the leap to plein air painting with a great deal of self-assurance.

Who can resist photographing the darn things?
The biggest problem they faced was that their palettes couldn’t match the chromatic intensity of the peonies themselves, gilded by back light on this beautiful, intense day. Nate, who is using muddy Charvin oil paints, had the most trouble, but there are many things in the natural world that are more intense than any paint can match. The answer, then, is to make the chroma you can muster up sing against the background.

Peonies by little ol' me.

I had time to do a small watercolor between annoying my students. The nature of watercolors makes it a little easier to give the illusion of high chroma even with a limited sketch kit, so I didn’t suffer quite as much as they did.

Come paint with me in Belfast, ME! Information is available here:

Friday, May 23, 2014

Lilacs in an old farmyard

Lilacs in an old farmyard, oil on canvas, 14X11, by little old me. 
Yesterday I spent four hours painting standing up. I was able to finish—if not brilliantly, at least successfully. I think I’m on target for recovery before I leave for Maine in mid-July.

Here's the barn. Ain't she a beauty?
This barnyard—at G and S Orchards in Walworth, Ontario County—spoke to me the first time I saw it. Niagara County was dairy and apple-growing country when I was a kid, and I really enjoy being up close to a farm again.

But I’m grateful I’m not running it. Gary told me he was up at 3:30 AM, and he would be working until 9:30 PM.

I’ve again laid out the steps of this painting for my beginning painting students:

A careful drawing, to start. This one, again, is in watercolor pencil.

A map of darks using a thin wash of ultramarine-and-burnt-sienna.
A color-map of thin paint. From here you can go forward to paint the details.
Come paint with me in Belfast, ME! Information is available here:

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Come drink beer and admire art

Carol Thiel's spring landscape.
Painting students of Carol Douglas (that’s me!) will be displaying their work during the month of June at the VB Brewery in Victor. Their friends and family and anyone else who’s interested is invited to join us for an opening gala on Sunday, June 8, from 1-4.

The VB Brewery is the brainchild of Tom and Catherine Bullinger. Catherine is the person who convinced me I should teach painting many years ago, and she was my very first student. Technically, that makes her my longest-enrolled student, although like all retirees, she doesn’t seem to have much time for class these days.

This is Nina Koski's first-ever class still-life.
This year’s show will feature works by some very new students as well as some old-timers. Several of them have only three or four paintings under their belt as of today. Showing any work at that point is difficult and I applaud them for participating.

This year, several of my Maine workshop participants have offered to send their work in from faraway places. Since they can’t be at the opening, this is generous.

Nancy Woogen is one of my 2013 Maine workshop students from the mid-Hudson region. She is kindly sending this painting for our student show.
The VB Brewery is located at 6606 State Route 96 in Victor. From Rochester, take 490 to Exit 29 (the last one before the toll barriers) and continue east on Route 96. You will go 4.5 miles through the village of Victor. The brewery is on your left.


Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. My Belfast, ME, workshop is almost sold out. Click 
here for more information on my Maine workshops!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The cadmium question

The only cadmium in here is cadmium orange. Peppers, 8X6, oils, by little ol' me.
Yesterday, my favorite color scientist forwarded me this from Golden:

For environmental protection reasons, the European Community is currently considering a ban on cadmium pigments in artist paints. We would like to gather comments from artists concerning the relative importance of these colors in their work, in an effort to better understand the potential effect of this measure.

To complete a brief survey, click here: GOLDEN Cadmium Survey.

I use only one cadmium—orange, For yellows, I prefer Hansa (arylide). For reds, I use naphthol red and quinacridone violet.

That said, losing cadmium orange from my palette would hurt; it’s one of my workhorse pigments in both landscape and figure. I suspect there are substitutes out there, such as pyrrole orange, but I haven’t tried integrating them into my palette.

Mixing your paints and your wine is probably not the healthiest option.
Moreover, the cadmiums are great pigments. Pigments affect technique, and losing the cadmiums, with their great lightfastness and solidity, would be difficult for many painters. Before they toss them out willy-nilly, it’s worth asking what the environmental impact is, and whether their replacements are any safer.

The risk to artists is low, since cadmium poisoning primarily comes from inhalation or ingestion. Unless you’re working in encaustic, you’re unlikely to inhale paint fumes. Pastel artists should already know to use an air cleaner when working indoors. For all painters, gloves or silicone hand lotion is always advisable.

More difficult is that our use of cadmium pigments might endanger others. We all dispose of pigments into the waste stream when we clean brushes. (I just realized this morning that my long-term habit of solidifying waste pigments and putting them in the solid waste stream is counterproductive if my city burns trash for energy.) The stuff also has to be manufactured and milled before it’s turned into paints, and that may be happening in countries where environmental protections are nil.

My palette doesn't even usually include a true red, for the same reason that it doesn't include a true green.
Cadmium is present in cigarettes, and the smoking artist inhales dangerous levels of it every time he or she lights up. It is used in the manufacture of plastics, iron, steel, cement, non-ferrous metals and batteries. What percentage of the overall cadmium stream comes from artists, I don’t know, and it’s an important question. I suspect it’s pretty small, but whether that is a moral green light to keep using it, I can’t say.

As for whether the substitutes are safer or not, that’s also an open question. No known health risks are associated with the other red and yellow pigments I ‘m currently using, but the important caveat is that word, “known.” Recent research, for example, has linked azo pigments with basal cell carcinoma.


Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. My Belfast, ME, workshop is almost sold out. Click 
here for more information on my Maine workshops!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Every good idea I’ve ever had, I cribbed from someone else

I felt so craptastic by the end of the four hours that I asked Sandy to finish my painting for me. As fun as it was to watch her, that really didn't work, since I've never bothered to train my students to be mini-mes. (At G and S Orchards in Walworth, NY.)
Yesterday I challenged another obstacle on the journey back to health—I painted four hours standing up. My surgeon did a fine job of running his knife along an old incision, but it was still abdominal surgery and I’m still recovering.

Drawing in watercolor pencil is something I borrowed from my pal Kristin Zimmermann. It affords better control than charcoal and is completely erasable with a wet paper towel. It's not appropriate for every setting, but here where I wanted to study the architecture of an individual tree, it was great.

It was pretty painful to paint standing, and that’s sadly apparent in my painting. But it’s something I have to master before we’re truly into summer, because painting from a seated position is so limiting.

The shelf on my tripod was Jamie Grossman's idea. The panel carrier was suggested by Marilyn Fairman. Using a waterproof stuff sack for my palette... well, I think I came up with that on my own.
While cleaning up, I mused on how much I’ve borrowed from the ideas of others. The pill container I keep my paints in was a gift from Jamie Grossman, who also showed me the tripod shelf that allowed me to ditch my pochade box once and for all. The PanelPak carrier is something Marilyn Fairman showed me, and although I balked at spending the money on them, they’ve proven to be worth their weight in gold. 

Jamie Grossman also came up with this idea for carrying paints. Since I buy mine in jars, it saves me a ton of time and money on tubing, and it's easier to manage in the field than tubes.
Using watercolor pencils to draw on my canvas allows me to make fast erasures with a wet rag, but that wasn’t my idea either—it was something my pal Kristin Zimmermann came up with. Kristin is also the person who drilled into me the importance of understanding pigments.

And here it is, another future doorstop.
Brad Marshall has recently been quoting Anders Zorn to the effect that we are not competitors, we are colleagues. So true, Brad.


Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. My Belfast, ME, workshop is almost sold out. Click 
here for more information on my Maine workshops!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Freaky coincidence or what?

Jingwei Yang's painting from Anna's garden.
I’ve known Anna since she was a mere slip of a girl. She’s married now and two months ago she and her husband bought a lovely home in the city. Anna has always been musical but never, to my knowledge, interested in making visual art. I was most surprised when she called me about a month ago to ask about painting lessons. Most people ease into painting gradually, but she went out to Hyatt’s and got all the necessary tools and has been practicing at home.

Sandy Quang's painting from Anna's garden.
Last week I took my class to Anna’s new home to paint her small backyard pocket garden. It is clearly the garden of an artist. She told us the former owner was an art teacher at Rochester’s School of the Arts and her late husband was also an artist.

Nina Koski's painting of Anna's garden.
After class, Anna gave me a tour of her house. About halfway through, I realized the late husband in question was Peter Berg, who was a well-known Rochester painter around the time Anna was born. I never knew him, not living here at the time, but I knew of him from my friend Sari Gaby.

I do believe houses can have a spiritual temperament, and I wonder if Anna’s house has a painter’s temperament. Perhaps those old pantiles and oak pocket doors gave her a gentle nudge toward painting.

Nate Tomlinson's painting from a different garden day.


Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. My Belfast, ME, workshop is almost sold out. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Back in the saddle again

Flowering apple trees at G and S Orchards. Wee (9X12) and by little ol' me.
Yesterday I painted en plein air for the first time since my cancer diagnosis last winter. Yes, I was rusty. Yes, I forgot to bring essential stuff. Yes, I was limp with exhaustion when I was done. No, I did not paint a masterpiece, but I did a nice little field sketch and learned something about young apple trees.

I’ve been fascinated with orchards all winter. This spring I made a cold call to G and S Orchards in Walworth. The owners promptly invited my class out to paint. I went out there again yesterday and had a few hours before the rains swept back in (although the winds were high enough to do a little free microdermabrasion on my face).

I hope they don't get sick of me any time soon, because I've got a season's worth of paintings scoped out.

I’ve photographed the steps of a plein air painting for my beginning students to study before Saturday’s class. Sometimes it’s easier to understand a process in pictures.

After doing a sketch, I map the painting on my canvas. I've been using watercolor pencils, because they're easy to erase, but any pencil or charcoal works as well.
Then I map out the branches (which are the darks) using a mix of ultramarine and burnt sienna. This view was a little strange because the darks were a grid, but it's important for me to note the branch structures, even though I obliterate them for the most part.
The next step is to mix a matrix of greens. I need all the help I can get to differentiate greens in a field of identical trees in absolutely flat light.
Then it's time to map out the color, working from the darkest to the lightest. After this, you can paint as tight or as loose as you want; the initial steps work for every finishing style.
I didn't want to paint a global view without exploring a few trees first, but isn't this a sweet scene?
Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. My Belfast, ME, workshop is almost sold out. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The large, angry crustacean is on his way to Maine.

The finished buoy. You can buy this!
When I blogged last month asking for suggestions about what to paint on my 2014 buoy for Penobscot East Resource Center’s fifth annual lobster buoy auction, I received four texts in rapid succession:

“Mom! Paint a giant lobster battling the Kraken!”

“Mom! Paint an enormous lobster destroying a city!”

“Mom, paint a big lobster eating New York!”

“Mom, paint a lobster battling an army in the style of the Bayeux Tapestry.”

The major change I made was adding Black Hawk helicopters.
When your four most severe critics all come up with the same idea at the same time, you have to run with it. And it fit with the idea that I had been turning over but wasn’t sure how to paint.

Signed and titled by the artist, as always.
It’s no secret to Mainers that lobster prices steadily tanked from 2005 to 2014. At the same time, restaurant prices for lobster remained high. That’s a fascinating disconnect—one I think is beautifully explained here—but the bottom line is that lobster costs more in New York because consumers haven’t a clue what’s happening in local commodity markets.  That means there’s an artificially big profit being made, and it isn’t happening on the docks of coastal Maine.

When you live in a Magical Duchy, you don't need to go to the Post Office. You just put your package on the back of the truck and it miraculously gets mailed.
A situation that needs fixing but seems to be out of the range of mortal ken calls for a superhero. Who better than a large, angry crustacean from the Atlantic depths?

I like painting from life, but that's a little difficult in this case.
Last week I was reading about the influence of 19th century Japanisme on western art and thinking I was absolutely free of it. But I have to admit that I owe a nod to Godzilla, and maybe to King Kong as well. (After all, the Empire State Building is somewhere in that mish-mosh.) The Black Hawk helicopters, however, are just modern America.

Looking around for pictures of lobsters last month, I came across this rhyton from the Met, c. 460 BC, in the shape of a lobster claw. Good to know lobsters are an eternal verity.
The auction will be held Tuesday, August 5th, 2014 at the Fishermen’s Friend Restaurant in Stonington, ME. If you’re in Stonington this summer, you can stop by and see all the buoys and vote for your favorite (as long as it’s mine). You’ll also be able to bid on your favorites online. Watch this space for more information.

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. My Belfast, ME, workshop is almost sold out. Click 
here for more information on my Maine workshops!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Comparing yourself to others

Romance of Autumn, 1916, by George Bellows. I’m leading with a painting that makes me squirm every time I see it, to make a point: if you judged Bellows by this single painting, you’d think he didn’t know how to mix or apply paint. But he knew exactly what he was doing, as his catalogue attests.
The other day Brad Marshall jokingly asked us whether he or Anders Zorn was better looking. We of course immediately said that Brad was. “Oh, well, Zorn was the better painter,” he replied.

“Not better, just different,” I answered.

As mature artists, most painters have achieved mastery over their materials.  What we react to isn’t their technical skill, but how they speak to us. When we don’t like their work, it’s usually more a question of not responding to their worldview than that they are technically deficient.

Illustration to Dante's Divine Comedy, Hell, by William Blake. Blake was painting his edgy, uncomfortable, oddly-drafted work at a time when the highly-finished Grand Manner was in vogue. No wonder that his work was almost forgotten until he was rediscovered by Victorian England. Today he is widely recognized as one of the greatest artists England ever produced.

It’s only in the learning phase that one painter is ‘better’ than the next, and even that is transitory. Some of us are faster learners than others, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be better painters in the end.

Last weekend, one of my beginning students got very frustrated. She was having trouble understanding why I asked her to lay down paint in a specific way. It didn’t help that her classmates were sailing through the exercise.

“I feel like everyone is doing a great job except me,” she said.

Childhood's Garden, 1917, by Charles Burchfield. His genius lies in his spirit and vision. He is often called the dark Edward Hopper, but many of his paintings radiate happiness.
Like most artists—experienced or not—she really has no idea where her strengths lie. She is emotionally transparent, so what she feels vibrates through her drawing. When she’s happy, her trees dance, the pavements sing. When she’s not happy, her canvas glowers.

That is a kind of talent that can’t be taught or bought, but can only be nurtured like a seedling set out in a garden bed. And it’s so easy to knock such a talent apart, because it comes from one’s inner vision, and that’s a fragile thing.


Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. My Belfast, ME, workshop is almost sold out. Click 
here for more information on my Maine workshops!