Paint Schoodic

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Back of beyond

Like it or not, we're all in this web together. This particular web was at Wahconah Falls in the Berkshires, where I plan to stop to paint on my way to Maine in two weeks.
Non-New Yorkers always seem skeptical when we tell them there are vast tracts of our state that are uninhabited. Hamilton County, for example, sprawls over more than 1800 square miles of land, but its population is fewer than 5,000. That gives it a population density equal to North Dakota.

Since I leave—shortly—for the duration of the summer, I took a short trip this past weekend. I’ll be off-grid for much of the time I’m in Maine. I needed a better sense of what was negotiable with these old bones and what I can’t live without. I haven’t done any back-of-beyond camping in more than a decade.

My 2005 Prius--which went over 200,000 miles on Friday--has a perfect smartphone holder in the door. Amazing, since there were no smartphones when it was built.
Yes, I can still sleep in a tent and get up the next morning and be (relatively) limber, providing I have some kind of air mattress. Yes, it’s still a lot of work to camp, what with pitching a tent, hauling water and food and rolling and rerolling bedding. And although I used to like to cook over a campfire, I find it a pain these days.

Since I almost never paint from photos anyway, there is a declining advantage in hauling around my Panasonic DMC-LX5. If I'm just testing viewpoints for a painting--as here--I might as well use my pocket-sized computing device, a/k/a 'phone'.
What has changed since I last went back of beyond is the nation’s cell phone network. I was on the top of a hill with no running water, no electricity, no septic, no artificial lighting of any kind—and an absolutely stellar 4G signal.

I’m thinking that will change how I interact with you while I’m on the road. Daily blogging without wi-fi or electricity may be difficult (although there are open wi-fi networks everywhere) but Instagram and Facebook are available everywhere. Does that mean my camera, with its beautiful, fast Leica lens, is obsolete in favor of my cell phone? Perhaps.

Of course, going off-the-grid with a party of youngsters is a little different from going with a party of painters. Mainly, the toys are noisier. (What we have here is a convoy.)

I have two openings left for my 2014 workshop in Belfast, ME. Information is available here.

Friday, June 27, 2014

I may make rotten frames, but I have a perfect nose

My perfect nose. Eat your heart out, Georgia O'Keeffe.
So, it was another bad day, which I won’t go into, because I’m sick of cataloging failure. But when I finished twelve hours on my feet, I consoled myself with reading the Daily Mail, which has to be both the most ridiculous and most entertaining ‘news’ website out there. And the Daily Mail tells me that the perfect, sexiest nose is tilted at 106°.

So I take a selfie and, lo and behold, my nose is perfect. Never mind the wrinkles, the grey hair, the aching feet and legs… according to the Daily Mail, I am hot.

That certainly makes up for a bad day at work, doesn’t it? 
A few other dames with perfect noses.
I have two openings left for my 2014 workshop in Belfast, ME. Information is available here.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

This hasn’t been one of my better days

Usually making frames is my happy place. Not yesterday. This beautiful and perfect gilded frame? I mis-measured the painting.
In my father’s later years, he was a sad guy. Every evening he would say, “This hasn’t been one of my better days.” My husband and I both tend to run on an even keel, but when one of us has had a bad day, we find ourselves telling the other, “this hasn’t been one of my better days.” That’s both a private joke and a reminder that we are, in the bigger picture, blessed in ways my father couldn’t imagine.

Having said that, yesterday was not one of my better days. It started with the tedious business of cleaning and wrapping paintings to go to RIT-NTID’s Dyer Art Center. (I clean every painting with Winsor & Newton’s Artists’ Picture Cleaner before it’s shown.) From there I went into my shop to make frames.

Wrapping and tagging paintings is part of the glamour work of an artist. Mostly for local moving, you worry about the corners.
I love making frames almost as much as I love painting, but yesterday I mangled everything I touched. I made a perfect frame out of some luscious gilded stock, only to realize I’d mis-measured the painting. I had some lovely gunmetal frame stock I’d used for previous figure shows, and I cut a frame for my 36X60 nude and glued it, only to discover that I didn’t have a clamp large enough for it. I ran to the hardware store, which was out of the screws I needed, and ran home with mending brackets, with which I supported and reglued it. Frankly, it looks pretty bad.

Why am I messing up left and right? I want to go to Massachusetts to see my daughter this weekend and if I’m not done prepping for this show, I have to stay home. When I mix family and work, the ante rises fast. I don’t have a solution to this problem, nor would I want to. We should care more about our family than our work.

Then there are those lucky few paintings which have their own fitted packing crates. Those are usually paintings that travel a bit.
Meanwhile, my husband (he’s a programmer) went back to his office at 8:30 PM because he has a project that isn’t working and he also wants to go visit our kid. Some times, you just have to keep your head down and weather the storm.

I have two openings left for my 2014 workshop in Belfast, ME. Information is available here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

You can paint anything if you can paint greens

View from Catherine's gazebo, by Anna McDermott. (The color of these paintings is somewhat overblown because it was almost dark when I snapped these shots.)
There are places with gazebos in Rochester, but when there’s electrical activity on the horizon it helps if they’re not too far from a parking lot. Yesterday was a humid, dark day with thunderstorms forecasted for 5 PM. I went over my list of options with my student and pal, Catherine, ending up with the Fairport Library gazebo.

The actual scene she was painting. The greens of summer can be acidic and unvaried in New York.
“No, not that again!” she responded, and I had to agree. Although it overlooks the canal, it’s got boring sightlines.

View from Catherine's gazebo, by Sandy Quang.
So we met in her gazebo, which overlooks a 10-acre pond. The trouble is, there’s a rain forest between the gazebo and the pond and no amount of chopping seems to keep the sightlines open.

The actual scene she was painting. 
All of which I knew before I got there, but I still love the view, since you’re looking across a thicket of sumacs to a far hillside. Of course, it’s all green, but greens are an excellent challenge. If you can sort out a painting from a thicket of scrubby trees, you can paint anything.

In the Forest of Fontainebleau took Camille Corot five years to complete (1860-65). I gave my students three hours.

I have three openings left for my 2014 workshop in Belfast, ME. Information is available here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The first day of summer

Poplar Grove Along the Shore, 9X12, oil on canvasboard, $395, by Carol L. Douglas.
The first day of summer found us huddled up against a cold wind off Lake Ontario, none of us sufficiently insulated against the cold. I’d recommended that my intrepid band of painters—sadly depleted now that the semester is ending—stay out of the direct sun so as to avoid overheating. Foolish me! I should have recommended we wear parkas instead.

It was a mistake to wear shorts. It was a mistake to not wear a parka.
The Great Lakes achieved record ice cover this past winter and we’re still feeling it. The water temperature off Rochester is 58° F, and the winds off the lake pick that up and throw it at us. So even when it was in the high seventies at my house—about five miles from the lake—it was in the low sixties in the shade near the lake.

In Rochester, it's not too freaky to go to the beach wearing a parka and a bathing suit.
My students borrowed my car and drove to Don and Bob's for hot drinks and fried food. It didn’t help that Anna then promptly dunked her brush in her tea (it happens), but the onion rings apparently sustained her.

Sandy painting in the poplar grove.

Eventually, we all went home and took hot baths, but it was worth it. A great day of painting!

I have three openings left for my 2014 workshop in Belfast, ME. Information is available here.

Monday, June 23, 2014

How I'm spending my summer vacation

My show, God+Man, is at Bethel’s AVIV Gallery, 321 East Avenue, Rochester, until the end of June. This is a reprise of a show created for the Davison Gallery at Roberts Wesleyan, and it’s easy to visit: just enter through the rear Anson Place doors across from the Body Shop.

Our student show runs to the end of the month at the VB Brewery, 6606 Route 96 in Victor. (It’s still possible to bid on one of the abstractions there to benefit the Open Door Mission. The brewery is open Wednesday-Sunday.

On July 11, Stu Chait and I open “Intersections: Form, Space, Time & Color” at Dyer Arts Center at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. The show runs July 7–30. This includes more than sixty paintings. From me, that’s both my studio nudes and plein air paintings; from Stu, that’s mostly abstraction, although he does include a few plein air pieces from back when we first met.


From there I go to Maine, where I’m participating in Castine Plein Air from July 24-26. This event draws 40 juried artists from around the northeast to the historic city of Castine, home of the Maine Maritime Academy.

Next on the docket is Camden Plein Air, hosted by the Camden Falls Gallery. The painting dates are July 31-August 8, and the work will be hung in the gallery during the month of August.


Then my workshop runs from August 10 to 15 in Belfast, ME. There’s still room, but not very much, since I’m only teaching one of them this summer.

Then—after catching my breath for a day or two—I drive to Saranac Lake, New York, to participate in the Adirondack Plein Air Festival from August 21-24. My friend and student Carol Thiel has been telling me about this for a while now, but what really clinched the deal was realizing that many of my Lower Hudson Valley PAP pals would be there.

I’ll be home for Labor Day!

I have three openings left for my 2014 workshop in Belfast, ME. Information is available here.

Friday, June 20, 2014

It's all about Michelle



Michelle will be happy that she finally has a face in this painting. (From my upcoming show with Stu Chait at RIT-Dyer.)

The other day I wrote about photographer Terry Richardson and allegations that he abused his models. I said, “Artists and their models can be friends; sometimes they're even lovers. But every artist-model relationship also involves an implied balance-of-power calculation.”

I’ve worked with a lot of models over the years, and I think my relationships with them have been professional and courteous. Over the years, several of them have become my friends, including Kate Comegys, Gail Kellogg Hope and Michelle Long.

Michelle as a sort of Madame X character. (From my upcoming show with Stu Chait at RIT-Dyer.)
Michelle is as close to an international model as Rochester has. She collaborated on a project with Keith Howard called “Eve’s Garden: The Lost Creation.” I wish I’d thought of this idea, because it revolved around the idea of printmaker Howard sending his painting work offshore to China. The result was visually pleasing and perfectly in tune with the zeitgeist.

Usually my skin-tones are modulated with grey, but I want the illusion of florescent light, so I'm using blue. Note there is no true red on my palette right now.
I’m finishing a painting of Michelle for my upcoming duo show with Stu Chait at RIT-Dyer. True to form, Michelle won't be there; she is leaving to work in Uganda. If you want to support her at the Ugandan Water Project, go here.

This painting has been sitting unfinished for a long time, because I was mad at it. It taught me the limits of drafting huge paintings in my 18X18 studio. I ended up having to redraft her head and shoulders to correct the severe foreshortening.

Yep, those are my skintones. Along with my modulating colors, they gave me the faces above.
Occasionally someone asks me how to mix skin tones for different races. I think that’s a funny question, because I use exactly the same paints for everyone; only the proportions change. For that matter, I’m using the same paints I use to paint foliage.

I have three openings left for my 2014 workshop in Belfast, ME. Information is available 
here.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What you do when nobody’s looking

Ellwanger Berry Garden, 12X16, $650, by Carol L. Douglas.
Sure, I get to drive around and visit with fascinating people and go to interesting shows and occasionally pick up a brush and paint something, but I spend more time than I’d like on bookkeeping and that bugaboo of all sales: inventory control.

Stu Chait and I are putting the final details together for our upcoming show at RIT-NTID’s Dyer Arts Center, which opens July 11 from 4-7 PM. If you’re in town, you should really find a way to get there, since this is a sprawling show.

Manipulation in Red by Stu Chait.
Stu and I met at the Ellwanger Garden here in Rochester. We were the only painters there, so we stood at opposite ends of the garden and painted facing each other. I’ve long since sold that painting, but I painted another painting with him at the same place, which will be in this show.

It’s been years since I pulled out all my work to organize a show, but since the passage of time is part of our theme, I inventoried every piece of work I have in play right now. That is nearly a hundred pieces, which is less absurd when you consider that I have three separate bodies of work: landscape, figure, and faith-based. (Even with all those paintings, I am actually scant on work to meet specific summer commitments.)

The Servant, 36X40, $3000, oil on canvas, by Carol L. Douglas.
What surprised me even more is how many paintings are no longer in my inventory.  Next winter I’m going to go through my photo archives and sales records and try to piece together a comprehensive catalogue. I loathe that kind of task, but if I don’t do it soon, I’ll never get it done.


I have three openings left for my 2014 workshop in Belfast, ME. Information is available 
here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

High art, 2014-style

Submission, 24X20, by Carol L. Douglas. $1500.
We have two competing views of women here at the start of the 21st century. Neither is healthy: woman as casual sex object vs. woman in a burqa. I painted Submission, above, at the beginning of the 2003 Iraq War. Sadly it hasn't gotten any better in the last eleven years.

Terry Richardson is an American fashion and portrait photographer whose clients and models include the glitterati of New York. He has repeatedly been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior. “Is Terry Richardson an Artist or a Predator” tells us that he’s both. However, he’s also a product of our culture.
  
Richardson’s assistant, Alex Bolotow, has been photographed fellating her boss many times, starting in her very early twenties. “There was something exciting about being involved in something that feels just really freeing,” she said, “like, ‘Oh, I’m totally expressing myself, and this is great.’ I remember being like, ‘I’m just glad to be alive in a time when this is happening.’”

Artists and their models can be friends; sometimes they're even lovers. But every artist-model relationship also involves an implied balance-of-power calculation. In the case of Richardson and his models, that varied depending on who was in front of the camera.

“Miley Cyrus wasn’t asked to grab a hard dick. H&M models weren’t asked to grab a hard dick. But these other girls, the 19-year-old girl from Whereverville, should be the one to say, ‘I don’t think this is a good idea’? These girls are told by agents how important he is, and then they show up and it’s a bait and switch. This guy and his friends are literally like, ‘Grab my boner.’ Is this girl going to say no? And go back to the village? That’s not a real choice. It’s a false choice,” said an agent (who chose to remain nameless).

Terry Richardson likes to photograph his models in the nude, by which I mean he is in the nude. Here he is with Kate Moss in a shot from Terryworld. Sadly, that's as innocuous a photo as I could find.
Richardson is an amazingly messed-up guy. He was the child of a broken marriage. His father was schizophrenic and drug-addled; his mother was brain-damaged. He’s taken his trauma and driven it brilliantly through a culture surfeited with sex. It’s what the public clamors for: used copies of his books sell in the thousands of dollars.

Is repugnance at his working methods a sign that our attitude has changed toward casual or even coercive sex? Not at all. Terry Richardson is just the sacrificial lamb for a culture that is still wallowing. Anathematize him, and he'll be replaced.

Yes, the burqa is abusive, but so too is our current western approach to sex and relationships.

I have three openings left for my 2014 workshop in Belfast, ME. Information is available 
here.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Folk wisdom says

Red sky over the Duchy says I'll have an opportunity to catch up on my studio work today.
Red sky at morning, sailors take warning;
Red sky at night, sailors' delight.

Dawn this morning featured a lovely rose-colored sky. Since I trust the ancient couplet, above, as much as (or more than) I trust the Weather Channel, I’ll be teaching in the studio tonight.

How old is that couplet? It’s quoted in Matthew 16:2-3, making it at least two thousand years old:

[Jesus] answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.

For those who don't read sky signs and don't trust their arthritis, there is NOAA's weather page, with its hourly graphs. They include sky cover, which makes them the plein air painter's best tool for predicting sunsets.
Joseph Mallord William Turner had a great interest in painting atmospherics. Here is his Sunrise, with a Boat between Headlands, c. 1835-40.
This wisdom works where there are strong westerlies, which happen in the middle latitudes (in which both Jerusalem and Rochester fall). Of course, I also use NOAA’s website; their hour-by-hour weather graph is the plein air painter’s best friend.

I have three openings left for my 2014 workshop in Belfast, ME. Information is available here.

Monday, June 16, 2014

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

Barnyard at G and S Orchards, by Carol L. Douglas. 9X12, oil on canvas, $450, framed.
During Saturday’s class at G and S Orchards, my goal was to solidify the lesson from the prior week about painting into a monochromatic grisaille. This was something I used to do but had abandoned until I painted with Jamie WilliamsGrossman earlier this month. Then I remembered how much I enjoyed it.

Step one is a very rude value study. This gets simplified and refined with brush and rag.
One student went from his drawing right to masses of solid color. Nothing wrong with that, but I was a bit frustrated that he was totally ignoring my instructions. Eventually I realized he’d missed last week’s class because he had to sit for his SATs. But it was too late to show him on his canvas.

Step two is the addition of thin masses of color.
I quickly set up a demo for him. It was a small class so I was able to do rounds, come back and paint a bit on my canvas, call my student over to discuss what I’d done, and then repeat—over and over. I like being very busy and this was energizing. We did run over (about an hour and a half) because of this but nobody appeared to mind.

Here is Nina Koski's monochromatic painting. She was able to correct a composition problem very early on, rather than have it dogging her through the whole painting.
Meanwhile, Nina Koski had taken my instructions of last week very much to heart and was turning out quite a lovely painting of roses along the barnyard. I managed to get some intermediate photos of hers as well, so you can look at two different painters using the same technique.

Here Nina Koski is starting to add color.
Nina, by the way, painted a small plein air painting almost every day last week. She’s an exemplar of that old joke:

“Excuse me sir, but how do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

“Practice, practice, practice!”

And here is her finished painting. She's only been painting a few months!
I have three openings left for my 2014 workshop in Belfast, ME. Information is available here.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Social media and selling

Boats, by little ol' me. Social media allows you to get your work out to a larger audience.
Last week I got into a spirited discussion with other painters about social media and marketing. As I frequently do, I cited one of my favorite painting students.

In his other life, Brad VanAuken is a brand consultant to Fortune 100 companies and the author of a text on the subject that’s going into its second printing. (In fact it’s his success in his chosen field that somewhat slows down his progress as a painter, since he’s always jetting around the globe instead of coming to class.)

Using photos of myself painting on location helps my audience understand what I do. Standing in creeks will someday also give me pneumonia or a broken ankle, but I try not to focus on that. (Photo courtesy of Mitchell Saler, a painter you'll be hearing about in the future.)
Brad is the person who made me understand an essential truth about social media: it works more like a mesh than an arrow. I can’t cite a particular connection between, say, a Pinterest post on Tuesday and the sale of a painting on Friday, but there is no question that—somehow—it works. I’m completely booked from now until September with invitational paint-outs, shows, and classes.

Sunset in Maine, by little ol' me. I try to be transparent, to let people see my failures as well as my successes, because I want people to understand that painting isn't a question of genius, but of plugging along.
One painter suggested that platforms like Tumblr and Twitter were a waste of time because their target demographic doesn’t buy paintings. This is untrue. I need look no farther than 22-year-old Anna, who not only owns her own home (which contains purchased art) but takes painting lessons from me to boot. And even if it were true, her age cohort is in some ways the arbiter of taste for the rest of us.

I have three openings left for my 2014 workshop in Belfast, ME. Information is available 
here.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

My White Trash Family

Rawlings Lowndes, 2013, by Kim Alsbrooks
I tend to take artist’s statements with a grain of salt, so when Kim Alsbrooks writes, “The White Trash Series was developed while living in the South out of frustration with some of the prevailing ideologies, in particular, class distinction,” the skeptic rises in me. But the work is more fun than the artist’s statement would have you believe.
Jane, 2014, by Kim Alsbrooks
After all, the artist is like a bowerbird, always collecting and repurposing junk. Who hasn’t seen flattened aluminum cans in the street and wondered how they could be useful? Like all metal painting surfaces, they’re inert and stable, so I guess they’d make a great painting surface.

Adriana on Fanta Orange, 2014, by Kim Alsbrooks
I really think her work is more about the juxtaposition of old and new than about Southern class distinctions. But as a base for landscapes, they would be awfully powerful. I see flattened cans all the time on my perambulations; maybe I’ll give this a try. After all, art is largely appropriation, right?


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

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Off your game? Who cares?

Bathers with a Turtle (Baigneuses), 1907-08, Henri Matisse

This week some friends were discussing Thomas Kinkade, whose work is being dragged out into the public sphere through a retrospective, which in turn has engendered a flurry of new stories about his troubled life. (Predictably, none are positive.)

I was curious about why his landscapes said nothing about his personal struggles. “He did not paint what he wanted to paint; everything he painted was to sell,” said Brad Marshall.

Steamboat Leaving Boulogne, 1864, Édouard Manet
Then we moved on to bad moments by great painters. Karl Eric Leitzel mentioned how bad Matisse’s Bathers with a Turtle is, which in turn reminded me of Manet's Steamboat Leaving Boulogne and Sargent’s Spanish Dancer, in which either the head or the arms of the figure are inexplicably stuck on backwards.

Matisse, Manet and Sargent were brilliant painters; the rare duds in their oeuvre serve to point out just how brilliant they are. “When painters are that innovative and pushing painting in such new directions, they will be unsuccessful at times,” said Brad Marshall.

Spanish Dancer, 1879-82 (preparatory oil study for the main figure in El Jaleo), John Singer Sargent
And that is where I want to be: not painting what I know will sell, but painting outside myself.

This week, Pastor Bill Blakely suggested that if “I Am,” is the Lord’s name forever (Exodus 3:14), then all the “I am” statements we use to define and limit ourselves are in fact blasphemous. Thomas Kinkade was trapped by his “I am a great artist” statement; it was dissonant with the world’s opinion. Instead of painting setting him free, it made him miserable.


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

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Just another beautiful day in Rochester

Highland Park by Brad VanAuken
For a few years now, I’ve had an ace-in-the-hole view at Highland Park—a long view through which the spire at Colgate Divinity is just visible. I took my class there this week only to find that the trees have grown so much that we were left with only a shrubby meadow. 

Highland Park by Sandy Quang
Still, it was a delightful shrubby meadow and early enough in the year that the greens were still somewhat differentiated. That meant this could be an exercise in seeing the different colors within green, and at that, they excelled.

Highland Park by Anna McDermott
Last week I started a painting with a sepia value study, a technique I used to use all the time and which I abandoned. I decided to try this out on my students, and they ran with it.

Highland Park by Nina Koski
I don’t really know why I abandoned this, because it allows you to make compositional assessments without distracting yourself with color.

And last but not least, Highland Park by little ol' me. No, you can't buy it; it was a procedural demo and I wiped it out before leaving the park.

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