All images © Carol L. Douglas, Rochester, NY.
No reproduction or reuse permitted without
express consent of the artist.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Do you know the Night Soil Man?

My neighbor clearing a fence at 6 AM, before the bugs came out.
In Leisure: the Basis of Culture, Josef Pieper posited that leisure is the foundation of culture and that our bourgeois world has stamped out leisure, Pieper wrote this before the construction of the welfare state. If he’d lived to see it, he might have posited a corollary: the West now concentrates leisure in the least-educated classes, and our movies and music reflect that, with their emphasis on violence and misogyny and peculiar fascination with Kim Kardashian.

That's a well. And a bucket. You know the drill.
As an intellectual in the German Empire, Pieper presumably had servants to do his grunt work. Being off the grid makes me wonder who in pre-Industrial society had any time to do anything but work. Of course, I am trying to marry my 21st century work with an 18th century existence, which in some ways means I’m doubling my work load. But having said that, I’m able to take certain shortcuts, such as going to the Laundromat instead of pounding my clothes on a rock.

The Eco-Warrior can't come up the lane any farther than this. Her poor suspension is meant for city streets, not off-roading.
 On the other hand, I also live with 21st century expectations, such as wanting clean linen and hair. And there are no longer systems for living without electricity and city water; for example, we no longer have night-soil men, which means my first job in the morning is to bury the waste from my improvised chamber pot.

Any camper knows the night-soil solution. Best done before one actually wakes up.

At home, I’m a pretty organized person. Here, I’m watching all my systems fall apart, starting with making my bed. It is obvious that integration of domestic work in a non-industrial setting means that if one job doesn’t get done, everyone suffers. Without refrigeration, if you don’t make dinner, you go hungry. If you don’t wash clothes, you’re filthy. There are no deep pantries or walk-in closets here in the woods. Just mosquitoes. The pejorative terms “slattern” or “layabout” have real meaning in a world where work equals survival.

There are definitely consolations. Being alone in Paradise is one of them.
I am not afraid of the dark, nor am I worried about being alone in the woods. I do, however, perceive darkness differently from this vantage point of aloneness. Having not had the foresight to bring a musical instrument, I find myself going to bed early and reading, and then getting up with the birds at about 5 AM.

No electricity and a ladder to my loft means an 8 o'clock bedtime and getting up before 5.
Having spent Saturday morning painting re-enactors, I was able to peek behind the curtain of their performance. On Sunday evening, they went home and took hot showers, and went back to their day jobs. I wonder what they would feel about their existence if their encampments lasted an entire summer, and if there weren’t a lovely, clean restroom at the Visitor Center.

Sorry, folks. My workshop in Belfast, ME is sold out. Message me if you want a spot on my waitlist, or information about next year’s programs. Information is available here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Goodbye, Castine, for another year

Water Street morning, 16X12, oil on canvasboard.
Yesterday, Jacq Baldini asked on FB, ““Is this how you really want to be spending your day?” Brilliant question. Darn, I love spending my days like this.

At the end of a plein air festival, what stays with you the most is the conviviality. I got to see Michael Chesley Johnson’s utterly fantastic painting of the Maine Maritime Academy’s training ship. I got to laugh like a hyena with Olena Babak and Renee Lammers while painting on a deck loaned to us by the owner, who rolled off to dinner as soon as we appeared. I painted with Carol Wiley along Water Street, and with Michael Vermette at the Revolutionary reenactment at the Wilson Museum.

Dappled light (Revolutionary War reenactment), oil on canvasboard, 20X16.

Dyce Head Light, 16X12, oil on canvasboard.
Shot the breeze with Ted Lameyer at about fifty different locales, and painted his kid’s bike dumped along Perkins Street. I had a glass of wine with Bobbi Heath at the artists’ reception. Mary Byrom plotted with me about participating in Saranac Lake, but I only had a brief moment to chat with Laurie Lefebvre while painting—she can set up, paint, and tear down in her inimitable furious style in the time it takes me to choose a brush.

Lunch break, 9X12, oil on canvasboard.

A happy band of brothers are we.

A very unique feature about Castine Plein Air is that they partner artists with local residents. My "host family" are gracious and avid supporters of the community, not to mention phenomenal chefs. When you're in the field painting from 7 AM until 9 PM, having a real home to come home to is wonderful.

The Path Below the Lighthouse, 6X8, oil on canvasboard
If there was a TripAdvisor for plein air festivals, I'd rate this one tops.

Next week, I’m painting both at Camden Falls Gallery and Waldoboro’s Paint the Town. But today I am going to rest, do my laundry, and peace out.

Sorry, folks. My workshop in Belfast, ME is sold out. Message me if you want a spot on my waitlist, or information about next year’s programs. Information is available here.

Friday, July 25, 2014

How do I love you, Maine? Let me count the ways.

Sunset at Castine, oil on canvas, 12X9, $395, available through Castine Plein Air.
Maine—where people offer you a spot on their deck to paint the sunset and add, “There’s a bathroom on the lower level and cold drinks inside, anything you need.” And then simply leave and let you paint. Or see you painting outside their house and come over and offer you a cool drink and a bathroom. Or coffee. Or anything you might need.

I really did finish it, but then I forgot to photograph it. The Dyce Head Light is too lovely to not paint, even if you suffer from a surfeit of lighthouses.
Maine—where even in the middle of summer, your window fogs up when you start your car after dusk, a gentle 64° breeze sweeps away the heat of the day as you drive slowly ‘home’ down a dirt road with the windows open. And when you get there, your friends have made you a delicious home-cooked meal.

Maine—where the clouds are ever-changing and always rolling along, pushed by the clash of ocean breezes and the prevailing westerlies.

Boathouse and dead tree. I painted this in a deluge and didn't like it at the time, but I've reconsidered. It has a certain off-hand charm. I was listening to Dorothy Sayers' Whose Body on my phone while I painted this. Perhaps it is influenced a little by Lord Peter Wimsey.
Maine—where there really are still village greens, Civil War memorials, streets lined with white-clapboard covered houses, and one-room schoolhouses.

A lovely scene below the lighthouse. If I live to be 99, I will never completely paint Castine.
Yesterday I painted four paintings. I was so intent on my work that I neglected to photograph one entirely, and photographed the other half finished. That is an indication of how intense Castine Plein Air is, but it’s also very engaging. I talked to people from all over the United States, including new Facebook friends from Central New York who are vacationing near Acadia and drove over for the day to see this event. It was great meeting you, Daphne and Bruce.

Sorry, folks. My workshop in Belfast, ME is sold out. Message me if you want a spot on my waitlist, or information about next year’s programs. Information is available here.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Street scene from Damariscotta

Main Street in Damariscotta, oil on canvas, 8X10
Yesterday I had less than two hours to paint with my student Loren in Damariscotta before I took off for Castine. I love the gaps on the water side of Maine Main Streets, with harbors glimpsed behind them. The buildings themselves are venerable and full of character, and the gaps speak of transition to a sparkling, clearer, brighter future.

Two quiet hours with a friend was in itself a nice transition from my concerns back in Rochester into the busy brushwork we will all be doing at Castine Plein Air for the next three days. If you’re ever in the mid-coast region, come by and see this lovely small city. Plan to take time for a self-guided walking tour of historic sites; Castine has an amazingly rich and varied history.

Me, painting. That was fun!
Castine is off the beaten track, so the tourists trundling up US 1 never see it. It has almost an otherworldly quality because of this. This morning at 7:30 AM, we painters will stand in the village green and have our painting boards stamped. It remains to be seen how we capture that quality.

If you come to Castine this weekend, stop by the Castine Historical Society and pick up a copy of their new self-guided  walking tour map. I immediately marked mine up with potential painting sites. (Photo credit, Castine Historical Society.)

Sorry, folks. My workshop in Belfast, ME is sold out. Message me if you want a spot on my waitlist, or information about next year’s programs. Information is available here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Censored. Me. Really.


Shuttered. Closed down. Censored. Moi? Really?

My duo show with Stu Chait, Intersections of Form, Color, Time and Space was closed on July 18 by RIT-NTID’s Dyer Gallery because the nude figure paintings might be offensive to young campus visitors. It seems like just yesterday that I was saying issues of censorship didn’t raise their ugly heads here in Rochester.

At our first meeting with the gallery, I specifically asked whether nude figure paintings would be a problem. I pointed out that the primary work dealt with difficult themes of how women are marginalized in the 21st century. I am a feminist, and my figure work deals with things like religious submission, bondage, slavery, prostitution, obesity, exploitation, etc.

The Laborer Resting, 36X48, oil on canvas. Available.
These paintings were reviewed, accepted and hung by the gallery with no problems. The opening was well-attended, and there were children present. (For that matter, my son regularly schleps paintings for me, and his biggest complaint is that he’d rather be using his computer.) The show was featured in RIT’s University News  and mentioned in City newspaper. It was not until administrators saw the work that it was deemed unacceptable.

The cynic in me thinks that if I painted coy, sexy Odalisques there would have been no objection to the show. Young people are exposed to sexually-charged but non-intellectual images every day; in fact, this is part of the problem I am painting about.

Meanwhile, kids who go to malls are exposed to images like this on an everyday basis. And this really is obscene, because it uses sex to sell clothing.
If difficult issues of women’s rights can’t be examined in a college gallery, where can they be examined?

I have occasionally pulled individual pieces that were too challenging. Last month I had a show at AVIV Café and Gallery at Bethel Church on East Avenue. The director pulled one work because its depiction of starving Africa frightened children. But since he left the bulk of the work intact, this was no problem.

Aviva Sleeping, 36X24, challenges the notion that an obese woman cannot be a beautiful one.
Of course, I’m in Maine, so Stu Chait and Sandy Quang had to deal with the work of pulling, wrapping and moving around 60 large paintings. And visitors to the show will find the gallery empty. What a pity.

Sorry, folks. My workshop in Belfast, ME is sold out. Message me if you want a spot on my waitlist, or information about next year’s programs. Information is available 
here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Off the grid in midcoast Maine

Lichens on the well head at my new home. One lowers the bucket to get water. How cool is that?
I arrived at my temporary home in mid-coast Maine at mid-day yesterday. Despite ample warning to charge my toys, I managed to run my cell phone, my laptop, and my Kindle down to nothing, which is why this post is late.

I’m staying in a 12X16 cabin owned by dedicated off-the-gridders. It’s set back in the woods, and it has a living area, windows with screens, a dry sink, a wood stove, a propane stove and a sleeping loft. I have a plastic bucket for my human waste, and any other garbage must be packed out, which is a strong impetus to not buy lots of packaged goods.

My beautiful bike, waiting for me to use it while teaching in Belfast.
As a city dweller, I notice first that it’s shockingly quiet and shockingly dark at night. But the beauty of modern America is that even in the deep woods, we have 4G, so I was able to check Facebook before going to sleep.

The amenities I find primitive would have been considered luxurious by our pioneer ancestors, desperate to get a roof over their heads before winter. They would be considered luxurious by the standards of many of the world’s poor.

The powder room.
I plan to reflect a bit on this during the weeks I’m here, but that will have to wait a bit. I leave tomorrow for Castine, ME, where I’m participating in Castine Plein Air. I’ll be staying with a friend who not only has hot water, she has a guest room with a bath. Whoo hoo!


Sorry, folks. My workshop in Belfast, ME is sold out. Message me if you want a spot on my waitlist, or information about next year’s programs. Information is available here.

Monday, July 21, 2014

My paint list


With the palette I outline below, you can get anywhere you need to go on the color wheel. 
I’ve been using RGH paints for several years. I like them because they’re relatively inexpensive, they have a high pigment load, and they don’t add driers. In addition, they’re made in a small workshop in Colonie, NY.

On Friday I stopped at RGH to talk to them about finalizing a paint list for my students.

Paints are often sold with poetic names like “Naples Yellow” that mean nothing. The real pigment by that name, antimony yellow, is toxic. Alizarin crimson and Indian yellow are both fugitive (meaning they fade). When people buy paints using those old romantic names, they are in fact buying a mixture of pigments that approximate the handling and color of the original pigments.

Colors like cerulean are very expensive, so manufacturers make mixes that approximate them, which are labeled as "hues". But mixes of any kind give you less value and flexibility than buying the straight colors and learning to mix yourself.

Even when manufacturers use the same pigments there can be wide variations in color in the finished product, depending on the pigment load, how finely the pigment is ground, what oil is used for the binder, etc.

I carried my palette box into RGH’s shop and Roger and I spent an hour comparing pigments. This is the palette I am now recommending to all my students, or to anyone else who wants to paint like me:

Burnt sienna
Cadmium orange
Cadmium yellow light
Indian yellow transparent
Ivory black
Mars yellow deep
Prussian blue
Quinacridone magenta
Raw sienna
Titanium white
Ultramarine blue

For all colors except Titanium white, a 37 ml tube is sufficient. For Titanium white a 150 ml tube is necessary. Order them here.

I buy my paints in cans and put them in a plastic pill box but for most painters tubes are fine.
Note that this palette contains neither a red nor a green. I’ve concluded that neither is necessary on the everyday palette. If I were to add them, I’d add chromium oxide green (the color of summer foliage in the northeast) and naphthol red, which approximates cadmium red but doesn’t dry out as fast (or cost as much).

If you want to learn more about pigments, the best source of information is the Handprint website. Although designed for watercolor, its information is true across all media.


Sorry, folks. My workshop in Belfast, ME is sold out. Message me if you want a spot on my waitlist, or information about next year’s programs. Information is available here.

Friday, July 18, 2014

But enough about me...

Photographer Iván Ramos was at the opening of my show, “God+Man” at Roberts Wesleyan’s Davison Gallery in April. Yesterday he sent me a slew of photos from the event. Sit back and enjoy.
Courtesy of Iván Ramos.

Courtesy of Iván Ramos.

Courtesy of Iván Ramos.

Courtesy of Iván Ramos.

Courtesy of Iván Ramos.

Courtesy of Iván Ramos.

Courtesy of Iván Ramos.

Courtesy of Iván Ramos.

Courtesy of Iván Ramos.

Courtesy of Iván Ramos.

Courtesy of Iván Ramos.

Courtesy of Iván Ramos.

Courtesy of Iván Ramos.

Courtesy of Iván Ramos.

Courtesy of Iván Ramos.
Sorry, folks. My workshop in Belfast, ME is sold out. Message me if you want a spot on my waitlist, or information about next year’s programs. Information is available here.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Field testing my ultra-light pochade box


"Bluebell Hopyard," by Carol L. Douglas, framed and ready to head out the the VB Brewery, where it will be for sale. $300.
Yesterday I wrote about building an ultra-light pochade box. When it was finished, I immediately took it out and field-tested it.

My pal and student Catherine Bullinger has wanted to paint at Bluebell Hopyard all season. This isn’t just a passing fancy: she and her husband run the VB Brewery in Victor and are committed to buying local supplies where possible.

Hops are tall and thin, kind of like my husband.
My back has been bothering me, so I elected to paint sitting down (which I only do infrequently). First mark in favor of the new easel: it works well from a seated position.

Hops are the weirdest darn crop. They have leaves like figs, are related to cannabis, and are perennial. The seed cones have been used to flavor beer since the 11th century.

The seed cones are what give the bitter overtones to beer.
Their bines grow up long, long supports—I would guess they grow 15-20 feet in the air. When the air is still, they stand like temple columns or Italian cypresses, but as soon as the breeze picks up, they dance. Finding a composition that caught the essence of their character was a challenge.

As we painted, the wind picked up. I have a tripod stone bag from my Guerrilla Painter easel, but I never needed to use it—the easel presented less of a sail surface than I expected.

Look at this beauty working!
My only complaint—and it’s manageable—is that the clip left a big unfinished area on the left side of the canvas. I corrected it easily enough, and I think I will use a different method of clipping next time.

The way I had it clipped, the left side needed work when it came off the easel.
The whole thing, including the tripod, fits in my frame backpack, which is a great advantage over my prior easel. Although I thought I’d miss the larger mixing surface, I think the 11X14 area worked just fine.

I will take it to Maine with me on Saturday, although I’ll have another easel as a backup.

Sorry, folks. My workshop in Belfast, ME is sold out. Message me if you want a spot on my waitlist, or information about next year’s programs. Information is available 
here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Making my own super-lightweight pochade box

The finished project, more or less.
Last month Johanne Morin and I painted together at Kaaterskill Falls. She had an efficient, lightweight easel, and her pack was so easy to manage that I begged her for information on how to make one for myself.

The primary parts of Johanne’s easel are a Saunders 10519 Recycled Aluminum Snapak Form Holder and a Promaster T525P carbon-fiber tripod. I purchased the former from Amazon and the latter from eBay. Johanne also used a pochade-box mounting plate from Guerrilla Painter but since I didn’t have time to track it down, I improvised with a block of hard red oak.

I’m not experienced working with aluminum, but my brother Robert was in town yesterday. He helped me assemble the easel. This is how we did it:
This is what the Saunders 10519 Recycled Aluminum Snapak Form Holder looks like when it arrives.
We used a pair of pliers to remove the pin holding the long aluminum inside cover.
The other extraneous piece, inside the box, is best cut off because it shares a pin with the main hinge. Here we used a Dremel with a cut-off wheel.
The female flange adapter for the tripod was countersunk with a 1" bit.
Then the hole was drilled and the piece cut down to size.
Countersunk and glued.
Pilot holes drilled through aluminum and oak.
The wooden block was dimpled with a drill to accommodate the screwheads. But here the flange is on the wrong side. If the collar faces the aluminum, screwing it tight on the easel locks the whole assembly. (We realized it and turned it over.)
Don't have a die to countersink the aluminum? Use one of those stupid screwdriver bits that came in a kitone you'll never, ever use.
After we screwed the base plate in place, we needed to put a wire holders on the left in lieu of a support hinge. I have a gazillion d-rings for picture frames, so we used those, and popped them in place with a riveter.
Works just fine, and picture-hanging wire is great for holding it open, but I hate that glare.
So I masked and sprayed the inside of the box with red primer.

On the left, my current lightweight wooden pochade box and on the right, this aluminum box. No contest!
My investment for this project:

Used Promaster T525P carbon-fiber tripod: $163.43 on eBay.
Saunders 10519 Recycled Aluminum Snapak Form Holder: $35.27 on Amazon.
Female flange adaptor from my local hardware store: 75¢
Four 6X½ flathead screws: 44¢
One 27/64 drill bit: $9.88.

Tomorrow: how it works.

Sorry, folks. My workshop in Belfast, ME is sold out. Message me if you want a spot on my waitlist, or information about next year’s programs. Information is available here.