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

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 

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 

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.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Who sez art doesn’t pay?

The Concert by Johannes Vermeer was one of 13 pieces, worth $300 million, stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston on March 18, 1990. This was the largest art heist in history and remains one of the great mysteries of the art world.
I came across this factoid in a dumb novel recently: art crime is the third most lucrative criminal trade, after drugs and weapons. The FBI estimates the trade in stolen art and antiquities to be $6-8 billion annually.

This ought to come as no surprise when Christie’s and Sotheby’s together turn over about $11-12 billion a year.

These statistics don’t begin to address the dollar value of the estimated 650,000 pieces looted by the Nazis in Europe. The value of that work is, simply, incalculable.

Poppy Flowers by Vincent van Gogh was stolen from the Mohammed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo, Egypt in 2010. The same painting had been stolen from the same museum in 1977, but was recovered ten years later in Kuwait.
My studio assistant, Sandy Quang, is finishing her MA in Art History. Like all liberal arts majors, she’s worried about getting a job, since she’s internalized the message that art careers don’t pay. But that’s nonsense, as a recent kerfuffle with President Obama pointed out: arts graduates are both working and satisfied with their jobs. After all, sellers need art historians to authenticate and research their product. Furthermore, ours is an intensively-designed world. From our cars to the pens in our hands, everything we touch must be both beautiful and symbolic of our values. That’s all the work of artists.

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt van Rijn is another painting stolen in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist of 1990. These paintings have never been recovered.
It’s no surprise that, when there aren’t enough precious works of art around, people will either forge or steal the stuff they want. But that should tell us something about art—it’s neither meaningless nor valueless. The vibrant criminal art economy tells us that art matters.

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 14, 2014

Gone to a private collection!

The Halve Maen Passing Hudson Highlands, by little old me.
If you want to see The Halve Maen Passing Hudson Highlands, above, you’ll need to get out to RIT-Dyer this month, because the painting is sold and will be shipped after Intersections of Form, Color, Time and Space closes.

I painted this for the 400th anniversary of Hudson’s voyage of exploration. From the native perspective, the boat is a black spot of melanoma, or the first eruption of the plague—something seemingly insignificant that will forever change the world. The brilliant colors are those of a dying day, a flaming sunset, the end of a season.

I love history but generally shy away from historical paintings. They have great potential to be pedantic. You must study the dress, weaponry, housing, jewelry, and landscape of the period, and then you must edit the regalia down to the point where it no longer drives the painting. The Lenape people, fortunately, are well-documented anthropologically and artistically, including in N.C. Wyeth’s The Hunter (1906).

Stu Chait and me at the opening of Intersections of Form, Color, Time and Space
My Dying Boudicca is on the left; his Atemito is on the right.
I have another historical painting in this show, Dying Boudicca (on the left, above). Boudicca was queen of the Icenis, and led the most successful uprising ever against the Roman Empire. She was married to a client king of the Romans. He was deeply in debt to Roman lenders at the time of his death. He left his kingdom jointly to his daughters and the Emperor, but on his death his kingdom was annexed as if conquered.

The Hunter, by N.C. Wyeth, accurately depicts pre-contact Lenape work togs. Wyeth trod the narrow line between historical accuracy and gripping painting with unerring taste.
Boudicca was beaten, her daughters were raped, and Roman financiers collected the swag. Boudicca rallied her people and the neighboring Trinovantes. They destroyed Colchester, London and St. Albans. Casualties among the Romans were estimated to be between 70,000 and 80,000 people. Of course the Britons were destined to eventually fail against such superior numbers. Rather than submit to capture and humiliation, Boudicca poisoned herself.

In my painting, Boudicca’s pomp and circumstance, represented by her purple robe, is discarded. At the moment of her death, she is a woman alone.

I’m leaving for Maine next week. Come join me! I'm down to one opening in my 2014 workshop in Belfast, ME. Information is available here.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Opening tonight: Intersections of Form, Color, Time and Space

The Laborer Resting, by Carol L. Douglas, oil on canvas, 36X48, $3,750.
Several friends have sent me stories about Leena McCall’s oil painting of her friend, Portrait of Ms Ruby May Standing, being removed from a Society for Women Artists show in London because it was deemed to be pornographic. McCall painted her work in the flat style of mid-century English painters, and that’s the best part of the painting. She’s baiting a censorship that vanished decades ago. It’s her great luck (or planning) that she found someone—anyone—to object to it in this day and age.

The painting—although obvious—hardly dings my porn meter. I’m a born-again Christian who sometimes paints on the subject of women’s bondage. The only person who complains is my husband, who blocks them on his newsfeed so they don’t violate his employer’s policy.

The Joker, by Carol L. Douglas, oil on canvas, 30X40, $2,500.
My nudes, by the way, are on view at RIT-NTID’s Dyer Art Center this month. The show, Intersections of Form, Color, Time and Space, opens tonight, from 4-7 PM. I hope you’ll come out and say hello. RIT’s campus is lovely, and this would be a fantastic evening to be out there.

Unlike McCall, I’m taking an anti-pornographic stance. I’m painting about the abuse and objectification of women. You would think that a culture that aspires to complete equality for women would see less of this, not more, but these two trends have increased, not decreased, in my lifetime.

Submission, by Carol L. Douglas, oil on canvas, 24X20, $1,500.
I nursed all four of my kids and nobody ever tried to shame me about it. So I’m amazed at the stories my young friends tell about women being harassed for nursing in public. My friend Tim Vail pointed out that there are centuries of images of nursing mothers. “It seems like the more sexualized our culture gets, the more repression there is over what used to be completely normal.”

I’m afraid we’re living at the high-water mark of women’s rights worldwide. And that’s what I’m painting about. The more I paint, the less able I am to explain the material in words, so I hope you come out tonight to see them.

The Dyer Arts Center is in Lyndon Baines Johnson Building at Rochester Institute of Technology, 52 Lomb Memorial Drive, Rochester, NY 14623Intersections of Form, Color, Time and Space, featuring abstract-expressionist Stu Chait and realist Carol Douglas, is in all three galleries during the month of July.

I’m leaving for Maine next week. Come join me! I have two openings left for my 2014 workshop in Belfast, ME. Information is available here.