Paint Schoodic

Join Carol L. Douglas at beautiful Acadia National Park, August 6-11, 2017. More details here!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Chores are good for kids

You can't do this if you have no experience doing the routine stuff.
You can’t do this if you have no experience with routine repairs.
I’m always getting paint on my laptop screen trying to adjust the angle. To solve this, I have a new monitor and rolling stand for my studio. I hope to get it assembled before it’s obsolete.
To that end, my youngest kid helped me for a while yesterday. He was attaching the confabulator to the thingamajig when I stopped him. “Just hand-tighten that until you have all the screws on that joint in place,” I told him. “Then you can drive them home.”
“How do you know that?” he asked.
Assembling my monitor stand.
My son assembling my monitor stand.
Until the modern era, kids had to hold things for their fathers while they worked. (Kids are not cheaper than clamps, but they’re far more likely to be underfoot.) Today, you could look some of this stuff up on the internet, but that’s an imperfect education.
Don’t believe for a minute that fathers are expendable. Nobody is going to teach you the art of swearing like they can.
I had three tasks on my schedule yesterday. One of them—the easy one, where I filled out some papers and signed my name—is done. The other two never got finished. We had visitors all day. The stopping-by never stopped and although I am feeling very pressured, I was also very glad to see them.
This is how I ended up cooking dinner for 15 people. It was a real loaves-and-fishes kind of affair, cobbled together from leftovers, things from the freezer, and things my daughter picked up at Hannaford on her way home.
Kid, sewing.
Kid, sewing.
I often tell people I can’t cook, and in the usual way, I can’t. However, this was a combination of dishes I have been making since childhood (risotto, fried fish, and fried chicken) and the recipe for scallops that my friends Berna and Harry shared with me last year.
I was on familiar turf. As a kid, I was my mother’s sous chef for many such impromptu dinners. Size up the crowd and assess the refrigerator, the pantry, and the freezer. Quietly send a kid to the store for the missing pieces. Accept any help that’s offered, gratefully.
One of the nicest things parents can do for their children is conscript them to do unpaid, hard labor. That’s how I learned to use a chainsaw, drive a truck, clean windows and even cook for a crowd. Like most of us, I wanted my kids to work less hard than I did, but I’m cheap. No cleaning or lawn services for us. Saturday mornings were a forced march through our house.
The forced march, in 2010.
The forced march, in 2010.
When I collected my son from college in May, his suite was a disaster. His roommates clearly had no idea how to do simple household chores. Given a little guidance, however, they did a great job, and we parted as friends.
Civilization is only in part about great literature, art and architecture. It’s also about things like fixing dripping faucets. I’ve known a lot of kids who could do calculus but not wash pots and pans. If you teach the former and neglect the latter, you’re doing your kids a great disservice. They’ll end up being the ones who have to look up how to clean a toilet on YouTube.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Practice of Solitude

"Headwaters of the Hudson," oil on canvas, Carol L. Douglas
“Headwaters of the Hudson,” oil on canvas, Carol L. Douglas.
If, like Garbo, you vant to be alone, the Maine coast in summer is not your place. During its 100-day season, a more gregarious habitation never existed.
Right now it’s trendy to declare, “I’m an introvert,” as if there were any need to justify the need for alone time. Society has always been wary of loners, but being alone is a requirement for serious work. If there’s anything at all to the idea of “talent,” it’s the capacity to separate oneself from the herd long enough to think.
This is not unique to the arts. I have known Dr. Kate Rittenhouse-Olson for four decades. There were many times when she turned down invitations to youthful hijinks because she needed to work. That capacity is why she’s an internationally-recognized cancer researcher today.
"The Long Way Home," oil on canvas, Carol L. Douglas
“The Long Way Home,” oil on canvas, Carol L. Douglas.
Each of us is a constantly-shifting mosaic of outer- and inner-driven motivations. This is a conundrum for creative people. Our work requires us to be alone, but what we produce is a form of communication.
“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life,” wrote Ernest Hemingway in his Nobel acceptance speech. “Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”
Plein air painting is, in some ways, performance art. We work outside in public spaces. That allows people to engage with our art. At the same time, we must keep our inward focus. It’s a delicate balance and at times it’s stressful.
The importance of being informed was impressed on my generation at home and at school. A daily paper was as much a part of a good upbringing as brushing one’s teeth in the morning. My Millennial children, on the other hand, don’t feel nearly as obligated to be politically and socially involved as we were. None of them take a daily paper or watch broadcast news. I’m starting to think they are smarter than me.
"Hudson Overlook," Carol L. Douglas
“Hudson Overlook,” Carol L. Douglas
While I’m painting in an event, I let my correspondence go. I ignore the news and Facebook. When I get back, my strongest impression is always that I haven’t missed a darn thing. Yes, there was horrible violence while I was gone. Sadly, that is no longer news. Yes, the major candidates went tit-for-tat about who could be the ugliest human being. Sadly, that tells me nothing I didn’t already know.
“Your kid does not attend in class.” Lots of parents hear that. So what? Daydreaming is just a nasty term for solitary thinking. It’s a rare human activity, and no creativity is possible without it. In a world where the bonds of interaction grow so tight that we can’t even sleep without our phones on our pillows, the art of being alone is even more precious. Grab it if you can. That is the direction in which genius lies.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Saying silly things

"Evening at Marshall Point," 8X6, by Carol L. Douglas
“Evening at Marshall Point,” 8X6, by Carol L. Douglas
Forty minutes from my studio, Marshall Point Light is really too far to go for a day class. However, without the large islands that protect Penobscot Bay, bigger breakers form here. It makes for nice painting.
My off-the-cuff assessment is that tourism in mid-coast Maine is up this year. Marshall Point and Drift Inn Beach were both full of visitors yesterday. Perhaps it’s because a nice domestic vacation on the beach seems so safe in this world of dark violence. I feel some advertising slogans bubbling up. Maine: where nobody wants to cut your head off.
Fog at Marshall Point.
Fog in the morning.
My personal goal right now is to stop correcting people. I am not everyone’s mother, nor do I always have to be right. I repeat this to myself like a mantra. It’s a special challenge in a tourist town, because being out of our own milieu sometimes makes us say really silly things. I’m no exception, and—worse—I occasionally say them in print.
Marshall Point has some astonishing geological features. Basalt dikes lace into light grey granite. Around them twist wildly-contorted bands of quartzite and schist. In some places, these materials have been remelted and formed into migmatite.
I only know this because I looked it up after I told someone those light bands were probably limestone.
Part of the beautiful rock formations at Marshall Point.
Part of the beautiful rock formations at Marshall Point.
You can see the whole dazzling rock array from the ramp up to the lighthouse. I tend to stall there until someone nudges me to move on. That’s how I happened to hear a visitor ask her husband, “Is that marble?” The new me didn’t correct her.
Along the edge of the rocks are burrows of the type dug by groundhogs or ground squirrels. A group of tween girls picked their way through this area as we painted nearby. One authoritatively told her peers, “Look at the beaver holes!”
“Beaver holes,” she confidently reasserted. For about fifteen seconds, she held absolute intellectual sway. Finally, I couldn’t help myself. I snorted in laughter. One of her mates ventured diffidently, “I think beavers live in freshwater lakes,” and the spell was broken.
I discuss painting options with a student.
I discuss painting options with a student.
Last week Poppy Balser floored me with a simple, obvious point. We were painting together and she scooped up saltwater for her brush tank. I’ve always thought that was a no-no. When I asked her why it would work, she pointed out that people regularly add table salt to granulate their watercolors. Why not just start with sea water?
My wee, quick experiment in granulation.
My wee, quick experiment in painting with sea-water.
After yesterday’s class, I tried it, quickly, in a small sketch in my field-book. I have to say that it worked very well. Sorry I ever doubted you, Poppy!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Cold War memories

The "1" in that number was added by some subsequent humorist. I can't even figure out how 65 people could have fit. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Schumacher Scharping)
The number was changed by some subsequent humorist. I can’t even figure out how 65 people could have fit in that space. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Schumacher Scharping)
While I was gallivanting around coastal Maine last week, friends were attending their 40th high school reunion. I graduated elsewhere, but their high school was the place I was at the longest.
I’d estimate the population in their junior-senior high school to have been around 650 people. This is why the “Fallout Shelter, capacity 65” sign terrified me. I wasn’t big, fast, or wily. The chances of my making the Top Ten were nil.
However, I could fire a rifle with some accuracy. This is because I took shooting classes in the same basement with the fallout shelter. This was not some kind of Cold War paranoia at work. To hunt in New York, we needed a license. That required demonstrating basic gun proficiency. I imagine I can still hit a target from a standing, kneeling, or prostrate position, although I’m not sure I could get back up.
This is exactly where I wanted to live out the last moments of Western Civilization. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Schumacher Scharping)
This was exactly where I wanted to live out the last moments of Western Civilization, not. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Schumacher Scharping)
The shooting range and fallout shelter were an open secret. “I am shocked at how many fellow students knew about this and had actually been down there,” mused Darlene McKee Flynt.
In elementary school, we didn’t have a fallout shelter. We were to curl up in the hallway away from any glass, or huddle under our desks. We had regular drills for this. They mostly served to instill a great fear of the Bomb in our minds. Even in fourth grade, we knew that our desk wasn’t going to be much use against nuclear attack.
By the time I’d gotten to high school, the fallout shelter was a few decades old. I used to ponder whether it would be better to die of radiation or botulism from the dried eggs and milk. (My pal Karl believes they finally used up those food-stocks during the Blizzard of ’77.)
Our childhood reading.
Our childhood reading.
Then there was the dystopian literature and movies of our time, which raised the question of what kind of society we might survive to encounter. Alas, BabylonFail SafePlanet of the Apes. The entire oeuvre of Kurt Vonnegut. If our day-to-day anxiety didn’t drive us around the bend, our reading list could have.
Society talked about the Bomb quite openly. Middleport, although tiny, had an FMC chemical research facility. Niagara Falls was an important hydroelectric plant. The radioactive plume from Chicago would flow right over our heads.
We were on a training route for Lockheed C-130s out of Niagara Falls. They flew low over our heads as we played. It made perfect sense to us, then, to lie in the tall grass and watch for Russian airstrikes.
I haven’t seen the people in that graduating class in forty years. Being the same age, I know that their lives were often difficult. The Viet Nam war had just ended, and it still cast an emotional shadow.  Buffalo-Niagara was in economic meltdown. There was double-digit unemployment.
The modern school appears to have given up on books. That's odd. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Schumacher Scharping)
The modern school appears to have given up on books. These shelves are pretty scant. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Schumacher Scharping)
However, they seem to have transitioned from graceful and fragile youth to solid middle age without difficulty. None of them became killers; none of them shot up a room full of innocents.
I came back from a week’s self-imposed news blackout to read more of the usual violence—mass killings in Ft. Myers, FL, and Munich. Why, I ask myself, do rich, successful civilizations self-destruct like this? Has life become too easy?

Monday, July 25, 2016

13 paintings in 7 days

"Dyce Head in the early morning light," 12X9, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
“Dyce Head in the early morning light,” 12X9, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
It’s unusual to come home from a week of painting empty-handed, but it just happened. I painted 13 works in seven days—seven at Ocean Park, six at Castine. Four are on display at Jakeman Hall in Ocean Park for rest of the season. The others have all gone on to new homes.
Every year, tiny Castine, ME (population 1366) turns out crowds of enthusiastic art buyers for Castine Plein Air. There are forty artists producing six works each, meaning there are 240 works on display. Somehow a majority of them get sold.
"Jonathan Submarining," 8X6, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
“Jonathan Submarining,” 8X6, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
As I walked into the Maine Maritime Academy student center with fellow painterBruce Newman, I commented that every year I think I’ve done good work until I see what my peers have done. He said he always feels the same way. Each year, new artists are juried in, so the quality is being distilled upwards. I get inquiries from enough out-of-state painters about this show that I know it’s ‘got legs’ in theplein air community.
"Wadsworth Cove spruce," 6X8, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
“Wadsworth Cove spruce,” 6X8, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
On Saturday, Castine’s Witherle Library also held a used book sale. I have inside information about this event because my Castine hosts are the library’s president and treasurer. “There are lots of art books,” Harry told me.  Sadly, the sale ended at 2, which was also our delivery deadline. Even though I finished painting earlier than I had ever done before, I still barely managed to set up on time.
"Wadsworth Cove garden," 10X8, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
“Wadsworth Cove garden,” 10X8, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
Despite my atrocious driving, I got to the library just as the signs were coming down. However, the Kaiserians took pity on me. Early Sunday morning, I went through the sale with Berna, even though I was sure Castine residents Philip Freedman and Karen Stanley had already nabbed all the best books. I found a book of Sir Stanley Spencer paintings. This odd English artist is one of my favorite painters. Score!
"The British Canal," 12X16, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
“The British Canal,” 12X16, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
I sometimes think we should have bought a home in Castine instead of Rockport. It’s so darn friendly. However, every mile north is a mile farther from my kids and grandkids. At times I feel those miles keenly. Such was the case on Sunday morning.
I have two ways of fighting sleepiness while driving. The first is writing in my head, but that only works when I’m mentally awake but physically tired. So I sang scales—creaky, raspy, cat-howl vocal exercises I learned in my youth. I don’t know if I’m kept awake because they sound so bad or whether they oxygenate the brain, but they always work as a last resort. They’re especially entertaining when driving through Camden with the windows down.
"J&E Riggins and Bowdoin in Castine Harbor," 12X9, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
“J&E Riggins and Bowdoin in Castine Harbor,” 12X9, oil on canvas board, Carol L. Douglas
The physical crash, when it comes, is terrific. I find that the only cure is sleep—lots and lots of sleep. I crawled into my bed and slept the afternoon away, missing a visit by Mary Byrom and Marcus Gale to my studio. This morning, I feel almost perky enough to look at my calendar and see what I’m doing this week.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Tide? What tide? Poppy Balser and I painted boats together.
Tide? What tide? Poppy Balser and I painted boats together.
Poppy Balser is a noted watercolorist from Digby, Nova Scotia. In addition to being a full-time artist, she’s a part-time pharmacist and a wife and mother of two kids. I admire her painting tremendously and looked forward to seeing her at Castine Plein Air again this year.
Yesterday we painted together and she told me a story. She dropped her kids at their grandparents’ house in St. Andrews, NB, and crossed the border at Calais, Maine. This crossing is routine for her.
Her interview with U.S. Customs and Border Protection started in the ordinary way. She told the inspector that she was coming into the US for a few days to paint in a plein air event and see friends. A second agent joined the first one and her car was searched. They found—unsurprisingly—art supplies and frames.
“How much money do you anticipate making?” they asked. The answer, not surprisingly, was in the very low thousands, not the six figures a Canadian performing artist might expect to earn on tour. Nevertheless, they shut her down.
Poppy's offending brushes in the sand.
Poppy’s offending brushes.
She was allowed to proceed with a serious warning. Yes, she can paint at Castine, but she cannot sell her artwork. Her passport has been flagged. If she sells here, either alone or through the non-profit organization, she will forfeit her ability to return to the United States.
I don’t think it was just Poppy’s earnest honesty that got her into hot water, because artists travel outside their home countries to paint, teach and study all the time. The biggest questions we normally face are about our materials, not our intentions. We understand that finished artwork is a commodity subject to tariff laws.
I painted in Canada last year and plan to do it again this fall. I hate the idea that I might be subject to the same hassles crossing our shared border.
Poppy’s newly-flagged passport is no small matter. It means that she will be routinely stopped by Border Control any time she crosses between Calais and St. Stephen and subjected to further interviews or denied access to the US altogether.
Earlier in the day, we discovered we'd both painted the lovely J. & E. Riggin as she left Castine. That's the Bowdoin in the background.
Earlier in the day, we discovered we’d both painted the lovely J. & E. Riggin as she left Castine. That’s the Bowdoin in the background.
For those readers who did not grow up along the Canadian-American border, it’s always been porous. My husband and I used to walk across the Peace Bridge into Ft. Erie, Ontario, on summer evenings. Canadians would, with equal casualness, cross the river to party or shop in Buffalo.
We didn’t need passports. Nobody was repeatedly harassed because they had a common name or had irritated an inspector at a different checkpoint.
If Poppy’s inspector was right and Canadians need work visas or special clearance to cross the border to paint, it’s a closely-held international secret. I could name several who are here in the US painting right now.
Purely for research purposes, I shared Poppy's Scotch Egg. It's my new favorite junk food.
Purely for research purposes, I shared Poppy’s Scotch Egg. It’s my new favorite junk food.
I suppose the government’s rationale is that they’re protecting American jobs. Yet millions of migrant workers have crossed our southern border to work illegally in this country. We lack either the will or the ability to stop them. But we somehow have the resources to prevent a mild-mannered pharmacist from bringing her brushes across from Canada.
Get a grip, Customs and Immigration. Protect us from Nickleback and Celine Dion, not the Poppy Balsers of this world.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

No side deals

"Ice Cream Parlor," 12X16, is one of three pieces sold at last night's show. The remaining four are on display at Jakeman Hall for the rest of the summer.
“Ice Cream Parlor,” 12X16, is one of three pieces sold at last night’s show. The remaining four are on display at Jakeman Hall for the rest of the summer.
A very nice Canadian lady contacted me about buying my painting of Ocean Park’s ice cream parlor. Art in the Park doesn’t permit advance sales. One can, however, leave one’s credit card information with the office and the organizers will make the purchase when the sale opens.
I explained this to her. “But why can’t I buy it directly from you?” she asked. “Why do I have to go through the Ocean Park Association and pay them a commission?”
My final paintings displayed at Ocean Park's Temple.
My final paintings, displayed at Ocean Park’s Temple.
Ocean Park, I told her, is an historic Chautauqua Assembly. The Ocean Park Association is the group responsible for its preservation, educational and cultural programming. They guard the special charm that makes Ocean Park a place people want to return to, summer after summer.
In addition, we artists couldn’t afford to paint there without the hospitality of residents who open their homes to us. The cost of a weekly rental would undo even the best art sales.
“I had no idea,” she answered.
To me, the work done by the non-profits who run plein air events is obvious: land preservation, historic preservation, arts education, community development, and more. But I work with these groups frequently. For someone who doesn’t, or someone from a country where they are funded in other ways, the importance of their fundraising may not be clear.
Anthony Watkins confers with budding driftwood artists.
Anthony Watkins confers with budding driftwood artists.
It was a sweet last day of painting. Anthony Watkins was so tired he was barely standing. Still, he took time to counsel some young admirers on how to paint on driftwood. “We’ll pay you 25% of our profits if you let us use your paints,” they offered.
He deflected them graciously. “The trouble is,” he said, “these are the wrong kind of paints. You need to go home and see if you can find some house paint.”
Russ Whitten and I painted right up to the bell. Not that we were tired, but he lost his painting and I forgot to photograph mine.
Russ Whitten and I painted right up to the bell. Not that we were tired, but he lost his painting and I forgot to photograph mine. (Photo courtesy of Pamela Corcoran)
Russ Whitten sat on a bench painting a delightful nocturne from memory. (Sadly, he managed to lose it between there and the Temple.) A group of developmentally disabled adults surrounded us, enjoying their ice cream under the maples.
The carillon pealed the mighty opening bells exactly at 5. Sales were good, and we finished promptly at 7:30. Some painters headed home to a well-deserved rest. Anthony and I, however, loaded our respective cars and turned north toward Castine Plein Air.
I was approaching Belfast when I realized I hadn’t eaten since morning. After a quick stop, I pulled back on the road. Ahead of me was an old SUV with Maine plates. Despite the late hour, its driver was being annoyingly punctilious about speed limits.
Castine dreamed under a full moon as I finally arrived.
Castine slept under a full moon.
“Maybe I should crawl up his bumper to goose him up,” I thought. As I drew close, the vehicle looked awfully familiar. Was that Anthony’s old truck? I’ll never know for sure, but I followed it almost to Castine. The village slept in the gentle glow of the full moon. My hosts had left the light on for me.
By the time you read this, I’ll be on Castine’s village green, greeting old friends, making new ones, and discussing where we plan to paint. In short, it’s the start of a new event. This is a peculiar life: unpredictable, peripatetic, and often exhausting. Still, it’s a beautiful one, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Far more fun than the convention

Come for the art show, stay for the full moon and balmy sea breezes.
Come for the art show, stay for the full moon and balmy sea breezes.
Today is wrap-up day at Ocean Park’s Art in the Park. The wet paint show and saleis tonight from 5 to 7 PM. If you’re in Portland or points south, it’s a short drive to 14 Temple Ave, Ocean Park.
It’s a Perfect 10 day. You’ll see fine artwork in a beautiful historic beach town and you can stroll downtown for an ice cream cone afterward. Above all, nobody will be talking about the Republican National Convention.
Tour-de-force painting of the shuffleboard sign by Russel Whitten. I'm sure he finished this as perfectly as he started it.
Tour-de-force painting of the shuffleboard sign by Russel Whitten, in progress.
For the artists, the last day of an event means finishing work, taking photos, framing and packing. If there’s time, we might even paint one more piece just for fun. For watercolorists and pastel artists, the added work is even more considerable, since they must frame under glass and mount their work on acid-free paper.
Our workbenches are any flat surfaces we can appropriate for a few minutes. I have the luxury of a picnic table and fine weather today, but there have been many times I’ve framed on the back deck of my little Prius.
I started my morning yesterday by finishing my ice cream parlor painting from Monday. Anthony Watkins and Ed Buonvecchio chose the same subject, so we held an impromptu salon under the maples at the corner of Temple and Grand. All three of us like talking about painting almost as much as we like doing it.
"Goosefare sunset," 10X8, Carol L. Douglas
“Goosefare sunset,” 10X8, Carol L. Douglas
An aspiring painter named Heidy sat down to watch me paint. When I realized she had her kit in her car, I suggested she paint with us in the afternoon. “You’ve chosen well, or badly,” I told her. “You’re surrounded by painting teachers.” It wasRussel Whitten who broke first and gave her an impromptu watercolor lesson.
Larry, Curly and Moe lost on a sand dune. That's really Anthony Watkins, Russ Whitten and Ed Buonvecchio.
Larry, Curly and Moe lost on a sand dune. (That’s really Anthony Watkins, Russ Whitten and Ed Buonvecchio.)
In addition to painting, Ed and I hawk Plein Air Painters of Maine to other painters. This totally-free association is a great resource. For most people, it’s important to have support and company in what is essentially a solitary pursuit.
"Curve on Goosefare Brook," 8X6, Carol L. Douglas.
“Curve on Goosefare Brook,” 8X6, Carol L. Douglas.
It’s not that common for event painters to move in a pack like we’ve been doing. I’ve really enjoyed it. For all our larking about, the work we’re turning out is of consistent high caliber. We’re all relaxed and having fun, and it shows in our work.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What could possibly go wrong?

"Ocean Park Ice Cream Parlor," 12X16. I'm heading down to finish it this morning.
“Ocean Park Ice Cream Fountain,” 12X16. I’m heading down to finish it this morning.
Early yesterday I got a call from Ed Buonvecchio, who is painting at Ocean Park’sArt in the Park with me. He planned to paint along the railroad tracks on the road into town. I told him it sounded, frankly, awful. I’d find my own darn painting spot.
Ambling along Temple Avenue, I ran into Frank Gwalthney, who was walking purposefully up the street. “Could you let me into Jakeman Hall to sharpen my pencils?” I asked.
“I need to run down to the tracks first,” he responded. “I got a call that Ed’s car is too close to the tracks. He needs to move it before it gets hit by a train.”
"Rising Surf," 8X6, painted from the water side.
“Rising Surf,” 8X6, painted from the water side.
Happily, I can report that neither Ed nor his car was harmed, although he was close enough to the tracks that he seemed a little, well, stunned the rest of the day. I was so wrong about the subject. Ed’s painting is one of those rare things that make me think, “I wish I’d painted that.”
Art in the Park has been redesigned to be an invitational event with just five painters. This means we get to know our fellows much better than at the typical event, where 30 painters swarm across the landscape. I took my lunch break under a spreading maple with Christine Mathieu. Our paths have crossed over the years, but this was the first time we’ve ever really had a chance to talk.
The storm which rolled across Maine yesterday rumbled and threatened but eventually skipped over us. It arrived conveniently a few moments before our opening reception at Porter Hall. I enjoyed chatting with a woman who regularly reads my blog at home in St. Martins in the Caribbean.
Painting in the surf. I kept moving the easel toward shore whenever I felt it start slipping.
Painting in the surf. I kept moving the easel toward shore whenever I felt it start slipping.
In the evening I took a few minutes to jump into the sea. “Why not?” I asked myself as I pondered how gorgeous the surf always looks from the water side. The tide was rising, so I had to move my easel every few minutes, but painting from the water worked just fine—until I tried to get the salt-water out of my tripod. It’s carbon fiber, so it isn’t going to rust, but I’m worried about the fittings.
Russ Whitten, Ed Buonvecchio and I painting nocturnes at the end of the day.
Russ Whitten, Ed Buonvecchio and I painted nocturnes at the end of the day.
We ended the day at the Temple, where Ed, Russel Whitten and I set up perilously late to paint a nocturne. (It helps if you do the drawing when it’s still light.) This was a little hard on Russ, whose watercolor paper wasn’t drying in the night air, and who has to “dance backwards,” leaving openings for the light areas instead of painting them in at the end.
The Temple, unfinished. I'll finish it tonight.
The Temple, unfinished. I’ll finish it tonight.
The three of us grumbled and laughed about the absurdity of what we were doing but in the end we all turned out respectable attempts. Fourteen hours after we’d started working we folded up for the night. Today we do it again. It’s a fascinating life, although sometimes it’s grueling as well.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Augmented reality

Rachel Carson sunset, 10X8, oil on canvas
Rachel Carson sunset, 10X8, oil on canvas
Pok√©mon Go has taken my family by storm. It has its critics, but I love the way it blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. They call this “augmented reality,” and I’m all for it. After all, augmented reality is what we artists are supposed to be all about.
I left home yesterday to start seven days of augmenting reality the old-fashioned way: with a brush. Until Wednesday, I’ll be in Ocean Park, ME’s Art in the Park.  On Wednesday I decamp to Castine Plein Air.
That's one full car.
That’s one full car.
While I’m only likely to paint ten paintings over the week, I can’t say for sure what sizes they’ll be, or in what colors, or even what subjects I’ll choose. I have a larger-than-usual assortment of frames and boards with me, plus clothes, paints and tools. My little Prius seems packed for any eventuality, but I still managed to spill ketchup on my one good shirt yesterday.
Ocean Park was founded in 1881 as a Free Will Baptist Chautauqua. It still functions as a Chautaqua Assembly 135 years later. Its grounds are graced with a series of lovely meeting spaces in the classic Camp Meeting style of the last century.
A duck family wandered through my scene.
A duck family wandered through my scene.
I arrived at Porter Hall just a few minutes past the arrival time, and was actually the last expected artist to check in. My hosts are Ocean Park’s Education Committee Chairman Frank Gwalthney and his wife Helen. Although I’ve known them only for a year, they seem like old friends.
We sat and chatted until the sun started dropping. I went to Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge’s Goosefare Brook trail to paint while Helen went to the Temple to see PORTopera present Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Medium. That’s the Chautauqua experience in a nutshell: a whole lot of culture packed into a place of profound tranquility.
Fog moving in.
The fog dropped like a curtain across our view.
Ed Buonvecchio joined me at the mudflats. We worked fast against the sunset. Because I was looking directly west, I painted with my sunglasses on until the sun dropped below the trees. Then I put them on top of my head, only to accidentally shake them off over the bridge embankment.
Yesterday’s lesson was that climbing over guardrails and down concrete ledges was much easier 20 years ago. Nevertheless, I need those glasses. I managed to retrieve them without landing in Goosefare Brook, and decided that henceforth I’ll stash them in their case, not on my head.
The end of the road for painting last night.
The end of the road for painting last night.
A few minutes later, a thick fog started so swirl around us. It came up so fast and thick that I could do nothing but pack up and grope my way back to my car. Redolent of the sea, it was beautiful, soft and cool. And it’s here this morning, so my ideas for today’s first painting have changed just a little.