Paint Schoodic

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Friday, February 10, 2017

I’m my own restorer!

Mount Rundle, oil on canvas, by Carol L. Douglas
While the storm raged outside my studio yesterday, I retouched paintings from my Canada trip. I’m nearly done with this task.

I’m working on paintings whose emulsion was damaged by being stacked before they were completely dry. There isn’t much thinking involved, since I did all that on site. I just mix the proper color, fill in scratches and smears, and restore the original appearance.

A typical smear.
How did they get banged up in the first place? I had wet-storage for about a dozen paintings. Generally, after that, work is dry enough to be wrapped and binned with wax paper liners. It may have been the constant cold, but for some reason, they weren’t setting up very fast. I was constantly shuffling paintings to keep the wettest ones to the top.

No Northern Lights tonight, oil on canvasboard, by Carol L. Douglas
In addition, the roads were jaw-breakingly bad in many places. Part of our daily routine was to check the tailpipe and repack the back of the truck. All that bouncing meant that some things were inevitably going to be damaged.

Muncho Lake, oil on canvasboard, by Carol L. Douglas
In only one of these paintings did I make a material change. That was to add reflections on Muncho Lake. I knew they were there at the time, and they were important for the composition. However, Mary was sick, sleeping in a motel room at Toad River. I’d been gone all day and that was long enough.

Avalanche Country, oil on canvas by Carol L. Douglas
I don’t have much need for reference pictures at this stage. Since I didn’t take many, that’s a good thing. In comparing my trip photos with my paintings, I notice how blue all my photos look, and how vague the structures of the mountains are. It seems to me that my little pocket Panasonic camera perceives atmospheric haze more than my aging eyes do.

Chugach range from Anchorage, oil on canvasboard, by Carol L. Douglas

My eyes, my camera, and my monitor are all subjective observers, so none of them can be called objectively “true” at the expense of the others. It’s just another caution about painting from photographs, and another thing to ponder in regards to Truthiness.

I also started my second studio painting from the trip, of the Athabasca Glacier. That day, there was a ferocious, ripping wind. Even with an airtight hood, my ears rang. My easel spun helplessly on its tripod. There was no way to paint on site, so I settled for a hike and some photographs.

Underpainting of Athabasca Glacier, by Carol L. Douglas
This underpainting is not an abstraction, just a vast simplification. It reminds me a little of Rockwell Kent. Having no real desire to go down that road, I sigh and tell myself this is probably the high point of the painting.

Before anything more can happen in my studio, however, I have a driveway to shovel out. The morning dawned clear, still and cold, as if denying that it had ever stormed yesterday. “Liar!” I shout up at the sky, but to no avail.

Shovel I must. I’m having lunch with a student visiting from Tennessee. Later, a friend from Alabama is stopping by to teach me how to make biscuits. Maine is an out-of-the-way place to be the Crossroads of America, but a lot of the time it feels that way.

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