Paint Schoodic

Join us on the American Eagle in June or in Acadia National Park in August. Click here for more information.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Monday Morning Art School: draw six different boats

Drawing six similar objects will teach you to observe details.
Reliant rigged as a sloop.
I once got a commission to paint Lazy Jack II in Camden Harbor. I was pretty happy with the results. As I finished, two deckhands from another boat stopped to look at it. Their eyes met. “You’ve got the…” one started. “It’s not important,” said the other, and they quickly walked away. I’ve never figured out what’s wrong in that painting, but I did realize that you can only fudge the details so far. The experts will find you out.

In the normal course of things, you’re not going to see many square-rigged vessels here in mid-coast Maine (although you could see USS Constitution if you drive down to Boston). You’ll see fore-and-aft rigs, where the sails run above the keel rather than perpendicular to it.

A Bermuda-rigged sloop. This is the most common silhouette you'll see wherever pleasure boats congregate. 
A boat’s sails all suspend from a vertical spar called the mast. This transmits all the power of the wind pushing the boat through the water. It’s really a marvel of engineering, especially since the kinks were worked out before the age of composite materials. There are some other spars whose names will be useful to know: booms, which run along the bottom of the sails, and gaffs, which get raised up in the air. Not every sailboat has gaffs, but they all have at least one mast and boom to hold the sails taut.

A gaff-rigged catboat.
A catboat is small and has a single sail on a single mast set well forward in the bow, or front of the boat. (I think this would be the perfect painter’s boat, especially if I could find one towable with my Prius.)

A sloop also has one mast, with only one sail in front of the mast. If that head-sail multiplies, your boat has morphed into a cutter. Reliance, the 1903 America’s Cup defender, could be rigged as either a sloop or cutter. I drew Reliance to illustrate that single-masted boats can be gaff-rigged as well as Bermuda-rigged. She was a peculiar thing, built only to win America’s Cup and then sold for scrap. Like all transitory things, she was, oh, so pretty.

A ketch. Angelique is far prettier.
Ketches and yawls have two masts, with the back (mizzen) sail smaller than the front sail. The difference is that in a ketch (like Angelique) the aft mast is meant to push. It’s pretty big. A yawl's mizzen sail is very wee, almost vestigial, and is way to the back of the boat. It’s basically an air rudder, used to keep things in balance.

A yawl (or y'all, for those of you from the south).
Schooners started out having two masts, but three-masted schooners were introduced around 1800, and the spars proliferated from there. The only seven-masted schooner, the steel-hulled Thomas W. Lawson, was built in 1902. It was 395 ft. long.

While you might run across Victory Chimes, a three-masted schooner out of Rockland, the rest of the Maine windjammer fleet have two masts. A schooner's forward mast is shorter than its mainmast, giving it an appearance of eagerness. Schooners come in all kinds of sail configurations.

A schooner's foremast is shorter than its mainmast.
Your assignment is to find a photo of each of these sailing vessels and sketch them out as I did, paying particular attention to where the sails attach to the masts, the angles at which the gaffs are running, and the height of the masts in relationship to the length of the hull. This is not about sailing, it’s about attention to the details that matter.

If you aren’t interested in boats, you can do the same exercise with cars, motorcycles, or varieties of apples; I don’t care what they are, just that you have six objects from the same class of objects. 

The point of this exercise is not to create six beautiful boat drawings. It is to show you how much you learn by sketching. At the end of it, you should have a clear sense of why sketching in the field is a far better preparation for painting than taking photos is.

Remember, those of you who love boats: we’ll be sailing with Captain John Foss on the most beautiful of all windjammers—American Eagle—in June, studying watercolor painting on the move. For more information, see here.

My little assistants. I drew the boats and they colored.

Friday, February 16, 2018

How professional artists structure their businesses.

While hundreds read the post, only a small handful answered the questions. Their answers are still fascinating.

Last week, I asked professional artists to tell a young painter from Alabama, Cat Pope, how they organize their business.

This is the first survey I've ever written. It was very easy to produce, but there are things I should have asked differently. If you haven't taken it yet, you can still go to the link here. The results mostly speak for themselves; I've just added a few parenthetical notes.

The respondents were heavily slanted to the northeast. Would artists from other parts of the country have answered differently? What about Canadian painters?

How hard, I wonder, is it to keep more than 3 galleries supplied with work? I should have also asked about other spaces like coffee shops, restaurants, or hotels.

This next chart represents some serious online work, even for people who aren't direct-selling through websites.

I feel the frustration of wearing all the hats, all the time. Apparently, I'm not alone. A lot of us put a lot of soul into the 'sole proprietorship' idea.

The following was a badly-designed question. I should have given respondents the opportunity to answer "none." 40% of respondents skipped it entirely, which makes "none" the second-largest category.

 Another missed opportunity. Why didn't I ask about annual sales goals?

I included this last question because artists are always being asked to "showcase their work" in charity auctions, yet it's not a deductible donation for us. When we see that work being sold for a fraction of its gallery price, we think it would be easier to just write a check.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Wallowing in plastic

A witty series of nature prints point out our devastating dependency on plastic packaging.
Double-crested Cormorant, Male, by John LaMacchia et al.
Rockland, ME, has provisionally passed a law banning single-use plastic shopping bags. These bags are invaluable to plein air painters, but we’re a cheap group and we’ll figure out another way to dispose of our oily rags. (One of my most popular posts ever was instructions on how to fold a plastic shopping bag to fit more neatly in your kit.)

I support the new law, although some of my friends are opposed. Plastic bags caught in branches are an annoying side effect of densely-packed people, and we get lots of visitors in the summer. It won't go into effect until next January, giving small retailers a chance to unload their stocks of bags. Plastic bags are already controlled in major cities in Canada. And my favorite grocery store—alas, not in Maine—has always had a bring-your-reusable-bag policy, which I navigated for years without trouble.
The ubiquitous tree-bag of North America.
Nobody knows how long it really takes for plastic packaging to break down, because we haven’t had it long enough to tell. Plastic degrades when exposed to sunlight, but it happens more slowly when it’s cold. A current guesstimate is that a foam plastic cup will take 50 years to decompose and a disposable diaper will take 450 years. On both ends of the plastic bag’s life cycle, it creates microplastics—either as bits and bobs from the manufacturing process, or as waste from the breakdown of bigger plastics. Marine organisms are indiscriminate foragers, so they eat these microplastics. Bigger pieces of plastic end up in marine animals’ guts, with deadly results.

Not using plastic packaging is often an easy choice, a matter of choosing the eggs in the cardboard container instead of that other brand. It’s far easier than, say, buying a smaller car or building a new mass-transit infrastructure.
Eastern Towhee, 1. Male 2. Female, by John LaMacchia et al.
Artist John LaMacchia describes himself as “an artist that makes things… and then he shows them to you.” Among his current work is a riff on John James Audubon’s Birds of America. This series of giclĂ©e prints, also called Birds of America, points up the difference between the environment of America 200 years ago and the environment today. For the birds, it’s our trash that makes the difference.
Red Knot, Female, by John LaMacchia et al.
Of course, the modern artist is an idea man, and must outsource the art skills. For that, LaMacchia turned to British ornithologist and illustrator Daniel Cole. LaMacchia sketches out his ideas using a combination of photography and drawing, and Cole executes them. A calligrapher, Hamid Reza Ebrahimi, does the plate notations in calligraphy, using an English Round Hand style commonly used for copperplate engraving.

LaMacchia’s goal is to create 435 plates, matching Audubon’s complete oeuvre. He’ll have to speed up the process, though, since the trio has finished six prints since they started in 2014. Of course, Audubon included birds that are now extinct, like the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, the Carolina Parakeet, and the Passenger Pigeon. That should cut down the final count.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Girl lighthouse keeper

At an age when modern kids are munching on Tide Pods, Abbie Burgess ran a lighthouse on a rock in the sea.
A 19th century engraving of the girl lighthouse keeper. Courtesy Elinor DeWire Collection. 
Matinicus Rock is a treeless, windswept outcropping of about 30 acres. It’s about twenty miles off the mainland, but it’s on the approach to Penobscot Bay.

Its first keeper lasted four years before going ashore to die. The second keeper also died after a short tenure. A tremendous storm in January 1839 forced a total reconstruction. Keeper Samuel Abbott was forced to take refuge in the attic with his family during the storm of February, 1842. He thought they were all going to die.

Samuel Burgess, was appointed the light’s keeper in 1853. He moved to the lighthouse with his wife Thankful and four of their children. Abbie was the oldest girl there.

Courtesy Elinor DeWire Collection.
She ran the light, freeing her father and brother to fish for lobster. The lamps used lard oil. “[T]hey were more difficult to tend than these lamps are, and sometimes they would not burn so well when first lighted, especially in cold weather when the oil got cold,” she wrote.

Abbe worried that, in the case of a great storm, she would be unable to move her invalid mother to safety. In December, 1855, she moved her mother’s bedroom to the lighthouse itself.

The cutter that was supposed to have supplied them in September had never shown up. By January, food and lamp oil were running low. Samuel Burgess sailed to Rockland for supplies. Shortly thereafter, a Nor'easter blew up.

Matinicus Light House. Designed by Alexander Parris, drawn by Brown and Hastings, engineers, March 28, 1848.
“...Father was away. Early in the day, as the tide arose, the sea made a complete breach over the rock, washing every movable thing away, and of the old dwelling not one stone was left upon another. The new dwelling was flooded, and the windows had to be secured to prevent the violence of the spray from breaking them in. As the tide came, the sea rose higher and higher, till the only endurable places were the lighttowers. If they stood we were saved, otherwise our fate was only too certain.

“But for some reason, I know not why, I had no misgivings, and went on with my work as usual. For four weeks, owing to rough weather, no landing could be effected on the rock. During this time we were without the assistance of any male members of our family. Though at times greatly exhausted with my labors, not once did the lights fail. Under God I was able to perform all my accustomed duties as well as my father's.

“You know the hens were our only companions… I said to mother: ‘I must try to save them.’ She advised me not to attempt it. The thought, however, of parting with them without an effort was not to be endured, so seizing a basket, I ran out a few yards after the rollers had passed and the sea fell off a little, with the water knee deep, to the coop, and rescued all but one. It was the work of a moment, and I was back in the house with the door fastened, but I was none too quick, for at that instant my little sister, standing at the window, exclaimed: "Oh, look! look there! the worst sea is coming.”

That wave swept the old house off the rock. 

The chickens proved their salvation. The Burgesses survived on a daily ration of a cup of cornmeal and an egg for the next three weeks.

Abbie Burgess Grant
Samuel Burgess lost his job after the election of 1860. He was replaced by Capt. John Grant. Abbie stayed on to train Grant and ended up marrying his youngest son, Isaac. They tended the Matinicus Rock Light for fourteen years, having four sons while there. They then moved to Whitehead Light off St. George.

Abbie Burgess Grant died in 1892 at the age of 53. “Sometimes I think the time is not far distant when I shall climb these lighthouse stairs no more,” she wrote. “I wonder if the care of the lighthouse will follow my soul after it has left this worn out body!”

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

America’s first black woman artist

Edmonia Lewis was a Neoclassicist, but her work explored issues of race and gender before these were even concepts.

The Death of Cleopatra, 1876, Edmonia Lewis, courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The first school of American women sculptors arose, paradoxically, in Italy, around Massachusetts-born Harriet Hosmer. These women went to Rome to take advantage of trained carvers and craftsmen and the access to pure white Carrara marble. Along with their male peers, they mined the rich vein of Neoclassicism. America was wealthy and the monument business was booming.

For women artists, there was the additional advantage of breaking away from the social strictures of home. Carving stone is hard physical work, considered uniquely unfeminine in the culture of the time.

Not that they escaped completely. There were plenty of conventional men among the expatriates. Henry James famously described them as “that strange sisterhood of American ‘lady sculptors’ who at one time settled upon the seven hills [of Rome] in a white, marmorean flock.”

Edmonia Lewis, c. 1870, courtesy National Portrait Gallery.
“One of the sisterhood,” James continued, “was a negress, whose colour, picturesquely contrasting with that of her plastic material, was the pleading agent of her fame.” Ouch.

He was referring to Edmonia Lewis, who is now considered the first prominent American female minority artist. Devoutly Catholic, she created many religious works, much of which are lost. Her oeuvre also included portrait busts and classical themes.

Lewis was born in Greenbush, Rensselaer County, New York, in 1844. Her father was of Haitian descent and her mother was Mississauga Ojibwe and African. Lewis was orphaned by the age of nine and adopted by two aunts who lived near Niagara Falls and sold souviners to tourists. At age 12, she was sent to a Free Baptist abolitionist school in central New York, and went from there to Oberlin College. After a childhood of absolute freedom, the strictures of civilization were uncomfortable.

Old Arrow Maker, 1872, is nominally an illustration of a passage from the Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It’s also an evocation of Lewis’ own childhood. Courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum.

“Until I was twelve years old I led this wandering life, fishing and swimming and making moccasins. I was then sent to school for three years… but was declared to be wild—they could do nothing with me,” she recollected.

At Oberlin, she was accused of poisoning two friends with an aphrodisiac, a nod to her Haitian background. From that point, she was a marked woman. Another accusation, of stealing, prevented her graduation and she moved to Boston to take up training in sculpture. Again, her relationship with her mentor and teacher, Edward Augustus Brackett, broke down into acrimony.

Lewis’ Portrait of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, c. 1866, was one of the sales that enabled her to leave Boston for Rome. Courtesy Museum of African American History.
Meanwhile, she was lauded as a success in the Abolitionist press, bringing commissions and attention before she was fully prepared to deal with them. She left for Rome and a new start.

At the height of her popularity in the ‘60s and ‘70s, her studio was frequented by visitors fascinated by her charm and exotic clothing and background.

Lewis’ most celebrated sculpture was the monumental Death of Cleopatra, created for the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Cleopatra killed herself after the death of her lover and ally, Mark Antony. In the 19th century imagination, she was Africa, he was Europe.

The public was accustomed to depictions of the dying queen as regal, calm and composed. Lewis’ depiction is of a sprawling, inelegant woman, on her throne, in the throes of death. As she did so often in her work, she was quietly looking at issues of race and gender in a novel way.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Monday Morning Art School: how to draw a boat

This exercise is like learning perspective. You’ll never draw this way in the real world, but practicing it will improve your harborside skills.

Cadet, by Carol L. Douglas
I tell my students that it’s best to paint a boat from the deck of another boat or a floating dock. If you can’t, then keep your distance. The tides in Rockport average about 12 feet. That means that if you stand on the public landing painting the lovely and graceful Heron, her angle is going to shift more than 20° over six hours. That’s an impossible perspective shift to manage.

There aren’t tides on lakes, obviously, but the waterline-view of a boat is still often the loveliest view.

Two figure eights. The top one is going to be stern-facing; the bottom one is going to be bow-facing. Thus the lines on the right are straight for the sides of the transom, curved for the bow. I made the bow loop slightly bigger because in practice the bow is likely to be higher.
I learned to draw boats based on figure eights. This is simple. You can master it in the studio before you go out to tackle the real thing. Since the bow of a boat is generally higher than the stern, I draw that end of the figure eight higher. The figure mustn’t be two circles, but you can make it as short or long as you wish. There’s no reason the two loops must be equal, although you should try it that way first. It’s easiest to do this when you’re not trying to be overly precise.

The fattest points of your figure eight are going to be the stern and bow of your boat. The keel curves in the front, so that line is drawn as a curve. The stern may curve in a fantail or be a flat transom. That varies by the boat.

The next step is to erase the extra lines and add a little shading. I took the liberty of adding a little extra height to the bow on the bottom.
In the top example, I put the transom forward; in the bottom drawing I put the bow forward. The important thing to realize is that the figure-eight is just like an optical illusion: it can go either way. Once I draw the curve or cut off the transom, I just erase the extra lines and gussy it up with some shadows. 

The actual direction of the boat is like an optical illusion; it can flip either way. The Scrumpy's notch is a little crooked; sorry.
In the very old days, small boats were sometimes clinker-built, meaning they had overlapping planks that made for beautiful curving lines beloved of artists. If you see those planks on a modern boat, they’re molded. I halfheartedly faked them in on my drawing, because I no longer entirely believe in them.

Dinghy, by Carol L. Douglas, shows how fast that can be done in practice. This was a workshop demo.
Drawing boats like this is like drawing perspective. You need to know how to draw 2-point perspective but you’ll never really draw those rays on your canvas while you’re working. It’s an exercise that teaches you a principle that you then incorporate into your work.

Once you see it as a process of squeezing and lengthening the horizontal shapes while leaving the heights the same, drawing boats is easy.
The same with this kind of boat drawing. The take-away lesson is this: as long as you have the relative heights of the pieces of your boat right, it can swing on its anchor all afternoon without significantly messing up your painting. Block it in with initial measurements and let it go from there. The parts will stretch out or grow shorter, but their heights will always remain the same. That liberates you from worrying when your boat—as it will—wanders around its mooring. I did the little sketch above to demonstrate that.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Professional artists, please take this survey

A young Alabama artist wants to ask you some questions. Help a girl out, would you?
American Eagle in Drydock, by Carol L. Douglas
Cat Pope is a young artist in Mobile Alabama who is serious about building a sustainable art business. She planned a trip to visit an established artist in her community, and shared her questions with me beforehand.

Why limit this to one artist’s experience? Drawing from her list, I created a short survey, which you can access here:

If you are a professional artist and can complete this, that’s great. If you can forward it to your working-artist friends, that’s even better.

What am I going to do with this data? Why, share it with you, of course.

It can't be all brushwork and happiness...
Here are more of Cat’s questions, which I’ve answered from my experience. If you have any advice you want to share with her, just write a comment here (not on Facebook) where she’ll see it.

How often do you replenish stock at a gallery? When I finish a new piece that is appropriate to a gallery, I approach the gallerist with it. Paintings take a long time to sell. Be patient.

How do you ship work? Small works, by USPS. Large works, through a dedicated local shipping company that makes the crate for me.

A shipping crate from back when I used to make my own.
Do you provide the gallery with your own contract, or rely on theirs? In Maine, things are pretty informal. I read their contract and ask questions and make annotations if necessary.

How often do you increase your prices, and by how much? Every few years. I survey the competition and my galleries for advice.

Do you ever offer discounts for repeat customers? Of course.

What made you choose your art market? I like the tradition of plein air painting on the Maine coast, and it’s a market with a history of making and buying landscape paintings.

Barnum Brook, by Carol L. Douglas, is located in the Adirondacks, which I still consider as part of my regional market.
What percentage of your time is spent creating work? Office duties? I shoot for a 50-50 division of time between painting and promotion.

How many off days do you take in a week for family and personal time? I try to work five days a week. In the summer, that’s impossible, but I remember that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

What advice would you tell young professionals who want to build a fine arts business, specifically in original paintings? Be serious—as you are—about a business plan up front. Frederic Edwin Church was from a very successful family. Their wealth enabled him to pursue an art career. In turn, he was expected to be business-like about it. It was his skill in business and promotion, as much as his prodigious talent, that made him the legend he is today. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

A strategic plan for the artist

Planning isn’t the artist’s strongest skill. Here’s a step-by-step model you can use.

Winter lambing, by Carol L. Douglas. When I stray from my narrow focus, it's for my own purposes and intentional.
My husband’s work is incremental. His current project has a three-year timeline. The members of his team have a clear idea of the end product. Each person disciplines him- or herself to finishing their bits each week. Planning has to be part of their process, or the end result would be chaos.

Artists work alone and usually finish a piece in a few hours, days or weeks. Then we move on to the next piece. Our planning is limited, and many of us resist it. “I’m a free spirit,” we tell ourselves.

Yesterday’s post touched a chord. I messaged with artists from Mobile to Maine about how to write a strategic plan.

Apple tree swing, by Carol L. Douglas. One of my goals is to limit how many plein air events I do.
Here are the steps:
  • Find yourself someone smarter than you to work with. Lots of artists have business backgrounds; I don’t. Ask that person questions. Ask gallerists for advice. And don’t forget your spouse. After you, she/he is the biggest stakeholder in your process.
  • Identify what you want to make and sell. In my case, that’s landscape paintings, workshops, and a weekly class.
  • Identify marketing channels, including cost-free publicity. Social media marketing is so fluid that what works today will certainly not be effective five years down the road, so be prepared to revisit this question regularly.
  • Julie Richard suggests that you do a SWOT analysis. I didn’t, but I think it’s a good idea. That means you identify your:
  • My Acadia workshop is important to me both personally and professionally.
  • Many artists work other jobs to support themselves (including child care and homemaking). They need to figure out how many hours a week they can honestly give their art careers. Other artists are at retirement age or have retired spouses. You’ll be frustrated if you don’t face the limitation of time honestly.
  • Who are your target clients? Bobbi Heath and I drew up profiles of our clients based on our sales experience. We each realized we have two separate client bases, one for teaching and one for painting.
  • What are your objectives? Be realistic. When I first did this exercise with Jane Bartlett many ago, I said I wanted to be earning $10,000 a year. (Money was a lot cheaper back then.) That seemed modest compared to what I was earning as a designer. I failed to make a fundamental calculation. At the price points I’d set for my work, I couldn’t possibly produce enough paintings to hit that goal. I was selling well enough, but still coming up broke.

    The answer to that, by the way, was not to raise my prices to an unrealistic level. It was just to ride through those years. Knowing they were coming would have helped my financial planning, though.
  • From your objectives, set some concrete goals. Commit to them. Most of my working week is spent working toward them. They keep me focused.
  • How are you going to make those goals a reality? By setting some action items. These may include:
    • A calendar of show applications with the dates firmly inked into your personal calendar;
    • An advertising schedule;
    • A work schedule as in, “I’m going to finish six large studio paintings by May.”
    • A budget—I realize that you’d like this budget to be zero, but that’s not practical. It costs money to make art and it costs money to advertise.
  • Write it down. It doesn’t need to be complicated; my current one is barely a page long.
  • Create accountability. I use Bobbi Heath’s system for managing multiple projects, but you might need an accountability partner. Make a system and use it.
  • Go back and look at the plan on a regular basis.
Give yourself room to be flexible. My watercolor workshop on the American Eagle is a new thing.

Does this mean you can’t be flexible? No. If you see an opportunity, grab it—as long as it doesn’t take you totally off track. if it does, ask yourself if your current plan is really your best plan, or does it need revision?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Want to make a living in the arts?

Pay attention to the numbers and develop a strategic plan.
Three Graces, Carol L. Douglas (courtesy Camden Falls Gallery). Wherever I go, that's where the party's at, especially on the Camden docks. That's part of my business plan.
Yesterday, we started our day with a tsunami warning scrolling across our phones. Later, they issued a clarification; Accuweather had misread a test alarm. The mighty Atlantic floated serenely on.

A tsunami would have messed up my plans, which were to drive to Ellsworth to attend the Maine Arts Commission’s Arts Iditarod.

I’ve written about my own strategic planning. It’s tremendously important for the artist who wants to go from dedicated amateur to professional. I was chuffed to hear Julie Richard, Maine Arts Commission Executive Director, ask how many artists or organizations have a strategic plan. I wasn’t so chuffed by the response, which was pretty spotty. In fact, I was the only working artist in the group who had such a plan.

Parker Dinghy, by Carol L. Douglas. A commission from a day on the Camden docks.
A strategic plan is just a disciplined exercise in developing goals and objectives for your business venture. If you’re a Maine artist who wants to take that all-important step in self-development, I encourage you to attend the last of the meetings, at Lewiston on February 14. You can register here. Mush!

Artists, for the most part, operate outside a corporate structure. For us, a blueprint is critically important, and yet we’re loathe to embrace planning. When I did my first strategic planning, it seemed a strange and wondrous concept. Twenty years later, I get it. Don’t let the oddity of the process deter you. It really works.

Athabasca glacier, by Carol L. Douglas. My plan never involves giving up fun.
About 22,000 Mainers make their living in the arts, and we’d do a better job of it if we were more organized. That starts with facts about our target audience. There are, of course, a similar set of facts for every locale. If you’re not in Maine, you’ll need to ferret them out on your own.

Arts and cultural tourists tend to spend more, stay longer, and come back more frequently than other kinds of visitors to Maine, according to Maine Cultural Tourism Coordinator Abbe Levin. They’re also more likely to move here after retirement. The Maine Office of Tourism is a big player in drawing them here, although most of their efforts are invisible to us Mainers. 95% of their marketing is done out of state. This year, VisitMaine will have around 3.5 million hits, and the office will send out mailings to a list of more than 800,000 visitors.

“How many visitors are too many?” asked a participant. While that’s something that occurs to us in July, the coastal economy needs people from away.

Russ Island at High Tide by Carol L. Douglas. It was painting off the American Eagle that inspired the Age of Sail workshop this June.
Maine currently sees about 40 million visitors a year, with annual growth of 8-9%. To compare, New York City, which is America’s top-drawing tourist destination, sees 60 million visitors a year. Yosemite gets 4 million people a year. We are, in fact, a very big deal, but we have the capacity to accommodate more, according to Levin. That’s particularly true during the shoulder seasons and in places farther up north.

The question for Maine artists is how to engage these visitors. Is it with more gallery representation, a self-run gallery, signage, advertising, painting on the dock or chatting up tourists?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

#metoo and the artist’s model

Rules for working with the nude women in your life.

Couple, by Carol L. Douglas. It's no big deal to ask a figure model to model clothed, but it's decidedly a big deal to ask a portrait model to strip.
I’ve written before about working with model Michelle Long—ironically, in the wake of sex abuse allegations against photographer Terry Richardson. That was in 2014, before #metoo. Today, artist Chuck Close is in the spotlight for making models uncomfortable with inappropriate comments.

The balance of power is vastly disparate between a superstar painter and his models. However, whenever one person is clothed and the other is nude, the relationship is always unequal. Stupid comments, gestures and suggestions that would be trivial in any other setting take on different meaning when one person is clothed and the other isn’t.

Death of Boudicca, by Carol L. Douglas
It rolls both ways, by the way. I vividly recall a model discussing her boyfriend’s schlong from the model stand. She was never called back. There are other models whom I used downtown but not in my home studio; they creeped me out a little too much to have them know where I lived.

Michelle, of course, was always the consummate professional. That’s more than just an attitude about students; it means she could take and hold a pose, was reliable, and was a partner in the intellectual process of developing the painting.

Artnet recently published The Dos and Don’ts of Working With Nude Models: 6 Steps for Keeping Things Professional. If you work with nude models, it’s important reading.

Reclining figure, by Carol L. Douglas
Communicate up front whether or not the model will pose nude. 
The assumption for most figure-drawing classes is that the models will pose nude. For portrait classes, the assumption is that the model will be clothed. Don’t switch this around without discussion.

Don’t touch the models.
There are times you just want to grab the model’s foot and pull it forward three inches. But you simply don’t manhandle other people. Be patient. I’m not a hugger, which saves me infinite trouble. The same affectionate gesture that’s meaningless between two clothed persons is different between a model in a thin robe and a fully-clothed artist.

The Beggar, by Carol L. Douglas
Put the model’s comfort before the artist’s interests.
The model for The Beggar was physically strong. I expected she would tell me if she was in pain, but she didn’t. She came out of that pose in tears. That was when I realized that some models won’t complain no matter what’s asked of them; their perception of our relationship is different from mine. Never again did I ask a model to hold such a difficult pose. I also rigged up a trapeze so that models could support their bodies in vertical poses.

It ought to go without saying that you provide space heaters, you wash linens and the model stand between every session, you pad the model stand, and you provide a private changing space. You prohibit traffic in and out of the studio while the pose is in session.

Don’t ignore red flags.
I had an idea that I’d wrap my models in plastic to paint them (it didn’t work out like I thought it would). I talked about it with them beforehand, because treating a human being like a vegetable was, frankly, weird.

Decide what environment is most comfortable for you.
I know there are studios that strictly enforce a ‘no talking’ rule. That wouldn’t be mine; you try keeping high school students silent. I have ended up knowing every model I’ve worked with. They’re not slabs of meat. Other artists and models prefer silence.

Don’t take pictures.
Artnet said “don’t bring your cellphone,” but what they really mean is, “don’t take photos.” I have broken this rule when something has confused me in a live session. But I never revisited these photos anyway. Taking photos of the model is a ghastly faux pas and an invasion of the model’s privacy. It should never be done in a classroom setting. Never.

Note: I'll be at What's Nude in Boothbay Harbor Saturday, February 10 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM.