To the ramparts, woman! The future of women artists rests in part with you!
|My first event this spring is Santa Fe Plein Air Fiesta, so I'm getting into a New Mexico kind of mood. This pasture sketch is from my last trip there.|
Last night I had a brief chat with my pal Mary Byrom. I want to go down to draw in Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth, NH. Strawbery Banke is unlike other living history museums in that it is a real neighborhood of real houses, restored where they originally stood. It dates back to 1630, when Captain Walter Neale chose the area to build a settlement. It was saved from the wrecking ball of 1950s urban renewal by historic preservationists and opened as a museum in 1965. It has unadorned simplicity and solid shapes that make you itch to draw.
Mary lives and works in southern Maine, so Portsmouth is her stomping ground. She recently did some delightful pen-and-wash sketches of Strawbery Banke. When she put them on Facebook, I asked her if she’d be game to join me. “I have to wait for this foot to heal,” I said.
Last night she texted to see how I was doing. I’m off to Damariscotta this morning to have the stitches removed and the foot released from its bandages. As of now I can’t do any significant walking. I don’t know what the doctor is going to tell me, or whether I’m going to have the other foot operated on immediately. It’s frustrating to watch my friend doing such lovely work from the vantage point of my couch. I’m heartily sick of my couch.
|The Rio Grande in New Mexico, by Carol L. Douglas|
Mary told me she’s teaching three classes right now. I whistled in admiration. The last time I did that was in 2008. I was ten years younger then.
That doesn’t sound so hard, but it is really a lot of work for the solo practitioner, who must advertise, prep, teach and clean up on her own. Every hour spent teaching means at least an hour of preparation.
Meanwhile, Mary’s been out doing small pen-and-wash sketches all winter. They grow steadily more wonderful. All of which points out an essential principle of painting: if you want to improve, you have to keep doing it. That’s true for beginners and it’s equally true for old pros like Mary.
|Study at Ghost Ranch, by Carol L. Douglas|
Bobbi Heath and Poppy Balser are two other women artists I’m tight with. I know something about their day-to-day life. Neither of them is resting on their laurels, either. Both juggle the day-to-day business of an art career with the day-to-day business of living, while simultaneously driving themselves to improve and broaden their skills.
I’ve written here, here, here, here, here (and probably elsewhere as well) about the fabulous misogyny of the art world. If that ship is righted—and it will be—it will be because women artists like Mary, Poppy, and Bobbi have worked so long and so hard to produce work. Their tireless efforts will open the door for younger women artists to be taken seriously right out of the gate.
|Around the Bend, by Carol L. Douglas. New Mexico is surprisingly green in April.|
Meanwhile, I’m trapped on the couch with a damn dicky foot. I realize it’s only been two weeks, but it feels like an eternity since I last had a brush in my hand. To the ramparts, Carol! The future rests with you!
It's about time for you to consider your summer workshop plans. Join me on the American Eagle, at Acadia National Park, at Rye Art Center, or at Genesee Valley this summer.