Paint Schoodic

We're offering three workshops for 2020, at Acadia National Park and aboard the schooner American Eagle. Register before January 1 for an Early Bird Discount!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Uncovering your mark and more


Two opportunities to learn in mid-coast Maine
Meeting Up, by Ann Trainor Domingue, acrylic on canvas
Baby Joshua and his mom are doing great, so I can concentrate on work again. There are several things I should have told you about and missed with the excitement of the last two weeks. Here are two very important ones.

I’m bringing Ann Trainor Domingue to teach a day-long workshop in my studio because she does something that seems magical to me, and I want to know how. Ann paints lyrical, mysterious, narrative paintings, seemingly drawn from within her own psyche. “I love the same things you do about New England. I just reflect on them in a different light,” she says. Annie’s developed a series of exercises to loosen up our thinking, and they will be good for everyone, no matter what their style.

Here's Annie!
Uncovering Your Mark, with Ann Trainor Domingue

Sat June 6th, 10-4
Carol L. Douglas Studio
394 Commercial Street, Rockport, ME 04856
Cost $95 per person.

Confused by too many options? Feel uninspired? Need help to get back to your artmaking? Uncovering Your Mark workshop could be just what you need to find your way!

Discover personally meaningful imagery and ideas through a fun guided exploration of things you love. Bring clarity and focus to help make sense as you implement fresh ideas for this phase of your lifelong art journey.

Think quietly about what kinds of things energize you. Sort and combine insights to form something new that feels more authentic by finding your mark.

Take time to work on loose sketches to explore these exciting new ideas and directions to help you stay on your path.

This workshop is a hands-on class aimed at artists of all levels. The first part of the class is a process of guided inquiry. Then, students will apply their self-discoveries through small scale sketching exercises and preliminary color play. It’s strictly limited to twelve students so you’ll get lots of attention. Every style is welcome.

Ann Trainor Domingue is a graduate of Rhode Island College with a BA Studio degree in painting. Her career has included working in adver­tising, as a teacher and as a painter. She is represented in public collections and galleries nationwide.

Download a flyer here or a registration form here.

Tin-foil hat, by Carol L. Douglas. You don't have to learn about painting reflections by looking at a vase!
Next session of weekly classes in my Rockport studio starts next week.

Some people wonder what we paint when the winter weather drives our class indoors. I build still lives, but they aren’t typical. For example, yesterday’s creation was a clash of greens including pine boughs, gift bags, wine bottles and more. The idea was to learn to mix and use a medley of greens without using any green out of a tube. That's excellent preparation for spring, which really is just around the corner.

Marie told me, “I always come in and see a still life and think, ‘ugh’, but then I get into it and it’s great.” I’m not interested in still-life as a genre either, but I think painting from life is critically important, so I make an effort to make them unusual and interesting.

Back it up (hard drive and bubble wrap), by Carol L. Douglas
Working in my studio gives us a great opportunity to focus on color theory and technique. We have more time to concentrate on mixing colors and brushwork than we do in the field, where the demands of the scene takes over.

Our next mid-coast Maine painting session will meet on Tuesday mornings, from 10-1. The dates are:

February 25
March 3
March 10 (followed by a two-week break while I hare off to Argentina)
March 31
April 7
April 14

Peppers, by Carol L. Douglas
Painters are encouraged to broaden their skills in drawing, brushwork and color. Your own individual style will be nurtured. We’ll learn how to paint boldly, with fresh, clean color, to build commanding compositions, and to use hue, value and line to draw the eye through our paintings.

Watercolor, oils, pastels and acrylics are welcome. Because it’s a small group, I can work with painters of all levels. The fee is $200 for the six-week session, and we meet at 394 Commercial Street in Rockport.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Monday Morning Art School: softly, softly


The edge is where everything is happening. There are many ways to control it.
Brad Marshall’s painting of coral in Maui (unfinished).
Edges are where one shape ends and another starts. This might mean a border between two things, or it might be a fold or shadow within an object. Either way, there are many ways to approach edges. One way to control the line is the lost and found edge.  Softness is another.

My friend Brad Marshall is working on a painting of a coral reef right now, and it’s a stellar example of keeping it soft. He graciously allowed me to use his work here.
Brad Marshall’s color block-in. He’s soft right from the start.
We’ve talked a lot about the importance of line in painting. Sharp edges with high contrast draw your attention. But to be effective, they require other passages where edges aren’t as crisp. In the case of this reef, Brad was seeking a special optical effect of being underwater, where things are blurry and greenish-blue.  

Looking at the screen on which you’re reading this, you’ll note items in the periphery of your vision. The screen is in focus, but the items on the edges are blurred. This is how our eyes work—we have a highly developed cone of vision, and some peripheral vision to keep us oriented. You can take that same principle into your painting, to direct the eye into looking at what you want it to notice.
“Painted midground coral (except for that little one in the crevice. Keeping edges on soft. A little lighter and darker to push it forward from the background,” said Brad.
Brad started his painting softly because of the subject. But it’s also important because the coral at the bottom of the canvas has the potential to be the strongest draw. It’s lighter in color, and it’s closer to the viewer. But Brad, being a pro, isn’t going to be suckered into that rookie mistake. By keeping the painting very soft at the beginning, he is able to control where and what he concentrates on.

This is a studio painting being built in layers. That gives Brad ample time to work with thin paint handled wet-on-wet. In addition to his brushwork, he developed softness by carefully controlling value and hue shifts. Even in his central motifs he started with an underlying natural blur.

“Here is a close-up detail. I wanted to give it a soft-focus look.”
In oil painting, soft edges can be made by dragging a brush from one color to another, or painting directly into another color. Oil paints are absolute champs at blending and softening. So too is watercolor: washes and wet paper will assure you that edges stay soft until you want them to be defined.

Gouache and acrylic (correctly applied and not just mimicking watercolor) are not nearly as useful for blending. However, you can achieve the same effect of softened edges by employing optical blending.

In fact, since the 19th century, many oil painters (myself included) have generally eschewed the broad range of blending that oil paints offer. We’ve been influenced by Impressionism. We use flat blocks of closely analogous color to get the effect of blending without the brushwork.
Cliff Rock, Appledore, 1903, Childe Hassam, courtesy Indianapolis Museum of Art
Consider the Childe Hassam painting, above. He used optical blending to create the effect of blurriness that Brad is getting with brushwork. Note that the top of the rock outcrop is the same value as the sea. Your eye doesn’t notice the edge any more than it would have had he blended the edges with a brush.

Hassam used a staggering array of brushwork in his painting to create a variety of edges. However, none of it was done with traditional blending. Looked at closely, each color is distinct from its fellows.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Painters of the middle class


There’s no shame in painting what people love, as long as you do it well.
Two chattering housewives, 1655, Nicolaes Maes, courtesy Dordrechts Museum
If I weren’t in Buffalo, I could fly to see Nicolaes Maes: Dutch Master of the Golden Age, opening on February 22 at the National Gallery in London. (London and Los Angeles are roughly equidistant from my house, so that’s not as daft as it seems.)

The Dutch Golden Age (the 17th century, roughly) was when trade brought prosperity to the Netherlands. That, in turn, fostered a flowering of scientific thought, military might and culture. The conditions that made this possible were the nation’s recent liberation from Spanish rule, a solid Protestant work ethic, and the development of a new kind of business: the corporation.

The Dutch East India Company was founded in 1602. It was the first multinational corporation and it was created by exchanging shares on the first modern stock exchange. This may seem humdrum to us, but at a time when for most of the world wealth and poverty were inherited conditions, it allowed for the creation of thriving merchant and middle classes.
The Eavesdropper, 1657, Nicolaes Maes, courtesy Dordrechts Museum
Until the Dutch Golden Age, great art was commissioned by extremely wealthy people, who essentially dictated the tastes of the times. Suddenly, middle class people were buying art. This radically changed what artists painted.

The Dutch Reformed church and Dutch nationalism informed the aesthetic of Golden Age painting. Catholic Baroque was out; simplicity and Calvinist austerity were in. Dutch art concentrated on reality and ordinary life at all levels of society. The focus on realism is why the period is sometimes called Dutch Realism.

Always that realism was invested with meaning. Significant in this worldview was a rapid growth in landscape painting, particularly as it represented unique Dutch values and scenes. A windmill on a flat plain or a boat at sea may seem like tropes today, but they were symbols of heroism to the audience of the time.

The Dutch painted lavish still lives that seem overly full and overripe to modern eyes. They were simultaneously objects of beauty, symbols of abundance, and full of symbolic meaning. Among these are floral vanitas paintings, done with scientific accuracy while warning us of our ultimate destiny.

The Virtuous Woman, c. 1656, Nicolaes Maes, courtesy Wallace Collection
Genre painting underwent a renaissance, because home and hearth were as important to these middle-class buyers as they were irrelevant to princes elsewhere. Nicolaes Maes was among the most important of these genre painters. After studying with Rembrandt for five years, he hung out his shingle, first in Dordrecht and then in Amsterdam. Like so many artists, he didn’t specialize in the beginning, painting whatever was necessary to make a living. After about 1660 he focused on lucrative portrait paintings. It was a good strategy, because he died a very wealthy man.

The contemporary American artist has two broad market paths open to him. The first is to produce conceptual art that is meaningful to high-flyers in New York. The second is to produce work that appeals to middle-class buyers. If the latter is your target audience you can learn a lot by studying the careers and subjects of Maes and his peers.

There are those who sneer at plein air painting even as it develops into the largest modern movement in painting. But the critical message of the Dutch Golden Age is that there’s no shame in painting what people love, as long as you do it well.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

When things don’t go as planned


I'm sorry I've missed posting on this blog, but I was overtaken by events.
Baby Joshua and his Nuk, by Carol L. Douglas.
Last Saturday was to be my daughter’s baby shower. I had an orderly exit planned. I’d write my Friday blog, pack my car, stop in Rockport, Massachusetts to drop off work at Folly Cove Fine Art, and head to Buffalo. All that ended with a phone call. Laura was preeclamptic and they were taking the baby at 31 weeks. He had passed the threshold of viability so it was safe for him to be born.

I’ve faced my own health trials with equanimity. It’s different when it’s your kid. Then, the need to do something is almost overwhelming. My husband and I dropped everything and headed out. It took us two days to get to Buffalo, since our trip collided with back-to-back winter storms, but we were here in time for baby Joshua’s entry into the world.
The smallest preemie diaper, left, and the one Joshua is in, right. It's miraculous that such tiny babies are born with everything they need to not just survive, but thrive.
Laura’s blood pressure refuses to drop, so she’s parked in a hospital bed. She is anxious to be sprung. But she’s really better off than when she goes home and has to drive every day to see her son. Her careful plan did not allow for weeks in the NICU and the added cost on a high- deductible insurance plan, so she’s trying to strategize to minimize the damage.

I spent five weeks in hospital when she was born and was equally anxious about similar things. But from this vantage point, I know that the problems fade and the turning point is what matters. We’re designed to be ambitious at thirty and wise at sixty. That’s one reason we live in intergenerational family relationships.
My son-in-law drawing his son in the NICU.
Baby Joshua is perfectly miniaturized and wonderfully robust for a 31-week preemie. He rapidly learned to grasp with his tiny fingers and pulled out his vent. Now he’s on oxygen and he’s yanked the cannula out, too. He’s tolerating tiny amounts of formula and I’m almost certain he’s got eyeballs under those resolutely-closed lids.

A nurse showed us the smallest preemie diaper, which I could use to bandage a finger. “Even the smallest twenty-something-weeks ones are born with all the parts they need to survive,” she said. “I don’t see how anyone could look at that and not believe,” she added.

I asked staff members why they thought this small Catholic hospital has become the go-to place to have babies. Certainly, the care is top-notch. “It’s a good place to work and that means the staff are happy,” said a nurse manager. I know my anesthesiologist friend came here thirty years ago because he did not want to do abortions. I have to believe that the Catholic culture of life has an impact. There’s certainly no fatalism in this NICU.

St. Francis covered in snow outside Labor and Delivery. We're expecting another winter storm today. 
Joshua’s parents have very little contact with him. He’s in a temperature-controlled isolette, and all work done on him is through portholes. Aaron and Laura can gently stroke his arm, diaper him and take his temperature. Once every twelve hours they are allowed to hold him. It’s hard on the parents, but little Joshua doesn’t seem to care. He’s busy with his own things.

Because it was too late to cancel the baby shower, the hosts turned it into a 0th birthday party. Most out-of-town guests drove downtown to see the parents, threatening to swamp the new parents. Some resisted. “I’m on a ‘need-to-know’ basis, not a ‘need-to-see’ basis,” a wise guest said. I appreciated that attitude.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Where are they now?

I asked last summer’s workshop students to share what they’re working on now. Some are painting like mad; others are weighed down with work, elder-care or other responsibilities, but they’re all doing art. That, to me, is their greatest success.

Ann Trainor Domingue


“I’m using small collage pieces to design much larger paintings. Exploring more graphic, simpler design, with my ‘relationship’ series. I’m basically continued on my coastal-inspired work but contemplating how to include aspects of the sailing adventure. In the above watercolor-and-ink I have used a rocky coastline with evergreens as found along the coasts we sailed past on the American Eagle.

 “Collage has been new for me. It is a way to simplify my designs, and I love using found small flat papers, packaging, fabric to build design I wouldn’t have using a drawing tool.”

(Note: Ann Trainor Domingue will be teaching a workshop in my studio on June 6. For more information, click here.)

Lisa Magoun


“I've been painting since this summer in watercolor.  I also take a class painting in acrylics with a palette knife. I sometimes run out of subjects and should paint the same thing more than once.  But I rarely do.” 

Jennifer Johnson


“I am currently enjoying a year full of endless summer by painting in Australia. Most of my efforts have been attempted inside because the annoying bush flies are worse than ever and it is hard to paint wearing a black bug net/veil.”

Patty Mabie


I am ‘wintering’ in Florida for the first time! We are staying in Key West until the end of February, then driving across the country and back in March, to visit our kids in Birmingham and LA, with stops in New Orleans, Austin, Tucson, the Grand Canyon and who knows where else along the way. Then Myrtle beach in April, and Colorado after that to go to the Plein Air Convention and do some painting with friends in the mountains.

I bring paints everywhere and even knock one out in the car once in a while (while someone else is driving, obviously), with my Guerilla pochade box and some Gamsol in the cup holder. I’ve been doing boat studies and palm trees. I found some local art organizations and a plein air group that meets on Wednesdays here, which is great. I’m also doing an online mentoring program with Matt Smith through Tucson Art Academy Online.

Rhea Zweifler


I've been very interested in paths and keying up local color and the interplay of compliments together in color instead of just copying one of the Group of Seven.

Jennifer Little


Since I returned from Maine, I have had more energy for painting than I've had since my twenties! That week of painting really opened up something, so thank you!  

Currently I am working from photos, some from Schoodic, but a theme I'm working on is related to humans and nature/the sea. I use family photos. There is something about the atmosphere in the candid shots - family dynamics, some have tension, some so serene. I am also exploring glazing geometric and hopefully dynamic skies with these organic sea scenes.

Rebecca Bense


I painted a study of sky every day in June, July and August. Then September came and I went back to my ‘real’ life, thinking I was going to keep this up for a year, but I found on day 10 of September that I was 5 days in arrears and what I had done was phoning it in. So, I stopped. Long and short: not much painting has been going on. I find myself exhausted. I decided to keep a sketch book-journal/planner and I have been doing these mandala type doodles out of ink and whatever I might have a hand. I am finding these so much fun and so little pressure to produce something. Also (not coincidentally) my drawing skills have improved.

I am teaching a drop-in watercolor class and about 80 students at a Montessori school. They range from 3 to 14 years of age. I also teach a differently-abled adults art class.

I get together with my plein air friends as much as I can. We paint outside when possible and often have at least one meal together. Nice bunch of peeps!

Sandy Waldo


The holidays are over and now winter settles in. With the business of the season painting became less of a priority. We had some snow over the weekend which inspired this view of my favorite walking trail.

Mary Ellen Pedersen


I worked on this for months in multiple versions. The boat was too big - too small - didn’t fit the right angles. I was working from a photo.  Then I just said it was my painting, not the photo, and was free. I was able to be creative with it and it now hangs in my daughter’s apartment in Tennessee. I actually like my dory and the age of the vessel. I think it looks old and well used. The water and sky are a combination of dry brush with paint and paper.

Robin Miller

I have applied new learnings to an old backlog of unfinished projects with commendable results, and completed three new paintings. They were not, alas, painted outside. I probably won't do much plein air until I can retire. But the new tools have definitely been helpful in moving through projects more quickly. And, since I tend to think of my work as a giant art project anyway, it has made that more fun as well. All in all, the Schoodic Workshop was excellent mind expansion, artistically and otherwise.

You can learn more about my workshops aboard schooner American Eagle here, or at Schoodic here. Rumor has it I’ll be teaching in New Mexico in September, but since the details aren’t yet finalized, just send me an email if you want to learn more.