Paint Schoodic

We're offering four workshops for 2020, at Acadia National Park, Pecos, NM, Tallahassee, FL, and aboard the schooner American Eagle.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Women in the wild


Women are the majority of plein air painters, but some are afraid to be outside working alone.
The Alaska Range, by Carol L. Douglas
Louise-Joséphine Sarazin de Belmont was a landscape painter who traveled around Italy painting ‘views’ at a time when nice women were expected to be chaperoned in public. She made a tidy income for herself in the process. She’s one of two female artists represented in the National Gallery’s True to Nature: Open-Air Painting in Europe, 1780–1870, which runs until May. 

The other is Rosa Bonheur, who is best known for her animal paintings (including The Horse Fair). Bonheur was a one-off, refusing to be pigeonholed by society. She dressed in men’s clothing and openly lived with women. She didn’t want to be male; instead, she felt that trousers and short hair gave her an advantage when handling large animals.

Clouds over Teslin Lake, the Yukon, by Carol L. Douglas
We have an idea that 19th-century society was extremely repressed, but Bonheur was its most famous woman painter. Among those who admired her work was Queen Victoria. Bonheur, like Sarazin de Belmont, was an astute businesswoman, able to earn enough by age 37 to buy herself the Chateau de By.

Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot are the best-known 19th century painters today; why weren’t they as popular then? In part, they suffered from their restricted subject matter.
Western Ontario forest, by Carol L. Douglas
“Morisot isn’t going out with all of her paint tools, like everybody else, and setting up along the river and painting all day,” said curator Mary Morton in this thoughtful essay by Karen Chernick. “That’s absolutely because of the limitations of her gender and her class. She’s a nice upper middle-class French woman, and it’s just not seemly. In the end, her most accomplished pictures tend to be things she can do indoors.”

It’s something I’ve been thinking about recently, after reading a plaintive letter from a woman afraid to paint alone outdoors. “Can you give me tips for safety?” she asked.

Cobequid Bay Farm, Hants County, Nova Scotia, by Carol L. Douglas
Since the plein air painting scene is predominantly female, many women have made the adjustment to working alone. I’ve camped and painted alone through the Atlantic states and for 10,000 miles through Alaska and Canada with my daughter. I’ve been unnerved by tourists acting idiotically, but I’ve never been bothered by human predators.

But perhaps I’m not harassed because I’m so old, this blogger suggests. I don’t think so; I’ve been doing it for a long time. And I’m not the only woman interested in painting on the road. Deborah Frey McAllister created the International Sisterhood of the Traveling Paints on Facebook. Debby calls herself a ‘free range artist.’

Hermit's Peak, El Porviner, NM, by Carol L. Douglas
It’s possible to run into trouble anywhere. In my experience, there are stranger people in town parks than in national forests. The worst thing that’s ever happened to me was being warned away from drug deals. But be alert and aware of your surroundings. 

The subject is something I'll address when I speak to the Knox County Art Society on tips for the traveling painter. That’s Tuesday, March 10, at 7 PM in the Marianne W. Smith Gallery at the Lord Camden Inn, 24 Main Street, Camden. The talk is open to the public; the suggested donation is $5.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Paint in beautiful Pecos, New Mexico, September 13-18, 2020

New Mexico’s a vastly different landscape, yet has the same long views and limpid light that so captivate me about Maine.
Dry Wash, by Carol L. Douglas
It takes a lot to get me to teach anywhere but Maine these days. But there’s another place I love to paint. I haven’t taught in New Mexico in more than a decade, and it’s time to go back.

The village of Pecos, NM lies along the Pecos River, which flows out of the Santa Fe National Forest. Nearby, Pecos National Historical ParkGlorieta Pass, and Pecos Benedictine Monastery provide superb mountain views. Ranches and small adobe settlements dot the landscape. This is a landscape of colorful skies, hoodoos, dry washes, pine wildernesses, horses, and pickup trucks. Yet it’s within commuting distance of Santa Fe, so accommodations, necessities and world-class galleries are just a short drive away.
Horses at a ranch in Pecos, NM. Photo courtesy Jane Chapin.
I first painted in the Pecos area during a plein air event in 2018. I was supposed to range all over the state, but I loved Pecos so much I stayed right there. Then I came back the following winter. I’ve explored the ridges and canyons, the river valley, horse pastures, fallow bottomlands, and I think I have a great itinerary planned for you.
Old farmyard, Pecos, NM, by Carol L. Douglas. If I were going to buy a second home, this would be it.
I’m delighted to offer this opportunity in conjunction with the brand-new Pecos Art Center (about which I’ll be telling you more soon). This organization was founded to bring arts and culture to the local community. Each workshop instructor is asked to present a program for local school students before or after their workshop. This augments local art education and gives back to the local community. “In Pecos, we believe we live in a unique and authentic place and want to give something back to the community who has welcomed us to paint there,” said organizer Jane Chapin. “We want to preserve its character while leaving a footprint of opportunities for the next generation.”
Adobe and beautiful mountains. Photo courtesy Jane Chapin.
This workshop is aimed at helping painters refine their personal technique in plein air. All media are welcome: watercolor, pastel, oils and acrylics. This is an intensive class, with morning and afternoon on-site painting sessions and lunch-time demos. Classes are kept small so every student gets the attention they deserve.

My friend Jimmy Stewart critiquing my painting along the river bottom. Photo courtesy Jane Chapin.
Opportunities for accommodations are varied. There are seasonal rentals in the area, or commute up from Santa Fe if you want a more urban setting.

The workshop fee is $600. That includes five days of highly-personalized instruction and a social gathering on Sunday evening, where you’ll meet your classmates. Email me here for more information.

Snow at higher elevations (downdraft), by Carol L. Douglas
Carol Douglas has 20 years’ experience teaching students of all levels in watercolor, oils, acrylics and pastels. “Some teachers are good artists, and some artists are good teachers, but it is rare to find a good artist who is also a good teacher. Carol is one of them. She will teach you the fundamentals you need to know, which a lot of teachers gloss over without explanation, but she also takes you to the next level, wherever you are on the learning curve.” (David Blanchard)

Monday, February 24, 2020

Monday Morning Art School: why these specific paints?

All real-world limited palettes have gaps in them. Paired primaries work best.
The Athabasca River, by Carol L. Douglas
Savvy folk in the far north often reserve their peregrinations until March. That way, winter’s back is broken by the time they arrive back home. I knew that meant my current painting class would be scattering to the four winds soon. I had a neat little map of lessons laid out for them before they left town. Then my new grandson arrived early, and they didn’t get them in order. I’ll try to correct that here.

The three primary colors we learned in primary school are red, yellow and blue. Forget about any other color space you've learned about; they're not relevant to painting.
Above are the three primary colors in subtractive color. This is the color space in which painters work, and it predates modern color theory. These three colors are the foundational building blocks on which all other colors are made.

Mention this to your nearest teenager, and he’s likely to pepper you with comments about other color systems. Ignore him. This is the color system in which pigments work.

Mix the primary colors in the first illustration with their neighbors and you end up with the secondary colors. A secondary color is always across the color wheel from a primary color.
Back in elementary school, we learned that if you mix a primary color with one adjacent to it, you get the secondary colors:
  • Green (blue and yellow)
  • Orange (yellow and red)
  • Purple (red and blue).

Importantly, a secondary color is always across the color wheel from a primary color. When you want to dull down (reduce the chroma) a color in a hurry, the fastest way to do it is to mix it with whatever’s sitting across the color wheel.

All blues are not created equal: the wavelengths of common painting blues, from Multispectral Imaging of Paintings in the Infrared to Detect and Map Blue Pigments, by John K. Delaney, Elizabeth Walmsley, Barbara H. Berrie, and Colin F. Fletcher, Scientific Examination of Art: Modern Techniques in Conservation and Analysis, the National Academies Press, 2005
All limited palettes are based on a simple red-blue-yellow color scheme. Unfortunately, in the real world, there are no pure paint pigments. They’re either warm or too cool, or they have overtones that muddy them up in certain mixes. This means that all real-world limited palettes have gaps in them, places you just can't get to with the available pigments.

In practical terms, this can be useful to the beginning artist, as limited-palette paintings always feel integrated. That’s because they hit a limited range of notes. For the beginner, that avoids discordance, but it also means that he or she will never learn how to mix through the whole color universe.

The colors on my palette are a variation of primary colors. It's the same principle, but there's a warm and cool version of each of them.
This is why I use paired primaries on my palette. I have a warm and a cool blue, warm and cool red, and warm and cool yellow. This allows me to go almost anywhere on the color wheel without sacrificing chroma.

Why, then, do I have four more tones: yellow ochre, raw sienna and burnt sienna, and black? You don't need these colors, actually; you can mix to get to any of these points. I use these iron-oxide pigments because they're cheap and they make great modulators in places where white is inappropriate.

This allows you to go anywhere you want on the color wheel without sacrificing chroma (intensity).
All the colors on my color wheel are modern synthetic pigments (with the exception of the cadmium orange, which is a 19th century organic pigment). Conversely, the iron-oxide pigments are the most ancient pigments known to man. We know they’re not fugitive. Engraved ochre has been found that dates from around 75,000 years ago.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Born in blood


Landscape tells us about our existence, our relationships with each other, and ultimately our relationship with God.

Deadwood, 36X48, oil on canvas, Carol L. Douglas
God+Man

Carol L. Douglas Studio
394 Commercial Street
Rockport, ME 04856
Saturday, February 29, 2020
2 to 5 PM

Painting is a solitary business, which gives you plenty of time to think. At the same time, it’s a form of communication, so it ought to attract people with something to say. That creates a constant pull between seeing and saying, making and showing.

I do as much of my painting as I can outdoors. That inevitably gives me time to think about what the view in front of me means. Landscape tells us about our existence, our relationships with each other, and ultimately our relationship with God. This visible record is subtle, but once you start to notice it, you realize it’s everywhere.

The work in this display was made for an invitational show at the Davison Gallery at Roberts Wesleyan College. It was conceived as a faith statement. This isn’t too much of a reach. God is obviously there in every tree, cloud and sunset. Man is nearly as ubiquitous.
All flesh is as grass, 36X48, oil on canvas, Carol L. Douglas
This was just before I moved to Maine for good. I was working summers here teaching and painting. In mid-October, I went home to Rochester to paint the work for this show. What wasn’t on my schedule was a second cancer diagnosis.

I made my canvases during the four-week recovery period between surgeries. As always, I drenched the canvases with Naphthol Red. This is an excellent undertone for landscape, and my students will recognize it as standard practice for my plein air painting. However, the effect of all that red on those looming large canvases was making me slightly queasy.

Something wasn’t quite right. I was bleeding internally, and in early February I hemorrhaged. This same thing had happened during my cancer treatment in 2000; in both cases, blood loss laid me low in a way my treatment never did.

I ultimately realized there was a connection between this health crisis and the paintings, which were proceeding by starts and fits. Over the summer, I had sketched each canvas out in smaller form. It was supposed to be a simple matter of gridding them up and painting big, but I was having trouble getting them done in the allotted time. In the end, I let the canvas show through, because they were literally born in blood.

Beauty instead of ashes, 36X48, oil on canvas, Carol L. Douglas
Included in this show are several scenes familiar to midcoast Maine viewers, including northern lights over Owls Head and the lime tailings at Rockport.

By the Civil War, midcoast Maine was producing more than a million casks of lime a year. The evidence of this industry is still all over our communities, including in the lime tailings along the Goose River. Although this lime is benign, it is a symbol of greater damage elsewhere. Environmental damage is not just a metaphor for sin; it’s a form of sin itself. The damage take a long time to heal.

The opening is on Saturday, February 29, from 4 to 6 PM, at my studio, 394 Commercial Street, Rockport. The public is invited.

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.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Monday Morning Art School: don’t buy ‘hues’


The imperfection of paint is what gives it its liveliness and depth, but it also makes mixing colors tricky.
Autumn, by Carol L. Douglas. This painting contains no reds. The red tones are a combination of cadmium orange and quinacridone magenta.

A “hue,” is made a blend of less-expensive pigments that mimics more expensive ones. There is nothing inherently wrong with these pigments, but they don’t behave the same as the more expensive ones, and you should at least know what you’re buying.

Generally speaking, there’s little to be gained by buying a hue mimicking a more expensive pigment. If you are comfortable painting with a hue, then learn what’s in it and mix it yourself. You always have the greatest flexibility by working with pure pigments (rather than mixes) out of the tube.

How do you know if something is a hue, not a true pigment? First, ‘hue’ is often in the name, as in ‘cadmium yellow hue’. But you should learn to read the paint tubes, too. I’ve spelled that out in How to read a paint tube. It’s information every painter should know.

Three blues that look similar out of the tube, but behave very differently. The 'glaze' on the left is the undertone. Courtesy Gamblin paints
A mass tone is the color a pigment is straight out of the tube, dense and unmixed with another color. No real-world pigment is a pure color. While two pigments may look the same to the naked eye, their behavior when mixed can be radically different.

Undertone is the color revealed when a paint is spread thin enough that light bounces back up from the substrate. Some pigments are fairly consistent when moving from mass tone to undertone. Others have significant color shifts. This is where painting with hues can lead to muddy mixes, because they will not behave the same way as the original pigment.

Ultramarine, Prussian and phthalo blue are colors that shift radically from mass tone to undertone. They’re all so dark out of the tube that their differences aren’t apparent to the naked eye. But dilute them, and you’ll find a wide range of blues. Luckily, they’re all inexpensive pigments, so they’re never mimicked.

But they can be used to make hues of other colors—particularly phthalo, which is often found in viridian hue. Real viridian green (PG18) is a moderately staining, moderately dark and moderately dull blueish green. Viridian hue is terrifically staining and powerfully bright, because of its phthalo component.
Cadmium Red Hue is usually made with napthol red and a little white. They mix very differently, which is why the hue is a bad substitute for the real pigment. Courtesy Gamblin paints.
Cadmium red hue is usually a naphthol red with a small amount of white added. Out of the tube, the two paints are very similar, but they mix very differently. There’s nothing wrong with naphthol red; it’s my red of choice, but it doesn’t behave much like its cadmium cousin.

Even paints with the same pigments can have different undertones depending on the manufacturer. That comes back to the imperfectability of pigments and their essential complexity.

A drawdown test showing a paint's undertone. Courtesy Utrecht paints.
If you're considering two different pigments, or thinking about switching brands, you can test them. It's fast and easy. To see their mass tone, put a small dab of paint on a smooth white board or glass palette and draw it down with a knife, creating a uniform, solid stripe that completely obscures the painting surface.

To see the undertone, draw the samples down again so they are translucent. You should be able to see minute variations in the color, and in the covering power.

This old paint chart from my childhood explains tints, shades and tones. It’s so old, it’s from before they banned black. 😉
But to understand the behavior of each more fully, you need to make tints, tones and shades of each sample.
  • A tint is a color plus white.
  • A shade is a color plus black.
  • A tone is a color plus black and white.
Even when the mass tone appears quite similar, two close colors will act very differently when mixed. Their unique qualities of tinting strength, chroma, undertone and color temperature come into play here. But mixing paint with white or black immediately adds another layer of complexity. Different blacks and whites have their own undertones. Titanium white is cool. Zinc white is warmer, but it’s also brittle and thin, making it a bad choice for general painting. Ivory black is slightly warm.