On Holiday in Owls Head

Maine's landscape in constant motion, like the tide

Mon, 12/24/2012 - 11:45pm

It starts with a simple hello. It’s a cloudy, breezy, chilly, mid-November day. The rawness of Maine’s shoreline sets in your mind with its white capped waves breaking against the rocky water’s edge at low tide. Dull colors let you see the beauty of the scene for what it is, cold and distant. The cove is wearing a thin veil of fog. The islands on the open bay obscured. Mist blows through the tall stand of pines on the opposite shore. You’re headed somewhere looking, not thinking, and then there’s a person in your path. The polite thing to do is say hello. And that’s how it starts.

When the hello is returned, you follow up with a “where ya from?” You do this long enough and no place surprises you anymore. This time of year, nine times out of 10 you’ll hear that they’re from somewhere in Maine. Mainers give you the town when asked. Most out-of-state visitors give you the state when asked the same question.

When Carol Douglas gave me Rochester, N.Y., I was interested. Her tripod, canvas and palate were set up and she was taking in that raw scene I described earlier. A single drop of rain splashes off you, then a few, then just a single drop again before it stops altogether. A few rough lines on her canvas suggested the beginnings of that beauty she had captured with her eye. A ray of sunshine breaks through and you almost wish it away so as not to break the mood.

“I’m up here for 10 days of painting,” she began. “I come every year. This is my first day here. I’m looking for rocks and atmosphere.”

Carol has been painting since she was a child when her father taught her how to paint. She does commissioned landscapes, portraits and figure painting.

“The hardest thing about painting here is the tide," she said. "You need to work fast because you only get about a three hour window of real low tide. Maine’s landscape is in constant motion. It’s unique.”

Carol paints what she calls field sketches.

“There is a market for field sketches," she said. "I sell them at shows. They sell well so there is a continuous market for them. I might paint 20 canvases and maybe two or three are good enough to sell. About one out of 50 is good enough to do a large painting of.”

Carol paints with oils and carries everything she needs in a large backpack.

“My palate has been stable for years," she said. "I like black, Prussian blue, ultra marine blue, quinarcidone violet, Cadmium orange, Indian yellow and the three earth tones.”

We exchanged locations we thought fit the scene she was looking for. She asked if I was visiting the lighthouse. Checking my watch I explained I had a pizza waiting for me and had to go. She accepted the excuse and thanked me for taking an interest in her work. She turned back to her canvas and the shoreline. Two unlikely personalities had come in contact with each other for 20 minutes before parting probably never to cross paths again.

Her name was Carol L. Douglas from Rochester, N.Y. Her husband’s name is Douglas Perotta and he’s a software engineer. She has four children, three girls and one boy. She comes to Maine once a year to paint the landscapes. This and a backseat full of finished canvases, will be the only record of her visit.