Not a Hudson River School Painter

"Night falling," 10X8, Carol L. Douglas

“Night falling,” 10X8, Carol L. Douglas

Two people at this event have commented that I paint like a Group of Seven painter. I’ve been perplexed along with being utterly delighted. Very few non-painters in the US have any idea who these brilliant Canadian painters were.

I adore them, not only for their mastery of paint handling and composition, but because their inspiration was the great Northern sky and land. Growing up just across the Niagara River from Canada, I share their wonder at our Northern landscape, and I understand the power of its icy vastness.

"Early morning on the beach," 8X6, Carol L. Douglas

“Early morning on the beach,” 8X6, Carol L. Douglas

I asked the second person what she meant. It’s not paint handling; it’s not technique. It’s not simply the palette I’m using. She said it was my response to the landscape itself.

When Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, and Albert Bierstadt were painting in what would end up called the Hudson River School style, they were painting in awe of discovery. Our world was vast, untamed, and magnificent, with endless possibilities. Church’s The Heart of the Andes might be the most extreme example of throwing everything in but the kitchen sink, but so many of their paintings seem to be catalogues of miraculous nature. “This world is huge and amazing,” seemed to be their takeaway message.

"Reason, faith, nature: the Temple Grove," 16X12, Carol L. Douglas

“Reason, faith, nature: the Temple Grove,” 16X12, Carol L. Douglas

The luminism that contemporary painters ape when they fancy themselves “Hudson River School painters” is a far less important part of the Hudson River School ethos. Golden light doesn’t make someone a Hudson River School-style painter any more than my own slash-and-burn technique makes me a Group of Seven-style painter.

But what does link me to them is my love of the Great White North. Go north, young painter! Paddle a lake where the water never warms up. Listen to the waves pounding on the rocks. Visit logging towns, fishing towns, mining towns. And remember that the Canadian border is just the beginning of that journey, not the end.

Mary Byrom painting with her headlamp. I foolishly left mine in my other backpack.

Mary Byrom painting with her headlamp. I foolishly left mine in my other backpack.

Last night I was painting a nocturne with Mary Byrom when a passing visitor said to her daughter, “Are you coming, egh?”

“Are you from Ontario?” I asked her, since those rounded vowels are unmistakable to anyone who grew up on the Niagara Frontier.

“I’m from Ottawa and I live in Montreal,” she answered.

After they left, Mary pointed out how many Quebecois visit Maine. That explains the easy familiarity with the Group of Seven.

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park in August 2015. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops! Download a brochure here.

Carol Douglas

About Carol Douglas

Carol L. Douglas is a painter who lives, works and teaches in Rockport, ME. Her annual workshop will again be held on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park, from August 6-11, 2017. Visit for more information.