The Great Dilemma

"Medomak Land Trust," 2015, Carol L. Douglas

“Medomak Land Trust,” 2015, Carol L. Douglas

This time of year, painters apply for competitions, residencies and shows. It behooves us to have good file images of the best paintings we’ve done in the past few years. It’s on those that we will be judged. In some cases, we don’t have good images, because the process of easel to frame to sale happened so fast and in such a press of people that we never got a decent shot.

"Surf," 2015, Carol L. Douglas. This will sadly not be a contender because I don't have a photo of it without sand.

“Surf,” 2015, Carol L. Douglas. This will sadly not be a contender because I don’t have a photo of it without sand.

More insidiously, for me, is that around January, when I’m supposed to be picking the darn things, I inevitably fall into a malaise of “I hate everything.” This might be the fault of the unremitting cold weather, or it might be that I’m plumb tired out, but the same paintings that gave me joy in the summer make me crabby in January. Picking your best paintings isn’t easy when you’re listening to an inner voice saying, “I want to be someone else.”

"Bicycles on Water Street," 2015, Carol L. Douglas

“Bicycles on Water Street,” 2015, Carol L. Douglas

Going through your last two years’ paintings is a good way of reminding yourself that you’re actually a pretty good painter. For me, the best season-by-season record is my blog, because I generally post things when I paint them.

"Hudson Overlook," 2015, Carol L. Douglas

“Hudson Overlook,” 2015, Carol L. Douglas

For the past several years, I’ve kept “sent to…” files on my computer. These are a record of paintings that did or didn’t get me into particular shows. Shows require that the work you submit is new, produced in the last two or three years. It makes no sense to keep recycling the same old same-old.

"Mountain Farm," 2015, Carol L. Douglas

“Mountain Farm,” 2015, Carol L. Douglas

My records remind me of what has worked and what hasn’t. I can look at new work and compare it with the old and see if it has the same qualities—the same spatial relationships, the same color integration, the same detail or boldness.

I always approach new venues with some trepidation. It is pointless for me to apply to shows where the buyers prize delicacy, ethereal light, and detail. I am none of those things.

"Beach at Ocean Park," 2015, Carol L. Douglas

“Beach at Ocean Park,” 2015, Carol L. Douglas

This doesn’t mean that shows are static. There is a popular show that I no longer apply to because its style is antithetical to mine. But a friend just mailed me the name of the new juror, and he’s someone who admitted me to a different show last year.

It also makes sense to submit things which have something to do with the event in question. I concentrate on the northeast, so my watercolor sketches of Alaska are probably not going to be in the final three.

"Olana Overlook," 2015, Carol L. Douglas

“Olana Overlook,” 2015, Carol L. Douglas

You can save yourself a lot of money and aggravation if you just do a little research first.

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.