Making pictures while the sun don’t shine

"Cadet," 8X6, oil on canvas, by Carol L. Douglas

“Cadet,” 8X6, oil on canvas, by Carol L. Douglas

My friends taught me to cook scallops a few years ago. Of course, to cook them, you have to have them. Last year and this, they’ve gotten me a gallon of the beautiful bivalves from their own fisherman source up in Castine.

Berna and Harry are cooking connoisseurs, but I’m usually a deeply insecure cook. Something snapped during the Christmas holiday, though. Over coffee, I confessed to Berna that I’d spent a good deal of the week in front of a stove. I’d run up a few batches of Christmas cookies, made sauce and meatballs, fried some cod, made a chicken pot pie and then schnitzel and red cabbage. As I have been known to not cook for years at a time, this greatly surprised my family.

My "Christmas Angel," was a 4H project. I trot it out every year on Facebook to amuse my childhood chums.

My “Christmas Angel,” (the real thing, not the painting) was a 4H project. I trot it out every year to amuse my childhood chums.

A childhood friend recently told me that my mother, who was our 4H cooking leader, had fostered his love of cooking. I didn’t seem to catch that from her, but it’s true that most of my foundational knowledge about cooking, baking, and sewing came from 4H. That group, an outgrowth of the Cooperative Extension, shows up in the most surprising places. Berna, it turns out, was also a 4H-er. We talked about the County Fair, baking sponges, and other joys of our youth.

I sure did enough canning as a kid. Putting up scallops reminds me of that (although it’s a lot easier). How, I wonder, did Mainers put up seafood before the invention of little plastic freezer bags?

Preparing luxurious pet food for Max.

Preparing luxurious pet food for Max.

I know that I could do something thrifty with all those bivalve feet—like make stock—but my 19-year-old Jack Russell terrier really loves them. Since he won’t be around next scallop season, I gave them to him. The ‘foot’ seems to be just a muscle attached to a bigger muscle. It’s tough, but it’s not like the toothless old guy chews his food anyway.

I frittered away my lunch hour chattering with Berna, so I had to work past dark. For my readers in more southerly climes, that means 4 PM in Maine in January. I finished my little painting of the Cadet under artificial light.

Years ago, I studied with Cornelia Foss. She would never turn the studio lights on at dusk, insisting that dim light was actually good for color management—it caused your paintings to be brighter and lighter than you expected. In general, I’ve found that to be true, but you have to wait until dawn to see the results.

I’m generally early to bed and early to rise so my dimly-lit studio is usually not a problem, but it does mean I have to make pictures while the sun shines.

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.