Start as you mean to go on

"Happy New Year!" by Carol L. Douglas, oil on canvas.

“Happy New Year!” by Carol L. Douglas, oil on canvas.

Today is the first day I will be working in my own studio since August 9, when I left to teach at the Schoodic Institute. From there I went to Alaska and then to Rochester, and I’m finally home in Rockport.

“Start as you mean to go on” is my personal motto, and this first work day of the New Year is the opportunity for me to set a rhythm. I accepted a challenge from Mary Byrom to paint 30 paintings in January just for that reason. It’s a little daunting, since the studio is filled with paintings that need to be filed.

"Snowstorm at 12 Corners," by Carol L. Douglas

“Snowstorm at 12 Corners,” by Carol L. Douglas.

This post about the glory of plodding has much to say to the young Christian, but the basic point—that success is about the slog, not celebrity—applies to painters as well. Our age seems to highlight revolutionary rage rather than skill. Even so, the majority of us are potting along in our workshops, concentrating on brushstrokes and letting the Higher Meaning squish out the sides. Our vision is tied to our hands, not our heads.

This business of moving has taken us about ten months. Beyond the idea, there was absolutely nothing visionary about it. We kept our eyes on the tasks at hand. Looking up at the horizon would have paralyzed us.

In general, that’s how I go about painting. I’ll admit that I benefit from the guidance of an excellent business hand (and I’m expecting her to call me out on the sad state of my website any moment now). She forces me to look at my career development in global terms. One of the reasons I appreciate her guidance is that it helps me put the business stuff in a box so I can get back to painting.

"Suburban snowstorm," by Carol L. Douglas. I'm looking forward to painting the same subject today, but in the Maine light.

“Suburban snowstorm,” by Carol L. Douglas.

I certainly don’t have any kind of master plan to develop as a painter. I don’t know anyone who does. The outcome of each painting determines what happens next. There’s no planning; there’s just doing it—over and over and over.

After a while, you’re just grateful that you get to spend another day painting. You’re grateful that you’re privileged to make a living doing what you care about. You’re not seeking some external definition of success, because the success is right there in the tools.

Which comes back to the Christian analogy: those of us primarily motivated by the desire for a Heavenly Crown are going about it backwards. The reward is in the doing.

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.