Clawfoot tub

"Bathtime," 12X16, by Carol L. Douglas

“Bathtime,” 12X20, oil on copper substrate, by Carol L. Douglas

Earlier this winter Susan Renee Lammers stopped by our new house for the first time. Exclaiming over our clawfoot tub, she asked, “Can I paint this someday?” I thought it might be interesting, but since we live where there are so many beautiful landscapes, it was pretty low on the list.

Turns out Renee got this idea from painting on Monhegan on a freezing June day. “I went back inside and ran a tub of hot water, and then sat there and painted the old-fashioned bathroom, all toasty warm.”

Portrait of clawfoot tub and Max the dog, by Susan Renee Lammers

Portrait of clawfoot tub and Max the dog, 12X20, oil on copper substrate, by Susan Renee Lammers

Yesterday was a raw spring day, the kind where the wind was blowing, the mercury couldn’t climb past the freezing point, and the sun was hiding in a murky grey sky. “We can paint from my car, or we can paint the bathroom,” suggested Renee. As a plein air painter, I’m keenly aware of the value of plumbing, so the bathroom it was.

Renee paints on copper sheets and had brought one for me to try. I have some experience painting on copper and aluminum, but was surprised to see how lightweight this sheet was. Turns out it’s a circuit-board blank laminated over fiberglass, which makes it extremely light and rigid, and the painting surface is separated from the alumino-borosilicate/plastic support by the copper.

The Faithful Companion posing for Renee. She has a way with dogs.

The Faithful Companion posing for Renee. She has a way with dogs.

I’m not sure I’m ready to trade in my cotton duck supports for copper anytime soon, but it was interesting to paint on that completely-toothless substrate. In handling, it reminded me a lot of Ampersand’s Gessobord, which I use occasionally for illustration, when I don’t want any texture at all. I found myself painting in shorter, discrete strokes to make the paint adhere.

We converted the bathroom into a still-life with the addition of bathrobe, slippers and a towel, not to mention bubbles in the tub. My ancient dog doesn’t like baths very much. Still, he snaked his way through our feet and plopped himself down on the bathmat.

“He poses for you and not for me,” I commented.

“That’s because I need him and you don’t,” she answered, and it was exactly true.

I've painted Max several times myself. Here in a morality play, "The Beggar of St. Paul."

I’ve painted Max several times myself. Here in a morality play, “The Beggar of St. Paul,” when he was much younger.

Our finished work reinforced my point of yesterday, that it’s not the mountain that matters, it’s the viewpoint. We were in the same room, seated a few feet from each other and working with the same materials. However, we are very different people and that is what came through in our paintings.

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.