Painting side by side with a beginner, you learn things

My painting (left), my student’s painting (right).
I had the opportunity this week to paint side-by-side with a student. He has painted exactly three observational pieces in his life, all under my tutelage. However, as a lifelong builder, he actually has pretty decent drawing chops; he just hasn’t dignified his sketching by calling it art.
The Megunticook River runs beneath and between old mill buildings in Camden, ME.
I set out to do a how-to post about my technique for developing a field sketch. He just happened to be standing next to me, or so I thought.
The Megunticook River runs underneath and around old mill buildings in downtown Camden, Me. I loved the light on the water and the shimmering reflections of the white buildings in the background. However, I felt that it would be better to decompress the gap between the far buildings and remove the building that squeezed the scene down from the left. My student chose to represent the scene exactly as he saw it. About halfway through the painting, I realized that my editorial changes—intended to let the scene “breathe”—had in fact robbed it of its idiosyncratic charm. I would not have realized this had I not been looking at his painting taking shape next to mine.
Working a pretty narrow view, in a pretty narrow space.
The owner of the business next door stopped by several times to see what we were doing. He raved about this man’s painting. But my student—like so many of us—couldn’t hear that praise as genuine, or doesn’t understand how truly gifted he is to be able to do this on the third try. 
His palette, acrylics.
“Someday, they’ll be talking about you as the new Grandma Moses, and I’ll be a footnote in your personal history,” I told him.
His finished painting. 
Sometimes you need to see a painting dignified with a frame; it is as if it puts on its tuxedo and is ready to perform. So I tossed his painting in a frame while I framed mine. I think he suddenly realized just how good it is and was shocked.
Later this week, I’ll post my step-by-step instructions. After all, technique is important; the joy of painting… well, that is something far greater.

Join us in October, 2013 at Lakewatch Manor—which is selling out fast—or let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in 2014. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!
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.