Talking with Caroline

Well, a bit out-dated

I hope you have been enjoying the website.   Although it doesn’t post blogs, feel free to write me with any questions or comments. Don’t miss the technique corner.

For almost 30 years, my husband and I have lived  on a small, non-ferry island in the San Juans, a group of islands as far as you can go to the northwest in the lower 48 states






Our life is a mix of  “normal” — we have power, water, good internet connections and cellphone service (with the right server).  We go to another island with our own boat for the mail or any shopping. We bring the groceries, or paintings, or guests in to a dock in our own boat and, if we don’t walk, we bring them up to our house in a Gator.


I first came to the San Juans to study with Rex Brandt. After my Oregon students encouraged me to offer a summer workshop in the Islands, I started teaching one every summer beginning in the mid-80’s.  I found and purchased my piece of the Islands in 1989, and moved up in 1992.


When did I start in watercolors? In a summer class the year I was fifteen. Some other vitae  points: I graduated with honors in Art History from Wellesley College but taught several years of grade school instead of continuing in Art History.  I had three children and gradually became serious about learning watercolor. After a number of years of showing, selling and studying with teachers such as Ed Whitney, Rex Brandt, Millard Sheets, and Christopher Schink, I started teaching others watercolor.


Although I have sold paintings since the 70’s and had many solo exhibitions as well as group and juried shows, I consider my career that of an art educator. Teaching combines my passion for watercolor with my background in both teaching and art history. In 1984 I received a masters’ degree in Teaching in Art from Western Oregon College.  I am honored to be a past president of the Watercolor Society of Oregon and a Signature Member of the Northwest Watercolor Society.
CarolinegksmFrom 1982 -2000  groups of artists and their friends accompanied me to the Greek Island to paint, a total of almost 1000 people: I learned to speak Greek, learned to love and honor the people and their culture. In addition we have held workshops in places such as Tahiti, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Provence, and Cornwall. I now limit my “overseas” trips to the San Juan Islands.

Don’t miss the article in the Spring ’97 Daniel Smith catalogue. *    In it I present my way of layering watercolor — by separating them into stains, sedimentary and luminous pigments. Many have told me how much this approach has helped them with their painting.  And while there, check out the article on values.  American Artist’s Watercolor Magazine  has also had several articles. Now, my “articles” are the monthly technique offerings in the Technique corner on the home page — don’t miss them. If interested about more personal stories, see Memoirs and More.
Technique Corner Suggestions for ways to work on your own. Check in for a new idea monthly.


I can’t believe I haven’t entered any events this year. It always seems something else took precedence over talking about us. But it was a good year.  In particular,I want to take a moment to express my gratitude for the joy in continue to have in working with my classes. The interesting and delightful people who wish to learn how to become better painters gives me such pleasure.  It is a thrill to watch and listen (lead and suggest) as they discover new or dormant resources within themselves. I may gain more than they. And I thank them. How can I ever stop when it is such fun?



At two in the morning on August 14 my husband, Jeffrey, had a stroke. A combination of pre-planning and luck had him with paramedics and EMTs on Orcas, clot-buster administered within the critical first 45 minutes.  He was airlifted by helicopter and admitted to Swedish Hospital less than three hours after he woke me.


A mixed bag but definitely on the upswing” would be my summary for 2013 at the Unterschuetz-Buchanan island perch.

Right after I wrote the sentence above, the phone rang. The call was from a friend who has been on tenderhooks for the last six months waiting for a liver transplant for her brother. On Dec 13th. the transplant took place and my friend’s brother is doing well. She is with him, helping him through his recovery.

Like this happy event for my dear friend, I hope that whatever your concerns at this year’s end, that you find 2014 answers them in the best possible way.


I don’t like to complain of our weather because generally the Puget Sound’s weather is so much milder than other parts of the country — summer and winter. The 3rd week in January, however, was a different challenge for each of us living in the Sound.  Some received 10 inches of snow; many had ice storms, snow and power outages. Transportation snarled. For me on my little 200 acre island, it was a challenge because a) I couldn’t stay home the weekend of 21-22, and b) Jeffrey was in the Caribbean.

fire 12_001
The new shop 11/20/11 — goal to complete the roof before his next sailing adventure 12/8

December 18, almost two years ago, I started this blog t

fire2o tell you of our terrible fire.  Jeffrey’s beloved shop burned taking all of his tools, records and dreams with it.  After finishing up other building obligations, he started to work on the new shop this spring (summer) when the rains finally stopped and he was able to get the site preparation done.

Here he is attaching some of the first beams to the pier pads in July.


UPDATE (December 3): The roof is on and the shop is ready to stand by until Jeffrey returns from his trip. (That update will be posted next).




If I could bottle the soft fragrance of the lilies,

If I could bottle the light setting fire to that maroon one and its pink neighbor,

Spinning the tall ivory blossoms into angels wings;

If I could bottle the same light as it blinds on the water,

Tips the tops of the firs with gold,

Runs a long finger down the trunks and dances across the green moss floor;

Along with the light, if I could bottle the merry chatter of nuthatches,

goldfinches, crossbills

and add to them the soft warm wind,  ………


Jackie Bates doesn’t have to tie up. She had the best way to travel the winter there were no docks. Note the missing float on the Obsruction Pass dock.

Each winter seems to have a personality.  The winter of 2006-07 was dominated by tempests both with people and the weather. It started early.  In a storm the first week of November, the float of the county dock at Obstruction pass was torn off…


the 92 New Year’s Eve snow, from Obstruction looking toward Orcas

With New Year’s Eve around the corner, we are reminded of our first New Year’s Eve on the Island and our kind of normal.

I had no idea, when I decided to go to Mother’s Mattress Factory one night early in 1981, that I would be meeting my date for our first New Year’s Eve on Orcas. I thought I was going to Mother’s to hear my friend Annie sing with the Fabulous Mudtones and – newly separated from the good doctor – prove to myself that I could.


waves coming in off Rosario

Do you remember what you were doing the day of the 1993 Inaugural Day Storm?  I couldn’t exactly but in 1993 we were building our main house on Obstruction Island. “Oh THAT storm!” I said when I looked it up in the year’s journal.

critterAs we move closer to the Winter Solstice, the sun drops as though someone hit a light switch: one minute we are in the sunset’s golden glow; the next – it’s dark!  When I first moved to Obstruction Island in late November of 1992, I was still learning how quickly the bright day switched to black night.


Bad Boat on a Good Day

It was a cool November day, bright and sunny. I was off to town and taking Bad Boat.  The tide was swinging hard and the current was running fast as I crossed to the county dock on the Orcas side.  I came into the dock, making a U to get my starboard fenders against the dock. The current was trying to sweep the boat backwards and under the approach ramp.


Obstruction Island from the air, looking north

In promotional photographs of the islands, the water is flat, resembling the surface of a lake.  This illusion has caused problems for the uninitiated. Beneath that calm surface are the currents of an ever-changing river.  How many Islanders have chuckled as they watched sailboats with sails filled slowly slipping backwards, tide trumping wind?



Creeping across the bow of what came to be known as “Bad Boat,” I discovered a thin sheet of ice had glazed the fiberglass while I was at a concert on Orcas.  Not only was I was alone at the dock, on this November night; there was no one anywhere on the dark island that loomed up from the community dock.  It was up to me.

fireearlyshop    firestairs(1)





the shop still under construction…’97

December 20, 2009, two days after the fire

The  day before a family  Christmas-birthdays-solstice party, my husband Jeffrey’s shop caught fire and burned to the ground, taking with it most of his dreams of projects he

earlyislandmoss72Once upon a time there was a princess who dwelt all alone on a green island floating in a flat blue sea.  This was no ordinary princess nor was it an ordinary island. She was old, as princesses go, already having passed her 50th birthday. But she was a princess, nonetheless.

She slept under the stars on a thick cushion of moss.  Well, between her and the moss was a foam pad and she slept snug in her princess-blue sleeping bag. That is what you do when you are a princess sleeping under the stars and have passed your 50th birthday.

Composting is a must for a full-time resident of our little island.  There is a pack-it-in-pack-it-out necessity if you don’t want to be buried under your garbage. Besides that,  the topsoil is thin,acid, and resting on stone or clay. If you are planning to have daffodils under your firs, or anything else you had better start turning your organic wastes to black gold.

Sorry — the photos for this article were mistakenly deleted.  I may post them again and so have left the titles to help guide me.


It started with the fire back in ‘04.  Orcas loggers felled firs for cordwood to fuel the steamers.  Live embers from a slash fire on the east end of Orcas flew across the water to Obstruction, igniting the island.  It burned from end to end.

The deer and raccoons swam.

In the Pacific Northwest summer, there is much to be said for hanging out your wash. The clothes dryer was one of the new labor saving devices of the ’50s that you may want to reconsider. Not only are you going greener and treating your senses to the smells and sounds of nature but you may find hanging out your wash may be more labor saving than folding the wash from the dryer.

Sorry — the photographs for this article were mistakenly deleted.  I have left the text.