Showing posts from 2009

Dori Claus is Coming to Town

Above: Me in 1964 I’ll be home for Christmas. My hometown is Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and I’m driving there from Alabama. In addition to hanging out with family for the holidays, skiing, snow-shoeing, and eating too much, I have a little business to attend to. I’m having a book-signing for my new book, “My Steamboat: A Ski Town Childhood,” and I’m going to be on TV.From the emails and Facebook messages I’ve been receiving from old Steamboat friends, I think there will be more than 2 people at my book-signing, which is quite exciting when you’re not a famous author. (I call myself a micro-celebrity. Twenty-seven people know who I am.) I am pleased with the response to the book so far, which is a big relief after 8 years of writing and editing, wondering who in the world would care about my little story.In a previous blog post I expressed worry about the impending release of the book. I had that panicky last-minute regret feeling, wondering if people would hate it or dismiss it or be…

Charming Charm Charms

In September, the talented, creative, and cool Chatham Helmers opened Charm, a hip and luscious store in downtown Birmingham, and I can’t get it out of my head.I bought some lovely scarves and necklaces there a couple weeks ago, and am plotting my return for more goodies as soon as I can scoot down there. (See more images below.) With her usual flair for the offbeat, Chatham has pulled together vintage, handmade, and new accessories and gifts that should appeal to just about anyone who has any sense. Gorgeous jewelry, hats, scarves, and eclectic small artworks fill the store and are enhanced by Chatham’s unique and, in my opinion, faultless design sense. (It’s my blog, and I’ll use all the hyperbolic compliments I want to.) She hand-makes much of the surrounding decorative elements, which are so good they make me want to bring a note pad and take down all her great ideas for later copy-cat use. And, not only are the store and its contents positively yummy, they are also inexpensive. F…

Blog Holiday Card

I did this painting on aluminum for my blog Christmas card. Happy Holidays to you and your family.

My Pottery Boy

My husband is a brilliant artist. He won’t toot his own horn, so I’ve taken it upon myself to let everyone know what a great talent he is. He will cringe when he reads the words brilliant and great, but I’m not taking them back. Scott is a ceramic sculptor, and has recently been creating a new line of gorgeous vessels. They carry on the signature forms and surfaces of his earlier, more experimental, abstract sculptures. The vessels are curvy like a voluptuous female figure, and are glazed using Scott’s very unique, impossible-to-copy techniques that look molten and sensuous at the same time.Images of his work and info about him can be found on our website at www.reddotgallery.comTo buy his reasonably priced work, pick from the website and contact scott@reddotgallery for availability, or ask him where he’s exhibiting locally.For some extra tooting, here’s a really quick summation of his impressive career: Masters in Ceramics from Ohio State University, Designer for Bath and Body Works …

Step Aside, Fred and Ginger

My daughter, Annabelle, and I had the post-Thanksgiving lazy syndrome today, so although it was beautiful outside (see above) we opted to lay on the floor in the kitchen and stare, play a few games of Yahtzee, and eat leftovers.
The highlight of the day came when I decided to educate her via Youtube about some of the most famous dancers of all time. Fred and Ginger were her favorites, but Gregory Hines and Baryshnikov were close seconds. Sammy Davis, Jr. fared well, too. I didn't mean for the lesson to get us off our butts, but after we closed up the laptop, we spontaneously leapt (literally) into a ballet/tap/nut-job dance contest throughout the house.
We tried to break the world record for ballet spins, or pirouettes (which, we found on Youtube, is officially 35) and after some strenuous and dizzying practice, got up to a grand total of 1 (one). We worked on our do-si-do, our arabesque, and our just-push-each-other-around moves, but found the most fun to be the flying leaps. Wit…

Thankful For....

For one, I'm grateful that our Red Dot is 5 Opening was our most successful show in the 5 years we've been open. I was always told that 90% of small businesses go under in their first 5 years, so this milestone feels real good. And we're not suffering like many small businesses today. Classes are bustling and art is selling.
So here's the rest of my grateful list.
1.) My in-laws are visiting and they are good, nice, people. 2.) I don't live in Siberia. (Too cold, from what I hear.) I did have a Siberian student this year, though, and she loved it there. She taught me to count from one to ten in Russian. 3.) We are having a ham instead of turkey tomorrow. Ham = better. 4.) My housekeeper comes on Monday! I get to continue Thanksgiving laziness indefinitely. 5.) I'm grateful for my excellent yoga teacher, my fantastic acupuncturist, my amazing life coach, my smart web marketing consultant, and, oh yeah, my hottie husband, for their moral support throughout the year. 6…

Opening Tonight at Red Dot

"Red Dot is 5 " opens tonight. Featured artists on today's blog are: ME! (and my husband Scott Bennett.) My small teapot paintings are shown above.

These small pots are part of Scott's new series of vessels. See my future blog about his wonderful new work. All work at our holiday opening is very affordable. See you tonight!

Red Dot is 5 Opens Tomorrow

I'm highlighting a few more exhibitors who are showcased the "Red Dot is 5" show. The opening is tomorrow night, Friday the 20th of November from 5 to 10.
Teresa McCombs (above) won a Red Dot class in a fundraiser silent auction and never stopped coming. She’s been having great success working with a thick, almost impasto painting style, on her traditional subjects such as florals and landscapes. Teresa’s contagious enthusiasm and optimism comes across in her work. She uses bold color and contrast, heavy paint, and cheerful subjects. Watching her fearlessness with the brush is a joy to behold. We really miss her when she doesn’t come to class!
Ellen Moore came to Red Dot (a year ago) with some painting experience, looking for more focus and direction in her work. Not long at all after she began classes, Ellen’s work found its voice, and her love of painting blossomed along with her technical prowess. She’s so happy about it she comes to 3 classes per week! Her adept use o…

More Art from "Red Dot is 5" Exhibit

The 5 year anniversary show of Red Dot Gallery is Friday night! Introducing two more fabulous artists to be included in the show:Jeanne Alexander, a 4 year Red Dot oil painting veteran, (see painting above) has so impressively developed her style and abilities since I’ve know her that she, well, blows my socks off. Plainly stated: This girl can paint! I believe her love of her subject—her family and nature—keep her inspired and working hard at her craft. Her portrayals of her loved ones are much more than traditional portraiture; they are modern genre paintings—lovingly rendered snapshots of everyday life. For the “Red Dot is 5” show Jeanne exhibits smaller landscapes without people.
Shannon Brooks-Hamilton is a 4-year Red Dot student. Shannon has taken drawing for most of her time at Red Dot, and usually works with pen and ink. For this show she’s exhibiting some gorgeous gift boxes covered with crazy, obsessive abstract patterns. Each piece has a matching broach that sits atop or ins…

Red Dot Holiday Exbhibitors

Here are more works by artists exhibiting in our "Red Dot is 5" Anniversary and Holiday Show.Kristen Martin (above) has been taking oil painting classes for almost 4 years. She works as a fundraiser for non-profit organizations, such as the art museum, symphony, and Girl Scouts. Kristen’s work illuminates simple scenes of kids, animals, and landscapes with thick paint and broad strokes. Her striking pieces are as much about light, color, and gesture as they are about the subject portrayed. It is a joy to watch her paint; she is quick and skillful but makes it look effortless.
Beverly Phillips is a Spanish teacher at Vestavia Hills High School with 3 years of Red Dot painting experience. She usually paints animals; dogs and sheep seem to show up on her canvas most. Beverly is a talented realist, but uses expansive color and interesting brushwork to express something more than a straightforward rendering. Her imaginative compositions seem to animate and elevate her subjects. We…

Five Years of Super Students

I am a very lucky art instructor because all my classes are filled with students who are amazingly good learners. But even better—they all are nice, fun, generous, good people. I mean all of them. I don’t know why I don’t have any abrasive apples in the bunch. And if students stay long enough, we become friends, so I am extra lucky that my life is filled with a smorgasbord of first-class individuals. Folks who know me well know that I don’t sugarcoat things, so this gushing about my students is not for show. My students will tell you, too: We have a fine bunch of people at Red Dot.To celebrate our fifth anniversary we are having a holiday show at Red Dot. (opening November 20th, 5 pm) We’ve invited 20 artists who have been students or teachers at Red Dot at some time. Over the next few days, I'll post highlights of the work we'll be presenting. Above is shown a piece by Laura Kimes. Laura has been taking painting classes at Red Dot for over a year. She focuses on the human fig…

Deep Adventure

I got my braces off last week, and many adults are relaying to me their childhood memories of that wonderful smooth-teeth-feeling from their post-braces days. Well, my experience is different. I didn’t get the disruptive two years of metal-mouth-misery. I got Invisalign. Benefits? I got to remove them when I ate; no one knew I had braces unless I told them so; they were virtually painless, very low maintenance, and (drum roll please) I got them off on schedule. It took only 9 months, just as I was quoted.I had no intention of getting braces as an adult. My teeth had been crooked my whole life, and I saw no reason why it should matter. But when my dentist, Dr. Deep (no joke) wanted to trade one of my paintings for these fancy new braces, I had some thinking to do. Keep in mind, the painting was a large, time-intensive, very expensive piece with great sentimental value. I’d barely finished it when he offered the trade. I polled adults and children. Did it really matter if my teeth were …

Finally. My Steamboat on Amazon

My newest book, "My Steamboat" is now available on I started the book in 2001, and what a wonderful feeling it is to be able to offer it to the world. Big sigh.
And now we wait for the reviews.....

Halloween Spa Night

Last night I went to one of my favorite annual events, the Halloween party of Shannon, one of my students. The people were fun, the libations and treats delightful, and every inch of the house was decked with goofy spooky decorations, most of them electronic and noisy. But the costumes of the party guests were the talk of the night.There were couples dressed as flappers, beatniks, psychiatric doctors, pirates, and also the controversial Larry Langford and Betty Fine Collins (of very recent Birmingham scandalous political news.) The winner of the night was the Christmas tree, complete with real ornaments and lit lights.Scott and I dressed as “Ready or Not.” He wore a business suit (the first time I’ve ever seen it—gorgeous!) and I dressed in pink jammies, pink hair curlers, pink fuzzy slippers, a pink facial mask, and carried a pink pillow and pink Pepto Bismol. All night Scott voiced his disbelief that men actually wore these crazy suits everyday, and I was so comfortable and cozy tha…

Make Room for You Know Who

My teenage daughter goes to Alabama School of Fine Arts, a very competitive magnate school in Birmingham. All the students are hand-picked gifted children with very artsy leanings, and I sometimes worry that her exposure to different types of people is way too limited. An opportunity came up in which a certain boy from a local "regular" public school wanted to ask her to the homecoming dance. I informed her of this fact, and even though she likes the boy, she replied, "Well, I don't know."
Keep in mind that ASFA dances are notoriously wild and crazy. There is a high population of gay and lesbian students so everyone dances with everyone. The place resembles a crazy free-for-all with loud outrageous music, strobe lights and disco balls, kids in wacky get-ups, and teachers hiding and cringing in the corners.
Annabelle explained her reluctance to go to the "normal" dance. "Mom! At those dances if you get too close to your dance partner the teacher …

So Last Year

I just asked my kid's art class about popularity at school.
1.) Preel Patel says that you're popular if you play softball. Also if you're a smarty pants. And if you wear brand name clothes like Abercrombie and Hollister. Popular people say, "I'm rich, you're not. You're weird, I'm not."
2.) Gerard Doyle says you're popular if you can throw, catch, add, and subtract. You know, do stuff.
3.) Emily Toole says popular kids are really stuck up. They say, "You are so last year." You have to look good. All popular girls have to have boyfriends or have a crush.
Things haven't changed much. Modern popular kids are "so last century."

Silence is Golden?

I went on a silent retreat at a monastery this past weekend. I do it every spring and fall. For 48 hours I don’t talk, read, write or hear a word. It is one of the happiest things I do. I go to the Benedictine Sisters Retreat Center at the Sacred Heart Monastery, and it isn’t just for Catholics. People of many different faiths attend the silent weekend—Buddhists, yogis, Jews, and plenty of Protestants. The most asked question I get concerning the silent weekend is, “What do you do?” The answer is, “mostly, nothing.” I take walks around the beautiful grounds, sit in the sunshine or stand in the rain, take a nap, do yoga and meditate, eat the three meals prepared by the sisters, but no matter how many simple activities I come up with, there is still plenty of time for “nothing.” That means lying and looking at the texture on the ceiling, picking a blade of grass and playing with it, closing your eyes and listening to the complete silence in one of the few places you can find it these da…

Deep Fried Kudzu

I'm a little late in reporting this, but the blog "Deep Fried Kudzu" had a nice post with pictures of Red Dot Gallery's Sierra Club Alabama Wild and Rural exhibit. Check out the October 8 entry at
For those of you Yankees who don't know what Kudzu is: it is an invasive vine from Asia that basically covers big areas of the South now. It grows super fast and destroys whole forests if not stopped. At one time it was revered as an amazing erosion controller, but once people became aware its unstoppability they realized they had propagated a big mistake in the American South.

Accidental Art Thieves

Last weekend Scott and I went to Troy, Alabama for the opening reception of "The Nature of Being Southern: Celebrating Contemporary Art in Alabama." The exhibit highlights some of the artists who have received an Alabama Council for the Arts fellowship over the years. I've got a few pieces in the show. Apparently I'm an official southerner now, since I am considered worthy to present visual commentary on the nature of being such. Here's the link:
In the morning after the show, we took a walk around the Troy University campus. Our first tourist sight was encountered next to a non-descript parking lot by the football stadium. A very official historical marker (the kind you only see next to something George Washington touched, or on the site of a battle that happened 150 years ago) was a tribute to the guy who introduced football game tailgating to Troy in the early 1990s. I guess since it happened…

Birds That Get Eaten

In art class yesterday my 7 year old student, Madison, was doing a rubbing of a reproduction of Egyptian heiroglyphics.
"Do you know how to read ancient texts?" she said. "Well, not really, but I think if you see a picture of a bird, it might mean something like 'I killed a bird and ate it today'," I said. She thought for a moment and said, "Did a cat write it?" I tried not to laugh, and said, "Well, humans kill and eat birds, too. Haven't you ever eaten chicken?" She was quiet for a good minute and then asked, "Is popcorn shrimp a bird?"

For the World to See

I just posted the cover of My Steamboat on Facebook. Each step of the process that gets closer to the release of the book feels a little more tingly--scary and exciting. I have a sense of dread that comes and goes. All the work of promotion is ahead of me, and the criticism, and the feeling that it's out there now. No taking it back. It's at this time in the book process that I say, "I'm never writing a book again." I'm sick and tired of edits, re-writes, thinking up ways to market it, explaining it to everyone instead of handing them a copy. Then, a day later, an idea for a new book comes into my head. Later, much later, I tell myself. For now, this one big day is good enough. It's on Facebook.

Author I Like

If you haven't read any books by Bill Bryson, you should. He is funny, a fantastic writer, and always throws in a little social commentary. I'm reading Notes From a Small Island, a travel memoir about England, his adopted country. (He's originally from the U.S.) I haven't read a book by him that I didn't like, but my favorite is probably The Adventures of the Thunderbolt Kid, another memoir, about growing up in Iowa in the 1950s. He could write about masking tape and make it fascinating and hilarious.

Red Dot is 5

September 11 of this year marks the 5th anniversary of the opening of Red Dot Gallery. (The date is also remembered for an infamous event of great proportions: the birthdate of my husband, Scott.) We didn't celebrate our big day then, but we are planning a holiday exhibition called "Red Dot is 5" to open on November 20, 2009. Mary Kay Culpepper, longtime editor of Cooking Light magazine, is helping with the preparations, and her vast connections and expertise at, well, just about everything, will be of great help to us bedraggled Red Dot owners. Our classes are overflowing, my book comes out in December, and (more challenging than all of that put together) I have a teenage daughter.

Cover of My Steamboat Done!

The cover of My Steamboat is completed. Scott and I did it ourselves, using Buddy Bair’s wonderful photo. We did a mock-up and I held it in my hand. After 8 years of working on this book, I am really ready to see it in print. I’ve made a lot of paintings in my day, and seeing them finished feels good, but my books take many years, and finally having a product to show for it is something to celebrate. But not yet…

Painting, Ceramics, and...more?

I'm working on the final piece of my 12 panel series, Exhibit A: Paintings of Alabama Places. I am still enjoying the project three years in, so chances are I will continue to explore this theme after a nice break doing some fun and easy abstracts in my usual format.
This last work is based on Alabama's churches. Today I worked on the tile part of the piece, which have been a challenge so far. I've wanted to get the look of stained glass without having to actually do stain glass. I got so frustrated with trying ceramic look-alikes that I actually got a glass artist friend of mine to teach me how to make glass tiles. I quickly realized that learning a new medium (again) was a tall order to complete for one work of art. I finally (happily!) found a way to make ceramic tiles using a slip-trailing method (email my husband for specifics) that just might look pretty fantastic.
I love that after 25 years as a painter I get to explore new vistas of creativity with at least one ot…

Description for My Steamboat

Here is a description of my new book, to be released in December.
If you think you know Steamboat, think again. This story of a ranch town cum ski resort, by a native who knew it all back when, will make you rethink not only Steamboat Springs, Colorado, but that "same small town in each of us," as the songwriter said. In these pages you will meet a mother with a profanity habit who fling cats into snowbanks and plays sad folks songs on the ukulele; a father who emerges only rarely from his deep silences to laugh manically at his own jokes and teach his teenage daughters how to play dirty basketball; townspeople who include lecherous old dudes hanging around the local pool, former race car drivers at the wheel of the school bus, and history teachers who issue bomb threats.Dori Decamillis (nee Duckels) tells of her unique family, peculiar neighbors, and reassuringly American hometown with honesty, grace, and most importantly humor. A cross between Patrick McManus and Garrison K…

The Freeway....again

My first book, "The Freeway," has seen a resurgence in sales recently. I've done a little blabbing on Facebook and Amazon, and have mentioned it to my art students, (no hard-sell tactics, I swear) and it's moving again. Its Amazon rank has been raised to near seven-hundred-thousandth, which sounds pretty puny, but compared to way over two-millionth? I'm hot!
My recent rise to micro-stardom inspired me to read "The Freeway" again. How fascinating to have the distance to read my story as if I were not the author. I saw myself as objectively as I'm ever going to, and did I like what I saw? Yes, overall. I realized a few things during my read.
First, I am a goofball, and always will be. I honestly did not realize how prevalent my goofiness is. Second, I've decided people don't change much. I read statements and recognized attitudes that I still say and carry today. I've been hooking up with old friends from high school lately, and I say it ag…

Got It Covered

I took a trip last week to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, my home town, to meet with photographer Buddy Bair to shoot the cover of my new book. Buddy is a friend from high school, and I discovered his gorgeous photographs on Facebook.Until I saw his work, I planned on using old photographs from the 1970s of me and my siblings. It would have taken a lot of doctoring to get those old pictures to work on a book cover, and when I saw the lush color and dramatic compositions of Buddy’s work, I knew I wanted his photos instead. We “hired” four young models to stand in for the Duckels kids. Buddy’s two daughters, my brother, Derick’s, daughter, and, from a hasty round of phone calls at the last minute to high school friends I hadn’t seen in decades, the nephew of Kim Wilhelm. Kim has been a friend since I was in diapers, and is an often-mentioned character in my book. I was so pleased we ended up using kids with whom I have a connection. Aside from getting soaking wet, freezing, dusty, tickle…


This week I finished a painting inspired by the Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuary in south Alabama. I've been working on it for four months. When I stand back and look, people ask, "Do you like it?" and I can never answer. "I guess," I reply, knowing it will take a while and some distance before I can see it without feeling wrapped up in it, and a little tired of working on it.
This piece, "Tweet," depicts many of the birds that migrate from South and Central America to North America to spend their summer. DIBS is one of the few sanctuaries left on the Gulf Coast (and one of the most important in the world) where the birds can land and get food after their long flight over the Gulf--up to 600 miles without stopping. I attended a bird banding hosted by the Hummer Bird Study Group, a non-profit organization that catches and bands the birds to keep track of their numbers and their health. There I took close-up photos of the birds so I could use the images to…

Artists Get Away with Everything

Last weekend I went for a relaxing vacation in Fairhope, Alabama with my husband and daughter. Fairhope is a cozy and charming hamlet half hour north of the Gulf of Mexico, on the Eastern shore of Mobile Bay. (Description probably useful for a tourist guide, if anyone wants it.) We stayed with an artist friend, Susie Bowman, and hung out with two other artist friends, Tony and Rachel Wright. One evening as the sun was setting, Scott and Tony fished from Susie's dock (that is surely bigger than our house in Birmingham) and caught some whopping catfish and croakers--at least 5 or six inches long. The rest of us sat in rocking chairs with our feet up, taking in the colors and laughing at the men's persistent display of unmanliness.
Anyway, the best story of the evening came from Rachel, who relayed her tale of living as a Bohemian in Greece for a couple years, so poor they had to walk up 6 flights of stairs to live in a run-down place with no running water. One night while walkin…

Noah's Art Rules

Noah Gentry is one of my 7 year old students. He is bright, sensitive, funny, and wiser than most adults I know. He saw a list of art class rules on the door of my teaching space, and decided to make his own rules. Here they are.

1.) Please follow this rule and all the other rules.
2.) Read all the rules, but only if you're a first time visitor.
3.) Get messy. (This rule is actually very different from Miss Dori's real policy. Her motto is "You spill, I kill.")
4.) Only come in here if you like art.
5.) Don't be a bully.
6.) Have skills. If you don't , just learn from Miss Dori.
7.) Admire the artwork.
8.) Complete every assignment. But if you can't, just try and finish it next time.
9.) Whenever you mess up, turn it into a happy accident.
10.) Don't think that your art looks bad.
11.) Know your colors. At least your primaries and secondaries.

About My Current Book

I'm in the editing stage of completing my second book, title TBA, about growing up in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Here is a description:

One of the most sought-after destinations in the world for outdoor recreation, Steamboat Springs, Colorado offers visitors gorgeous high-country scenery, luxury accommodations, and some of the best skiing on the planet. But in the 1960s Steamboat differed very little from other small towns in America. Unpretentious people with rural values worked in the fields and mines, or owned small businesses. Occasionally local ranchers drove cattle right down Main Street.
I grew up in Steamboat just as the outside world started to take notice of my remote and wildly beautiful hometown. The rich and the glamorous had discovered a winter playground, and we natives were forced to adapt.
In my book, my unconventional family awkwardly tries to fit in with the changing community, torn between the “hippies and the cowboys.” Like other independent mountain natives, …

About My First Book

Published in 2000, The Freeway is a non-fiction account of the three years I lived on the road in a vintage motorhome, making a living at outdoor art festivals. It is available on Here is a quick description written by Joyce Maynard, author of "To Die For," which was made into a good movie starring Nicole Kidman:

Two young painters in love sell everything they own, buy a vintage motorhome and hit the road to seek their fortune. This is the story of their adventures. In a voice as unaffected as the paintings she and her husband create, Dori DeCamillis tells the story of their three year long journey. Often funny, sometimes heartbreaking-with echoes of Huckleberry Finn, Jack Kerouac and Lucy and Desi in "The Long Long Trailer"-The Freeway takes a reader not simply across America, but to a place somewhere in the center of the heart.

And, here is a review from Amazon that I particularly liked:

"I'm glad to see this book is still in print. It deserved …

About My Art

I'm a visual artist, writer, mom, gallery owner, and U.S. citizen. I started this blog to keep interested parties updated as to my whereabouts and goings on, especially with my art and books. So, here's what's going on with my art:

I'm working on a series of large panels depicting places in Alabama. I incorporate handmade ceramic tile and oil paint on wood and copper. I started the series a couple years ago when I was awarded the Alabama Council on the Arts Fellowship for Individual Artists. I'm working on painting number 11 now. The show is scheduled to exhibit at the Mobile Museum of Art in Spring of 2011. (Museums have to schedule shows far in advance). I'm working on scheduling more exhibits.

Visit my website at

I also have a Facebook page. Be my friend!