Color Studies


In spite of the fact that I rarely if ever post on this blog, or the CreativeColor Blog anymore, I continue to have new subscribers on both.

Flowering Purple Oxalis Mandala

Flowering Purple Oxalis Mandala

For those new subscribers, as well as the rest of you, I want to remind you that I post more regularly on my website blog.  Link: ChrisCarterArt.com/blog.  You may subscribe by following the link.  You may also subscribe for the monthly newsletter.  The “Subscribe To Newsletter” box is below the “Subscribe To Blog” box. Two separate subscriptions.

I’ve posted quite a few new videos on Vimeo.com/chriscarterart ….. check those out, too!

Since my return to traveling, teaching workshops, painting en plein air and intuitive studio painting, the creative juices are flowing like Niagara Falls.  The focused color study by playing the color Scheme Game is paying off.  This year’s focus is on design through geometry.  I’ll be teaching in Maryland in March and back in California in May, November, and possibly July or August.  The workshops are better than ever thanks to the feedback from my students!  Workshops and Events are posted on my website as well as updated in the monthly Newsletter.

I hope you tune in to the new blog.

Orbs No. 25 - Waxed Watercolor - 32" x 48"

Orbs No. 25 – Waxed Watercolor – 32″ x 48″

Life is coming together in a wonderful way.  I have missed posting on a daily basis, however, my time away from the computer has been well spent.  thirty years ago I could only dream of painting the paintings I have recently created for the solo exhibit at Overlook Medical Center, November 1, 2013 – January 5, 2014 in the Bouras Gallery.  Going back to square one to study Color has paid off in trumps!

Orbs No. 14 - Watercolor - 22" x 15"

Orbs No. 14 – Watercolor – 22″ x 15″

For once, it was better that I didn’t have windows through which to see the beautiful days that passed by as I poured, sprayed, brushed, splattered and spun paint on paper, both large and small.  The trash I found at flea markets proved to be treasures, working as templates to create translucent layers of shapes that interact with one another.  The illusion of movement through space is fabulous in this new body of work.

The day after tomorrow I’m headed back to California to teach workshops and to paint the real world again in the hills surrounding San Francisco.  I’m hoping I can project a glimpse or two of my inner worlds onto the real world as I paint en plein air in the landscape that I love so much, those crazy barren hills with spots of live oak.

Though the life of a painter is always challenging, I wouldn’t trade it for any other sort of life.

Images:  Watercolor Orb Paintings, part of the Series for Art, Energy and Healing.

I’ve returned from California having remembered what fuels me as an artist.

Leafy Seadragon, Phycodurus equus

Leafy Seadragon, Phycodurus equus

In November I visited California Academy of Sciences and saw the Leafy Seadragon.  I scheduled to teach more workshops in Santa Rosa as quickly as I could.  Why?  I wanted to spend an entire day drawing seadragons.

Leafy Seadragon, Phycodurus equus

Leafy Seadragon, Phycodurus equus

Reason number two for returning to California so quickly was to paint the steep rolling hills surrounding San Francisco, spotted with Live Oak, Black Oak and cattle.

Cattle Grazing along Calaveras Road, Milpitas, CA

Cattle Grazing along Calaveras Road, Milpitas, CA

Sugarloaf Ridge Park, Santa Rosa, California

Sugarloaf Ridge Park, Santa Rosa, California

The bonus was sitting along a path at Mussel Rock in Pacifica, watching Mike fly through the sky with other paragliders while painting the hills and the sea.

Paragliding at Mussel Rock, Pacifica, California

Paragliding, Mussel Rock, Pacifica, CA

Mussel Rock, Pacifica, California

Mussel Rock, Pacifica, California

These are the experiences that nourish my soul and heal the wounds inflicted by life’s challenges.  I now return to my studio, well-prepared to begin the new body of work focused on Healing through Art.

Images:  Drawn first with pencil, followed by watercolor.  Seadragon drawn live, beside the tank at California Academy of Sciences.  Mussel Rock images painted en plein air.

View from the parking lot of Matanzas Creek Winery in Santa Rosa, CA.

Lavender Garden and Vineyard

Lavender Garden and Vineyard

A gorgeous day was spent with Joanie and Wakar, painting at the winery.  The mounds of lavender were not in bloom.  They looked like scoops of blue green ice cream, maybe a mix of pistachio and blueberry.  The steep, rolling hills of the Sonoma Valley take my breath away and renew the pleasure of plein air painting.

This trip has been quite different from the one I planned.  My life is like that, always full of surprises.  If the surprise isn’t a good one, I do my best to transform it into something wonderful.  Just like a painting that has lost its way, the solution often brings the experience to a level beyond what it might have otherwise been.

Painting:  sketched lightly in pencil, followed by watercolor and areas clarified with pencil after the watercolor was completely dry.

Some things can be taught … some things cannot.

Abstract Design from Traced Objects

Abstract Design from Traced Objects – Watercolor on Rives BFK Paper (6″ x 9″)

While preparing to teach the upcoming Watercolor Techniques Workshop in Santa Rosa, I decided to snap some photos of a painting in progress to illustrate several of the techniques I’ll be teaching.  Techniques are easy to teach. How to use tools is easy to teach.  The fundamentals of art are all easy to teach, presenting them in a variety of ways so that students who learn concepts differently will all grasp the basic idea.  It’s up to the students to practice what is learned in classes and workshops.

Tools and Techniques can be taught , but Translation is difficult if not impossible to teach.  How does one teach the translation of an unspoken language, the language of vision combined with unseen light waves and sound waves, rhythms of movement through a three-dimensional space?

Some paintings are rooted to tools and techniques, never stepping over the line into the realm of chance and possibilities where the “what if” thrives, where the population of  things gone wrong and unresolved paintings far outnumber the paintings that are a step above everything else, those that usually don’t follow the rules.  Something else has happened during the process of creation that make a painting as unique as every child, even identical twins whose genetics are the same.  Something has happened. Often, that something will happen in a spot or two of a painting.  It is a true gem when a painting as a whole declares its independence from the artist and can stand alone in a crowd without explanation.

The above painting began like this:

Early stage of painting

Early stage of painting

The composition gave me a hard time.  The pivot point is plunk in the middle of the painting.  I struggled for hours, layering, wiping out, scrubbing, splatting, wiping out, glazing ….. and more lifting of paint.  Two hours into it I stopped snapping photos of the methods I was using to try to resolve the painting.  Six hours in, it began to breath a life of its own.  I was in battle mode and didn’t notice for a while.  It fought …. and I fought back.  The painting finally won.  I allowed it to be completely different from what I thought it should be.  I was even a bit angry with it.

I went to bed disgruntled.

When I awoke this morning I was surprised that the painting expressed everything I had intended, patterns, textures, interweaving of shapes as they move through space, a glow of light against mysterious darks reaching far beyond the flat surface of the paper.

I can encourage my students to step across the line.  I can even push a few across, but I can’t teach any of them how to translate their heart beats and their breath.  Nor can I teach them what drives me to draw and paint each and every day of my life.  I could say it is the joy of drawing and painting.  It’s not just the joys, it is also that I grow stronger hrom each battle I fight, whether I have won or lost, it makes no difference.  For the hundreds of paintings I’ve sold and exhibited, I’ve thrown away ten times that number.  If I ever get to the point where I’m not discarding most of my paintings it will mean I’ve stopped taking risks and stopped searching for new ways to translate my world.  I don’t ever want to see the day that I don’t take the chance of creating an unsuccessful painting.

Image:  Watercolor and a touch of unsuccessfully sprayed ink using a mouth atomizer.

I’ve avoided embracing the excitement over Artist Trading Cards ….. until now.

Black Bush Sage

Black Bush Sage

I awoke late.  The sky was the color of cantaloupe.  As I sipped my coffee I created my first ACEO.  When I taught the workshop in Santa Rosa last month, Joanie nudged me to try creating a few trading cards.  After several weeks, my resistance faded.  I resolved the problem of working on such a small piece of paper (2.5″ x 3.5″) by stitching a sketchbook just for the ACEOs.  The sketchbook pages measure 4″ x 5.5″, a slightly more comfortable size to work on.
Now that I have my new website with my own little store, I can offer these little gems without a hassle, either cut to standard ATC size or full-page size for framing.

Full Page - Black Bush Sage

Full Page – Black Bush Sage

The sketchbook was created with a boring cover.  My intention is to cut the pages out as they sell.  If I liked the cover, I wouldn’t cut the pages out.  I always have to trick myself.  The little drawings I do in my sketchbook I like far better than the drawings I do on separate pieces of paper with the intention of selling.  I end up with boxes full of drawings that I eventually throw away.  The problem was that I won’t cut pages out of my personal sketchbooks.  The solution is to make specific sketchbooks that are intended to be cut apart.

Will I be able to trick my brain?  Time will tell.

Image: Black Bush Sage Against a Melon Sky – drawn first with fountain pen followed by watercolor.

Drawings often deviate from the original plan.

Pressed Red Tip Photinia Branch with shadows, backlit illumination

The plan was to paint the drawing according to color value rather than color hue using illogical and discordant hues.  I began drawing with a dip pen using Diamine Ochre ink.  I wanted to see what variations of hue the ink would separate into when I added only clean water along the edges of the lines.  The flow of ink into the water worked beautifully for the dry, pressed leaves, more of a burnt sienna hue than an ochre hue. I followed the inspiration of the leaves rather than proceed with my original plan.  After painting the shadows and cell shapes the leaves looked flat and uninteresting.  I pale wash of aureolin with a touch of burnt sienna brought life back into the leaves.

I’ll give my original plan another try and post it on the Creative Color Blog later today.

Sketchbook Drawing: Pressed Red Tip Branch and Shadows, ink and watercolor.  Limited palette of aureolin, french ultramarine blue and burnt sienna.

At an early age, I became my brother’s barber to save him from my mother attacking him with this Craftsman Electric Hair Clipper.

Family Treasures No. 47, Craftsman Electric Hair Clipper

Instead of using the hair clippers to mow his hair, I pruned his hair with the Edward Scissorhands technique.  He was my only customer.  About thirty years later, using a new model of the electric hair clipper, my daughters convinced a good friend of mine to allow them to mow her hair down to a height of about three-quarters of an inch.  She loved it for all of about an hour and a half.  It took half a year for her hair to regain any sort of form or shape.

Family Treasures No. 47 – Craftsman Electric Hair Clipper: Drawn first with dip pen using Scribal Work Shop “Nessie” ink followed by watercolor washes and a few white lines using a Pentel White Gel Pen.  Limited palette of Aureolin (Winsor Newton), French Ultramarine Blue (Winsor Newton) and Permanent Alizarin (Winsor Newton).  This is an example of painting by color value rather than hue or color scheme.  I posted another example yesterday on the Creative Color Blog.  I’ll be teaching a Color Value Workshop at Village Art Supply in Santa Rosa, CA (along with four other workshops) at the end of January 2013.  To learn more about the method used to paint the image above, visit today’s post on the Creative Color Blog.

6:45 am, Polt Mountain, New Jersey…. morning sky looking 150 degrees SouthEast and looking 290 degrees NorthWest…

Morning Sky 150 degrees SouthEast

The crack of dawn erupted into kaleidoscope vision of oranges, pinks, turquoise and violets.

Turning my head in the opposite direct, the colors of the sky were muted, almost hazy.

Morning Sky 290 degrees NorthWest

Painting my daily weather journal is a constant reminder to look in all directions, not just the world as it appears in front of me.  Had I faced only NorthWest, I would have missed the drama that was in motion behind me.

Weather Journal Paintings: Watercolor on scraps of watercolor paper recycled from unfinished or unresolved paintings.

Earlier today I posted a drawing on the Creative Color Blog of the anchovies tin prior to opening and using the anchovies in the dressing for a Kale Caesar Salad.  The salad was yummy!

Semi Triad Color Scheme

Though its fun to step into the world of fantasy colors, the earlier version using a primary triad color scheme of yellow red and blue fanned my creative fire more than the semi-triad of yellow-green, blue-green and red-violet, a combination I usually adore when painting botanicals.  I might have had more fun if I had included what is left of the garlic bulb.  Maybe I’ll try another version in the morning. (Link to the next morning’s drawing post)

Sketchbook Drawing: Empty Anchovies Tin, drawn first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Whaleman’s Sepia followed by watercolor, a few lines with a white gel pen and another few lines with the fountain pen.

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