Family History


Dedicated to Wayne and Dolly.   I know….. three months haven’t passed and I’m posting here again.  What I needed was to clarify the purpose of each blog.

Airing-out-tent-web

After discussing the ins and outs of blogs with X this morning, I realized I would miss the opportunity that Third Time Around gives me to share who I am and what I care about outside the periphery of actually painting and drawing.  I would miss the journaling of odd but meaningful thoughts and experiences that I want to make note of. As I took my two-man tent of of it’s stuff sack for the first time in more than two decades, I remembered exactly why I started this blog and why I call it Third Time Around.

I turn 62 in October.  I’m at the beginning of my third phase of life.  With the experiences and knowledge I’ve acquired during my first two phases, I have most of the tools I need to make my third phase unbelievably wonderful ….. as long as I stay healthy.  But there’s no time to waste.  I have to start doing all those things I told myself I wanted to do when I grew up.  Some of those things I no longer care about and I’ve crossed them off the list.  I’m finding ways to do the things remaining on the list as well as constant additions to the list.  One is taking workshops with instructors whose work I respect and admire.  Another is wilderness painting.

I’m registered for Susan Abbott’s workshop at her Vermont Studio in early August.  I’d rather take two workshops and camp in a tent than take one workshop and stay in a hotel or B&B.  So that’s what I’m doing.  Camping in August will be a test run for camping at Mount Diablo in California at the end of September.

Why is this post dedicated to Wayne and Dolly? Because this is the tent I bought so that I could go with them to the Brandywine Fiddle Festival more than thirty years ago.  The moon was full, the fiddlers played all night long sipping moonshine and dancing with a feverish energy I’ve never again witnessed.  I felt alive …. incredibly alive.  I was thirty years old and entering into my second phase of life.

It’s as if this tent waited for me to be ready to invent myself yet again.  There are no holes in it and it doesn’t smell nasty.  I’m looking forward to get reacquainted.

The events of the last six months has transformed my life in an incredibly positive way.

Mouse, Tail of a Parrot, Coffee Mug, Fountain Pen Cap and Key to my FIT

Mouse, Tail of a Parrot, Coffee Mug, Fountain Pen Cap and Key to my FIT

Thanks to a kindred spirit, Joanie Springer, an amazing artist I met through Daily Paintworks and my Creative Color Blog, I taught a couple of workshops in Santa Rosa in November when I visited my son in Mountain View.  That visit realigned my brain and my heart.  The amazing Weedy Seadragon ( Phyllopteryx taeniolatus) I discovered at the Academy of Science in San Francisco sealed my fate.

Jumping ahead six months….. I replaced my 1988 K-car (that I loved, but needed a new catalytic converter to get through NJ inspection this month) with my first New Car!, a standard transmission (hooray!) Blue Raspberry (turquoise) Honda, FIT.  I got 44.5 mpg on a recent trip to Maine.  In addition to the amazing new set of wheels, I added an ipad to my collection of amazing devices.  I can now make my own art videos to post online for my workshop students.

Skipping the rest of the wonderful moves forward…… my father’s dementia is taking it’s toll.   When my father received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Rotary last Saturday evening, I captured a video of the presentation with my ipad.  While waiting for it to upload to video for my family to see, I drew and painted the above image.  ( I didn’t know not to film it in Portrait……. it has taken me all day to upload the video!) It is now 5:11 pm.  I realize that today’s sketchbook drawing is a self-portrait of where I am at this moment …. a really great place to be ….. and a great place to move on from.  I remember the moment of hesitation, standing at the end of the diving board.  Taking a deep breath before beginning my steps forward … leading to the end of the board and the leap forward into the air above the water ….. reaching me arms out into a swan dive or folding my body in half into a Jack-Knife Dive…… then entering the water and gliding through the liquid space beneath the surface.

Image:  Drawn first in ink with fountain pen (Noodler’s Whalerman’s Sepia) followed by watercolor using a limited palette of Raw sienna, cadmium red deep and ultramarine blue.

A quick reminder…. I am teaching workshops in Santa Rosa again at the end of April!

April 25th & 26th …. Village Art Supply – Color Scheme Game and Color Value Workshop

April 27th & 28th …. Riley Street Art Supply – Extraordinary and Fun Watercolor Techniques playing with Abstract Design.

Email me for details … Chris@ChrisCarterArt.com

Warning:  This is a long post …..

Mike’s Wall Frog made me smile and brought me joy each day of my visit.

The Wall Frog

The Wall Frog

The creature Nicole made for me makes me smile and brings me joy each day.

Nicole's Creature

Nicole’s Creature

Alexis’s self portrait makes me smile and bring me joy each day.

Bust of Alexis, Sculpture, Self-Portrait

Bust of Alexis, Sculpture, Self-Portrait

My study of the brain began in October of 2007 when my sister sent me a copy of The Joy of Living, Unlocking the Secret & Science of Happiness written by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.  I quote from the front flap of the cover:

“In this groundbreaking work, world-renowned Buddhist teach Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche invites us to join him in unlocking the secrets behind the practice of meditation.  Working with neuroscientists at the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, Yongey Mingyur provides clear insights into modern research indicating that systematic training in meditation can enhance activity in areas of the brain associated with happiness and compassion.”

At the time, I practiced yoga daily, both at home and at a nearby yoga center.  On Sunday mornings I painted the yoga students during the early morning Ashtanga class.  For me, live painting is a form of meditation.  Drawing and painting, whether en plein air, in the studio or at a performance is always a form of meditation.  I thought that by combining yoga and breathing exercises with simple visual creativity exercises I might unlock the door to the joy of living in a world of creativity for those who convince themselves that they are not creative.  It is my belief that everyone can live a creative life, experiencing joy every day without quitting a job to become an artist, a musician or a poet.  Being an artist, my path is mostly through the forest of the visual arts.  That is the path I’m able to share with others.  For about a year I offered Creativity Workshops at the Yoga Center,  at an art gallery and in my home.  At the end of the year I stopped.  I had not successfully communicated my message, perhaps because I had not stated what that message really was…..

If I don’t exercise, nurture and challenge my brain, each and every day, it will lose its ability to perform the tasks I need it to perform.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that even if I exercise, nurture and challenge my brain, I might be one of the many unlucky individuals whose brain stops serving them well in spite of Herculean efforts.  My father is one of those unlucky ones.  Into his mid eighties he walked seven miles a day.  He read hundreds of books, wrote poetry on a daily basis, danced four nights a week, played (and won) at card games and board games to say nothing of being the neighborhood Croquet Champion.  He volunteered in his community, served as a business arbitrator and stayed involved with the activities of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  My father suffers dementia, perhaps Alzheimer’s.

Two years ago we moved my father out of the house he and my mother built with their own hands.  He now lives in an assisted living facility, a forty minute drive from my home.  Thursday is our day together.  For the first year and a half, we walked together exploring the parks, trails, gardens and forests in the area.  We stopped to rest on benches, rocks and tree stumps.  My father wrote poetry and I sketched.  Dad never remembered where we had been, nor that I had been to see him.  The only evidence of our adventures is his green notebook, my sketchbook and the weekly blog posts on our family site, Walks With Dad.  I tried to present the day with truth and humor while, at the same time, letting my siblings know how my father was doing.  Our adventurous walks have now become quite tame due to my father’s quickly debilitating condition.

Dad was an electrical engineer.  One might say that he was extremely left-brained.  Abstract art was a total mystery to him.  A building drawn without being in perfect perspective was simply bad art.  His poetry had to rhyme. He thought, because I often painted abstractly, I painted that way because I hadn’t learned to draw well enough to create real art.  About the same time that we noticed his memory slipping, I noticed that he spent more time looking at abstract art than representational art when he attended my exhibits.  At one gallery, he made the comment, “I think I finally understand why you might want to paint like that.”  I was stunned.

A year ago it became increasingly difficult to inspire my dad to write poetry.  He couldn’t find words, any words.  Rather than frustrate him, I taught him how to do contour drawings.  He became focused, drawing until I told him he could stop.  After drawing, he started using adjectives again in his speech.  If I asked him to write a poem, he did so without resistance, often writing expressively rather than in forced rhyme.

Around this time I stumbled upon Phantoms in the Brain by V.S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee.  The brain is remarkably adaptable.  When one area is injured, another area steps in to fill the void when possible.  I believe my father’s right side of the brain has compensated, a bit, for loss in the left side of his brain.  He can now identify the subject of abstract drawings of objects, whereas he could not do so before.

In spite of Dad’s total loss of short term memory at this point, he can still follow the calls at a square dance and he can still win at games, even Bridge!  I am hoping that my habit of drawing and painting every day will serve me as well.  When I can’t remember who I am I hope I will still be drawing and painting.

This brings me full circle.  Though it might be futile, I am breathing new life into my Creativity Workshops, dedicated to presenting brain exercises through creativity.  Using the vocabulary of art: Line, Shape, Value, Texture and Color,  The Creativity Workshop introduces simple games that can be played daily with common items such as paperclips, string and toothpicks.  I want to teach these classes during lunch breaks at corporations as stress relievers and brain teasers.  I want to present them at Centers for Healing, in schools, hospitals, prisons and summer camps.

Seeing the smile on my father’s face when I hand him his green notebook, now almost filled with his poetry, reminds me of the importance of not giving up on him, and not giving up on anyone else, either.  My father turns 90 on February 24th, 2013.

Dad drawing cherries before writing a poem after a picnic at Feltville, NJ

Dad drawing cherries before writing a poem after a picnic at Feltville, NJ

Sketchbook drawings:  Top – Wall Frog – Ink and waterbrush.  All the others are drawn first in ink with a fountain pen, followed by watercolor.

Luke’s great, great grandparents owned a carnival that traveled from town to town. Spin the wheel and you might win a bird in a birdcage.

Luke's Great Great Grandparents

Luke’s Great Great Grandparents

Their son, Luke’s grandfather, preferred the high seas and became a merchant mariner, traveling from continent to continent rather than town to town.  Eventually, the carnival was sold to Barnum and Bailey.  Though Luke didn’t inherit the wanderlust, he definitely inherited the love of theatrics and showmanship.  His great, great grandparents would be proud.

Watercolor Painting – The Carnival -commissioned by Luke’s wife, Carrie.  Image 8″ x 12″ framed to 12″ x 16″.  The painting will hang on the wall beside the player piano, across from the stand up Victrola (both in excellent working condition).

Limited palette: Burnt Umber, Raw Umber and a touch of French Ultramarine Blue.

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.

During the late 70’s while attending Massachusetts College, I lived with a wonderful family.  though I wasn’t officially their Nanny, I bonded with Jacob, Matt and Suzie, three unbelievable young children who  captured my heart.  I gave Mike a break and ventured on my own to reconnect with Suzie, Matt and San Francisco.  Last time I was in SF I was fourteen years old, stringing glass beads (I still have them) and going to The Fillmore West to see Chuck Berry (just released from jail) and Jefferson Airplane.

A block from the Cal Train station I found the Zeum Carousel.

Zeum Carousel, San Francisco

Two rides for $3.00.  I couldn’t resist.

Outdoor Shower

After walking to golden Gate Park, drawing and painting along the way, and visiting Loved to Death, I headed to Suzie’s for a fabulous evening of reconnecting and meeting the next generation.  A shower outdoors, in the middle of San Francisco, began my next day, a day of drawing in ink in the rain……

A ride on Suzie’s slide will have to wait for my next trip. I’m packing a sheet of wax paper.

The day ended with a night at the aquarium (California Academy of Science) topped off an incredible two days.  The sea horses are beyond description….. drawings to follow ……

As a thank you, I left a morning painting on Suzie’s table…

Suzie’s Kitchen

I hope to return in January to teach a few more Color Scheme Game Workshops and to play with the bizarre perspective of the streets.

Image:  Suzie’s Kitchen – drawn first with fountain pen followed by watercolor.

Four small boxes were among the items I decided not to throw in the dumpster as we cleaned out the family home.  Each box stores twelve empty glass vials.  Scraps of wallpaper and colored photos of flowers cut from magazines decorate the outside of the boxes.  I thought them odd.

Four Decorated Boxes of Zonitors

What was the reason my mother had saved them?  Clearly, they were from the 50’s.  The wallpaper had come loose at the corners and I was able to pull it back a bit to see the label on the box… “Zonitors ….. Vaginal Suppositories”.  Hmmmmmm.

The wallpaper was not familiar.  It had never been adhered to any of the walls in the house in Martinsville.  Had my mother attended a women’s craft session where they brought their boxes of Zonitors and disguised them by gluing decorative papers over the label that announced their purpose to everyone who might visit the bathroom?  And why did my mother keep these little decorated boxes and the glass vials?  She didn’t keep the rubber stoppers that kept the moisture from dissolving the little pellets inside the white suppository packaged within the glass vial.

The purpose of the glass vials would still be a mystery to me if it weren’t for the internet and the power of search engines.  Zonitor suppositories are a product developed in the late 40’s and sold extensively throughout the 50’s.  The advertising was directed, I believe, at newlyweds.  Without a supply of Zonitor, one’s marriage might fail.

Six people lived together in the house in Martinsville.  It was a small house, yet large enough to hide so many secrets.

sketchbook drawing: Family Treasures, No 39 – Zonitors – drawn first with fountain pen followed by watercolor

Next Page »