figurative art


Arranging more than two hundred paintings for the 123rd Annual NA.W.A. Exhibit (National Association of Women Artists, Inc) is a daunting task.

Setting Up at Sylvia Wald & Po Kim Art Gallery

Working with a group of fabulous women artists, the goal of placing paintings and sculptures where they enhance one another was accomplished before the sun went down.  The paintings will be hung today, a few adjustments being made with fresh eyes and clearer minds than ours were when we descended in the elevator last night.  This is my first exhibit as a member of N.A.W.A.

Gwenndalynns, Watercolor

My painting, Gwenndalynns, is hanging in the show.  The 123rd Annual Exhibit runs from September 1 -30th at the Sylvia Wald and Po Kim Art Gallery, 417 Lafayette Street, 4th Floor, New York City.  Opening Reception and award Ceremony is September 21st from 6-8 pm.

Painting: Gwenndalynns, Watercolor, Framed Size: 23″ x 31″

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The struggle to describe form on a face continues….  still working from photographs …. ugh!

linking light shapes and dark shapes

Everything I’m working on right now relates not only to human figures, but to masses of trees and landscapes, too.  Returning to plein air painting made me realize I need to sharpen my eye and brain to organize the shapes of reality into strong patterns of abstraction.  I thought, after so many years of painting movement and abstraction that I would have broken my habit of duplicating reality when it is sitting still in front of me.  I was wrong!

Slowly, very slowly, I’m making progress.  Every ten minutes I want to stop this discipline and toss or platter a bit of paint, swirl a bit of ink and simply play with color and shapes.  I can feel myself tighten when I reach the limit of my ability in realistic drawing and painting.  I want to return to something I am comfortable with.  I want to do an ink drawing of the hollyhocks in bloom and color it in with gorgeous pinks and greens.  I want to dash off to a music festival with my dip pen and watercolor box.

My mother before I was born, great hat!

It’s hard to believe, but I worked on this little 5″ x 7″ sketch for four hours!  It looked fresh and alive after about half an hour, but the forms on the face were wrong.  I went back and forth with watercolor, then gouache, to bring back lights, to correct values of shadows, to simplify, to capture light falling on the different planes of the face.  It ended up an overworked mess, but I am satisfied with the head looking like a solid form that might actually have a skull inside of it.  In spite of knowing my anatomy, there is a glitch in my hand/brain/brush when I attempt to paint realistically.

V. D. King at the Grisly Pear

This is how I love to paint.  Why do I bother struggling with painting from photos, stiff and boring?  Because I want to bring the skill and knowledge I gain from that discipline into my plein air and moving figure paintings.  They will become more consistently stronger.  And ….. I want to keep breaking through my limitations.  Until I can paint from a photograph successfully with the result being as lovely, loose and descriptive as the portrait of V.D. King, I will not be satisfied.

Grumpy Chris as a toddler

I am as grumpy this morning as I was when the photo I worked from was taken.  What is it that makes a face look old?  look young? look middle-aged? When does the balance of hard edges and soft edges work in the composition of facial planes?

Top image: ink brush or ink brush and copic markers

Middle image: watercolor and gouache

Bottom image: watercolor

I say I don’t work from photographs.  That’s not true.

Watercolor sketches of heads

Every few months I take an honest look at my work and choose an area I would like to strengthen.  I then dig through my piles of art books to find examples to emulate.  It is usually early in the morning or late at night (the sun isn’t illuminating the world with color) when I focus on going back to square one to learn or improve something I skipped or missed along the way.  For the purpose of exercise, I use photographs, photographs of trees, boat, landscapes, bodies, faces, etc.  These exercises are the foundation for the drawings and paintings created directly from the real, three-dimensional world or the world of my inner visions.  I view these as my body of work, the work I offer to the world with my name on the bottom.

Recently, while cleaning my studio, I came upon a folder of faces I found in magazines many years ago.  Perfect timing.  Inspired by another artist whose blog I follow, Qiang Huang, I want to improve my expression of form in the figure and head.

Frida Kahlo, Watercolor Portrait

Beside my drafting table is a pile of photos, including family albums, and the three books I find most useful for learning more about expressing unique personality in watercolor; Painting People in Watercolor by Alex Powers, Portrait Painting in Watercolor by Charles Reid and Interpreting The Figure In Watercolor by Don Andrews.  I return to these books again and again, always learning something new each time.

Yes, I do work from photographs.

Building a new website is not my idea of fun.

Eric Ortega

However, revisiting paintings and drawings created over the last few decades has turned out to be both entertaining and enlightening.  I am surprised by the work that still makes my heart sing, like the portrait of Eric Ortega.  I am also surprised by the work I thought was so splendid and I now see as quite dreadful.

Maybe I should create a new website every five years to rediscover where, as an artist, I’ve been and where I want to be going.

I just pushed the button to publish the new site as well as redirect my domain name chriscarterart.com to the new site.  It can take up to twenty four hours for the links to work.  Please let me know if you have any trouble loading pages.  All feedback is welcome.  The direct link to the GoDaddy site is chriscarterartist.com.  By tomorrow, both should get you to the same place.

Painting:  Oil painting portrait of dancer, Eric Ortega

Posting this image after returning from Robert Wood Johnson Hospital is oxymoronic, yet in many ways quite appropriate, though only a very few, older folks might understand.

Pumpkin Disguised as Female Nude

The phone rang at 2 pm….

Sad news.

I stopped working on my new website and drove to the hospital.  KLA and I met when we were eleven years old.  Our friendship was sporadic, but true.  As I sat holding her hand, alone for an hour, I focused on the better memories.  I let go of her hand to draw her … a drawing I will never post.  I held her hand again.  When the nurse asked me leave, I said bid farewell.

The plug will be pulled at 5 pm tomorrow evening.

She would have liked this post.  She was an amazing photographer who lost track of the path she once walked.

Image: Watercolor and pastel

Last night was the last of the Artsquest RiverJazz performances.  The Saucon Valley High School Jazz Ensemble opened for the Kevin Eubanks Jazz Band.  Another fabulous night of music !

Rene Camacho playing stand up bass with Kevin Eubanks

My favorite painting of the night is of Rene Camacho playing his unusual stand up bass.

I’ve posted the rest of the paintings on my ‘Chris Carter Artist’ Facebook page.  SteelStacks RiverJazz Musicians

Sketch: drawn first with dip pen followed by watercolor

I received an email this evening letting me know that my paintings from last Saturday night’s performance at SteelStacks in Bethlehem have been posted on the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s blog.

Ernie Elly, Preservation Hall Jazz Band

My first introduction to Jazz was the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans when I was eight years old.  That was one of those significant moments in my life, the beginning of a lifetime love of jazz and the energy of New Orleans.  You can imagine what a thrill it was to be granted permission to paint the current members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and even a greater honor to have my paintings posted on their blog!

Here’s a link to the post:  Paintings of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band performing at SteelStacks River Jazz in Behtlehem.

Ink Line Drawing: Drawn with dip pen using Waterman Havana Brown Ink. “Ernie Elly, drummer, Preservation Hall Jazz Band”

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