portraits


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.

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Last night I met Maria Woodford’s mentor, the amazing blues singer/songwriter, Gaye Adegbalola!  Gaye and Roddy Barnes (stunning piano and vocals) performed last night at Tierney’s Tavern in Montclair, NJ.  Over the top!  I’m still smiling….

Roddy and Gaye setting up

Roddy Barnes on piano

Three Muses, Marci, Gaye and Gloria

Incredible musicians and fabulous performers!  When the evening ended, I wanted it to start all over again.

Sketchbook drawings: drawn first with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Black Ink, followed by Peerless Watercolors applied with waterbrush.

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.

When I arrived at 68 Jackson Street on Sunday morning, Renee invited me into her home to show me her father’s artwork.  She is the daughter of Tom Dunn, a well-respected illustrator who worked as a courtroom artist, illustrator/journalist during World War II, and a cover artist for Pocket Book Publishing among others.

Fish painted in reverse on glass

At the top of the stair hangs a breathtaking painting of a fish painted in reverse on glass.  On the walls of the dining room hang half a dozen framed, illustrated love letters written to Renee’s mother during World War II. Tom illustrated their courtship as well as his experiences as a soldier.  What treasures!

At one point in his career he was asked to paint a portrait of Liberace.  Without asking what the compensation might be, he proceeded to work on the portrait.  Hundreds of photographs and sketches produced dozens of paintings until he was satisfied with the portrait.  He called the agent to let him know the portrait was completed and to inform him of the price for the finished art.  The agent informed him that Liberace never pays for portraits …. the payment is the honor of being allowed to paint the portrait!  Bah!  I was happy to hear that Tom refused to give the portrait to Liberace.

Pink Hydrangea

After my tour, I set up in the backyard garden and painted several quick sketches of the various hydrangea blossoms before beginning  birdhouse painting that I posted yesterday.

Lacecap Hydrangea Blossom

The tiny spots revealed themselves after the painting dried.  I think this is a sign of mold.

Lacecap Hydrangea Blossom and Leaves

I enjoyed having several painting styles available for the garden visitors to view.  The variety appeared to stimulate more questions about art and techniques.

You can view the other two styles in my previous posts.

Paintings: drawn first with dip pen and ink, followed by watercolor.  Painted during the Keyport Garden Walk sponsored by the Keyport Garden Club in New Jersey.

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

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

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