shapes


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.

I’m using a photo, converted to black and white to help me find a solution to a design problem in one of my current watercolor paintings.

“Oak Leaves and Earth Sphere”, 22″ x 30″ watercolor

The painting began with a pencil sketch of  oak leaves dancing in the wind just prior to last night’s storm.  When the rain came, I moved inside, mixed some colors and combined brushwork with tossing of paint to get things moving on the paper.  Eventually the sphere appeared.  Before I can determine the colors and values of the leaves ( most of which you can’t see in the photo ) I need to determine my basic value shapes, the shapes that will be seen from thirty feet away.  I like the strong diagonal line in the top half of the paper and I don’t want to lose any of my lights by simple throwing more paint and hoping it works.  I’ve printed six copies of the black and white photo on a sheet of paper.  I’ll use a pencil to try different value patterns and choose one to work from tomorrow.  It feels great to be working larger again.

“Oak Leaves and Earth Sphere” in progress

I’m also happy to be playing with orbs again.

I hated it.  I worked all day yesterday resolving issues on a painting I hated.  Why?  It wasn’t painterly.  Even before my first cup of coffee I had paintbrush in hand.

(left)- before, (right)- after

It boiled down to marks and edges.  I was overly focused on larger shapes rather than the smaller shapes that made up the larger shapes. There was little to none when it came to variation of edges.  I had not orchestrated the transitions between shapes allowing for subtleties of rhythm.  Darkening the value of the bottom right corner helped.  I’m still not crazy about the results, but I feel more confident that I will stay aware of painterly transitions when I set up my easel today.  Maybe I’ll tackle the cornfield!

Final version (I hope!)

If I feel the urge to go back into this one again, I’ll scrape it off instead.

Wildflowers, Detail, oil on wood panel

I am much happier with the marks.

Painting, 10.5″ x 18″ oil on wood panel, en plain air landscape

I’ve downloaded a photoshop app that allows me to snap a photo of my painting and change it to black and white on my phone.  This is incredibly helpful while painting en plein air.  I can tell immediately when values aren’t working well.

I painted Bob’s wildflower meadow a week ago.  The clouds were driving me crazy.

Original version of plein air oil painting

Before I could make any changes I had to wait for the oil paint to dry.  The sky already had a nasty green tint to it.  My original plan was only to clean up the sky and correct the cloud issue.

First Four variations

My plan usually changes.  With each stroke, new resolutions had to be found.

Next three variations

After the last resolution I have decided to move on …… whew …… I learned more from working my way through all these variations than I would have if I had started over eight times.  With each change, some elements improved and some nice passages were lost.

Comparison of first and final version of the painting

As always, the most important lesson is that paintings will go more smoothly, with more opportunity to play with color if I resolve the light and dark shapes FIRST!

Final Version of the wildflower meadow, 10.5″ x 18″ oil

For some, the words play and perspective would never be uttered in the same breath.

My early childhood pattern blocks, a stack of three

My fascination with perspective  may be a surprise to those who are used to seeing my flowing lines of ink and dashes, splats and splatters of watercolor that suggest musicians and dancers.  I’m stoking up the embers of earlier interests, going back as far as I can remember.  My interest isn’t as much in drawing objects correctly using perspective as it is creating the great shapes and planes around the objects, the result of the intersections of lines connecting the objects to vanishing points.  The objects exist only to validate the existence of the intersecting planes.

I’m curious to see how this rekindled love of geometry will find its way into my other work.  Right now, I’m blissfully happy playing with planes, the byproduct of perspective lines.

Sketchbook painting: Pattern Blocks From My Childhood, drawn first in pencil, followed by watercolor.  I’m sure you’ll be seeing a lot more of these blocks.

The front seat of the K-car works well as a plein air studio on rainy days.

The sun breaks through after the rain, Clinton, NJ

It poured as  I sketched this street scene in Clinton, New Jersey.  The raindrops on the windshield helped to simplify the scene and saved me a bit of squinting.  Even so, I couldn’t find a strong pattern design of value shapes.  I opted to go for the gloom.  No sooner had I finished the sketch when the sun worked its way through the clouds and brightened the scene slightly.

sketchbook painting: sketched first with soft pencil followed by watercolor focusing on neutral grays, toning down the colors of spring and steering clear of sharp contrasts.

I started playing the Color Scheme Game and the Extended Game to improve my own skills and to evaluate the level of my work in each of the areas of concentration.  What I discovered is that it’s an incredible learning tool.  It’s a game.  It’s fun, it’s not judgmental and it has sharpened my skills more efficiently and painlessly than any other curriculum of study I’ve put myself through.

I grabbed a tablecloth, vase filled with long-stemmed orange roses, my sketchbook and a pen.  With arms filled I stepped out into the sunny March day and set up outside to give Game Three another test-run.  In Game Three the dice are thrown to determine the compositional arrangement of your drawing: Horizontal, Vertical, Cruciform, Axial Hold, Radial or Cantilever. I was re-introduced to these arrangements in Jane R. Hofstetter’s wonderful book 7 Keys to Great Paintings.

Roses in Vase, Horizontal Compositional Arrangement

Roses in Vase, Vertical Compositional Arrangements

Vertical compositions can be used in both horizontal and vertical formats.

Roses in Vase, Cruciform Compositional Arrangement

Roses in Vase, Axial Hold Compositional Arrangement

Roses in Vase, Radial Compositional Arrangement

Roses in Vase, Cantilever Compositional Arrangement

I spent about three minutes on each of the sketches.  I already feel the potential for amazing growth painting outdoors this spring. If I take twenty minutes to sketch the landscape in six variations and chose the one that excites me the most, I am sure to eliminate a good number of boring paintings.

Sketches:  0.5 Preppy Fountain Pen filled with Noodler’s Green Marine ink.

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