sketchbook


Hours passed as I waited for the fog to lift.

Fog cover .... Mussel Rock, Pacifica, CA

Fog cover …. Mussel Rock, Pacifica, CA

Waiting for conditions to be right for my first paragliding flight is different from most other sorts of waiting.  I can usually concentrate on drawing while the minutes tick by.  This morning my attention was seriously split between being an artist and being a bird.

Fog at Mussel Rock, Pacifica, CA

Fog at Mussel Rock, Pacifica, CA

Still foggy and no wind

Fog begins to clear …. but no wind

Finally the fog cleared.  The wait continued as the wind refused to grow strong enough for sufficient lift.  I didn’t want to simply drop to the earth as I did when I jumped from a plane.  I wanted to soar, riding thermals to touch the clouds.

Succulents

Succulents

As the sun headed toward the horizon, all hopes of flying vanished in the warm glow.

Between drawings I wandered the paths, inhaled the sea air and thought about how I want to spend the next two years. Why two years?  Because I’m following the suggestions of my fabulous Business Coach, MS.  Where do I want to find myself as an artist in two years?  Where do I want to find myself in ten years?  Where is that magical balancing point between painting as painting leads me and painting as the economy leads me?  My brain felt foggier than the air around me.  I tried to be objective about realism vs. abstraction and where en plein air and the Color Scheme Game fit into the plan.  Though I reached no conclusions, I found more options.

I didn’t get to fly today.  Instead, I had a wonderful day of contemplation.  My sleep will be sweet tonight.

Sketchbook drawings:  Pencil and watercolor, Ink and watercolor on watercolor paper in handmade, coptic bound sketchbooks.

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.

Tomorrow I take another step forward with today’s technology.

Pete's Measuring Spoons

Pete’s Measuring Spoons

I’m in Asheville, NC with my friend Pete.  He will create my first painting demos to post online.  I’m excited to add this additional reference for my students.  I’ll spend the day today preparing drawings for tomorrow’s shoot.

Sketchbook drawing:  drawn first in ink with fountain pen followed by watercolor.  I was testing how pushing the puddle works on the surface of a recycled file folder.  It is smooth and not as absorbent as the Rives BFK paper.  However, it behaves well and I like it.

The rubber cement has turned the paper brown and released its hold on many of the ruined drawings.  I created this book and the assignments in this book, believing that anyone can learn to draw if the desire to learn the skill is strong enough.  The smiles on my students’ faces, as well as their sketchbook drawings at the end of the semester, proved me right.

Two stroke Compositions

Two stroke Compositions

 

Positive reinforcement and encouragement goes a long way.  Homework assignments spilled out upon desks at each class.  Long after I had stopped teaching, my students phoned to tell me of the latest awards they won and exhibits they were juried into.  Many of these students were not born with the talent to draw.  They worked hard, drew constantly and reaped the rewards.  Over the years, I loaned this book to friends and private students.  It’s age  and use are showing. I regret using rubber cement to hold it all together.

While cleaning my studio to make room for a new body of work, the lesson plan book ended up on the pile of items to discard.  Before turning the lights out I grabbed the book from the pile and decided to present the lessons one last time.  Over the next couple of months I’ll post the exercises on my new Website Blog, a blog focused on tools and techniques of drawing and painting.  The more information I can post online, the less I have to carry with me when I travel to teach workshops.

1979-Lesson-Plan-sketchbook-drawing-classes-chris-carter-artist-web

I make much nicer sketchbook covers these days…….

How do they do it?  Every Royal Riviera pear shipped from Harry and David is perfect in every way.

Harry and David Royal Riviera Pear

Harry and David Royal Riviera Pear

They arrive at my door once a year with instructions to guide me through their final ripening stage.  I am also instructed to devour them within ten days.  Nicole and I have no problem following the directions.  They are the perfect gift.  They come in a box, they fill us with pleasure and then they are gone, never to collect dust or take up space.  What lingers is another wonderful memory of yumminess, smiles, moans and groans of culinary pleasure.

Sketchbook Drawings:  Royal Riviera Christmas Pears – Drawn first with inkbrush filled with Noodler’s Black Ink, followed by watercolor.

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.

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