View from the parking lot of Matanzas Creek Winery in Santa Rosa, CA.

Lavender Garden and Vineyard

Lavender Garden and Vineyard

A gorgeous day was spent with Joanie and Wakar, painting at the winery.  The mounds of lavender were not in bloom.  They looked like scoops of blue green ice cream, maybe a mix of pistachio and blueberry.  The steep, rolling hills of the Sonoma Valley take my breath away and renew the pleasure of plein air painting.

This trip has been quite different from the one I planned.  My life is like that, always full of surprises.  If the surprise isn’t a good one, I do my best to transform it into something wonderful.  Just like a painting that has lost its way, the solution often brings the experience to a level beyond what it might have otherwise been.

Painting:  sketched lightly in pencil, followed by watercolor and areas clarified with pencil after the watercolor was completely dry.

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It’s 10 degrees in New Jersey.  I’m happy to be heading to warmer weather.

Ed's Pipe Bender

Ed’s Pipe Bender

Fortunately, first thing Monday morning, Ed solved the problem I was having with my K-car.  It barely made it up any incline and had no oomph when merging from the left onto a highway into speeding traffic.  The exhaust system was clogged.  My mechanic treats me like a queen.  Maybe it’s the oatmeal raisin cookies I bring him, or maybe he just loves working on my old junkers.  Being in a panic, hoping I could make it to his shop without having to call to get the car towed, I left my backpack behind.  Ed gave me paper and pen and I settled in to drawing the Pipe Bender I’ve had my eye on for a couple of years now.  Ed finished up with my car before I finished the drawing.  What service!

Why do I mention this while waiting for my plane to take off?  Because Tom’s car broke down in the driveway at 2 am when we were leaving for the airport.  A quick switch over to the K-car and we were on our way again.  It took an hour for the car to warm up, but at least it works!

I hope to see some of you in a few days in Santa Rosa, California!  I’ll be at Village Art Supply.  There will be a free demo on Thursday evening, an art appreciation session on Friday evening and full-day workshops on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday!  It’s not too late to sign up.

Line Drawing:  Pipe Bender – Proformer II, drawn on printer paper with a bic pen.

Some things can be taught … some things cannot.

Abstract Design from Traced Objects

Abstract Design from Traced Objects – Watercolor on Rives BFK Paper (6″ x 9″)

While preparing to teach the upcoming Watercolor Techniques Workshop in Santa Rosa, I decided to snap some photos of a painting in progress to illustrate several of the techniques I’ll be teaching.  Techniques are easy to teach. How to use tools is easy to teach.  The fundamentals of art are all easy to teach, presenting them in a variety of ways so that students who learn concepts differently will all grasp the basic idea.  It’s up to the students to practice what is learned in classes and workshops.

Tools and Techniques can be taught , but Translation is difficult if not impossible to teach.  How does one teach the translation of an unspoken language, the language of vision combined with unseen light waves and sound waves, rhythms of movement through a three-dimensional space?

Some paintings are rooted to tools and techniques, never stepping over the line into the realm of chance and possibilities where the “what if” thrives, where the population of  things gone wrong and unresolved paintings far outnumber the paintings that are a step above everything else, those that usually don’t follow the rules.  Something else has happened during the process of creation that make a painting as unique as every child, even identical twins whose genetics are the same.  Something has happened. Often, that something will happen in a spot or two of a painting.  It is a true gem when a painting as a whole declares its independence from the artist and can stand alone in a crowd without explanation.

The above painting began like this:

Early stage of painting

Early stage of painting

The composition gave me a hard time.  The pivot point is plunk in the middle of the painting.  I struggled for hours, layering, wiping out, scrubbing, splatting, wiping out, glazing ….. and more lifting of paint.  Two hours into it I stopped snapping photos of the methods I was using to try to resolve the painting.  Six hours in, it began to breath a life of its own.  I was in battle mode and didn’t notice for a while.  It fought …. and I fought back.  The painting finally won.  I allowed it to be completely different from what I thought it should be.  I was even a bit angry with it.

I went to bed disgruntled.

When I awoke this morning I was surprised that the painting expressed everything I had intended, patterns, textures, interweaving of shapes as they move through space, a glow of light against mysterious darks reaching far beyond the flat surface of the paper.

I can encourage my students to step across the line.  I can even push a few across, but I can’t teach any of them how to translate their heart beats and their breath.  Nor can I teach them what drives me to draw and paint each and every day of my life.  I could say it is the joy of drawing and painting.  It’s not just the joys, it is also that I grow stronger hrom each battle I fight, whether I have won or lost, it makes no difference.  For the hundreds of paintings I’ve sold and exhibited, I’ve thrown away ten times that number.  If I ever get to the point where I’m not discarding most of my paintings it will mean I’ve stopped taking risks and stopped searching for new ways to translate my world.  I don’t ever want to see the day that I don’t take the chance of creating an unsuccessful painting.

Image:  Watercolor and a touch of unsuccessfully sprayed ink using a mouth atomizer.

To travel and paint ….. to paint and travel.  To pass along the various methods I’ve learned or discovered to express the life I awaken to each morning …. To make connections, on a daily basis, with new people from all walks of life  and to add, in a positive way, to the rhythm of the Universe …. Those have always been my goals.

On the Road to Asheville, NC

On the Road to Asheville, NC

As those goals become reality, other aspects of daily life require adjusting.  There are only twenty four hours in each day.  I had filled those hours completely before needing to upgrade my online presence, before needing to plan for days lost to airports and cars, travel logistics, packing everything into manageable suitcases.  It’s challenging and totally worth every frustration that crosses my path.

Developing new approaches to teaching the basics drives me along paths I might not have explored.  I discover techniques I had forgotten and I stumble across techniques I haven’t tried before.  My own work grows when I share my painting experiences with others.

Sketchbook travel drawing:  Drawn first with ink using a fountain pen, followed by watercolor using a waterbrush. Drawn from the passenger seat, en route to Asheville, NC where my friend, Pete, filmed the first of a series of online painting demos.

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.