Final Stage of three-part collaborative art project on 10″ square panel for ‘We’ Exhibit at Connexions Gallery, Easton, PA.

Stage Two & Three of 'We' Panel

Stage One: Application of flowers on white background by Megan Crouse

Stage Two: Transformation into Self-Portrait wearing Swimming Cap by Michelle Neifert

Stage Three: Addition of two figures and development of color and value design by Chris Carter

I had to complete my panel early so that I can return it prior to my surgery.  What a fun project.  The greatest challenge was to preserve the contributions of the previous artists while making an idnetifiable contribution of my own.

In the first panel I wanted to simply provide an initial seed of inspiration without dictating the direction that the second artist could move toward.

First Panel - Stage One by Chris Carter

The second panel was challenging because so much of the ‘story’ was already told.  It didn’t give me very much room for my own input and still leave room for the third artist.  I felt badly about altering the foreground figure as much as I did, but I had to change the expression in order to connect with the painting.  The mural behind the figures was my main contribution.  I left the second figure exactly as it was.

Second Panel - 'We' collaborative project

The third panel was the most fun of all and the most challenging.  I knew that the first stage was the application of flowers on a white background because I was at the gallery when Megan dropped it off.  I loved the transformation of the flowers into a 1950’s Swimming Cap by Michelle Neifert.  It was one of those fabulous, costly ($5.00) bathing caps that I never had and always wanted.  My first challenge was to develop a design pattern of values for the panel.  I came up with about six and chose the one I liked best.  Into that pattern I designed figures that fit within that design.  I was tempted to paint over the dark circle in the lower right corner.  It presented the largest challenge of all, bringing a great deal of attention to itself.  The only solution I could come up with was to create a rather large breast around it.  Working backwards from the design to the ‘story’ was exhilarating.  I used oil paints to paint over the layers of acrylic applied by the first two artists.  Fortunately their layers were thin and did not present a problem painting over in oil.  The end result allows plenty of room for interpretation and smiles, a little serious, a little silly.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s ‘We’ exhibit.

Left: Stage One by Becky Bradley ... Right: Stage Two alterations by Chris Carter

The panels are distributed arbitrarily.  I had not expected to receive a panel that already had such a strong story line at Stage One.  For me, the challenge was contributing something that is part of my own style while retaining Becky’s work in Stage One.  Becky painted Stage One in acrylic. I felt I should stay with acrylic though it is the medium I use the least and feel quite awkward with when painting realistically.  Though oil can be applied over acrylic, acrylic should not be applied over oil.  I can’t guarantee that the next artist paints in oil.

I left the figure on the left as Becky had painted him.  My intention was to make only a few alterations on the other figure. I needed to tame his expression a bit for me to connect with the painting.  Struggling with the acrylic paint, I ended up altering his face more than I had intended.  I find it interesting that by changing the expression on one man, the expression on the other man appears to have changed without any changes being made.  Whereas my eye went only to the man on the right before I made the changes, now my eye roams around a bit and ends up looking at the man on the left whose gaze looks rather intense rather than vacuous.

Perhaps I will add a tiny bit of red flecking in the mural behind the two men.  I can’t go much further than that or I will not be leaving enough creative opportunity for the next artist.

A weekend filled with wonderful distractions … wedding, dancing, family feasts, gardening, motorcycle rides, Dr. Who …

Ready for the Ride

Nicole enjoyed the perfect New Jersey day riding through the gorgeous countryside on the back of her dad’s Harley.  The fragrance of honeysuckle in full bloom filled the air.

Free Form Trellis for the wild sweet peas.

The monster forsythia bushes will never miss all the branches we trimmed from them to make the trellis.

Mistakenly mixed media

While Mike and Monica were at a friend’s picnic and Nicole was on the ride with her dad, I grabbed my bag of paints and headed to the blackberry bushes hoping to find the light flickering off the fresh blossoms.  Within five minutes the light had shifted enough to turn an inspiring pattern of textures and values into a monotonous mass of foliage and unexciting flower petals.  I shifted my attention to the view of the field through the giant pines from the vantage point of the platform in the Secret Garden.

Being short of time, I opted to use only cadmium yellow, terra rosa, pthalo blue and white.  I did a few three-value pencil sketches to make sure that the design pattern would work.  All went well until the paint started to lift the panel with each stroke.  I’d never seen paint behave so strangely.  Turns out I’d grabbed the tube of acrylic pthalo blue I’d used for the extended brush painting.  Acrylic paint doesn’t mix well with oil paint.  The small bit I’d mixed into the permalba white hadn’t been a problem.  It was when I mixed the darks for the pine boughs that the incompatibility of the paints revealed itself.  Clearly, I hadn’t paid attention to the tubes when I set up my paints.  My mind was still distracted by the pleasures of enjoying the company and conversation of my family.

Aside from the mess of the paint, I think I like the idea of the landscape seen through a curtain of pine boughs.  I’m going to try it again on a larger canvas.

Stage One - "WE" watercolor on panel

Connexions Gallery in Easton, PA is sponsoring a collaborative art project.  Each artist paints on a panel.  Every two weeks the panels are exchanged and the artists work on their new panel.  At the end of three exchanges the panels will be exhibited in the gallery.  The panels are 10″ x 10″.  This was the first stage of the exchange.  I applied three coats of acrylic gesso followed by a coat of a ground for watercolor application.  I then poured and splashed watercolor onto the panel.  When totally dry, I sealed the panel with acrylic GAC.   The next artist can apply paint, ink, or anything else without picking up the sealed layer of watercolor.

Out of my element with 27 inch long brushes and acrylic paint, en plein air. . .

30 minute acrylic sketch using an extended brush and three colors 10.5"x18"

Following Robert Burridge’s suggestion to tie brushes onto branches I created two 27 inch long brushes.  Using acrylic rather than oil seemed like a good idea.  I found two large containers for water.  Having never painted en plein air with acrylic I decided to limit my palette to naples yellow, alizarin crimson and prussian blue with a glob of zinc white on the side.  The sun was going down, leaving me little time to even think about how absurd I felt with one brush in each hand, dabbing onto the acrylic paint and trying to make marks on the panel fast enough to get back to the piles of paint on the palette before it dried.  Painting three feet away from my easel wasn’t nearly as difficult as using the palette from three feet away.  It’s an exercise well worth repeating.

long handled brushes

'A Dance for Dionysus' watercolor and acrylic on canvas

An older favorite:

My figurative work is usually loose and playful, fluid and experimental.  ‘A Dance for Dionysus’ was one of my first watercolor and acrylic paintings on canvas.  After toning the canvas with poured and splashed watercolor washes I worked into it with acrylic paints I had mixed into a fluid consistency that could pour and splatter.  I was curious to see if I could manipulate acrylic as I do watercolor.  I had tried with oil paint, but lost all vibrancy of color when I diluted it to a pourable consistency.  Glazing with oil over watercolor washes worked somewhat, but the process was too slow for the energy that drives me when the figures begin to appear within the layers of paint.

For these paintings I don’t use models or photographs.  I look for the suggestion of figures within the patterns.  Sometimes I will work out the twists and turns of the bodies in my sketchbook.  Sometimes I will jump right in and work directly on the painting without the quick sketches.  I find that most models aren’t able to get into the dynamic positions I desire.  I realize that I push the figures beyond the realistic capabilities of  anatomy. I don’t care about the reality, I care about the extended motion of the figure.

As the painting progresses, a story begins to unfold.  When  it reaches the storytelling stage, I must be alone to listen to the tale being told and to respond, as a painter, to that story.