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

While collecting paper scraps for painting tomorrow night at a Blues Jam in New York City I found this energetic little drawing.  It was just what I needed to raise my spirits.

Three Dancers, pen and ink line drawing

During one of my sort and trash moods I rejected this drawing and tossed it into the box of rejected paintings that still have one side left to paint on.  I’m not sure why I discarded it.  Tonight I find it quite acceptable.  The lines are varied and work well to create an illusion of three figures interacting with one another.  Energy flows out toward the edges of the paper and pulled back in toward the waist of the central figure … then pushed out again.  There is a pulse, a shared rhythm, a moment of harmonic movement of six arms and six legs.  It makes me smile.

This little drawing may find its way back into the box of scrap paper, but not for a while.

Drawing in black ink using a dip pen with flexible nib.

Here is another photo of a new painting hanging in the Bone and Joint area of St. Lukes Hospital in Bethlehem, PA.

Figures in Motion, Watercolor

Thanks to Monsoon Gallery in Bethlehem, PA for  providing this incredible opportunity for me to have my favorite work hung in a place of healing.  Erin did a fabulous job with the matting and framing!  I look forward to seeing the paintings in person.

Paintings in the hallway of St Lukes Hospital

All of the paintings were done in watercolor or pen and ink with watercolor.  They ranged in size from 18″ x 24″ up to 24″ x 48″ unmatted.  Some of them are figures in yoga postures, others are figures dancing and the large ones are of people in line, dancing, talking and interacting in one way or another.

How ironic.

Figure to inspire the body to heal.

My intent has always been to enable the healing of body, heart and soul through the images of my art.

Along the way I became known, through solo gallery exhibitions, for the somewhat abstract images of breasts and buttocks.  That was not my intent.  Eventually, I also became known for brilliant color in the simple images of my Yoga Art and the quick paintings of musicians and dancers during live performances.

Put a thought, a dream, a goal, into the universe and it will begin to manifest.  Just as parents cannot control the result of their spawning, I can’t control the result of the seed planted by my hopes and thoughts.

I’ve been commissioned, based on prior work,  to paint ten paintings to be hung on the walls of a new hospital.  Perfect!

However……. there can be no breasts, no cracks and no bright colors!  Well….. alright then……

I can still do it.

The thought of anyone, any one single person, viewing my art in the hospital and finding inspiration to heal themselves, to the best of their ability, makes this a challenge I’m willing to accept.

An added stipulation is that the paintings must be large!  The yoga art, the zakar art, and all the paintings of musicians painted live have been quite small due to the fact that I paint them in the yoga studio, a dark theater or a bar.  When enlarged, all of the inaccuracies of anatomy scream rather loudly from the paper.

And then there is the issue of color.  I have worked non-stop for three years to bring my color to brilliance…. and I will continue to work on that as soon as I meet the demand of creating “acceptable” figure paintings in browns and neutrals to match the walls of the hospital.

So far…. I have painted twenty, twelve of which are acceptable (in my mind).  I plan on painting forty and picking the best fifteen to twenty from those. From those, the client may pick the ten to frame and hang.

I ask you….. what is a body without breasts and buttocks?

Don’t expect too many postings in the next few weeks.  I have only two to three weeks to meet this challenge.  Wish me luck!

I came upon a gesture painting I did a couple of years ago of Eric Ortega dancing.  Ahhhhhhh what a thrill it was to watch him dance.

Eric Ortega in Motion, Watercolor Sketch

These little watercolor gesture paintings mean more to me than the more elaborate studio paintings I have done over the many years I have been painting.  I love moments that steal my breath away.  The little paintings I do during live performances of dance and music capture those special moments of stolen breath when the air is filled with the expression of emotion through movement or music.

I don’t know how my life will unfold during the next thirty years, or even during the next three years.  My hope is that I will be able to spend my time nurturing the energy of creative people through my own expression, in drawings and paintings, of the energy they release through their music, dance, poetry, film or any other method of expression.

I had forgotten this little gem.

Making a line shimmy and shake

I think this little ink drawing was done during a Zumba class.  Line is, for me, the most expressive mark I make and dancing bodies bring out the best in me.  I continue to strive for this kind of vitality in my paintings.

Tonight is the weekly Blues Jam at Larry Holmes Ringside Restaurant in Easton, PA.  Mike and Monica are flying up from Florida this morning and will join me at the Blues Jam.  I think they will love the music and the dance floor.  Not only will I get to paint the musicians tonight, I will have the opportunity to paint Mike and Monica dancing.  They are both awesome dancers.  I don’t think my fountain pen will do them justice.  I think it’s a night for the dip pen.

I am dreaming of dancing again:

pine tree viewed from the front porch ... pencil

About a week ago my sister, Louise, sent me a wonderful card with a painting of a woman dressed in a green silky dress, arms outstretched, streamers around her wrists, walking a shadow like a tightrope.  For the past week I have been dreaming of dancing and flying again.  I have missed those dreams and I am happy they have returned.

I imagine the pine tree that borders the cornfield stepping gingerly across the lawn at night, limbs outstretched, it’s long skirt making a rustling noise as it walks along its own shadow in the light of the full moon.

Some of these drawings I will post on my flickr account as soon as I can capture them properly with the scanner.

'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.

'Dancers' Watercolor

I received an email from a young woman who wrote …

“I was wondering if you would mind if I got one of your pieces of art made into a tattoo. I know I don’t have to ask you but I wanted to.”

After replying to her that I was delighted and curious as to which image she had chosen.  I was also pleased that she had taken the time to notify me of her intention.

She let me know which image she would use and told me why she had chosen it.

“The reason I am getting it is because I met you a very long time ago at an arts festival and I told you I couldn’t draw and you told me to just watch these individuals dancing and just draw their movements. My lines turned into images and it was the most amazing feeling and I’ll always remember it…saying I couldn’t do something and proving to myself that I could. You called me an artist. It was amazing. Thank you.”

A brief encounter can change a life.  We often don’t know when our words or our art has changed the life of a stranger.  What a treasure it is when the person whose life was changed reaches out to acknowledge that special moment.

I’m looking forward to being present when she gets her tattoo.

sue7662

Detail of 3' x 7.5' three panel oil painting

There is a good chance that I will complete Sue’s painting today.  It has been a long, wonderful journey for both of us.  Last weekend, as I worked into both the sneaker she holds in her hand and the two pair of hiking boots, I laughed at how much fun I have drawing and painting shoes.

I have a great deal of respect for a well designed, well made shoe.  Had it not been for my EB’s and my green Chouinard climbing shoes I would not have seen the world from the vantage point of standing on little crystals on the side of a cliff.  Had it not been for my dance shoes I would not have spent so many hours of delight dancing to the music of my fiddling friends.  Had it not been for my Dansko clogs I could not spend the entire day on my feet painting without being in pain.  My Naot sandals were as wonderful as my cargo paints for traveling in France, even walking on the uneven cobblestone streets.  Without great shoes, my life would be sedentary.  Pondering a sedentary life was heavy on my mind during the last two months when a pain in my right hip prevented me from walking faster than a snail.  Thanks to Dr. Jeff Marrongelle, as of a week ago, I am out of pain.  Perhaps part of that relief and joy has been infused into Sue and Dale’s hiking boots.

Plane Trees in Chalon-sur-Saone, France, pruned into cubes

Plane Trees in Chalon-sur-Saone, France, pruned into cubes

Upon the completion of Sue’s painting I will turn to both plein air painting and developing paintings from the reference photos and sketches of France.  The multi-layered images of the window reflections will be my winter project on days that I am too wimpy to paint outdoors.  When I am out and about, my mindset will be that of a tourist in Hunterdon County, in an attempt to uncover the shapes and patterns and subject matter that is so familiar to me that I no longer see it.