It’s true that the Universe responds to all requests.  I am busier than ever with travel, workshops, exhibits and painting!  My plants are suffering from the time crunch.  Five months passed before I added a new drawing to my Family Treasures Series.

Plastic, light-up, musical curch

Plastic, light-up, musical church, Family Treasure No. 50

Maintaining three art blogs is a bit overwhelming and unnecessary.  As of late, I’m getting far more spam comments on both my Third Time Around blog and my Creative Color blog.   I’ve decided to stop posting on both of these blogs for at least three months.  I will be posting only on my website blog…. ChrisCarterArt.com/blog.

In addition to the website blog, I send out a monthly newsletter with painting travel tips, updates on workshops and events as well as updates on both plein air and studio paintings.  On the website blog sidebar, you can easily subscribe to either or both the blog and the newsletter.

Thanks for your readership!

Chris

Family Treasures No. 50 – drawn first in ink with fountain pen, followed by watercolor in coptic bound sketchbook

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.

I’m staying with Joanie Springer in Santa Rosa.  We stay up late sharing ideas about simplifying our lives online and offline.

Joanie Springer's Corner Bookshelf

Joanie Springer’s Corner Bookshelf

Spending less time on my computer is the bottom line for me.  At the moment, I’m posting on five blogs.  Now that my new website is up and running fairly smoothly, I will cut back significantly on the number of  Creative Color Blog posts.  I thought I might eliminate it completely, but I can’t, I enjoy it too much.  What I worry about is sending out far too many emails to my subscribers. As with the Creative Color blog, I’ll post less frequently on Third Time Around.

My intention is to post no more than two times a week on the new blog and once every other week on Third Time Around and Creative Color.  A weekly exercise and current paintings will be posted on the new blog. If you wish to receive these new posts, please visit ChrisCarterArt.com/blog and subscribe.

Another change … I am sending out a monthly newsletter, Chris Carter’s Notes with an art tip and a summary of the previous month’s exercises as well as the workshop and events schedule.  There is a separate mailing list for the newsletter.  You will find the subscribe to box on the sidebar of my website beneath the Blog Subscribe box.

Link to the new website blog:  ChrisCarterArt.com/blog.

Thanks for your patience and your support!

Sketchbook painting:  drawn first in ink with fountain pen, followed by watercolor.

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.

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.