Orbs No. 25 - Waxed Watercolor - 32" x 48"

Orbs No. 25 – Waxed Watercolor – 32″ x 48″

Life is coming together in a wonderful way.  I have missed posting on a daily basis, however, my time away from the computer has been well spent.  thirty years ago I could only dream of painting the paintings I have recently created for the solo exhibit at Overlook Medical Center, November 1, 2013 – January 5, 2014 in the Bouras Gallery.  Going back to square one to study Color has paid off in trumps!

Orbs No. 14 - Watercolor - 22" x 15"

Orbs No. 14 – Watercolor – 22″ x 15″

For once, it was better that I didn’t have windows through which to see the beautiful days that passed by as I poured, sprayed, brushed, splattered and spun paint on paper, both large and small.  The trash I found at flea markets proved to be treasures, working as templates to create translucent layers of shapes that interact with one another.  The illusion of movement through space is fabulous in this new body of work.

The day after tomorrow I’m headed back to California to teach workshops and to paint the real world again in the hills surrounding San Francisco.  I’m hoping I can project a glimpse or two of my inner worlds onto the real world as I paint en plein air in the landscape that I love so much, those crazy barren hills with spots of live oak.

Though the life of a painter is always challenging, I wouldn’t trade it for any other sort of life.

Images:  Watercolor Orb Paintings, part of the Series for Art, Energy and Healing.

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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.

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.

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…….

Turkey Buzzard Feather

Turkey Buzzard Feather

A month ago today Joanie suggested I create a new website with the capabilities I need.  I need a site where I can offer demos to remind my students how to push puddles of watercolor, draw with a dip pen and paint wet into wet….. among other fabulous techniques.  I need a website that presents simple, limitless galleries of paintings and drawings illustrating the diverse media, styles and techniques I use to express myself and the world around me.  I need a site where I can offer Color Scheme Game Template Kits, small paintings, online tutorials, online workshops, used art books and assorted used art supplies.  I need a site that is fun to visit, fun to explore and one that will be revisited over and over again.

I knew she was right…… I just didn’t want to start over again.  She convinced me.  That’s what good friends are for.  The new website is up and running as of late last night.  I will start filming my tutorials and demos in early January.  There are kinks to work out, but I love it.  Thank you, Joanie!

Please visit ChrisCarterArt.com at its new home and let me know what you think of it.  Visit the new blog on the site and subscribe if you wish.  The focus of the new blog is Tools and Techniques of Drawing and Painting.  I will post three times a week and suggest a drawing or painting exercise on a weekly basis.  I hope you like it!

Pen and Ink drawing of a Turkey Buzzard feather: An old favorite of mine

I can’t believe I’m starting over again with a new website ….

“New Seed” oil on kraft paper

This time around I am not attempting to do it all myself.  My new site will offer free tutorial videos, online workshops, an assortment of galleries as well as a unique shop filled with an eclectic offering of used books, miscellaneous art supplies and small paintings.  This is the perfect time to re-evaluate what I’ve done, the paths I’ve explored and the paths I want to continue exploring as well as new directions.  Time to decide which seeds I’ll be planting in the spring and how I will nurture them for an abundant harvest in the summer and fall.

“New Seed” …. from the series of large oil paintings on kraft paper created several years ago, the first series of my Healing Through Art paintings.