My father, Gramps, is quickly losing his memory.

Gramps, 1980. Watercolor portrait

At the moment, my father still remembers life as a young boy living on the family farm in Indiana.  I fear that soon, those memories too will fade.  There will be no new stories to add to those my siblings and I grew up hearing at bedtime.  Tears still fill my eyes when I hear him tell of gathering a tin cupful of violets for his mother only to lose them all as the nasty rooster chased him across the meadow.

There are stories to be told to my children of my own past and the events that brought their father and I together not only once in marriage, but twice (oh my!).  Life is short.  I don’t want them to have only memories of the less than good times in their minds.

I painted this portrait of Gramps in 1980 when my name was hyphenated, Carter-Vergalla.  The hyphenated name was acceptable in the Boston area but not so in New Jersey.  The second time I married Michael Vergalla I didn’t change my name.  Alexis, Nicole and Michael were born during the second marriage. Having a different last name never presented a problem.  Chris Carter worked well as a name for the first 26 years of my life and it continues to work well for me.

In 1980 I was struggling to make a living as an artist.  Life hasn’t changed too much in that respect.  I began to show my work at outdoor art festivals and to accept portrait commissions through a local art gallery/frame shop in South Plainfield, New Jersey named “The Artist’s Touch”.  It was there that I had my first solo exhibit.

Link to Family History Index Page

Mike Frank now runs the open mic at Porters’ Pub on Wednesday nights.


Mike Frank playing at Porters' Pub, Easton, PA.


I rarely get out to hear live music these days.  Last night Maria Woodford and I had planned on going to a Blues Jam further west in Pennsylvania, but ended up at Porters’ Pub instead.  I was happy to be there again.  It was at Porters that I began my “Orb Journal Drawings” several years ago.  Now I am pulling my fountain pen out of my bag rather than my pencil.  I am determined to capture better likenesses of the musicians.  Mike Frank’s face I know very well.  He was often at our house when Alexis and Nicole were in high school.  I’m always happy to see him and pleased that he continues to have music a priority in his life.

Watercolor portrait of Bambi and Buddy:

Watercolor Portrait of Bambi & Buddy

Thanks to the hours spent yesterday on the pencil sketches of the two greyhounds, I was able to execute the watercolor without tightening up too much.  I had become acquainted with the dogs by drawing more than just the position I planned for the painting.  By drawing them lying down, standing and sitting, my brain registered their unique body postures and allowed me to suggest them more loosely with the flow of paint.

Sketch on watercolor paper

Maria Woodford Spillane lost in contemplation.

Maria, lost in thought

Lovely singer/songwriter Maria Woodford Spillane can melt anyone with her smile.  Just as often, she can take the prize for having the most serious expression in the room.  The sketch was done one evening at an open mic she hosted at Porters Pub in Easton, PA.

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.

Eric Ortega, Oil on Paper

When the landscape and everyday objects around me begin to look different in a measurable way, I know I am on a new plateau, one that I’ve been working steadily to reach.  I am finally beginning to reap the rewards of a recent return to the study of color and value scales.  Knowing that my surrounding are now looking different, I evaluated older paintings to see if I can understand why I am either pleased or displeased with them.

The portrait of Eric Ortega continues to be one of my favorite paintings in spite of the fact that it falls into the realm of realism.  In fact, it hangs on the wall, rather than filed away on a storage shelf in the basement.  Until recently, I have not understood why I continue to enjoy viewing this painting.

The shapes are varied in both size and contour (straight, curved, jagged).  There is a clear delineation between color values of light, medium and dark.  The subordinate values within each of these ranges stay within the appropriate limits of the range.  For example, the darks in Eric’s pants are still lighter than the mid-value of his arms and face which fall into the medium value range of the entire painting.  The darks in his flesh are still much lighter than the mid or dark values in his hair, shirt, shadow or floor.

The dark values in the entire painting connect in one way or another.  The lights and mid-tones in the painting also connect, allowing the eye to move freely throughout the painting from one shape to another.  This supports the feeling of Eric’s dance movements.  He does not appear to be frozen in space like a cut-out against the floor and wall.

Warm colors and cool colors play against each other adding to the sense of form and dimension, creating the depth of the space Eric moves through.

As I review more of my completed paintings, I am creating another pile of paintings to be sanded down and painted over.  About ten percent find their way back onto the storage shelves.  I find it refreshing that I can let go of so many canvases and feel good about it.


No running water.  No heat. No air conditioning.  Conditions that make it difficult to hire people to work at the prop shop.  We have fans.  We have heaters and we have a port-a-john that is cleaned every two days.  We have a water cooler/heater and foaming hand cleaner.  There are pros and cons to every job.  What the prop shop offers that makes the “cons” worth putting up with is that we are in touch with the weather at all times.  We watch and experience the changing of the seasons; the glorious lighting as the sun sets over the barns, the double rainbows after a storm, the sun streaks and shadows creating abstractions on the white barns and slate roofs.  At least a dozen times each week my breath is taken away by an unexpected moment of artistic inspiration.

Such a moment occurred last summer as Lowell was repairing the leg of a wooden chair, destroyed during a rental.  The sun was low and bright, shining through the barn doors and highlighting Lowell as he worked.  Though I usually have my camera in my backpack at all times, I had left it on my desk that morning.  Luke rescued the moment, passing me his cell phone.  How I love technology!

Yesterday was Lowell’s birthday.  I intend to paint the image eventually, both in watercolor and oil.  Wanting to give Lowell a surprise for his special day, I opted to do a quick pencil drawing for him.  He prefers realism to abstraction.  It is a bit odd to present someone with a portrait of themselves, but I feel this is more a moment than a portrait.  I hope he likes it.

Mark, originally uploaded by C R Carter.

This is another test to check out the layout template from flickr.