April 2016 Newsletter: Risky Business

Frog Good Bad Ugly Newsletter Header April 2016 Ink Watercolor Chris Carter Artist 040216 900

April 2016 Newsletter: Risky Business

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Why risk making a bad or ugly painting … or even one that’s only good but not great?

A better question might be … Why Not?

April’s focus will be on taking risks, the kind of risks that feel really uncomfortable with the hopes that the results will be worth the discomfort.

Mandala Dala Art No. 1 Oxalis Daffodils ink Watercolor Chris Carter Artist 032716 1080

18″ x 18″ Botanical Mandala – Oxalis and Daffodils

In November, a three month solo exhibit of Mandalas will be hung at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center in Morristown, New Jersey.  It will be the first exhibit of an entirely new body of work that has not yet been created.  My goal is to weave together the most important threads of my diverse work to create an entirely different fabric that blows in the wind deep within my heart and soul and has yet been manifested into anything I’ve expressed through my art.

The mandala shown above is the first attempt to bring elements of geometry and botany together in a larger format.  Previously, my mandalas and dala art have been no larger than 6 inches in diameter.  Last night I tried a looser approach, one that will many layers, jumping back and forth between careful drawing and loose brushwork.

Spring Flowers along the road Chris Carter Artist evening walks mandalas watercolor 2016-04-02 07.04.24 900 

My goal is to create at least sixty mandalas from which I will choose twenty to hang.  I am expecting more than a dozen to end up in the dumpster before the Fourth of July.  I don’t expect to do well at something I don’t yet know how to do.  If I knew how to express my innermost fabric, I would be doing it already.  The risk of making bad and ugly paintings is just as scary for me as it is for everyone else.  I find it almost impossible to take such risks when I’m in the midst of teaching workshops and exploring new cities or countries.  I decided to cut back on teaching and traveling for the next five months to give me the opportunity to take risks in the studio and in the beauty of nature close to home.  When I fly to Paris at the end of August I will have new skills to play with as well as to share when I teach in Wales in October.


At the end of February I taught a workshop in Columbia, Maryland.  I mentioned having dabbled in stipple drawings many years ago, but had lost track of the drawings and could not show them as examples of stipple drawing with a rapidograph pen. Last night, while working on a deep clean of my studio drawers, I found the drawings.

almost fish supper ink stipple drawing Chris Carter Artist 1979 900

No Supper Tonight – 5″ x 7″ ink stipple drawing 1979

The fish drawing was my first attempt at stippling.  For me, it represents one of the many reasons I was not a Good Russian Orthodox Wife. In the midst of preparing diner, the fish head and exposed skeleton curved beautifully on my grandmother’s plate took my breath away.  When my husband arrived home from work expecting dinner, I was busy stippling at the table while the food lay cold in an unheated pan.

Nell ink stipple drawing 11x14 chris carter artist 1979 040216 900

Nell – 14 x 11 ink stipple drawing 1979

The portrait of my doll, Nell, is the largest stipple drawing I’ve done.  Stippling, unlike squiggle drawing, is not a fluid movement.  Rather than being a calming, meditative process for me, as is squiggling, stippling makes me feel like a machine and causes anxiety after two hours of poking at the paper making minuscule dots.


As I mentioned, I am cutting back on teaching workshops in order to focus on a new body of work.  Workshops will begin again in the fall: Wales in October and California in November.  By the end of the summer I will decide how many workshops I’ll teach in 2017.  Teaching at the Eastern Shore Hospital Center last month was such a rewarding experience that I have in mind to offer workshops in other mental health facilities next year, perhaps near San Francisco, Seattle, London and Paris (depending on how well I speak French by then).  I will continue to offer the three day Color Workshops as well as Pen and Ink workshops three or four times a year, but only once a year in any given location.  I need more time in the studio, time to paint en plein air as well as time for urban sketching.

TOOLS: Fountain Pens

Less than two dollars each. Fabulous, inexpensive fountain pens –  Set of eight JINHAO pens with converter only $12.73 from Amazon.com! (You can also use cartridges if you wish)

JINHAO fountain pens ChrisCarterArtist 2016-04-02 09.10.12 900

JINHAO fountain pens – Set of Eight

Though not quite as responsive as the inexpensive Baoer or Hero fountain pens, these JINHAO pens are delightful for both drawing and writing.  Each pen in the set of eight comes with a converter which makes filling much easier than squeezing the bladders in the Baoer and Hero. The converters also allow you to see how much ink is in the pen.  As far as variation of line goes, the Baoer and Hero still win. But … who can resist these great colors?

PAST INFLUENCES: The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson

Recently I’ve been thinking about significant people and events influencing my journey as an artist from as far back as I can remember.  When did I first see strong images inside of my head, images I had never seen in the reality of my life?  The first I remember are the visions that formed while my mother read to my sisters and me from the stories of the Brothers Grimm.  Even without looking at illustrations I could see the Rapunzel’s thick, long, braided hair; forests of thorns; the witch’s house made of gingerbread; Cinderella’s pumpkin coach. At one point my mother had to stop reading the tales by Hans Christian Anderson because they were too sad and caused me to lay in bed weeping as my head replayed images of the little match girl striking her last match or the king being fed his own children.

Artistic influences come in all forms.  No experience is without value in one way or another.


Maria is a dear friend of mine, a singer-songwriter.  Recently she introduced me to the Passion Planner which has gotten me back on track with my own personal growth as an artist.  Thank you, Maria!

This is my new format for the monthly newsletter.  I hope you enjoy it and find something in it inspiring.