May 2016 Newsletter: Three Reasons to be Closer to Home

Mandala Dala Art Maui Botanicals Protea Cynaroides King Protea South Africa Watercolor Chris Carter Artist in progress Day 3 2016-04-12 17.45.50 header

May 2016 Newsletter: Closer to Home … or … Three reasons to keep my luggage in the closet for a few months

1. Preparing for Nicole’s wedding.

2. Preparing the gardens for a multitude of flowers and herbs to draw, paint, taste and simply enjoy

3. Creating the new series of Mandala/Dala Meditation Art for the November Exhibit at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center in Morristown, New Jersey before leaving for Paris in September.

skunk cabbage evening walks chris carter artist photography 2016-04-18 19.19.21 900 Skunk Cabbage along the road of my evening walk.

As much as I longed to be in California paragliding over land and sea, painting while flying with the birds, I was content making dozens of glittered octahedra (Nicole calls them diamonds) for her wedding ceremony, digging in the dirt to plant hundreds of seeds and painting 18″ mandalas at night.  My daily walks reacquainted me with my surroundings and the Fitbit on my wrist tallied up 141,236 steps over one, seven day period. I check in on Susan Abbott’s daily progress along the Camino in Spain. When I feel too tired to walk my four-mile loop, I think of Susan and I head out the door.

I’ve settled into more of a routine than usual, beginning each day studying French and ending each day studying French.  I will be better prepared for my month in Paris than I was last year.  As you might have noticed, I don’t post as often on my blog, allowing myself to be free of commitments to the internet as I embark on the new series of mandala/dala/plein air work that I hope will bring geometry, nature, figures and movement together in some cohesive way, still unclear to me.

TECHNIQUES: Giving a flopped painting a second chance


One of the botanical mandalas began with such promise and quickly spiraled down into the disaster zone due to poorly chosen values and lack of color harmony.  With watercolor, it is difficult to lift multiple glazes of color if staining pigments have been used.  The value range shrinks into oblivion and boredom sets in.  One way to bring light value back into a sombre watercolor painting is to give it a coat of diluted white gouache.  

Maui Pods disaster chriscarterartist watercolor dala art

I find the most effective way to do this for my purposes is to atomize the diluted gouache layer, giving it multiple coats where necessary.  In the pod painting I have redrawn the botanical features using a carbon pencil to avoid the sheen of graphite.  I am also able to apply watercolor over the gouache. I adjust to the way watercolor behaves differently when applied over gouache.  At some point over the next few weeks I will return to this painting and post the final result.

WORKSHOP NEWS:  Wales and California

The next scheduled workshop is in Wales in October, followed by the workshop at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts in November in California.  If you are interested in attending one of the workshop in Wales, please contact me.  There may still be two spots available for the one-day workshop and one spot may have opened up for the four-day workshop. The students are in for a real treat!  I have several delightfully fun approaches to creating art that I haven’t shared in workshops before.

I’ll be posting the information and registration for the Sebastopol workshop at the end of next week.  Link to scheduled workshops and events.

Future plans include teaching from my home studio beginning in the spring of 2017, allowing me more flexibility for extended travel to the West Coast and to France.

TOOLS: Dollar Tree Treasures!

Atomizing while plein air painting has been awkward.  I finally found a solution at the Dollar Tree store while picking up gardening supplies.  Two small plastic test tubes in a small test tube stand that packs easily with my nesting water containers.  They allow me to mix large quantities of paint to atomize without taking up room on my small, traveling palette trays.  I can store them to use later.  I can also use the two tubes for clear water if I wish.

Dollar Tree Test Tubes and nesting water containers Chris Carter Artist 2016-05-01 14.44.19 900 Dollar Tree Test Tubes and nesting water containers Chris Carter Artist 2016-05-01 14.49.05 900

PAST INFLUENCES: Frederick Franck

At one time I had several copies of Frederick Franck’s The Zen of Seeing, The Awakened Eye and Art As a Way.  Over the years I’ve given away all but one copy of Art As A Way to artists and friends whom I thought might benefit from them.  I was fortunate to take a workshop with Frederick Franck at his home studio, his “Trans-religious oasis of inwardness”, Pacem in Terris.

The Zen of Seeing by Frederick Franck 2While drawing, eye in eye with nature, I did indeed see again, made closest contact with the living world of which I am part, and through it, regained close contact with whom – or what – I happen to be. “All that is, is worthy of being drawn.”   Frederick Franck


Baghdad Journal

Steve Mumford’s ink and watercolor sketches depicting his six months in Iraq, from April until October 2003, demonstrate the power of ink and watercolor working together to create strong design, expressive line and atmospheric mood while expressing the daily lives of soldiers in the midst of a war torn country.  I found his book, Baghdad Journal, in a used bookstore many years ago, and I continue to learn from observing his techniques using both pen and brush with ink and watercolor.  It is his judicious, yet plentiful use of ink applied with brush strokes that I am most intrigued by.

Opportunities for the Month of May:

Warmer weather and plein air painting!

Sketchbook studies of herbs, flowers and veggie plants!

Finishing my studio for filming tutorials!

More Botanical Mandala/Dala Art!

ink watercolor dala art poppies cow parsnips

Yellow Poppies and Cow Parsnips – ink and watercolor – Sea Ranch, CA

Link to Nature Gallery