Reference Material

dala art poster 6up 16-9

Every now and again I will post this reminder. I no longer post to this blog on a regular basis.  Because there is so much useful information on this Creative Color blog, I am keeping it live on the internet and will link to it on occasion.  I now post to my blog on where you will find fabulous online courses, free videos and a plethora of great information about watercolor techniques, travel sketching, living a creative life and seeing the world as an artist.

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To view my art, visit

Poster Pull Puddle Two Backgound

Recently, I’ve added Mini courses to the online options.  These short classes, that also present a project for you to create, are available on both Skillshare and ExploreWithChrisCarter.

Anything specific you would like to know more about? … a technique? … a tool? packing light for travel?  Please let me know.

Happy sketching, drawing and painting!

Chris Carter

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After sifting through the photos I shot in Keyport yesterday, I forced myself to do a quick sketch from one of them.  I don’t enjoy working from photographs.  They don’t give me information regarding color, values or the energy of the places I’ve been.  Maybe I’m just a got-to-be-there snob.

Enjoying the afternoon at Keyport Harbor, NJ

What I decided is that I need to know what it is I want from my plein air paintings and why I am entering the weekend Plein Air Events in my area.  My intention was to visit the harbor prior to next weekend’s event in order to decide where I want to set up.  Driving home, I thought only of the people I met, not of the boats floating in the water or the landscape.

When I tossed the die to see what color scheme would be chosen for me, it came up Extended Analogous Color Scheme with Green as my dominant color.  That would have been fine if there hadn’t been people in the image.  The last thing I wanted to do was to have the people disappear into the shrubbery.  Sometimes rules work and sometimes they don’t.

My plan is to work from the photos all week. Hopefully, I’ll get over my aversion to them and have a better idea of where I want to be next weekend.  Only the paintings done during the weekend event may be entered in the event exhibition or competition (if there is one).

I look forward to seeing the two men on the bench, Joe, Don and Judy Pie (the tiny dog hidden under the bench) next weekend.  They told me they would save me a spot on the bench in case I want to sit down when I’m painting next weekend.  I just might take them up on their offer.

Drawing: Working from a photograph rather than life …. drawn first with fountain pen, followed by watercolor.

Photographs as reference materials can be extremely distracting.

Villeneuve, France - oil on canvas 24" x 36"

This painting is based on two photographs taken while in France with Mlle. Jane in the spring of 2009.  The photos were taken on two different days at two different times of day.  One day was sunnier than the other creating a warmer color scheme.  The second photo was taken later in the day creating more interesting shadow patterns.

In spite of my careful preliminary drawing to establish the shadow patterns and values that I wanted in the painting, I found that referring to both photographs led me astray over and over again, confusing both the color scheme and the light source.

Eventually I abandoned the photographs and looked only at the painting making the necessary adjustments to pull it all together.  I prefer not to work from photographs, but painting large paintings while traveling is always difficult if not impossible.

For the past year I focused on mixing clean color using only two (maximum three) colors, as well as studying color as light waves.  Understanding how the light sources (the sun and the sky) effect the landscape helped me to see the warm and cool variations of leaves in light, turning from light, out of light as well as the changes of color and value due to the transparency of leaves.  The Villeneuve painting tested my understanding of the science of color.  I found that I enjoyed painting the vines and bushes more than I’ve ever enjoyed painting green leaves before.  I will no longer be intimidated by summer greens.

I posted several of the earlier sketches and stages of this painting in earlier posts and on my other blog.

Using my Richard Schmid Color Charts and my color/value chart for reference and clean color:

Richard Schmid color charts and value charts

I began this 12″ x 16″ painting in the living room of my dear friend, Jane.  The idea was inspired by Bonnard’s interiors.  Though I had wanted to complete the painting in one session, the shapes weren’t interlocking well and I wasn’t happy with the value pattern.  Jane moved to South Carolina before we were able to schedule another sitting.  I had taken a few photos for reference, but they were pretty useless.

At the end of the first sitting

I needed to connect the jar, lamp and the figure.  Jane is an avid collector of exotic fabrics.  I asked her to send me some swatches of her favorites so that I could invent a shape on the back of the couch for the eye to travel along.

The fabrics were a perfect inspiration to resolve the painting.  She included a paint chip of “Cobblestone Taupe” to let me know the color of the wall in her new home.  The painting was to become a union of her old abode and her new one.  I was able to match her paint chip perfectly with the help of the Richard Schmid Color Charts I made a year ago.  I mixed White, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna and a touch of Light Red.

My basic palette is currently Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarin Crimson, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean blue, Viridian and White.

Extended palette

I added a few extras to my palette to easily spot in the colors of the blue fabric swatch.  I added Cobalt Violet and Cobalt Turquoise.  Just for fun and clarity I also added Cadmium Orange.

Mlle. Jane a la Bonnard

Grayscale of painting

The reference photo did nothing but cause me problems.  Once I tossed it in the trash I was able to move forward basing my mixes of colors and values on the painting itself rather than the lifeless colors from the camera.

As I find time I will post comments and reviews about the books I have listed on the “Book Pages”.  I welcome all comments and additional suggestions and reviews of books you have found useful, inspiring and informative.

I also welcome suggestions and reviews of equipment, tools, paints, brushes, etc.  Soon there will be pages added for easy reference for both studio and en plein air painting.