travel sketches


A new way to explore when traveling…. or even at home…. Nine Squared Walk’n’Draw!

The results of the Walk'N'Draw

The results of the Walk’N’Draw

It was time for me to make up a new game to play.  I’m now working on Design and Temperature.  In Susan Abbott’s workshop earlier this year, she emphasized the order of priorities when painting….. First comes Shapes, then Values, then Temperature and lastly, Color.  With that in mind, I used the concept of my video “Twenty Steps” to create the new game I’ve titled Nine Squared.

Basic Materials to walk with

Basic Materials to walk with

Before the walk, I drew a grid of nine rectangles on nine sheets of watercolor paper.  All I needed to bring with me were the sheets of paper, a mechanical pencil, a waterbrush, a mini Altoid tin with warm and cool pigment (I only needed two pans, not all three that are shown above) and my leather folder that I use as an easy-to-hold drawing surface that doubles as a folder to carry the paper.

Pencil sketch not shown

Pencil sketch not shown

I begin the walk, taking Nine times Nine steps in any direction (Eighty one steps).  I stop, choose a composition, snap a photo and start my timer for nine minutes.  In those nine minutes I determine my shapes and repeat them in two more rectangles.  I leave one as the pencil drawing, paint the second as a value sketch in browns and the third as a temperature sketch in warm and cool pigment.

Like any of my games, I allow myself to break the rules on a regular basis.  I do not stop in the middle of a busy street just because I’ve reach step number eighty-one.  If there is a nice place to sit in the shade and I reach it at step seventy-three, I stop and sit down.  If I need twelve more steps to get to a nice shady spot, I take those extra steps.  The rules are simply a guide to force me to be more observant of every spot I pass through and to determine warms and cools to create stronger design.

Images:  small en plein air watercolor sketches in Mountain View, California

In the early 70’s I rented an apartment near Cleveland Circle in Boston.

Sliced-Apples-Artist-Trading-Cards-ink-Watercolor-chris-carter-artist-030613-sz-web

The kitchen was narrow with high ceilings. A large window allowed the morning sunlight to pour past the potted herbs onto the glass doors of the cupboards, the counters and the floor.  The night I painted the walls bright orange and the cupboards fire engine red, I dropped into bed with a migraine.  I thought it was from the colors I’d chosen in too small a room.  Most likely, it was from the fumes.

Next morning, I awoke to the most cheerful kitchen I’d ever experienced.  The following year, I moved to a studio/loft space where I repeated the red and orange interior decor wherever possible … the bathroom I constructed and the one wall that wasn’t brick.  The memories of those days flooded back to me while painting this morning’s drawing, a sketch of Mike’s kitchen in Mountain View last month.  I threw the die and came up with the color scheme Analogous with One Complement.  The dominant color was to be orange/yellow.  As I remembered the effect of the fire engine red paint, my orange/yellow counter top became more of a red/orange.

Artist Trading Card – Morning Sketch: Sliced Apple, drawn in ink with fountain pen, followed (weeks later) with watercolor.

The hills surrounding Santa Rosa feel like kindred spirits.

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, Kenwood, California

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, Kenwood, California

Live oaks and black oaks, solitary and in clusters,  populate the erratic hillsides declaring their uniqueness and beauty.  The winter colors are rich with muted blue/greens and red/violets, so different from the winter colors of New Jersey.

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, Kenwood, CA – watercolor on Rives BFK printmaking paper.  Limited palette: Winsor Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Cerulean Blue, French Ultramarine Blue, Carmine.

I have had two significant mentors in my life as an artist, Adolf Konrad and Betty Stroppel.  Adolf passed in 2004.  Betty passed this morning.  Both Adolf and Betty believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.  I now hold two batons in my hand.  Adolf, in many mysterious ways, has continued to be my guide.  I am expecting Betty to appear any time now.  It is clear to me that I will follow in their footsteps, sharing through conversation, teaching and example all I have learned.  The most basic lesson from Konrad was to draw every day …. every single day without exception.  From Betty, the most basic lesson was to paint every day ….without exception.

This blog is about Color……. however, I left my paint tins behind when I left by the light of flashlight on November 1st to catch a plane for California.  Hurricane Sandy ripped through New Jersey leaving us powerless.  I improvised.  Still, I ended up with mostly ink drawings.  That’s not such a bad thing.  As Adolf would say “Don’t ever stop drawing!”

Creative Color is about seeing, whether in black and white or full spectrum.  The important thing is to keep looking, keep exploring, keep searching and keep the eye and hand coordination in World Class Athlete shape.

United Club at Newark International Airport waiting for flight to San Francisco

Newark International Airport No.2

Newark International Airport

Cafe, Mountain View, California

California Transportation, BART and Cal Train

Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park

Hangar One, Moffett Field

Music Concourse, Golden Gate Park

San Francisco Streets

Warming up in a coffee shop by Golden Gate Park

Moffett Field and improvised palette

United Club, San Francisco Airport

San Francisco Airport

And there are more …….. I hope to pass on the excellent advice of my mentors …… draw, draw, draw ….. paint, paint, paint, be willing to share everything I know, be supportive, encourage good daily work habits, draw, draw, draw …. paint, paint, paint.

Sketchbook drawings: drawn with fountain pen filled with Noodler’s Black Ink

When I’m traveling and painting, it takes about three days for me to adjust my palette to the location and seasonal light upon the landscape.

Baccharis in bloom and pines

Though I’ve painted in Tyaskin, MD before, it’s always been in spring or summer.  The beauty of Baccharis in bloom against the autumn colors of pines, phragmites, meadow grasses and marsh is absolutely stunning.

Late afternoon light filtering through the forest

Every direction I turn, I see the opportunity to explore the autumn light bouncing off of indigenous plants, delighting my eyes with new and unfamiliar patterns and shapes.

K-car as en plein air studio

When time is short and the light is changing quickly, I skip setting up my easel.  The trunk of my K-car works just fine.

Anita’s meadow, Tyaskin, MD

I couldn’t resist one last painting as the late afternoon glow was fading…..

Baccharis in bloom and Phragmites

Just as I’m beginning to mix my colors intuitively, my visit to Maryland draws to a close.  Without doubt, I’ll return next October.  Not only is it exquisitely beautiful …… I can paint outside without covering myself in bug spray!

Color studies:  en plein air oil paintings, 5″ x 5″ on gessoed wood panels.

Last day of a road trip vacati0n…. Tom is already asleep …. I was ten stories up reflecting on the last seven days on the road.

Gouache Travel Kit

I love those precious moments when I realize, and accept, that progress has been made.
I brought along gouache, but didn’t squeeze it out into the pans until last night, listening to the sound of the ocean waves breaking against the beach.  I brushed a bit of color onto the ink drawing I did of the kitchen in the motel room in the Outer Banks, NC.

Detail of ink drawing, Outer Banks Motor Lodge kitchen

This morning I awoke early to an amazing predawn light upon the ocean…

6:45 am, Ocean City, Maryland

This is my first weather journal painting in gouache.  My second was of three figures on the beach, out early to watch the sun rise. I wish they knew that their special moment was captured in my sketchbook….. but I don’t know them and they will never know….

One figure snapping a photo of the other two figures against the sunrise in Ocean City, Maryland …. gouache.

Color has taken on a new place in my vision….. I’m not sure where that place is.  In a week I leave on another journey… back to the Chesapeake Bay area to paint for six days…… Hmmmm.  Do I bring watercolors and gouache?  Oil paints? Acrylics?

I am finally mixing my pigments intuitively.  I need to stay healthy for another thirty years, at least….. the joy of color is just beginning!

We were fortunate to spend two nights in a small motel on the beach of the Outer Banks in North Carolina.

Shadows on the sand dunes. Watercolors in pans in Altoid Tin

The red splotches are from the backside of unresolved paintings that I’ve recycled into pages of a coptic-bound sketchbook.  I’m getting used to painting over splotched paper.  It was a bit unsettling at first.  Keeping in mind my ultimate goal of learning rather than producing, the splotches don’t matter.

Sketchbook drawing: painted en plein air, directly with watercolors.  I used normal watercolor ‘travel’ brushes rather than my waterbrush.

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