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Choosing Between What I See and How I Feel

abstract life as an artist parc andr├ę citro├źn Jan 12, 2022


While crumpling sheets of newspaper to start the wood stove, an image caught my eye.  I paused and read Sheida Soleimani’s description of her current photographs.

… tedious but beautiful work, like picking dandelions from the ground, separating the petals from the calyx, and putting them in an airlock-sealed jar with yeast to ferment.

The words struck a chord. I set the sheet aside and continued crumpling.

My attention was again captured, this time by a headline, The Musical Was His First Broadway Show. My first thought was that “His” referred to either the composer or the director. I set the page aside and finished my task of warming the house before reading the article and the sub-headline.  I had been wrong. The sub-headline read: “And decades later, a retired critic vividly remembers it, thrills and all.” The show at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York City was “Follies”.

Two scraps from the newspaper before having my morning coffee expressed my own recent pondering about what is important to me in my art and how my current work is beginning to reveal more of what’s been important to me throughout my lifetime. Decades of developing skills combined with decades of life experiences has brought me to a fascinating place.

Most of my friends, family and students have been both curious and supportive of the hiatus I’m taking from creating my online classes, working in ink and watercolor and consistently posting on my blog and social media. Though the mad rush of life has been slowed by the pandemic, it was quick to rev back up as as restrictions were lifted.  I’m now receiving a few inquiries asking when I’ll get back to creating new online classes, what my next series will be after I complete the Parc André Citroën Series and when I plan to return to painting representationally?

Slowing down has been great for my creativity. Being on the treadmill of “The Business of Art” kept me from thriving as an artist creatively and spiritually. As I focused on teaching, I slowed my own learning process.  Not being able to travel, I spent more time in my studio and more time reflecting on the art I create.  I realized that I wanted to discover and express more of what I FELT when I traveled and perhaps less of what I SAW.  I decided to explore Paris in a different manner. I just didn’t know how drastically different it would turn out to be.

What are my answers to the three questions I’m being asked?

  1. I will begin offering new classes in March 2022.  I’ll also be reworking some of my more popular current classes. Beginning in February, the classes on my website will be offered only once or twice a year.  In taking online courses myself, I found that having all of the students working on the same activities at the same time definitely enhances the learning experience and has connected me more significantly with other artists, similar to the connections made in live workshops.  By running the class during a specific time period I’ll be able to address questions and have live sessions that address the needs of that specific group of artists.  The number of students will be limited so that I can give targeted feedback and answer all the questions.  The older version of a class will still be available to those of you who already have access to that course.  In addition, those of you who already have access, will automatically have access to the new version of the course, without charge, the first time the new course is offered. 

      Mini classes will continue to be added to Skillshare once a month beginning sometime in February 2022.

2.  My next series after Parc André Citroën?  Currently I am on the most exciting adventure of may life as an artist, delving deeply into and unfolding the mystery of my experience in the park. Perhaps I’ll decide to do another 100 paintings … I imagine that I’ll have an idea of where I’m heading when I’m working on No. 85.  Right now, I’m working on No. 12 and No. 13.

3.  I still draw and paint representationally every day, just as I always have.  However, I’m not posting what I do as often as I did.  I work representationally to keep my drawing, painting and observation skills honed.  I don’t remember ever expressing a deep thought or emotion in a representational work of art.  My representational work shares WHAT I experience. It’s through abstract or semi-abstract work that I express HOW I experience life and how I FEEL when I'm observing the world around me.  For too long I've focused on the WHAT and now I'm focused on the FEEL.

Of course, some of my feelings are automatically expressed when I'm painting representationally.  Those feelings are only the tip of the iceberg.  Now I'm swimming deeper into the chill of the sea.

Making wine from dandelion petals takes time and patience, as do Soleimani's photographs. They are processes not unlike the process I learned recently in Sally Hirst’s Approaches to Abstraction course. I Collect and Considering for a long period of time before I begin the Creating stage.  This process feels right to me.  Whereas my paintings in the past may have been like fine new wine, my current and future work will be like the wine made from older grapes and will endure the passage of time.

While reading the article by the retired critic, dozens of distant memories danced through my head. Unaware at the time, these memories had been awakened while wandering through Parc André Citroën.  It was when I began working on the Parc Series  that the significance of these memories surfaced.  It takes time and distance to know which experiences play significant roles transforming a person. In this case it's the woman I see reflected in the mirror. Ironic that the Broadway show in the article was “Follies”.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Chris Carter

"The more you protect what you have attained, what you are known for, what you think your work is about, the less likely you will create something extraordinary." 



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