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Draw and Paint more Masterful Portraits with Stronger Value Skills

figures ink and watercolor Feb 15, 2021

Draw and Paint more Masterful Portraits with Stronger Value Skills

Scroll to the end to see today's suggested experiment.

I'm feeling incredibly grateful that I took advantage of opportunities to sketch and paint in crowded, lively, public places for so many decades. Though it's still quite easy to wander about in remote, unpopulated places sketching and painting, sketching in pubs, performance centers, yoga classes and busy streets has not been an option for most of the year.  I'm happy to say that my daughter was able to find a location in New Jersey this morning that was actively scheduling appointments for the COVID vaccine.  Tomorrow morning at 11am I will receive my first dose of the vaccine.  

Peter playing French Horn in the bow of my canoe as I painted during the Boat for the VOTE event on the Gowanus Canal one night last November.

What this means is that I'll be able to look forward to a tentatively planned painting event on the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn on the weekend of April 17th!  The plan is for me to paint on a raft or in a canoe on the canal on Saturday during the Open Paddle.  On Sunday, I'll teach a sketching/painting workshop, also on the canal in a canoe or on a raft.  If there's an issue due to the current dredging of the canal, the two events might be held at the Gowanus Dredgers facility.  Flexibility is the key ... as it has been for the last year.  It will still be a masked and socially distanced event.  I'll keep you informed of the plans as the time grows closer.

Why do I bring this up?

As I've been gathering examples and videos together for my Grayscale Value /Color Value online class, I'm sifting through thousands of images created over the last few decades.  Memories, triggered by the sketches and paintings, remind me that many of the most important turning points in my growth as an artist occurred in situations that were less than ideal for creating art.  Sketching in ink and watercolor in dimly lit pubs during live music jams is one of those situations.  I had no choice but to paint only by value and temperature. It was far too dark to see the colors I mixed on my small palette even with the additional candles offered to me by friendly patrons sitting close by.  I kept my warm pigments on the left side of my palette and the cool pigments on the right side.

Big Ed Sullivan and Eric King playing at the Blues Jam - Grisly Pear - NYC

In the morning, when I covered the floor with the dozens of sketches I'd done the night before, I was shocked at how lively the color was and how the odd selection of colors worked better than in most of my studio paintings.  It would be another two or three years before I understood why my color was more expressive, richer and livelier when I painted in the DARK!  I was still too programmed by the misfortune of having been taught color theory in a way that guaranteed dreadful color.

When the lights were bright, I wasn't able to break my old habits.  Why not?  Because I didn't have good habits to replace the bad habits.  It wasn't until 2008 that I was able to retrain myself. I took a break from exhibiting and teaching to focus on understanding color from the perspective of science; how our eyes interpret light waves as color. Finally, the pieces of the puzzle began to fit together.

What had been ridiculously complex in my mind turned out to be ridiculously simple once I broke down the wall and started from scratch.  Along with learning about color, I finally understood the connection between color and grayscale values.  I know it should have been obvious that color cannot be separated from its grayscale value.  Even though I 'd learned to see the world in black and white from the hours I spent in my darkroom, I didn't make the leap to mixing paint pigments specifically within the range of grayscale values I needed for my design and composition to be strong.

This morning, I realized that in order to simplify Grayscale Value / Color Value in the course I'm creating, I need to present it in a game format as I do with teaching Color.  Funny thing is, I already created the game back when I invented The Color Scheme Game.  I just never got around to working it into a class format.  

Switching gears a bit, I want to let you know that it has come to my attention that I never completed the course on Contour Drawing!  I'm so easily distracted by the way I see the world, the patterns, the shapes and they way they move and change constantly.  New ideas flood my brain and I set out to explore a new direction in my work.

I'm sure I'll be distracted again.  However, it's far easier to maintain my focus on creating these classes since I'm not able to hop on a plane or a train to see new sites, meet new people, taste new food and explore new territories.

Stay tuned!  

As I'm finding videos I think may be of interest to others, I'm posting them on my Instagram page  #chriscarterart and also on my YouTube channel. 

I want to apologize for the dreadful audio on many of my earlier videos.  I'm doing my best to edit these videos prior to posting them.  If you're taking any of my online courses, either on Skillshare or on this site, you will find that I'm gradually replacing the poor audio with improved audio.  Please let me know when you come across one that needs immediate help.  I'm also finding some pretty dreadful video resolution.  That, too, I'm attempting to resolve.


Musicians Waiting to Play at an Open Mic Event - ink and watercolor

Today's Experiment is to paint by candlelight!  See what happens when you paint only by value and temperature.  My method of painting in the pubs was to first do a loose line drawing using a dip pen and Noodler's Black Ink, Platinum Carbon Ink. Sometimes I experimented with a colored ink.  I then applied washes of watercolor over and around the ink lines I had drawn.

Please share your experience of painting in the dark with me.


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