Author Archives: magicgroove

About magicgroove

Chris Carraher, artist. Find me at www.magicgrove.net.

Adventure

Snapshot of work in progress

snapshot of work in progress

You think you’ve seen this before, but you haven’t.  You’ve seen an earlier study of the same subject – what I’m thinking of as Time, Vodka, Mandarins.  Again, acrylic and pastel on paper.  If you saw it in real life you’d see it was stapled to a piece of foamboard and bordered with white tape.  There’s a few more changes I want to make to this; we’ll see if I actually get to them.  I’m already working on a third study.  

I’ve been pondering why I’m so averse to portraying form, as in three-dimensional perspective.   I’m quite capable of doing it; in fact, I have to work to not do it. Instead, I like a flattened surface that, if it has depth, it is only depth created with texture or such design elements as color or temperature or scale.  Abstraction and the deconstruction of perspective are other ways to avoid it, as in how I handled the homestead cabins in the Additional Dimensions series.  

Every time a piece veers towards modeling I quickly get irritated – literally hot under the collar – and bored.  Resentful, even.  The feeling that happens is that of a shift to the other part of my brain – the part that analyzes and makes calculations.  There’s a time and a place for that, of course, but it feels like work.  And I’m not painting to feel like I have a job.  I’m painting to have an adventure.  

On another note:  I hung some paintings today at the one-and-only Glass Outhouse Art Gallery in Wonder Valley as part of “Buh-Bye to 2021“, a group show curated by Suzanne Ross.  The show runs Dec 1-26 (including Christmas Day), with opening reception this Saturday 1-5 pm.  For the display I elected to bring several of my Bell Poems.  I thought they might be a quiet spot in the blizzard of works on view, not to mention the general chaotic conditions of this year soon ending. 

End of the Millennium

Snapshot of "End of the Millennium with Star"

Snapshot of End of the Millennium with Star

I wrote in my last post about my habit of returning to simple still-life set-ups after a prolonged interruption in the studio in order to regain my stride, and then quickly passing on to something looser.  Here’s another example, demonstrating that this practice goes quite a ways back.

At the turn of the millennium – more than 20 years ago now – we had a small party on my property with a very big bonfire.  When I acquired my five acres in 1999 there was quite a bit of debris, and I gathered this over months into a big pile.  That night we burned all the contents over many hours, ending up with the pile gone and a deep pit of cherry red coals.  It was pretty spectacular.

Anyway, one of the guests gave me a special bottle of wine and a yellow winter squash, curvy and heavy and lovely in that almost fleshly way winter squashes have.  Too lovely to cook, really, and so we didn’t.  After everyone was gone and the mess cleaned up, I staged the two items in a box and started painting them.  It began quite conventionally, like this:

Snapshot of "End of the Millenium"

This is pastel on a heavy watercolor paper.  It’s quite small, maybe 4 or 5 inches.  It got a name:  End of the Millennium.  (These are all just snapshots, by the way.)

Then I began playing a bit more:

Snapshot of "Millenium" study

I think this study is on sandpaper, and brought in some vine charcoal.  Again, just a few inches tall.

I liked what was happening, so I worked it up further, a little larger, again on sandpaper, with result as seen in the snapshot at the top of this post:  End of the Millennium with Star.  That final version is in the scribbling, layered style I was using at the time, before I began taking a brush to the pastels.

This cascade of deconstruction always ends up happening in these return-to-the still-life scenarios.  And then I’m done with still-lifes and on to something else.  Perhaps I’ve gotten the re-grounding, re-centering I need.  But I think more likely I just get reminded that I find conventional still-lifes profoundly boring to do, and in reaction I head towards something more exciting and then I’m back off and running.  There is something seductive in the prospect of the still life, but I’m still searching for the more direct route to the part that matters to me.

Back in the Saddle

Snapshot of work in progress - Carraher 2021

snapshot of work in progress

I’m finally back to real work in the studio.  I hate long interludes where I can’t paint; I really lose my stride and it’s hard to regain it.  On the other hand, I’ve been wanting to explore some new directions, and this recent break in continuity certainly provides that opportunity.  This tends to happen every few years, due to one thing or another.  And I’ve found my common first step to get back in the saddle is a still life – usually a conventional approach to start with, followed by lively disintegration into directions I’m more interested in.

Thus the acrylic and pastel in progress pictured above.  Of course, the big news here is the re-introduction of pastel, after my focus on acrylics the last few years.  I still feel more comfortable with a pastel rather than with a brush in my hand.  And it feels a little awkward, trying to work in both at the same time.  Even how to lay out my tools on the table is not obvious to me.  I’m really stumbling around, which is the opposite of what I’m seeking.  But it will get better.

There’s a set-up out there somewhere, a set of tools and an approach, that will let me just flow.  I can feel it.  I know it’s possible.  I’m getting closer.

The Blue Pot

"The Blue Pot" - Carraher 2019

The Blue Pot
2019.  Acrylic on canvas. 14 x 14 in.

I have a heavy (very heavy) blue ceramic pot that I picked up second-hand a few years ago.  It’s square in shape but with the sides slightly rounded and an unusual, wavy, multi-level lip around the top edge.  I’ve actually never planted anything in it, although plants get temporarily placed in it sometimes.  It’s pretty groovy.

I wanted to make a painting with it, and did some sketches a couple years ago.  It was tricky finding an approach that caught the aspects of it that interested me.  But I found this close-cropped, straight-on angle satisfying.  I was also at the time particularly interested in how Matisse handled pattern, and how often it showed up in his work.  So a little patterning got added to the sketch.  The palette was very simple, just raw sienna, phthalo blue, and a yellow, probably cadmium.  The drawing was brushed on the canvas very loosely, and my main interest was the intensity and weight of the blue.  I was not quite satisfied with the block of raw sienna in the upper right, and added the blue discs.

I liked the painting well enough but didn’t see where it fit in with the rest of my work.  I didn’t expect to show it at Open Studio Art Tours.  But on a whim I hung it up to replace another work that had sold, and it was quickly bought by a younger fellow who was furnishing his Mid-Century Modern mobile home.  He showed me some photos of the trailer and I must say it was pretty cool.  I was intrigued at the idea of this work in there.

When he and his friends were leaving they spotted the original blue pot on top of a low wall in my yard.  They were pretty excited to see it.  I’m kind of surprised they recognized it from this painting.  Says something, I guess.

Granite and the National Park Art Expo

snapshot of Granite VIII framed

snapshot of Granite VIII in new frame

When I dropped off my painting at the 29 Palms Art Gallery yesterday, more entries were arriving by the moment to join those already leaning against the wall.  They’ll be hung before next Thursday, when the 9th Annual Joshua Tree National Park Juried Art Exhibition officially opens.  I must say, I was impressed by the other entries (now viewable on-line at the JTNPArts website).  Some really inspired works this year, from all over California and the nation.  I am honored to be showing among them. 

You can see in the snapshot above what my entry looks like in its frame.  I happened to already have this frame in the studio, and I thought that it went well with the painting.  Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may recognize this piece from the Granite series I was working on last year.  I set it aside as I thought it might be a good fit for the JTNP show, and I was really pleased when it was accepted.    

But now my attention is back on P-A-I-N-T-I-N-G.  Finally!  Open Studio Art Tours was a major interruption in my work process, and I can’t wait to get back to it.  (I’m not nearly as nice a person when I can’t work, let me tell you!)  Yesterday I finished turning the studio back into a studio, instead of a gallery, and life feels normal again.  So look for more new work soon!  🙂 

Bond

"Carbon 7" - Carraher 2021

Carbon 7
2021. Acrylic and graphite on canvas. 14 x 18 in.

It’s interesting to witness someone bonding with a piece of art.  As the creator of the work, it can be very exciting to watch the viewer see in the work something that you put in there.  It may not be exactly what most excites you about the work; the response always relies to some degree on what the viewer themselves bring to it.  But in the best situations, the two of you connect through something in the work that you both share, something you both can see and feel and may never have had another way to express.  A connection that the artwork allows you, together, to discover. 

The Open Studio Art Tours gives me a unique opportunity to witness that bond develop, right in my studio, in my world, where I create it.  There are no intermediaries.  No distance.  No separation. 

The above work, Carbon 7, marked a departure in the Carbon series in that I introduced graphite as well as a deliberate gray shape.  Because of that, it took me a while to decide if it belonged in the collection.  I made another piece around the same time that included graphite, and ultimately I excluded that one from the series.  But Carbon 7 made it in.  I liked the expansion it signaled.  It felt right. 

The person who bought it has purchased my work in the past and, as with this one, seems invariably drawn to the slight outlier, the work that in its difference reveals the heart of a collection.  She sees something that I see.  It is a wonderful, and very special, connection.  

Mop Up

"Satellite Beach" - Carraher 2021

Satellite Beach
2021. Acrylic on canvas. 16 x 12 in.

Whoosh!  Hwy 62 OSAT 2021 is over (for me – there is another weekend to come for many artists), and I’m exhausted but really glad I did it.  OF NOTE:  I will be leaving my work up in the studio through next weekend if anyone who did not have a chance to come by would like to see it.  Contact me and we’ll set up a time.

I’ll have more to say in other posts about the experience, but right now I’ll just note that everything went smoothly, all our preparations served us well, paintings went to new homes, and many wonderful art conversations were had.  Thanks to everyone who came by!  It was so satisfying to finally be seeing friends again, both old and new.

And now I can start obsessing about my artwork again, hah!  Satellite Beach, above, started at the same time and in the same way as Lighthearted, early in the year, but this one took much longer to declare complete.  It was a different process than I’ve been using lately, with an emphasis on mixing and balancing the colors – yellow iron oxide, Indian yellow, phthalo turquoise, and violet oxide, plus of course black and white.  The textured canvas gives the colors extra depth and the transparent colors more strength.  I hope to do more in the vein of Satellite Beach and Lighthearted.  I’m happy to say both of these paintings have found folks who love them.

I have lots to reflect upon in terms of the responses I observed to the work I had up.  Almost every collection got at least some love, and odd pieces did as well.  I must say it was encouraging.

If you want to see the show for yourself this week let me know and we’ll set something up!

A Beautiful Weekend

Wall of mandala paintings - Carraher 2021

Snapshot of wall of mandalas – OSAT 2021

I survived, my friends, and actually had a great time!  The first weekend of Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours was stunningly beautiful and only a little breezy; I couldn’t have asked for better.  It was so wonderful to see in actual person many old friends and also to meet new neighbors – just like the old days.  (Wasn’t sure we’d ever feel that again…)  

Miss B.’s signs were perfect and so far as I know no one got lost.  Okay, one visitor did get stuck in the sand but it was nowhere near us so I’m blaming Google Maps.  Remember, friends:  Don’t rely on the app or Google maps!  Follow the directions in the catalog!

The mandalas fairly flew off the wall and half are now gone.  You can see them as they were hung above, with the Aquaria spread across the bookcase below.   

And – my favorite thing – there were plenty of conversations about art, and excuses for me to talk about my paintings which, as readers of this blog know, I can do at infinite length.  

We’ll do it all again next weekend, of course, but for anyone who can’t make the weekend I’m happy to set up an appointment if you want to come by sometime this week.  Just send me a message

None of it would have happened without the skilled and untiring efforts of Miss B., who made an inviting courtyard for those arriving and those who wished to linger. 

And of course, there were cookies.  Thanks to Richard for baking and bringing by oatmeal-coconut-apricot delectables in his traditional contribution to kick things off, and to Valerie for even more cookies!

Richard's cookies

Ready, or not

Snapshot of OSAT 2021 signs

Bushed.  But ready enough.  Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours starts tomorrow at 10 a.m., and yes, my paintings are hung, the floor is swept, the parking area is designated, Miss B. has the courtyard decorated and the snacks ready.  Simple snacks in little bags, as it’s still Covid Times and safety is on our minds.  And yes, masks will be required at Studio #2.   But, I think, pandemic or no, we’re going to have a good time.

Miss B. was in charge of the signs, and oh my goodness they are SO good.  She was tested as this day brought rain (highly unusual here) and wind (only too common), but her signs will not melt nor blow away, you may take my word for it.

The OSAT app is now available and is a really handy tool in many ways BUT, sorry to say, not consistently reliable in terms of the digital map – typical in wild places like Wonder Valley.  In my case, it takes one to my neighbor’s house, not mine.  However, it will get you to Mesa Drive and from there you may follow the aforementioned signs to my studio.  And the directions in the print/pdf catalog are correct.

Not every T is crossed nor every I dotted, but we’re ready enough.  And too damn tired to do another thing tonight.  So wish us luck, and luck to all the 165 artists participating this year.

And before I say goodnight, I wish a thanks to all the hard-working volunteers on the OSAT team and to a very thoughtful friend who brought us cranberry scones this afternoon from Porto’s in Los Angeles – exactly the thing to finish the day.

scones

While you’re at it…

"Shamanic Dimension" - Carraher 2021

Shamanic Dimension
2021.  Acrylic on canvas. 14 x 11 in.

Red red RED!!  A coat of pyrrole red and a coat of quinacridone red, with carbon black.  There’s a little texture from an underlayer of Golden Light Molding Paste.  From last July when it was hot hot HOT in the studio.  This is one of two companion pieces to The Heart in the Bardo, currently on view in the OSAT Collective Show in Joshua Tree.

The on-line map for Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours is now available either as a download or within Google Maps.  There is a print version of the map in the print catalog, which is available at various locations across the Basin.  There should be an app available soon (I hope so, since it starts this weekend!).

Apparently there are more than a few errors in the map and catalog, which is unfortunate as this is a big place that’s easy to get lost in.  I understand they’re trying to  make necessary corrections on the app.  I’m happy to say the map and directions appear correct for my studio (#2), EXCEPT for not listing that visitors should not use GPS to find it.  So:  Don’t use GPS to find me!  Follow the directions together with the map, and you’ll be good.

While you’re out at the east end there are some other studios you should not miss, including:

Perry Hoffman and Doug Smith at Studio #4 (weekends 1 and 2) at the phantasmagoric Tile House, with unique ceramics, paintings, mosaics, photography, fabrics, furnishings, and whatever has sprung from their irrepressible minds this year.  Always super FUN!

Robert Arnett at Studio #5 (weekends 1, 2, and 3) in the comfy backyard with gorgeous Impressionist oil paintings hanging on the fence.  Bob has an eye for Wonder Valley like no-one else.  Everyone loves going to the Arnetts!

Mark Heuston at Studio #1 (weekends 2 and 3), the farthest east this year in the real outback of the Morongo Basin.  Mark casts found and recycled metals into acutely observed desert sculpture, and usually schedules a few live castings during the tour.  Note that Mark really got the short end of the stick in the catalog this year, both having his website URL misprinted and being left off the map entirely.  So make an effort to find Studio #1 via the directions and you won’t regret it.

If I’m not mistaken Perry, Bob, and Mark have participated in Art Tours every year since it began 20 years ago.  They are Destination Studios for many veteran OSAT visitors, and for good reason.   So if you’re going on the Tour, don’t miss ’em!