Posts filed under ‘Inspiration’

New Painting: “Multi-Colored Dots”

Here’s my latest dot painting, “Multi-Colored Dots:”

Multi-Colored Dots - painting by Barbara J Carter, 10x10 inches, acrylic on canvasMulti-Colored Dots” painting by Barbara J Carter, acrylic on canvas, 10×10 inches, framed to 11.5 x 11.5 in.

For this one, I tried something new. The background (the soft swirl of colors behind the dots) I made by pouring thinned paint onto the canvas. I poured several colors and allowed them to merge and blend together, with some encouragement on my part. I was inspired to try this after seeing the amazing (and huge) paintings done this way by a fellow Los Angeles artist named Suzan Woodruff. I was so intrigued I just had to give it a try. It’s messy: all that runny paint runs off the sides of the canvas and gets all over. You don’t have a lot of control over the final result, either, so it’s sort of like controlled chaos. It’s good fun! I’m definitely going to do more. Thanks for the inspiration Suzan!

You can see my other dot paintings on my website.


June 23, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Art Inspiration Booklet for 2010

This year I got inspired. It was time to do something different.

For the last few years, I wrote up a “business plan” for my art business each January. It’s a Word document, about eight pages long, all text, no pictures. Frankly, it’s not much fun. And not surprisingly (especially in 2009) not much use either. (See this article about why business plans are pretty useless.)

I have all sorts of plans and goals for 2010. Some for my personal life, some for my art. I have my word of the year picked out. I’ve thought about what worked in 2009, and what I want to do differently in 2010. I have ideas that I might or might not actually do, but I need to write them all down so I don’t forget them. In short, I need a way to write this stuff down, but the stodgy old business plan format isn’t working for me any more.

Just in the nick of time, I found Lisa Sonora Beam’s blog, where she shows how she makes a visually appealing booklet (she calls it a “strategic planner”) to contain all her plans, goals, and ideas for the new year. What a great idea! As she says, creative people need visual stimulation. You can see what her booklet looks like here. It’s pretty fabulous. (She does have the advantage of being a collage artist.)

Inspired by her adorable booklet I decided to scrap my usual art “business plan” in favor of my own version of the booklet. It was so much fun to make! Here’s a peek:

OK, the cover isn’t the most exciting part. It gets better inside, where I’ve collaged images of other artists’ work for artistic inspiration and visual stimulation. This is the stuff that gets my creative juices flowing!

The first page lists some of my personal values (“integrity,” “honesty,” etc.) plus my word for the year, “prolific.” I chose prolific because I intend to create more art than ever this year.

The next page lists my personal goals, like decluttering and daily exercise. Additional pages include my artistic and business goals, and some ideas for better time management.

I collect pithy sayings, so I put some of those in the booklet too.

I was pretty frugal about the materials I used. The pages are some old cardstock I had lying around (standard 8.5×11 inches). I cut out some images from an Artful Home catalog, choosing art that inspires me. I also printed out pictures I’ve collected from the internet of other artists’ work.

I stapled the booklet down the middle, then painted each page a with a different background color or pattern before gluing down the various pictures. I used Sharpie pens to write in my various goals, plans, and ideas. It helps that I took a class on collage, because this is not my usual medium! The class emphasized working quickly and spontaneously, so I was able to put the booklet together in fairly short time.

For once I find I’m looking forward to using my plan. Just looking at it makes me feel good. So much better than a business plan!

January 6, 2010 at 5:07 pm 6 comments

2009 Los Angeles Art Show


I went to the Los Angeles Art Show Saturday evening.

This is the main art fair in Los Angeles. Kind of like the art fairs in Miami, only much much smaller. It’s only one venue (well, two if you count ArtLA, but I don’t), instead of a dozen (ish). But what the heck, this is what we got. So I went. And I enjoyed it immensely.

The show ran from 11am to 8pm on Saturday, so to avoid crowds I showed up just past 6pm, 2 hours before closing. I didn’t have the show entirely to myself, but it was pretty quiet, just the way I like it. The dealers naturally weren’t so gleeful about the lack of bodies. But they did admit that Saturday afternoon had seen a good crowd. The weekdays on the other hand were quite light. I don’t know why they even hold the show on so many weekdays. I can see opening the show on Friday, or maybe even Thursday, but the show actually opened on Wednesday. Doesn’t make sense to me. How many people are going to take a Wednesday off to tramp downtown for a single art show?

Well, anyway. I took some pictures. I was a bit hampered by the low level of ambient light, and my not always perfectly steady hand. Obviously I couldn’t take flash pictures, so I had to hold the camera reeeeealy steady. A few pictures, alas, were too blurred to post. I’ll show you the ones that passed muster.


There were more galleries this year. The space where the show was held, the Los Angeles Convention Center, is a much larger space than the Barker Hanger (Santa Monica) where it was held last year. Oddly, there were still places that felt a little crowded, but mostly it flowed nicely.


Chuck Close was a big phenomenon this year. I saw prints of his work in at least three galleries. One particular print was even available in all three! (I suppose you could’ve done some comparison shopping.) It made me mutter “Chuck Close overdose”. Don’t get me wrong, I love his work. But really people, let’s branch out a little, eh?

wall-of-chuck-close Wall of Chuck Close

Less well known is Lynne Mapp Drexler, no longer with us unfortunately, but her work grabbed me and sparked a tingle in my Pointillism-loving heart, so I had to snap a shot:

lynne-mapp-drexler-gotterdammerung-1959-76x81 Lynne Mapp Drexler, “Gotterdammerung”, 1959, oil on canvas. I’m unsure of the dimensions, but it’s something like 76×81″. Priced in the mid 5-figures, but I’m afraid I didn’t get the name of the gallery. Sorry.

Another painting that caught my eye was this one by Chris Pousette-Dart. Looking up his work on the web, it seems that although he does a lot of abstract work, not all of it is as expressionist as this. Anyway, I really liked this particular piece.

chris-pousette-dart-a-night-in-november-2008-56x42 Chris Pousette-Dart, “A Night in November”, 2008, oil on canvas, 56×42. Affordably priced at $5800, available through the Rehs Contemporary Gallery of New York.

Another big painting that grabbed my attention was this enormous one by Jim Dine. Normally I shy away from anything with hearts in it, but the colorful expressionism overrode my anti-heart prejudice.

jim-dine-marathon-talks-2008-96x120 Jim Dine, “Marathon Talks”, 2008, oil, acrylic, charcoal and sand on linen, 96×120″. $350,000 from the Jonathan Novak Contemporary Art Gallery in Los Angeles. Well, it is a big painting, and I guess the guy is pretty famous, but still… yikes.

Speaking of famous, here’s another piece that caught my eye. The interesting thing is, I think it’s the same one that is shown here as having been auctioned off through Christie’s. So it’s been changing hands quite a bit, apparently (and it’s only dated 2000).

charles-arnoldi Diptych (no title) by Charles Arnoldi, 2000, oil and wood on canvas. My photo shows the texture better, but the Christie’s photo shows the colors better.

Walking past this booth, I realized I’d seen these paintings before (well, images of them online that is). The two large paintings facing out are by Kuno Gonschior, a contemporary abstract pointillist artist pointed out to me by tackad, who blogs about art and artists he likes (including abstract pointillism).


There was a lot of Chinese and Korean art in the show. By and large, the Chinese art was not to my taste. It was raw and highly political, and that stuff just doesn’t do it for me. Felt a bit too art-school to me, like the kids who have more raw energy and enthusiasm than subtlety and craft.

The Korean art was all over the map, stylistically and content-wise. Most wasn’t interesting to me, but it was all well executed.

One Korean artist, however, stood out for me. The originality of the material and the exceptional craftsmanship drew me in, and I had to take a good long look. When I asked the gallerista if I might take a photo, she said yes, then unnecessarily added that I mustn’t use flash. I agreed, of course, but this is a little silly in this particular case because the material isn’t photo-sensitive like paint. It’s wire screen mesh, like what you use in your windows to keep bugs out of your house. And yet the details the artist captured with this humble material were incredible.

sung-tae-park Horse wall sculptures made from windowscreen by Sung-Tae Park. Each was about 4 or 5 feet tall, but only an inch or so deep. You can get an idea of the detailing of the muscles from the two horses on the left side. On the right you can see two more horses almost edge-on. I was utterly captivated. This is original art! I loved how it spoke to the ancient tradition of asian ink painting with its traditional subject matter and monochromatic palette, yet brings the tradition up to date with the modern materials.

After walking through the whole show, the one booth I wanted to revisit was the LewAllen Gallery from Santa Fe, New Mexico.

sculpture-and-lewallen-gallery Sculpture in the foreground, and across the hall you can see the LewAllen Gallery’s booth (it’s the brightly colored paintings you see in the middle of the photo).

They had a lot of brightly colored paintings inside the booth as well as outside. One was such a bright shade of orange I joked that I was in danger of getting sunburnt standing by it. But I thought the cheerful colors were a welcome respite from the doom and gloom, and judging from the proliferation of red dots I’d say they had a good show. Good on them! (Sorry I don’t have any shots of individual paintings, they came out too blurry to post.)

The multicolored painting in the center of the photo above is a painting by Howard Daum, whose work is better shown here (again from LewAllen). The painting above is “June“, 1978, oil on canvas, 48×65”, priced in the 5 figures. It was another of the paintings that really caught my eye at the show. I guess I’ve got champagne tastes when it comes to art.

Overall it was a good show with a lot of very diverse art, from political Chinese art to California impressionists to emerging contemporary artists to old masters. (I saw a Picasso, several Chagalls, a Matisse, and a truly mediocre Monet.) I was encouraged to see all the out-of-state (not to mention out-of-country) galleries showing. I hope they made back their expenses (and then some), and I hope they’ll be back next year. I sure will.

January 28, 2009 at 2:29 am 7 comments

Inspiration: Andrew Forge

I have a new artist to add to the list of those who inspire me. Well, he’s new to me anyway.

Andrew Forge (1923-2002) was born in Kent, UK, studied painting in Britain and became an academic there, eventually coming to the US and finishing out his career at various educational institutions in New England. Up until a couple weeks ago I’d never heard of him. But luckily I stumbled across a notice for an exhibit of his work in a Los Angeles gallery, went, and was completely bowled over.

He painted in several different styles through the years, but the paintings that really grabbed me were his abstract pointillist pieces. Here’s one from the gallery’s web site:

Andrew Forge, untitled, 30x40

Andrew Forge, untitled, 30x44"

I absolutely fell in love with his version of pointillism. The pointillist paintings mainly fall into two groups: monochromatic (a color field, like the one pictured above) and complementary. The latter tend to be larger pieces (50×80″) which, from a distance, appear fairly neutral in coloring but more complex in structure. Vague shapes like diagonal lines and faint curves can be seen when viewing the paintings from a distance. Then, up close, the individual dots reveal themselves to be brightly colored and mostly grouped in complementary colors, like red dots with green dots, or blue with orange. His dots are larger than Seurat’s tiny dots, about half the size of mine. He also added a few little short lines here and there mixed in with the dots. The dashes lie on top of the dots, and are thinner than the dots, so they completely disappear in the overall dazzle when you step back.

I found the difference between what you see from a distance and what you see up close so fascinating that I kept stepping back and forth to see it. Honestly, I was wandering around in a positive daze, goofy smile plastered on my face. It was the opening reception, so it probably looked like I’d drunk too much of the wine. But in fact I was drunk on the high of experiencing some really amazing art. All I’d imbibed was water.

In the past few weeks I had been contemplating painting some abstract pointillist pieces, and then this show comes along at just the right moment. It electrified me. It’s a confirmation that my ideas are sound, and at the same time it pointed me toward some new avenues that I hadn’t thought about before. I need to go back and study these paintings some more before they go away. Reproductions, especially web images, don’t do them justice.

The Andrew Forge exhibit is up October 23 through December 20, 2008, at the Manny Silverman Gallery in Los Angeles. If you’re in the area (and if you enjoy pointillism like my work, or at least don’t hate it!) I highly recommend seeing this exhibit. Andrew Forge was mainly an East Coast artist, so I don’t expect we’ll get to see much more of his work out here.

October 29, 2008 at 12:39 am

Inspiration: Stephen Quiller

Stephen Quiller is a fairly well-known American artist. He has written several how-to books about painting and color theory, and he also conducts painting workshops. And of course, he paints and sells his art.

Stephen Quiller - October Field Patterns

Stephen Quiller - October Field Patterns

I became acquainted with Quiller’s work through an artist discussion board called WetCanvas. There I discovered his version of the color wheel (he immodestly calls it the Quiller Wheel). It revolutionized my understanding of color.

Quiller Wheel

Quiller Wheel

The basic premise of the Quiller Wheel is that around the outside edge of the wheel are the pure, saturated primary colors. Primary red, bright yellow, and blue are spaced equally far apart from each other on the edge of the circle. Also around the edge, between the primaries, are the most highly saturated versions of the secondary, tertiary, and other intermediate colors, like magenta, orange, green, blue-green, and so on. So far, none of this is particularly revolutionary, right?

The kicker is what happens in the interior of the circle. Draw a straight line through the circle between any two of the edge colors (a “chord”, to use the mathematical term). This line represents all the colors you can get by mixing those two colors in varying proportions. Mix a lot of color 1 and only a little of color 2 and you land on the line pretty close to color 1. Color 2 has neutralized color 1 a little, and pulled it a little in the direction of color 2. Add more of color 2 and you slowly work your way along the line toward color 2 away from color 1. Additionally, by taking a mixed color somewhere on this line you can then create a completely different color by mixing some of a new color, call it color 3, pulling the result along a new line that aims toward color 3. And so on.

At the circle’s exact center, you get gray. When two colors can be mixed to create gray they are called “complementary”, and the line connecting them passes through the circle’s center. Points elsewhere inside the circle represent various shades of neutral colors, ranging from not quite fully saturated (very close to the circle’s edge) to very neutral (near the center).

Some tube paint colors do not land on the circle’s edge. Certainly tube greys, beiges and browns will land deep in the circle’s interior. But there are also colors that you might think of as “pure” that don’t quite make it all the way out to the edge. They’re close to fully saturated, but not quite.

This helps explain why you can’t mix cadmium red with cadmium yellow and get a perfectly saturated shade of orange. Only tube cadmium orange lands on the edge of the circle. The mixed orange lands on the straight line between red and yellow, slightly inside the circle. See? Not quite as saturated, not quite as far out on the circle.

Once you understand this idea, paint colors make a lot more sense.

This was an important step in my self-education. Armed with this understanding, I pared my palette down to just a few primaries: two reds, two yellows, and two blues (plus white, of course). Each primary color allows me to “extend” my reach to another part of the circle. (I also occasionally added in tube cadmium orange, a yummy color I wanted to use but couldn’t mix.)

With these few colors, most of the color wheel is accessible to me. I can mix nearly any color I could possibly want. The only exceptions being the most saturated secondary and tertiary colors, way out on the edge of the wheel between the primaries.

I got to test my ability to mix any color while taking a collage class a few years ago at the Museum School at the DeCordova Museum (Lincoln, MA). The homework assignment: find 3 colors you like (in magazines or catalogs), cut them out, then try to recreate each color as closely as you can by mixing paint. I chose three subtle, neutral colors that I don’t normally use in my painting, deliberately trying to challenge myself. To my delight, I got a very close match to all three. This confirmed for me the utility of a limited (but carefully chosen) palette.

I still enjoy looking at Stephen Quiller’s art, but for me his biggest contribution was the idea behind the Quiller Wheel.

August 26, 2008 at 6:07 pm 1 comment

Inspiration: Paul Powis

My art is clearly Pointillism-derived, but when I first began painting that was not my original intention.

In the beginning, I was most inspired by the landscapes of contemporary British artist Paul Powis. Here are some of my favorites of his:

Paul Powis, "Landscape 2"

Paul Powis, Landscape 2

Paul Powis, "Field of Gold"

Paul Powis, Field of Gold

Paul Powis, "Seeing a Whisper I"

Paul Powis, Seeing a Whisper I

I greatly admired his bold colors, simplified forms, and dramatic compositions (look at those diagonals!). I loved the exuberance and energy in his work. I wanted to do that too!

Of course, I didn’t want to copy his work exactly. I needed to find my own voice, my own style. It’s important to take away some key lessons from your sources of inspiration, and then make them your own. I needed something more to get me pointed in the right direction.

Around the same time, I became acquainted with the work of two other contemporary artists whose work and, more to the point, whose teachings helped shape my own work. They are Stephen Quiller and Mike Svob.

August 22, 2008 at 11:51 am 1 comment

Inspiration: Georges Seurat

I’ve been meaning to write about the artists who inspire me. Given my Pointillism-derived style, it’s only fitting that I begin with Georges Seurat, the inventor of Pointillism.

First, let me be clear. I did not set out to follow in Seurat’s footsteps. I had no idea I’d end up painting with anything like a Pointillist style. There were other artists, not Pointillists, whose styles I tried to emulate (without much success, may I add). I’ll post more about them later.

That said, it is true that I’d always been intrigued by Seurat’s ideas. To be honest, I don’t love his finished paintings, but I found his ideas about “optical mixing” fascinating.

In my high school art class (I think it was my junior year) we were assigned a Pointillism project. I had more fun with this one project than just about anything else in my four years of high school art classes. We were all using oil pastel sticks, and for a couple of weeks the tap-tap-tap sound of everyone busily making dots filled the room. Sometimes we’d all get synchronized, and the thunderous sound of our coordinated TAP-TAP-TAP must have rung up and down the hall.

Many years later, I took up the paintbrush and began experimenting. As I mentioned, I actually tried to emulate some other artists. I learned many valuable lessons from the experimentation, but the results weren’t particularly pleasing. And then, while messing around, I started painting with dots of paint rather than blended brushstrokes.

This was my “aha” moment. As soon as I saw the dots, I knew that this was how I wanted to paint.

But enough about me, let’s get back to Seurat. Because anyone painting with dots owes a huge debt to Georges Seurat.

His most famous painting is the 10-foot-wide “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grande Jatte- 1884” (or, more correctly, “Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte – 1884”). This masterpiece of Pointillism took him 2 years to complete, and hangs in the Art Institute in Chicago. I was fortunate enough to get to see it a number of years ago, back when I lived in Chicago.

Georges Seurat - A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte - 1884

Georges Seurat - A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte - 1884

Georges Seurat - Bathers at Asnieres, 1883-1884

Georges Seurat - Bathers at Asnieres, 1883-1884

Frankly, I find Seurat’s paintings a bit stiff and pale. The technique is fascinating to look at close up, but I find the formal compositions dull. The surface, from a distance, looks soft and fuzzy. Soft and fuzzy isn’t really my cup of tea.

But the technique! Oh, my, it’s breathtaking. You get up close to one of his paintings and there are all of these little DOTS! They’re not necessarily little round circles, most of them are actually little oblong hatchmarks, slanting this way and that. Busy! And all the colors, layered over each other, is mind boggling. As you can see, I find his paintings much more fun up close than from a distance.

Georges Seurat - La Parade (detail)

Georges Seurat - La Parade (detail)

There’s some similarity between this zoomed-in detail of one of Seurat’s paintings and my paintings, isn’t there? You could say that I ended up painting like a blown-up Seurat, with big dots. After all, this is the part of Seurat’s work that I find most fascinating.

Still, I don’t like the way the white shows through between his dots. I prefer to tone my canvases a solid color (red, almost always) before applying my dots. This is a big difference between my approach and Seurat’s. The white behind his dots tends to make the overall effect “pastel”. This was not the effect I wanted, as you’ll see when you read about a very different artist who influenced me: Paul Powis.

August 11, 2008 at 8:27 pm 2 comments

Barbara J Carter

I'm an artist. I make paintings with dots.

I work in acrylic paint, in a couple of distinct styles: landscapes and abstracts.

Native to California, I've lived elsewhere and only recently returned to my home state. I now live in Los Angeles.

I mostly show my art in outdoor festivals in California. I also occasionally show my work in art galleries or open studio events. You can see an up-to-date list of upcoming shows on my website (click here).

I invite you to sign up to receive my free email newsletter, in which I list my upcoming shows and talk about my latest work. I send it irregularly, a few times a year.

My links

My paintings

Follow me on Twitter: @barbarajcarter

Why I call my landscapes neo-Pointillist landscape paintings

A bunch of my abstract dot paintings

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