My daughter, then 9 years of age, was fascinated by the sea anemones and was staring at them for a long time at Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. I took her picture from the other side of the tank. In the picture, she looks like she is in the water, as if she were a mermaid.
I was intrigued by the concept of three planes--the dark plane in which my daughter was situated, the middle plane of the water tank with all those glowing, myriad of sea creatures, and finally, the front plane where I was standing--painted on a flat surface. The painting was to be full of mystery, pre-Raphaelite, or bizarre. It was difficult to execute and took four Wednesdays, with the help of my new teacher, Diane Tesler.
Hovenweep means in the Paiute and Hopi language "deserted valley." The 20-square-mile area of Hovenweep National Monument, straddling Utah and Colorado, was once farms and fields cultivated by the Ancestral Puebloans. There are now only several ruins of high towers, dating from the mid-13th century. I painted Hovenweep Castle under a sunny sky in peace and quiet last August.
The hill in the background was darker than the green slope in the middle ground, so I had painted as I saw. My teacher, Sara Linda Poly, told me to forget what I saw and to paint over it with a pale mauve glaze. Now it is settled back where it should be. Paint what you see, but also paint what you know. An important lesson.
Although it's a decent weather and Thursday, one of my plein-air painting days, I stayed put and painted this piece. In my garden, a hanging basket with geranium flowers is still going strong in last November, as if it is defying the inexonerable march of seasons. All around are trees that are becoming increasingly bare. Soon the summer will be only a memory.
Today was the reception for the Small Works Show at The Art League in Alexandria, VA. As I mentioned in a previous entry, my painting, "Playing with Dandelion", has won the second place and already got sold. My daughter, and also the model of the painting, took the picture of me shaking hands with the juror, Emily Conover.
The premise of the show was that the image could not be larger than 48 square inches. Emily Conover, who is an adjunct professor of painting and drawing at the University of Maryland, said that "composition, scale, and format become extremely important when working small. You have to be very conscious of the composition." She added that "several artists were successful in making their small works appear larger through strategic selection of format and scale, and use of an open composition."
I am so glad that I started a daily painting project. Paint everyday--or at least try to--and upload the results on my website. Some paintings were not so great, so I didn't even bother. I learned what subjects work better in such a small format (initially I had limited myself to one format: 4 x 5").
When I had 20 paintings ready, my blog within the website went public, that is, Blogger became its host. The new blog started out just with brief descriptions of the paintings. Then I began to explore the medium of blog, which is supposed to be a web diary. More and more entries became discussions and thoughts about my art adventure. It is time-consuming, to be sure. I could be painting instead of writing about art. But writing has a way of clarifying muddled thoughts, and I hope to connect with other artists and art lovers with my words.
There is this wonderful art co-operative called The Art League in the Old Town in Alexandria, VA, which operates a gallery, school, and store. They have monthly juried shows, which are very competitive. As a watercolorist, I used to get accepted into these shows on a regular basis. The best record was eight times in ten shows. Ever since I switched to the opaque mediums, first acrylic, then oil, my performance plummeted. I barely scraped by with three or four shows a year (if you make three shows, you become eligible for the non-juried bin gallery section and can sell art). This year has been pretty grim. The last time when my painting was juried in was May. Even my stoic Scandinavian husband was getting worried.
Then, bingo, this month in which the gallery hosts two shows simultaneously--the small works and large works--my painting, "Playing with Dandelion" won the second place, obviously, in the small works show. How about that! I am thrilled. I credit this honor to my daily painting project!