Wednesday, August 31, 2016

"Detail from Sargent's 'Lady Agnew'" (oil on linen; 12" x 9")


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The painting is the copy of a detail from "Lady Agnew of Lochnaw" (1892) by the master portraitist John Singer Sargent. The original hangs in the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh.

Sargent's dazzling and unforgettable image of Lady Agnew is one of the most famous of his many portraits of fashionable London society. For both the artist and his sitter, the painting was an instant success, establishing Sargent's reputation as the portrait painter of choice for the London elite and immediately transforming the newly elevated Lady Agnew into a society celebrity.

Lady Agnew fixes the viewer with an intelligent, faintly amused gaze, but it is her elegant white silk dress and lilac sash that threaten to steal all our attention. Unfortunately, the sash didn't make into the small copy.

Sargent's image of Lady Agnew helped her to become a leading light in fashionable circles, holding lavish salons in her London home. Ironically, the high costs of this hospitality meant that she was eventually forced to sell some family pictures including this portrait which was purchased by the Scottish National Gallery in 1925.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"Assategue Island Twilight" (mixed media on paper; 18" x 14")


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A popular camping site along the mid-Atlantic coast, Assateague Island is also famous for its feral ponies.  I was aiming for the peace and solitude that can be found at dusk when the crowds are gone.  The painting is a mixed-media piece, with colored pencil and oil pastel on watercolor.  How do you like it?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

"Detail from Rembrandt's Self-Portrait" (oil on linen; 10" x 8")


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The painting is the copy of a detail from "Self-Portrait" by the Dutch Old Master Rembrandt van Rijn. The original hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Rembrandt painted many self-portraits in his lifetime. He painted this self-portrait in 1659, after he had suffered financial failure despite so many years of success. His spacious house and other possessions had been auctioned the previous year to satisfy his creditors. In this late work, the deep-set eyes that bore into those of the viewer seem to express inner strength and dignity.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

"Peony, Nigella, and Foxglove" (watercolor on paper; 8" x 8")


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Pink peonies, nigella (love in a mist), and foxgloves--all from my cottage garden--make a lovely bouquet, don't you think?  Of course, these flowers are all gone; my garden looks dreadful these days, although a reblooming iris started blooming.  Apparently, it couldn't wait until the fall.  Neither can I!


These reblooming irises are more expressive than the regular ones, but you get to enjoy them twice a year!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

My New Watercolor Sketchbook (watercolor on paper; 9" x 9")


My new watercolor sketchbook


Here is my new homemade sketchbook.  It is made with Fabriano 140 lb hot press watercolor paper.  I cut the sheets into 9" × 9" squares, put my watercolor paintings as covers, had them bound at Staples.  I am now ready to go for splashing with watercolors!

I use 300 lb paper for my "serious" watercolor paintings.  Having paid top dollar for the paper, I tend to get cautious and play safe when I paint on it, whereas when I work in a sketchbook, I become experimental, loose, and playful.  So I decided to make a "serious" sketchbook with 140 lb paper so that I play around in it.  If something turns out great, I can tear the sheet off the binding, mat the painting and sell it.  Am I not ingenious, or what?

Monday, August 22, 2016

"Detail from Renoir's 'Two Sisters'" (oil on linen; 8" x 10")


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The painting is the copy of a detail from "Two Sisters (On the Terrace)" (1881) by the French Impressionist master Pierre Auguste Renoir. The original hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago.

Renoir worked on the painting on the terrace of the Maison Fournaise, a restaurant located on an island in the Seine in Chatou, the western suburb of Paris. The painting depicts a young woman and her younger sister seated outdoors with a small basket containing balls of wool. Over the railings of the terrace one can see shrubbery and foliage with the River Seine behind it.

A celebration of the beauty of spring and the promise of youth, "Two Sisters" is a technical and compositional tour de force , a virtuoso display of vibrant color and variegated brushwork. I focused on the older sister's (actually an 18-year-old model) beautiful face and her brilliant red hat.

Friday, August 19, 2016

"Detail from Titian's Ranuccio Farnese" (oil on gessoboard; 10" x 8")


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The painting is the copy of a detail from "Ranuccio Farnese" (1542) by the Italian Renaissance master Titian from Venice. The original hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.  It has always been one of my favorite Old Masters' paintings, so when Danni Dawson gave us a grisaille/glazing assignment, I decided to make a copy of a detail from it.

This portrait of twelve-year-old Ranuccio was painted in Venice just after he had been made prior of San Giovanni dei Forlani, an important property belonging to the Knights of Malta. The grandson of Pope Paul III, Ranuccio was the youngest member of one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in Italy.

Ranuccio became cardinal of Santa Lucia in Sicily at the age of fifteen, and he was granted several bishoprics before his untimely death at the age of thirty-five. In this perceptive portrait, Titian brilliantly captures the image of a sensitive pubescent boy about to embark upon a very public life.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

"Serenity Reigns" (oil on stretched canvas; 22" x 28")


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I have been working on "Serenity Reigns" for almost ten years.  Its complicated, Frank Lloyd Wrightesque architecture; the confusion between the inside and outside images; and some one's casual remark that the painting was neither here nor there got in the way.  I finally worked out the design and other problems and was able to finish it yesterday.  I cannot be happier.

The painting depicts a Chinese wooden sculpture from around 1100, a part of the fabulous Chinese art collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.  The sculpture is not Buddha, but a bodhisattva, an enlightened being who has delayed entering paradise in order to help others attain enlightenment.  In China and Korea, Guanyin, his/her Chinese name, is widely worshipped as a “goddess of mercy and compassion". In popular folklore, reciting the bodhisattva’s name during disaster would bring relief. I grew up in a devout Buddhist family, so am quite familiar with Guanyin's importance and popularity in the Buddhist milieu.

Seated in the lotus position, this figure wears the silk garments and gold jewelry befitting a bodhisattva. The gesture of both hands turned up with thumbs touching the middle fingers is perhaps that of discourse or argumentation. Carved during the last creative epoch of Chinese Buddhist sculpture, it expresses the gentle, benign calm of near enlightenment. (The information was collected from the MIA's website.)

On a personal level, I achieved my own calm and near enlightenment as I was working on the painting in the past few days. Let go of anger, frustration, and other emotions that interfere with the inner peace.  Don't let others determine what you should paint as well!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

"Paris Bridge of Love" (oil on stretched canvas; 11" x 14")


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June 1, 2015 was the day the love died. That day an estimated one million padlocks, dubbed “ love locks,” were removed from Paris’ famed Pont des Arts bridge—connecting the Louvre and the Institut de France across the Seine. Love locks may be gone, but the romance of Paris lives forever!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

"Summer Marina" (oil on stretched canvas; 12" x 16") sold


sold
The original state

Lately I have been busy reworking old paintings, trusting that I have become better and can spot and improve troubled aspects of unsatisfactory paintings. "Summer Marina" is one such example.  I never liked the chalkiness of the background trees, although I was happy with the composition of the colorful boats and their sails all grouped together and sandwiched between the dark shapes of the trees and reflections.  So I tackled the background chalkiness and, at the same time, jazzed up the water and boats with dots.  How do you like the new and improved painting?

Friday, August 12, 2016

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

"SF Palace of Fine Arts" (oil on stretched canvas; 11" X 14")


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If you live in the the San Francisco Bay Area, you don't need the explanation for this painting. It depicts the Palace of Fine Arts on a fine day. In addition to hosting art exhibitions, it remains a popular attraction for tourists and locals and is a favorite location for weddings.

I had a lot of trouble painting "SF Palace of Fine Arts" so much so that it took several weeks to finish it.  It all had to do with the dumb idea of working with at least three photos: one for the colors of the main rotunda; the second for the colonnades; and the third for the lovely shadow shapes on the rotunda, and so on!  I was a nerve wreck.  Eventually, I redid the drawing and finished the painting based on one photo.  Aargh.  I hope it was worth all the trouble.