Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Tidal Basin in Bloom" (oil on linen, 7" x 7") sold


The Tidal Basin during the Cherry Blossom Festival is an irresistible subject for a painter.  But it is impossible to paint en plein air with all those people milling around.  The reference photo was taken on a misty, overcast day, which created a romantic mood.  When parts of the country are under snow, it's perhaps good to remember that the spring will come in about three or four months.

Monday, December 27, 2010

"Down the Path" (oil on linen, 8" x 10") sold


I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.  We wished for a white Christmas, but it didn't happen in northern Virginia.  Just a little dusting. 

Today I am sharing an old work--one of my first plein air paintings.  It was painted last year at River Farm in Alexandria in early autumn, when the leaves hadn't yet begun to change colors.  I have always be attracted to paths.  If there aren't any, I sometimes invent one as a way of inviting the viewer into the painting.  In this scene, two pathways join and lead you far into the woods.  One wonders what will await you when you get there.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Lotus Season" (watercolor on paper; 12" x 8")

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Every summer, when the lotus season comes around, I head to the waterlily pond at the Green Spring Gardens Park in Alexandria to greet these glorious flowers.  The sun was high when I took the reference photo and the flowers and huge leaves all glowed with translucency.  Initially, I left the background white, but it didn't work.  When I dropped the dark, granulating paints and allowed them mingle on the paper, the painting began to glow!

Monday, December 20, 2010

"Peony Season" (watercolor on paper; 6" x 6")

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Every now and then during the flowering season, I arrange flowers from my garden on a piece of white paper and take pictures for my watercolor still lifes.  I am more interested in shadows than flowers themselves.  Photographing is necessary because the shadow shapes will keep changing as the sun moves.

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Pink Cherry Blossoms" (watercolor on paper; 5" x 7 1/2")

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A dusting of snow last night, and quite chilly today in northern Virginia.  More images of warmer days to cheer you on.  "Pink Cherry Blossoms" is another watercolor painting that was juried into the Small Works Show at The Art League in 2002.  I was busily uploading my old artwork on paper onto my website over the weekend, and kept finding these small paintings.  Perfect!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Crab Apple Blossoms" (watercolor on paper; 5 1/2" x 7 1/2")

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One to two feet of snow in Minnesota.  Luckily in northern Virginia, we didn't get the freezing rain that the weather forecasters had been predicting.  Winter is here.  Let's think warm, like spring time.  The inspiration of the above painting came from the brilliantly back-lit crab apple blossoms in my backyard.  This jewel of a watercolor painting was juried into the Small Works show at The Art League show in 2003.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Hush, Baby" (acrylic on paper; 4" x 6")

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This is an old piece, but seemed appropriate for the season of angels.  It's an acrylic painting (on paper) of an angel statue in Burgundy, France.  The spots in the background that look like lights sparkling in the sky were created by dropping rubbing alcohol to the still damp surface.  The painting was juried in the Art League Small Works Show in Alexandria, VA in 2002.

Friday, December 3, 2010

"Miss Daisy and Lambs" (oil on linen; 11" x 14") sold


Oliver H. Kelley Farm in Elk River, Minnesota is a historic working farm that grows oats, hay, sorghum, and animals.  We saw oxen, horses, Miss Daily (one-year-old heifer), chickens, lambs, three piglets, and their mom.  On this hot, hot August day, Miss Daisy and two lambs were huddled together trying to find shade, although there wasn't much.  The scene was so funny that I just had to paint it.

I have a thing for animals; my favorites are sheep and giraffes.  I have painted cows, sheep, elephants, giraffes, polar bears, zebras, pandas, ostriches, ducks, geese, etc., although I don't consider myself an animal painter.  It must be their endlessly beautiful forms. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Last Roses" (oil on linen; 6" x 4") sold


I suppose this piece is about a cycle of life: birth, a full bloom, decay, and fruit of life.  On a personal note, I wish I could paint like this all the time, effortlessly and with conviction. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"At the Aquarium" (oil on linen, 8" x 10") sold


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.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Ruins of the Ancients" (oil on linen; 8" x 10") sold


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.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Geraniums in Hanging Basket" (oil on linen; 7" x 5") sold


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.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Reception for the Small Works Show at The Art League

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 feel hugely honored.

Happy Veterans Day!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Playing with Dandelion" (oil on linen; 4" x 5") sold


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!

Friday, October 29, 2010

"Tropical Water Lily" (oil on linen; 6" x 8") sold


There is a beautiful conservatory at Como Park in St. Paul, Minnesota.  It is landscaped outside with a floating garden of water lilies.  A sign that reads "Tropical Water Lily" that stood among the flower stems gave the painting its title.  They look like lotuses to me. 

The lotus plant has a great symbolic meaning in Buddhism.  These sculptural flowers grow in a standing water, which is usually muddy, algoid, and not pretty looking--just as you can find peace and nirvana wherever you are.  I grew up in a Buddhist family in Korea.  On the birthday celebration of the Enlightened One (April 8th in the Lunar Calendar), thousands of Buddhists made a colorful procession holding lanterns shaped like lotuses, with candles glowing inside in the evening streets in downtown Seoul.  Ah, sweet memories of my dear mother, excited like a little girl, dressed up in a Korean traditional dress, getting ready for the annual procession ....

I am happy with the way the painting turned out--lyrical and watery.  It may be the best painting of water lilies I have ever done so far.  I am sure I will be painting many more.  Not because of Monet, but for my mother.  With love.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Room of My Own--My Studio Tour

Do you have an ideal studio?  I don't.  There is a Korean proverb that goes like "if you don't have any teeth left, use your gum to chew with."  I guess it originated in the days when there was no dental service.  I live by the principle of making do, plan B's, if life gives you a lemon, make a lemonade, etc. 

I have been a part-time history professor and stay-home mom since my daughter was born.  I painted whenever I could.  Since I get depressed if I don't paint for a while, painting is a kind of therapy as well.  So I needed a home studio.  For several years, I painted in a small spare bedroom, which also served as an office, sewing room, and storage space for paintings and framing supplies.  When it became overcrowded, I decided to repurpose the dining room as my studio.

My husband was not thrilled with the idea, but I persuaded him with an argument that the space didn't get much use.  It's not big--about 10 x 10 square feet.  It has a chandelier, East-facing window, and wooden floor.  It is located right next to the kitchen and opens to the living room that has a northern exposure.  Whenever I stepped back (although the above picture shows a chair prominently, I paint standing up), I bumped into all manner of things, including the chandelier.  So I surreptitiously began to push the art table toward the adjoining living room.  Now my studio space is about 10 x 14 square feet.  My husband did notice the encroachment, but was told that the living room was used only by our daughter for her home work.  He just shook his head.

If I had been using art supplies with noxious odor, all my efforts to divide and conquer space would have been futile.  My husband happens to have allergies to various smells and I do care about his health and emotional state.  How did I get away with it?  I am a big advocate of water-mixible oil paints.  I use mostly Winsor and Newton paints with occasional Holbein Duo Aqua oil paints (more expensive, but more choice of colors).  So far, nobody in the family has complained about bad smells.  I am happy because I can paint whenever I wish.  If I choose so, I can even paint on the Thanksgiving Day while the turkey is roasting in the oven--so easy to check how it's coming along.

Monday, October 25, 2010

"Zen Moment at Crissy Field" (oil on linen; 8" x 16") sold


You don't need me to tell you what the bridge is.  The view is from Crissy Field, which my family visited three years ago.  Do you know it used to be an old airfield?  After it became a park, indigenous flowers were planted and a tidal marsh that runs to the San Francisco Bay was restored.

That day a silver-haired gentleman was practicing Tai-Chi as his faithful dog was watching.  Then something strange happened.  My daughter, then nine years old, sat down on a piling; instead of staring at the man out of curiosity, she looked out at the Golden Gate Bridge for a very long time.  Fog was lifting, a large ship went by, and birds flew over.  It was a mesmerizing scene.  Three beings existed in perfect harmony with respect and contentment.  A true Zen moment.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Early Autumn Wildflower Meadow" (oil on linen; 8" x 10") sold


Have you ever painted with a palette knife?  Sara Linda Poly, my teacher, challenges her students to try new things, and painting with a knife is one of those things she pulls out of her sleeve every now and then, just to torment us.  I gave it a try twice, hated it both times.  On a gorgeous day in September, she urged us again to put aside trusty brushes and wield a palette knife.  Ugh.

Perhaps it was the perfect weather with no humidity, no breeze, no clouds, no bugs, and no pestering persons around.  Something magical happened.  I found a spot down the wildflower meadow, looking up the manor house at River Farm in Alexandria, VA.  After a quick sketching with a brush directly on the canvas, I began to flourish a knife without fear.  When I got to the sky and the house, I briefly switched to brushes for control, but other than that, the above painting--"Early Autumn Wildflower Meadow" (8 x 10")--was created entirely with a knife.

In an earlier post, I mentioned my trouble, even fear of texture--trees, grass, sand, dirt, leaves, flowers, hair, etc.  How do you render these things with paint?  How do you suggest them without painting every single blade, leaf and floret?  I found an answer--use a palette knife!  I could lay down a large, flat area; I could also dab, skip, and scratch with it.  What freedom!  What joy!  Isn't painting supposed to be fun?  There you have it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Day at the Dock" (oil on linen; 8" x 10") sold


Water is hard to paint.  Winds, currents, and clouds keep changing the shapes of reflections.  As I have been watching my self-confidence erode lately--no sales in the two group shows in which I participated and rejections in the Art League shows month after month although I have worked so hard all summer--it was perhaps unwise to paint water.  But I did anyway because I am always drawn to the fluidity of water.  Besides, I am an Aquarius.

I struggled through the first attempt.  My mentor and teacher, Sara Linda Poly, who was there busily helping other students during a workshop in Easton, MD, basically left me alone to figure things out on my own.  I tried the second time--the same scene zoomed in on a slightly larger canvas.  Colors got more intense, shapes were simplified, and water reflections less belabored.  There is something to be said for persistence and painting the same subject twice.  I am going to keep painting water.

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Spruce Tree House at Mesa Verde" (oil on linen; 8" x 10") sold


As a watercolorist, I have always had trouble with texture and edges.  My paintings were design-driven and full of hard edges; I resolved the issue of texture by not painting grass, trees and such.  Since I turned myself into an impressionist landscape painter working in oil, I have loosened up quite a bit, although I continue to battle with trees.  As my teacher, Sara Linda Poly, says, you just cannot do without trees in a landscape.

Recently, however, it dawned on me that the reason why my watercolor paintings were so full of hard edges was often because of the subject matter.  I am drawn to geometric, linear, man-made structures.  The above is a plein-air painting, titled "Spruce Tree House at Mesa Verde" (8 x 10"), that I did in August.  I was attracted to the famous ruins like a bear to a beehive.

The ruins and rock formation didn't take much time.  It was the spruce trees that made me sweat; I had to work on them after I returned from the trip.  As I am beginning to understand better what I desire to paint, I now allow myself to include in a landscape painting the man-made, geometric stuff (buildings, sculptures, bridges, etc.)  A happy compromise, I think.  You have to paint what you want to paint.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Art of Journaling

I want to share with my readers a secret.  Not really a secret, since quite a few of my friends know about it, but a habit of mine.  Three years ago, a dear friend of my husband died of illness.  He was only in his 50's, a good man, funny guy, brilliant economist, terrific friend, you name it.  It shocked and saddened everyone.  It also painfully reminded me of the brevity and uncertainty of life.  So I started keeping a visual journal to celebrate life.  This was even before I discovered Danny Gregory and his Everyday Matters philosophy.  A mundane everyday does matter; life is no more and no less than an accumulation of every days.

The above picture is the front and back covers of one of my typical journal books.  I use good heavy watercolor paper, cut it to size (9" x 9"), and recycle my old paintings on paper as covers.  After laminating the covers, I take the book to a Staples store to get it spiral-bound.  Then fun begins.  I used to sketch in the book everyday, but couldn't keep up because of everyday responsibilities.  Instead of giving it all up, I switched to photo-journaling.  When I am traveling and find myself visually stimulated, I draw, collage, paint, and write in the book.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"Spring Robin" (oil on linen; 4" x 5") sold


When you see robins busily building nests, you know the spring has finally arrived--a welcome sight especially if you live in a place with a cold winter such as Minnesota.  I lived there for six years, so I know what I am talking about.  The picture was taken by a naturalist neighbor down the street. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"Agapanthus and Yellow Wall" (oil on linen, 5" x 4") sold


This is a wall of a motel in Eureka, CA--painted in bold yellow.  Then the management had had the ground landscaped in a complementary color scheme with blue flowers.  Their color sense was impeccable.  I love California!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"Yellow Calla Lilies" (oil on linen; 5" x 4")

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I had a bit of time on my hands before I had to pack up and go home near the end of a plein-air painting session.  So I sat down in front of yellow lilies at River Farm in Alexandria, VA.  This painting was the result.  Not too many hard edges and just a few suggestive strokes--not my usual modus operandi.  But I love it.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

"Saintly Garden at Carmel Mission" (oil on linen, 5" x 4") sold


While travelling in California three years ago, I found  this statue of a Franciscan saint at Carmel Mission.  It probably is Father Serra, who died in 1784.  He is gently holding a crucifix in his arms in the midst of a beautiful garden.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Puppy Love" (oil on linen; 4" x 5") sold


Lily is the newly adopted puppy of my painting buddy Vanessa.  She comes along on our plein-air painting outings to greet passers-by and other dogs.  Last week we went to the Mall to paint the Smithsonian Castle.  It was a hot and humid day, so we sought a shady spot behind the castle in Enid Haupt Garden.  Soon we were bombarded by biting bugs and curious tourists.  After about an hour of torments, we escaped to a nice sidewalk cafe in Shirlington, VA.  There I took a picture of Lilly, now immortalized in my painting.