Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Flight of Fancy" (oil on linen; 7" x 7") sold


Today is the one year anniversary of my blog.  What a year it has been!  It was truly a leap of faith for me to undertake the responsibility of writing a blog.  At the beginning, I was probably the only person who read my blog.  These days, who knows?  I have a few friends who keep up with it; beyond them, I have no idea.  Someday I may develop a big following.  For now, I am content with my small, but loyal readership. 

Going with the concept of a leap of faith, I am sharing "Flight of Fancy" with my readers today.  It is based on a photo I found in a shoebox the other day.  I took it nine years ago when my daughter was still in preschool, at a beautiful public park called Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD, to which two moms and three preschoolers took a field trip. 

They were having a special exhibit of a butterfly show.  Hundreds of exotic butterflies fluttering about everywhere was a sight to behold.  I somehow captured these two orange butterflies in the frame: one in flight, the other in a brief moment of stillness.  I love the juxtaposition of oranges and violets--a color combination I rarely use, but now I will.

Thank you for reading my blog.  Happy Anniversary!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"A Dozen Roses" (oil on linen; 9" x 12") sold


A dozen roses.  Who doesn't love them, except some unlucky people like my husband who are allergic to their fragrance?  And that was the problem with painting "A Dozen Roses"--a very high expectation.  Everybody knows what a rose looks like and will be a harsh critic if it is painted poorly.  Something so beautiful is daunting to render right, for the fear of making it stiff, unnatural.  I guess it's the same thing with painting a beautiful woman, especially a young beauty.  I once had an art teacher who swore that he would never paint her!

So it took longer than usual to finish this painting.  At the end of the afternoon (I had started it in the morning), I was exhausted!  I took pictures and sat down to photoshop to see if the red balance was pleasing.  My husband didn't see the painting on the couch, next to the coffee table on which my laptop sits.  He put down his elbow to the right bottom of the painting, thus smudging and removing some of my signature and dark paints!  I was too tired and shocked to scream.  Mutely I got him a tissue to wipe his elbow and fixed the signature.  By the way, there are indeed a dozen roses in the painting; you just have to look for them very carefully.

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Red Poppies" (oil on linen; 8" x 12") sold


"Red Poppies" blocked in

As I said in the entry on "Purple Irises," I am an alla prima painter, finishing a painting in one session, whether it takes one hour or a whole day.  The idea is that as long as the paints remain wet, you can manipulate the edges--hard edges for emphasis and soft ones to recede.  There are, of course, exceptions to my usual approach.  Sometimes I run out of time and can't finish a painting on the day when I started it. 

Or, like with "Red Poppies," I decide to let the first block-in stage dry.  The green seed heads are in front of the red petals, and you know one of the color principles: you mix two complimentary colors, then you end up with mud.  Greens and reds are such a complimentary pair, occurring in nature often and making it all the prettier.  The point of poppies is their brilliant reds--cadminus red, permanent rose, and alizarin crimson, etc.  Your heart rate goes up happily, exhilaratingly.  So adding green paints on top of fresh, juicy red paitnts would have been simply asking for trouble. 

As impatient as I am, I wisely let the flowers dry for two days, which meant that the soft greens and violets of the surrounding meadow also dried out unfortunately.  Dry brushing came in handy to paint in delicate stems suggestively and poetically.  I am quite pleased with how the painting turned out.

Friday, September 23, 2011

"Yellow and Peach Roses" (oil on linen; 8" x 10") sold


It amazes me to see what one can do with 80 square inches of linen.  Six roses!  Isn't the painting luscious, if I may say so?  I used to do lots of flower paintings in watercolor.  As I moved away from this not-so-forgiving medium, exploring more opaque medium of oil, I embraced landscape with enthusiasm.  I love to paint landscapes, especially en plein air, which I didn't really enjoy as a watercolorist.  But, you know, something strange has been happening lately.

I stopped teaching (history at a college, if you are not familiar with my story), and am now painting full time, everyday and happily, if you want to know.  My audience is eBay.  For three months I floundered, trying to figure out what attracts eBay fine art buyers.  Gradually I find myself reaching to my old bag of tricks, something I do well, or better than other subjects --flowers.  Why haven't I thought of that?  I inherited my love of flowers and gardening from my parents.  When I lived in a high-rise apartment, I used to have a patio filled with flowers in containers. 

It all goes back to the old adage in the art business.  Paint something you really love.  I am anxious to see how much "Yellow and Peach Roses" will go for on eBay.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Purple Irises" (oil on linen; 12" x 9") sold

"Purple Irises"

"Purple Glory" (watercolor, 20" x 14")

I have painted these majestic purple irises from my garden many times, but never get tired of them.  Sadly they died out.  So, in a way, the paintings are a reminder of the ephemeral nature of life.  "Purple Glory" had received the Best in Show award in the Potomac Valley Watercolorists Green Spring Show in 2007 and got sold in a solo show at the NIH in Bethesda, MD.

I missed the painting, so decided to do another version, this time in oil.  They are quite different, aren't they?  The watercolor version is bigger and more "detailed" or "refined" than "Purple Irises."  I paint oils in the alla prima way--that is, finish the painting in one session.  This method requires a truly full concentration, as each stroke matters.  There is an urgency and immediacy that cannot be achieved in the more traditional indirect painting method. 

You may prefer the watercolor painting, but as my aesthetics have evolved, it now feels too detached.  I don't feel the presence of the artist who worked furiously to get the irises just right.  As a watercolorist, I think, I was reluctant to reveal myself and get in the way of the viewer's appreciation of the subject.  What do you think?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

"Pink Rose Bush" (oil on linen; 8" x 10") sold


Reference photo

Since I mentioned the rose in the previous entry, I thought I would share a little painting of roses.  As you can see, I haven't changed much from the photo, other than editing out the clutter on the upper right corner.  Does this mean that all I do is to copy a picture?  No, not really.  I take a great care when I take pictures in the first place.  As a matter of fact, I do the composing with my camera, and I believe that composition is the half of the game in art.

By the way, copying a photograph sounds like a bad thing, but it itself is a great deal of work.  A photo is not a painting, no matter how good it may be; much thinking and brush handling go into a painting to make a piece of canvas look like a piece of art.  After I was finished with "Pink Rose Bush", I had so much eye strain, my eyes hurt terribly.  I was behind the schedule (I try to do a painting a day and I was one or two paintings behind for the week), so I worked in the evening.  Perhaps, I am getting old (gasp!).  I used to paint in evenings all the time when my daughter was little because the evening was the only time when I could paint.

There is a Chinese American painter, called Qiang Huang (his blog link is included in my favorite blogs and websites).  He is a physicist with a PhD degree, and literally moonlights as an artist by painting at night.  He is quite successful as his paintings are in high demand; he conducts workshops and sells his daily still life paintings on eBay.  Frankly, I don't know how he manages it at all with a demanding full-time job and keeping up with his nightly art career!  Does he have more passion than I do?  I doubt that.  He must have more stamina.  I should load up on ginseng or something.

"Sunny Sunflowers" (oil on linen; 8" x 10") sold


Reference photo

There is something about the sunflower that make it irresistible.  It is possibly the most favored flower, after the rose, of course.  If I remember correctly, Vincent van Gogh's painting of sunflowers used to be the most expensive painting in the world until its record was broken.  As some of my readers may know, I regularly auction my artwork on eBay, and whenever I list a sunflower painting, there is a positive buzz from the first day!  Perhaps it's because I usually throw in a couple of bees, too (ha, ha).

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"Where Buffaloes Roam" (oil on linen; 8" x 12") sold


Reference photo

Have you ever seen a buffalo really close up?  I did.  Last month my family were driving through Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota at sunset, enjoying the views.  We spotted a buffalo herd (there are over three hundred bison in the southern unit, where we were).  What a treat!  As you can see above, the lighting was ideal--with the setting sun streaking its golden rays through the trees and caressing sage-strewn grass field.  We went wild and started clicking cameras.

Suddenly something dark and huge went by within inches of the side of the car.  Oh, my god!  It was a stray bison.  You see that's why we stayed inside the car; if we hadn't, I might have been trampled.  Never go near these huge untamed wildlife!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Winter Trees" (oil on linen; 9" x 12") sold


Out of the whim, I kind of made up "Winter Trees" to fit my mood on September 11th.  As I listened to the somber classical music on the radio all day long, I imagined a snowy field bathed in the yellow orange and mauve light of the dusk.  How about adding a row of bare winter trees, just silhouettes against the delicate colors of the sky?  Throw in the moon rising along the horizon.  The end of the day, the end of the season.  A moody, wintry painting.

Friday, September 9, 2011

"Bumble Bee in a Blue Garden" (oil on linen; 10" x 8") sold


Reference photo

This painting was a challenge to pull off.  It was hard to contrast the bumble bee enough against the busy background and, at the same time, keep it blended into the same busy background!  I like the complementary vibrations of blue violets and yellows throughout the painting and want the viewer to translate viscerally the visual confusion into the buzzing sound of the bee.  Does it make any sense?

Friday, September 2, 2011

"Tulips and Pansies" (acrylic on canvas; 12" x 10") sold


"Tulips and Pansies" used to be a much larger painting (20 x 16"); it also used to be called something else ("Lovers in Spring Garden").  The scene is from the Market Square in Old Town, Alexandria in Virginia.  In the background one could see cars, buildings, lampposts and passersby. There was also a couple of lovers in a passionate embrace!  It was too much and I found the painting an embarrassment.  It was about to be donated.

Then I looked at it with an objective eye and spotted a nice spring flower bed in the left bottom.  Humm....  Why not crop the painting judiciously, paint over the offending, busy area in the background, and change the bottom right corner into dirt.  Thus was born "Tulips and Pansies".  I am not saying it's a great painting.  It's full of hard edges, for one thing.  But that's how I used to paint several years ago, as I found blending in the fast-drying medium of acrylic very hard.  You know artists grow and evolve and their early works have their own merit. 

Do I sound defensive?  I am not actually.  Have you seen Vincent Van Gogh's earlier drawings, or even his mature paintings?  I am positive that he was still developing when his life was tragically cut short by his foolhardy, if altruistic, suicide.  (He committed suicide to help out his long-suffering brother, Theo, as he suspected that his paintings might start selling with the notoriety of his early death.  He botched his suicide attempt and died of slow, painful death.  Poor guy!)  Obviously, I am not comparing myself with Van Gogh, one of my heroes.  It's just that I am glad that I gave my old painting another chance.