Thursday, December 20, 2012

"Last Leaves" (oil on linen; 8" x 10") sold


Last leaves cling on to the snow-coated branches of bare trees on a bright winter morning.  I have painted the same scene before.  I would like to think that the new painting has more impact with a dynamic composition, bravado brushstrokes, and loads of paint.  What do you say?

"Winter Creek" (oil, 8 x 10")

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Country Snowman" (oil on linen; 8" x 10") sold


A jolly snowman with a green hat and red scarf greets a frosty morning by the barn.  If this painting doesn't cheer you up, I don't know what will!  Would you be surprised if I tell you that I painted the scene from an old black-and-white photo?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Joyous Peony Bouquet" (oil on linen; 8" x 10") sold


I know that "Joyous Peony Bouquet" is not exactly a seasonal painting except that these pink peonies from my garden have always brought me a great joy and that I painted them joyously!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Festival of Lights" (oil on canvas; 12" x 16") nfs


If you live in the Washington metropolitan area, you are probably familiar with this structure.  It is the Mormon Temple in Kensington, MD.  I was there last Saturday to attend the Greater Washington Suzuki Flute Ensemble's Christmas concert.  Every year during the Festival of Lights, the trees in the church grounds are decorated with millions of lights.  The work that goes into it must take thousands of hours.  Lights of all the colors in the rainbow wrap around the branches of tall trees, short bushes, and every tree in between.  You have to see the Festival of Lights!

I took several pictures before going into the Visitor Center for the concert, because that's what I do--taking pictures.  While looking at them on my laptop on the following day, it occurred to me that a painting of the subject would make a terrific Christmas present for my daughter's flute teacher who happens to be a Mormon.  For someone as special as she, a store-bought gift just doesn't cut it.

I have never painted Christmas lights before, but there is always the first time for every thing.  I am pleased with the way "Festival of Lights" turned out.  I told her that she would have to wait for her present until early January.  I hope she likes the painting!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"Charlie the Yorkie" (oil on linen; 7" x 5") sold


Charlie is an 8-year-old Yorkshire terrier, who is luckily not inflicted with hair bows.  A furry ball of joy he is to his human parents.  His mom told me a very cute story.  After his first veterinarian visit, his vet came out of his office with Charlie on his shoulder with a big smile and told her that the puppy was a good one!  I haven't seen him for years although he lives just down the street where I live.  He hasn't grown at all.  He and Finn the Westie are brothers.  Finn is not a big dog, but next to Charlie, he looks like a human hanging out with a hobbit!

"Cutie Westie" (oil, 7" x 5")

Saturday, December 8, 2012

"Key Bridge at Sunset" (oil on linen; 11" x 14") sold


I don't believe in multi-tasking.  One thing at a time is my motto.  Having a dinner while conversing, or painting and listening to music at the same time, are some of the few things I would do with profit and pleasure.  Try doing something that requires concentration and simultaneously listening to your teenage daughter's angst.  You may be able to, but I can't.  These days many drivers put their and other people's lives in danger by texting while driving.  One thing at a time, man.

Sometimes, however, I end up multi-tasking.  Here is the story.  Thursday was a very busy day.  It started with a photography session with a client for a commission painting, followed by ice-skating practice, grocery shopping, a visit to my daughter's doctor's office for her flu shot, cooking dinner, and a fundraiser holiday concert at a bookstore where I also got half of Christmas shopping done!

I had started "Key Bridge at Sunset" the day before, but didn't get to finish it.  It was going well.  This was the second time that I tried the same subject; I wanted it to be better than the first painting ("Georgetown at Sunset"), which I felt looked belabored.

Paints were becoming sticky, and I had little time to do finishing touches during the day.  Painting in the kayakers was particularly nerve-wracking.  I didn't want the painting to be about the health benefits of kayaking.  Kayakers, especially the big one at the bottom left, were supposed to balance the painting and add a visual interest to the large expanse of the river.

"Georgetown at Sunset" (oil, 9" x 12")

I finished the painting while grilling rosemary lamb chops and boiling new potato.  My studio, formerly known as the dining room, is right next to the kitchen, so I could pull it off.  Nevertheless, I felt like Daniel Craig playing James Bond, or Jason Statham as the Transporter!

Friday, December 7, 2012

"Spring Robin" (oil on linen; 7" x 7") sold


We have a couple of robins who live in our property.  They behave as if they own it during the nesting season.  One year they nested in a holly bush in front of our front door.  Oy! Whenever we approached it, there was a rush of flight, a loud squawk warning us to back off, etc.  We were glad when the baby birds flew off and we got our house back.  The bird in "Spring Robin" is not our male robin.  Its posture happens to remind me of the Intimidator.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"Sunset over Marshland" (oil on linen; 14" x 11") sold


I can paint sunrises and sunsets forever as long as the sun rises and sets.  I have painted sunrises and sunsets over the sea,  lake, beach, harbor, fields, hills, and even my neighborhood, but I like this new painting over marshland the best.

There is a fellow artist, William Van Doren, who has been painting sunrises and sunsets everyday for the past seven years.  Four years ago, he took on the challenge--a series of paintings of the sky over the Lincoln Memorial.  He was inspired by his experience on the extremely cold inauguration day of President Obama.  He told me that he did it for six months to get it right!  I was awed by his dedication.  Can you imagine yourself doing something like that?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

"Glory of Iris" (oil on linen; 10" x 8") sold


These irises are from Mrs. Thomas's iris farm in Herndon, VA.  For years Margaret Thomas had tended her 5.4-acre iris garden with the help of volunteers.  Her glorious garden, open to the public, used to be filled with irises, peonies, and poppies.  It was truly a sight to behold during the season--a mecca to the iris lovers and plein air painters.

Alas, she passed away last year at the age of 89.  It was her hope that the space could be preserved as a park for the enjoyment of all, but it probably won't happen.  As it is located in the midst of a highly valuable real estate market, as soon as the economy bounces back, the farm will be sold to the highest bidder and developed for multi-million-dollar McMansions.

I painted "Glory of Iris" from a print photo taken about 10 years ago on Mother's Day.  All florals celebrate the transient beauty of flowers.  This particular painting honors a woman who loved flowers as if they were her children.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Autumn Glory" (oil on linen; 12" x 8") sold


These days I feel like I am on fire.  It has to do partly with my hot flashes (!), but mostly it is because of my ardent desire to paint better.  Compare "Autumn Glory" with my one-month-old painting, "Autumn Park."  Which one would you rather have on your wall?  Do they even look like painted by the same person?

"Autumn Park" (oil, 10" x 8")

By the way, doesn't the gnarled tree in "Autumn Glory" look like a tree ent?  I found it in the woodlands at Green Spring Gardens Park in Alexandria, VA last fall. I wonder if it is still there, or wandered away with some hobbits.

Friday, November 30, 2012

"Lincoln Memorial Nocturne" (oil on linen; 8" x 12") sold


"Lincoln Memorial Nocturne" is the third of my mini-series of Washington nocturnal scenes.  Again I had to let it dry first, then go back to make the reflections look more watery.  Painting water is a tough business, whether done en plein air or with a photo.  I think I finally got it right.

As a matter of fact, among the three nocturnes so far, I like the way I treated water and reflections in this painting the best.  It is kind of Monetesque, don't you think?  All I have to say is that if a subject is particularly hard, instead of avoiding it, keep painting it!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Cutie Westie" (oil on linen; 7" x 5") sold


Finn is a seven-month-old West Highland white terrier, who belongs to one of my neighbors.  A couple of weeks ago, I saw her taking him for a walk.  I just had to ask her to let me take pictures of the cutie pie.  I am told that he likes to put everything that fits in his mouth and swallow.  I believe her.

As we were talking, we heard him chewing something that sounded like a hard candy.  He probably was checking out the local pebble collection.  Boy, he swallowed it fast when his mommy tried to get it out of his mouth.  He must have a strong digestive system!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Connecticut Ave Bridge in Autumn Afternoon " (oil on linen; 8" x 16")

click here to buy

Reference photo

On a beautiful autumn day ten days ago, my family had to drive to the Levine School of Music in Northwest in Washington, DC for my daughter's Suzuki flute Christmas concert rehearsal.  Instead of griping about missing the opportunity for plein air painting with friends, I took my camera with me to take pictures of Rock Creek Park in the car.

Yes, you've been there, clicking away your camera without even getting out of the car.  In my defense (I always have excuses!), it is impossible to pull over along the drive in Rock Creek Park.  Besides, the traffic was heavy, as seemingly everybody was out enjoying the spectacular weather.

I was mesmerized by the tall trees in brilliant autumn colors along the drive.  Since we were in the valley, only the crowns of these trees were lit by the late afternoon sun.  Fascinating!  We passed under several bridges until we hit Connecticut Avenue Bridge over Klingle Valley, more commonly known as the Klingle Valley Bridge.  It is a handsome Art Deco bridge near the National Zoo on Connecticut Avenue.  Marvelous!

I cropped the photo to make the composition more dramatic and proceeded to paint "Connecticut Avenue Bridge over Rock Creek Park."  The painting has the clear separation of the light and shadow families that Kevin Macpherson talks about in his book.  To exaggerate the sensation of a bright sunny day, I painted the area in the sun even lighter than in the photo.  Do you feel like you were there with me in the car wowing at the scenery?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"Morning After Snowfall" (oil on linen; 8" x 10") sold


I have painted the same scene twice before.  Yes, I like it that much.  It is a creek down the street where I live.  I took the reference photo many years ago before the age of digital cameras.  Because of the severe erosion caused by heavy rainfalls over the years, this stretch of Holmes Run doesn't look quite the same anymore.  As it hasn't snowed much last winter, I keep painting the same enchanting winter wonderland from my old print. 

I have been rereading Kevin Macpherson's Landscape Painting Inside and Out for the umpteenth time. I think I finally get it.  He talks about the light and shadow families and keeping them separate throughout the painting session.  He also emphasizes using MORE PAINT.  I tried my darned best to paint as if I meant it, with as fewest strokes as possible. 

"Fresh Snow" (oil, 8" x 10")

You probably cannot tell much difference between the new painting and the old one ("Fresh Snow") other than the temperature difference (caused by the quirks of photography), but I assure you that I had a lot more fun with the new one and painted it faster.  Of course, painting fast is not the  goal, but the speed implies decisiveness and enthusiasm.  The way I painted "Morning after Snowfall" is the direction I am pursuing--bolder, fresher, and more lively.

Monday, November 26, 2012

"Jefferson Memorial Nocturne" (oil on linen; 10" x 15") sold


"Jefferson Memorial Nocturne" was the first of my new mini series--mellow nocturnal scenes of Washington landmarks.  Initially it turned out dull and boring instead of evocative and stirring.  So I let it dry and reworked with more paint and colors.  The famous memorial to the great president doesn't look dirty anymore; its reflections in the water have colors instead of mud. 

We are used to seeing Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin during the National Cherry Blossom Festival against gazillion, fluffy, pink petals.  I wonder what President Thomas Jefferson feels about that in his grave.  To this man of many talents and great vision, three achievements mattered the most. 

Thus, he penned his own epitaph on his tombstone at Monticello, VA as follows: "Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statue of Virginia for religious freedom, and father of the University of Virginia."

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Capitol Nocturne" (oil on linen; 12" x 12") sold


I thought I would create a series of evening scenes of famous Washington landmarks.  "Capitol Nocturne" was actually the third in the series, but it was the first one that turned out right at the get-go.  Painting from the reference photos of nocturnal images that did not give much information about details and colors was not easy. I also wanted these nocturnes to be as evokative and stirring as Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata."

Capturing the drama of the brilliantly-lit US Capitol dome  and lights and their reflections in the pond was my goal in "Capitol Nocturne."  About half of the painting session was spent painting upside down in an effort to get the image and reflections to match up more or less.  I would bring the painting to a mirror to look at it reversed, only to put it back on the easel in the wrong way!  Wait a minute, which way was I painting?

Friday, November 23, 2012

"Luscious Yellow Roses" (oil on linen; 7" x 7") sold


I have painted these yellow roses before from a photo. Is that bad of me?  This time I tried to apply a year's worth of learning to the new painting.  The lighting was a cool, natural light.  So the highlights were painted cool; shadows, warm.  I also used more paints and colors.  Someday I will create a painting of roses so powerful that it will cause the viewer's heart to skip a beat.  In the meanwhile, this will do.

"Yellow and Peach Roses" (oil, 8" x 10")

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"Light at the End of the Tunnel" (oil on linen; 7" x 7") sold

click here to buy a print

Reference photo

Last Saturday was such an exceptionally nice day that some of my plein air friends went to a park to paint.  I couldn't join them; instead, we had to drive to Washington, DC for a rehearsal for our daughter's Christmas concert.  I brought along my camera just in case, as I knew that we would be driving along the beautiful Rock Creek Park. 

Near the end of a tunnel I took a shot of a familiar, yet always dramatic sight.  How many times have you seen the light at the end of the tunnel? 


Sunday, November 18, 2012

"Central Park in Snow" (oil on linen; 9" x 12") sold


The Central Park in New York City has got to be the most romantic park in the world. Think of all the movies filmed there!  I have painted the famous stone bridge at the pond several times.  This painting captures it on a wintry day.  The snow on the ground glows in the late afternoon sun.  Lights have come on, adding more warmth to the otherwise cold painting.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Golden Gate Bridge on Sunny Day" (oil on linen; 9" x 12") sold


The famous Golden Gate Bridge on a sunny day.  Fluffy clouds float by in the sky.  A red ship in the distance is about to glide under the bridge.  The red bridge casts colorful reflections in the choppy water.  I thought of Claude Monet's "The Bridge at Argenteuil" when I was working on the above painting.  I wrote about how much I admire Monet's painting three months ago.  Something about a bridge, boat, clouds in a blue sky, and reflections in the water makes a happy painting.  Don't you agree?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Winter Field" (oil on linen; 6" x 8") sold


No, it hasn't snowed in northern Virginia yet.  The painting is based on an old photo.  We haven't had much snow last year; I wonder if we will get lucky this winter.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

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


I have been busy, setting up my Etsy shop.  Since there are only so many hours a day, I ended up not painting at all for the last several days!  The advice people give to the online art entrepreneurs (wow, it sounds impressive!) is that you have to spend 50% of your time on painting, the other 50% on marketing.  Yup, it is incredible, isn't it?  As a book title says, I would rather be in my studio.  But one has to get oneself visible.  Sigh.

Friday, November 2, 2012

"Happiness of Donuts" (oil on canvas; 12" x 16")

click here to buy

Still life setup

I don't eat donuts.  Well, I eat them occasionally, but they are on the "forbidden food" list, which provokes guilt whenever I do.  I suspect that many of us are like me: I love donuts, but my waist line and cholesterol level cannot afford them. 

Last night, John Murray, my still life teacher at the Art League School, brought donuts as still life prop.  Smiles spread on our faces because we knew donuts meant good time.  Two students produced two terrific paintings; others, including myself, also did a decent job with our donut paintings.

On the way home, I thought about what happened in class and realized something important.  If you paint things that make you happy, you are more likely to be involved in the act of painting.  If the objects are enjoyed by many, you are more likely to sell them too!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

My Show Is Hanging At Last!

This wall over the fireplace has only my paintings.

Alice Kale is my partner in crime!

We hung our paintings side by side as we are such good friends!

Yesterday, after two days' delay thanks to the superstorm Sandy, we were able to hang our paintings at the Manor House at Green Spring Gardens Park in Alexandria, VA.  It's been four years since I've had a show and I forgot all about how much work it takes! Last week I managed to finish three paintings, spending most time, sending out invitations and e-newsletter and framing; this week so far, I did only one painting. 

If you live in the area, please stop by to enjoy our show.  I hung 30 oils; my friend, Alice Kale, 18 watercolors.  They look great together! 

The Manor House is located at 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA 22312. Their website is  The Manor House is open between 12:00 and 4:30 pm on Wednesday through Sunday. Call ahead (703-941-7987) to make sure that it is open to the public on the day of your visit!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

"Hydrangea and Baby's Breath" (oil on canvas; 16" x 12")

click here to buy

Still life setup

Once a term we paint large-headed flowers in John Murray's still life class. As my teacher hates the ubiquitous sunflowers, we usually end up with spider mums.  Aagh!  On Thursday night, when I saw him bringing in a bouquet of gorgeous flowers, including hydrangea, my heart skipped a beat.  He also got some apples, which seem to be the theme of this fall.  But as practice makes perfect, I am no longer disturbed by apples.  Bring them on!

I initially misread the color temperature of the hydrangea and blue cloth in the shadow by making them too warm.  The mid-class critique put me back on the right path.  Wow!  John said that "Hydrangea and Baby's Breath" was the best painting I have ever done in his class.  Of course, I've heard him saying that several times before.  Either I am in an upward spiral course of artistic growth, or he is a terrific morale rouser!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Upcoming Two-Person Show

Invitation to my show

I have a two-person show that starts shortly and want to invite you if you live in the area. I have 30 new oil paintings hanging; my friend, Alice Kale, is showing mostly watercolors and some oils. It runs from October 30 to December 26. We are not having a reception for a personal reason (my friend is moving at the beginning of the show!).

The show is at the Manor House at Green Spring Gardens Park, which is located at 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA 22312. Their website is The Manor House is open between 12:00 and 4:30 pm on Wednesday through Sunday. Call ahead (703-941-7987) to make sure that it is open to the public on the day of your visit!

"Young Musician" (oil, 12" x 12")

I have another exciting news to share. My painting, "Young Musician", was selected as part of the FAV15% (jury's favorite 15% of the entries) in the September 2012 BoldBrush Painting competition.

You may view the FAV15% paintings, including mine:


Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Royal Donut" (oil on linen; 6" x 8")

click here to buy

Is this how the royals are served a donut--in a silver compote?  By the way, the donut disappeared mysteriously soon after my daughter came home from school.  Luckily I was almost done with the painting!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Can't Wait For Christmas!" (oil on linen; 8" x 8") sold


Now that my "still-life-painting-a-day" project is in full swing, I am constantly thinking about what to paint next.  I dug up a red-enameled silver bowl from a drawer-full of the wrapped, rarely-used, and tarnished silverware.  Hum.  A light bulb went off.  Once I get this baby cleaned up, it, along with a couple of silver Christmas balls and a Christmasy ribbon, will make a perfect still life setup!  Ah, endless possibilities!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

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


As I had so much fun painting the shiny surface of the eggplants the other day, I thought I would go even further by throwing in a silver platter.  For the still life objects, I gathered three red produce--pomegranate, bell pepper, and red delicious apple.  "Antioxidant Fest" might have worked as the title of the painting too!

Monday, October 15, 2012

"Glorious Eggplants" (oil on linen; 9" x 12") sold


At a grocery store I was looking for mandarin oranges with stems and leaves still attached.  I didn't see them, but found a lot sexier things--Italian eggplants from Holland.  Some produce of an impressive provenance!  I had trouble making them stand; after much fiddling and propping, I arrived at the above delightful arrangement.  Eggplants this beautiful are indeed glorious!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Autumn Colors" (oil on linen; 8" x 6") sold

"Autumn Colors"

Still life setup

A good thing about painting still lifes is that I have a complete control over the subject matter and lighting.  If I choose fruits and vegetables, I get to eat them afterwards.  Flowers will adorn my house after posing for me as long as they are long-lasting kinds.  I learned the tricky business of painting fickle flowers hard way last year, when I tried to paint pink parrot tulips from my garden.  I ended up finishing the largish painting from a photograph, which I think negated the purpose of painting a still life from life!

"Pink Parrot Tulips" (oil, 20" x 16")
click here to buy

So the yellow mum, a very long-lasting flower, was a wise choice for a still life of autumn colors.  The small Hubbard pumpkin with the most enchanting pinkish orange color alone would have made a painting, but in order to make it more companionable, I also picked up delicious, multi-colored, cherry tomatoes.  How about getting all the "ingredients" for my painting at a grocery store! 

The gold ribbon was added for a graceful flow between the foreground tomatoes and the background mum.  I cannot believe that I managed to paint this rather ambitious arrangement in such a small canvas!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"Red Rose" (oil on linen; 7" x 5")

click here to buy

Still life setup

I have been living off my photographs for months and have finally had enough!  I decided instead to paint more from life.  As I don't seem to be eager to go outside to paint, I figured that simple still lifes would work better for my indolent self.  I ordered a shadow box contraption advertised in Carole Marine's blog, got fabrics to block the ambient light, and bought a red rose for my own still life setup.  So far so good.

Painting the darned rose was not as easy as it appeared.  I first tried it lying on a beige drape.  After a wipe-off and an indifferent painting, I gave up.  Yesterday the flower looked exactly the same as the day before (!), so I decided to have another go.  This time I put the rose in a crystal vase with a striped green fabric as the backdrop.  The vase didn't make into the small painting; the fabric became a neutral green environment.  Doesn't "Red Rose" look like a garden scene instead of a still life?

Monday, October 8, 2012

"Antique Teacup and Apples" (oil on linen; 12" x 12")

click here to buy

Still life setup

Some days I can paint reasonably well; some other days, I can't paint at all.  Although it was only the third week of the term (I missed the first class), John Murray, who must have thought mighty high of our ability, arranged the above complicated setup last Thursday night!  It was awkward to paint just the elegant brass compote laden with red apples, or the dainty antique teacup and saucer, or the three fruits on the right.  Willy nilly, I ended up painting the entire setup despite my different intentions for this term.  Oy!

First of all, I couldn't mix the shadow colors of the apples, or any other colors for that matter.  I couldn't draw the teacup and saucer either.  The biggest problem was the composition.  The painting was so top-heavy that it was about to topple, figuratively speaking.  Eventually, John came to the rescue.  He worked on my painting for half an hour (!).  No, he didn't finish the painting for me; he showed me the way. 

Do you see how dark the teacup and light cloth are in the shadowed side?  How about the greens and purples in the apples!  When John first started putting down greens, blues, and what not into the apples, they looked like the poisoned apples the evil queen offered to Snow White.  "Apples for Snow White" was the first title I thought of for the painting!

On the following day I knocked down the shocking colors, while still maintaining the dark value in the shadows.  I worked on the painting to complete it, perhaps for three hours altogether, until the paints became too sticky.  What you don't know is that during the painting "session" I also went to my ice-skating lesson/practice and baked two batches of brownies for my daughter's marching band as well! 

A teacher once advised that one should not try to paint unless you have a block of painting time.  If I wait for such a block, I will probably paint two or three times a week instead of everyday.  I say PAINT WHENEVER YOU CAN!