Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"Capitol View from the US Botanic Garden" (oil on linen; 15" x 8") sold

"Capitol View from the US Botanic Garden"

"Capitol View" (pen and watercolor sketch; 9" x 4")

Reference photo

I recently started a new collection, called "Washington Landmarks."  The decision was prompted by two client contacts from my website ( within a couple of weeks about my paintings of Bishop's Garden and Iwo Jima Memorial.  Boy, I didn't realize that I have been sitting on a gold mine!  Time to paint some Washington scenes.  "Capitol View from the US Botanic Garden" is the second new painting for this new series.  Lots more to come.  How exciting!

Everybody has seen the Capitol, either in person or on TV.  As the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt, but I didn't want my baby to be despised.  My mission was to find a new, different angle.  So I went to the National Mall on a hot day last week.  I walked around to find an eye-catching view of the Capitol and found one from the US Botanic Garden, which is by the way the oldest botanic garden in the country (from the mid-19th century!).  To work out the unusual composition, I did a pen and watercolor sketch.  The rest may not be history, but I am pleased with the painting.

"Bishop's Garden, National Cathedral" (oil, 8" x 10")

"Iwo Jima Memorial" (oil, 11" x 14")

Anyhow, the moral of my story is this: if you are an artist without a website, please get one immediately. If you set it up, people will find you.  I am constantly amazed by the power of the Internet.  We live in a brave new world of the world wide web.  Let's all take advantage of and profit from it!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

"Pink Peony Spring" (oil on stretched canvas; 10" x 10") sold


"First Peony" (oil, 10" x 10")

This spring has been such a strange one that many plants seem to be as confused as gardeners.  I have one precious peony plant, which had always given me an armful of fragrant pink flowers every spring.  Not this year.  An unseasonably warm early spring, followed by a cool mid-spring, must have wrought havoc to the poor thing.  What you see above is all the peonies I got!  It is now the hydrangea season in northern Virginia.  Hopefully, hydrangeas didn't get damaged by the funky weather.


Friday, May 18, 2012

"Bishop's Garden at National Cathedral" (oil on stretched canvas; 12" x 16")

"Bishop's Garden at National Cathedral"

Reference photo

I love National Cathedral and Bishop's Garden in the cathedral ground in Washington, DC.  I would paint there more often if parking is more convenient.  So far, I ventured out twice and came home with two decent paintings, which I am showing below.

"Bishop's Garden, National Cathedral" (oil, 8" x 10")

"National Cathedral" (oil, 16" x 12")

The reference photo for "Bishop's Garden at National Cathedral" was taken on a beautiful summer day last year when I painted "National Cathedral" on location.  This is a great view of both the Gothic-style cathedral and the stone gazebo.  The lawn is a popular spot for visitors to relax and picnic.  If you follow the path to the left of the gazebo, you will be greeted by the flowers in the sunken garden, which is captured in  "Bishop's Garden".

Because of the obvious drawing challenge involved in rendering the cathedral (drawing the gazebo is not that easy either, but in comparison, just a peanut!), I sat on the photo for a long time until yesterday.  I must say that I did a better job with the new painting than with "National Cathedral" in terms of drawing.  I am planning on going out there soon.  I can't wait!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Central Park Sunset" (oil on linen; 14" x 11") sold

"Central Park Sunset"

"Central Park Reflections" (oil, 12" x 9")

If you read my blog regularly, you may remember the above painting.  In the entry on "Central Park Reflections", I talked about how I changed the time of the day and mood from an overcast day to a mellow sunset.  Well, I thought I would give another shot at it in a slightly larger format.  It is still a sunset scene, but I used more paint and more saturated colors.  I love the new version! 

I have been re-reading my favorite art books and doing a lot of thinking lately.  I decided that I should use more paint, be braver, and paint with gusto.  I have come a long way from my watercolor days, in which I didn't show any brushstrokes.  My watercolor paintings were so still and meditative that I could fall asleep while looking at them.  Not that they were bad; they were beautiful and won many awards.  But most artists evolve; so have I.  Now I work in the tactile medium of oil, I should enjoy what the medium can do.  Right?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

"Still Life with Yellow Sand Pail" (oil on canvas; 14" x 18") sold


Still life setup

Last Thursday evening, my still-life teacher, John Murray, decided to make us do a one-color exercise, the color of choice being yellow.  Since it is one of my favorite colors, I was initially happy with the day's challenge.  Unfortunately, I soon felt my enthusiasm dissipate, as I couldn't figure out what colors were the shadow side of the yellow bucket (I loved it though!), lemons, golden delicious apple, or bananas.

If you can name a color, you can mix it.  If it simply looks like a dull, darker version of the color in the light, you are in trouble.  Oy!  John eventually came around to the rescue.  He helped me with the bucket, which was giving me the most trouble.  The class turned out to be an exercise in humility.  I was perhaps becoming too confident as I breezed through the two previous classes.  John's mantra is: "paint as if you have never painted before."  Yes, sir!  I will do that from now on.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"Strawberry Pickers" (oil on stretched canvas; 16" x 20")

Reference photo

The scene is from Schlagel Farms in Charles County, MD, where I was picking strawberries with a friend in May last year. I looked up and noticed two young women; one was seriously trying to fill her flat while the other was daintily selecting the juiciest one at a time. I happened to have a camera with me and took a couple of shots.

As I am always intrigued by the concept of putting figures in a landscape, I was delighted with the above photo and went for it. I think I nailed the gesture of two women without getting too fussy.  The figures with their warm tones and bright clothing pop out against the sea of backlit, green strawberry leaves and the soft, hazy, purple trees in the background.  Can you feel the heat, humidity, and sun?  The strawberry season is just around the corner.  I can't wait!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"Beth's Rose Arbor" (oil on linen; 11" x 14") sold


Reference photo

Beth is a dear friend of mine who went to graduate school together in Minnesota.  She, a fellow historian, was indeed my first American friend, who helped me acculturate to the new country.  Several years later, Beth, a person with a heart of gold, took time and trouble to edit my 400-page-long PhD dissertation!  Alas, we haven't seen each other for almost 20 years.  The only remaining contact was the annual Christmas card, which kept us in touch. 

That was until we reconnected through Facebook.  We now know what's happening in our lives, family, and house.  I saw the robin's nest with four eggs right on a window sill at her house and worried whether they would make it.  They did.  Last week she posted several pictures of her garden; one particular picture of the rose arbor caught my eye.  I asked her if I could paint from it.  She replied "yes" and emailed me the full file. 

We agreed that the gas meter and other evidence of the everyday suburban life be edited out from a painting.  Since I have never been to her house, I couldn't tell what was beyond the inviting arbor/gate, heavily laden with the old-fashioned roses called "Pinky".  So I had to make up as I went along.  I am not a big fan of the late Thomas Kinkade, but "Beth's Rose Arbor" has the Kinkadian romantic feel, doesn't it?  I hope Beth approves.