Sunday, July 29, 2012

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


"Bishop's Garden at Washington National Cathedral," which I thought was finished, wasn't working and has been sitting in my studio.  Drawing wasn't bad, but it looked anemic, hesitant, and plain boring.  These days, my motto is more paint, more color.  So, I went to work to make it rich and alive.

There are three things going on in this rather complicated painting.  The octagonal stone gazebo, which leads to the famous Bishop's Garden; the garden in the middle ground; and the beautiful, Gothic-style National Cathedral.  Which is the focal point exactly?  I figured out that it had to be the gazebo, which I had downplayed in the original painting.  It can be glowing in the heat and show more texture of the stone and roof tiles.

How about the garden?  Why is it dissolving into the cathedral?  It should come forward.  What about the cathedral?  I know it's way in the back and should stay there, but it can have more punch.  Use thicker paint and more lively colors.

I did all of the above and am finally satisfied with the painting.  Now I can rest in peace.  Amen.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Piping Plover" (oil on linen; 7" x 5") sold


While taking a little break from my California series, I did a bird painting.  According to Wikipedia, the piping plover is a small sand-colored, sparrow-sized shorebird that nests and feeds along coastal sand and gravel beaches in North America.  The bird I painted must be a baby since it doesn't  have a black band across the forehead from eye to eye and a black ring around the neck.  If you are a beach goer, you must have seen it running in short starts and stops.

It was fun to paint the lovely avian creature.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"Smithsonian Castle Rose Garden" (oil on canvas; 18" x 18")

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Reference photo

One spring day, I went to The Mall with my family and saw the rose garden at the eastern end of the Smithsonian Castle.  The air was so thick with the rose perfume that you couldn't have missed it while walking by.  I didn't, however, stop to take pictures because I had company.  So I went back a couple of days later, hoping that the heavy rain the day before didn't damage the flowers in full bloom.  I timed it carefully so that the garden would be basking in morning sun as you can see above.

So far, so good.  Painting the scene was not as easy.  It was tough to make the various components of the picture--the castle with a complicated mock medieval architecture, two big trees, garden, benches, etc--work together harmoniously without drawing too much attention to the castle.  I finally finished "Smithsonian Castle Rose Garden" yesterday.  I am going to enter it in The Art League's annual landscape show in two weeks.  We'll see how it goes.

Friday, July 20, 2012

"Cypress Point, Monterey" (oil on linen; 8" x 10") sold


Reference photo

Cypress Point is one of the many picturesque stops along the famous 17 Mile Drive between Monterey and Carmel by the Sea, CA.  We only had the time to stop and click many beautiful views on an overcast day five summers ago.  The Monterey Cypress trees in the middle ground looked wind-swept although it was not a particularly windy day.  I guess their branches are permanently bent due to the strong gales from the ocean.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"San Francisco's Painted Ladies" (oil on linen; 11" x 14") sold


Reference photo

I love San Francisco.  It is the city through which I entered the United States back in 1984.  For whatever reason, the moon was huge that evening.  I thought that in America even the moon was magnificent!  San Francisco has got to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. 

You've seen these houses in postcards, right?  According to Diana Hollingsworth Gessler's Very California: Travels through the Golden State, hippies in the 1960's began painting some of the Victorian houses in Alamo Square in wild colors (up to 20 on one house), thus the great nickname.

I meant to paint the above scene for years, but didn't.  The assumed difficulty in architectural drawing was the reason.  I can be such a chicken sometimes.  Yesterday I finally felt brave enough to do it.  That's the beauty of having a goal of working on a series.  It really gets you motivated.  "Painted Ladies of San Francisco" is No. 3 in my new series-"California Colors."  California, here I come.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Big Sur Moment" (oil on linen; 11" x 14") sold


Reference photo

As I wrote yesterday, I started a new series called "California Colors."  All the paintings of the series will be based on the pictures I took five years ago during a family vacation to northern and central California.  The occasion for this two-week vacation was a family wedding.  A nephew of my husband got married at a Napa vineyard!  It was the kind of a beautiful wedding you see in movies.  A lucky boy!  He and his wife now have two adorable kids and live in San Francisco.  A lucky couple! 

I had been to the city, but not to the rest of my favorite state.  So we made a vacation out of a wedding.  Why not?  Do you know what happened later in that summer?  A younger brother of the groom decided to get married six weeks after the said wedding, instead of waiting for a couple of years as he and his fiance had promised to the family.  The year of 2007 thus became the year of family weddings.  We made the two remaining boys swear that they would never ever get married in the same summer! 

The second wedding took place in Minnesota, my husband's home state.  We love Minnesota, but Minnesota is not California.  Besides, we were burned out of vacations.  We took just a few more days off in addition to the necessary time, in order to visit with relatives.  The trip didn't result in as many glorious pictures as the California one either.

We had only a day for Big Sur toward the end of our trip, which was a shame.  How can you explore this spectacular spot on earth in one day?  We made a lot of stops to take pictures, that's all.  But I still  dream of the incredible blues of Big Sur.

Friday, July 13, 2012

"Young Musician" (oil on linen, 12" x 12") sold


The Levine School Suzuki Flute Ensemble performs at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, VA; the soloist is my daughter!; the seated girl in the front row on the far left is the model

I saw this five-year-old musician at a performance of the Levine School Suzuki Flute Ensemble back in April.  I was mesmerized by her innocent beauty and just had to paint her (with her mother's permission, of course, although it is not a commission).  Boy, it was a tough task!  I had started the painting in May, worked on it for three sessions, then left it sitting on the display easel for two months. 

Do you know why?  I was intimidated by what I had done so far and didn't want to ruin it.  I know it sounds silly, but it happens all the time.  The fear of failure grips us artists at times, and we don't know how to battle it. 

Eventually, I had enough of my timidity.  I decided that the face was good enough, although  it was not exactly her (the girl is a lot prettier than my painting).  She has also that worried look, which the photo doesn't.  I let my self-criticism go and focused on the rest of the painting: the background, white blouse, wonderfully braided hair, and flute, which was a lot. 

The girl's skin tone had hints of purples, mauves, and greens, so I worked those colors into the background, blouse, and even hair.  The burnt umber ground that had made everything look dirty receded.  Suddenly, Khloe came alive!  I am glad I saw the painting to conclusion.  Now I can get on with my life.

By the way, did you notice that my blog now has more than 20,000 views?  When I started blogging two years ago, there was only one person who read it regularly, i. e., myself.  Now every post seems to get about 200 views.  As they say, if you build it, they will come.  Thank you, my loyal readers!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

"Summer Canal" (oil on linen; 6" x 8") sold


Reference photo

No, I didn't paint "Summer Canal" on location.  It is murderously hot out there.  Instead, I dug up a photo I took last September while taking a break during a plein-air painting session.  I took a leisurely walk along the historic C & O Canal in Washington, DC.  One of the pictures from my walk inspired "Autumn Bliss," in which I exaggerated the hints of autumnal colors to come up with a glorious fall landscape.  For the new painting, I stayed with a cool palette.  I need to stay cool, at least psychologically.

"Autumn Bliss" (oil, 9" x 12")

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"Flight of Orange Butterflies" (oil on canvas; 10" x 10") sold


The powerful storm of last Friday night left my neighborhood without power for four days.  The temperature stayed high in the 90's day after day.  It was relentlessly hot and sunny outside; it was depressingly hot and dim inside.  My family remained cheerful despite the outrage, taking many, air-conditioned, drives in the area to see which streets got power back and to check out new eateries to dine out at.  We even had a tire blow up during a drive!  When it rains, it pours.

With the insufficient light and intolerable heat in my studio, I didn't feel up to painting.  But I feel irritable and unfulfilled if I don't paint for several days.  So I sat in front of my easel in two mornings, perspiring profusely.  "Flight of Orange Butterflies" is the result of my persistence.  It has the intense, tropical feel, don't you think?


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"Bougainvillea Country" (oil on linen; 6" x 8")


Reference photo

Where I live, bougainvillea is something you see in the US Botanic Garden on The Mall.  I gather it is a tropical plant, although at the moment with the temperature dangerously hovering near 100 degrees, northern Virginia feels quite tropical!

Bougainvillea at the US Botanic Garden

While driving around in Kauai back in February, I spotted this charming, bougainvillea-covered, scene. Wow!  As a matter of fact, bougainvillea was quite common in the island.  Lucky Hawaiians.  The flowers seem to come in rainbow colors, my favorite being magenta as in the reference photo.  When I first saw the entire country road smothered in bougainvillea, the light was not right.  We went back a couple of days later, to take a whole bunch of pictures, which became inspiration for the painting.