Friday, September 28, 2012

"Buddha in Lotus Pose" (oil on linen; 8" x 6") sold


This is a famous, thousand-year-old, terra cotta statue of Buddha, from the Chinese Sung Dynasty, at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.  The reference photo, which I cannot find to share, was taken several years ago during my family's annual visit to Minnesota.  My husband's elderly aunt and uncle took us to the great museum, with a fantastic collection of Asian art.  Dear Aunt Betty, who suffered from Alzheimer's Disease, passed away a couple of years ago, so the painting is dedicated to her.

Buddha's gentle expression restores calm whenever I look at the picture, so I decided to paint the statue.  I have actually painted it in acrylic several years ago, not just the statue, but also the entire section of the museum where it is installed, plus the scenery outside!  I failed very badly despite my numerous attempts to save it.  The large painting (18 x 24") was not good enough to be donated to the annual Patrons Show at the Art League in Alexandria, VA.  I couldn't possibly toss it into the trash either.  So it has been sitting in my office since.  Doing a small, reasonably good painting finally released me from suffering.

Buddha, the Enlightened One, has taught that there are two causes to manyfold sufferings of the mankind--desire and aversion.  When you want something (or someone) terribly, your desire will result in pain.  If you dislike, hate, abhor something (or someone) intensely, you will also suffer. By wanting to paint the statue well, I have suffered.  No more.

As you may have guessed, I am a Buddhist.  I grew up in a Buddhist family in Korea, but didn't think much of the religion.  In my thirties, I rediscovered my heritage and have been trying to live by the Enlightened One's teachings--mindfully and with loving kindness. It's not easy for someone who is impatient and passionate (you know passion can go both ways!).  But I will continue to do my best.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Georgetown at Sunset" (oil on linen; 9" x 12") sold


Reference photo I

Reference photo II

"Georgetown at Sunset" (oil, 9 x 12") is a view of Key Bridge and Georgetown from the pedestrian bridge to Roosevelt Island in the Potomac. I was captivated by the glows in the underside of the arches of the bridge. Wow!  The sunset sky was equally beautiful, but the reference photo's sky came out all bleached.  So for the sky, I used the second photo. 

I wish I could have painted the scene on location to really see the colors of the trees, reflections, and so on.  The island that houses the statue of President Teddy Roosevelt is not heavily trafficked, so it would have been possible.  My only excuse is that the golden hour of the sunset lasts only for a little while.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

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


Reference photo

I wasn't completely satisfied with the way how I painted the leaves in "Yellow Roses."  So to get things out of the system, I did another rose painting.  These roses are from Green Spring Gardens Park in Alexandria, Va.  I've painted them many times, and I am sure "Pink Roses" won't be the last one.

"Pink Rose Bush" (acrylic, 16" x 12")

"Pink Rose Bush" is several years old, painted in acrylic in my previous, tight style.  It probably took two full days!  Now I aim for a more painterly, "loose" style.  "Pink Roses" took about two and a half hours.  If I had spent more time on it, it would have gotten tighter and who wants to be uptight! 

Monday, September 24, 2012

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


Reference photo

I haven't been painting much lately, partly thanks to my daughter.  She just started high school, marches in the marching band, joined her school's golf team, etc.  I figured that this was the last chance to get involved in her school activities and decided to volunteer as much as I could, which is a good thing, but also time-consuming and tiring. 

Whenever I tried to paint, I found myself tightening up.  The summer-long project of working on old paintings, I fear, made me lazy.  Well, fixing an old painting is not as hard or nerve-wrecking as starting a painting from scratch, you see.  It's not as exciting either.  I kind of lost my mojo in the process.

I mean to rectify the situation, get back into my form, and start painting like a maniac again.  "Yellow Roses" is from a photo I took of my neighbor's roses last April.  I could have worked at it for two more hours to make it "perfect".  My goal was, however, to loosen up, to get excited about painting again. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

"Iwo Jima Memorial" (oil on linen; 11" x 14")

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A photo taken to aid the reworking of the painting

The monument viewed from the east

Have you ever been to the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, VA?  The Marine monument to many American soldiers who died during the terrible battle fought on Iwo Jima in 1945 during World War Two, never fails to touch my heart.  Last summer, a group of friends and I went there to paint this famous monument on location.  It was a noble endeavour, considering how complicated the sculpture was!  Because we set up our easels under trees facing the backlit memorial with the view of the DC skyline as the backdrop, we couldn't see the colors well.

I did my best, and after a few hours of hard work, I came home with the almost finished painting.  "Iwo Jima Memorial" was juried into the highly competitive Art League show in June 2011, which made my heart swell with pride.  Well, that was then.  After a year later, a potential customer discovered the painting on my website through the web search.  She came to my house to see it in person, looked at it, made some polite comments, and left.  The incident made me take a hard look at the painting. 

I wondered why there was so much red in it.  It was obviously due to the original orangy toned ground showing through.  As I said, I couldn't figure out the true colors of the base or sculpture while painting, which must have made me compromise in color decisions.  There was no photo to go with the plein-air painting, so last week, I went back to the site to walk around the monument to truly see the colors. 

As it turned out, the granite base had a lot of red in it.  Aha!  That's what pushed the painting toward the reds.  No matter.  In reworking "Iwo Jima Memorial," I decided to push the base toward blue violet.  I introduced more colors and deeper values to the sliver of the background, made the flag brighter, and above all, translated the shadows on the figures into violets.  The reds that still remained became lively, no longer deadening.  I believe the reworked painting is a big improvement on the original state.  What do think?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"Rainbow Point at Bryce Canyon" (oil on linen; 8" x 10")

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The view that inspired the plein-air painting

It was a rainy day two summers ago. We drove the whole length of Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah--18 miles--hoping for a break in the overcast sky. Lots of people at overlook points were discouraging too for my plein-air-painting-a-day project, until we decided to take a walk at Rainbow Point. A brief sunny moment transformed the view along a trail. I quickly set up the easel and went to work.

"Rainbow Point at Bryce Canyon" has been hanging in my foyer for two years.  The walls in my house are covered with my paintings; it's practically a museum with many galleries.  Even the garage has a wall with six paintings, which I call "Gallery Garage."  Obviously, the main level is the prime location, where visitors can admire (my wishful thinking!) my artwork.  The foyer being the entry point, I must have thought "Rainbow Point" was pretty darn good.

Winding down my summer project of spiffing up old paintings, I took down the painting and found it lacking that special quality to deserve a wall space in the foyer.  The human-like rock formation in the bottom right, called "hoodoo", bothered me the most.  I think I know why I painted it so big out of proportion--I was mesmerized by and obsessing about it!  This sort of thing happens a lot to painters.  The tall, spindly tree to the left also seemed to be blocking the viewer's eye to truly take in the incredible vista that is Bryce Canyon. 

I strengthened the area between the now much shorter tree and the now diminished formation as the new focal point.  The colors in the shadows of the hoodoos are richer than before.  The new and improved "Rainbow Point at Bryce Canyon" is going back up to the prized spot in the foyer!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

"Cherry Blossoms Cascading" (oil on stretched linen; 30" x 20")

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Reference photo

I painted "Cherry Blossoms Cascading" in Diane Tesler's class last year.  Diane is one of my favorite art teachers who taught me many things from how to stretch canvas to how to paint practically everything.  She would come to the four-and-a-half-hour class before it stated, stayed through the lunch break (she didn't eat lunch herself to find more time for students), and never left until everybody cleared out.  I must say that she was the most dedicated teacher at the Art League School in Alexandria, VA.  Alas, she decided to retire and moved to Indiana this summer.  I will miss her.

Diane (in the center) at reception for her solo show in June

Diane is the kind of artists who see beauty in beat-up trucks and abandoned houses.  She paints soulful, gritty stuff, not fluffy pretty things like cherry blossoms.  I had to wait for another teacher to show me how to paint cherry blossoms.  It was Bobbi Pratte who told me to find darks to bring out lights in cherry blossoms.  "Cherry Blossom Festival at Tidal Basin" was done without her help, but the idea of keeping dark the blossoms in the shadow at the top of the picture was straight from her lesson.  The painting got sold right away at a gallery, so I must have done something right.

"Cherry Blossom Festival at Tidal Basin"
(oil, 14 "x 11")

This week I brought down "Cherry Blossoms Cascading" that had been languishing in my office upstairs to give it a major makeover.  Can you tell what I did?  I strengthened the sky first, then went to work to make cherry blossoms come to life.  Now the painting hangs in the family room so that all who come to my house can see it!

I am grateful to all my art teachers.  They may have different painting styles and teaching methods, but I learn valuable lessons from every single one of them.