Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Art Magazines Should Be Reminded

I have been a subscriber of the magazine American Artist for quite a few years. Recently, I was fed up with the aggressive way they promote their magazine. Each year they want you to renew the magazine way early. Once I received a letter which sounded ungracious judged by professional standards because I had not taken their earlier offers or reminders. They always try to use an annoying sale strategy, believing they can get away with confusing multiple billings in today's busy world. This time, two weeks after they cashed my check, they sent their bill again. I was really angry. I don't accept any blames on computer system. As a matter of fact, computer is the best thing to help avoid mistakes in billing. It seems to me they bet on you being forgetful and paying twice. Therefore, I had to write them a letter, clearly telling them that I will remember to unsubscribe their magazine this time next year and am not going to renew it any more.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Backroad Attraction

The Isaac Storm is going away from us and my red eye looks better than before, so I was itching to go outside to paint. Where should I go? I thought of the news I saw on TV this morning. A 116-year-old lady was celebrating her birthday today. She was one of eight people in the world who had this kind of longevity. I calculated and found out she was born in 1896. 19th Century! Immdiately a thought came to my mind: Did she ever dream of cell phone, laptop, the internet, etc. when she was a child? If any of her friends had talked something like those high-tech products in childhood, it must have been like talking about Jules Vern's science fiction. As an old man, I do think the humankind have made the technology develop too rapidly and, like the genie out of the bottle, it makes me feel scared.

Whenever I go out to paint landscape, subconsciously I am looking for something which go with my feeling of yearning to see the world as I am familiar with and paint something that lets me feel a little reposeful, enjoy tranquility and harmony, something that can soothe my concerned mind because of the fear of being spun off the world I am used to.
I came across a website called Backroad Attractions this morning and found an old country church in Alva, FL, not even 10 miles from where I lived. I also wanted to put my home-made guerilla easel to test. I drove to Alva and painted this picture of the old Alva United Methodist Church. Hope you like it.

I spent two and a half hours on this 12 x 12 picture.  got there around 8:20 AM. The first sushlight just fell on the small all-white church. Amazingly, the morning sun shone so tenderly on it that you could clearly see the different shades within the color scheme of the softly shaded walls. the surroundings were so quiet with the Caloosahatchee River right behind the chruch. I love the simple lines of the country church. As a matter of fact, everything about the chruch suggested that you can soothe your soul better in this simple and friendly dwelling than even towering cathedrals.
Before I set up to paint, the church sexton Burnie Garrett was so nice that she offered to give me a tour of the church. She told me their church was established in 1886 and the building was constructed in 1903. it was well maintained. I believe a church like this is the best place for spiritual cleansing. As Nobel laureate Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore says, beautiful stones are better plainly set. To me, the social spirit represented by the Chritian church is a beautiful thing. Burnie also gave me a church handout, on the cover of which I noticed the quote from Psalm 90:1: Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in generations. We do need something that would stay unchanged at least for generations, if not for eternity.
My guerilla easel worked well. Comapratively speaking, I was well prepared today. I wore long-sleeve shirt and jeans. I sprayed myself all over with bug repellant. Interestingly mosquitoes came to my fingers when I was painting. I happened to be working on some delicate strokes. I had to let it suck some blood before I could have time to take care of it. There was nothing you could do about ants. They came to your easel and painting. Also your body! When I was working, I felt they were crawling on my neck and under shirt on my back. Oh, boy, doing plein air painting in August in Florida needs a kind of asceticism. If I had been born 500 years earlier, I am sure I could have been qualified to stand the stoic lifestyle of Jesuitical monastery. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Drawing: A Senior Citizen at Waiting Room
I got a blood-shot eye for a week and was unable to go out to paint. Vision or Redness Relief didn't helped at all, so I had to go to Eye Center to see doctor. The doctor asked me what medication I took and whether I had somehow strained my muscles. I take baby aspirin everyday and had been working on my guerilla easel, off course, using drill and other tools. That's it! I was told these two things combined had cause a blood vessel to pop in the eye. No big deal, the blood will be slowly absorbed by my body. The doctor gave me a few drops to stop the bleeding and told me that my eyeball would turn yellowish in a few days. But there is no need to worry. It would go back to its normal color. That's good. And I am glad my eyes were not born green in color. Otherwise I might get a nickname and people would call me "traffic lights." Oops. The doctor's visit has to be added to the cost of my guerilla easel, I guess. While waiting for the doctor, I snatched the above sketch. Hope you like it.
Since I was unable to go out to paint, I started a new business, making counterfeit Greek antiques to help our economy. I hope you would help me and invest in my business. I would tell prospective customers that the piece in the picture has just been unearthed in Heraklion, Crete, dated 2nd millenium BC.
"Get out of here!" I heard you say. OK, not. Now the true story. Before I left New York at the beginning of the month, my son Aaron and his fiancee Andrea cooked a great seafood dinner for me. I told them not to throw away the scallop shells, so they wrapped them up for me to bring home. I let them stay in bleach solution for a few days and rinse them. I put a small grindstone in the drill and ground the edge to make it more smooth and regular (maybe that was why my eye stayed in red color). Then I got online to find a simple Greek vase design and a pattern, used thousand-year-old acrylic paints to make this counterfeit. Next, I am going to Walmart to buy an adhesive hook to stick it to its back to hang on the wall. Now that everything is finished, of course, I have to insure it before I can find a customer who is will to buy. You may have the pleasure to take a peep first. Hope you like it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pornography Vs. Art

Hi, friends:

There's been something on my mind for quite sometime and I'd like to discuss with someone but never had the chance. Now I have my blog and I invite everyone to discuss on a tough topic. The topic is pornography vs. art. I believe it is an issue every artist, consciously or unconsciously, has to face. Someone defines pornogrphy as "when you see it, you know it." However, that is not enough.

What triggers me to discuss the topic is an internet site which more than one friend sent to me from China about an open body-painting activity in process at a Beijing's shopping mall under the scrutiny of hundreds of onlookers:
It's shocking, of course, esecially when it happens in China where traditionally women have been taught to be conscious about their body and not long ago under Mao's heavy-handed rule, even faint literary or artistic depiction of female physique could be easily associated with decadent bourgeois or capitalist ideology and became a crime. People naturally feel shocked about what they see at the mall. I don't think today even in this country not all Americans would consider it appropriate to ask half a dozen girls standing naked in a shopping mall and let hundreds of shoppers crowd aroung watching them being body-painted. What bothers me is not this body-painting activity itself. What bothers me is how people interpret it in name of art. I heard my friends call those girls "bold". Let me literally translate one of my friends' comment: "Only an open-minded world eventually would lead [China] to a humanist renaissance." So people think these Chinese girls are "bold" and "open-minded". I am not sure of that. Are the onlookers bold and open-minded? I am not sure, either. I don't know what went in their mind when they saw these naked girls.
My question: Is it art? Is it pornography? If it is not art, what is art?
Since I invite you to discusion, as a host, let me tell you what I think. Do I think human body, female or male, is beautiful? Yes, I do. Do I believe body painting is a form of art? Yes, I do. However, I also believe if art is not valued for its own sake, strictly speaking, it is not art any more. Art form can be used as a tool to serve politics or commercial business. In that sense, it is not art to me. Hitler and Mao both openly declared that art should serve their politics. If human body is the major entity used to create a sensation or as a tool for sexual stimulation in order to attract more shoppers to boost business, it is not art any more. It is exactly how pornography fuctions. In that PowerPoint clip, those poor girls are not art participants; they are  not treated with respect. Are they bold or open-minded? No. To me it reflect today's popular mentality in China: everything is for sale. Maybe those  poor girls simply think how much they are paid for standing naked in public or whether it is worth more than two days'  wages working at the sweatshop. It is the commercialization which is permeated everywhere in today's China.
We all know, as artist, we don't want to show our unfinished work. It is a kind of self-respect. We respect our model because they are our art project participants. They will share our joy if our project is successful. I feel the same principle should be applied to body painitings. As artist, we present only our completed work after we get everything done at studio. You will see how a real body painting artist Craig Tracy and his genuine body painting artworks in the following site. I especially want you to watch the video clip to see how he involves those girls at the studio and how they enjoy the project. Obviously, sometimes, it is more appropriate to present in photo. Anyway, they are genuine art participants.

Kenneth Tynan once said:  pornography is writing that seeks primarily, even exclusively, to bring about sexual stimulation. This can be done crudely or delicately. In the former case it would be bad literature; in the latter good. Even if it is true, art or literature is not all about sexual stimulation. To me, art is all about experssion of feelings and emotions when I can't communicate them better with words.

Once at a portrait session, I heard someone told a young female model to come next time in a more sexy dress. I am not saying anything was wrong with the request, but I felt a question came to my mind: What is a beautiful human body to artist? Make no mistake, of course, you think a young healthy female body is a beautiful body. However, that is beside the question.

In my art world, anything that helps me experss my feelings or emotions most effectively about myself, other human beings, and the world is beautiful. In other words, there is nothing, or  no body is not beautiful; it all depends on what I try to express. An usually ugly body could be very beautiful to me. Think of Rembrandt or Goya's figure paintings. If I try to express my amazement at how human experiences of hardships and adversities of life could have left traces on a person's face and body, would I use someone like Taylor Swift as my model? For figure painting as a study, it doesn't matter  whether it is live or not, we need to practice all kinds of people: male and female, old and young, different ethnic groups, "standard" and not so "standard". I think, we should remember, sometimes,when an artwork touches us, that is all because we are gagged on the emotionsthe artist try to express.

Now I'd like to hear yours.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Bridge on the Caloosahatchee River (SR 31 to Arcadia from Fort Myers)

The first thing that impressed me of the view is the soft morning sunshine on the bridge when I got there. The element of line played an important role in the composition, especially with the eye-catching diagonal line across the picture. As I began to paint, I couldn't help but think of Claude Monet's The Bridge at Argenteuil. I tried to remember and keep the effect of lighting when I noticed the change with time.
I am proud of myself for the home-made guerilla easel, which is light in weight, easy to carry and allows me to paint any sizes under 12x16. Besides the camera tripod, which I used with my camera, the box cost only $16 at A.C. Moore. I had the right size nut welded onto a T-shape iron and screwed to its bottom so that it can stay on the tripod. On its side, it is not a Maxim gun barrel but a brush holder made of a PVC tube. You need a lid support which opens at an angle >90 degree. I am still in a process of improvement. I've ordered a military ALICE backpack frame. This way I can carry on my back everything: the easel, the tripod, a folded 3-leg camping stool, and a folded painting umbrella.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sweetwater Landing

Home Away from Home
The place is called Sweetwater Landing, a boatyard on SR-31, Fort Myers. When I was painting this view, the owner of a fancy boat nearby came to me. As he saw me paint this small boat instead of his fancy one, he was disappointed. I felt sorry for him, but he didn't understand painting was a personal thing to me. It is my whisper with nature, sometimes, telling my attitude about life. At that moment, I was thinking of English writer Jerome K. Jerome's famous quote:

“Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need - a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing.”