Thursday, January 31, 2013

Painting: Indian Beauty Shebani

I am back in Florida now. Love the sunshine. Yesterday I had my painting class at FGCU. Today I went to Punta Gorda's VAC  Portrait Studio. I felt good that I was missed there during my absence. Fiends came over to greet me. It is now a good season there at VAC. For the first time since I became a VAC member, I was unable to find a parking space. I ended up leaving my car on the grass. There have always been two models for each portrait session in spring. I saw quite a few new faces.

This was my first time to paint Shebani. Apart from the break times, altogether I spent about two hours on this 14 x 18 canvased panel. From the very beginning, I suspected the model had Indian background. Toward the end of the session, I asked Shebani about her ethnicity. She confirmed that she was Indian. She said she should have put on a red dot between her brows and quickly added that I could add it on my own. Of course, it was unnecessary. Hope you like the painting.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

George Bellows

Stag at Sharkey's

 Forty-Two Kids

Paddy Flannigan

Cliff Residents
 The Law is Too Slow
The Germans Arrive

Today I finally got the chance to go to MET to see George Bellows' Show which included all his major works. The show was well organized. I noticed the collection came from museums of quite a number of states and cities. Some were from private collections. That was the reason visitors were not allowed to take pictures at the show. The picture above are the result of my online search. 

When I was watching his paintings at the show, I asked myself why I liked his paintings in spite of what I considered to be his technical shortcomings by my own standards. For instance, I think his strokework was crude, his color, sometimes, too raw, images too cartoony. Bellows was good at handling the color value, for sure. Toward the end of the show, I realized that the most precious quality of his works is his spontaneity, which indicates his honesty, the same as how I feel about Impressionists. Even though I don't consider myself an Impressionist artist, I love Monet and other Impressionist masters for the same reason.

After seeing this show, I appreciate Bellows even more because I have  learned he was an artist of conscience and wanted to use his art to interfere with life. He depicted honestly the new immigrants, especially children, living in East Side tenements of New York City in the early 20th Century when American began to industrialize itself. In Forty-Two Kids, those newly immigrated boys fooled around in muddy embankment of the East River. In Cliff Residents, as a commentator pointed out in his lifetime, people living in this kind of crowed ghettos had to suffer in both health and morals. His criticism of war crimes and concerns about social injustice and racial issues are evident in painting The Germans Arrive and lithographic drawing The Law Is Too Slow.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Painting and Drawings

 First Presbyterian Church on 5th Ave. New York City
Oil on Panel 8 x 10

 Reading While Waiting for the Train

 Dozing off on Subway

A Passenger on Subway

This is my last plein-air painting in New York before I come back here in May. It could be counted as one of the worst days in my plein-air painting history. I saw the First Presbyterian Church a couple of days ago and decided to paint it. It was a warm Sunday. I got up early believing it would not be too crowded in Midtown New York. I left home early and by the time I got to the subway station, there had been very few passengers going to the City. When I settled down in the train, I began to sketch fellow passengers. Two stops before 14th St. I saw a sign began to blink saying the train would not stop at 14th St. So I quickly hopped off the train remembering what I was told about the confusing schedule of the subway on weekend. A college student-like lady got off the train, too. We got on the D train. After she checked on the map, she told me that D train would not stop at 14th St., either. So we got off at Washington Square. When I was puzzled and didn't know how to get to 14th St. station, the girl told me to follow her and go over to the other side and take F train in the opposite direction. 

When F train came, I was about to step into the train car after her. The girl suddenly backed out of the car and said quickly, "Move to the other car." I immediately realized why she did that. In the car, three homeless men were sleeping by themselves. There were no other passengers in the car. When the car door opened, I was right hit by a stink of urine. It seemed the three guys spent the previous night on the subway.

From 14th St./8th Ave.,I pulled my kit all the way to 13th St and 5th Ave crossroad. On the street corner, a strip part along the sidewalk was fenced in for construction. I set up with my back to the fence and began to paint. Everything went well  till noon when it suddenly became windy. The wind was so strong that I had to tie my easel to the pole on the sidewalk and use paper clips to fasten my palette to the easel. Too often, I had to hold my easel lest the wind might blow it down. When I was wrapping up the painting, the worst thing happened. A gust of wind blew the palette off the easel, in spite of the clips, and right onto my left-arm sleeve. I got paint all over myself. When I got home, I had to do dry cleaning with mineral spirit. Hope you like the painting and drawings.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Painting: The Tudor-Style House on the Corner of Austin St. and 82 Ave.

It is warm today. I walked all the way to Kew Garden, Queens after lunch. I didn't discover this area till a few days ago when my wife and I went to the Kew Garden Cinema.  I like the area. Walking in the street, I felt like going back in time with everything was stylishly out-of-date. Entering the cinema, you would be attacked by a strong odor of old furniture, which reminded me of flea market smell. The store signs and the way those small restaurants, bars, boutique stores, flower shops, grocery stores, barber shops, etc. were maintained in such a manner that they made me believe those stores could stay like this for at least another century. I selected the view with an old Tudor house on the street corner. 

I was facing the sun but it wasn't glaring at noon because of the clouds. In the process of painting, I came to understand what many artists had said about the relationship between painting and reality. It is true that painting is just the artist's interpretation of the value and color relationships in reality. It is not the same at all as reality. As a matter of fact, the first impression of the view was something like a woodcut picture. However, as I was painting, I had to constantly reminded myself that I shouldn't go to the other extreme when my eyes were used to the environment. If you strain your eyes on the same spot for too long, you can be distracted by endless number of details.

One thing happens to me time and again whenever I am doing plein air painting outside. There are always interested people stop to chat with me. Oftentimes my answer that I came from Florida doesn't not satisfy people. In order to help them avoid losing sleep at night, I have to tell them that I am from China. Today a road construction worker told me that he was from Honduras as if trying to be fair with me. also he told me that his brother was now working in Harbin, China and it was very cold there in Manchuria... I am not really offended by people's nosiness. It amuses me if they like to keep me company. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Painting: Street Entertainer at 74th Ave, Queens Subway Station

Oil on Panel 9 x 12

It is a rainy day today. 74th-Broadway, Queens is a big station. I usually switch subways from E Train to 7 Train whenever I wanted to go to Flushing. It has several levels for different trains. Each time on my way to the upper level, I would see a band of four, playing Jazz or, sometimes, pop music. Today, there was only the trumpeter there playing alone. I didn't feel comfortable standing there to paint him because of limited space so I took a picture of him and made the painting at home. Hope you like it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Painting: Walking in the Snow (Central Park, NYC)

Oil on Panel 8 x 10

I usually do not paint from photos unless there is a purpose. I think that is one of the time. I believe for some techniques, you have to practice well before you can go out to paint. That is the homework an artist has to do. When you are outdoors facing reality, if you rely on luck, chances are you will disappoint yourself. Sometimes, I did do something good by accident. I asked myself, "Can I do it again whenever I feel the need?" It was the time today that I needed to do my home work. Recently I felt I wanted to have a solid master of how to add another layer of color in a clear-cut way. Even though Marc Dalessio talked about the second layer should be thinner in order for it to take hold, I did suspect that it also had something to do with the quality and the shape of the brush. For instance, the difference between flat, flat and other types of brushes and difference between bristle and nylon brushes. I also felt the craving to try different shades of grey. Besides, I was also curious about how to control the color scheme of the whole picture and wanted to learn how to make the simple profound like Peter Fiore. And the picture Walking in the Snow provided the opportunity for me to search for answers to those questions. I did learn something and would feel more confident when coming across such situations in reality.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Painting: Juction Blvd Station, Queens, NY

Junction Blvd. Station, Queens, NY
Oil on Panel 8 x 10

It was a warm but cloudy day. The highest temperature today reached the mid-50s. I had almost recovered from the flu so I decided to paint outdoors. Originally, I planned to paint the roofs of the residents' houses in Queens' lower-income area, remembering the children book Tar Beach illustrated by artist Faith Ringgold. However, when I finally climbed onto the subway platform ( Train 7 ran on overhead tracks), the views were not very ideal. On both sides of the Junction Blvd station nearby there were not many residential houses, at least not quite like the typical tar-roofed houses. I decided to paint the station. Well, I am not very satisfied with the painting. I think probably because I was not bold enough to block in color chunks. Moreover, there might be too many things to consider in handling the perspective. Anyway, I didn't do it as smoothly as I wished. Just a study. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Painting and Sketches

 Walking the Dogs as Usual (Central Park, NYC)
Oil on Panel 7 x 9

 Dozing off at the Library

 An African-American Woman Reading in the Library

 An Muslim Woman Studying in the Library

A Guy Playing with His Cell on Subway

I was down with the flu and stayed home for more than a week, except for short trips to the library. Most of the time I simply slept and did some reading if I felt OK. Maybe because of my age, this time I had more physical symptoms than before. Anyway, I am back to myself now and believe I am strong enough to paint outdoors again. To warm up, today I turned a photo, which I took when it was snowing at the Central Park, into a painting. I did it pretty smoothly and fast. I feel good about it. Hope you feel the same way. The sketches were done yesterday when I went to a public library in Jamaica, NY or on my way there. Jamaica is an ethnically diverse area, mainly Hispanic and south Asians like Indians or Iranians. I saw many people whom you could ask to pose in the studio with no need for any makeups. They were prefect!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

New Sketches

I caught a bad cold, so I didn't go out to paint the past few days even though it was pretty warm outside. The cold was not totally clear but I missed my usual work. Last night we went to a Broadway show titled the Newsies, so I had a chance to go outside. It was very crowd on the subway and I was able to catch a few sketches. The first sketch is the guy who looked like a Reggae musician with his large cap. The fashion bug lady sat diagonally across from me. Of course, these sketches are selected from what I did last night. When sketching in real life, you have to be prepared for the possibility that something might happen and you can't finish your sketch: your "model" may suddenly take off or someone else comes in between and block your view. Most people don't mind you draw them if you know what you are doing. Occasionally, they are even interested and ask for permission to take pictures of my sketches. Only once did I run into a guy who, when realizing I was drawing him, changed his seat and moved far away from me. Well, I respect that.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Painting and Drawings

The Station Square at the Entrance of Forest Hills Garden, NY
Oil on Panel 8 x 10
Standing on the Side, Watching the Show

Chatting before the Show

It was a bight and comparatively warmer day this morning. I went to Forest Hills Garden again. I didn't want to go too far since my wife and I planned to go to the library to see a singing show.

The entrance of Forest Hills Garden makes you believe this place must have quite a history. Even though all the big houses in this area are old, some even not well maintained, and most of them do not have air-conditioning system, they are expensive. You can tell they have seen better days. The sign on the sidewalk tells you right away that you are entering a private street. 

Last summer after I posted online  my painting: Midway Cinema Theater at Night, I received an E-mail from a lady in Arizona. She graduated from Forest Hills High School in 1956, two years before Paul Simon and the theater was a popular place with high school kids then. During our electronic conversation, I learned that the area used to be a WASP self-segregated residential area. It had some racial ordinances in history. However, changes, after all, have taken place over time. Even when I was painting there today, a passer-by told me that nowadays wealthy Chinese came to this area and bought all the houses for sale. Then he looked at me with a strange look. I realized what he was thinking and smiled to him, "I don't live here. I am just a starving artist from Florida."

In the afternoon, my wife and I went to Forest Hills Library, where two professional singers sang some international and popular songs in six different languages including Chinese. This is the best part about New York, I think. There are so many quality art programs at its libraries. You have to see the collection of art books at the City Library. Most of performers at the shows are professionals. Also, the street entertainment programs are good, too. Most audience at the library show  today are senior citizens.  As you can tell from my sketches, the guy who came late and could not find a seat had to stand on the side to enjoy the show. Hope you like my works, too.

Painting and Sketches

Before the Snowfall (Forest Hills Garden, NY)
Oil on Panel 9 x 12

 Dozing off on Subway

 Two Passengers on Subway

 A Girl on Subway

Reading on Subway

The above sketches were made in the past two days. I didn't upload because Google Blogger suddenly had a problem. It would not let me upload pictures as usual. When I checked online, I realized I didn't do anything wrong and everybody was complaining about the same problem. One guy mentioned that we could circle around the problem by using Firefox. Finally, I got my blog back.
The painting was done this morning. As a matter of fact, it was the same site as the painting of the Christian Science Church, which I did quite a few days ago. The church was just out of the picture and to the left of the big house. It was pretty cloudy this morning like most of the days since I came to New York.