Sunday, March 31, 2013

Home Work: Figure Studies

Last Wednesday in painting class, we were required to do a live figure painting. Since it is a work for two weeks and we will continue to paint it the coming Wed. so I am not going to post the incomplete one. As an assignment for home work, we are all required to do a figure study from our morgue. Interesting in class, one of the students wanted to make sure she understood correctly, so she asked the instructor Carl if we were supposed to paint from our morgue a "naked" figure. Carl said yes but corrected her term by telling her that in art we always used the word "nude" instead of "naked".

As some of you may know, I have problem painting from a photo. it is hard for me to distinguish the nuances of color, especially the dark color. I went to the well-known international photographers' website and found some very good images. Unfortunately, I didn't like the one I made yesterday. The colors are not as clear as I wish to be. Therefore,  I made the second one this morning. Well, at least I think it is better than the first one. Hope you like it.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Alla Prima: Photographer Nancy

I went to Punta Gorda Portrait Studio this morning. This was the last session in which we could have two models before the fall. As the snow birds are leaving, the number of  studio participants is dwindling. I got there before the two models arrived, so I simply set up at one of the sites, not knowing who would sit in front of me. Of course, it turned out that Nancy sat for my group. She was a skinny lady with sharp facial features and deep-set eyes. I tried to express the subtlety of lighting but  wasn't very satisfied with myself. Anyway, it was a study.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Plein Air: Bernhard's House

For plein air oil sketches, usually I prefer 9 x 12 panels. In my trunk I had an 8 x 10 panel which I had Gessoed with a brownish color but never had a chance to use it for quite some time because of its size. I told myself I got to use it. So I hopped into my car this morning in an attempt to find a spot to paint.

I got to a part of my town which I had never been to before. It was Wheeler Road. A very spacious area with fewer houses than where I live. However, many of the houses were pretty big. As I was driving, I passed by a beautiful Mediterranean-style house, but obviously it had not been completed because the block walls on the outside was not painted and some of the windows were boarded. What the heck -- another uncompleted home construction? I asked myself. Remember I just painted an uncompleted house yesterday. However, this one was way too much of a shame. It looked very classy with orange tile roof and a majestic facade. Evidently, the designer had an ambitious plan for it, judging by the layout of the landscape and everything. I noticed there were two places on the front lawn where large boulders were laid for landscaping. It was too big for my 8 x 10 panel, but I decided to paint it anyway although I couldn't include its details.

I can never bear the sight of uncompleted home construction sites or abandoned homes. Don't call me sentimental, but I remember the first time in my life when I was touched by the sight was in South Carolina. I saw an abandoned farm house with a caved in roof and climbing sterns growing all over it. However, I noticed some colorful flowers were still in full bloom. Maybe it was their season. Now the owner was gone and what was left behind were those pretty flowers which were, to me, like a faithful lover waiting for the owner to come back someday. Possibly because of the experience, it always bothers me to see a sight like that.

I am so glad that as I was painting there, the house owner Bernhard and his daughter happened to come. He assured me that he had been working on the house and tried to get it completed. I knew it was a tough decision to make with today's sluggish realty market. I wish Bernhard good luck with his house and be able one day to live in the house like a proud lord in his castle.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Plein Air: Casualty of Recession

Oil on panel 9 x 12

This morning around 10 AM, I drove down E 2 St. Right after I passed Wellington Ave. I saw this uncompleted home construction. We all know this area's realty market has been hit the most severely in the country by the recession. Uncompleted home construction has become a common sight in this part of Florida. Like with the abandoned farm houses I saw previously in South Carolina and Georgia, it is amazing to see how quickly nature can take back the space of the planet from humans. Weeds and other vegetation have been quietly crawling over and climbing up the walls. Before we know it, they have been all over the place. Of course, animals won't wait, either. For those which have a roof on, some of our fellow creatures will come to do whatever they think they can do in there. It is always an eye sore, but, thank god, it's not something like Detroit.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Plein Air: A Two-Story House Hidden in the Woods

I started around 4 PM and it seemed a little earlier because of the time change, so I prepared myself to paint into the effect, considering the change in lighting and color. Overall, I felt OK. Hope you like it, too.

Random Thoughts

In my Thursday's post, I mentioned that I heard Crystal  Gayle and Willie Nelson singing Two Sleepy People over the radio. I felt funny because a question came right to my mind was: What would happen to the "two sleepy people" when they reached my age? Then immediately I thought of two other"sleepy" people in a poem written by Eve Merriam. Read the following for yourself:

 Tee Vee (Mr. and Mrs. Spouse)

In the house of Mr. & Mrs. Spouse
He and she would watch TV,
And never a word between them was spoken,
Until the day The set was broken.
Then, “How do you do?” said He to She.
I don’t believe we’ve met. Spouse is my name.
What’s yours?” he asked. “Why, mine’s the same!”
Said She to He. “Do you suppose we could be...?”
But the set came suddenly right about
And they never did find out.
By Eve Merriam (1916 - 1992)

Eve Merriam didn't live long enough to know things such as ipad, smartphone, etc. It is interesting to see how technology has changed human life. If you often do sketches in public environment like me, you would be surprised to see how many people are talking on their cells while doing something else. Two years ago, one of my colleagues was almost killed when he was driving and texting. No wonder someone said, "If you want to hear from Jesus Christ, pray. If you want to see him, text while driving."

One of my fellow bloggers called ours the "age of insanity". In a sense, it is true, I think. Before I was retired, the administration wanted all faculty to develop as many online courses as possible. The motivation was clearly to lower the cost. One colleague said sarcastically, "Someday, we are going to teach brain surgery online." No matter how advanced technology is, it is my belief that in education nothing could totally replace direct face-to-face contact and communication. Even before online teaching, I was involved in a similar kind of instruction called "distance learning." That is, I could teach students at three different locations at the same time, say, Miami, Tampa, and Jacksonville. Through multimedia I can see and communicate with students and do a Q & A session. One day, an embarrassing incident happened to one of my female colleagues when she was teaching a "distance learning" class. During the break, she went to the restroom but forgot to turn off the microphone clipped to her jacket. Then, of course, as you know, it was like the whole state heard what she was doing in the bathroom. She was so embarrassed that she stopped teaching "distance learning" class. 

Bill Gates said that higher education would change beyond our recognition shortly. In art we have already seen some interesting computer generated pictures, but can technology replace our brushes in representational art? Let's wait and see.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Plein Air: Road End

Road End 
Oil on panel 9 x 12

Usually I don't paint on Fridays. It is my day off because I need time to prepare myself for the weekend painting excursion. I chose this way based on my consideration that I didn't have to worry about parking if necessary. When I paint outdoors, it is easy to forget time. Once on a weekday I was painting at Downtown Fort Myers, I forgot the two-hour parking limit and ended up having a ticket.

 Today I went out to paint because of how I felt yesterday. Yesterday morning I was happy for the portrait of Chanler I did. Unfortunately, my mood was spoiled for the second painting in the afternoon. I wasn't satisfied with it. As you may know, in such cases, I've got to do a good painting to make myself feel good. So around 3 PM, I drove to the last block of Louis Ave. Ordinarily, even the road in its last block is supposed to be paved, too. However, either the city government has cut corners in their highway maintenance budget or,  maybe because there are no residential houses what so ever in this block, the road has never been paved before. Anyway, the last block looked like a gravel road with weeds growing in the middle of the top all the way to the red road end sign. 

As I was driving slowly toward the road end sign, a lad on a four-wheel dirt vehicle (I don't know what it is called) was impatient behind me. He quickly passed me and drove down one of the dirt trails which crossed the road. Before I set up my easel properly, he was coming back on his vehicle and passed by with a deafening noise made by the vehicle. I loved the half natural and half human-made scene with the crisscross of dirt trails. Strangely there is, on road side, garbage which I didn't include in my painting. I looked around and tried to imagine who would often come and haunt this place besides the dirt bikers. Maybe high school lovebirds, some convicts, or crazy artists like myself?

It took two hours to make myself feel good. I did have some breakthroughs, at least to myself. Carolyn Anderson said that in realist art what we can do is only to present a kind of Reader's Digest version of reality, that is, we accurately reflect relationships of the reality in terms of value color, etc. What made me feel good when I finished this painting is the fact that I believe I handled the relationships well. Besides, I realized and successfully used warm and cool colors to separate neighboring planes or objects which are close in value. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Plein Air: The Dam on the Canl

This is the second painting of the day. The scene is usually the end of my biking route. The canal turns a right angle at the place. On this side of the dam there are a lot of algae which look rusty color. There are no algae beyond the dam. I am not sure if that is one of its functions. Not far behind where I stand there is a fenced-in residence. it seems the owners of the house are a bunch of outdoor people. I can see all kinds of vehicles behind the fence: huge RV, four-wheel dirt motorcycle, big-wheel truck with sightseeing seats on the top open-air platform. Now their dog has become more friendly and stopped barking at me. Each time I bike there, the dog simply runs along with me behind the fence till the farthest end of his owner's property. Then he stands at the fence corner and watches me bike away.

Alla Prima: Chanler

This morning I went to Punta Gorda Portrait Studio. The models who posed for us were a young couple. Since I painted a female model Lynne last week, I selected the young and handsome guy named Chanler for a change today. His girl friend Chayanne was posing for the other group. 

When the session was finished and I was driving on my way home, I suddenly heard, over the radio, Crystal Gayle and Willie Nelson were singing the beautiful song Two Sleepy People. It was a sweet feeling to relive, even  in the song, the most crazy but energetic part of human life even though it was so long ago. Maybe Chanler and Chayanne happened to be living it now. I was simply daydreaming to myself. Then my thoughts went to what happened recently in Vatican and the newly elected Pope. According to the media, even the Pope might have the experience, too when he was young. Does the experience make any difference to us as humans? I don't know about others, but to me, I believe the experience has ultimately sharpened my sensitivity to anything that is beautiful, no matter it is in nature, society, others, or in myself. I think that is important.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sketches: Art Students

 Art Student Jon

Art Student Maria

The content of today's art class is the instructor's critiquing of students' major projects. My projects were completed early and was critiqued before, so I didn't take mine to class. After the critiquing was  done, students were told to improve their projects. I had nothing to do except drawing a few sketches. Here are two of them. Jon is a hard-working student. I drew this sketch while he was talking to Carl. He wears long hair and bear. If I was a student about his age and knew him well, I would have nicknamed him "Moses." Maria was new to me. She didn't take Carl's drawing class last semester.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Practice from Morgue: Sore from Dancing Practice

It was raining today, so I needed to find find things to do at home. Since I have finished all the three major full-tone assignments for the painting class, I can have time to pursue what I feel like practicing. I often found it difficult to do subtle color transition in acrylic because it dries so fast. So I painted a 16 x 20 figure from my morgue in acrylic. It took me six hours and I sort of lost patience toward the end. So I didn't work too much on details. In the painting I also tried to learn how warm colors and cool colors compliment each other in dark value. I remembered not to make colors dirty. It was hard with dark value areas. It was just a study. In terms of expression of nuances, no media can be compared with oil. I also took pictures at difference stages in case you are interested.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Plein Air: A Human-Trodden Dirt Road in the Woods

The sky was overcast this morning. I thought to myself that it didn't look like a good day to paint landscape bathed  in orange dusk. Therefore, I decided to paint the woods this morning. When I was driving, it even began to sprinkle. The good thing was it stopped by the time I got to the intersection of Monroe Ave. and Leeland Hgts Blvd. Nobody was around except an old man walking his dog. It was a spot I picked yesterday when I was biking. There was a blue shack hidden in the woods. Obviously it was a road which, most probably, came into being because it had been frequently trampled over by trucks, dirt bikes, and other vehicles. The sky was gray. The sun came out of clouds occasionally to shed light through the cracks between trees for a few seconds. Actually there are so many dirt roads like that in this area that people don't really pay attention to them till someday something happens deep in the woods and the media reporters come. Then someone may say, "O, yeah, it is not far from my house."

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Gone Fishing

This afternoon, I went fishing, but I didn't stay very long. I started casting around 1:30 PM. I caught two catfish. The smaller one could be at least a pound and a half. I put a 12'' ruler next to them. You may tell how big they are. At 3:30 PM, I called it a day. the March Florida sun almost turned me into a redneck. 

Plein Air Landscape: A Quiet Street in Saturday Morning

Oil on Canvas paper 12 x 12

This morning I got up almost the same time as sunrise. Having grabbed something to eat, I hopped into my car and drove to the street corner on Leeland Heights Blvd. I had not idea, before I took it as my bike route, that Leeland Heights Blvd continued here in this part of the town. 

Remember I had said I wanted to paint some scenes on my bike route in dusk? That is because I had only seen them in the evening when I was biking. I wasn't able to go yesterday evening. Then a question suddenly  came to my mind: What does the road look like in the morning? Out of curiosity, I decided to go there in the morning. Even though the leaves of the woods were not washed golden as in dusk, but they are beautiful in their own way. So I set up and made this painting. When I was back home, it wasn't quite 11 AM yet. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

This Answer Should Work

This time you shouldn't have any questions about the poster. In the the answer illustration, I simply turn the white irregular shapes into black. Now go back to the original poster and you should be able to fill out in your imagination the part you didn't see in the poster. Yes, in Temporary Heaven two lovers are about to kiss.

Portrait of A Musician

Lynne, the Flute Player
Oil on Canvas Paper, 16 x 20

I went to Punta Gorda VAC Portrait Studio this morning. The model was Lynne, who was a flute player. Actually she held the flute in her hands, but my composition was not planned to include the instrument. Overall, I was happy with the process there. Hope you like the picture, too. 

As for the poster Temporary Heaven which I posted yesterday, some of you E-mailed to me saying they couldn't get through in the blog to make comments. I checked Google +. It ended the Google blog was experiencing some difficulties yesterday evening. Maybe that explains why you were unable to post your comments there. I am going to reveal the answer anyway. 

I believe if you have acquired some knowledge about positive and negative space in artistic visual perception, possibly it won't be too difficult for you to see the images in Temporary Heaven. In fact, the irregular white shapes in the poster are just negative space between two lovers. I have sketched two figures who are going to hug each other. See the illustration below. I don't think you would have any troubles recognizing thsee two figures.

Now in your imagination, try to push the two lovers towards each other till their noses are overlapped and their chests are almost pressed to each other. Then you go back to the poster. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Non-Objective Class Work

Acrylic on canvas 16 x 20

Today in class everyone was required to make a 16 x 20 non-objective painting. To be honest, I am a layman to abstract art. My visual imagination has to be based on reality. Of course, as an artist, I believe a good art work often results from artist's transfiguration. However, my art world has to be rooted in form. Before today's class I misunderstood what it meant by "non-objective". As a matter of fact, it requires no consideration of form. So in class I made this painting. When the instructor came by and saw it, he said, "To me, it is a landscape." I honestly admitted that I was trying to abstract in the painting the scene I saw from the corner of my eye when I was biking. he laughed and responded, "So it simply is not in your nature." I guess he was right.

OK, talking about art form, now let's play a game. The following is a black-and-white poster titled Temporary Heaven. As you can tell, it is simply some irregular white shapes against a black background. Could anyone tell me what you see in the poster? Please write your answers as comments so that everyone can see. I'll reveal it tomorrow if no one could figure it out or let you know that your visual interpretation is correct.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Final Major Project for My Painting Class: Youth

Acrylic on Canvas 30 x 40

The project is considered the final of the painting class. I didn't really have to do it so early. There are two reasons for doing it now. I found two scenes on my bike route which I would like to paint plein-air and they were both supposed to be set in dusk because I wanted to study the subtle shimmering light in the woods during the sunset. Unfortunately, in the past two days and today, it has been cloudy or rainy. Even though the sun, sometimes, peeped through the clouds, the effect wouldn't stay long and the sunlight could disappear in a jiffy. The second reason is, as an auditor, I'd like to play hooky for the final week and go to New York for my son's wedding. However, I still want to finish all my assignments. Therefore, I did it these two days. The painting was based on what I collected in my morgue. In class I have been asked a couple of times about my painting process. For this painting, I took pictures of its different stages and post here. Hope that would help answer some of my friends' questions.


After the painting was completed, suddenly I discovered that the dead tree looked like a grumpy old man's face. I was tickled by the coincidence and considered it symbolic for an old timer like myself to regretfully watch the youthful days be gone. Therefore, I made the following sketch.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Just Pulling Your Leg

I Don't Want a Free Fall

I wasn't very satisfied with the Nymph for the non-objective layout homework. Therefore, I did another one just for fun. Recently I read about a guy who tried to jump off a plane with an umbrella but in midair it didn't work so he dropped the umbrella and opened the safety parachute. The story gave me the idea for the picture.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Plein Air: Laundry in the Sun

I love sunshine, It might be the invisible hand which had pushed me from Pennsylvania, through Kentucky, South Carolina, and Georgia, all the way down to settle in Florida. Eventually I retired here as a Floridian resident. Consciously I knew I had been obsessed with sunshine all my life. It is probably because I was born and grew up in the concrete forest of Shanghai. Remember when I was a child, my mother was so thrilled if sunlight found its way through the cracks between buildings and finally showed up in our rooms. To this day,  the sensation still stays in my memory how the sun impacted me as a child when my parents took me in spring to my beautiful ancestral hometown Hangzhou which is a scenic tourist hot spot. Since then, I became a one-in-a-million square peg in a round hole in Shanghai because most majority of people in Shanghai were so proud of the city.

When movie star Joan Chen, who starred Tai Pan and The Last Emperor, was asked what she missed most in China, once on a TV interview, to most people's surprise, her response was "the smell of sunshine from the quilt after being aired outside in the sun." It might not be my greatest craving about China, but I fully understood what she meant. I miss the smell, too, now that our laundry date doesn't have to rely on the weather any more in this country. Besides, I am a conservationist and believe everyone should do what he/she can to preserve the environment, reduce the global warming, and save energy. About two years ago, I finally decided and bought laundry line and pegs. Whenever possible, I air my laundry outside in the backyard. Fortunately, no one has ever come to complain about my laundry. As a matter of fact, I did see some others do the same. I don't need any posts in the yard, but simply tie the line to two threes in the yard. 

I don't know if you have ever noticed that, aired laundry is one of the best objects for painting sunshine. Very expressive! So today, after I finished hanging out my laundry behind my house, I made this painting. Hope you like it.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Today's Portrait and Plein-Air Painting

Oil on paper, 16 x 20

Hickey's Creek Mitigation Park, Alva, FL
Oil on panel, 9 x 12

This morning I went to Punta Gorda's VAC portrait studio. The model's name is Nicole.  Someone there asked to readjust the lighting. Since I hadn't started, so I agreed. However, as soon as I began to paint, I realized it was a little rigid and my perspective was also kind of rigid. As a study, I played with black color which usually I didn't include in my palette believing it killed colors. Well, it is not my best, as you can tell. The colors are not as clean as I wish. 

Whenever I am not satisfied with myself, I always need to do something as a comfort. On my way back home, I passed by Hickey's Creek Mitigation Park on Highway 80 (Palm Beach Blvd.). I had never been there and decided to go there and make a landscape to make myself feel better.  I always remembered it as "Hickory Creek Irrigation Park". Today I finally got its name straight. Well, there is not much in it as a park, just a mile-long gravel road leading to a fishing pier and a canoe ramp. That's it. The plein-air comforted me a little bit. Hope you like it, too.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sketches: Bored Husbands

 Bored Husband I

 Bored Husband II

An Old Couple Sitting at the Fountain

This afternoon I went to Bell Tower Shopping Center Cinema to watch the French movie Amour, which I believe is the saddest movie I have ever seen in the past year. The movie seems to support my thinking in this respect. I often questioned the meaning of the progress made so far in medical science. It appears that the glorious discoveries in the medical world are mostly the medications or treatments that extend humans' life span or physical existence, but nothing equally commendable could be said about the progress in maintaining our mental and psychological health. I mentioned in the blog a lady I painted at the nursing home before. I remember I said, "To me a meaningful life is actually gone." I don't intend to get into a lengthy discussion on the movie. Right after the movie, I went to Bell Tower Shopping Center and was successful in grabbing some sketches. The first two are both bored husbands while their wives were shopping. A third one, Canadian snowbird, noticed I was sketching there, so he came over to chat with me. He laughed heartily when he saw the words "Bored Husband". Shortly his wife came out of the Chico's, saying to him, "I didn't buy anything. The Canadian laughed again. He slapped me on the back and said, "I am still in good shape. See?"

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Homework: Nymph

This is an assignment from my painting class before the Spring Break. The requirement says: "Full ton 8" x 10" non-objective layout." Actually it was new to me because in spite of the fact that, in the past studies, I did think of symbolic meanings of objects or postures and do some modifications, I had never thought of reality from a non-objective perspective. I didn't want to go as far as abstract art. I thought of Andrew Wyeth's Spring with a naked old man lying under snow with face, part of limbs and body poking out of snow. Evidently, it was non-objective approach to the topic. 

In my morgue, I had a picture of a sculpture which was a female lying there on her back. At the same time I thought of a small ceramic water buffalo I used to have. When you placed the water buffalo on the table, the image showed the animal as if legs were under water and you could not see. In fact, you had to imagine the table top as the water surface. Inspired by the water buffalo, I looked at the sculpture of the female and imagine part of her body was covered by water. I quickly sketched the image and started it on the canvas. That is what you are seeing now.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Acrylic Study: Muscle Man

This is what I did in the afternoon.  Just wanted to practice how colors interacted with each other against dark background.

Head Study: A Human Being Outwardly Different From Us

This is another study from my morgue. I enjoyed painting this image with his skin color and facial features.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Another Quick Study from the Morgue: Amish Farming

Since the weather man said it was going to be windy and possibly raining,  I just stayed home practicing from my morgue. This is another one I did this morning. I had to use the oil paint in my guerrilla easel. Otherwise, it's going to dry. I may use acrylic this afternoon.

Oil Study: Amish Farmer

This is an oil study from my morgue. Just play with colors.