Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Plein Air Oil Sketch: The Arch Entrance of Forest Garden, Queens, NY

Oil on panel, 9 x 12


Again in this sketch I tried to study lighting and express the contrast between the part of the street in the sun and the shaded part. Honestly I don't think I achieved as much as I had wanted to. Anyway, I don't feel the contrast is as strong as I felt there in reality. When you try to pursue a goal like this, you have to be consciously assertive in the tug of war with your own eyes all the time. I long for creating my own artwork in a professional sense, but I know before i can do that confidently, I must do alot of study. I criticize my own artworks seriously and, at the same time, study masters' works to compare what it was wrong with my work
Doing plein air painting in the street is an interesting experience. I mean you may meet all kinds of people whose questions or conversations, no matter whether they are silly or knowledgable, amuse you. Some are simply curious; others may want me to know they had studied art in the past. There are also people who would actually take the street encounter as a free art workshop Q & A session.
Yesterday, two residents of an apartment building in the street told me respectively that if their cars had happened to be in my picture, they would have wanted to buy my painting. Of course, I  expressed my appreciation and took their words at the face value. Then a French artist named Alexia Carr, who was commisioned by someone and arrived in this country 10 days ago, asked me where she could get art supplies. When I came home and checked her website (, to my surprise, she is a leading professional opera singer. Maybe she also loves to paint. Her card has paintings on both sides.

Very often, people stopped by to show off their knowledge in fine arts. Or seeing my painting outside stirred up their memories of learning art. They wanted to tell me they regretted that they didn't keep doing it. Last week when I was painting in Austin St., one lady stopped to watch me paint for about an hour, asking me if I minded taking pictures. I told her I didn't mind and she used her phone to take pictures of every step of my painting. She asked me alot of questions about painting. When I asked if she was an artist, too, she said no and told me she did that for someone else. Yesterday, for the first time, I was annoyed instead of amused by a guy who bombarded me with silly questions like why I didn't paint individual leaves, why I didn't paint something which existed in reality and insisted that I should paint the utility post. He even told me to wait for him to paint it when he was back from an errand. When he was back he asked me what I was going to do with the leftover paint on the palette. I really wanted to scream and tell him that I would make dumping filling of the leftover paint for my supper. That was a rare extreme example. Most of the times I enjoyed the casual conversation with by-passers, especially children.
I always answer children's naive questions and like to carry a conversation with them. Three days ago when I was painting inside the Yellowstone Municipal Park, a little girl came and told me that she wanted to be an artist, too, when she grew up. I smiled and responded, "That's great! It is always fun to make art, but you'd better ask your parents if they have heard of the term 'starving artist'.?" Her parents who stood by her side burst into a hearty laughter.


  1. I enjoyed your details of the people talking with you and fully agree that the purpose for painting outside is learning more about painting and getting better in many ways. It just doesn't happen as strongly by just making up the whole thing back in a studio. Nature has so much to show, changing light creating different compositions by the minute, etc
    So much to consider and notice....funny how people think its just fun and relaxing....Tell them it is like going to a restaurant and having the waiter keep snatching the menu and giving you a different one and then taking that one even if you decided on an item...pushing a new one in your hand again and again....pretty hard to make up your mind!
    Also I liked the dancer drawing ....

  2. Thank you, Cathy, for your compliment. I know only people wth similar experiences would understand how an artist feels standing on the street painting the ever-changing environment. I feel I understand Impressionists much better when I am in the same shoes as they did. It is so important to learn how to paint into effect or out of effect.

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