I arrived in New York City Yesterday afternoon. At SW Florida Airport I did two drawing sketches. I saw a father holding a lovely daughter while waiting for the flight. Unfortunately, as soon as they board the plane, the lovely daughter began to cry for unknown reasons. She cried so hard that her face turned liver color and the neighboring seat passengers had to leave and go to the end of the cabinet. The maple leaves were so colorful and I could not wait. This afternoon I crossed the street to the Forest Park and made the quick oil sketch, It took only an hour or so.
I found these two pieces of ink wash by Wendy Artin at Website TheHidden Place
(http://thehiddenplace.wordpress.com/). For those who are interested in ink wash, there are at least two things we could learn from her: 1) how to add color to ink wash; 2) artistic simplification (less is more).
I was back from the Veterans Park minutes ago. There were a large number of kids, from elementary to high school, there biking, skateboarding, or simply hanging around with each other. Places like that are the best place to do quick figure painting or drawing. They are all willing to pose for you. Of course, it is also the right time to train yourself to paint or draw fast. My advice for you is: Don't be scared. So long you are forward and willing to ask, most people are friendly and wouldn't say no. Those kids wanted to be painted so much that a girl offered to pay me to paint. Interestingly, a boy, seeing me painting the three guys, walked over to stand behind them holding his skateboard high up in order to be included in my painting. I had to say that I was not a photographer and would not include everything I saw in the picture. If he liked, I could paint him some other time. The whole sketch took about 40 minutes including a break they asked to ride their bikes.
Florida Plein Air artists decided to paint at Wild Turkey Preserves this morning. I knew it was wetland wildness and nothing but trees and weeds. Since it was not far from home, I went with them and prepared to paint figure in the sun instead of landscape. There were a few acquaintances I met before in previous plein air painting. Danny was one of them. So we went together and walked in high weeds. Some of them grew up to my shoulders. When he settled down and set up, I did the same nearby.
Thursday, Punta Gorda's Portrait Studio Day. Today's model was Christina. I believed she was a beginner as a model for artists. As far as I knew, no one at Punta Gorda VAC had ever painted her. When the painting session was over and I was packing my stuff, I heard one of my fellow artists make a comment on today's session: "It is the worst experience I've ever had with models. I felt sorry to hear that but I totally understood what he meant.
I am not sure it was also my worst, too but it was definitely disappointing. In my past experiences, one model took French leave without informing us till we called him and I had to drive down the street to a local cafe, asking around if any off-shift employees were willing to make some extra bucks by posing for us. Even at VAC, I remember one day when it was already 15 minutes past 9 AM, the scheduled model, who was a waitress, called saying she was still in bed and would be on her way to the Portrait Studio soon. When she finally showed up, I asked if she could extend the posing beyond the usually ending time to make up for us. She said "No", because she had to work. This morning, at 9:20 AM, we heard that the model would be late because she had a traffic accident and got a ticket. I don't know which was cause and which effect.
Usually I had only one expectation for models, that is, keeping good time. After I got the outline in the first sitting, I would not insist the model stay exactly the same posture by asking the model to "look a little up or down or to the left or right". Unfortunately, I could not say I was satisfied this morning. Break time were oftentimes extended plus numerous digressions even after the model finally sat back on the chair. Some people would stand in front of her and kept talking to her or doing something else with her. To be fair, it was not totally the model's fault. Whatever it was,, I knew I had lost my momentum and did the worse portrait recently.
Some of my friends tried to mitigate the unpleasant feelings. They said I and some other artists were kind of too serious. Besides, most models we hired were not professionals and we didn't pay them as much. In other words, it was OK to be relaxed or slack. On that I am afraid I can't agree. I never consider myself a professional. However, I feel good as an artist only when I feel I've made some progress in art. So are golfers, tennis and bridge players. Of course, they enjoy each other's company and love to socialize with friends, but I don't think they would compromise the game rules in their playing. Because if we slack the rules, we can't enjoy the game. I feel the same about making art. Does it make sense that we could be lethargic and cut corners on our job because we are not paid much? Give me a bottomline if you could.
Cloudy this morning. I didn't feel like going too far to paint but didn't know where to go, so I drove slowly on Joel Blvd till I came to the intersection of Tuckhoe Rd. Suddenly I decided to turn left on Tuckhoe instead of my usual way to the right. I drove only about 300 yards when I saw two horses, one dark brown and the other light beige. They stood still under a tree right behind the fence by the road shoulder. I immediately stopped the car and set up to paint them. I didn't even use my umbrella since it was so cloudy. Toward 11:00 AM, I was finished.
When I was packing things I remembered I saw a hot dog stand on the Congregational Church parking lot a couple of days ago. I was surprised to find it was not Gary, the vendor whom I knew well and once painted with his hot dog stand. It was now a lady selling hot dogs. Since it was early, I decided to paint the new vendor. The vendor's name was Debbie, who told me that she bought the stand from Gary who was now driving a big delivery truck. Debbie didn't mind I painting her. Since the business was slow this morning, she simply sat there reading her Bible. So I did a second quick oil sketch this morning.
After I got miscellaneous things done, it was already mid-afternoon. Should I go out to paint? I finally decided to go to Harns Marsh. It is not very far. I saw a beautiful scene in which the huge lawn mower-tractor was working along the canal in the dust it stirred up, which brightened by the setting sun. As ti moved along the canal, it startled wild birds in grass and they darted into the air in a hurry. Unfortunately, the grass-cutting job was almost over. I believed by the time I set up if I had decided to paint that, the machine would have been gone. Therefore, I drove my car in the opposite direction on the road. I saw two men were fishing over there. So I took painting kit out of the trunk and hurried over. I painted one of them named David. They were both very friendly. During the time I was painting, David caught three tilapias. I enjoyed painting figures in the sun.
The weather was too good to stay home. Even though I had not fully recovered from the cold, I decided to go to Fort Myers Beach this afternoon to paint figures on beach. I took a 12 x 16 canvas and two Gessoed panels, anticipating sudden changes on beach.
I first chose a couple as my subject. The guy was lying in the shade of the umbrella, napping. The girl was reading a book and sun bathing. I thought they should be able to stay long enough for me to finish my painting. Unfortunately, by the time I barely completed blocking in color masses, they got up and packing stuff to go. Therefore, I had to switch to a girl, who came with her family. It seemed the rest of the family must have gone to dip in water because only the girl was left napping in the sun. Half way in painting, she woke up. I pleaded she go back to lie down a little longer. She was very nice and did ti accordingly till her parents and other children came back. The girl was pretty and her name was Valentina, according to her parents. So they were ready to go.
Then I noticed a guy was dozing off in his chair under his umbrella. I started the third one. I had to call it a day when he woke up.
I felt debilitated yesterday morning with a scratchy throat and weak limbs. The feeling told me that I might have caught a cold. So I didn't go out to paint. In the evening, when I was in my garage, it caught my eyes that my neighbor the Nelson's house was submerged in the orange sunset light with shadows on the walls, forming a naturally beautiful picture. Opening my car trunk, I took out the easel and set up immediately. I knew I had to rush because the sun would not wait. From my strokework you may tell how fast I painted, but it was offspring of an authentic emotional endeavor. In less than an hour my garage was too dark to distinguish colors any more. I had to stop. I felt like coming down a boxing rink, but my cold seemed gone.
Yesterday, instead of going to Punta Gorda Portrait Studio, I went to Fort Myers Beach Art Association. It was FMBAA's Pot Luck Dinner Day. In the past two months, I seldom went there or was involved in the organization's activities since I have been painting everyday subjects near home. Before this reversed snowbird was going to fly north, I felt I should go and get involved somehow in its activities, so I went. The event didn't begin till 5:30 PM, but I arrived there at 1 PM. Having parked my car, I took the kit out of the trunk and pulled it across the street to the beach.
It is true there are more people in the afternoon than in the morning. I saw a typical scene: a lady lying on a folded reclining chair with a wheeled shopping bag by her side. She shaded her eyes with a white cap. I quickly set up and began to paint. Whenever I paint figures plein air, I don't follow my usual process as I do landscapes. My priority goes to whichever is prone to move or change. I rushed myself all the time. By the time the lady got up to dip herself in the sea water I was done and it took about an hour. When I got back to FMBAA, Milly, the dinner organizer, was already there doing preparation. I was glad I still had time and was able to help her arrange the chairs, which made me feel good as a member.
It is really a quick sketch. With animals I usually skip using sienna to compose at the beginning because they are so mobile. I simply think how many of them I need to include in my picture and compose in my mind how they each poses. So this morning I immediately blocked in color masses as soon as I set up. I had to rush. Today's painting is one of my quickest. Those animals allowed me not even 15 minutes and they disappeared in the shade of the woods. What I embellished later totally came from my memory. I always take a timer with me when I paint plein air. Most of my best works were done in a rush. It makes sense because you have to follow your instinct to prioritize everything in your process and that forces you to leave out the less important details. This way you easily achieve one of the most important things in painting --simplification. And your work will be really authentic.
I usually set a half hour to remind myself to hurry. Today it was done even before the second half hour was over. I love the red brown cows in the sun. I love painting cows as much as I do horses. When I was little, I seldom ate beef because my mother believed humans should not eat their meat after cows tilled the land for us all their lives. At that time beef was from cows butchered when they were too old to work in the field. Chinese have the so-called cow spirit, that is, being hard-working and tolerant.
Usually I avoid political topics in my blog. Today I need to express my support for the pro-democracy students' movement in Hong Kong for rights to genuine direct election of government officials. 25 years ago, a similar pro-democratic students' movement happened in Beijing. As a result, hundreds of people were butchered in Tiananman Square Massacre. As a student studying in this country at that time, I became an American by choice. The Chinese Communist government claims that China is a country with special character and that Chinese have already had democracy which is even better than Western democracy. Since we are on the topic of cows and I have a very good picture to illustrate what Chinese democracy is. See it yourself.
The Congregational Church holds pumpkin sale annually before the Halloween. I left home not very early hoping in hopes of seeing people select pumpkins in the sun with their figures submerged in the orange light reflected from pumpkins. When I got there, I didn't see a soul except the lady behind the folded tables. As usual, pumpkins were piled all over the lawn. In such a situation, I decided to paint the booth. Only toward the end of my painting did a few people stop by and I had a chance to add some customers in my picture.
Actually what I paint is just the nose of the Morning Star. It was a perfect morning today. I went to the Howards' neighborhood on the Caloosahatchee River. When I got their home dock, I was impressed by the lighting effect from the sun on everything. Though simply in composition, the group of the stakes in water, boat ropes, railing, and everything formed a dance of lines. It is variety vs unity with strong rhythm.
Bill and Betsy are a couple living in a two story-house on the Orange River for 30 years. It is secluded and quiet, not far from the Pelican Coast Farms the FMB plein air group went painting last Wednesday. Betsy told me that the pasture was about 13 acres. Usually you could see cows roam around grazing, but today only a bull appeared for a very short time. They must be somewhere in the woods. I simply painted the pasture in the morning sun.
We had a new model this morning at Punta Gorda's VAC Portrait Studio. Her name is Lacesha which is pronounce as [Lay Sha]. It is always a little challenging when you paint models with dark complexion, but I think I handled it OK today.
During the break, I did a sketch of Punta Gorda artist Judy.
I went to Pelican Coast Farms this morning with Fort Myers Beach Plein Air Group. The owners of the farm are a nice and friendly couple named Jerry and Sharon. They grow beautiful plants at the nursery, especially orchids. They have a website (OrchidsAmore.com) where you may find more information about their farm.
I was attracted to their delivery van with all doors open as Jerry and Sharon were moving freshly cut flowers into it. The van, the green house and the mobile storage formed an interesting picture with a rich variety of shapes. Soon I settled down to paint it.
This morning I was invited to the Howards' home to paint the beautiful Caloosahatchee River. I chose to paint their covered dock and was attracted by the light effect caused by the morning sun on the dock. Even though it took a little longer than usual, I like what came out of it.
On Highway 80 (Palm Beach Blvd), across from Broadway Road, Alva, there was a roadside eatery named Alva Country Diner with its eye-catching sign of a huge coffee mug. It was a popular place with the locals. I had long wanted to paint it. This morning, I made a U-turn on Highway 80 and pulled over on the same side of the road shoulder. I positioned myself facing the rising sun, so I was painting into the effect as the sun rose higher as I anticipated. At first, I tried to find a place from which I was able to see the roof ridge of the restaurant as well as its signature coffee-mug sign. However, there was no way I could see the roof ridge because I would have had to position myself either in the highway traffic or in the ditch. Therefore, I had to make do with the view of the roof top being blocked by the coffee mug.