Monday, August 31, 2015

En Plein Air: Maroon Volvo (Oil, 9 x 12)

It was cloudy and humid this morning.  I didn't feel like going too far, so I went to the Forest Hills Gardens. At first I meant to paint a guy sitting on a bench. However, shortly after I started, he took off. I noticed a maroon Volvo was parked in front of a condo building entrance on the other side and it blended well into the color of the environment. Therefore, I scraped the canvas paper and turned myself at 180 degrees to paint the following scene.

Friday, August 28, 2015

En Plein Air: Broadway Under Construction (Oil, 12 x 9)

Early this morning I went to Lower Manhattan, with the Trinity Church in my mind. However, when I got there, the whole section of the road was under construction. Besides, the church itself was going through renovation with scaffolding around its tower. I walked back and forth attempting to find a spot which would enable me to have the church in a good pose but in vain. And the thoroughfare was actually a construction site. Therefore, I decided to paint it as I saw it. The location was right under the World Trade Center at the corner of Fulton Street.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

En Plein Air: Railroad Underpass over 71st Ave. (Oil, 12 x 9)

I meant to paint at a street park on Queens Blvd. this morning. As I was walking out of Forest Gardens and nearing the Long Island Railroad bridge over 71st Ave., I  was fascinated by the contrast in light between in and outside of the underpass. Therefore I decided to paint it. I set up at the other end of the underpass, so I was totally shaded from the sun. The downside of the location was the noise of the trains right above my head. The other problem was the fact that the underpass corner smelled of urine. Maybe some homeless people relieved themselves in the corner at night. Both of the problems seemed to have disappeared when I was concentrated on my painting.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

En Plein Air: Figure Sketches at Bryant Park

I went to the Bryant Park this morning and instead of painting landscapes, I did two oil sketches of people there. Interestingly, Neither of them realized that she/he was the subject of my artwork, not even after I wan finished with them. Only by-passers kept asking me whether they knew it or not. Upon my negative response, they just giggled.

Friday, August 21, 2015

En Plein Air: Austin Public (Oil, 12 x 9)

This is a popular bar on Austin Street. Originally, I planned to paint this afternoon people eating in the street on 70th Ave, under big umbrellas. There are quite a few small restaurants and eateries along the street with tables and seats outside all the way to the street corner with Austin St. However, maybe because it was Friday afternoon, there were so many cars parked on both sides of 70th Ave. that I could barely see the tip of the umbrellas from across the street, to say nothing of people. Therefore, I turned myself 90 degrees to paint the bar on Austin St.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

En Plein Air: Small Lane (Oil, 12 x 9)

The sketch didn't long, about an hour and a half. When I left home this morning, I remembered a small lane I once passed by and I was impressed by its composition and the contrast in value. Therefore, I headed that way. The location is right before the LIRR bridge over Ascan Ave by Burns St., if you face Austin St. I am glad I finally painted it.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

En Plein Air: Silver and White (Oil, 8 x 12)

This morning when I was walking down Greenway N. in Forest Gardens, I noticed quite a few cars were parked along the road on the opposite side. Some were in the sun; others in the shade. There happened to be a stone-built something like a pavilion right above the short wall. The space behind the wall looked pretty dark with heavy vegetation. Obviously the morning sun was unable to pierce through the leaves. I set up and chose the scene to paint with two cars. They silver and white in color.

Friday, August 14, 2015

En Plein Air: Riley and His Frog Friend at the Fountain (Oil, 8 x 11)

I went to Forest Park's Overlook Point this morning. For a while I sat at the children's playground's, by the Frog's Fountain, hoping to see some parents who sat there relatively stable watching their children play. Unfortunately, they never stayed put for even a minute. Maybe it was because their children were too young to play by themselves. Therefore, I found Riley and her babysitter. I observed Riley for some time and drafted his image in my mind before I put it on canvas. Of course, he was always moving around, too, but his posture came back from time to time.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

En Plein Air: LIRR at Kew Gardens Station (Oil, 16 x 12)

I painted this sketch this morning standing at the end of the platform of Kew Gardens Station of Long Island Railroad. It was a fine day and very comfortable to be outside. The only disadvantage was when the train passed by on the line closest to the platform. Whenever it came, I had to hold my hat with one hand and the painting board with the other because the wind was so strong that it would blow them away if I didn't.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

En Plein Air: Morning (oil, 8 x 12)

This is the intersection of Austin St. and Lefferts Ave. I meant to paint the scene two days ago, but the TV crew caused a lot of commotions that day and I had to change my plan. Now everything was back to normal. So did I.

Monday, August 10, 2015

En Plein Air: Austin Street in Summer Morning (Oil, 12 x 8)

Yesterday while I was taking a walk around Kew Gardens Cinema, I decided to paint the facade of Austin Ale House this morning. It looked so interesting when half of the building was overshadowed by the high apartment building across the street. Against the brightly sun-lit orange brick wall behind, everything in the shadow was so dark. However, by the time I got there this morning, there was a TV crew shooting a sitcom or some program about cops, using the whole block as its setting. I noticed there were several big catering trucks and tents right in front of the bar. It totally altered the composition in my mind for the picture. Therefore, I made a change on spot and decided to paint its facade on Lefferts Ave. It was still early, only the tip of the roof top was touched by the rising sun.

Friday, August 7, 2015

En Plein Air: Street Scene (Oil, 12 x 9)

My friends David, Ariel, and I met at the intersection of Greenway N. and Markwood Rd. in Forest Gardens to paint the street scene this morning. I have to credit David for discovering the chimney of a house down the road. He mentioned  to me last week the chimney which reminded me of a miniature stone pagoda of Japanese garden. Then, when I noticed the stone wall of the terrace along the sidewalk, I could not but smile to myself because it brought to my mind the stone walls of the Japanese royal palace in Kyoto. Therefore, we decided to paint it.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

En Plein Air: Forest Park Reconstruction (Oil, 9 x 12)

The Forest park near Overlook Gate is under reconstruction. It seems that a baseball field and some other park facilities are being added to it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

En Plein Air: 4 Deepdene Rd. (Oil, 12 x 9)

I liked the stone doorway of the house so I simple set up across the street and painted its door. It was a street in the basin of the wooded neighborhood. That is why it was named Deepdene Road, I guess.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Thoughts on Visual Art for the Artist Appreciation Month

My friends at Patience Brewster recently reminded me that August is the Month of Artist Appreciation and asks me to write something about the artists who have inspired me.

Looking back all the years since I seriously started learning art , I realize it could be too long a list which includes classic, modern, and contemporary artists. At the beginning, I was crazy about Russian realist artist Ilya Repin's expressive power and landscape master Isaac Levitan's sentimentality. Then came the classic masters of Rembrandt's and Rubens's exquisiteness. My exposure to Impressionists made me feel totally carried away by Monet's perception of light and color. Shortly after that, I became a spellbound admirer of Klimt. My passion about sunshine made Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida a god for me to worship. Of course, I owe any of my recent improved techniques to contemporary American artist such as Kim English, Marc Dalessio, Jeremy Lipking, Richard Schmid, etc.

Interestingly, the more I study it, the more questions I have about art. I believe a theory in my teaching, that is, there is no art history but only artists in history. Why should we lump up very different artists under the name of Impressionism simply because they happened to hold a show together and the only thing they had in common was they were sick and tired of the traditional academician way of painting? What is great art? Why does good art appeal to so many viewers. In other words, good art must please aesthetically human eyes, right? Then I believe that good art is just a magic combination of art elements, including line, shape, color, value, etc., as much as the reason why some songs appeal to us because of a magic combination of music elements. In that sense, I think, realism and abstract art are only two extremes of a continuum. If you go to MoMA to see Monet's lily pond paintings, you know what I mean. Because he naturally slid to the other end of the continuum and doesn't care for the form of objects.

The conception of art is constantly expanding including its expressive form. I am often amazed by some creative expressions in street art. Like the fast-developing technological world, no one can anticipate what will become of tomorrow's art. As far as I am concerned, like a beach walker, I am happy and satisfied if I happen to pick up a few small colorful shells in the sea of art.

To me, painting is a personal thing. I don't have much interest in participating art competition or exhibitions. I enjoy more the process of painting than the product of it. Mainly, I am a self-taught artist. If I have to name a contemporary artist whom I am indebted to, it is Marc Dalessio, an American artist teaching at Florence Academy of Art, Italy. He is so generous with teaching of skills in his website that I have stolen a lot of creative ideas from him. Besides, he is a fast painter and can even paint in his car during a traffic jam.

If you are unfamiliar with the work of Patience, she is the founder of a one-artist company which specializes in hand painted ornaments Patience herself designs. Here is her company's site:

En Plein Air: Summer Morning in Manhattan (Oil, 12 x 9)

It showered this morning. I hesitated as to whether I should go out to paint. The sky seemed to have cleared up after breakfast, so I decided to go. I took F train and got out of E. 63rd St. on Lexington Ave. The Catholic Church on E. 67th St. was in the dark shaded area but the Central Park was a little too far. As I was deciding, the sun suddenly came out of clouds and glared down on the street. It shone right along E. 67th St, cutting through Lexington Ave. I set up by a square column of Hunter College building's covered sidewalk -- a perfect place to look at the effect of the sun on the thoroughfare.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

En Plein Air: Maryam (Oil, 9 x 12)

I had hurt my back recently, so I didn't want to go too far to paint. Pulling my kit, I walked along Markwood St. in Forest Gardens, looking for something to paint. There was a sizable clearing in the woods, which I liked very much. It was a dip from the surrounding area. With thick foliage of big trees around, it was a pretty cool shaded area. From a distance, I saw a young lady sitting crisscross on the grass working on her laptop. She formed a perfect picture. Therefore, I walked over and asked whether she would stay there for some time and if I could paint her. She accepted with a smile, saying she would be there for a while. Her name is Maryam and she is a New York high school teacher. Maryam is a great model.

Maryam later sent me the story she was writing as I was painting her. It is a touch story and, in fact, a story within story as far as my painting is concerned. Here is her story: