Saturday, July 30, 2016

En Plein Air: An Old House in Forest Hills Gardens (Oil, 9 x 12)

The house is located at the intersection of Kessel and Whitson, right off Union Turnpike. There was nothing special about it. The reason I painted it this morning was also because the way it looked against the sun the other day when I was biking. I noticed it looked really dark and thought it could be a good subject for practicing control over values. I don't think I achieved the perfect effect of the lighting this morning. Well, a good way of study, though. 

Half way into my painting, a lady named Margaret from a roadside house came out and talked to me. She was very nice and asked me if I would like to have a cup of coffee. Before long, she brought out to me a tray with a nice coffee cup and saucer on it. There was also a small container of milk and two bags of sugar. Wow! I was really impressed by her hospitality to a total stranger. It is always good to feel the kindness, the bright side of human nature. Somehow, I thought of the selfish lady I met on Sunday at the farmers' market again. What a striking contrast!

Friday, July 29, 2016

En Plein Air: Tu Casa Restaurant (Oil, 12 x 9)

When I was biking down Lefferts Blvd. the day before, I noticed the restaurant on the street corner of Metropolitan Ave. I found the architectural style of the building interesting and decided to paint it later. The sun was behind the building in the morning, so I thought it was better to paint in the afternoon. It rained this morning but cleared up toward noon. So it was perfect when the sun came out after lunch. 

On my way to the spot, I was surprised to realize that I've been known to quite a few people in this area. When she saw me pass by, an unknown lady, who was watering her lawn with a hose, smiled and asked me,  "What are you going to paint, today?" It caught me totally by surprise. When I was painting, another lady stopped and asked if anyone had contacted me because they were thinking of involving me in a federal-funded program. I told her yes but as a Floridian, I was not qualified for the program. Others shared with me their artworks from the cell phone. On my way home, a girl walking towards me asked unexpectedly, "So you have finished the painting?" I guess I am pretty eye-catching. How many old Asian men can you run into painting here and there almost every day in the street?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

En Plein Air: Arthur Ashe Tennis Stadium (Oil, 9 x 12)

I meant to go to the boat rental place at the Flushing Meadows Corona Park this morning to paint sailing boats. I didn't expect that when I got off 7 Train at 111 St., there was no elevator at the station. I had to carry my kit all the way from the overhead tracks step by step down the staircase to the street. By the time I arrived at the Corona Park Entrance, I was pretty much exhausted. I was intimidated at the idea of going further to the lake. As I approached the bridge over the Grand Central Parkway, I saw behind it the Arthur Ashe Stadium stand in the morning sun. Therefore, I decided to paint the stadium instead.

There was an interesting anecdote this morning. Like always, people who passed by would stop to watch me paint or carry a casual conversation with me. In that part of Queens, there were many Hispanics. One guy stood behind me quietly. He watched for quite a long time. And then he made me an offer. He wanted to trade a jersey in his hand for my painting. He said, "Look! It is from Mexico." It was a brand-new beautiful jersey with some kind of team emblem and athletes' number embroidered on it. I didn't know exactly what kind of ball game or team it was and why he wanted to trade it. I told him that I didn't need the jersey and didn't want to make that deal either. He seemed to be pretty disappointed when he was leaving. I felt sorry for the guy and also regretted that I forgot to give him my card so that he could at least make a copy of the painting from my blog. I really didn't mind if he wanted to do so. Oh, well, some kind of interesting guy, I guess.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Figure Study: Oistamo (Oil, 9 x 12)

This afternoon, it didn't feel so hot, so I went to the Forest Park. My purpose was to paint a figure in the shade instead of in the sun. I was deciding which one to paint: a dog walker sitting in a chair, an old man on the bench reading, or a young mother with a child in a crib when the first two were soon leaving. Therefore, I went to the young mother, whose name was Oistamo, recently immigrated from Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic bordering China. Obviously, the baby was asleep. Oistamo was reading on the bench. She agreed to let me paint her. As usual, I told her she could do whatever she needed to and I would capture her image on my canvas.

I felt painting a shaded figure was a tug of war with myself. I kept pushing myself to tone down the overall color scheme, but, in the end, found I was not bold enough to make it the right value. Maybe I should have put a layer of underpainting in the first place. I will try to do so next time.

Monday, July 25, 2016

En Plein Air: Summer Day (Oil, 9 x 12)

It is an ordinary street scene at the Forest Hills Gardens. I was wandering around there this morning when I saw the trees and was impressed by their shapes. I liked the quietness there. It was Puritan Ave., near Ingram St. if I remembered right. When I decided to paint the scene, there was a red SUV parked on the roadside. As I was mixing its color, the owner drove it away. Therefore, I turned the car next to it into red in color.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

En Plein Air: Unfinished Painting of Sunday Farmer's Market (Oil, 9 x 12)

For quite some time I have been thinking of going to paint the Sunday farmers' market on Queens Blvd. It has been a tradition that in summertime there is a farmers' market in front of the Jewish Synagogue on Queens Blvd. It is good thinking because the Jewish have religious services on Saturday instead of Sunday so farmers just use the space to sell their products and urban residents can have some fresh veggies or fruits. There is a park island off the access road. The other side of the park island is Queens Blvd.

This morning I set up on the edge of the park by a zebra crossing. Two farm boys were doing business with their backs to me . When I just got started, a car pulled in, right in front of me. It totally blocked my vision. An African-American girl got out of the car. As soon as she saw my desperate long face and realized what she had done to me, she apologized to me and, noticing there was a car ahead was just pulling out, she popped back into her car and moved away. 

I learned my lesson and put my shopping buggy in the slot so that people would know it was not vacant. However, 20 minutes later, when I looked up from my canvas, a woman had removed my shopping buggy and pulled in her car in that slot. I asked what she was doing. She simply said there was not other space. Actually, people kept pulling in and out, just for some vegetables. It was not like cinema parking lot, but she crossed the street to talk to the vendor. At that time the car right behind hers was pulling out. I hollered to her, asking her to move her car to that spot. She simply ignored me. That was the last straw.

Throughout my whole career as an artist, I've never met with anyone so impolite and unreasonable. So I simply put away everything in my shopping buggy, including the unfinished painting. I did leave something for the woman to remember me by. I emptied the whole container of turpentine from my brush cleanser over the windshield of her car.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

En Plein Air: St. Luke Church, Forest Hills (Oil, 12 x 9)

It was very muggy this morning. I remembered how the morning sun was on St. Luke Church when I was biking yesterday, so I decided to go there and paint it.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

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

I went to the Forest Park early in the morning. The woods on the roadside were a kind of dark indigo blue and the sun shone through some of the cracks of the vegetation. Right before a dip, I stopped and set up to paint.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

En Plein Air: Side Door of Cathedral of St. John, the Divine (Oil, 12 x 9)

The weather wasn't that bad this morning, so I decided to paint one of the most famous and magnificent cathedrals in New York City, the Catholic Cathedral of St John, the Divine, located on Amsterdam Ave. back to the Morningside Park. It was in the vicinity of Columbia University. I didn't know anything about the church before i went there. What I knew was It was a church in Gothic Rouen style, somewhat like Dotre Dame, but, for some reason, there was only one tower instead of two. I walked around the church in an attempt to find a good perspective. Unfortunately, there was not a place in street where I could paint the main entrance. Most of the times, my vision was blocked by street trees, so I finally decided to paint its side door from a street corner across. Like many churches in New York City, it was right next to a modern office building.

I knew it was a difficult position. First of all, it was against the sun. However, the local color of the church material was stony light-gray, which complicated its value. The steps seemed to be white marble, even lighter in color. What was more, the Gothic decorations outside the building were blackened by the soot in polluted air over the years. Part of the stone had turned rusty, possibly for some acid rains in the past. Anyway, It was a good opportunity for practice. I guess next time I would not use the same approach to paint something like that in similar situation.

Monday, July 18, 2016

En Plein Air: English Tudor Style House on Shorthill Road (Oil, 9 x 12)

It was too humid this morning. I didn't go too far but simply crossed the street to the Forest Hills Gardens and  painted this Tudor house.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

En Plein Air: Soldiers and Sailors Monument (Oil, 9 x 12)

I meant  to paint the Riverside Church on Riverside Dr. by W 120th St. this morning. However, when Bus M5 was slow approaching to the stop at W 89th St , I saw through the bus window the monument loomed up in front of me. Wow, it looked magnificently beautiful. I immediately decided to get off the bus and paint the monument instead.

It was a long ride. I had to take F train first to W 57th St. and then switch to Bus M5. Therefore, on my way to and back from there, I grabbed quite a few sketches.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

En Plein Air: Dog Lovers at the Park (Oil, 9 x 12)

I had a doctor's appointment today, so I didn't plan to do something too time-consuming. I went to the  spot at the Forest Park where dog lovers gathered together everyday. I saw my neighbor Lea was among the three who sat there chatting. I set up not far from them, just outside of the fence and made this quick sketch.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

En Plein Air: Angel of Sorrows (Oil, 9 x 12)

I went this morning to the Maple Grove Cemetery again. As soon as you stepped onto the ground of the cemetery, you could almost touch the tranquility in the air. It was, in fact, a kind of tranquility inside yourself. It seemed to have a magic power to quiet down your thoughts and make you reflect on the meaning of many things you fight for in this mortal world. And then you would realize what was the most important thing in the remaining years of your life.

There were many story stones in this cemetery and it was interesting to read the life story about the person who lay right there six feet under the ground.  The other day, David and I read the story about a Black Jazz musician buried there. As a matter of fact, the altar on which the Angel of Sorrows stood was also one of the story stones. It was about a person named Stephen Miretti. He started his career as a pastor and undertaker. Somehow he became rich later in his life. He became a philanthropist and donated in New York 199 plots to people who could not afford the burial ground after they died. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Figure Sketches at the Park: Anne Sunbathing and Parents at the Playground

It was a beautiful day today. I knew there would be quite a few people sunbathing in the park. After lunch, I crossed the street with my kit and went to the lawn in the Forest Park. I was right that there were sunbathers. I saw a girl lying on her stomach not far from the trail. She was reading. I went up to her asking how long she would stay there. A half hour, answered she. I then asked if she would mind if I painted her. She said no with a smile. So I got busy immediately setting up my kit. The whole painting took about forty minutes. Her name was Anne.

The following drawings were actually done before lunch. I did some chores in the morning and took a shower. Then I felt like taking a walk to have some fresh air. I grabbed my sketchbook and walked out of the door. I went to the park playground. For sure I would see children and their parents there. I sat down and took a few drawings.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

En Plein Air: Queensboro Bridge (Oil, 9 x 12)

When I was reading online about New York's "hidden attractions", I was excited to come across the Ruins of  Renwick Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island. The hospital was built in 1856, a big thing at that time, of course. No other epidemics had ever influenced the history of humankind like smallpox. The photos of the hospital presented the ruins like an abandoned castle. It piqued my interest, so I decided to go there this morning. However, to my surprise, when I followed the directions, I ended up coming face to face with a high-rise building construction site with temporary wire fences surrounding the whole place. I was told that the hospital had been mowed down for the construction. I guess the sharks of New York realty market could not let such an extremely valuable piece of land across from Manhattan sit there untouched. Therefore, I set up by the construction site and paint the Queensboro Bridge on Queens' side.

Friday, July 8, 2016

En Plain Air: Arched Gateway (Oil, 9 x 12)

I found the arched gateway about two weeks ago, totally by accident. It was the entrance to an apartment building in Forest Hills Gardens. I decided right there that I would come back to paint it someday. It was, again, very hot and humid today. I didn't feel like going too far to paint. I thought of the gateway this morning. That was it. The arch was located on Holder PL.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

En Plein Air: Morning Sun (Oil, 12 x 9)

It is a real scorcher today. There was not a bit of breeze even early in the morning when I left home. I was able to feel the humidity in the air. Moreover, the road construction workers had already been busy working to resurface the street. Their heavy machinery made the deafening noise which seemed to make the humidity more intolerably sticky. I didn't know why noise could worsen the skin sensation. Maybe it was synesthesia. Anyway, I didn't feel like going too far. So I crossed the street to the Forest Park. Finding a spot near the street, I immediately set up and paint.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

En Plein Air: First Ray of the Morning (Oil, 9 x 12)

It rained at the dawn this morning, so by 7 AM the sky was still pretty cloudy and dark. I walked to the Forest Park and noticed the wet tree trunks were extremely dark in the woods. Light had trouble piercing through the thick foliage and I could only see it glimmer on some leaves between tree trunks. I immediately set up by a trail. Halfway through painting, the sky cleared up somewhere and the first ray of the morning sun shot across the clearing in my foreground and made it very poetic. Even though it didn't stay for long, I caught enough in my memory to include it in the painting.

Monday, July 4, 2016

En Plein Air: Grace Episcopal Church (Oil, 12 x 9)

A few days ago, I found online this church which was located at Jamaica Center. It looked old but gracefully structured. If I took E Train, it was only one minute walk from the subway terminal. That was not too difficult for me to handle even with my leg problem. As a matter of fact, I've noticed from online reviews, the most active churches with commendable community services were usually concentrated in areas like Jamaica whose residents were mostly newly immigrated minorities form third-world countries. Maybe they needed religion more than those in affluent areas. As John Lennon put it, God is a yardstick used to measure human pains.

When I got on Parson St, I was able to see the church with its high and sharp spire pointing toward the sky. It was surrounded by its cemetery on three sides. I tried to find a spot in which I could see the sun shining from behind the steeple but at a certain angle. I first tried to get into the church but it was locked, Nor could I get into the cemetery. I walked all the four sides around the block and came back on Parson St. again. I failed to locate an ideal spot, either because the thick foliage blocked the view of the steeple or because the store buildings made it impossible to see any part of it. 

Therefore, I set up on Parson St., back to the Social Security Office Building, knowing nobody would work on July 4th. I negotiated my location and moved once fortunately before I started for someone who parked her car right in front of me. Then, because it was a Federal building, the security was really tight. Before I finished setting up, cops came asking how long I would be there. I said two hours and one of them talked to someone on CB radio. I thought they would drive me away again, but they left me along.

Sunday, July 3, 2016


We went, this afternoon, to see a French movie The Innocents in lower Manhattan. It was pretty good. After that, my wife did shopping on Broadway. As usual, I sat on husband chair in the store and sketched. Those above were done at the stores or on subway.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Sketches at Children's Playground

I went to the Forest Park children's playground after lunch and there were quite a number of children and their parents, mostly mothers and grandmas. I took some sketches of them.

Nice Ice-cream

At the Monkey Bar

Watching Child Play

Watching Child Play

Muslim Woman

Reading in the Shade

Watching Child Play