Sunday, July 29, 2012

Beauty Queen (DPW Challenge Entry, and a Little Personal Thoughts)

As I was finishing this piece, suddenly a sense of familiarity stroke -- it felt as if I had drawn it, painted it before, as if we had met as old friends, comfortable with each other. I stopped my brush and sat for a while, trying to figure out where this sense has come from. Then I started to remember -- the garden outside my window when I was living and studying in Indiana, which was always blooming with a thousand pink, aromatic roses just like this one by the end of summer. I had gazed at them many, many, many times in the clear, cool breeze of dawn,  thinking about putting them down on paper, which I did not think I could do at that time -- a seed of dream planted a long time ago, to be waken at this moment.

Beauty Queen, Watercolor on Arches 140# Cold Press Paper, 7"h x 5"w, 2012 #41


Submitted as DPW Challenge Entry (Rose Challenge)

Indiana was the first place I landed when came to this foreign country to finish my graduate study, a very different place, sharply contrasting to where I grew up -- the never night city of twenty million, Shanghai. Living in Indiana means dealing with life so intimately interwoven with nature -- the whole intermeshing of plant and landscape, of sky and earth, of time and place. Nature was always there where I lived, just down the front steps of the doorway, made of native limestone with tiny fossilized shells embedded in it, along the riverbank that overflows in the summer, in the scarcely-pruned garden filled with native wildflowers of my neighbors... And there was always time, lovely time, to notice the world around, time to relate to it in my own way, time that seems to be in shorter and shorter supply each year now. I wonder if I had studied and therefore stayed at other schools in other places, whether I would end up where I am right now, painting the same thing -- flowers of summer gardens, landscapes with horizons stretching to the sky -- or would I even be painting at all? I honestly don't know, but I remember the kind, patient, guiding hands of my first watercolor teachers, extraordinary artists living their entire life in small town Indiana, not at all interested in the hustle and bustle of the outside world... 

A sense of sweet nostalgia slowly enveloped me. I took comfort in knowing that the way I learned to look at the world about me then and there was the same practice I am taking to observe the world about me now. I came to a western landscape as an outsider looking in, and the reason I could do so is because years ago, in Indiana, I had learned how to be an insider looking out...


  1. Dear Arena words, memories, thoughts nourish
    the painting for me also.
    As said Leonardo, painting is mute poetry .... Lovely to read the thoughts that accompanied this wonderful watercolor rose!

  2. Arena, this is absolutely gorgeous. Your story just enhances the painting! I love that this has such deep meaning. Absolutely beautiful!!!

  3. The rose is beautiful, but I even more enjoyed your memories and how they worked to form who you are today.

  4. Hello Arena:) And a beauty queen she is! Very very beautiful:)

  5. What a truly lovely post Arena. The painting is beautiful and your story is so eloquently conveyed. Both the writing and the painting are wonderful pieces or art. Thank you so much for sharing. :) I can't imagine moving so far away from where I grew up -- you are very courageous.


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