Tuesday, January 22, 2013

In Full Sunshine (30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge: Day 21)

In Full Sunshine,
 Watercolor on Fabriano Artistico #140 Cold Press Paper, 6"h x 6"w, 2012 #23

Bid at My DPW Auction (Starting Bid $35)

Continuing with my 6" x 6" plumeria series today... These projects are manageable after a full day of class, and the possibility of watching granulating pigments gradually settling into the groves of the paper just brings me such joy after a long day of focus-intense drawing. This aspect of watercolor is almost meditative... At stressful times it allows my mind to slowly quiet down. 

You can purchase my 2013 wall and desk calendars here:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Aloha (30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge: Day 16)

AlohaWatercolor on Ampersand Aquabord, 6"h x 6"w, 2012 #18

Bid at My DPW Auction (Starting Bid $45)

I had quite a bit of difficulties with this painting -- the reference photo has these juicy dark leaves surrounding the center flower, which is ideal to be treated with wet-into-wet applications to create the movement and out-of-focus effect; the center flower itself is radiant with saturated colors -- reds, oranges and radiant magentas, with beautiful Cobalt Blue shadows. I have painted the image multiple times in my brain before executing it on Aquabord, and came to the realization that getting smooth, saturated soft edge shapes of the flower is not easy, and its almost impossible to create specific soft-edged dark shapes of the background leaves -- to make them very recognizable shapes of leaves, yet not so hard-edged that they are competing for focus with the center flower. I ended up experimenting with dry-brush hatching on the background, which is painstakingly slow, but it did give me the rich, dark, and slightly blurred shapes. I am not sure this is the way I want to go for my next painting on Aquabord -- the adventure and discovery continues and the learning process is the most intriguing... But for now, I think I am ready for a change to paint on my beloved Arches paper again!

You can purchase my 2013 wall and desk calendars here:

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Remembering June (30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge: Day 15)

Remembering JuneWatercolor on Ampersand Aquabord, 6"h x 6"w, 2012 #17

Bid at My DPW Auction (Starting Bid $65)

This piece is my experimentation with painting details and layering light glazes on Aquabord, the former of which proven to be quite manageable on this surface, while the latter turned out to be quite difficult on segments where dense pigment has already been laid down -- more difficult than even the smooth hot press papers, that is. I was thrilled to have pulled it off on the lower right corner where the underwater stem of the water lily is -- I've painted the dark and light shapes of this section separately, and they appeared lacking of unity to the point that I was really frustrated, and just took out my squirrel quill brush, mixed a milk-consistency of Permanent Sap Green and Quinacridone Gold, and glazed the entire section with this mix. Some of the dark pigments lifted a little and the boundary blurred, for sure, but it actually turned out to enhance the illusion of "under water". 

On a different note -- the beginning of a year is normally the busy season for entering juried exhibitions, and I am pulling some late nights trying to finish some larger pieces, as well as trying to get a couple of small paintings done for a group show in the Main Gallery. With class at the atelier resuming, the pressure of finishing one small painting a day seems to be gradually taking its tolls. There are days that it just seems an impossible task to finish, or nothing I put my brush on turns out right. However, like a beginning marathon runner, I know I am just hitting this wall of my own limit and I will need to push through. The great thing about this challenge is that I have discovered many awesome artists through it, and I have read about their struggle with it along the way. The comradeship and encouragements from my peers and you, my dear readers, has kept me going this far. Thank you all so much... 

You can purchase my 2013 wall and desk calendars here:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Texas Blues (30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge: Day 14)

Texas Blues, Watercolor on Ampersand Aquabord, 5"h x 5"w, 2012 #16

Bid at My DPW Auction (Starting Bid $45)

Here's "Texas Blues", finally finished! Turns out... Painting on Aquabord is really a very time-consuming process, and this little piece has taken much longer than what I initially expected to finish! But, here it is, as promised... And I have a couple more pieces in the pipes for the next couple of days, so stay tuned!

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Highland Dreams (30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge: Day 13)

Highland Dreams, Watercolor on Arches 140# Cold Press Paper, 6"h x 9"w, 2013 #15

Bid at My DPW Auction (Starting Bid $35)

Second day at school after the holiday break, I have to admit I am absolutely exhausted by the end of an 8-hour day of standing. Getting back to the painting table takes some discipline, but I'm glad that I did it -- pulling a large fluid wash across page has proven to be an effective way of distressing. This is a simple imaginary scene of a quiet mountain lake at sunset. I started it with a simple value sketch, and added all the colors according to the mood I wanted to achieve, responding to what's happening on paper, experimenting with wet-on-dry mark making to suggest vegetation and ground texture, putting emphasis on making interesting shapes since I have no visual reference. It was very different from how I paint normally, and it was a lot of fun...

On a different note -- I am featured today! My friend, Taryn Day, who is an amazing painter as well as a virtual curator who runs the great artist interview blog, "The Art Room", which exposes its reader to many extraordinary painters -- past and present -- with a changing monthly theme, has run a feature of me today in the theme of "painters who blog". Taryn has asked each painter she interviews this month to pick one or two works they like most among all works they have created during the year 2012, and explain why. Taryn also makes a pick herself and explains her reason. It has been fun reading the daily updates of other great painter/bloggers for me and absolutely an honor to be listed among the array of painters who have inspired me and for whom I have great admiration. Thank you Taryn for giving me this opportunity to meet more art friends online!

You can purchase my 2013 wall and desk calendars here:

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Winter Light (Version 2) (30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge: Day 12)

Winter Light (Version 2), 
Watercolor on Fabriano Artistico 140# Cold Press Paper, 9"h x 12"w, 2013 #14

Bid at My DPW Auction (Starting Bid $35)

I have to admit that keeping the full pace of one painting a day after class has resumed in the atelier today has proven a challenge -- I've only got two hours in the morning and three hours in the evening to devote to painting (and the rest that goes on in REAL life -- cooking, laundry, commute, etc.) I have managed to pull out this painting, which I did a smaller version previously, and really loved the results, and thought I would love to try it on a slightly smoother paper and a larger size. The separation of granulating Cobalt Blue from Burnt Sienna is not as evident on this one compared to on the rougher paper I used for the last version, however, the light appeared softer, and more tender because of exactly the same reason.

You can purchase my 2013 wall and desk calendars here:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

January Snow (30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge: Day 9)

January Snow, Watercolor on Arches 140# Rough Paper, 7"h x 10"w, 2013 #11

Bid at My DPW Auction (Starting Bid $35)

I was working on "Texas Blues" for a couple of days on and off and thought I'd finish it today -- but then I saw this blog post from my beloved friend Crystal about the 12 inch snow they got yesterday. I could not help but remembered what it was like when a good winter snow silently drifted in the darkness of the night, and the next morning when I opened the door, the back yard bushes are buried almost to their tip, and the landscape is transformed into a completely alien space. The new snow are always clean and fresh looking, like this giant white cotton sheet covering everything fast asleep underneath it. Occasionally a sapling could be spotted in the expansive white field , so lonely like the rigging of a little sail's boat in the vast ocean... Then I painted this one, "January Snow", instead.

I surely missed snow since moving to California...

Texas Blues, Watercolor on Ampersand Aquabord, 5"h x 5"w, WIP 1

As of "Texas Blues"... I promise I will finish it. Another day... There are still 21 days left for the challenge...

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Last One Standing (30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge: Day 8)

Last One Standing,
  Watercolor on Richeson Stephen Quiller 140# Rough Paper, 5"h x 7"w, 2013 #10

Bid at My DPW Auction (Starting Bid $25)

I took the reference photo for this painting on my road trip from San Francisco along the pacific coast up to Seattle. Passing the northern tip of Oregon, entering Washington state, suddenly there are lots and lots of drift wood washed up on the coast. I took my lunch break on one of the little beaches with such washed-ashore driftwood scattered everywhere, and there also happened to be this dead tree still standing, among the bleached driftwood, with its giant roots half exposed, seemingly going to tip at the first blow of strong winter storm. It was a grey day, chilly and cloudy. I stood there, looking at the giant tree, wondering when it was still a seedling, what it had seen upon this beach -- that would be... 300 years ago? 1000 years ago? When was that? It was still Tang Dynasty in China... And in North America, it was long before the first European explorers have landed. Only deer and native Indians were occasional visitors of this quiet beach, perhaps...

I stood there dreaming about what it was like being a tree, standing in the same place, for hundreds of years, then one day, tipping in a storm into the waves, drifting thousands of miles across strange lands.

Then I painted this image -- more from my imagination than literally from the photo. I couldn't say it has quite captured the spirit of the land or the tree, but at least, it is my homage to them.

I am also working on two 10" x 10" commission pieces -- a larger version of my paintings "Purple Hibiscus" and "Green Orchids". It has been a challenge to try to keep up with a painting a day, and work on these in the same time. But I am hanging on there...

Purple Hibiscus II,
  Watercolor on Richeson Stephen Quiller 140# Cold Press Paper, 10"h x 10"w, WIP 1

Green Orchids II
  Watercolor on Richeson Zoltan Szabo 300# Cold Press Paper, 10"h x 10"w, WIP 1

You can purchase my 2013 wall and desk calendars here:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Whispering Wind (30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge: Day 7) - Sold

Whispering Wind, 
Watercolor on Lanaquarelle 140# Cold Press Paper, 7"h x 10"w, 2013 #9


Continuing my experimentation with painting on soaking wet paper for as long as possible... After a couple of days' playing I am feeling more and more free, and went ahead with this without much preliminary drawings. I had fun dropping in reddish and golden brown colors for the shrubbery on wet paper first, then design the branches connecting them after the leaf shapes have dried. I also had plenty of fun doing the negative painting of the grass underneath the shrubs using what I have learned from Roland Lee's workshop. Painting without drawing is scary at times, but the unrestrained brushwork has a lot of vitality and vigor, therefore works well for amorphous shapes such as bushes and tall grass.

You can purchase my 2013 wall and desk calendars here:

Season Change (30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge: Day 6)

Season Change, Watercolor on Arches140# Rough Paper, 5"h x 7"w, 2013 #8

Bid at My DPW Auction (Starting Bid $20)

In this deceptively simple-looking subject I rediscovered the joy of sculpting into wet watercolor paints with a damp brush and pull out the bursting white seed pod shape out of the background, and painting negatively around a light shape. Simple as it looks, it actually took me several trials to land in one that I am relatively happy with. The difficulty lies in leaving enough room in between each brush stroke so that when the wet paint travel and expand on paper, there are still enough white paper left to suggest the seed pods of the bulrush plants. Of course, you can always carve out the lights when the paper is drying, but to achieve the really beautiful diffused edge that suggest the fluffiness of the pods, it is best to leave the soft edge created by the initial movement of fluid paint on very wet paper -- which, of course, is hard to control as wet paint has a mind of their own...

This is one of the trial runs that's on Jack Richeson Stephen Quiller #140 rough paper -- I found the texture effects of granulating paints are not as evident on this paper compared to Arches, and removal of even non-staining paints are somewhat more difficult. (I will report back after more experiments...) However, I did like the interesting shapes on the bulrush seed head formed by uneven drying of paints -- getting this kind of "happy accidents" are one of the major draws of watercolor...

Season Change (Version 2), 
Watercolor on Richeson Stephen Quiller140# Rough Paper, 5"h x 7"w, 2013 #9

You can purchase my 2013 wall and desk calendars here:

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Hidden Path (30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge: Day 5)

Hidden Path, Watercolor on Arches140# Rough Paper, 6"h x 8"w, 2013 #6


This is the painting that gave me much problems a couple of days before, and caused the frantic wipe-outs in the end. I tackled it again today after some hesitation, deciding that if it fails again, I will leave it alone and start again some days later, instead of trying to wipe it off and repaint to save the paper -- after all, it is just a piece of paper! (That said, the Mr. Clean magic eraser sponge really works wonders, and all of you watercolor painters who wants to repaint a failed passage on a overall good picture should definitely try it!) Well, maybe it is the relaxed attitude, maybe it is the failed practice runs a couple of days ago, maybe it is the fact that I've accumulated quite some mileages on my brush in the past few days, it went smoother than before. Maybe I am still not totally satisfied with the results, but I liked it enough to put it here to share with you, my friends...

When I first finished this painting, it looked like this:

However, it somehow just did not look right to me. I could not tell why so I put it aside and went out to my gallery for the hanging of our upcoming show, "New Year, New Work". And when I came back to look at it with a fresh eye, I immediately realized -- the little sapling in the foreground was way too dark and therefore did not read to be at a distance from the viewer comparing to the fence posts on the right. I took a soft squirrel hair brush and gently wet the sapling, waited a couple of seconds, then dabbed it with a facial tissue -- just enough color came off and it instantaneously read as "receding". Nothing speaks of spacial relationship more than value changes -- strong value contrasts tend to advance while diminished value contrasts speaks of atmospheric perspective and distance. I did a bit of subtle cosmetic work like this in the fence posts to lighten them respectively and the image now reads much better as a misty, snowy winter day... What do you think?

... Well, I just could not help doing this -- redo this painting another time. I eliminated the wires on the fence to create a more time-worn feeling, which I think suits the overall mood better. I am also happier with the wet-in-wet shapes of the trees better this time -- but that's just more of a happy accident than any skill improvement I guess... :-P

Hidden Path (Version 2), Watercolor on Arches 140# Rough Paper, 5"h x 7"w, 2013 #7

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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Winter Mirage (30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge: Day 4)

Winter Mirage (Version 3), 
Watercolor on Lanaquarelle140# Cold Press Paper, 7"h x 10"w, 2013 #5


I've done a small version of this painting and sold it last year, and in my struggle to regain my skills of wet-in-wet application over a large (relatively speaking...) uninterrupted area I decided to try it again in this slightly larger version on a soft-surfaced paper. I liked certain aspect of this one better than the last -- the more interesting shapes of the brushes and the fir, the linework of the fence lines, and I do think this version has better captured that warm glow of sunset color on a cold winter evening. But I have to admit, it was more of a struggle to paint this one that the last, and the first pass I did of the sky end up drying way too light! It is also much harder to create a smooth blending of colors on cold press paper than on rough paper. However, I do think these daily exercises are getting me back into my grooves! It is also a tremendous comfort to know that if one painting does not turn out ideally, there is always another chance tomorrow! I have been able to enjoy the process more with this mindset, which I think by itself is worth all the effort...

On a separate note -- I will be participating in Silicon Valley Open Studio Events for the three weekend this May. And today I received the confirmation email that my profile is officially established on their website! (You can see it here.) I will give more details as the dates approach -- this is my first year participating and I'm really excited!

You can purchase my 2013 wall and desk calendars here:

Friday, January 4, 2013

Winter Solstice (30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge: Day 3)

Winter Solstice,  Watercolor on Arches 140# Rough Paper, 5"h x 7"w, 2013 #3


You know it is not your day when you wipe out the third painting in a roll from your paper/canvas -- and today just seems to be one of these days. I started out trying out complete some landscape paintings I've started last year, but end up trashing them by fiddling too much. Frustrated, I took a "Mr. Clean" eraser sponge and wiped everything down to a ghost image on white paper, and started over. Buy the time I did my third wipes the touch Arches paper is showing signs of fatigue -- and I know it is a good time to stop: when your Arches paper is tired of your abusive sponge, it is a sign that the day is really not going right for you as a painter.

So, after some chores (depositing painting to a gallery, taking my car to a tire repair show to take out that old nail that has caused leaking for the past three months, and filling out application form for a new round of art fairs -- i.e. delaying starting a new as much as I can), I finally sat down and decide to face my daemon. I took a small piece of paper and did this simple snowy scene just to practice all the basics of painting wet into wet -- surface moisture level on the paper, pigment density in the brush, timing. As simple as the image may look as a finished painting, I was reminded yet again how unpredictable a wet-in-wet process can be, and how watercolor can have a mind of its own. It took me two practice runs and a wipe-out (again) to finally land on one that does not look overly fuzzy or fiddled to death, and a better three hours have passed before I realized.

(Just for fun -- here's one of the trial versions that hasn't gone quite right...)

Winter Solstice (Version 2), 
Watercolor on Arches 140# Rough Paper, 6"h x 8"w, 2013 #4

I was truly humbled by the experience and any notion that I have acquired some sort of control over this medium has by now totally gone -- and I was reminded that how quickly skills acquired previously through intense practice can go rusty if I do not practice them diligently. And surely enough, in my recent rendering of flowers I have start to get a bit too obsessed with getting the results look exactly like I have envisioned them to be, and not doing as many wet-into-wet sessions as I used to. So here I am, almost back to square one, learning everything again -- I guess that is exactly the point of these daily exercises: to force you to look into the things you have neglected and skills that you have once owned then lost, and pick them up by practicing them daily.

You can purchase my 2013 wall and desk calendars here:

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Northern Exposure (30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge: Day 2)

Northern Exposure, 
Watercolor on Winsor Newton #140 Cold Press Paper, 8"h x 10"w, 2013 #2


Day 2 for the "30 Paintings in 30 Days" challenge -- so far, I am still hanging on there (ok, barely)... This painting has been putting aside for a while since I started it last year, and worked on it off and on for a couple of months. It looks a very simple scene of sunset in the big sky country of eastern Texas at the beginning of winter. In the reference photo I took, there is almost nothing in the foreground, but the intense color near the horizon just kept me coming back to it. I could not think of a center of attention that would add interest to the foreground and link it to the sky, yet does not detract from and compete with the beautiful sunset colors that first drew me into painting this picture. I did a couple of smaller (5" x 7") studies to work out the problem, but none of them come out to my like. So it went into the drawer of unfinished works for a while.

Today I took it out and decide to give it a go. I strengthened the foreground shadow colors, leaving only one rim of light separating foreground and background mountains. Then I took out my rigger and had some fun with groups of branches, adding dark shapes with dry brush work on top of them to make them read as "trees". They added some linear elements to this big-wash painting yet because of their dark values, merge well with background mountains and clouds and do not attract the eyes directly to themselves from the bright sunset colors of the sky. Is this the best solution to the problem? I do not know. But I think it is one of the possible solutions and worth trying out. It is definitely better than being halted by fear of ruin a half-finished work and never attempt to work it out!

This experience has taught me something indeed -- one of the most important values of these fast paced daily painting sessions is to free a painter from his/her attachment with his/her work, and encourage him/her to experiment more, working out problems, knowing if a piece of work did not turn out as well as he/she has wished, it is only a day's work wasted, and tomorrow is a new start.

...Certainly a valuable enough lesson for me and worth all the time I am spending carrying it out!

You can purchase my 2013 wall and desk calendars here:

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Quiet Days (30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge: Day 1)

Quiet Days,  Watercolor on Lanaquarelle 140# Cold Press Paper, 5"h x 7"w, 2013 #1


So here it is: No. 1 of my creation for the "30 Paintings in 30 Days" challenge. I want to capture the clear, chilly air of high country in early fall in this one, and had my fun with the line work on the side branches of the fir trees. I found it very helpful to concentrate on creating interesting shapes for an entire tree or several trees as a group when painting fir -- or for that matter, and foliage, instead of trying to paint each leaf or copy the tree as it is. A helpful way to practice this is to draw the silhouette of the tree that inspires you to start a painting, then lay a piece of tracing paper on top of your drawings to see if you could alter the shape of the tree to make it more interesting to the eye. In the end, either paint from your drawing or simply put the drawing away to paint from your memory, instead of painting from the reference photo or while direct looking at the actual tree. This one is painted from my imagination and sketch book of some tree drawings. I have enjoyed it so much that I wonder (as always) why I do not paint more landscapes regularly...

You can purchase my 2013 wall and desk calendars here:

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

(Maybe Totally Unrealistic) New Year's Resolutions...

OK, ok, every year you make them full of hope and determination, and every year you run out of steam about the middle of February -- you know what I am talking about: NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS, we love them, we hate them, we stress over them, they always significantly affect our self-confidence... And here we go again. Instead of doing an over-the-top planning normal of my style, I've decided to start modestly and aim at something that (maybe) is manageable:

-- I would like to finish a big (at least 11" x 14") painting every month, and at least a small painting every week to post on Daily Paintworks for sale;

-- I would like to submit my work to 12 National Juried Exhibitions;

-- I would like to exhibit my work with Silicon Valley Open Studio and three one-day or two-day art fairs;

-- I would like to redesign and update my website, and send out newsletters once a month;

-- I would like to continue my effort on Ampersand Aquabord, and try out at least one new medium -- pastel, acrylic, oil or colored pencil for a continued period of time besides painting in watercolor;

-- I would like to learn from three artists whose style of painting I love by doing master study copies of three of their paintings to continue hone my techniques;

-- Last but not least, I would like to take at least one landscape painting workshop and a portrait painting workshop in watercolor, and try out both these genres -- painting at least a portrait painting and two landscape paintings every month. For landscape, I would also like to go out and paint "En Plein Air" at least once a month.

... Ok, I can see the list is already getting long -- I will stop here by saying that I have joined the crowd and decided to kick off my new year by signing up for something that may seem completely impossible for me -- answering Leslie Saeta's challenge of create 30 paintings in 30 days! I have realized that with my speed and school resuming, it may be difficult to do a painting from start to finish on each day the coming month. So, I've decided to use this as an opportunity for me to finish up some of the older projects started last year, and do some studies in looser style than I am feeling comfortable to. We'll see how this turns out...

For now, I will end this post with the last painting I finished in 2012 but never got around to share with you here, and wish every one Happy New Year again!

Soar,  Watercolor on Arches 140# Cold Press Paper, 6"h x 6"w, 2012 #54


You can purchase my 2013 wall and desk calendars here:

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