Saturday, August 24, 2013

Exhibition at Filoli Garden, and Thoughts on Chinese Painting Philosophy

Fighting with my jetlag and trying to finish some small pieces for the exhibition at Filoli Garden - "Nature’s Many Splendors: Farms, Gardens and Woodlands". The show runs from August 27th through October 27th, at the art gallery area in Filoli Garden, which is located at 86 Canada Rd in the lovely town of Woodside, California. The garden opens every Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm. Besides the art exhibitions, Filoli's other attractions include a lovely greenhouse with constant blooming flowers, and more than 600 acres' nature preserve with beautiful grassy hills and woodlands abundant with wildlife -- from turkey to deer. It is a great place to spend a family weekend to hike, bike, play and relax. There would also be an "Meet the Artists Day" event during the weekend of Saturday, September 14th and Sunday, September 15th. On this special art-festival-like weekend, visitors can meet the artists in the show, watch them doing art demos, chat with them and learn what has inspires them to create their art pieces. Framed pieces, prints, note cards and other items will be for sale both during the show and at the "Meet the Artist Day" event. I will show my main piece in the next few day's posts. For now, I'm working on a few other pieces that will be available for sale during the show and at the "Meet the Artist Day" event, and I will share the progress of some of them here with you, my friends:

Fire Dance,  Watercolor on Fabriano Artistico #140 Cold Press Paper, 6"h x 6"w, WIP 2

"Fire Dance" has been in the works for quite a while, off and on since the end of last year, and is nowalmost complete. I am currently adding darks to the center flower in focus to model its form. I thought the background may need another coat of darker mingled colors to bring the flowers forward, but not very sure. What do you think, my friend?

Orange Freesia, Watercolor on Arches 140# Cold Press Paper, 6"h x 6"w, WIP 2

For "Orange Freesia", I am still playing with thing glazes and wet-on-dry mingling of color for modelling. I am fighting the temptation of going too dark too soon and using saturated color in one go wet-in-wet, because of the delicate and subtle colors that I have in vision for this particular painting. Also trying to play with abstract shape more in the background -- like playing with a puzzle -- it's really quite a lot of fun!

Heliconia Dance,  Watercolor on Arches 140# Cold Press Paper, 7"h x 5"w, WIP 4

For "Heliconia Dance", I have put it away for a while and just recently started working on it again. Looking at it with a fresh eye, I think it still needs a final application of wet-in-wet on the background to soften it, and add some "punch" of darks -- to reach that balance between "too similar to the photo reference" and "too abstract from the reference"... Ah, maybe I should start from the beginning of the story: Last night I was reading ancient Chinese literature, and one passage of art critique says, "If a (realistic) painting is too identical to the scene in front of the artist, it is not great art because it's kitsch; on the other hand, if it is just haphazard slapping of color on paper without enough reference or similarity to the scene that inspired it, it is also not great art because the artist is on the suspicion of trying to hoodwink people with insufficient skills and gain fame that they don't deserve. Therefore, the best type of (realistic) paintings always walk a tightrope between "similar" and "dissimilar" to its original inspiration." (bear with my terrible translation -- the original was much more poetic: "画太似为媚俗,不似为欺世。画之大妙也,在乎似与不似之间。") 

Reflecting on my own painting practice based on this standard, I think I am still leaning too much on the "too similar" side to my photo references. Therefore, I've decided to consciously challenge myself to break away from this tendency, and design my shapes -- especially those away from focal areas and in the background -- more deliberately, not so "carbon-copy" of the shapes in the reference material. It takes some effort to get used to new working methods, but I'm very excited about all the different possibilities this may lead to... For the starters, it makes the painting process much more exciting! 

You can now buy high quality Giclee prints of many of my sold paintings, both on paper and canvas, as well as some note cards with my paintings here:


  1. I Like what that Chinese critique says: "Therefore, the best type of (realistic) paintings always walk a tightrope between "similar" and "dissimilar" to its original inspiration." :) I strive for that and hope it happens more often than not. And it looks like you are succeeding too !

  2. Thanks for visiting, Meera! Isn't that an interesting quote?


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