Monday, March 11, 2019

Project Water

I want to try my hands in painting water again.  It shall be an experimental approach.  I have a concept of what I wanted to do, but I don't have the details yet.  In my mind, this will be a project more of craft than art;  it should be fun.  I want the painting to have a contemporary, impressionistic feel to it.

I want to paint ripples on a pond surface.

I first established the background color of the water.  I painted in both warm and cool tones in diagonal streaks.  My painting of the pond shall have reflections on the surface, and I think the diagonal composition will add some intrigue.

Then I started to map out the tiny breeze generated ripples.  This is where I encountered great difficulty.  I couldn't get pass the mundane, lifeless brushstrokes.

I tried to alter my brushstrokes into more connected strokes, instead of the short, terse lines.

My thoughts and my plots were just like these lines.  Not making any sense.

Darkening some areas to create some contrast

Painting in my blue to stage the black

Granted this is not finished but it is not giving my the feel that I was searching for.

Instead of forging forwarding in the dark alley, perhaps a dark one-way alley, I shall just pin it up on the wall and let it rest.  It will come to me one day.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

A Landscape Sketch

I was commissioned to do a landscape painting.  I started to do some sketches and I would like to share one of them here.

I did the sketch based on scenes from Huangshan, one of the most picturesque mountain on this planet.  Its jagged rocky spires dotting a sea of clouds is the classic view that many hoped to be a witness of.  I did the sketch in black and white, with just ink on regular raw Xuan.  I decided to punch it up a little by working it in the splash ink, high contrast style.

I realized that I skimmed over the right third of the painting.  I probably was in a hurry to finish the sketch so I went back and added a few details.  The other possiblity was that, and I'm rationalizing here, I was already prepared to fade out the background, to demonstrate the level perspective in the classical Chinese landscape dogma.  In hind sight, if that truly was my intention, albeit subconsciously, a sliver of mist separating the right third from the middle would have been more poetic.  The following is a photoshop rendition of what could have, or should have happened?

Anyways I emphasized the break of the upper right quardrant from the foreground to establish the level perspective. I did that by darkening the areas immediately adjacent to the misty gap and let the tonal difference do the job of sepearation.  In the process I also left an errant ink drop on the upper left corner.  I suppose that's where my chop would go if I ever decided to turn this into a finished painting one day. Wink Wink.  I need to remind myself to finish the details on the lower left quadrant.

Here's an example of a dry rub ( not referring to Memphis or Texas barbecue, sorry).  This dry rub is another technique to impart shading, texture and also works like a dry wash in this instance.  It can look really good if done right, but it's extremely harsh on the brush.  We normally reserve the worn brushes for this practice.

The dry rubbing around these protruding mountain tops gave the illusion of cloud and mist blanketing the valleys and granting a few of the spires to surface.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

And Paint They Did

I like to share with you some of the paintings from these demos

Obviously it is extremely gratifying to see all that preparation producing tangible results.  Everybody thought the Fai Chun was a brilliant idea by adding a finishing touch to the paintings.

I like to mention a few paintings that are especially interesting to me.  In the first example the artist put in his own design by painting in a family portrait if you will:

In the second example, the artist substituted the positions of the hands by simplifying them into a horizontally opposed pose.  Direct and efficient.

In the last example the artist painted what he saw in the pig character.  Mr. Pig now has hair!.   His brushstrokes possessed such virtuoso quality.  Bold and expressive.  Gauging from how he held the brush, he's no stranger to this writing instrument.

 but he was quick to do another version which was more in line with the demo piece.  He did not want to alienate me.  Again his lines were fluid and decisive.

It is worth noting that all 3 examples were done by kids barely 10 years old.  Innocence is precious!
They dare to imagine!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Gearing up for painting demo at cultural fair

I was invited to do painting demo at the Cultural Fair again this year.   I was reluctant to give my nod this year, as the organizer was quite sloppy with the arrangements.  Giving notice a week prior is case in point.  But hey, this is not about me, right?  After all, this is a celebration of the Chinese New Year, so I don't want to be the scrooge.  I should feel wanted.

The last couple of years taught me to subscribe to the KISS axiom.  Keep It Simple, Stupid.  The participants could range from 4 years old toddlers to 80 years old seniors.  My presentation should be focused on fun, and result oriented.  My job is not to "teach" painting, but rather as a facilitator so that everybody will have fun and a sense of accomplishment after painting their own pieces.

I'm sticking with the Zhu Bajie character.  Most Chinese would be familiar with him and identify him as the celebrity pig,  and for everyone else, it should be fun to be exposed to a little Chinese trivia.

Obviously I am going to simplify the image I posted on New Year's day.  My plan is to single out the 2 characteristics of the meme;  a snout and a pudgy face.  If a person can nail these two traits, then a pig is born.  The rest of the painting will just be along for the ride and should not significantly affect the outcome of the painting.

So that I can be consistent with my presentation and get guaranteed results, I've devised the following game plan;

I would have participants mark off the paper into roughly thirds.  At the top one-third line start by drawing a oblong circle, representing the snout of the pig.  Under the snout, write in a thick line for the mouth opening, followed by the lower lip.

Next comes eyes

Now we would assign the pudgy cheeks and the brows.  I want the presence of the cheeks to dictate the persona of the pig.  The open mouth and the round cheeks should give off a sense of where this painting is going.

A pair of floppy ears are now attached to the face.  A cap with an ornament (typically jade) tops off the upper contour of the head.

The snout is now associated with nostrils and the skin folds on the ridge.  The nose is no longer two-dimensional.

Eyeballs are now seated, following the notion that they bestow spirit to the being.

The pose is for Zhu to be holding a scroll or banner, bearing an auspicious writing; the Fai Chun.  The tradition of decorating with Fai Chun is quite popular with the Chinese culture, even today.  The calligraphy is typically done on red paper, the color of jubilation.  The words convey blessings and fortune.  The calligraphy is then used to decorate an entry way, such that one's ingress and egress is always blessed.

Now that we have the head finsihed, the rest of the body should just flow.  I shall start on the right shoulder, and a horizontally bent elbow.  Participants will be asked to paint 4 closed bracket signs to emulate fingers.  If I ask them to paint fingers, invariably a roadblock barges in.  People would claim no prior experience of painting digits.  Now closed brackets are a different story.  Everybody, except for the very young, knows what they look like.  Asking the audience to write brackets takes away the fear or hesitation.  The fingers are to be positioned somewhere around the bottom-third marking.

Collar is written in and a robe is draped over the arm, extending to the bottom of the paper.  I don't think the exact proportion matters that much.  For all practical purposes, we are painting a fictional figure to begin with.  Who's to say the arm or fingers are too long or short.  Zhu is however you imagined, as long as it is a pig.

We can now proceed to the left side of Zhu.  Here the fingers are represented as open brackets or a series of the letter C.  A waist belt is fitted and the bottom garment painted in.  Paint in a rectangle to fit between the upper fingers and the lower fingers and we have ourselves a banner.

I do not expect the participants to be able to write the Chinese characters.  I therefore wrote 3 different versions of the Fai Chun myself and took pictures

This is the cliche "Happy New Year"

"Safe Entry and Exit, safe journey"

"The wind suits well, and the rain is all right" ( Everything is going my way)

These calligraphy pieces were then printed on red construction paper.  They were cut up into individual pieces, which would go on the banner in the painting.

So these pieces of red strips are actually the hook for the painting project.  Once the person is finished with his/her painting, they can choose their Fai Chun and glue it in place.

Now all participants will have a finsihed piece to bring home.  A piece that looks polished, and a meaningful memorabilia for the Year of the Pig.  They themselves painted the piece; and that is the only thing that matters.