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Mexico City Paintings


Mexico City, Mexico I

 

I heard that Mexico City is huge.  But it is really convincing when your airplane flies over this densely-populated city for what it seemed like an eternity and you see just houses upon houses as far as your eyes could see all the way to the horizon.  You have to see it to believe it.

 

During my workshop week in Mexico City recently, my host and her family showed me many corners of this megalopolis that 20+ million people call home.  No matter where you go, chances are that you spend a considerable amount of time in a car in this city, given its sheer size and population.  Well, that part didn't bother me much as that is not too different from how I live in California.  Or even better because I was able to enjoy looking out my car window (my friend drove), and I also enjoyed a conversation with those riding with me. 

 

Here are some paintings I made of the Mexican capital that reflect slices of their daily life.  Notice many cars?

 

Mexico City, Mexico II

 

Mexico City, Mexico III

 

 

Mexico City, Mexico I

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 13 x 19 inches (33 x 48 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

 

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From Plein-Air Sketch to Studio Painting


En plein air (Photo by J. Villain)

 

About nine years ago, I started out both as a plein-air painter and as a studio artist.  As a watercolorist who paints in both environments, I have come to realize that there are unique qualities in each type of work.

 

A painting done on location is my direct response to the landscape.  I attempt to capture the whole experience of being there.  For that purpose, I need to concentrate intensely to work fast.  I so enjoy getting absorbed in the environment when the inspiration cannot be any fresher.  As a result, the painting may look looser, more simplified or sketchy, and perhaps more impressionistic.

 

Sometimes I may not completely finish the work outdoors because I feel it's already served a purpose.  Or sometimes I just have to quit because of unexpected elements such as a sudden change of weather.  Certain challenges and limitations that come with working in the great outdoors may make the end result rather hit-or-miss.  Regardless, any work I do outside has certain qualities that I really like.  The atmosphere and energy of the place is captured in the raw if I may put it that way.

 

En plein air, I like to use the paper size smaller than 18x24 inches (46x61cm) and spend less than an hour to complete a piece.  The format of a studio painting, on the other hand, can be larger so the work tends to be a bit more controlled and detailed.  In the studio, especially when there's no time contraints, I can take time to plan my approach to the subject.  I can even make some preliminary compositional work to think out my process and try to eliminate, if any, potential problems beforehand.  I can say there is probably a bit more room for creativity to be explored in the studio while the plein-air work is more direct and intuitive.

 

When I work in the studio, sometimes I use my plein-air sketch as a source of reference.  It can be supported by photos or memory but to me a plein-air sketch probably works best to remember the feel of the place.  In fact, it is really the initial idea or inspiration captured in the plein-air work that is important.  Starting from there, I can think more about overall composition and relationships of colors, values and shapes to retell an original story, hopefully, in a more refined manner.

 

Read related posts: here (Bucharest, Romania) and here (Venice, Italy) and look at some of the examples from Italy below.  If you're interested in painting in the beautiful region of Tuscany, Italy, why don't you join me there in May?  My watercolor painting workshop at the Watermill was fully booked but has just recently one spot opened up.  I look forward to meeting you there!

 

 

"Firenze, Italy I" (29x21 cm) - plein air

 

"Firenze, Italy IX" (55x36 cm) - studio

 

"Cortona VIII" (29x39 cm) - plein air

 

"Cortona, Italy X" (55x75 cm) - studio

 

 

 

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Recent Magazine Features


Bucharest, Romania I

 

I am deeply honored to have my work featured in the 2014 March issue of Artists & Illustrators (published by Chelsea Magazine Co., Ltd., United Kingdom).  Ms. Jenny White gave me an interview for my article.  She asked me a lot of great questions about my thoughts on painting watercolor as well as teaching it.  I hope you will enjoy reading it if you have a chance.

 

Thanks to the article, one of my street scene paintings included in it "Bucharest, Romania I (2012)" saw the light of day.  This work reminds me of my visit to this delightful city where I just walked around, sketched, took some photos without any itinerary to speak of.  When I was in the historic center and saw this view of a street with a domed building in the back, I knew I'd paint it.  Here are some sketches and a photo of the street.

 

 

 

From my travel sketchbook

 

 

(photo) Historic center of Bucharest

 

 

In December 2013, I was one of the watercolor painters featured in Pratique des Arts, Hors série aquarelle (published by CapElitis Groupe, France).  An 8-page article written by Ms. Stéphanie Portal who interviewed me includes a step-by-step demo of a painting of Ine, a small fishing village of Kyoto, Japan.  For this article, too, I was asked some thought-provoking questions.  I also gave some practical tips on plein-air painting.  I am hugely honored for the recognition.

 

 

 

Covers of two magazines where my work was featured recently

 

 

 

Bucharest, Romania I

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 21.5 x 14.25 inches (54.5 x 36 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Chasing the Light in Palm Desert, California Landscape Painting


Palm Desert, California I

 

I often find myself heading out to paint during the golden hour to capture soft, warm sunlight.  The quality of light is what I'm after and it is just fantastic especially for a lovely atmospheric painting.  But, if you have ever attempted doing this, you know how rapidly the golden-hour light changes it can make the whole landscape look totally diferent within a matter of minutes.  If only we could keep the beautiful light as long as we need to finish our painting!

 

To deal with that elusiveness, I try to remember the first impression and work with it throughout the end.  This visualization is important.  Our eyes may keep chasing the light but our mind's eye should see something that's fixed.  Otherwise, the end result of our painting will be utterly confusing.

 

I had an opportunity to paint recently in Palm Desert, California on a balmy afternoon.  Take a look at the photos below (sorry they are so small) and focus on the lighted area in the back.  It all happened within an hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palm Desert, California I

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 13 x 19 inches (33 x 48 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

 

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Plein-Air Demo at the Bernardo Winery, California Landscape Painting


Bernardo Winery, San Diego II

 

For plein-air painters, especially those who work in watercolor, the weather is the most crucial factor for a pleasant experience.  Too often, it is too hot, too cold, too windy, too dry, too wet, etc... well, we had none of those complaints on the day of the Saturday paint-out because the weather was perfect in every sense.

 

I was happy to be invited as a demonstrator for a plein-air painters' group from the San Diego Watercolor Society.  The location chosen for their January get-together was Bernardo Winery.  I really liked the rustic feel of the place and found it quite interesting that is actually located in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  For my demo, I painted a view of the vineyard with the mountain in the background.  Then everyone chose their subjects and spent the rest of the morning painting.   I couldn't resist making another painting of a different corner of the winery  - and why not paint the painters? - I included some of them in the piece (See "Saturday Pain-Out").

 

Click here to read about the paint-out on the blog of the San Diego Watercolor Society.

 

 

Saturday Paint-Out, Bernardo Winery

 

 

Saturday Paint-Out, Bernardo Winery

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 13 x 19 inches (33 x 48 cm)

Purchase: Sold

 

 

 

 

Bernardo Winery, San Diego, California II

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 17 x 23 inches (43 x 58 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

 

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Away From Home - Daily Paintworks Weekly Challenge


Li River, China III

 

As a host for the Daily Paintworks (DPW) Weekly Challenge, I have chosen the theme "Away from Home" (please read a brief description below).  I thought this topic is a timely one as many of us have a chance to spend some time away from home around this time of the year.

 

Daily painters out there, or occasional painters or anyone who loves to give this challenge a try, let's have fun with it.  To participate, please visit DPW website for more information.  The challenge starts on Saturday, December 21.

 

 

"Away from Home" Challenge:

 

Many people travel at this time of the year.  Some of us visit families and friends for the holiday celebrations while others may get away just to spend some quiet time alone or with someone special.  Whatever the reason, the change of place gives us opportunities to discover many new things or rediscover things we forgot about.  Why don't we take a moment to find inspiration in a place away from home and paint it?  It could be a snowy landscape, a portrait of a grandpa, a house decorated with lights, a beach in the South Pacific, or an imaginary place you think is perfect for your ideal holiday.  I just came back from China where I attended the opening of an international watercolor exhibition.  This is one of the paintings I did over there.  I know we are all busy with a million things to do in preparation for the holidays, but taking a little time for a painting may be something we just need to relax.  Best wishes for a happy New Year!

 

 

 

Li River, China III

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 8.25 x 11.5 inches (21 x 29 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.


Click here to see other Chinese landscapes on my blog.

 

 

 

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Shenzhen Watercolour Biennial


Yangshuo Sunset, China II

 

In response to the call to the artists worldwide, 2,825 entries had poured in from 54 different countries from all corners of the globe for the First International Watercolour Biennial.  After the final round of judging by an international panel of renowned jurors, about 200 pieces of watermedia works were selected to be on display at the Shenzhen Art Museum in Guangdong Province in southern China.  December the 10th, 2013 marked the official opening of the exhibition, and I was deeply honored to attend the opening ceremony together with some of the exhibiting artists who traveled there.

 

I am pleased that "Sunset, Florence, Italy I" was juried into this prestigious show, which runs until January 10, 2014 at the same venue.  Selected paintings are scheduled to tour inside China in the following year at eight different locations.

 

 

 

Yangshuo Sunset, China I

 

 

Yangshuo Sunset, China I

 

A large digital file available on request.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 8.25 x 11.5 inches (21 x 29 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

 

Yangshuo Sunset, China II

 

A large digital file available on request.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 9 x 13 inches (23 x 33 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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On the Road (6) - China, Chinese Landscape Paintings


Yangshuo, China II

 

Traveling somewhere with plein-air painting as a primary purpose requires an itinerary definitely different from a typical sightseeing trip.  For one thing, in a totally new environment in a foreign country, it normally takes a day or two just to know the ropes.  So something as simple as finding a good place to paint that's safe and convenient to get to can be a big task.  After spending some time scouting for such a place and managing a painting or two, chances are that a good part of a day is already gone and perhaps you're too tired to go sightseeing or shopping.

 

In Yangshuo County, a popular destination in the northeast Guangxi Province in China, I stayed for some time just to paint.  That is, no rock climbing or cave tours for me, but I had a blast painting to my heart's content.  I painted from a balcony of my hotel room, by the river, on the street.  I even rented a bike to go deep into the coutryside for really marvelous rural landscapes. 

 

 

Painting from a hotel balcony

 

Yangshuo, China I

 

 

Yangshuo, China I

 

A large digital file available on request.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 19 x 13 inches (48 x 33 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

Yangshuo, China II

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 13 x 19 inches (33 x 48 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Dim Sum, Hong Kong III, Interior Painting


Dim Sum, HK III

 

Eating with a family or friends means sharing some time together over a meal but in some cultures it is literally sharing the same dishes among those present.  In Chinese culture, people normally sit at a round table and put several dishes in the center.  In each dish there is a different kind of food - stir-fried meat and vegetables, steamed fish, roasted chicken, dumplings, soup, for example.  There may be a pair of communal chopsticks for serving but it's quite common that they use their own chopsticks to take whatever they want.  This way everyone sees each other and both chopsticks and words busily bounce across the table throughout a meal time.

 

 

Dim Sum, Hong Kong III

 

A large digital file available on request.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 11.5 x 8.25 inches (29 x 21 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Li River, Chinese Landscape Paintings


Li River, China I

 

Stunning, dramatic, surreal... I don't know if any words can describe the amazing landscapes of karst terrains near Guilin.  Some of the peaks look like animals while others look like giant cacti or jagged teeth.  And these towering mountains are evreywhere - some stand alone right in the middle of a town and others out in the countryside.

 

Between Guilin and Yangshuo, boats take visitors on a cruise on the Li River which meanders through these mountains.  To see this very unique landscape, people come here not just from all over China but from all over the world as well.  Yangshuo receives about 20 million visitors each year.

 

Artists immediately respond to such a magical landscape combined with the often misty atmosphere and very rustic scenery in the surroundings.  Needless to say, this region has attracted artists for centuries.  I met a Chinese woman who told me that some lucky Chinese artists rent a place to stay for a month just to paint the sceneries around here.  A month would be a dream for me but even just once an experience of painting in the nature in a place like this is truly unforgettable.

 

Painting by the Li River

 

 

Li River, China II (14"x20")

 

 

Li River, China I

 

A large digital file available on request.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 8.25 x 11.5 inches (21 x 29 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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On the Road (5) - China, Chinese Landscape Painting


Guilin, China I

 

Painting en plein air is a great way to learn how to capture the sense of place and its atmosphere quickly.  It is also a great way to take a quick look at life of the people who live there.  I don't know about other plein-air painters but to me, personally, similarities or differences in people's lives that I observe and find in a foreign place are quite intriguing.

 

In China, one thing that I noticed is that more people than in other places I've been to are quite interested in watching me paint.  Some even want to take a photo together with me.  And many of them are young people.  I don't recall such an open display of enthusiasm among the young in other places.  I wonder if this means that watercolor is more commonly practiced or better recognized in this country.  That I don't know but it is very encouraging that the medium attracts the younger generation.  During my painting session by one of the beautiful lakes in Guilin, I had at least a dozen young people who stood by my side to watch.

 

 

Guilin, China

 

Guilin, China I

 

A large digital file available on request.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 13 x 19 inches (33 x 48 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Aberdeen I, Hong Kong Landscape Painting


Aberdeen, HK I

 

After enjoying a beautiful day painting at Aberdeen on Hong Kong Island, I traveled to the New Territories to visit my artist friend and respected teacher Harvey Chan.  His students gathered that night in Harvey's studio to watch my demonstration he organized for me.  I also had the pleasure of having some of my former workshop students and my art collector friend join us.  I had a wonderful time sharing my work and talking about watercolor and more.  I would like to thank everyone who was there for me!

 

 

painting en plein air in Aberdeen, HK

 

     

With Harvey Chan and his students, Hong Kong

 

"Tai-O Fishing Village" (18"x24") - demo

 

 

 

Aberdeen, Hong Kong I

 

A large digital file available on request.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 8.25 x 11.5 inches (21 x 29 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Sam Mun Tsai I, Hong Kong Landscape Painting


Sam Mun Tsai, HK I

 

In Sam Mun Tsai Fishing Village, local fishermen breed fish in cages.  There are several stations floating on the calm water inside the bay, and I loved the serenity and timeless beauty of the scene as I watched fishing boats come and go.  But the number of such floating stations is dwindling.  I even heard (and I hope I was wrong) that the remaining ones may be removed eventually - just like old houses and shops tucked in between high-rises of Hong Kong.

 

I looked up toward one end of the bay to find an enormous luxurious housing development, named the Beverly Hills.  That in and of itself resembles a massive concrete hill.  If I were living in one of those fancy apartments, I'd be so delighted to have a picturesque view of traditional fishing boats outside my windows.  I would just love to see the Old and the New Hong Kong co-exist nicely.

 

 

Sam Mun Tsai, Hong Kong I

 

A large digital file available on request.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 11.5 x 8.25 inches (29 x 21 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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On the Road (4) - France, Interior Paintings


Café des Arts I (sold)

 

Recently I wrote a blog post about my workshop experience in southern Spain - how a lunchtime is taken rather seriously over there.  Another country where lunch is enjoyed with vigor is France.  I have taught quite a number of workshops in this country.  I have found the time they take for lunch may not as long as in Spain but on many occasions lunch is a sit-down ritual, starting with a serious look at the menu and ending with a plate of various kinds of cheeses and/or incredible sweets.  Bottles of wine are also a common sight on the table.  Even if we don't go to a restaurant, we picnic or have a potluck with the same level of intensity.

 

I did this painting as a workshop demo at the Bandouille in France after I saw this lady in red, sipping coffee in the corner of a café, when my students and I had lunch there.  The café was aptly named Café des Arts, and I absolutely loved the atmosphere inside.  I often call my workshop "Capture Light and Atmosphere in Watercolor" as a general theme.  As it implies, to me, what is more important to capture in my work is a particular visual concept such as the passage of light and a certain mood.

 

Next summer, July 27 - August 2, I am happy to be returning to the Bandouille, a renovated monastery/farm house in a small village of Chiche (Poitou-Charentes), France, to teach a 5-day workshop.  For more details and registration, please visit France Painting Holiday.  If I get lucky, we may have a chance to go to this café once again.

 

A workshop demo, Café des Arts, Thouars, France

 

A workshop demo, Café Joviac, Rochemaure, France (19"x13")

 

 

 

Café des Arts I

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 11.5 x 15.5 inches (29 x 39 cm)

Purchase: Sold

 

 

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On the Road (3) - Spain, Interior Paintings


 

It is interesting to note how we spend a lunchtime differs from culture to culture.  In the workshops I do in the U.S. and Japan, for instance, we take a fairly quick lunch.  And it is not unusual to see some students painting, while nibbling a sandwich, throughout a lunch break, which lasts one hour or less.

 

I went to Seville in southern Spain earlier this year to teach 2 workshops for local watercolor artists.  Over there a lunchtime seemed to be taken a bit more seriously.

 

In the morning, we worked from 10am to 1pm.  Then, we had lunch.  For one hour?  No.  For two hours?  No.  Our afternoon session began at 4pm and finished at 7pm, so it was a 3-hour lunch break.  Of course we were not eating the whole time (so stuffed, we'd have fallen asleep in the afternoon!).  It was a combination of lunch, coffee, conversation, some chores, if any, and maybe a little snooze if they wanted.  Anyway, thanks to siesta, everyone was full of energy in my afternoon class.

 

 

 

Doing a demo inside restaurant MariscCo Reial, Barcelona, Spain

before a lunch crowd arrived.

 

 

 

Seville Bar, Spain III

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 14.25 x 21.5 inches (36 x 54.5 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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On the Road (2) - the South, American Landscape Paintings


Benson's, Bonita Springs, Florida I

 

To me, traveling for a workshop often means arriving there just in time, getting the job done, and packing up to go home.  Especially in the U.S., I rarely have extra time to do anything else.  However, my workshop organizers and participants alike sometimes go out of their way to show me around their neighborhoods.  In the region called the American South, I have done several workshops in the past few years.  And in each place I was a happy recipient of the Southern Hospitality from people I worked with.

 

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the gallery staff took me straight to the Philbrook Museum of Art that's housed in a historic villa, after a busy day of painting.  A student from the same Tulsa workshop then showed me around the downtown Tulsa just before the sun set.  In Dallas, Texas, a student came from Louisiana with a lot of photos of  her favorite spots in her state.  Her vivid description and visual images of one particular spot moved me so much I asked her to let me do a demo from her photos as reference.  In Bonita Springs, Florida, an old male student, a long-time resident of the area, spent lunch time each day telling me about the history, geography, and life in general that he knew so well.  He also knew that I wanted to see the real life of the people there.  He strongly recommended I visit a town of migrant workers.  I'm glad I did.  These short glimpses into their personal lives make my workshop-related travels so special.

 

 

Immokalee, Florida I (11.5"x15.5")

 

 

"Tulsa, Oklahoma I" (21.5"x14.25")

 

 

"Thibodaux, Louisiana I" (13"x19")

 

 

 

Benson's, Bonita Springs, Florida I

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 15.5 x 11.5 inches (39 x 29 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

 

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Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, Italy


Santa Maria della Salute V

 

One of my favorite paintings is John Singer Sargent's piece that depicted the façade of the Salute.  Rather, this painting is much more than just "favorite."  Early on in my career as a watercolor painter, I was simply in awe when I saw it for the first time.  I would even call that a life-changing experience.

 

 

Almost anything my eyes see in Venice can be a painting.  At least that's how I feel.  But scenes involving Santa Maria della Salute are especially magnificent...

 

 

 

 

 

"Santa Maria della Salute, Venice III" (10"x29") - available

 

 

 

"Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, Italy IV" (19"x13") - sold

 

 

 

"Venetian Sunset VII" (8.25"x11.5") - available

 

 

 

 

Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, Italy V

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 11.5 x 8.25 inches (29 x 21 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Sold

 

 

 

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Painting Figures


Flamenco Dancer XIV

 

Being primarily a landscape painter, I have treated figures mostly as a small element in a landscape or a cityscape.  Figures not only add more interest but also create a certain appeal that tells a story in a scene.  I love putting them in my work and thinking about the role they can play in a painting.

 

In the last year or so, I have been practicing figures as a main painting subject rather seriously.  As a subject matter, it seemed so different from landcapes and I was a bit lost in the beginning, but I immediately found myself really enjoying doing it.  Being self-taught, it's been a trial and error for me.  However, the more I paint figures, the more convinced I become that the important components to a strong figure painting are the same that I've been striving to incorporate in my landscape work - understanding of tonal values, relationship of shapes, light/dark, passage of light, good design, etc, on top of a solid drawing skill.

 

Some of the recent works are flamenco dancers that I saw in Spain earlier this year.  What is challenging is to capture the movement and emotions of these dancers.  See some of the examples below.

 

On my website I have created a separate portofolio for my paintings of figures as I intend to do more of this sort of work.  Click here to see the current collection.  I hope you will enjoy it.

 

 

"Flamenco Dancer II" (19"x13")

 

"Flamenco Dancer V" (19"x13")

 

"Flamenco Dancer IX" (19"x13")

 

"Flamenco Dancer X" (19"x13")

 

 

 

Flamenco Dancer XIV (detail)

 

Flamenco Dancer XIV

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size:19 x 9 inches (48 x 23 cm)

Purchase: Not for sale

 

 

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Working Out a Composition


Small studies of an outdoor market

 

One of the key factors to make a painting that has an impact is a good composition.  Whether I work outdoors in the nature or in my studio using a photo reference, it is very rare to see a perfect arrangement of all shapes in a scene that I'm painting.  So a composition needs to be worked out to be a strong one.

 

Of course it is essential to work out a composition before you start painting.  I have found it helpful to do several small studies on a big sheet of paper divided with a masking tape to see which composition would work better.

 

Today's painting is various studies of an outdoor market that I did in my recent workshop.  There's also a similar demo of a barn in Michigan (below) done in a monochromatic manner.  Quick and fun to do.  Doing this, I can also give consideration to different formats and tonal values.

 

 

A barn in Michigan (18"x24")

- Different design ideas from a single source of reference

 

 

 

Design Ideas - Outdoor Market

 

A larger digital file available on request.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 17 x 23 inches (43 x 58 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Painting En Plein Air in Michigan


Autumn, Michigan, USA III

 

Last week I spent a gorgeous autumn day painting en plein air in Michigan.  The weather was just perfect and the day was one of the most productive I ever had.  I did 3 paintings and several studies while traveling across the southern part of the state.

 

I've been told by my workshop students and my painter friends that I paint quite fast.  Looking back, I think this is how it has been with me almost from the beginning of my painting career.  Some have asked me how and why I do it.

 

I can say that the kind of style I work in allows me to do it.  I also keep my materials simple enough to move fast - not a whole lot of paints and brushes to fiddle with - and they can be packed up quickly.  For the "why" question, I must say first the speed is not the most important aspect if it compromises the quality of one's work.  However, especially in watercolor, I believe the speed does matter, to some degree, especially in keeping freshness and luminosity of paints.

 

Being outside adds more challenges to what could be an already complicated working process, but it is a great way to learn how to paint fast.  A plein-air painting may not always turn out the way we'd have wanted to but who cares if we have gained a bit more confidence in capturing the moment and sense of place that cannot be replicated in a photo.  The experience is worth the effort no matter what the result.

 

 

On a sunny autumn day in Michigan, I painted

 

on top of an old bridge...

 

"Autumn, Michigan I" (14"x20")

 

 

in a forest...

 

"Autumn, Michigan II" (14"x20")

 

 

and on a farm.

Several small studies (on 18"x24" paper)

 

 

 

Autumn, Michigan, USA III

 

A larger digital file available on request.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 8.25 x 11.5 inches (21 x 29 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Barns of Michigan, American Landscape Paintings


Barn, Michigan, USA I

 

I teach both indoors and outdoors when I do a workshop.  Obviously, both have certain advantages and challenges, and I may focus on slightly different aspects of painting, depending on where we work.  During my recent workshop in Michigan, we were all painting inside, warm and cozy, in downtown Ann Arbor.  The chilly November wind and occasional rain was a bit too much even for the courageous plein-air painter.

 

So one day, I gave everyone one of my photos of a typical Michigan farm with a barn.  What the photo showed was a no-brainer to paint, in fact, but we took it inside our brain to come up with the best design possible to express desirable light and atmosphere.  It was an interesting exercise.  This painting, Barn, Michigan I, is a demo I did in my workshop.

 

 

Barn, Michigan, USA I

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 13 x 19 inches (23 x 33 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Sold

 

 

 

Barn, Michigan, USA II

 

 

Barn, Michigan, USA II

 

A large digital file available on request.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 8.25 x 11.5 inches (21 x 29 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Al Ponte di Rialto, Venice II, Italian Landscape Painting


Al Ponte di Rialto, Venice II

 

My travel sketchbooks vary in size but my favorites are 8.5"x5.5" or 12"x9".  If my primary purpose of going somewhere is solely to paint, I, of course, carry with me all the plein-air painting gear, a tripod and a watercolor block of much larger size up to 18"x24, " which can be quite a handful.

 

If I want to visit a place first, I like the portability of my small sketchbook just to make quick studies in whenever and wherever I want.  And I do this sometimes with just lines, or sometimes with a few colors.  My 12"x9" is actually a watercolor paper pad, and I make a pencil drawing on it with an intention of painting it there or later.  Today's painting evolved from such a drawing done on site.

 

 

From my sketchbook - always a good reference

 

 

 

Al Ponte di Rialto, Venice, Italy II

 

A large digital file available on request.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 8.25 x 11.5 inches (21 x 29 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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An Exhibition of All-Media to Begin in Bélâbre, France


Ploumanac'h, France II

 

I'm very pleased to announce the beginning of the 12th Rencontres Artistiques du Val d'Anglin, an all-media exhibition with French and international artists.

 

I am extremely delighted to be invited guests of honor together with Eugen Chisnicean, a watercolor painter from Moldova.  The show opens on October 4 and runs until October 13 in the town of Bélâbre (Indre), France.  In addition to exhibiting 10 or more works each, we will also conduct a workshop and do live demos.

 

 

 

Ploumanac'h, France II

 

Click here for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 14.5 x 21.5 inches (36 x 54 cm)

Purchase: Please send me an email

 

 

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The Well-Traveled Road - Del Mar, California


Del Mar, California I

 

This is a road I take to get to my favorite beach near my home.  No, I don't get in the water there as it is too cold for me but to see the beautiful sunset from the cliff or just to walk or think, I like going there.  I have taken this road so many times I even feel I could drive with my eyes closed.  As you go downhill, you see the Pacific Ocean glisten just before the sunset.  It's so beautiful I was tempted to paint it numerous times before but I never actually did.  So for the first time I decided to do it.

 

Funny thing is, I thought it'd be easy to paint such a familiar route but it wasn't.  Call it the well-traveled road effect.  I suppose, as a driver, the road and the passing scenery became so routine for me that I stopped paying a lot of attention.  However, as a painter, I found many things that this road and the view from it presented to me that I did not see as a driver.  As I faced a blank sheet of paper, suddenly, this well-traveled route was a new, unfamiliar road for me.  You don't really know the subject until you actually paint it no matter how many times you've seen it.

 

This month I will have the pleasure of painting with participants of my 2-day workshop at the Saddleback Art League in Mission Viejo (Sept 28 & 29).  Contact the Saddleback Art League for registration as well as for info on my demo scheduled on Sept. 10.

 

 

Del Mar, California I

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 13 x 19 inches (33 x 48 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Demo and Workshop in Fallbrook, California


San Diego Sunset (Fallbrook)

 

We love sunsets.  I'm not just saying.  It's true, for vacation brochures, postcards sold at gift shops, wall calendars, commercial logos (and, yes, paintings, too), etc. that the ones with a sunset scene seem to be very popular.  Listen to what Mr. George Lucas says: "If the boy and girl walk off into the sunset hand-in-hand in the last scene, it adds 10 million to the box office."  So we love seeing a sunset, but not just for its beautiful light and colors but for the feelings evoked by it as well.  I have painted quite a number of watercolors at sunset, including this one in Fallbrook in northern San Diego county.

 

I am pleased to have been invited to do a demo for the Fallbrook Art Association (FAA) on September 9 and a workshop on September 15.  If you are in the area, come and join us (please contact the FAA for registration).

 

 

San Diego Sunset, California (Fallbrook) VI

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 13 x 19 inches (33 x 48 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Hachinohe Morning Market, Aomori I, Japanese Landscape Painting


Hachinohe Morning Market, Japan I

 

Six o'clock in the morning.  And this huge outdoor market by the Port of Hachinohe is already packed.  They tell me that the market opens around 3am and every Sunday it's crowded with people coming from the city of Hachinohe and neighboring towns and villages.  Three in the morning!  It's still dark even in the summertime.  I have no idea how many stalls are lined up along the quay.  It seems to go on forever and I just can't see the end of it.  All sorts of fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, cut flowers and crafts can be found here, and every vendor seems to be doing good business.

 

It's fun to sketch at a place like this but, to be honest, I would be lying if I said I'm not distracted by wonderful smells coming from charbroiled fish, seafood soup, freshly baked sweets and hot coffee, etc. that are also being sold here and there.  There's too much temptation and the market closes at about 8am.  Here, to sketch, or not to sketch, that is definitely the question.

 

 

Hachinohe Morning Market, Aomori, Japan I

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 13 x 19 inches (33 x 48 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Hakodate Sunset I, Japanese Landscape Painting


Hakodate Sunset, Japan I

 

A railway station
filled with local accents
I go into the crowd
to listen for mine

 

(by Takuboku Ishikawa, translated by me)

 

For Japanese poet Takuboku Ishikawa (1886-1912), Hakodate had something special that made him say that he would like to die there.  One of the well-known figures in Japanese literature, most notably for his tanka and free-style poems, Takuboku wrote many poems that tug at our heartstrings.

 

He lived for less than half a year in Hakodate in his short, poverty-stricken life of 26 years.  The time he spent there was perhaps the happiest for him thanks to the camaradarie with his colleagues.  He was also reunited with his family there.  His family grave has been set up in Hakodate, near Tachimachi Cape, overlooking the Tsugaru Strait that lies between Honshu and Hokkaido.  To read some of his poems, visit this link (in Japanese).

 

 

Hakodate Sunset, Japan I

 

A large digital file available on request.

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 15.5 x 11.5 inches (39 x 29 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Onuma (Hakodate), Hokkaido II, Japanese Landscape Painting


Onuma, Hokkaido, Japan II

 

My recent 5-day workshop in Hakodate, Japan involved a day out with nature with stops at a couple of picturesque spots near Hakodate.  We, 20 of us, all prayed for good weather the day before, and next morning we woke up to a cool day with cloudy sky (so I think most of us had been good!).

 

We were all excited that we could paint beautiful landscapes of southern Hokkaido directly from nature.  The lady who organized my workshop had chartered a bus for the day's trip.  Everyone felt like school kids on a field trip to an amusement park or something, I must say.

 

Our first stop was the Onuma Quasi-National Park.  Clouds covered the top of Mt. Komagatake but Onuma (meaning "large lake"), the island-dotted lake was breathtaking nonetheless.  Lunch at a nearby restaurant Country Kitchen Wald is also worth mentioning.  A hand-made log-house building, warm and cozy ambiance inside, not to mention all the dishes made from local organic meat and produce made us feel very welcome.

 

 

Demonstration by Lake Onuma, Hokkaido, Japan

 

With owners of Wald, Onuma, Hokkaido

 

 

Onuma (Hakodate), Hokkaido, Japan I

 

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 13 x 19 inches (33 x 48 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Donated to owners of Wald

 

 

Onuma (Hakodate), Hokkaido, Japan II

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 13 x 19 inches (33 x 48 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Fishing Village, Hokkaido II, Japanese Landscape Painting


Fishing Village, Hokkaido, Japan II

 

This fishing village on the island of Hokkaido is not exactly in a remote, rural area; rather, it is near a city that used to thrive on herring industry.  But in Hokkaido, even cities are not too crowded and they have a small-town feel.  And I have found the people living there very friendly and easygoing.

 

The northernmost island of Japan, Hokkaido has a long, severely cold winter.  After all, it is not really far from Eastern Siberia of Russia, which says a lot about the difficulty of spending winter months and the perseverance required to do that each year.  As well, it is the least populated major island in Japan where people bask in the glory of the abundant natural beauty but also are at the mercy of Mother Nature.

 

In this painting, I depicted a slice of life in a small fishing village on a warm summer day of August.  But within a few months, they will be preparing for yet another long, freezing winter.

 

 

Fishing Village, Hokkaido, Japan II

 

A large digital file availble on request.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 13 x 19 inches (33 x 48 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Hakodate, Hokkaido III, Japanese Landscape Painting


Hakodate, Japan III

 

Old-fashioned street cars bring me back distant memories of my childhood.  As a toddler, I remember always wanting to go out for a little walk with my beloved grandmother.  To me, it meant feeding pigeons at a nearby temple and waving to street cars on the way there while my grandmother was watching me with a gentle smile.

 

I can't remember well a lot of other things from those days but a few things such as street cars have had a special place in my heart.  Whenever I hear the familiar sound of a street car, I think of those old, happy days growing up in a typical, traditional Kyoto-style house of my grandmother's.

 

 

Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan III

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 18 x 15 inches (45 x 38 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Fishing Village, Hokkaido I, Japanese Landscape Painting


Fishing Village, Hokkaido, Japan I

 

I was looking for a place to paint, preferrably a port with many boats or something similar.   That is when I found this tiny hamlet of fishermen's houses while walking on the outskirts of the coastal city of Otaru.  Tucked in behind a residential area, it was not quite visible from a public street nearby.  With no signs, I could have easily missed it.

 

My instincts told me to take a narrow alley between houses and go toward the joyful commotion of what sounded like sea gulls.  I was glad I did.  At the end of an alley, there was a small bay where local fishermen parked their vessels on shore.  I saw gulls swarming around a returning fishing boat - the last one to come home that day.

 

 

Fishing Village, Hokkaido, Japan I

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 13 x 19 inches (33 x 48 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Hakodate, Hokkaido II, Japanese Landscape Painting


Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan II

 

 There are many things that make the city of Hakodate attractive and thus famous among visitors.  Streets on the northeastern side of Mount Hakodate are particularly popular.  And you will know why if you go there to see these streets (called "saka" or slopes), leading up to the mountain from the Port of Hakodate, command a breathtaking view of the city and the Bay of Hakodate.  A number of historical buildings in the area is also what makes it worthwhile to visit there.

 

In this painting is one of those slopes with the old Public Hall in the background.  It's a beautiful sight when the last rays of sunshine brighten up some of the historical buildings there with the shadowy mountain as a backdrop.

 

 

Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan II

 

A large digital file available on request.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 18 x 15 inches (45 x 38 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Moored, Tokyo II, Japanese Landscape Painting


Moored, Tokyo, Japan II

 

Although Tokyo was my home for several years in the past, the truth is I feel more like a stranger every time I go back there.  An ever-growing, forward-looking megalopolis, this city never ceases to amaze me with new buildings, new technologies, new trends, (and should I mention a new government?), not to mention the sheer number of people!

 

However, even among modern high-rises, one can still find a scene that is reminiscent of the past.  In today's painting, I depicted one of such spots in the shitamachi area that I enjoy visiting while in Tokyo.

 

 

Moored, Tokyo, Japan II

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 11.5 x 15.5 inches (29 x 39 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Gion Festival, Summer Tradition in Kyoto, Japanese Landscape Painting


Summer in Kyoto, Japan III

 

For people living in Kyoto, July means the Gion Matsuri Festival.  Although in the city of Kyoto they celebrate so many events all year round, there's nothing like the month-long Gion Festival that culminates their pride in their historical and cultural heritage.  It started as a religious purification ritual shortly after Japan's capital was moved to Kyoto in 794.  Since then, the ritual has grown to showcase the pride and prosperity of merchants of the city that was Japan's capital for 1,000 years.

A highlight of the festival is a parade of massive floats ornately decorated with various kinds of artwork.  When the procession of these floats slowly moves through streets of downtown Kyoto, accompanied by the o-hayashi music, we know the summer is here.  But perhaps more importantly, we feel blessed with yet another year passing for us to see the procession once again.  This painting depicts one of those floats with the late afternoon light coming from the back.

 

 

Summer in Kyoto, Japan III

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 29 x 10 inches (74 x 25 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Bretagne - Enchanted Land, French Landscape Painting


Concarneau, France (sketch)

 

I just completed a sketching tour of Brittany, France (Bretagne in French, Breizh in Breton).  Often dubbed as an enchanted land, I have found this corner of France indeed mystic in many ways.  Foggy coastlines, sprawling hills dotted with menhirs, rush forests, fast-moving clouds... all that makes up their landscape looked something uniquely different from the rest of France that I know.

 

With so many wonderful spots to paint everywhere in Brittany, I really felt like a kid in a candy store.  I am excited to be putting together paintings from this trip and plan to make a book later this year.  A publication date will be announced on my website when it's determined.

 

 

Concarneau, France (sketch)

 

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 14 x 10 inches (35 x 25 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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San Giorgio, Venice I, Italian Landscape Painting


San Giorgio, Venice I

 

Painting en plein air in Venice may be every painter's dream.  But, compared to painting in the comfort of an indoor studio, painting outdoors has more elements to factor in, so it can be quite challenging.  For one thing, in Venice, there is a constant flow of people, mainly tourists, virtually everywhere.  Yet with careful planning and a bit of luck, we can manage to set up an easel and paint without fighting a crowd even near a popular spot like San Marco.  Get up and go out to paint before tourists finish their breakfast, or try it when day-trippers leave at the end of the day.

 

For this painting, I found a spot on top of a bridge where we could peek through the canal below to find the bell tower of the San Giorgio Maggiore Church straight ahead.  Nearing the end of the day, the quality of light was gorgeous, and so was the view.

 

 

San Giorgio, Venice, Italy I

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 19 x 8 inches (48 x 21 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Arcachon I, French Landscape Painting


Arcachon, France I

 

I did this painting on location from the beginning to the finish, during which I probably experienced four different types of weather conditions: overcast, windy, rainy and sunny.  Plus the temps were lower than I expected and I was shivering as well.  Nonetheless, I felt great when I completed the painting and I must say I even enjoyed the crazy weather changes in a short period of time.

 

So after this one, I attempted another painting of a small shipyard nearby.  I was halfway done when a local French woman came up to me to see what I was doing.  She said she liked my work and asked me if I knew anything about boats that I was painting.  I said, "please tell me. I'm interested."  She told me that these are traditional fishermen's boats unique to this region, called pinasse.  She went on to say that they were named that way because wood from local pine trees was used to make these boats.  Yes, I had seen a huge pine forest not far from there. Mmm, interesting.  I had to write it down.  So I lay down my painting brush to look for a notebook for a brief second... that is when the sudden gusty wind took everything away and dropped it on the wet sand - my half-finished painting (face down), palette (face down), brushes, water, easel etc., literally everything.  My second painting that day was lost but the whole experience was very valuable to me.

 

I am pleased to be invited as a guest of honor to the 3e Biennale d'Aquarelle du Bassin d'Arcachon, August 19 - 31, 2014.

 

 

Arcachon, France I

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 11.5 x 15.5 inches (29 x 39 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Cafés in Bordeaux, French Landscape Paintings


Bordeaux Café III

 

While most of us may normally associate Bordeaux with their famous wines, this city in southwestern France has a lot more to offer: vibrant cultural life, great architecture, beautiful landscapes nearby...  Cafés and bistros with wonderful atmosphere and food are also not to be missed.  In fact, some of these cafés look too attractive to be enjoyed just for coffee but well worthy of extra time to set up an easel to paint.

 

Start your day with a nice cup of coffee and good breakfast to get going.  After painting all day, you can relax and have a glass of Bordeaux and a dinner out with fresh local ingredients.  What more can a francophile plein-air painter ask for?

 

 

 

 

Wonderful cafés are everywhere. -  Bordeaux, France

 

 

Bordeaux Café, France III

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 13 x 19 inches (33 x 48 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

  Café Castan, Bordeaux I (sold)

 

Café Castan, Bordeaux, France I

 

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 19 x 13 inches (48 x 33 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Sold

 

 

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Catalan Countryside I, Spanish Landscape Painting


Catalan Countryside, Spain I

 

The exact scene depicted in this painting doesn't exist.  I mixed my imagination into the actual subject to fancy this idyllic scene.

 

Although I do representational art, it is true that the imaginary process almost always plays a role in my paintings to some degree.  And sometimes my painting is more imaginary than representational like this one.  So when does that happen?  I have found that the imaginary process happens more spontaneously when the images conjured up from an experience are still vivid, such as right after I return from a very inspirational trip.  On the other hand, if I try to paint from an old sketch or a photo from a long time ago, it will be hard to bring back a fresh impression so I may just paint more representationally.

 

This painting of mine happens to share the same title with one of Joan Miró's surrealist masterpieces, "The Hunter (Catalan Landscape)" (pictured below).   It is intriguing to see how he explored his imagination in this work.

 

 

"The Hunter (Catalan Landscape)"

oil on canvas by Joan Miró (1924)

 

 

Imaginary objects are a "melange of past impressions and recent knowledge." -- Jean-Paul Sartre, French philosopher

 

 

 

Catalan Countryside, Spain I

 

Click for an enlarged view of this painting.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 13 x 19 inches (33 x 48 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Tossa de Mar II, Spanish Landscape Painting


Tossa de Mar, Spain II

 

Even though we always try to do the right thing, life throws all kinds of adversity at us - and it seems unfair at times.  Recently I was hit with a big one which I thought would destroy something I was working so hard for.  Needless to say, I was crushed.  But obstacles in life do teach us how to weather the storm.  They can make us stronger, more knowledgeable, more organized and more thoughtful.  Life must go on.

 

 

“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.” -- Vincent van Gogh

 

 

Tossa de Mar, Spain II

 

Click for an enlarged view of this painting.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

Image Size: 13 x 19 inches (33 x 48 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

- Join me on Facebook and follow my blog on NetworkedBlogs.

- Follow me on Google+.
- Visit my gallery at Daily Paintworks.
- Follow me on Twitter
- FASO Artist Websites - Easy, Professional Art Websites for Artists who Sell

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