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Colors and Values


Bar Tino, Seville, Spain

 

"It is wonderful how much depends upon the relations of black and white.  A black and white, if properly balanced, suggests colour."  -- Winslow Homer

In my workshops, one of the things my students may get tired of hearging from me is how important it is to be able to see the correct values.  I do not dwell too much on colors.  I show them my palette but I also tell them that they can use whatever colors they like.  That is not to say that I take colors lightly.  On the contrary.  What I mean is simply that colors, or hues to be more precise, have such a powerful appeal that we can get distracted by them so easily that we lose sight of values.  Also if we don't really know our colors and how they work, a lot of our efforts goes to trying to figure out which colors to use and what colors to mix.  When we paint, we have to make a color choice in each brushmark we put down.  Considering how many marks are to be made to complete a painting, that is really a lot of work for our mind already.  So in order to pay more attention to values, it is imperative that we are familiar with our colors and how they behave.

 

 

Bar Tino, Seville, Spain I

 

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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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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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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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.

 

 

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Published: My Interview in InSevilla


Sevilla, Spain IX

 

"En Andalucía me siento como en casa"- so I was quoted in the recent interview by a journalist from InSevilla, a digital newspaper of cultural events in Seville, Spain (April 29, 2013).  The article of my interview was just published in time for my watercolor workshop there.  Clearly the interviewer was someone knowledgeable of watercolor painting and there were very good questions.

 

The interview was made possible by my dear friend María José Barrera Garrido, an artist and a teacher who is well respected widely in Seville and its surrounding region.  She is having a watercolor painting exhibition in May at Plaza de Armas in the city of Seville.

 

Since the original article is in Spanish, here are their questions and my answers in English that appeared in Keiko Tanabe, acuarelas universales:

 

InSevilla: In this course (referring to my workshop) you deal with three principal objectives: atmosphere, light and shadow.  Are these keys to a good watercolor?

 

Keiko: When I'm inspired to paint something, what attracts me most is the quality of light and atmosphere in the subject.  I believe that fluidity of the medium of watercolor is perfect to capture that.  In my course, I teach some methods and techniques useful for this effect.  To me, a good watercolor painting is, first, one that shows the artist's full grasp of the medium, and second, one that resonates with the emotions the artist wanted to communicate.  A good painting doesn't have to be impressionistic.

InSevilla: Generally watercolor painting represents realistic landscapes.  Do you think it could be used as well to paint expressionist art, like dreams, nightmares, less figurative art?
 

Keiko: Of course.  In fact, I always think that a painting, in any medium, should speak something about the artist's emotional truth.  Whether it's a realistic landscape or a spiritual abstract painting, an artist should be aware of his inner voice and create a work that transcends a mere depiction of the subject.

InSevilla: Many people say light in Seville and Andalusia is different.  Do you agree with that?  What different features do you see?
 

Keiko: It's so strong and intense that the play of light and shadows often creates a scene that is full of passion and drama.  I only know Andalusia in the summertime so the light may be different in other seasons.  In San Diego, California where I live, I see some similarities in the weather, architecture and other cultural aspects, so I feel at home in Andalusia.

InSevilla: Do you think watercolor painting is valued as it deserves?  It seems it is like a second-level art compared to oil on canvas. 

 

Keiko: In general, that's how it's been perceived in many parts of the world, as I understand.  However, that traditional view may soon be regarded as outdated.  Today, largely thanks to the internet, the world is discovering more than ever many watercolor paintings of high quality.  I am hopeful that will change the general perception of the medium and raise the level of watercolor paintings as a whole.

InSevilla: Basically, what are the pro and cons of watercolor painting versus other techniques?


Keiko: Watercolor is relatively low maintenance because it is portable, odorless and dries fast.  For this reason, it may be best suited to do quick sketches with on location.  Technique-wise, its characteristic of being rather unforgiving may restrict the creativity of an artist.  It may result in having to do careful planning prior to painting.  I feel, however, watercolorists should try to enjoy the process without worrying too much about the result or even take advantage of its elusiveness.

InSevilla: Who are the best watercolor painters now and which artists do you like?  Any Spanish painters?


Keiko: There are many watercolor artists from the past and the present whose methods and styles have inspired and influenced me along the way.  I especially admire artists whose work evokes emotions as if they were soulful music or exciting drama: John Singer Sargent, Robert Wade, Mary Whyte and Alvaro Castagnet, to name a few.  As for Spanish artists, not really a watercolorist but Joaquín Sorolla's works attracted me very much for his figures draped in light.  In watercolor, Laurentino Martí and Manolo Jiménez are among my favorites.  I also want to add that I liked many works exhibited by Spanish artists in the Muestra internacional de acuarela Ciudad de Dos Hermanas (2012).

InSevilla: What is a big mistake that beginner watercolorists should avoid?


Keiko: It is often said that watercolor is the most difficult medium to handle, and that may be true to some degree.  First of all, I would like to tell beginners not to be discouraged by it because it is also very rewarding.  But before learning how to control the fluidity of the medium, I see some beginners needing to spend more time learning how to see things and how to draw.  In my course, I always stress the importance of developing a solid drawing skill and the ability to see perspective, contrast and spatial relationships.

InSevilla: Anything else you would like to say?


Keiko: I am looking forward to coming back to Sevilla soon and sharing the joy of watercolor painting with local artists.  Thank you for your time.

 

 

Sevilla, Spain IX

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

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

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Sold

 

 

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Pétanque (Saint-Paul de Vence) IV, French Landscape Painting


Petanque IV

 

On a sunny afternoon, several men gather in a little dusty square and chase and throw metal balls under huge plane trees.  People sitting in a nearby café watch this simple yet very engaging game called pétanque while sipping pastis.  Time passes slowly here and cicadas all around sing incessantly like a broken record... Isn't this joie de vivre at its best?

 

A scene such as this is repeated everywhere in the south of France when the weather is good - and it is most of the year.  While traveling in the French Riviera, I witnessed another game in Saint-Paul de Vence, a medieval hilltop village.  But this particular square is not just another playing field because of some famous players.  Actors Yves Montand and Lino Ventura were among regulars here.  They are both gone but may be still playing pétanque up there.

 

"Yves Montand, c'est la joie de vivre." - Julien Dassin, son of Joe Dassin, singer-songwriter

 

 

Pétanque (Saint-Paul de Vence, France) IV

 

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: Sold

 

 

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A Room with a View - Italian Landscape Painting


Sunset, Florence, Italy II

 

A Room with a View - when a young English woman and her cousin/chaperone didn't get a room with a view they had requested at a hotel in Florence, Italy, fellow guests from England, a father and his son, offered to trade their room.  Theirs had a view and the older man believed that "women like looking at a view and men don't."  The view in question was the one with the Arno River and cityscape of this Renaissance city.

 

The movie A Room with a View, based on the novel by E.M. Foster, was beautifully done, making viewers want to visit Florence and, particularly, stay in a room with a view at a hotel - like Pensione Bertolini, the place where the movie starts and ends.  Of course, a room with a view comes with a higher price tag, but in a city like Florence, it's probably worth it.  For a traveling painter, it can also be a perfect place to work.  After breakfast, just open the window and there it is, the first subject of the day.

 

 

Sunset, Florence, Italy II

 

Click for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

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

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Sold

 

 

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Loving You the Way I Do by Ron Savage


My art on cover of Mr. Savage's new book

 

I am pleased that my watercolor "Torino, Italy II" was chosen as the cover art for Loving You the Way I Do, a new book by Ron Savage (ISBN: 978-0-9826364-3-5; Black Lawrence Press, New York).  The book is now available online.

 

"We don't love each other the way we'd like.  We love each other the way we do." - Ron Savage

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Vienna I, Austrian Landscape Painting


Vienna, Austria I

 

Abundant opportunities to visit world-class art museums, angelic voices of the Boy's Choir, a cruise on the Danube, great wine, Sacher torte and their famous coffee...   There are so many good reasons to go to Austria's capital city, Vienna.   This elegant city must also be one of the places where it's worth just being there.  Walking on the streets and admiring elegant architecture of baroque-style buildings - it is simply a feast for the eyes.

 

"For almost thirty years I repeatedly saw one and the same dream: I would arrive in Vienna at long last.  I would feel really happy, for I was returning to my serene childhood." -- Alfred Schnittke, German-Russian composer

 

 

Vienna, Austria I

 

Click here for an enlarged view of this painting.

Media: Original watercolor on paper

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

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Sold

 

 

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Madrid VI, Spanish Landscape Painting


Madrid, Spain VI

 

Starting at the Puerta del Sol and going eastward on this street, Calle de Alcala, we pass many historical landmarks and important buildings of Madrid: Government offices and banks, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, the Buen Retiro Park... just to name a few.  And also the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas, a famous bullfight ring, speaking of which I should add that I admire its beautiful architecture but haven't had the courage or strong desire to see what takes place inside.

 

One of the people who frequented this bullring was Ernest Hemingway.  It is well known that he loved Madrid and kept going back there.  During his stays in the Spanish capital, he visited the Plaza de Toros many times because he had gotten fascinated by bullfighting.

 

"The only place where you could see life and death, i.e., violent death now that the wars were over, was in the bull ring and I wanted very much to go to Spain where I could study it.  I was trying to learn to write, commencing with the simplest things, and one of the simplest things of all and the most fundamental is violent death."  - from Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway, American author and journalist

 

 

Madrid, Spain VI

 

Click here for an enlarged view of this painting.

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

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Sold

 

 

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Marseille Vieux-Port IV, French Landscape Painting


Marseille Vieux-Port, France IV

 

"I was lucky to come from a difficult area.  It teaches you not just about football but also life.  There were lots of kids from different races and poor families.  People had to struggle to get through the day."  - Zinedine Zidane, French soccer legend, native of Marseille, son of Algerian immigrants

 

For almost two thousand years, Marseille has been a gateway for people arriving in France from other countries.  Immigrants have come from virtually an every corner of the world but mainly Greece, Italy, Turkey, and in later years from North Africa such as Algeria and Morocco.  With many settling there, Marseille has rapidly become a large, ethnically-diverse, multicultural city.

 

It is the city's Old Port (Vieux-Port) that received people who traveled the Mediterranean to come to France.  Today, the port area serves as a marina for hundreds of leisure boats and looks just lovely with seaside cafes, restaurants and the warm Provencal ambiance.   But if we walk past it and a little deeper off main roads, we will see the reality of the city as a melting pot of immigrant communities, some of which are definitely not on a tourist's map.

 

 

Marseille Vieux-Port, France IV

 

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 8.25 x 11.5 inches (21 x 29 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Sold

 

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Sintra I, Portuguese Landscape Painting


Sintra, Portugal I

 

I've been painting en plein air a lot lately.  It did take a little bit of courage in the beginning but since I found the experience unbeatable to any amount of studio learning, I have tried to do it as much as possible in the last 5 years or so.  Eugene Boudin, a French marine painter who inspired Claude Monet, said, "three strokes of a brush in front of nature are worth more than two days of work at the easel."  I believe his words.

 

Recently my Portuguese artist friend took me to Sintra, near Lisbon, to paint there.  Situated in the lush mountains, Sintra has a really nice ambiance with palaces and houses built in exquisite architectural styles.  I did this painting in front of the National Palace in town.  Plein air painting has its rewards but there are also challenges such as dealing with fast changing light.  But like Harley Brown observes,  "creating on the spot has an adventure that my modest words will never explain.  Something happens when all five senses are working and the sixth sense arrives."  So true.

 

 

Sintra, Portugal I

 

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 14 x 20 inches

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Sold 

 

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Yokohama Chinatown II, Japanese Landscape Painting


Yokohama Chinatown, Japan II

 

When I was in Dallas, Texas last March, I had the pleasure and honor of giving a demonstration to members of the Southwestern Watercolor Society.  Sitting in the front row of a room full of people, was a gracious old lady.  She was watching me paint with a loving, supportive smile and I cannot tell you how much that helped me relax in front of a large audience!

 

Later a mutual friend introduced me to her.  Her name is Naomi Brotherton, a very well-known watercolor artist from the area, and she's still active throughout the South and Southwest.  Learning that she was going to teach a workshop on how to paint night scenes, I told her that a nocturne would be a genre I'd like to try more in my work.  After I came back to San Diego, she sent me a copy of her featured article that appeared in American Artist magazine (March 1991), about her approach to painting night scenes.  Very much encouraged, I've been painting more night scenes ever since.  Thank you, Naomi.

 

 

"Since there is only one source of light in my night pictures, all the dark shapes tend to come together, losing all detail, which adds to the painting's sense of mystery." -- Naomi Brotherton

 

Click here to see Yokohama Chinatown I.

 

 

Yokohama Chinatown, Japan II

 

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

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Sold

 

 

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FASO Featured Artists


San Pedro, California IV

 

Artists about to launch an art career sometimes ask me what steps they should take to be a professional.  Almost always my answer is, create a professional art website first - before a blog, facebook page, twitter, etc.  That's what I did.  I chose FineArtStudioOnline (FASO) as my website host and I know I will never regret it.  If you are serious about art as a profession, the entire team of FASO is there for you in many facets on the business side of art.

 

FASO Featured Artists is their latest feature and I am truly honored to have my work featured there recently.  In it, Brian Sherwin, an art critic and a contributing writer for FASO, describes the quality of my watercolor paintings "pleasantly haunting" and says "Keiko's paintings can be interpreted as being caught somewhere between the 'physical' and the 'spiritual'...  The inspiration for these paintings may be a scene from present day but there is an underlining feeling that they are calling back to the past at the same time."

 

To see the entire description about my work in FASO Featured Artists, click here.

 

 

San Pedro, California IV

 

Click here for an enlarged view of this painting.

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

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Sold

 

 

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Springtime in Paris, Paris Café Painting


Paris Café LX

 

"With so many trees in the city, you could see the spring coming each day until a night of warm wind would bring it suddenly in one morning...

 

Sometimes the heavy cold rains would beat it back so that it would seem that it would never come and that you were losing a season out of your life.  This was the only truly sad time in Paris because it was unnatural...

 

You expected to be sad in the fall.  Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light...

 

But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen.  When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person had died for no reason...

 

In those days, though, the spring always came finally but it was frightening that it had nearly failed."

 

― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

 

 

Paris Café LX

 

Click here for an enlarged view of this painting.

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 21.5 x 12 inches (54.5 x 31 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Sold

 

 

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White Lovers II, Japanese Landscape Painting


White Lovers, Hokkaido II

 

For many people, last month's Valentine's Day may be a thing of the past.  However, in some Asian countries, the whole thing doesn't really end until March 14, which is called White Day.  In Japan, for example, it is expected that you know the unwritten rules: if you're a man and received chocolate from a woman on February 14, you are supposed to reciprocate one month later by giving her something equally nice or better.  I think it's safe to say the overall tone of this practice is fairly light-hearted, which is enjoyed more like a game by most people.

 

Depicted in today's painting are some of many small islands on Lake Oonuma in Hokkaido, Japan.  These islands are all connected by bridges and they look beautiful especially when they are covered by pure-white snow.  Click here to see another painting "White Lovers I" and read related post.

 

"Go to the truth beyond the mind.  Love is the bridge."  - Stephen Levine

 

 

White Lovers, Hokkaido, Japan II

 

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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Living Like Sunflowers


Cortona, Italy VIII

 

If we are artists by profession, it's because we want and need to create and we take it seriously.  So we get up every morning and create just like office workers commute to their workplace each day - this is what we do, or is it really?

 

Artists are not machines that can crank out quality products regularly.  Regardless of our level of experience, we do get hit by some sort of creative block once in a while.  I had my share during my not-so-long artistic career.  Each time it happened, it was quite a struggle but, gladly, I was able to see it pass somehow.  In fact I have just had a pretty bad case that lasted a long time.  The thought that it might never end was scary, to say the least.

 

An artistic journey is a bumpy road.  Sometimes we forget that but it is very important to keep doing what we love no matter what the obstacles.

 

"Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow.  It's what sunflowers do."  -- Helen Keller

 

 

Cortona, Italy VIII

 

Click here for an enlarged view of this painting.

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

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Sold

 

 

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Refugio State Beach I, California Landscape Painting


Refugio State Beach, California I

 

No matter what the results, painting outdoors is always a rewarding experience because we learn so much that may be too hard to learn in the studio.  After painting all day in a couple of different locations, I came to this beach.  The sun was about to set and the light was just irresistible.  I knew there wouldn't be enough time to finish a painting but I did as much as I could anyway (I completed it in my studio the next day).

 

Today I will do a demo in Lakeside, near San Diego, California, for a plein-air painters group from the San Diego Watercolor Society.  Today's weather forecast: Mostly cloudy skies.  Slight chance of a rain shower. High 61F. Winds W at 5 to 10 mph.

 

 

"With all the changing atmosphere and clouds, changing light and everything, you basically have to stick to your original idea.  It's very challenging at times."  - Clyde Aspevig

 

"I strive to capture the moment, that fleeting light or atmospheric effect, tackled with a sense of urgency and an awareness that the prevailing conditions are transient and will not be precisely repeated. "  - Trevor Chamberlain

 

 

painting at Refugio State Beach

 

 

Refugio State Beach, California I

 

Click here for an enlarged view of this painting.

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 14.25 x 21.5 inches (36 x 54.5 cm)

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Sold

 

 

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Road to Santiago de Compostela


Le Puy-en-Velay, France I

 

Le Puy-en-Velay is situated in a setting that is uniquely beautiful and almost surreal.  The town is also known as one of the four official starting points in France of Christian pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.  Although a journey on the Camino de Santiago Compostela can be made from anywhere in Europe, I have heard that the one starting here is more interesting for pilgrims as the path passes through villages with the best-preserved Romanesque churches.

 

I am pleased that this painting, depicting a panoramic view of Le Puy, is featured in the latest issue of DestinAsian (Dec/Jan 2012), the premier magazine of luxury travel and fine living in the Asia Pacific region.  My interview about a personal pilgrimage I made to Le Puy is also included.  Click here to read the article (in pdf file).

 

 

 "Life is one big road with lots of signs.  So when you riding through the ruts, don't complicate your mind.  Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy.  Don't bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality.  Wake Up and Live!" - Bob Marley, singer-songwriter

 

 

Le Puy-en-Velay, France I

 

Click here for an enlarged view of this painting.

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

Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Sold

 

 

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Granada Guitar, Spanish Landscape Painting


Granada Guitar, Spain II

 

Granada, city of enchantment and fantasy.  - Washington Irving

 

Many travelers come to Granada and leave with the same sentiment about this city in Southern Spain as described by Irving.  For a majority of them, the reason may be the majestic grandeur of the Alhambra.

 

For me, what particularly enthralled me there was an unforgettable afternoon of painting on a narrow alley.  Accompanied by the haunting sound of guitar melodies, I was totally in a Granada state of mind when I painted what looked like a guitar workshop in an old neighborhood (click here to see the painting "Granada Guitar")...

 

That was some years ago, but today I am very pleased to have the painting showcased on the cover of a short story "Reintroducing Arnold" by R.M. Usatinsky.  The setting of a story is Granada, and reading his story brought back memories of my visit to this magical place.

 

 

"Granada Guitar" is on the cover.  Read "Reintroducing Arnold" here.

 

 

Granada Guitar, Spain II

 

Click here for an enlarged view of this painting.

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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Gwanghwamun, Seoul, Korean Landscape Painting


Gwanghwamun, Seoul, Korea

 

The 20th Exhibition of Asian Watercolour Confederation came to a close on 23 October.  For 9 days, about 110 watercolor paintings from 11 Asian nations graced the walls of the bright and sleek Han Jeon Art Center located in "new Seoul," the southside of the Han River.  I was honored to be an invited artist for this special exhibition, perhaps the last one presented by the Asian Watercolour Confederation (AWC).  AWC will undergo some changes and will be soon launched as a new organization which will spearhead the efforts to promote the watermedia in the entire Asian region.

 

I was very happy to show my work at the show.   More significant this year was that I was offered a wonderful opportunity to witness the closure of one chapter and the birth of a new organization of Asian watercolorists, together with representatives from Korea, Malaysia, Thailand/Myanmar, Taiwan and Singapore.

 

As a small memento of a symbolic visit, I painted Gwanghwamun in Seoul, the newly-restored main gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace, as it stood proudly under the city lights.  The reconstruction was a major project for the Koreans as it was left in ruins for many, many years, but their commitment and determination made it possible to have this massive structure in its original form at the original site.

 

"Through old things, we learn new things." - Korean proverb

 

 

Gwanghwamun, Seoul, Korea I

 

Click here for an enlarged view of this painting.

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 12 x 16 inches (30 x 40 cm)
Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Please send me an email for details.

 

 

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Prague (Czech Republic) Paintings


Prague, Czec Republic II

 

Despite a threatening sky, streets in the heart of Prague were full of life.  Here in the city's Old Town, tourists moving about with their travel guidebooks were everywhere, proving that Prague is one of the most visited cities in Europe.  Many squares and alleys, surrounded by magnificent architectures, were also crowded with shoppers, diners, street performers and onlookers.

 

This elegant quarter in Prague has such a wonderful atmosphere I wouldn't be surprised if there was quite a large number of artists in the crowd who traveled there for new inspiration and ideas.  I thought, like Rome and Paris, almost anything in this part of Prague could make an attractive painting.  The hardest part may be of course to go beyond the cliché, or to find the truth behind attraction.  Or, should I just paint what I loved without being too analytical?

 

"When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object".  -- Milan Kundera, Czech-born writer and author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being

 

 

Prague, Czech Republic II

 

Click for an enlarged view of this painting.

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 11.5 x 8.25 inches (29 x 21 cm)
Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Sold

 

 

 

Prague, Czech Republic I

 

 

Prague, Czech Republic I

 

A larger image of this painting is 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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Monterey and Carmel Beach Paintings


Monterey, California I

 

"What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness."

 

-- John Steinbeck (From Travels with Charley: In Search of America)

 

 

In the U.S., when Labor Day comes around, we feel summer is coming to an end.  Or at least some of us seem to be mentally programmed to believe so.  At a day's end on this small beach near Cannery Row in Monterey, shadows thrown by the setting sun were getting longer every minute, looking as if they were playing with waves.  Who said summer never ends in California?  As days get shorter, we do feel a chilly edge in the salty wind and want to reach for a warm cup of coffee to walk with.

 

I am pleased to announce that Zantman Art Galleries, the oldest fine art gallery in Carmel-by-the-Sea, is now representing some of my original watercolors.  When you're in the vicinity, I'd like to invite you to visit there.

 

 

Monterey, California I

 

Click here for an enlarged view of this painting.

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 14.25 x 21.5 inches (36 x 54.5 cm)
Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Sold

 

 

 

Carmel Beach, California I

 

Carmel Beach, California I

 

A larger image of this painting is available on request.

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 14.25 x 21.5 inches (36 x 54.5 cm)

Purchase: Through Gallery.  Please inquire.

 

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Dear Izmir


View from Asansor, Izmir

 

Canım İzmir (Dear Izmir):

İzmir, my sweet and dear city!
If I die far away from you one day,
May they bring me to you,
But while taking me to my grave,
May they not say of me, "He died,"
May they say, "He is sleeping."   (lyrics by Dario Moreno)

 

 

I was treated to a beautiful sunset over the Aegean Sea during my recent visit to Izmir.  From the top of the cliff, watching the colors of the sky change literally to the last seconds of a day, I was thinking about Dario Moreno and how he must have missed the gorgeous sunset like this when he was away from home.  My Turkish friend had introduced me to this famous native son of Izmir.  Born and raised here, Moreno became well-known as a singer/song-writer and attained success later in France and other countries.

 

  Izmir, Turkey II

 

Izmir, Turkey II

 

Click here for an enlarged view of this painting.

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 11.5 x 8.25 inches (29 x 21 cm)
Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Sold

 

 

Izmir, Turkey III (A View from Asansör)

 

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 8.25 x 11.5 inches (21 x 29 cm)
Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Sold

 

 

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Star of India, San Diego I, California Landscape Painting


Star of India, San Diego I

 

Greek philosopher Plato said, "Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything."  If music is indeed the sound of life, the sounds of gentle lapping waves, flapping of the sails, roaring wind, stormy sea, faint squeaking of the deck, and maybe occasional whale spouting… they all must have been "music" to sailors who spent weeks or months on a vessel that went around the world in the late 19th century.

 

After 21 voyages around the world, this majestic sailing ship retired and is now docked in San Diego as a floating museum.  It has become a symbol at the city's waterfront, and everyone is proud of her.  Her name is Star of India but her original name was Euterpe, the muse of music in Greek mythology.

 

 

 

Star of India, San Diego I

 

Click here for an enlarged view of this painting.

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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Santa Monica Blvd. IV, California Landscape Painting


Santa Monica Blvd. IV

 

Sunshine, traffic congestion, beaches and mountains, pollution.  Shopping malls, theme parks, palm-lined streets and vast urban sprawl.  Mansions for the super-rich and shelters for the homeless.  And did I mention traffic jams?

 

The freeways are just like a maze, and so is their culture.  Many ethnic communities are scattered throughout the city.  They speak different languages and eat different food.  If you know which community to go to, you can find almost anything from any part of the world.

 

Daily life in a city so diverse as Los Angeles can be as different as chalk and cheese for each one who lives there.  But no matter how exciting, stressful, fun or boring a day has been, it will come to an end.  And here it often does with the glorious sunset light.

 

California sunset / Going down in the west / All the colors in the sky / Kiss another day goodbye.  (Lyrics from "California Sunset" by Neil Young)

 

 

Santa Monica Blvd. IV

 

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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Gardanne, France III, French Landscape Painting


Gardanne, France III

 

Gardanne is situated just south of Aix-en-Provence.  Compared to the more famous and lively sister to the north, it is a sleepy, small village most travelers seem to pass through.  I went there, knowing that this is the only village painted by Paul Cézanne, as I wanted to walk on the same streets and feel the air.  He actually lived here briefly during the years he stayed in Provence with his family.

 

Most of the village is built on and around a hill.   It was a very hot day and I tried to stay in the shadows of the houses as I climbed to the top.  From there I had a pretty good view to the east of Mount Sainte-Victoire, which was often the painting subject for Cézanne.

 

"There are treasures to be taken away from this country, which has not yet found an interpreter worthy of the riches it offers." -- Paul Cézanne

 

 

 

Gardanne, France III

 

A larger image of this painting is 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.

 

Click here to see another painting of Gardanne, France.

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Eiffel Tower, Paris II - French Landscape Painting

Eiffel Tower, Paris II

 

 

You say it's an absolute beauty and one of the first things you must see in Paris?  Rather, you are of the opinion that it's such an eyesore you can't stand it?  There seems to be two kinds of visitors to Paris when it comes to their opinions about the Eiffel Tower.  Whether you take one side over the other (or fall somewhere in between), wouldn't you agree that Paris wouldn't be the same without it?

 

Weighing 10,100 tons, soaring 324 meters tall, it is a massive structure, and I must say that getting an up-close-and-personal look at the 250,000-square-meter surface of the fine iron lattice work is awe-inspiring.

 

"For my part I believe that the Tower will possess its own beauty.  Are we to believe that because one is an engineer, one is not preoccupied by beauty in one's constructions, or that one does not seek to create elegance as well as solidity and durability?  Is it not true that the very conditions which give strength also conform to the hidden rules of harmony? "  -- Gustave Eiffel, designer of the Eiffel Tower

 

 

Eiffel Tower, Paris II

 

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 8.25 x 11.5 inches (21 x 29 cm)
Frame/Mat: No

Purchase: Sold

 

Click here to see more Paris France paintings.

 

 

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Sakura III, Japanese Landscape Painting


Sakura III

 

takasago no
onoe no sakura
sakinikeri
toyama no kasumi
tatazu mo aranan

On the upper slopes
of steep hills
the cherries have bloomed.
O mists of the near foothills,
please do not rise in the way!

(by Masafusa Ooe, 1041-1111)

 

Sakura (cherry blossoms) is probably the most beloved flower among the Japanese.  Often planted en masse, the sakura trees, when their flowers are in full bloom, look like soft, pink clouds.  The flowers won't last a long time and the petals are fragile, so knowing when and where to go to view sakura each spring is an important event for the Japanese.  It depends on where you are located in Japan, but the time frame is usually short - only a couple of weeks in April.  Their favorite hanami (flower-viewing) season is almost here.

 

 

Sakura III

 

Click here 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: Sold via Daily Paintworks Help Japan Challenge Auction

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Little Italy Sunset, San Diego VIII, California Landscape Painting


Little Italy Sunset, San Diego VIII

 

Little Italy is located in the northwest end of Downtown San Diego and just one trolley stop away from the Santa Fe Depot.

I love this view from Little Italy, looking down the hill toward San Diego Bay.  When the sky turns intense orange and brilliant red at the sunset, a pervasive mood changes dramatically from a postcard perfect scene of sunny Southern California under the blue sky to the one that is so atmospheric it evokes a deep sense of nostalgia as well as a sense of hope for the future.

Know what you want to do, hold the thought firmly, and do every day what should be done, and every sunset will see you that much nearer the goal. - Elbert Hubbard, American editor, publisher and writer

 

 

 

Little Italy Sunset, San Diego VIII

 

A larger image of this painting is available on request.

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 8.25 x 11.5 inches (21 x 29 cm)
Mat/Frame: No

Purchase: Sold

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Nice, France V, French Landscape Painting


Nice, France V

 

Light can be gentle, dangerous, dreamlike, bare, living, dead, misty, clear, hot, dark, violet, springlike, falling, straight, sensual, limited, poisonous, calm and soft  (Sven Nykvist). 

When I paint into the light, I think of first what kind of light I am trying to paint.  Here in Nice, on the southeast coast of France, mid-day light can be very unrelenting to the point of being painful sometimes.  Light brings out colors more vividly but when it's intense, the strong contrast between light and shadow areas seems to look almost black and white.  With that in mind, I used a wide range of darks in all shaded areas in this painting to portray a sun-drenched street.

 

 

Nice, France V

 

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 11.5 x 8.25inches (29 x 21 cm)
Mat/Frame: No
Purchase: Sold

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Portofino, Italy IV, Italian Landscape Painting


Portofino, Italy IV

 

The internet has allowed us artists to reach virtually all over the world.  I, for one, have done business with many people, in the last few years, who are more diverse in nationality, geographical location, profession, age, and financial means than I can write in one blog post.

 

Communication with them is usually by email.  While some prefer keeping it strictly business, many tell me a bit of their background information - who they are, where they live, why they like a particular painting of mine, who they buy a painting for, etc.  Each of their stories is so uniquely different, therefore special, I don't know if I will ever be surprised to hear even the one beyond my wildest dreams. What I want to say is, these stories bring me such a joy as they give my paintings a special meaning in a way I can't possibly do.

 

There's also a downside to having an internet presence, such as being targeted by art scammers.  I just had an unpleasant encounter with one through email last week and was made aware that having seen them and heard about them for years doesn't prepare you 100% against them.  Just as we artists become more familiar with their typical tactics, scammers invent a cleverer approach once their old tricks stop working.  Good news for me was that I didn't lose money or paintings to this scammer but he really wasted my time.  I was mentally exhausted and I felt I needed a vacation.  So I painted a beautiful villa on the Italian Riviera, overlooking the deep blue Ligurian Sea for a little escape.

Art is a way to express yourself and through that you can escape a bad situation.  - Russell Simmons


 

Portofino, Italy IV

 

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 8.25 x 11.5 inches (21 x 29 cm)
Mat/Frame: No
Purchase: Sold

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Ghent I & II, Belgian Landscape Paintings


Ghent, Belgium I

 

Saint Nicholas Church in the first painting and the Belfry in the second painting are both famous landmarks of Ghent for their architectural beauty and historical significance.

 

Soaring over the medieval skyline of the city of Ghent, the Belfry has served for centuries as a bell tower as well as a fortified watch tower.  It looks just magnificent.  No wonder it is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (inscribed as the Belfries of Belgium and France).

 

The nearby Saint Nicholas church looks equally impressive.  The town bells were placed in the church's central tower before the belfry was built in the 14th century.

 

Till the bell of Ghent responded o'er lagoon and dike of sand,
"I am Roland!  I am Roland! there is victory in the land!"      by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

 

 

   Ghent, Belgium II

 

 

Ghent, Belgium I

 

Click here for an enlarged view.

 Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 8.25 x 11.5 inches (21 x 29 cm)
Mat/Frame: No
Purchase: Sold

 

 

Ghent, Belgium II

 

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 8.25 x 11.5 inches (21 x 29 cm)
Mat/Frame: No
Purchase: Sold

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Cortona, Italy V, Italian Landscape Painting


Cortona, Italy V

 

"As travel pushes me forward, memory keeps dragging me backward." - Frances Mayes.

 

When I think of autumn in Tuscany, the first memory that comes back to me is not a sight but a taste, from many years ago:  It was well past lunchtime when I finally found a tiny family-run restaurant in the remote countryside.  Inside was quite simple - no tourists but a few local people chatting together.  I was feeling a little out of place and not sure what to order, but apparently that was not a concern for a madam who seated me.  She said something rapidly in Italian, with "Va bene?" (Is it all right?) at the end.  And she disappeared into a kitchen.

 

There I was waiting... and waiting for quite a long time, wondering if I had ordered anything at all.  At last, she came out with a generous portion of warm risotto with porcini mushroom.  Risotto does take a long time to cook, and she must have made it from scratch for me.  Her smile and the creamy risotto with the earthy flavor of this autumn delicacy of Tuscany gave me a big smile, too.

 

Here's recipe of a similar dish (courtesy of Food Network).  Buon appetito!

 

 

Cortona, Italy V

 

Click here for an enlarged view.

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 11.5 x 8.25 inches (29 x 21 cm)
Mat/Frame: No
Purchase: Sold

Click here to see more paintings in my Italian Landscapes Collection.

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Arezzo, Italy III, Italian Landscape Painting


Arezzo, Italy III

 

Although there are many churches in the town of Arezzo,  the Basilica of San Francesco is one of the most famous because of the frescoes by Piero della Francesca.  Facing this medieval church is a cafe used in the film Life is Beautiful  (by Roberto Benigni).

 

I had spent a most memorable day exploring the Tuscan countryside and just returned to Arezzo where I had a place to stay.  Almost at day's end, I came to Piazza San Francesco and caught the last rays of sunlight hitting the top of the buildings.  Stopping to enjoy the scene at the piazza, I also noticed greetings heard around this cafe switch from buon giorno (good day) to buona sera (good evening).  La vita è bella, indeed.

 

 

"When I first saw a Fellini movie, I came out of the movie theatre and decided to become a lawyer!  I thought to myself, it's impossible to make something so beautiful!"

 

"My duty is to try to reach beauty.  Cinema is emotion.  When you laugh you cry."

 

- Roberto Benigni, Italian actor, screenwriter, director

 


Arezzo, Italy III

 

Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 8.25 x 11.5 inches (21 x 29 cm)
Mat/Frame: No
Purchase: Sold

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Story of Hachiko - Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan I


Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan I

 

"A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself." -- Josh Billings

I never had a dog of my own but I know this is true from a famous story of Hachiko.  Often called Chuken (faithful dog) Hachiko by Japanese people, he lived from 1923 to 1935 in the Shibuya area in Tokyo.

Everyone in Japan knows that this Akita dog waited for his master at the Shibuya Station every day as he returned from work.  But one day his master didn't come home because he had died at a university
where he was a professor.  Even after that sad event, Hachiko's loyalty never stopped him from believing in his master's return.  It was incredible that he continued to show up at the station around the same time every day.  When the story was told in a newspaper, it moved the entire nation... and it still does to this day.  Ten years after his master's passing, Hachiko died on a street in Shibuya due to an infectious disease.

This painting shows a view from the Shibuya Station, as seen from the Hachiko statue.  As they often say "let's meet at the Hachiko," many people in Tokyo have made this bronze statue a popular meeting place.  It's sad to see him, however, still looking in a direction as if to search for his master in a crowd that spills out of a busy station.


Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan I

A larger image of this painting is available on request.
Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 11.5 x 8.25 inches (29 x 21 cm)
Mat/Frame: No
Purchase: Sold


Click here to see other Japanese landscape/cityscape paintings.

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Roma, Italia XXXIX, Italian Landscape Painting


Roma, Italia XXXIX

 

At the base of the Spanish Steps, shadows of palm trees in the square grew longer and longer as the sun set.  They crawled up on brightly-colored walls of the surrounding buildings like they wanted to reach the sky but soon they were absorbed into the warmth of orange walls.

The square, Piazza di Spagna, was full of people and there were also several horses waiting for riders in their carriages.  When Charles Dickens came here in 1845, he described the crowded square as a meeting place "for artists' models, who would dress in colourful traditional costumes, hoping to catch the attention of a wealthy artist."  Is this still true?  I don't know.  Maybe I didn't notice because I am not certainly a wealthy artist.


"Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, it is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress."

- Charles Dickens, Victorian-era English novelist, wrote Pictures from Italy based on his trip in the mid 1800s.


Roma, Italia XXXIX

 

Click here for an enlarged view.
Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 8.25 x 11.5 inches (21 x 29 cm)
Mat/Frame: No
Purchase: Sold

Click here to see other paintings of Rome, Italy.

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Roma, Italia XXXV, Italian Landscape Painting


Roma, Italia XXXV

 

A few minute's walk from Piazza Navona, there's a square called Campo de' Fiori (field of flowers), known for a lively outdoor market of, not just flowers but also fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, cheese, etc.  I was not really hungry but I couldn't resist picking up a couple of juicy peaches that looked so good.  After washing them, I sat by a fountain and sank my teeth into one of them.

The square was mildly crowded then but I heard that it's usually packed with the young crowd every night.  Peaceful as it may appear, Campo de' Fiori was a rough neighborhood during the Renaissance period and the time before that.  Giordano Bruno, an Italian philosopher and a Dominican friar, was executed right here in 1600 for endorsing Copernicus' heliocentric theory.  Today his statue stands in the middle of the square.

"It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority.  Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people." - Giordano Bruno


Roma, Italia XXXV

A larger image of this painting is available on request.
Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 8.25 x 11.5 inches (21 x 29 cm)
Mat/Frame: No
Purchase: Sold

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Malibu and Surfers


Malibu, California IV

 

Now I've joined the surfin' nation and so
I'll take a permanent vacation and go
To the golden shores of 'Frisco Bay
I'll ride 'em all the way to Malibu

("California Calling" by Beach Boys)

Even if one knew nothing about beaches in the Golden State, it would take little time to realize Malibu must be one of the great surfing spots.

As the Beach Boys had been praising its name in their hit songs even before I was born, Malibu beaches have been popular with surfers for a long time, and as a result the town has formed a unique surfing culture within (So I heard).

People who look for some great surf, those who want to learn how to surf, those who want to watch the surfers, or even those who want to paint the surfers, they are all here to do what they came here for, and it is pure fun.  As I said in my last blog post, a beautiful geographical setting in this community makes a visit here even more memorable.


  Malibu, California III


Malibu, California III

A larger image of this painting is available on request.
Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 8.25 x 11.5 inches (21 x 29 cm)
Mat/Frame: No
Purchase: Sold



Malibu, California IV

 

Click here for an enlarged view.
Media: Original watercolor on paper
Image Size: 8.25 x 11.5 inches (21 x 29 cm)
Mat/Frame: No
Purchase: Sold

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