Friday, December 31, 2010

Twilight Game

This is for Dec 2010 Virtual Paintout, County Clare, Ireland. It's oil on 6x8 canvas board.

This is my post holiday post vacation attempt at the challenge. I had picked out a few scenes and chose this one to paint before my family took off for two week vacation. Now we just came back, I'm pulling a late night finish this one. What struck me with this scene was the interesting Z shape greens, and the close up shot of this pitching scene. (ref photo) Painting all these greens turned out to be a bit challenging, as there are many variations of green here. The basic green is viridian, mixed in with cadmium yellow, ultramarine violet, violet grey etc. I made the sky more orange to give it more a twilight feel.

Monday, December 13, 2010

White Gate

This is for Rookie Painter, December 2010. It's oil on 6x8" canvas board.

This month's challenge is a big red house. (ref photo) I just couldn't get myself to paint the big red house since it seemed a bit too blockish to me. I decided I was going to do a crop, and this corner of the picture had more shapes and contrasting elements.

The color I used included cadmium red, cadmium orange, cadmium yellow, lemon yellow, yellow orchre, vermillion, alizarin, ultramarine violet, ultramarine blue, sap green, viridian, radiant violet, sepia, and white.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Wave is Cold!

This is for Calypso Moon Artist November 2010 challenge. It's oil on 10x12 canvas board.

This is the first time I'm doing a challenge for this website. The challenge was to capture a moment in time. When saw the challenge, I thought I had to do it, since I had this picture for a couple of years and I always wanted to paint it.

This was taken on Martha's Vineyard, MA a couple of years ago. The kids were playing at the beach, and the north Atlantic water was not exactly the warmest. A wave came in, and the boys were screaming cold and running out of the water.

To paint this, I first used an acrylic ground of a greenish mix yellow orchre and ultramarine blue for the ocean and wave, and yellow orchre for the boys. Then for oil paint I used cerulean, carribean blue, radiant turquiose, terre verde, yellow orchre, radiant violet, and ultramarine blue. For the kids I used lots of naples yellow, yellow orchre, cadmium orange and red, madder, ultramarine violet, ultramarine blue, terre verde, some lemon yellow. Finally I used a fan brush to put in the foreground crashing waves and flying water.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Orange Pudding

This is for Nov 2010 Rookie Painter challenge. It's oil on 6x8 canvas panel.

This month's challenge is an orange colored pudding. (ref photo) To be honest, I've had chocolate pudding before, I've had orange jello before, but I've never had orange pudding. So I'm not sure what it tastes like. From the look of the picture, it looks as if this may taste very sweet, almost like an orange marmalade.

I thought about doing this painting using landscape orientation, but then the bowl would be too small. So I kept the vertical feel of his painting, and made the spoon go out of canvas. I started by putting an acrylic ground of purplish black. The oil palette I used included cadmium yellow pale, cadmium orange, cadmium red, alizarin, burnt sienna, ultramarine violet, ultramarine blue, Payne's Grey and white.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sugarloaf Mountain - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

This is for Virtual Paintout November 2010 challenge, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It's oil on 10x12 canvas board.

This is the Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. What attracted me to this scene was the unique shape of the Sugarloaf Mountain, the ocean, the mountains that go farther and farther back in the ocean, the bright sky and people along the path by the ocean.

However, what I was debating was the composition, as it could be too heavy on the right hand side with the mountains. So I made the foreground path more diagonal so to lead the eyes from the right to the left. (This type of arrangement can be seen in some of my prior paintings, like the challenges for Hawaii and Norway.) I put in the wispy clouds also trying to balance out the heavy right hand side. To add in a little more interest, I added in some pure color for the man's backpack and his cap. It also seems like he might be carrying a water bottle in the reference picture, so I added that in as well. (ref photo)

For underpainting, I used a thinned out ultramarine violet oil painting, did a monochromatic value study, since I thought many color in this painting had purple in it, like the sky, mountain and the ocean. The palette included cobalt blue, ultramarine violet, ceruleum, raw and burnt umber, ultramarine blue, madder, sap green, cadmium yellow, Portland grey, white and a tiny touch of vermilion.

Friday, October 29, 2010


This is for Rookie Painter, Oct 2010 challenge, the Window. It's oil on 8x10 canvas board.

I changed some elements from the original picture (ref photo). I made the picture landscape instead of portrait since I wanted the focus to be more on the window. In order to make the window appear less symmetrical, I opened one side of the window and created a sense of breeze coming in by making the left curtain sway. I also made the window frame darker so that it won't stand out as much. In the original photo, there were so many folds on the blanket that it looked almost like someone could be inside the blanket. So I gave a slightly more explicit hint of a person there.

The canvas was prepared by a black acrylic ground. The palette is relatively limited in this painting: yellow orchre, terra verte, raw and burnt umber, ultramarine violet, ultramarine blue, lemon yellow, white, and Portland greys.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


This is oil on 6x8" canvas board. My little one asked me to do a painting of him. Since I was preparing the under painting for the gondola ride painting, I prepped one more canvas board for this painting. The ground is black and red oxide acrylic mix, but more on the red oxide than the gondola one. This is a quick oil exercise for me. I used yellow orchre, cadmium orange, cadmium red, madder, ultramarine violet, terre verte, lemon yellow, white, burnt sienna, black.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Venice Sunset Gondola Ride Prototype

This is a quick prototype painting for a larger work I'm working on. It's oil on 6x8" canvas panel. This quick limited color work is a nice contrast the previous work I did with lots of bright colors.

The picture was originally taken by my grandmother when she visited Venice over a decade ago. The lighting and contrast are very interesting in this picture. When I saw it, it reminded me of some of Whistler's Nocturne paintings: limited palette and atmospheric.

So I did a little bit of research on the internet on Whistler's painting method, especially for his Nocturnes. He seemed to have use dark ground, and then he mixed oil paint with say turpentine and painted it like water color, and allowing the dark ground to show through. He took great care of the values in his paintings. I did this quick prototype with this method, using a mixture of black and red oxide acrylic as ground, and thinned oil with just cadmium orange, prussian blue, black, and white. Now I can visualize the picture on a smaller canvas, it helps me to work on a larger canvas.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Twin Doors - San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

This is for Virtual Paintout October 2010 challenge, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. It's oil on 8x10 canvas board.

The only place I've been to in Mexico is Cancun, and I have no idea where San Miguel de Allende is. So I was browsing in Google Map. The impression I got was the buildings were so colorful, the sky was so blue, there were so many bright colors there.

So I picked a simple composition, two doors, plant with flowers, and the sky. (ref photo) I liked the orange color wall contrasting to the blue sky, and I like the plant hanging over the walls. I also wanted this painting to have more intense colors. In the original photo, the sun was shining from the top but slightly from the back side of the wall, so there were no strong shadows casted. However, as I started to paint, I thought something was lacking. So I moved the position of the sun slightly so that there will be strong long shadows casted, referring to the wall on the opposite side of this street as needed for the shape of the shadows.

The colors used in this painting included cobalt blue, cadmium orange, terra rosa, ultramarine violet, lemon yellow, sap green, tree green, viridian, ultramarine blue, magenta, yellow orchre, Portland grey dark medium light, raw umber, burnt sienna and sepia.

Farm House Van Gogh Style

This painting was done with oil on 20x26" stretched canvas at the Anastasia Art House.

The mission for the project was to do a painting in van Gogh's style. I picked a relatively simple composition - farm house and trees. At first I thought van Gogh's paintings were mostly bright contrasting color and big strokes. Not until I started working did I have an appreciation of van Gogh's style was actually not as simple as it seemed.

For one thing, there was actually a system in his loose brush strokes. The colors were actually "traveling" in groups, rather than a stroke here and there. Attention to contrasting color was also apparent in his brush strokes as well.

Before I started with the painting, I looked up a Van Gogh book that I had. I liked the depiction of the clouds in his Starry Night painting, and also the trees in his Cypress paintings. So I thought I would use some of those van Gogh elements in my painting.

The main contrasting colors were blue and orange, and other colors "derived" from these colors to stay coherent. The clouds were not exactly spiral like the Starry Night, as I wanted them to look like ribbons in the sky instead. The trees on the left were modeled after Van Gogh's Cypress trees. Strong straight edges were changed to curves to be consistent with the overall curved feeling in this painting.

After this exercise, I definitely have a new appreciation for Van Gogh's paintings.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Four Fall Leaves

This is for Rookie Painter, Oct 2010 challenge. It's oil on 10x10 canvas board.

In the original reference photo, the background was white, and the leaves were farther apart. (ref photo) I was debating what to do with the background, whether to keep it white, to make it complementary (blue), or analogous. I wanted the simple leaves to reflect the rich color of fall, like brown, orange, red. So I decided the painting would go with the analogous color scheme.

The background underpainting is an acrylic mixture of mars black, burnt umber, and yellow orchre. Big brush strokes were used to make the background with a wood impression. Cadmium yellow is the main color for the leaves, mixed in with alizarin, madder, ultramarine violet, sap green, raw umber, burnt sienna, yellow orchre and some white. The shadows needed to be darker than the already dark background. So I used some ultramarine blue, ultramarine violet, and black.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Union Square Dog Walker

This is my second submission for Virtual Paintout September 2010 challenge, Manhattan. It's oil on 8x10" canvas board.

I figure I would do another quick painting on Manhattan since I had been a commuter into the city everyday for so long. There were so many people at Union Square, doing various things. This dog walker caught my eyes as he and the dogs were just going along minding their own business in midst of all the hustle and bustle.

I experimented with a black underpainting and more loose brush strokes. I wanted to keep things simple so I cut out all the people, but giving a hint of the vendors inside the square. Palatte is very simple, the basic white, ultramarine blue, prussian blue, burnt umber, gold orchre, radiant violet. There's a burst of color on the dog leash with my leftover cadmium red and alizarin.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lone Horse Rider - Garden of the Gods Park

This is for Studio Atelier Sept 2010 challenge - Garden of the Gods Park, Colorado Spring. It's oil on 10x12" canvas board.

When I saw this reference photo at Studio Atelier (ref photo), it reminded me so much of the American southwest paintings by the great Edgar Payne, whose book the Composition of Outdoor Painting I had been reading this summer. So I decided I had to do this challenge.

I did some research on Edgar Payne's painting and his palette. Some indicated his palette included the following: "Hookers green, cadmium yellow light, cadmium red light, van Dyke brown, alizarin crimson, Indian red (red orchre), Indian yellow, Paynes gray, ultramarine blue, and vermilion". I had most of the color except for Indian red and hooders green. I found on the internet that hookers green was a combination of prussian blue and gamdoge (some kind of mustard yellow), so I figured I could fake this one with what I had (prussian blue and yellow orchre). I bought a tube of Indian red from the store, along with terra rosa, which I thought was a lighter and less intense version of Indian red.

I did the sky and clouds first. To show the darker side of the clouds, I used Paynes gray and ultramarine violet, plus white. The highlight of the cloud is white with lemon yellow, and of course, a lot of white and a lot of blending.

The rocks were mostly Indian red, and shifted to terra rosa when I thought Indian red was too intense. The shadow part would be these color mixed with ultramarine blue, and Paynes gray here and there. There's light reflection from the right hand side mountain onto the middle mountain. I cranked up the color temperature by adding in vermilion to the middle mountain.

Finally, I added in a lone horse rider on the street, instead of all the tourists in the original reference photo. I really like Edgar Payne's style and his paintings, and will definitely do some more down the road if I get the right scenes. Maybe we'll pay a visit to the southwest sometime.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lemon Wedge

This is for Rookie Painter Sept 2010 challenge - lemon. It's oil on 8x10 canvas board.

The main color of the lemon and wedge is of course lemon yellow, darken down with ultramarine violet, ultramarine blue, there's also a little bit of cadmium yellow, madder. The light portion are mostly colder color, and shades are mostly warm. I kept the lemon more on the greenish lemon side to give it a feel of sourness. Time for some lemonade with honey!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Carriage Ride in Central Park

This is for Virtual Paintout September 2010 challenge - Manhattan, New York. It's oil on 10x12 canvas board.

There are so many good views to paint for the Manhattan challenge, and this one caught my eyes because of the humor factor - tourists riding a horse carriage and looking at a horse statue. The lighting was good with good contrast in the Google map picture. (ref photo)

I was curious as to what the statue was, so I looked it up. It's Jose Julian Marti, a Cuban who had fought for Cuba's independence from Spain. The statue depicted his last breath as he was fatally wounded and slumped over on the horse as the panicked horse stood up. This statue is close to Central Park's main entrance at Central Park South and 6th Ave.

I had to artificially cut down the background trees and lighten up the trees so that we can see the statue better. I also made the tourist wearing the white shirt in the sun very bright to make him a main focal point as the tourist looks at the horse statue and it almost looks like the horse statue is looking back at the tourist, while carriage lugging horse just minding its own business and strolling away.

The sky is a coeruleum blue with some ultra marine blue as the underpainting. Trees are combination of viridian, sap green, prussian blue, ultramarine blue, ultramarine violet, cadmium yellow, lemon yellow, white. Ground is gold orchre, white and radian violet. Carriage horse is mostly raw umber and burnt sienna. Statue is combination of black, Portland grey dark medium light, prussian blue and burnt umber.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Charity Contributions

I want to thank those who had bought my paintings this summer where 100% of the proceeds have been donated to Tzu Chi Foundation.

Tzu Chi Foundation is a Buddist compassion relief organization that is very active in disaster relief around the world, as well as building hospitals and schools. They are in more than 45 countries around the world. The paintings where the proceeds have been 100% donated include: Yellow Tulips, Swans under a Bridge - Prague, Canary Island, and Fluffy Bird.

I'm very glad my paintings can make a small difference. So I decide from now on, I will donate 100% of the proceeds from my paintings.

Farm House Sunset - PEI

This is for Virtual Paintout August 2010 Price Edward Island challenge. It's oil on 9x12.

This is the painting I originally started out working on for the Prince Edward Island challenge. Half way through it, something just didn't look right. That's when I put it down and started the Lake of Shining Water painting, which was a lot simpler in terms of composition, color and value.

What had originally caught my eyes with this scene was the country side feel: simple house, fresh laundry, picnic table, sparkling ocean and sunset light filled atmosphere. (ref photo) I was having trouble bring all the pieces together, especially from a color perspective as there were too many different elements. My last minute attempt to fix it just before the challenge deadline was to simplified color to mostly purple and yellow related colors (complementary). I think this is a good time to put down my paint brushes on this one since I think the painting will look very over-painted if I keep tweaking things.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Three Peaches

This is for Rookie Painter August 2010 challenge. It's oil on 8x10 canvas board.

The original reference photo had a few more items in it. (ref photo) I thought about rearranging the other items, such as the gold vase and black pot, but I thought the painting would be quite complicated, and I may run out of time. So I decided to keep it simple, and just painted the three peaches.

Like the cherry challenge before, I wanted to make the fruit look as tangible and juicy as possible, especially given that I can't eat them anymore. (I developed allergies to things like cherries and peaches, sigh.) So you may say these paintings represent my longing to eat these fruits.

The color I used inlcuded lemon yellow, orange, windsor red deep, alizarin, madder, ultramarine violet, and a touch of ultramarine blue, yellow orchre and white. The background is a white with a tint of green, to make the peaches pop more (hard to see in the photo). Shadows are combination of portland grey and ultramarine voilet, and a touch of orange.

Water Spiral

This is for Wordpress challenge August 2010. It's oil on 8x10 canvas board.

The reference photo had a girl dipping her hand into a waterfall. For me, there was too much going on in the picture. I thought, since I am doing a van Gogh style painting at Anastasia Art, I would use this opportunity to try a van Gogh technique here. I liked his signature spiral style, as seen in Cypresses and Starry Night. So I figured I would do a quick study using the spiral for water falling into the pool.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lake of Shining Water - Prince Edward Island

This is for Virtual Paintout August 2010 challenge - Prince Edward Island. It's oil on 8x10 canvas board.

I actually started out painting another scene for this challenge, but it didn't turn out the way I wanted. Then I had remember seeing a very interesting picture of cloud reflection in the lake, (ref photo) so I did this one instead. (Still trying to figure out how to fix the other one I started out).

Prince Edward Island is the setting for one of my favorite books when I was younger - Anne of Green Gables. At first I was looking for Green Gables or Avonlea in Google map, but I couldn't find much. I came upon this lake scene, not sure if this is the real Lake of Shining Water as mentioned in the book, but in my eyes, it's shining enough for me.

I started out painting the negative spaces in the sky and the lake, i.e. the blue parts. The sky is a combination of cobalt blue, ultramarine blue, violet grey, and white. The sky reflection in the water is darker, it's a combination of coeruleum, ultramarine violet, portland grey light and medium. The clouds in the sky are mostly white with a touch of yellow and violet, while clouds in the lake are mostly portland grey light with ultramarine violet, all blended with a fan brush. I made the grassy area more orange-yellowish for bigger contrast (orange and blue are complementary colors), color included indian yellow, raw sienna, burnt sienna, and sap green. Finally, I used a palette knife to add in more texture for the tall grass using color that's left on my palette.

Monday, August 9, 2010


This is for August 2010 Rookie Painter challenge - Dahlia. It's oil on 9x12 canvas board. (ref photo)

Similar to the yellow tulips I did for this challenge, I decided to use a darker background for the sunlit flower in order to accentuate the glowing nature of the flower. The sun lit area is painted with cold color - mostly lemon yellow. The rest of the flower is painted with warmer colors - naple yellow, permanent rose, radiant red, cadmium red, orange, cobalt violet, madder, alizarin and ultramarine violet. The work is tedious as I had to paint petal by petal. The background is viridian green mixed with ultramarine violet, although it's so dark it appears black in the photo.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

House in Sea of Hydrangeas

The hydrangeas this year had grown like crazy. According to the expert, this was due to a very snowy winter, and thus the flower buds were protected inside the snow. Whatever reason it was, the flowers were just magnificent this year. So I decided to paint them with the house together. It's oil on 18x24" stretched canvas.

The view is an early morning view, so the air is crisp, and the sun is coming from the side. The reflections of the trees on the house windows were so neat I had to include them. If you look closely, you can even see of part of a lamp shade and part of a beam inside the house. Just minor details I thought would be interesting to include. I also simplified the deck since there were too many chairs, lounge chairs, towels hanging on the deck railing etc.

The hydrangeas were mostly painted with violet grey, combined with different colors, such as ultramarine violet, white, a little red. The chimney I kept relatively red since I thought it would be a nice complement with all the greens around. To give the big pine tree some fullness, beside the leaves and branches facing front, I also painted some back facing leaves and branches using ultramarine blue. (I think one of the Monet paintings had used that technique, so I decided to try it). Looking at this and the previous painting, it makes me want to go back to the island!

Sengekontacket View

We've been coming to Martha's Vineyard every year, and I always wanted a painting of the view over Sengekontacket pond. Now I can paint, I decided I would give it a go. This is painted with oil on 18x24" stretched canvas.

In actuality, the view is a lot wider than my 18x24 canvas, so I had to compress the scene. I wanted to capture the water view in the background, as well as the flower bed and lawn. The cut flower garden is not as colorful when we went this year as some of the prior years, so I dug out a picture from a couple of years ago.

Also, the massive lawn was a bit problematic since that was so much green and it would be kinda boring with all green lawn in the foreground. So I decided to include part of the shadow of an old pine tree, which sits a little further back in the yard. The dark shadow on the right I thought would balance out the darker tone trees on the left.

Again, I started with a rough sketch of where things should be and then with a yellow orchre under layer. Trees and vegetations were painted with big blocks of color. Our view this year is block by a lot of wild trees which need to be topped. So I topped them in my painting first.

The lawn was still a bit problematic for me since it originally didn't look very grassy. At the end I decided to use a small fan brush and put in more texture using color such as sap green, viridian, gold orchre, french ultramarine etc. I also added into tree holes for the tree shadow so that I don't have a solid clump of dark mass on the grass.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A View from the Peak - Hong Kong

This is for Virtual Paintout July 2010, Hong Kong. It's oil on 10x14" stretched canvas.

I was browsing on the island of Hong Kong in Google Map, and found this amazing panoramic view of the Victoria Harbor on Barker Street. (ref photo) It was clear enough of a day that you can see pretty far, yet it was still covered with a layer of perpetual smog. I like the harbor and buildings that draw your eyes from the left to the right. The smog actually adds to the perspective element, so I decided to include it as well.

The house with the red roof has a majestic view of Hong Kong skyline. It even has a swimming pool! (Who knows which gazillionaire lives there. ) The red roof and the green mountain is the main foreground layer. There's actually another foreground layer even closer to the view, and is the dark trees at the bottom left and right hand corners. The viewer is actually looking at this scene from within the shadow.

The city skyline was very tedious to paint. I included some of the main skyline elements that are either tall or have interesting shapes. Everything else is just a suggestion of another skyscrapper. Across the harbor there are even more buildings, I've further tuned down the color to show they're far away. The colors I used included, but not limited to: Gamblin's Portland grey - light, medium, dark, Rowney's flesh tint, voilet grey, tree green, sap green, lemon yellow, gold orchres, ultramarine violet, ultramarine blue, and burnt umber.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Four Cherries

This is for Rookie Painter July challenge. It's oil on 9x12 canvas board.

Similar to the Three Oranges I painted for this challenge a few months ago, the Four Cherries is also a study of spheres, reflections and interaction of light off each of the objects. I thought the reference picture had pretty good composition. (ref photo) So I kept all the cherries, and all I did was moving background horizon line above the middle of the canvas.

Alizarin (dark red) was the main color for the cherries. It was darken with a combination of ultramarin violet, ultramarin blue, and burnt umber at the darkest places, and lighten with cadmium red, and some lemon yellow as needed. I thought the cherry reflections on the table were interesting to include, so I made them a bit more visible than the reference photo. The cherries were very reflective of light, but I didn't want them to start looking like glass marble balls, so I gave the main cherries more texture, for example, the dimples on the left cherry, and the subtle veins for the middle cherry. The other two cherries I kept relatively texture free except for light reflections.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mother and Child

When I first saw this picture as a Facebook profile picture, I said to myself I had to paint it. I thought it looked so much like a modern version of Madonna and the Child, and it's got such a great of feeling of motherly love.

This was painted with oil paint on 10"x14" stretched canvas. In the original picture, mommy was wearing glasses. I thought the glasses, with all the harsh edges, would take too much attention away from the main focus, so I dropped the glasses, with mommy's consent. I also wanted the picture to have a feeling of mommy and baby are in heaven. So I dropped all the things in the background, house, wall, neighbor's house, and used a tone of white instead.

It started out as a sketch. Then I did a burnt umber underpainting. After that, I did a black and white underpainting for all the flesh parts, but went straight to color for the other parts, such as clothing, and the mother's hair, since I didn't see much value doing a black and white underpainting on the non-flesh parts.

After the black and white underpainting dried, it was time to do skin color. I used Rowney's flesh tint, adding in some raw sienna a touch of gold orche as needed, and also a little olive green for the mother's Asian skin color. Shadows were combination of brown madder, red violet, blue gray, ultramarine blue, ultramarine violet, and olive green.

The baby's skin tone was more Caucasian than Asian, as she's a mix. So there was very little yellow and no olive green in the skin color. Light pink and some flesh tone were the predominant colors, toned down with red violet and blue gray. The baby's skin also showed bluish tone in some places as her skin was so fragile.

The mommy's hair was a combination of different colors: Reddish brown, Van Dyck brown, raw umber (a yellowish brown and is a great color for hair), violet gray and a touch of black, violet some orange.

The highlights in mommy's hair, shoulder and hand were in lemon yellow (cold color). The shadows were warm. In the beginning, I had a yellowish white as the background. However, Oxana pointed out that the faces were in warm shadow, so it was best to have a cool color background. So I changed the background to a cool light blue, more specifically, white with a touch of Gamblin's radiant blue.

It took me about 3 weeks (including drying time), to do this. My next challenge is to take this on a long haul flight back!

Abstract Orchid

This is a semi-abstract painting of an orchid. It's oil on 20"x26" stretched canvas.

This painting was done at Anastasia Art. Oxana wanted us to do abstract paintings on flowers. I was a bit lost. I could paint a realistic flower, but I had no idea even where to begin to paint an abstract flower. Then when I visited San Francisco a couple of months ago, I checked out a Georgia O'Keeffe book from the library. Georgia O'Keeffe had a done quite a few abstract flowers, and she basically enlarged the flowers so big that people had to look at her painting closely to figure out what she was painting. So I thought, I would pull a "Georgia O'Keeffe" on the orchid.

I wanted the flower really big, but I wanted the center of the flower to be off-centered. So I put it around the "golden ratio" spot. I started with an underpainting in lemon yellow and brilliant pink, diluted with turpentine, and painting the first layer like a water painting. Then I gradually built it up with more paint. The center of the flower needed to have more more intense color and more texture. The texture was done with a palette knife and very thick paint. This particular orchid had beautiful veins, so to showcase that, I also used palette knife for the veins.

After a couple of months, I'm finally done! I'm glad the color turned out quite brilliant. I look forward to doing more interesting things at Anastasia Art after the summer.

Glass jar and clothespins

This is for June 2010 Rookie Painter challenge. It's oil on 10x10" canvas board.

This is a good exercise on trying to draw a glass jar. The front two clothespins have a bit of perspective element in it. The glass jar is tinted blue, so the clothespins inside the jar would be a bit greener than the two outside. The jars has a lot of markings on the outside, I just kept the "Ball" label, as I thought the other words would clutter up the jar. I also kept the background and the table top relative light. I thought the table cloth ripples under the glass table top is kinda neat to keep in this relative plain background.

Purple Park Bench

This is for June 2010 Wordpress challenge. It's oil on 8"x10" canvas board.

The reference photo has several purple park benches. Drawing the whole bench, with shadows and all would be a perspective nightmare, so I thought. What I saw, at least in the beginning, was the curved legs of the benches looking like purple treble clefs, with the shadows looking like the lines in a music score, being a pianist myself. So I thought it would be neat to paint the legs of the benches to look like purple treble clefs.

As I started to sketch, it turned into a perspective nightmare, even with just the legs and the shadows. (I wished I had taken a short cut using tracing paper!) The lines were so complicated with free hand. I was running out of time, having a few other paintings to finish, and I needed to pack for our trip also. I did what I could, trying to emphasize the center park bench legs to look like treble clefs, in the middle of all the busy lines. At the end, I think this looks more like a spider web with a purple spider in the middle, and I will be getting vertigo if I keep looking at this painting any longer!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Catching the Wave

Since I will be doing a bit of traveling the end of this month, I decided to do some of these painting challenges early. This one is for Virtual Paintout's June 2010 challenge, Hawaii. It's oil on 10"x12" canvas board.

At this time, only the islands of Oahu and Maui have Google street map. What I saw in Google street map were mostly palm trees and beautiful beaches. Since I did palm trees a couple of months ago for the Canary Island challenge, I wanted to look for something more Hawaiian. I stumbled upon a place called the Wawamalu Beach Park on Oahu and there were people surfing and watching others surfing. (ref photo)

I had to compress the scene so that the main things I wanted to include, the cresting wave and the guy sitting on the bench, could fit onto my limited canvas. There are actually other interesting paintable scenes at this park that if I have the time, I may try to paint too. I also used several of my ocean blues: Old Holland's carribean blue, coeruleum, also some prussian blue, ultramarine violet, and whites. I also used a small fan brush for the flying ocean mist, and palette knife for the sea foam. Gold orchre and raw sienna were the base color for the golden beach.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Boys in Sydney

The original picture was taken about a year and a half ago when we went to Australia. We spent a few days in Brisbane where we took the kids to places like the Australia Zoo, Seaworld, and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (we highly recommend this sanctuary since not only can you hold the Koalas, you can also feed the kangaroos and they come right up to you and let you pet them!) We spent a couple of days in Sydney, and of course we had to hit the typical tourist attractions, e.g. the Sydney Opera House.

I kept the background, the opera house, the ocean water, rather loose using bigger strokes. With the two faces, I tried to do the "flemish" technique where I painted the faces black and white first, let it dry, and then put on a color layer.

The color on the faces were not simple, especially with the shadows. As the picture was taken roughly at noon, the sun was shining right down at the face. The part of the face that's in shadow, but faced upward actually got a cooler shadow as the color of the sky was reflect there, where as the part of the face that's in shadow but facing down got a reflection from the red jacket and thus a warm shadow.

This painting passed the "Heidi" test, as she actually recognized who were in the painting, so I figured I couldn't have been too far off.

Porcelain Birds

This is for June 2010 Rookie Painter challenge. It's oil on 8"x10" canvas board.

The pair of porcelain birds were originally on white background in the reference photo. I thought white birds on white background would be very difficult to see. I didn't what to go to black since it would be too monochromatic. Originally I went with a lilac color, but the value was still too close to the birds, so I darken part of the background with more purple, and adding a touch of Asphaltum (a new color I got from Gamblin, a nice dark brown).

With the porcelain birds, there were so many shades of white. The porcelain itself is a bit yellowish and bluish, reflecting this purplish background I made up. I had also need to make sure the different shades of white were blended and there were no hard edges.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Swans under a Bridge - Prague, Czech Republic

This is for Virtual Paintout May 2010 Czech Republic challenge. It's oil on 10"x14" canvas board. The location for this painting is Rašínovo nábřeží, Prague, Prague, Česká republika.

This Google map picture caught my eyes because of its strong contrasting elements: the strong and dark foreground bridge, and bright white swans, and sky and city scene through under the bridge. People sitting and feeding the swans add some more interest to the painting. I also added a small corner of the road at the bottom right had corner, as a reminder there was a Google van there. (similar to another Virtual Paintout painting I did a couple of months ago)

Water Parade Reflection

This is for Word Press May 2010 challenge. It's oil on 8"x10" canvas board.

The reference photo for this challenge is Rose Festival in Portland Oregon, there are some parade boats on a river. I thought the picture was very busy, but what caught my eye the most was the water and the reflection of one of the boat's tail. So I decided to paint a semi abstract painting, of the water and the reflection. The boat's tail had bright red and white stripes, looking almost like a Chinese dragon boat. That's why there's red and white mixed in the water reflection.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Yellow Tulips

This is the May 2010 Rookie Painter challenge. It's oil on 10"x12" canvas board.

This web site has good still life challenges. The reference picture had a pot of tulips, with a yard chair and deck in the background. I decided I was just going to paint the flowers, with its leaves. The pot, the chair, the deck were too much noise for me. I wanted to show delicate flower petals under the sun, and I wanted to show leaves as they made the flowers "dance". I decided to use a dark background for a strong contrast with the flowers, and to make the flowers "pop". (It's actually black mixed with ultramarine blue and violet. It's kinda hard to see.)

It took me a couple of hours of careful sketching, especially on the leaves. I had to artificially shrink the stems from the reference photo so everything will fit onto my canvas. I wanted to make sure the middle flower does not fall in the middle of the canvas but yet the flowers are big enough to catch the eyes and yet keeping the proportion. I had also to decide what leaves to keep or not keep in the painting. The placements of the leaves are somewhat different from the reference photo now I shrunk the stems.

I did a quick underpainting, flowers and stems in yellow orchre acrylic, and background in mars black and ultramarine blue acrylic. With the color, leaves I used tree green and sap green, darken with complimentary red color, while the flowers I used cadmium yellow on the warm part, lemon yellow and my new Gamblin radian yellow on the sunny part with lots of white, darken with complimentary purple. I used Kolinsky brushes number 1 and 2.

It took me a few hours to do just the leaves. I thought to myself, man, these leaves sure are complicated, with so many shapes and shades. The leaves could be an abstract painting on their own! The flowers were relatively easier, although I had to make sure I didn't add too much purple to make the shadows too strong.

I'm glad the painting turned out ok. I kinda like the middle flower jumping out at you. I was also glad I had my Kolinsky brushes whose tips go back to shape, unlike some of my other brushes where the tip frizzes out after a while.

Brick and Leave

This was for April Word Press challenge, it's oil on 8"x10" canvas board. The reference picture was a brick wall, with some pipes and leaves. At first I was like, oh geez, what am I gonna do with this brick wall. Then I recently checked out a book from the library on Georgia O'Keeffe, since I am doing an abstract flower painting at Anastasia Art, and I had no idea how to do an abstract painting.

O'Keeffe did many abstract flower paintings, and she bascially enlarged the object so big and she only painted a portion of the object and people had to look at the painting closely to see what it is. She had several paintings with leaves, showing veins and light and shades. So I thought, I would do a Georgia O'Keeffe on this brick wall. Of course mine is nothing like the great master.

Canary Island - Spain

This was for April 2010 Virtual Paintout challenge. The city in April was Canary Island. I searched all over and there were many possibilities. My husband liked this picture with strong lines, so I gave it a tried.

There was a very strong perspective element in this, so I spent a bit of time sketching, with all the perspective lines, the center being in the ocean next to the red building. When I was painting the palm trees, it felt like I was painting bamboo leaves in Chinese brushing painting! I thought the tree shadows were interesting. Oxana commented that this painting was lacking in theme. Probably, but it was definitely a good study in perspective.

Tea Kettle and Books

This was for the April 2010 Rookie Painter challenge. The reference picture actually got good composition, I thought, so I painted the picture as is. It's oil on 10"x12" canvas board.

I spent more time painting the tea kettle, which is basically a reflection of the scene around it. It used the mixture of ivory black, burnt umber, and ultramarine blue to make black, and kept taking out half of the mixture and adding in white. I ended up with about 12 shades of grey, plus black and white, and painted the kettle with number 1 and 2 brushes. I also found that painting the straight edges for the books to be very challenging, free handed and making sure my hands were not shaking! I kept out all the book titles since those would distract from the tea kettle, and I kept the books not too painted so the focus can be on the tea kettle.

Fluffy Bird

I saw a picture with three little fluffy birds at Studio Atelier challenge, and I had to paint this fluffy one since he was SO cute. I wanted to show the fluffy texture of the little birdie, you almost want to hold it with your two hands.

I did a quick underpainting in yellow orchre and burnt umber acrylic paints, like water color. Then I used oil paint with my number 1 and 2 brushes, to show fluffy feathers. I also tried my new tube of Gamblin Colbat Teal on the ground and background. Oil on 8"x10" canvas board.

Winter Sunset Snow Scene

This was done at Anastasia Art, oil on 36"x26" stretched canvas. It took me a couple of months to do. It's got a cool color sun reflecting into warm color river. The sunset gives the snow a bit of coral red glow. Getting the snow, especially the ice and snow floating in the water, was a bit tricky. The floating ice was darker, but I couldn't use dirty color (Oxana's term. That means greys or muddy color I guess) Hmmm. I felt like I was a chemist, cooking up different colors and hoping they weren't "dirty". At end, I decided violet grey was a great color (I should buy a tube for myself at home).

Heidi Picking Red Fruits

We took this picture last December in Taiwan when we were up at the Big Snow Mountain (we didn't see any snow tho). Heidi was just running and playing around, and she was picking off all these little red fruits. I had no idea if they were poisonous, good thing she didn't eat them.

The painting was done quickly, so the strokes especially for the background were very loose. I liked how light bounced off her hair and jacket, and her face was in the shadow. I had to repaint her face twice since I didn't get the shadow color quite right the first time. Oil on 9.5"x12.5" paper.

Mary Magdalene - Italian Renaissance

This was for Follow the Masters March 2010 challenge, Italian Renaissance. It's oil on 12"x12" canvas board.

I was always curious how the Renaissance style paintings got their special look, a bit yellowish, and portraits where almost every face is glowing like porcelines. So I did some research on the internet, and saw some instructions on You Tube. People had used something called the Flemish style painting, where the canvas were primed, and layers of underpaintings were done in brownish color and then black and white before color is finally applied. The color layers were applied thinly as artists often times had to make their own color instead of like us today just buy tubes of color from the art stores or off the internet.

Before I started I had to chose what painting to do. I wanted to do something relatively non-complicated in terms of composition, and I didn't want to do something that's too common. So I looked around and found Italian Renaissance painter Giovani Bellini's Mary Magdalene. It's actually part of a bigger painting,
"Madonna with Child, and St. Mary Magdalene and St. Catherine". I liked the facial expression, she even had a double chin! So I had to paint this real woman.

So I first sketched the head, then put a layer of brown acrylic, followed by a layer of thinned out brownish greenish oil. When the oil layer was dried, about a week, I did the burnt umber layer, thinning out burnt umber oil paint, and painting it like using water color.

After that layer was dried (about another 1 week), I did another layer in black and white. The black and white layer is supposedly what gives that "Renaissance glow". Before I did the black and white layer, I rubbed the canvas with linseed oil, I even used half an onion to rub the canvas! With the black and white, I used 2 part ivory black, 1 part burnt umber, and a bit of ultramarine blue. With this mixture, I kept taking out half, adding about a part of white to the remaining, until I got something very close to white. I think I got about 10 shades of grey from this. I used several very small brushes, applying the greys, and using a small soft hair brush to blend out the color. This is where I paid a little more attention to the hair.

After the black and white layer was dried, about another week, I then applied color. By this time, I was already under the gun for the challenge's deadline. So I only did the first layer of color. If I had more time, I think the painting could use more refinements, and it can definitely use a layer of glazing to deepen the tone and give it a "bling" effect. I think going forward if I do more portraits, I would consider doing a layer of black and white underpainting to the face to give it "the glow".

Starvanger Norway

I've never been to Norway before, and this painting was done using Google Map for the Virtual Paintout March 2010 challenge. It's oil on 10"x12" canvas board.

It was fun poking around Google Map for something I wanted to paint. There were several possibilities, I chose this one because it's very inviting to the viewer. You almost feel like you want to jump in and join the biker. The road slanted from lower left going up to the right also gives you the inviting feeling. It's got interesting roofs with a boat hiding in between, and I liked the shadows too, although when I had to paint the shadows, getting the right orientation was a bit tricky. I even left a bit of the road at the bottom right hand corner, as reminder there was a Google van there!

Birch Tree and River Reflection

This was for March 2010 Word Press challenge. Oil on 10"x12" canvas board.

The original picture I thought was a bit busy. So I decided to focus instead on one side of the river, and focusing on light shadows and reflections of the birch trees. Oxana had told me about a Russian impressionist painter Igor Grabar, and one of his paintings is called February Azure. So my painting is kinda inspired by Grabar's style, especially the vertial treatment of the sky in the negative spaces among the tree branches.

Bowls and Pot

This was for March 2010 Rookie Painter challenge. Oil on 9.5"x12.5" paper. I had to rearrange the bowls, even move the garbage disposer to other side, trying to balance out composition.

Sausalito 488 Bridgeway

I saw this Virtual Paintout blog at the end of Feb, couple of days before this challenge was due. It lets people use Google map to paint a street scene for a different city every month. Feb was San Francisco. I thought Sausalito would be a
good place to look.

I thought this scene got interesting composition (there was really a seagull looking at the camera in Google map), it also kinda represented the laid back Californian attitude. Even better, when we visited San Francisco a few months ago, we had brunch at this little Dutch diner that made excellent raspberry pancakes, and this diner was also on Bridgeway, not too far from where this picture was taken.

Snow in New York

This painting was for the Follow the Master Feb 2010 challenge, and was modeled after Robert Henri's Snow in New York, done with oil on 9.5"x12.5" paper. It's a good study on pespective. The center of the perspective is in the far distant building, and the painting started out as a drawing of pespective lines, like the rays from the sun.

The original painting was grey in the background, and the buildings in the foreground were very dark, and there were pops of bright red on various people and yellow mud. I started with light layer of paints, gradually built up. I kept the foreground buildings lighter than the original since for one I couldn't see too well from the internet photos what the darknes were intended to be. The snow on the top half of the painting was various light grey, sprayed on with a tooth brush. The snow was done using shades of grey and white with a palette knife.

Pennsylvania Snow Scene

This snow scene was for the feb 2010 Word Press challenge. I was doing another snow scene painting at Anastasia Art so this painting was leveraging what I had done there. The snow was different shades of blue and violet. This was done oil on 9.5"x12.5" paper.