Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hanging Towel with Small Bowl

This is for Rookie Painter December 2011 challenge. It's oil on 10x14 canvas panel.

This hanging towel may look very simple, but there are so many subtleties in its color and values. There are many creases and folds, and inside each crease, the value changes from dark to light. Around the creases, there are different values for the lights, and as it turns into the shadow side, value and color changes. Some edges are soft and some edges are sharp. The change in color into blue at the bottom of the towel also effects the color (warm / coolness) on the towel.

I can actually keep working to refine some more on this painting, but I had to stop as I need to pack for my family's two week vacation, finish writing all the holiday cards, pay the bills etc. So this is as far as I got with this painting.

Thank you to those of you who take the time to read my blog and leave such nice and encouraging comments. Happy holidays to everyone!

Foggy Bay

This is for Virtual Paintout, Eureka CA challenge. It's oil on 12x16 canvas panel.

When I saw this foggy scene at Arcata Bay (ref) in Eureka CA, it reminded me of some of Whistler's nocturne paintings. This scene is not exactly at night, but I wanted to try to capture the sense of fog and the different shades of grey on a foggy day.

I started out this painting with oil paint thinned out with turpentine, so the base color is similar to a water color wash. The foreground peninsular with the house has more color than the rest of the painting. I tried to lighten this greyish painting by adding in touches of yellow to give the hint that people have turned on their lights which were piercing through the greyish fog, similar to Whistler's nocturne paintings. I also tried to give a sense of sun breaking through by having shadows for the house, tree and the shed.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

This is for A Day Not Wasted, November 2011 challenge, Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, France. It's oil on 12x16 canvas panel.

This month's challenge is a beautiful Chateau in France. (ref) The reference photo looked beautiful, with wonderful sunlight and color. However, boy was this hard to paint. There were so many details with a Chateau like this. I don't like using rulers to draw lines when I sketch, so everything was done free hand. So my lines aren't exactly perpendicular or straight. But I figure I was more trying to capture the light and color rather than an architecturally correct picture.

The reflection was not easy since the first time I did it, it was too bright. I had to make the reflection greener and darker in value than the corresponding portion of the building above water.

Once I got the color mostly ok, I had to add in some details. I could have spent an arbitrary amount of time getting every detail down, but I have to stop here since I've got two more paintings to finish, lots of holiday cards to write, and to prepare to go off on a two week trip starting this weekend: pre-holiday crunch time!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Eden: Sci-Fi Apples

This was done at Anastasia Art House. It's oil on 24x20" stretched canvas.

Earlier in the fall, we were asked to work on a painting with three elements: fruits, flowers and stars. My first reaction was these three things really did not go together. Many people painted different fruits next to a vase of flowers on Mars, or under some starry night. I wanted to do something different.

When looking through pictures of fruits, I thought the top half of these green apples had some resemblance to the surface of Mars, with different peaks and valleys, and same color as a typical Martian! Then I thought I wanted the painting to be mostly cold in color. So I decided flowers really didn't go with the painting, and was only hinted via a vase behind the apples. In fact, I didn't want the whole vase, only a hint, and was reflective so the vase was totally not intrusive. So the composition was made up of the up-close in-your-face apples and hint of vase, while the background was an earth like planet, and a bunch of stars which echo the water droplets on the apples. Colors included prussian blue, cerulean blue, cinnabar, grass green, permanent green light, cadmium yellow etc.

I was gonna call the painting Sci-Fi Apples, for the lack of a better name. My husband decided the painting should be called Eden, as in eating apple in the Garden of Eden and falling from grace and be earth bound. I thought it was funny he was reading so much into this, as my original intent was that I did not want to paint flowers which did not go with fruits and stars!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sled Dog Winter Scene

This winter scene was done at Anastasia Art House. It's oil on 24x20" stretched canvas.

At the Art House, we had a choice to do a winter scene for the purpose of printing holiday cards. I always liked Monet's Magpie. It's a snowy winter scene with many shades of white. However, I didn't want to simply just copying Monet's work. So I changed the composition a little bit. I took out the Magpie sitting on the fence. Instead, I added sled dogs and some people in the background. The additional scene was based on a photo my friend Caroline took last year when she went dog sledding with her friend in Norway. I made the two runaway sled dogs to be the foreground focus. The sunlit snow was mainly lemon yellow mixed with white, while the snow in shadow was combination of blue grey, violet grey, and green grey. The background trees were warmer and based on violet red. Other colors used included van Dyke brown, ultramarine violet and blue, and yellow orchre.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Two Horses Grazing

This is for Virtual Paintout Nov 2011, Arles France challenge. It's oil on 12x16 canvas panel.

This is my second submission to the challenge this month. I've never really painted horses before, so when I saw this photo, I wanted to give it a try. (ref) I also liked the dusk sun light coming from behind so the horses would be in the shadow except for the edges where the sun hit. The reference photo was not too clear on the detail of the horses. Since I was making these horses the focus of this painting, I had to add more detail to the main horse, especially the face. I would have loved to spend more time to get the horses better anatomically precise, however I'm running out of time as I've been helping my younger son's school with their Christmas performance, so this would have to be it. Finally, I added some sun rays with a bigger brush to give the painting more interest.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Peony Peach Pitcher

This is for Rookie Painter Nov 2011 challenge, Peony Peach Pitcher challenge. It's oil on 12x16 canvas board.

The set up for this still life challenge is closer to a classical still life painting: multiple items cluster together, dark background, and light trying to come from one direction. (ref) However to me, this challenge reference photo had a number of issues that I need to work through. To get ideas on how to even approach this challenge, I revisited a book that I read last year, "Problem Solving for Oil Painters" by Gregg Kreutz, as well as classical still life paintings by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin.

I thought the reference photo was too heavy on the right side with the big peony flower and while on the left there was this little plum. Behind the plum it seemed like there were some grapes hiding in the back. So I decided to put a few grapes in the foreground with the plum, which I later changed into a peach, trying to balance out the peony. The peony was also too bleached out in the photo, probably due to the strong flash light. I gave the flower more pinkish peachy color and a little more depth. Also, in order to achieve color harmony, instead of the redish / purplish colored plum on the left, I changed it to more orange color peach to match the pinkish peachy peony.

The lights and reflections on the water pitcher was too confusing and too much, especially with the flash light, the box, and reflections of the photographer with another person. So I simplified the pitcher. Color scheme was also a big issue. I decided to keep the background relatively cool in order to contrast the warm colored peony and peach. Finally, with the whole box framing the still life items, it would have been interesting had I not have to change so many things. So I decided to skip it so I have one fewer thing to worry about.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Arles Alley

This is for Virtual Paintout, November 2011, Arles, France challenge. It's oil on 12x16 canvas panel.

There were several nice possibilities to paint at Arles. This one (ref) stood out because it reminded me so much of some of John Singer Sargent's Venice paintings with narrow streets. The lady in the reference photo was deep in thought, walking down the narrow street in the shadow, while farther down the street, there was strong sunlight. The walls enclosing the alley were aged and have characters, and also made people feel claustrophobic. I wanted to try to capture all these using Sargent style (well, my interpretation of). I added two more people walking from a scene not too far from this original scene. (ref).

Given the painting will mostly be in the shadow, I prepared my canvas first with black acrylic color, and then painted with successive layers of oil paint. At first I tried to paint the walls with brushes, but I couldn't get the roughness and texture I wanted, so I picked up my palette knives. The lady in sunglasses is walking through the narrow alley into a slightly open area in foreground, the it's a little brighter and warmer. The alley gets darker the further it is, until it opens up to the sunny area, painted with cool light.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Accordion Player in Paris

This is for A Day Not Wasted, Oct 2011 challenge. It's oil on 10x12 canvas panel.

This is actually not an easy challenge. (ref) The most difficult part is to sketch out the accordion player. I first painted the whole panel black and then sketched using a light color color pencil. For the background houses, I used relatively thin oil paint, so some of the black under-painting was showing through, and the color being different tones of grey. I also got rid of the railing, as I thought that was too much distraction.

For the foreground person and the road I used thicker paint and more non-grey color as well as bigger contrast in values. I also intensified the colors for the accordion player, such as his green sweater and red accordion, so that the whole painting is not all grey. I also got rid of the container for money, again I thought that was too much distraction.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


This is for Studio Atelier Oct 2011 challenge, Paint Your Pet. It's oil on 12x12 inch stretched canvas.

I'm so glad the deadline for this challenge has been extended as I needed time to finish this painting. When I saw this challenge (ref), I wanted to do it, but I didn't have a good picture of our dog. Then one day our dog did nice pose and held the pose long enough for me to snap a picture on my iPhone.

We got our dog earlier this year from the SPCA. I read in the newspaper in the beginning of the year that an illegal dog breeder had been raided, and there were over 100 pure bred dogs confiscated. These poor dogs had been locked up in cages for the purpose of having babies to be sold by the breeder. Some of these dogs were in pretty bad shape. The ones in better shape were up for adoption. My younger son and I went to the SPCA, and saw this beautiful Pomeranian, very gentle and very calm. She's eight years old and thus is already an old lady. When we got her, she had an ear infection, nuclear sclerosis, and just gotten spayed, but she's so gentle and such a cutie, so we took her home. We named her Charlotte because my younger son was reading EB White's Charlotte Web at the time so we named her after the nice spider in the story.

To paint this, my son helped me painted the background black using acrylic paint, and also the under-color for the dog an orange red color. The oil color I used for the painting included cadmium orange, burnt sienna, cadmium yellow deep, gold orchre, ultramarine violet, and white. I first blocked in the dog with big strokes of colors, but not too thick in paint. Then I used smaller brushes to refine the color, and finally a very thin brush to paint in the whiskers and suggestions of individual hair.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bananas and Oranges

This is for Rookie Painter, November 2011 challenge. It's oil on 12x10 canvas board.

There were three reference photos given (ref), I chose this one because I liked the direct sunlight onto the fruits. I did change the color of the orange from green back to orange. The background is a cooler shade of grey in order to contrast with the fruits. The main colors included cadmium yellow light and dark, burnt sienna, sap green, ultramarine blue and violet, burnt umber, cadmium orange, lemon yellow, Paynes grey and white.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sunrise at Dorgali Nuroro Cafe

This is for Virtual Paintout Oct 2011 challenge, Sardinia. It's oil on 12x16 canvas panel.

This is my second submission to the challenge, and this one is definitely not the easiest to do. At first, I was attracted to the morning light at this reference photo (ref). I wanted to try to paint the cool morning light, with the sun ray spilling over from the top of the mountain. I thought it would be a nice atmospheric theme to do.

Sunlight and the ocean were the easiest part. The hardest part was to decide what to actually include on the bottom right hand side of the painting. Not the easiest in terms of the composition. In fact I had sat on this for over a week going back and forth on what to include what not to. I was gonna include the lady, but at the end I just couldn't get her to look right or put her in the right place in the painting, so I painted her out. Now this is the last day for the submission, and I'm running out of time, so I've just included a hint of a table of morning diners, couple of man holes to break up the boring road. I'm sure if I keep staring at this painting, the composition will change yet again, but I have to stop somewhere and it might as well be now, and to move on to other paintings. The main colors are lemon yellow, white, Paynes grey, cobalt blue, ultramarine violet, van Dyke brown, etc.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cliff at Dorgali Nuoro

This is for October 2011 Virtual Paintout, Sardinia Italy challenge. It's oil on 12x16 canvas panel.

Sardinia is a beautiful place from traveling virtually via Google Maps. This reference photo caught my eyes (ref) because of its contrast between light and shadow, and it also reminded me of some of Monet's cliff paintings, such as his Cliffs at Etretat and Cliff near Fecamp. I really admired Monet's use of color, so brilliant, and all the colors work so perfectly together. So I decided I would give this photo a try, using (well, at least my attempt at) Monet like style and color for this particular scene.

The sunny portions were based on cadmium yellow and orange, while the shadow portion is a combination of ultramarine violet, cobalt, violet grey. There were many other colors in there, such as yellow orchre, sap green, terra rosa, etc. At the end I painted in a sail boat in the far distance to give more interest on the right hand side of the canvas and also some sense of scale to the cliff.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Bowl of Candies

This is for Rookie Painter, October 2011 challenge. It's oil on 10x10 canvas panel.

These candies with candy wrappers are actually pretty hard to paint. (ref) It calls for lots of simplification as it is impossible to capture every single crinkle and crease of the candies wrappers. The colors I've used are relatively bright: vermilion, cadmium orange, Indian yellow, cadmium yellow, Gamblin's radiant red, burnt umber, burnt sienna, alizarin, ultramarine violet, cobalt blue, and white.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

French Waitress

This is for A Day Not Wasted Sept 2011 challenge, French Waitress. It's oil on 6x8 canvas panel.

When I saw the original photo (ref) , I thought there were two ways to approach this painting. One is a pure portrait of the girl, minus everything else, while the other option is to take the whole scene but selecting elements in the pictures to come up with an over composition. I chose the latter since there were elements in the reference picture that were interesting.

I first got rid of all the noise on the wall - magazines and magazine racks - too busy, and instead I painted a solid wall. The woman on the left I thought was interesting since she helped to show there was a secondary light source, also her curve broke up with the wall's straight lines. I also got rid of the bricks outside the front window, again too busy I thought. I kept a letter and a hint of people outside. Originally I was going to stop there. However, the painting looked flat and lacking in depth. So at the end, I decided to add in the blurry foreground outline of a person and the two water goblets. At this point, I had to stop since there were plenty of details for this little 6x8 painting!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Once Upon a Time

This is for September 2011 Daily Paintworks, The Fall's challenge. It's oil on 12x16 canvas panel.

This DPW challenge suggested to first tone the canvas with a bright color, and then to let peeps of this bright color show through a fall themed painting. This DPW challenge was again something new I really wanted to try. So I looked through my old photos since Hong Kong, where we live now, doesn't really offer any fall colors like those back in the northeastern US. I found this picture when we visited the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park New York along the Hudson Valley. My older son was only a little baby then and was fascinated by the brightly colored dried leaves on the lawn at the Mansion.

To tone the canvas, I used a mixture of red oxide and yellow orchre acrylic paint. Once the acrylic dried, I used oil paint and a size 10 brush to block in basic color blocks for the trees, sky and lawn, leaving holes with the underlying color showing through. Then I went in with smaller brushes to paint in the baby and added in more bright highlights. The main colors included sap green, cadmium yellow, cadmium orange, cadmium red, mars yellow, ultramarine violet and yellow orchre.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Paris Road Bridge - New Orleans

This is my second submission to the Sept 2011 Virtual Paintout New Orleans challenge. It's oil on 12x16 canvas panel.

I have been doing some research on Ralston Crawford paintings lately since a commissioned work I'm working on is of Precisionist style with deep perspective, and Ralston Crawford is one of the better known artists of that style.

While I was virtually traveling New Orleans in Google Maps, I came upon this bridge at Paris Road. There's one view (ref) that reminded me so much of Ralston Crawford's White Stone Bridge and with the same type of lighting from the right. So even though I've already submitted to this month's VP, I decided I had to try to paint this Paris Road Bridge Precisionist style.

I used the long deep perspective that was also used in the White Stone Bridge painting. The bridge structure was no easy feat, and I had to simplify the bridge a lot. I found painting long straight lines with oil very hard to do. I sketched in the basic shapes with a ruler, and then painted all the lines in oil basically free handed, and boy was this more tedious than painting the peonies petal by petal earlier this month! Color scheme was very simple, blue, white and grey plus a touch cadmium yellow and orange. Finally I added some wispy clouds with a fan brush to help draw the eyes up even more.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Three Onions on Chopping Block

This is for Rookie Painter Sept 2011 challenge, Three Onions. It's oil on 10x12 canvas panel.

I thought the original reference photo was fine, so I didn't alter too much from the original. (ref) I kept the color mostly in the same family. For the onions, they were mainly cadmium orange, burnt sienna, mars yellow, cadmium yellow, raw sienna, raw umber, ultramarine violet, cadmium red, coral, and white. Chopping block was white plus raw sienna, plus all the left over colors from the onions, while the background is Gamblin's radiant violet plus white.

Red Hibiscus - Limited Strokes

This is for Daily Paintworks, limited strokes challenge. It's oil on 6x8 canvas panel.

This challenge really pushed me out of my comfort zone - limited strokes. Since painting in oil is so forgiving, it's very easy to go over the same stroke over and over again try to, for example, correct color. With this challenge, we were supposed to use a bigger brush, size 8 or above, load it up with color, and one stroke per shape.

I chose a picture of a red hibiscus I took from our backyard a few years ago. It certainly was very tempting to go over the strokes trying to fix things, but here I had to learn to let it go and let it be - so hard to do! The flower itself took about 12 strokes, plus 9 highlights here and there. The dark purple background took 6 very large strokes, and the abstract leaves took 6 strokes, bringing the total of 33. This challenge makes me realize that I need to need to do more of these kind of limited strokes exercise and there are certainly not easy to do!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sun Moon Lake - 4 values

This is for Daily Paintworks Sept 2011 four value challenge. It's oil on 12x16 canvas panel.

The Daily Paintworks actually has some good challenges, and this is my second submission. This four value challeng was interesting because we were basically restricted to using 4 basic values and forced to simplfy what we saw. I was looking for something that would look interesting in a black and white, and remembered this picture we took a few years ago at Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan. The boats and dock were supposedly used by Chiang Kai-Shek decades ago. The picture I thought was beautiful in color and would be very nice in black and white, so I decided to use this.

The four values are: 1. lightest grey: sky and sky reflection, dock, 2. medium grey, far mountains and mountain reflections, 3. dark grey, near mountain and reflection, boat reflections, roof of boats, 4. very dark grey (cobalt blue + burnt umber), boat, side of dock and lantern posts. It was hard painting this photo with just four color, and I cheated a little. For example, for the far mountains, if they were just one solid color, they would lack definition. So I added in a little line of lightest grey and did some blending. I also added a pop of color for the lanterns, just to make the painting a little more interesting.

Chilling Out by Lake Pontchartrain, New Orleans

This is for Virtual Paintout Sept 2011 challenge, New Orleans. It's oil on 12x16 canvas panel.

Started the virtual tour by Lake Pontchartrain, I came upon these two guys sitting by the lake just chilling out. One guy dozed off and slumped over while the other guy was looking out to the lake. (ref) To me, I wondered if the two guys were involved in the rebuilding of the city, and one got too tired and rested by the same water that caused so much damage, and while the other guy was reflecting on what had happened. Okay, it sounds a bit cliché but that's what had caught my eyes.

The Google map image quality was actually very poor, so it was hard to make out the details what the men looked like. Moreover, the color in Google map was too dull and grey. So the composition and color for this painting took a bit of imagination on my part, such as giving the water more movement to the water in contrast to the people resting.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Kota Kinabalu Sunset Clouds

This is for Daily Paintworks Help the Children of Africa Challenge . It's oil on 12x16 canvas panel.

This is the first time I've submitted to the Daily Paintworks. There are so many excellent artists participating and the paintings are all so beautiful! When I saw this charity challenge, I had to do it.

This photo was taken last year when we visited Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia. The villa we stayed at was won from a fund raising auction at my younger son's school the year prior. Before the trip, I knew where Malaysia was, but I had no idea Kota Kinabalu existed (it's in the middle of the Pacific ocean next to Brunei), and boy was this place beautiful! The first afternoon we got there, a rain stormed had just passed, and there was a double rainbow. We sat down looking out to the ocean and the rainbow. As the sun started to set, there were these massive colorful clouds. So when I had to find something to paint for this challenge, this picture was the first one I thought of.

The main colors included Prussian blue, ultramarine violet, sap green, white, cadmium orange, cadmium yellow, coral, colbat blue, compose blue, Portland grey medium, and violet grey.

All proceed from the sale of this painting will go to Action Against Hunger.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Two White Peonies

This is for Rookie Painter, August 2011 challenge. It's oil on 11x16 canvas panel.

When looking at the reference photo (ref photo), I wanted to try to capture the luminescence quality of the flowers. Having so many patels made the peonies hard to paint. The values between light and shadow were so close, and thus additional complexity.

When painting the flowers, I actually made the value difference between light and shadow a little more pronounced for ease of painting (still not that easy) and also to give the flower more definition, rather then just a couple of white blobs. I also lightened up the background a little for the smaller flower on top trying to avoid having the painting too bottom heavy. The main colors were naples yellow, coral, Gamblin's radiant red, ultramarine violet, violet grey, sap green, ultramarine blue, van Dyke brown, burnt umber, yellow orchre and white.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

We Are So Tired

This is for Virtual Paintout August 2011 Fairbank Alaska challenge. It's oil on 12x12 canvas panel.

While browsing through all the endless tress and big skies in Alaska, I came upon these three people cross-country skiing on wheels (ref photo) (not sure what to call this sport, cross country roller skating? cross country skiing on land? roller skating on skis?) In any case, I looked at these three people on Google Maps for many frames, and they didn't move much. The front two guys held that bent down I'm-out-of-breath position for a long time. This scene caught my eyes because I thought if I were brave enough to do something like this, I would be exactly like them - completely out of breath and so tired.

The main colors for this included permanent green light, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, sap green, Portland grey, Paynes grey, cerulean, ultramarine violet and blue, alizarin and white. I also added in more sunlight coming through from the trees as much of the picture is in the tree shadow.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Taipei 101 at Dusk

We visited Taipei for two weeks in the summer, and this is view we had: of Taipei 101, one of the tallest building in Taiwan. When I saw the nice sunset, I had to paint this. This is oil on 10x12 canvas panel. I used mostly the left over paint I had used for previous paintings: cobalt blue, ultramarine violet, cadmium orange, terra rosa, coral, cadmium yellow, Paynes grey and burnt umber.

Gay Head, Martha's Vineyard (Larger version)

This is a commissioned work of Gay Head, Martha's Vineyard. It's oil on 32x24" (25P) stretched canvas.

After doing a prototype (see post a couple of paintings ago), I had some idea in my mind on color and composition, so I went onto the larger canvas. Most elements here were similar to the prototype. However, in the larger version, I used more knife work for the cliffs since at this size, I couldn't get the nice edges with the brushes anymore. It took a bit of trial and error and scrapping off before I got something decent. I also gave it a bit more detail with the ocean than in the prototype. The colors used here are similar to those in the prototype: cobalt, cerulean, coral, cadmium orange, terra rosa, Indian red, cadmium yellow, burnt umber, ultramarine violet, violet grey, and Paynes grey. Thanks Phil and Lorraine for your donation into Tzu Chi Foundation for these three paintings: Gay Head, Ethan and Dylan at Farm Neck Golf Course.

Dylan at Farm Neck Golf Course

This is another commissioned work. It's oil on 10x14 (4f) stretched canvas. Dylan is the youngest (6) and the smallest of the boys, but yet he has great concentration, and he gave it his best. Go Dylan! Similar to his brother's painting, the main colors included sap green, cadmium yellow, Paynes grey, violet grey, ultramarine violet.

Ethan at Farm Neck Golf Course

This is a commissioned work. It's oil on 10x14" stretched canvas (size 4F). Ethan was taking golf lessons at Farm Neck Golf Course on Martha's Vineyard. He's got one of the best posture among the boys, even though he's a lefty. It was getting late in the day so the sun was setting while the sky was overcast and a bit foggy. He got pretty good distance on the driving range for a 9 year old! The main colors for the painting included sap green, cadmium yellow, ultramarine violet, Paynes' gray, and violet grey.

Gay Head, Martha's Vineyard (Smaller version)

This is a small prototype before I do a larger commissioned version. It's oil on 11x14 canvas panel.

This is a view from the Gay Head light house observation area in the town of Aquinnah on Martha's Vineyard. Our photo from this year was cloudy. So I searched on the internet for sunnier pictures. The design of this picture is a composite of elements from our own as well several other sunnier pictures, plus a bit of my own liberty. I heightened the color to get the contrast between blue and orange, light and shadows. The main colors included cobalt, cerulean, terra rosa, Indian red, sap green, coral, violet grey, ultramarine violet, Paynes grey and cadmium yellow.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thinking on the Bus

This is my second submission for July 2011 Virtual Paintout challenge, Channel Islands - Jersey, UK. It's oil on 11x14 canvas panel.

Since the first painting I did for the challenge this month I didn't have to travel virtually too much, I decided to do a little bit of virtual traveling in Google Map to check out the island. This bus scene (ref photo) caught my eyes since I could immediately identify with the lady in pink, who was looking out the bus windows, oblivious to people getting on the bus or other riders. It reminded me of when I was commuting from New Jersey into Manhattan, riding on buses into Port Authority, and looking out the window thinking or day dreaming. This scene is also kind of Hopper-ish : very little interactions among the people in the painting. You wonder what the lady in pink is thinking about, is she lonely, troubled, or just day dreaming.

To start the painting , I prepared the canvas panel with an acrylic ground of black. There are a variety of colors I used here, such as yellow orchre, burnt sienna, burnt umber, van dyke brown, sap green, cobalt blue (left over on my palette from previous paintings), white, cadmium yellow, cadmium red, cadmium orange, coral, Paynes grey, ultramarine violet and white. I even changed one of the bus rider to look like myself in there (the one with pony tail on right), although I kept skin tone darker not to be too noticeable. Now the painting is done, I need to pack up my gears for all the driving and flying I will be doing over the next week.

Three Tall Trees

This is for Rookie Painter July 2011 challenge. It's oil on 11x14 canvas panel.

I really like the vertical effect of the reference photo (ref photo), the bright and dark contrast, so I had to do this challenge, even with crazy summer travel schedule. The relatively simple palette included cobalt blue, van Dyke brown, burnt umber, sap green, white, cadmium yellow. I added a pop of orange family, including cadmium orange and burnt sienna, to compliment the mostly blue tone photo. I also lightened up the shadow portion of the trees a tiny bit since in the reference photo the shadows were a bit dark.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bonne Nuit Beach, Jersey, UK

This is for July 2011, Virtual Paintout, Jersey UK challenge. It's oil on 11x14 canvas panel.

Since I've never been to this part of Europe, I just randomly checked out the north shore of the island of Jersey off the coast of France, and dropped the yellow man in google maps, and viola, I saw this nice bay scene. (ref photo) The sky, the ocean, the beach, and mountain, makes this scene beautiful landscape material. In addition, this scene also reminded me one of Ray Ellis' paintings. The colors I used included cobalt blue, cerulean blue, sap green, van dyke brown, cadmium yellow, cadmium yellow deep, yellow orchre, ultramarine violet and white. I also kept the strokes relatively large and loose. In addition, I took out shrubs from the originaly photo so to see more of the beach.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Edgartown Lighthouse and Sailboat

We have been on Martha's Vineyard almost every summer. This year I finally decided to do a painting on the famous lighthouse in Edgartown. This is oil on 18x24 stretched canvas.

We visited the Edgartown lighthouse in mid afternoon, so the sun was starting to cast a side shadow. The summer beach roses were in full bloom. I took a few pictures, and the pictures reminded so much of a painting of Edgartown Lighthouse by the great Ray Ellis, who lives on Martha's Vineyard. The color and composition for this painting was inspired by an Ellis painting.

We were fortunately enough to have met Ray this summer at a gallery on Water Street in Edgartown. He was even nice enough to tell me the palette he typically used. Of course I had to get his autograph, took a picture with him and bought a few of his books, which I'm going to study some more in detail!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Three Sisters

This is a commissioned work of three sisters, Rena, Mary and Susie. It's oil on 18x24 stretched canvas.

The original photo was taken earlier this year at a family wedding in London. As the three sisters had been living in different parts of the world (Australia and Asia), it was truely a joyous occasion when all three of them were photographed together, relaxed and happy. After looking at some of my previous paintings, Rena asked me to try to capture the essence of that moment.

It took me a while looking at the photograph trying visualize in my head what the end painting might look like. (I have the habit of needing to visualize the end product in my head before I can pick up the brushes.) There were a number of technical difficulties associated with working from a candid photograph.

First of all, because of the flash light, all of the skins in the photo were a bit over exposed and too white and flat. So when I was painting, I had to deepen the shadows, and also make the skin color warmer than those in the photo while keeping the general brightness.

Also, I had to decide how much of the bodies to include. The original photo included almost the full bodies. I had to work backward to determine the amount of body to include on canvas. I wanted to place the heads above the middle line of the canvas and the faces to be big enough to be the main focus of the painting. So as I was sketching it out, the upper torsos were all I could include. Futhermore, I had to squeeze the sisters closer together due to the limited canvas width.

The original background was the banquet hall, with the wedding guests standing around, purplish lighting and round paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling. At first I thought I would just make it simple and keep the background black. However, I thought it would be too serious of a portrait background, especially with the big smiles and relatively relaxed postures. So I decided to keep the party feel, using a toned down purple and faint suggestions of round laterns with fuzzy edges so that the background would not overwhelm the portraits.

To begin painting, I first prepared the canvas with an acrylic black, including the four edges of the canvas. Once dried, I sketched in the rough outline of each person, and I painted the faces first using black and white underpainting. This is the Flemish technique I had also used before (see the Magdalena painting). I thought doing a black and white underpainting for the faces would give me a chance to fix any facial feature inaccuracies in my sketch, and also would enhance the brightness of the faces for the final product.

Getting the facial features right for one person was already hard enough, I had to make sure all three of them were accurate in terms of features and relative porportions of all three sisters. Moreover, I had to make sure also there were enough similarities among the three to convince people these were sisters. This definitely was not easy.

Once the black and white underpainting was done, I put in colors. The skin colors included Rowney flesh tint, viridian, naples yellow, violet grey, permanent rose, madder, and white. Hair included cadmium yellow, yellow orchre, ultramaine blue and violet, burnt sienna, and white. Dresses included colors such as alizarin, verimillion, ultramarine violet, viridian, compose blue, permanent green light, and magenta.

After working on it for about a month and a half, I was at a good stopping point to give the painting to Rena, especially given both of our travel schedules. I was very glad that she was very pleased with the painting. Also, in lieu of paying me anything, Rena is making a generous donation to the UNICEF. This painting is by far one of the most difficult paintings I've done to date, and I'm very glad to have been given the opportunity to do so.

Mountains and Clouds

This painting was done based on a photograph at Anastasia Art House. It's oil on 20x24 stretched canvas.

The original photograph looked a lot like Chinese brush painting, which is an ink and water based technique. I thought it would be interesting trying to use oil paint to achieve a different feel.

First, I started with the mountains, using oil paint diluted with two different mediums: turpentine and varnish. Diluted with turpentine, oil paint became thin and runny, and the runny paint created vertical edges and lines for the mountains. In fact, many of the runniness went all the way down to the bottom of the canvas. Diluted with varnish, oil paint was still runny, but less so than turpentine. So oil paint diluted with varnish was used on top of the turpentine layer, in order to give the mountains more definition, especially to deepen the edges along the top and some of the subtle valleys and rocks. The oil paint I used included sepia, olive green, viridian and cerulean blue.

After the initial mountain layer was dried, clouds were added. The clouds in the sky were warmer in color, using white plus cadmium yellow and coral. The clouds surrounding the mountains were colder and greyer, using white plus blue grey, violet grey, green grey, and grey on grey. Originally I painted the clouds using paint brushes, but I couldn't get the softness I wanted. So I used my fingers to smudge out the paint, giving it a lighter feel.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Moncks Bay Rider - New Zealand

This is for June 2011 Virtual Paintout, New Zealand Challenge. It's oil on 10x12 canvas board.

This month I was again running out of time because of the commission portrait work I was doing, also getting ready to go onto our 15 hour flight. While going through Google Map, I was drawn to yet another bicycle scene: a rider around Moncks Bay near Christ Church. (ref photo) I thought it was interesting because of the sunset light on the bike rider and its Z shape composition, and nice light and dark contrast.

The main color included compost blue, prussian blue, Paynes grey, yellow orchre, viridian, ultramarine violet, burnt umber, flesh tint, burnt sienna, orange, and cadmium yellow.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Forbidden City

This painting was done at Anastasia Art House. It's oil on 24x36 stretched canvas.

The picture is based a picture we took when we visited the Forbidden City in Beijing, China last fall. The photo was originally from the prospective of us, the tourist, looking up at these awesome buildings. In this painting, to make it less boring, I changed the perspective as being from a bird's point of view, flying towards one of the buildings. The angles of the perspectives are also skewed and a little more severe.

As the roofs took up the majority of the canvas, I created extra interest for the roofs with texture paste. Using a plastic fork, I created grooves on the paste. Texture paste was also used for some of the columns to give them a raised feel as well as some of the windows. That was a painstaking process, and took a few sessions at the Arthouse just on the texture.

Once the texture paste was dried, I painted with oil with the main color being Chinese red, vermilion, cadmium orange, chrome yellow, red brown, ultramarine violet and marine, raw and burnt umber, prussian blue, viridian and compose blue. At the end I added many details into the painting, including these little statues at the corner of the roof unique to ancient Chinese architecture, symbols on the exterior wall just under the roofs (those took a long time), as well as the gold color pattern at the top of the center building using pure gold color in acrylic.

This painting took a total of 4 months worth of sessions at Anastasia Art House. I finally had it framed, and it is hung now in my husband's office at work.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


This is for May 2011 Studio Atelier challenge, Sunflowers. It's oil on 20x24 stretched canvas.

I had always wanted a painting of sunflowers. So when I saw this challenge at Studio Atelier (ref), I thought I had to do the challenge. The single flower against a field of sunflowers with nice bright sunshine and blue sky makes a very nice painting. The yellow-orange colored flower is also a nice contrast to the blue sky.

I first prepared my canvas with a yellow orchre acrylic ground. The main colors included cadmium yellow, chrome yellow, cadmium orange, alizarin, madder, lemon yellow, viridian, sap green, ultramarine violet, burnt umber, yellow orchre, and compose blue for the sky. I also used sharper edges for the foreground flower, while fuzzier edges were used for the background flowers.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Morning Paper at Cap Ferrat

This is for Virtual Paintout May 2011 challenge, Cote d'Azur, France. It's oil on 10x12 canvas board.

We visited the French Riviera a few years ago and were just so charmed by the places we visited: Eze, Cap Ferrat, and Nice. So I started by looking in Eze and Cap Ferrat. I came upon this little cafe in Cap Ferrat and thought the scene reminded me of some of the paintings by Edward Hopper. I could either do mountain and ocean, or this scene, and I chose this scene. (ref photo)

I changed outdoor view to be pure harbor scene, as opposed to harbor behind the parking lot, and I also tried to lighten up the room just a tiny bit. This scene is not the easiest composition-wise especially when deciding what elements to keep and what to change. Hopefully I made this ordinary scene semi interesting.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Princess and the Flower Girl

This is for Calypso Moon Art Movement, May 2011 challenge, Royal Wedding (ref). It's oil on 10x12 canvas board.

I watched the Royal Wedding while I was painting "Beyond The Sea" (Hawaiian Sunset). and had to stop many times to stare at the TV because the wedding was just so beautifully done. So when I saw this challenge, I thought it would be nice to paint something from this wedding. Plus, I have a commissioned work I need to start soon involving some portraits, so I thought I would use this opportunity to practice my portrait skill for this challenge.

The scene I chose was from when the wedding party and the families were waving to the crowd from the balcony at Buckingham Palace. The littlest flower girl seemed to be bothered by the noise and also seemed to be bored or irritated. Kate bent down and tried to comfort her. I thought this show of kindness on Kate's part was so sweet and considerate. So I wanted to capture this "Kodak" moment with my paint and canvas. For composition purpose, I actually took two screen shots from the YouTube Royal Wedding Channel a couple of seconds apart, one with profile of the flower girl looking at Kate, and one with Kate looking at the flower girl, as the timing of the two looking at each other were actually not that perfectly timed on YouTube.

To begin painting, I applied a red oxide acrylic base to my canvas because I wanted the figures to have a warm glow. The oil colors I used included some standard portrait colors, such as Rowney flesh tint, naples yellow, cadmium orange, white, madder, alizarin, permanent rose, terre verde, burnt sienna, ultramarine violet, raw and burnt umber, and ultramarine blue as background (I don't have great photography skill, so this photo has a bit of shine in the dark blue background).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Three Red Pears

This is for Rookie Painter May 2011 challenge, three red pears. It's oil on 8x10 canvas board.

This month we are back to painting another fruit I am allergic to - pears (I think they're pears from the picture). (ref photo) I changed the dimension of the original photo just a slight bit so that the three pears would look less perfectly aligned and less equal in size. In this exercise I tried to make the fruits look as real as possible, and kept the red and green contrast but made the red a bit deeper than the photo. My main colors were cadmium yellow, lemon yellow, cadmium orange, Winsor red deep, alizarin, madder, ultramarine violet, burnt umber, permanent green light, viridian and white.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Beyond the Sea

This is for Calypso Moon Artist Movement, April 2011 challenge, Art in Music challenge. It's oil on 10x12 canvas board.

When I saw this challenge (ref), the first song that came into my mind was Beyond the Sea (La Mer). Everytime I look at the ocean, Beyond the Sea always comes into my mind. The ocean always has a calming and up lifting effect. I chose Bobby Darin's version of Beyond the Sea (music on YouTube) because this was quite humorous. The picture I chose to paint was from a photo we took a few years ago when we visited Hawaii, in the Makena area of Maui. It was quite breathtaking watching sunset with the ocean crashing onto the volcanic rocks.

The main colors for this painting include cadmium yellow, cadmium orange, prussian blue, ultramarine violet, burnt umber and white.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


This is for A Day Not Wasted April 2011 challenge. It's oil on 20x20 stretched canvas.

When I first saw the reference photo of the dog (think it's a bichon frise?) named Zoe (ref photo), I thought the picture was so nice that I had to paint it. Given the amount of detail needed for this dog portrait, I decided to go with a bigger canvas, 20"x20". Plus, my younger son has already put in the order that the finished painting will be hung in his room.

I first prepared the canvas with an acrylic base of yellow orchre for the light parts and violet for the shadows. Then the painting was done with many shades of white. The background is lemon yellow with white. The dog is white plus colors such as raw umber, ultramarine violet, terre verde, gold orchre, cadmium yellow.

As with any portraits, placements of the facial features takes many rounds of fine tuning. The fur color between the light and dark took many rounds of fine tuning too. I think I'm at a point I need to stop tweaking the painting or else the whole thing will turn into mud color. After this very good exercise, I have new found respect for painters who paint animals: they're not easy to paint!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Three Vases

This is for Rookie Painter, April 2011 challenge. It's oil on 8x10 canvas board.

We went away for the Easter holiday, I didn't have time to do this challenge in time. However, I like the reference still life photo (ref photo),with its warm tone, so I had to do it anyway. The yellow is basically a mix of Indian yellow, gold orchre and white. Warm light is a gold orchre, cadmium yellow and lots of white. The shadows include terre verde, ultramarine violet, permanent blue, prussian blue, sepia, burnt sienna, and raw umber.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Morning Stroll in Hakone

This is for Virtual Paintout, April 2011 challenge, Japan. It's oil on 10x12 canvas board.

This month's VP is selected to be in Japan, to pay tribute to the people in Japan in light of the disasters that have been unfolding there. We visited Japan a few years ago, and Hakone was one of the places we went. This scene of a man strolling by Lake Ashinoko caught my eyes because of the bright autumn background in contrast with a shady walking path. The painting itself is actually a composite of two views, not too far from each other. One with the man walking, and the other one with stronger light contrast. (ref photo 1, ref photo 2)

I first started with a thinned down oil paint for the background, including the bright mountain across the lake as seen in between the trees, sky and lake. It appeared from Google Map that it was autumn, so I added in cadmium orange in selective part of the painting. I also wanted to make the skinny pine trees on the left to look like lace, in contrast with the thicker vegetation on the right hand side. Patches of sun light were peeping through the trees, creating more interest for the eyes.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Waiting for the Bus - Cape Town

This is for Virtual Paintout March 2011 challenge, Cape Town, South Africa. It's oil on 10x12 canvas board.

This month I almost ran out of time to paint with the move, renovations and all the distractions that come along. I finally got myself to sit down to look for a scene and paint it. I found a group of school kids at the Table Mountain Reserve in Cape Town, and saw these three boys sitting around waiting for the bus. (ref photo) I thought it was interesting because of the three boys against a scenic background, while one boy sat on a trash can, as well as the light vs dark contrast and red vs green contrast. I added an extra person on the right to add additional interest to the composition.

Because of the darker tone of many of the elements in this painting, I prepared my canvas with a brownish black acrylic ground. The background, including the mountains and city, was painted using various shades and tones of grey. The foreground people are painted using more intense color, such as madder, alizarin, ultramarine violet, raw and burnt umber, prussian blue, Winsor red, vermilion, lemon yellow, naples yellow and white.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Three Creamers

This is for Rookie Painter March 2011 challenge - Three Creamers. It's oil on 8x10 canvas panel.

The original picture had three creamers of approximately the same sizes sitting in a straight line against a white background and on a white table top. (ref photo) I wanted to change around the composition to make it more interesting. I made the creamers different sizes: the blue one taller, brown one smaller.

I originally painted the creamers with a white background. However, I thought the white background made the whole painting very bright, so bright that I almost had to squint my eyes to look at the painting. So I decided to tone down the background with gray plus prussian blue. I decided on a cold blue gray so that to compliment the orange and brown creamers.

My palette included torrid gray, prussian blue, cadmium orange, Winsor dark red, alizarin, burnt sienna, terra rosa, Indian red, ultramarine violet, ultramarine blue, ceruoleum, cadmium yellow, lemon yellow and white. I also add a touch of Renaissance Gold (mixed in with ultramarine blue and yellow) for the gold handle for the blue creamer.

Love From Me Project

I'm so honored to be included in this very worthwhile endeavor - Love From Me Project. The project includes publishing an art book to provide inspiration to people going through personal challenges, as well as to raise money for a cancer charity. (Click here for more detail) One of my painting that will be included in this book - Catch the Wave from the June 2010 Virtual Paintout challenge. I've also written a little something to go with the painting.

Catch the Wave
With all the ups and downs in life,
sometimes we need to sit back and
before we can get back and once again
catch the wave.

I'm so honored to have one more painting included in this project. A cropped version of "Ripples", see below, will be included as the back cover of the book. I'm glad that a simple painting like Ripples can generate people's interest. Here's a little something that goes along with Ripples.

Love is like dropping a pebble into a pond,
its impact ripples through far and beyond.