The hills of Walla Walla

This is a painting from earlier this summer in Walla Walla, it was still wet and rainy in the Seattle area, but it was already getting hot in the eastern part of Washington. Walla Walla, a place so nice they named it twice. It is in Washington wine country - their downtown area is filled with wine tasting rooms from the various winemakers in the area. Alas, between the painting and the long drive between home and the area, I never got to sample the wines. Maybe next time!

The hills of Walla Walla
(click to bid)
One nice thing about going to a paintout on the eastern side of the state, is that I get to meet my Plein Air Washington cohorts on that side. This time I got to meet up with Melanie Thompson, Laura Gable, and Jim McNamara, among others. They shared some nice painting spots, and it was great seeing artists paint a landscape so familiar to them, but quite alien to me!

From around the house

Why would I want to paint an apple, a tennis ball, and a light bulb? Well, they happened to be around the house!

From around the house
I've been spending a lot of time painting; trying to get better at it. I don't think I have any natural aptitude for painting, really. Just ask people who have seen my high school doodles. So to get any better, I need to practice much more than people who have talent for this.
As a side effect of painting a lot, I have quite a stack of paintings and a bit of a backlog to post here. So I'll continue to post some work every few days til I run out of paintings to show. I'm not really shy about sharing my paintings, so you will see here some good but also many (in my mind) not so good paintings. Good or bad, I'm proud of them because every painting is a step in my journey.

Glass things

The orange bottle makes another appearance here, but I had the most fun trying to paint that light bulb. I've been pushing my colors every which way, recently. Not sure where I will end up; I'm enjoying the journey anyway.

glass things

Transparent and Opaque

Expanding out of a single object here a little bit, and expanding the colors in my painting. That orange bottle is fast becoming a favorite painting subject! I played a little bit fast and loose with the drawing, trying to get the painting to breathe by not worrying too much about getting everything right.

transparent and opaque

Bowl and saucer

Continuing in the same vein as the last two paintings, I painted these simple objects to try to figure out light and shadow, and painting white objects. This one looks pretty simple, but I actually spent a few hours on this 6x6 painting.

I like the outcome, but I'm not sure I like the path that this painting is taking me. That is, towards tighter and tighter rendering. I really want to paint loosely instead. I think though that the secret to loose paintings, ironically, is drawing accuracy. If you want to leave a brush stroke where it is, and not noodle it to death, you must be able to place it where it's supposed to be in one try. And it seems there is only one way to get better at drawing accuracy: practice.
So let's continue painting.


I continue here on my attempt to depict single objects. I received this teapot from a care package that my mom sent a few months after I came to the US. This is almost 14 years ago! I probably have attempted drawing and painting this teapot more than any other object. I purposefully ignored the blue markings on the teapot to concentrate on how the shadows fall on its various curves.

Speaking of the passage of time, I write this on the eve of my 39th birthday. I must admit, I'm in a bit of a somber mood, as I consider the march of time, what I've accomplished, and what I hope to yet accomplish. At this point in my life, there are perhaps doors that have closed for me, but God willing, many are yet open, and more still will open up.

So as I scroll through the birthday greetings on Facebook, I am reminded that I am blessed. Blessed with family and friends from all around the world. I'm reminded of the yummy birthday dinner I just had with some cherished friends; the awesome trip to Alaska just concluded; and that feeling that I had when I saw this teapot as I opened that box from my mom those many years ago. Gratefulness. I'm thankful for all the blessings in my life.


My great Alaskan cruise has ended, but the painting journey continues. This was actually painted a bit before the cruise; I was trying to go back to basics: drawing and values by painting white things.  I bought the organic garlic for 3x the regular garlic price because I thought it would look better on a painting!

Postscript -- Postcards from Alaska

About a month ago, I've started painting these postcards on location to send to people. They are sent as is, without packaging or anything through regular mail, as a regular postcard. So far, my postcards have gone to the Philippines, Germany, and parts of the US. But most of them go to my parents. As far as I know, they've all arrived intact (though a few have not reached their destinations yet). I find it a lot of fun to be able to share my experiences to through such and old fashioned mechanism.

alaskan landscape

This postcard below reads in part:

buildings in ketchikan

Dear Papa and Mama,
Hello from Ketchikan! My painting/cruise has been going well so far. I'm learning a lot of things as well as enjoying the cruise experience. The building on this postcard is on a street called Creek Street. It is actually on stilts and the "road" is actually a boardwalk above the creek. 
Tomorrow we are going to go to port in Juneau! This is quite the incredible trip. 
The small space allotted on the postcard doesn't encourage great prose, but I hope people enjoy these little paintings, regardless of what I write on the back.

building top

I guess this closes out my series of posts about the Great Alaskan Plein Air Retreat Cruise! I should thank again the Painted Ladies, who have been fabulous at organizing this. And thanks also to Jonny Luczycki who tolerated my socially awkward self as a cabin mate. And of course all the artist friends who have gone on this amazing journey together with me. Thanks guys, I'm sure we'll cross paths again!

Til Next Time, Alaska

We just finished taking pictures at the top deck of the ship, and just before that, the award ceremony (I won an award! Still can't get over that). But the glaciers were all around us, and the ship was only 30 minutes or so from leaving... time for one last painting! So Jonny and I hurried to our cabin to grab our painting gear. My stuff was in disarray, so I grabbed random things and put them in my bag, and proceeded to the front of the ship.

Til Next Time, Alaska
When I got there, Jonathan Luczycki was already there  and it seems halfway done with his painting! Karen Whitworth was there, looking happy, and no doubt quite relieved that the whole trip was successful. I can't thank the Painted Ladies enough for organizing this trip, it was a unique and wonderful experience. Bunch of other guys were there too taking pictures and generally celebrating what was a grand trip.
But there was the one last painting to do! So I took out my gear, and to my dismay, my acrylic paints were not in my bag. It was too late to go back to my cabin and get them, so I did this painting using my little watercolor tin that I have for my sketchbook. I'm not an experienced watercolorist, but I enjoyed doing this painting, and I think I'm gonna start doing more watercolors. By the time I was able to do this though, the ship had turned around; the captain having waited just long enough for Jonny to finish his painting. And the ship was making the journey to out last stop, Whittier. So no painting of the glaciers from me sadly.
Well maybe I can paint the glaciers next time. I hope there will be many more trips to Alaska, this wild beautiful land. I was there last year and was struck by its grandness, and I'm glad I got to go back this year and paint some of it. Hopefully there will be many more opportunities to come back and paint, and enjoy it. Rockwell Kent stayed in Alaska over a winter, and loved his time there...

Portrait of Daniel Keys

When I signed up for the painting workshop, was really only familiar with Daniel Keyes, the guy who wrote "Flowers for Algernon." I quickly realized that Daniel Keys the artist was a different person. The more I learned about the Daniel Keys who was going demo during the trip, the more impressed I was with his work. Aside from doing the demo, though, Daniel also took some time to pose for us:

Portrait of Daniel Keys
I'm not sure I captured a good likeness here, but I didn't paint him with a full white beard, so that's something at least. Daniel's demo itself was fraught with difficulties, especially with the garish and inconsistent lighting in the demo room. But in the end the painting and the demo turned out great:
daniel keys demo
Daniel Keys had some good practical advice, and I learned a lot just from watching him paint. In the end though, I'm not sure I have the temperament to paint like Daniel, or (I presume) Richard Schmid. They have a method of painting where every brush stroke is as close to perfect as it can be, with meticulously clean brushes, and carefully planned composition. My way of painting is to happily slap some paint onto canvas and proceed to make a series of corrections by randomly adding more paint :).
Perhaps care and deliberation when it comes to painting is a product of experience; or maybe some people are more naturally suited for one style of painting. In any case, I felt inspired to do more still life paintings with this demo, and I already like doing them!

Deck 7

Of all my paintings during the Alaska cruise, this is probably my favorite. I really like the abstract quality of it; that it's not apparent what the painting is about. As the title suggests, this is a painting done on Deck 7 of the ship. It is the deck where you can walk all the way around the ship on the outside, with some covered areas. The circle on the top right is actually a clock.

When I did this, I tried to keep in mind some of Larry Seiler's advice. So I tried to make a painting with a non-centered composition, asymmetric balance, and a wide range of values. But more than the rules, when I saw this scene while walking on the ship, the pattern of light and dark really resonated with me. The strongly geometric design practically screamed "paint me!" And so despite its abstract quality, this illustrates to me how a painting can capture what I saw and *felt* at the time better than any photograph.

Portrait of Mitch Monnett

Mitch Monnett is the husband of Elsbeth Monnett, one of the fabulous artists who participated in the Great Alaskan Painting Retreat. Mitch is also somewhat of a celebrity, being in the reality TV show Wild West Alaska.

Portrait of Mitch Monnett
Now, I have to admit, I don't watch that much TV anymore, so I've only vaguely known that there was a show called Wild West Alaska. TV, sadly, has lost out to obsessively checking Facebook as my entertainment of choice. Mitch had many interesting stories about being on TV, about being recognized, and about some of the episodes of that show. I'm not sure which of them I can repeat!
I didn't expect to learn that much about painting portraits on a plein air trip. But between Michelle Dunaway's demo, Daniel Keys's mention of the five essential shadows (shadows around the eyes, under the nose, the upper lip, under the lower lip, and under the chin, iirc), and the four model sessions that we had, I think I have a better understanding of how to paint people than ever before.
One error I made with this painting was that I chose to leave out Mitch's glasses. As someone who wears glasses himself, I should know that it can be almost as wedded to a persons identity and recognizability as his actual face is. In the end, everyone did really well in the model session. Elsbeth did especially well, her painting of her husband captured him really well, and won an award.