House on a little island


I was thrilled to be in Maine last week for painting.   Even though I am familiar with many painting spots, I always find the first day tough to decide where to paint.

There is a small house on a near by little island which I have taken pictures many times before.¬† The house is really a small shed and the proportion of the roof to its height makes it an interesting subject for painting.¬† However, it is hard to paint as it is a bit far away from most of the public places.¬† I was excited to find out that the house can be seen up close from one of my friend’s place.¬† I decided to paint it the very first day.

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I composed the building in the center to make it an iconic painting.¬† Since I have been enjoying framing the subject, I added a lot of space all around the building to keep the space open.¬† For color inspiration, I have recently started to look at Morandi’s still life.¬† His colors are muted but at times he would introduce a strong color which is unexpected, and it would eventually give more life to the painting.¬† Although I have been thinking about how Morandi may have been inspired to pick an unexpected color in his muted surrounding, I kept my color palette¬†true to¬†nature.¬† At the end, the surrounding atmosphere became creamy grey; inspired by Morandi.
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Iconic theme continued into the second day.  I visited the Ferry building which I have painted a few times before.  I planned the drawing to juxtapose the architecture of the building and the rocks on shore.  I borrowed the rocks from the near vicinity which were worn down and unbalanced, and placed them right below the stairs of the building.  I spent some time drawing the rocks using ivory black  and loved the loose effect from this.  I decide to leave it with the addition of a few minimal renderings.


Although I only had three¬†days to paint, I decided to take another opportunity to paint the same house again.¬† This time, it¬†was composed from¬†a¬†different perspective and I painted it at a¬†different time of the day.¬† I had¬†been thinking about Stuart Davis since my last visit to his retrospective show¬†“In Full Swing” at the Whitney Museum.¬† My drawing continued¬†to have invented space and frame, inspired by Stuart Davis.¬† After a few hours of painting, it showed¬†muted colors, it was¬†dark but not exciting.¬† I revisited Morandi’s work and changed the surrounding green color to a bright¬†cobalt blue.¬† It made the painting more exciting because of this unexpected color which was an¬†inspiration from Morandi’s work.

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However, in retrospect this painting might still needs some work.  I am planning to revisit this again once the paint dries.

28 Windows that Are Not There

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Vibrant scenes of main streets which are filled with ethnic restaurants, shops and galleries have always kept me entertained for the last few years.  However, when it comes to painting, I am more drawn to the back alleys and the back of these buildings. They are not commercial as the front main streets are but the air vents, pipes, staircase and other structures add personalities to these buildings.

I have walked by this pink building many times, admiring the complexity of the structures surrounding it.  I have finally decided to paint it.   It is a vertical building with a long air vent so I decided to keep the next building a long horizontal for balance.  Although all the buildings have similar heights, I decided to decrease the height of both left and the right buildings to add more negative space.  I was very drawn to a group of pipes and carefully arranged it in the middle ground.  I was happy with all the big shapes I had captured in this composition.

As I reflect on this work and I realized it has been a while since I paid attention to the windows and doors of the building.  Although I still paint representationally and on site, I have been more focused at the bigger shapes, the building itself and how they interact with each other and with other shapes.  Since the building is rectangular, I see the windows and doors as a repetition of the same shape.  Therefore, I usually look for different shapes that do not echo the buildings.  This helps me to divert my attention to other elements like the air vents, pipes, staircase, wires etc.

I intentionally counted the windows on the pink building.  There are four floors, two windows on each side of the air vent; total 16 windows.  Similarly, The red building with three floors have at least 4 windows on each floor; total of 12 windows.  If I have been faithful to each of these shapes, there will be at least 28 windows on this painting.   This will be a different kind of painting with 28 windows.   In retrospect, I am very happy and content that I can edit out 28 windows without hesitation.




Staircase and Two Rooftop Fans


It has been almost a year since I painted this yellow building.  I visited this spot a few times last month to compose a new drawing.  Buildings next to it were eliminated for simplification, however, I kept the rooftop fans.  The staircase is in the center and it is drawn close to the relative size of the building.  I painted the first layer of colors to get the big shapes right.

Yesterday I revisited the drawing again and it did not seem that interesting.   Although it took a few hours to meticulously draw the staircase, I decided to erase it and start over.  Drawing the staircase is always exciting, it is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.  Triangular, rectangular shapes of all kinds are fitting together in a spiral.  Both positive and negative space are equally important.  An accurate observation is crucial yet the subject itself is rhythmic and playful.  I am always fascinated with this subject.

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I decided to enlarge the staircase to the size of the building; now it is the centerpiece of this painting.  I took the shadows from the mid afternoon which had some interesting circular shapes.  The fan ducts are not straight and each are slightly angled in the middle towards the center of the building.  I took this as an inspiration and decided to move half of the staircase slightly to the left.  It looked a bit awkward at first, but I think it added a little surprising element.

I started painting again this morning.  The green trees nearby inspired me to change the blue sky to green.  The shadow of the top level staircase seemed a bit heavy so it is morphed into simplified lines. The color of the fan duct changed from dark blue to green to bluish green color taken from the colors nearby.  While repainting the duct, the original dark blue is left around the edges as a reminiscence of its past color.  The two fan heads on both sides seemed a bit redundant so I removed the one from the left.  The red purple shape on the left seemed to be floating the green sky was brought down to cover it.  This painting is still in progress and I need to revisit this at least one more time.