Eat, Pray, Paint

As long as I've known, art has been "shizen"—best translated as second nature—as natural as breathing. The tool, be it a paintbrush, pencil, or charcoal stick, feels like an extension of my hand.  Much like my hand, I can't necessarily make it do everything I want it to do. I'll never hold a basketball from the side or the top because my hand is too small. I can never open large jars because I can barely grip the lid with my fingertips. That's where community comes in (Page, who grips basketballs one-handed and opens all jars). There are certain limitations I have to struggle through in art life, and community is crucial to work through them. 

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I just made it through my funk, the deep valley period of the middle of a painting. It's that point after the unlimited potential at the start, and before the completed work is visible...when every part seems incomplete and mediocre. Tears are shed, ice cream is eaten, and I keep painting. Now that I see the light at the end of the tunnel, I've emerged and am once again excited to see the paintings and write about it. 

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The community, mainly close friends and family, were helpful to keep at it during the frequent ice cream break phase. Some who know how shizen (natural) it is for me to paint ask about it. Their enthusiasm encourages me far more than I ever tell them. Pride can get in the way of sharing about what I love. "Once I make masterpieces, then I'll tell them...then I can justify it." To be honest, that will probably always be a struggle. For a type A person that likes to efficiently complete tasks, how can it be that what I love to do most is exceptionally inefficient?? The other day I spent two hours on a few shades of dark shadow lines...just lines... in two of the paintings. It's almost comical how different the two sides within me can be, yet it makes perfect sense when teaching art. Methodical + inefficient = a surprisingly successful pair.

 

Like looking forward to a good meal, I'm looking ahead at which evenings this week I might be able to paint. Well, more like looking forward to breakfast in 8 hours (yes, really, every day), I'm counting down to my next opportunity to paint as I continue this shizen cycle of eat, pray, paint. 

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Speaking of eating, I can't help but include the incredible Japanese feast by my mom to celebrate my brother's new stage of life (MBA at Wharton) and an early Children's Day (we'll never grow out of it) on Sunday. My tiny contribution was a veggie dish and salad...I suppose we all start somewhere. I'm still daydreaming about the meal.  This doesn't even include the dessert spread! 

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 Plate #1 of 2  

Plate #1 of 2  

{Making Monday} Messiness is a Good Sign

I'm on the "adding detail" step of painting now. I like the broad thick strokes of paint that suggest a brick or stone slab, and the detailed tile portion in contrast. I can start to see how the completed paintings may turn out...and they look far too green and the light is unclear, which means I need to step back and get the big picture perspective more frequently when I'm painting. 

Though oil paint is messy and more labor intensive than watercolor, I like how little pressure there is (my own pressure for perfection) because it can always be painted over. 

I have paint in my hair, stained into my nails and hands, on my old PJs (AKA painting clothes), which means my mind was in the right place, focused on what's in front of me.

These sessions of painting with a Japanese TV show on the side making me laugh out loud by myself have been the perfect mental escape. Painting just to paint isn't nearly as satisfying as painting with a specific place (Page's office) in mind. At first I was hesitant because it sounded like a lot of time/ work/ energy outside of work and other activities, but I'm now really glad and grateful for this project. God's timing is perfect, all the time.

{Making Monday} Painting Party of One

This current stage is my favorite part of painting. To be specific, this early stage in color is the most exciting. There's structure from the planned steps (tedious work is done), but tons of potential (excitement of the unknown). That's probably a reflection of my personality. I like to plan, but I like flexibility and creativity within certain boundaries. Steps needed to get to this point:

  1. Idea : What am I going to paint?
  2. Image : Who/what/where am I going to paint from?
  3. Materials : What will I use to paint? Paper? Canvas? Paint medium?
  4. Prepare Surface : Several coats of gesso (white paint)
  5. Composition : How will this be laid out? How will I crop the image?
  6. Drawing : Careful attention to detail
  7. Outline : Painting over the drawing

This step: COLOR!


The paintings were outlined one by one up on my painting easel, but now I need to paint them all together to have consistent colors throughout since they are all part of one building. The scale of the paintings is a little more clear having them side by side by other objects. This order is how they will be laid out on the office wall. I'm starting with my darkest color first.

*A side-note to painters: Please, please never use black if you want any life in your shadows. These two dark colors are made of: 3 dark blues (ultramarine, phthalo, cerulean), 1 red (cadmium red light), 1 yellow (cadmium yellow).

My painting professor's voice is echoing in my ear as I paint.

  • Use more paint!
  • Use a bigger brush!
  • Warmer! (I tend to paint with cool colors so things look dead)

These steps needed to paint are really the steps needed to plan any activity. 

  1. [Idea] : What am I going to do?
  2. [Image] : Who/ what/ where?
  3. [Materials] : What things are needed for this? 
  4. [Prepare Surface] : What do I need to do ahead of time?
  5. [Composition] : Cropping; start/end time, budget
  6. [Drawing] : The tedious but necessary details
  7. [Outline] : Start activity

The step I'm on now: follow-through. The party. Party of one, in this case. As an introvert, I enjoy parties of one. Now that the paintings are set up and ready with my palette ready to go, I'm looking forward to many solo painting parties this week.

A cup of herbal tea in one hand and a paintbrush in the other...and I wonder why people call me grandma.


{Making Monday} The Uninspired Painter


We get an extra day in February! But still, I'm far from my goal of completing these paintings this month. Since I set that goal in early January, the two months to follow were extra busy helping with a good friend's wedding. The wedding was this past weekend— it was a beautiful day! Since I was involved with many plans along the way, seeing it all come together was especially exciting.

I'm still catching up from the busy wedding week so the only thing that got me painting last night was knowing that I had this specific green color mixed last week and though it dries slowly (since it's oil paint), it would be unusable within a few more days. Call it lazy for not wanting to mix the same color again or resourceful for not wasting, either way, it got me to paint. Well, plus the boost of two bowls of popcorn, chocolate, yogurt, two "Relaxing" cups of herbal tea...

Writing about painting has helped me get out of my head and add commitment and discipline when needed. I've learned that inspiration may be a starting point, but a complete painting is never the result of 100% inspiration. This principle, learned from the discipline of completing paintings, applies to all areas of life and has been really beneficial. 

Last week I outlined parts 1 and 2, plus parts of the most detailed part 3. Now, it's all outlined except the bottom tile detail corner. I hope to finish the corner tonight and move on with the painting the rest of this week. Here's a quick shot from my iPad before heading to work this morning!

When I don't feel like completing things, this is a great reminder: 
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
(Galatians 5:22-25)

This self-controlled spirit isn't ruled by feelings, so whether it's painting or not, I'll keep chugging along!  

 

{Making Monday} From Pencil to Brush: Seville Wall Painting Progress

Finally some color! I recently taught someone how to paint with oil paints so I soaked my oil paint tubes in hot water to open them. I suppose 5 years was enough time to seal them shut. When setting up my palette, I was reminded why I hadn't gotten back into oil painting. The set-up alone took at least 30 minutes! Normally my painting sessions with ink and watercolor are about 1 hour total. BUT this is a special project for Page's office and is therefore a good reason to get back into oil painting. His office is currently white, grey, and black. The only pop of color in the room = bright stripes on his socks (that go with his dress shirt, of course).

The pencil drawing was completed many weeks ago. The next part for this project was the color outline. In the end, this green will be mostly covered up and won't be very noticeable but the pops of bright color coming through the rest of the wall painting will keep it looking fresh...which is exactly what a monotone office needs!

Mixing paint is best with one of these tools: a palette knife. Otherwise the paint gets stuck in the bristles of the brush and ends up riding up the brush handle, so it will waste time and paint.


This green has cadmium red light in it (that's the bright red, third from the end). Mixing opposite colors on the color wheel helps tone down your color, but adding too much makes brown so it's best to add a dab at time.

Mixing paint

Growing glob of green...

Oil Painting Outline


It's always an exciting and sad step to start painting because that means my drawing that I spent hours on will be covered up. It sounds dramatic but there is some kind of attachment especially when the drawing turns out well. Those detailed lines below that describe the old stone wall will covered by thick strokes of paint. But they serve their purpose, because without the detailed drawing there would be no variation of line in the painted thick outline.

Oil Painting

Aaaand here are the paintings below. These 3 will line up side by side. They're quite large though it's hard to tell. They currently take up the length of our kitchen... a very small kitchen, but the entire kitchen nonetheless! It seemed like the safest place to put them while they dry for the next 2 days or so since our meals are ready and I won't be cooking. 

I'm stuck on this one below because I wanted to photograph the paintings before it got dark, but knew I wouldn't have time to complete it since it has the most detail. I may switch brushes to a smaller one to get more detail in for the outline.

The main part I'm stuck on:

I love the casual dress code at work, but it's hard to beat slippers and spandex...and the green streak of paint in my hair. There was a time when I wanted to bleach and color my hair bright purple, but it seems like I get to experiment with all sorts of hair colors (in streaks and highlighted ends) through painting. When washing my hands in the bathroom, I saw  my reflection with a dark red mustache. I didn't even use dark red paint today. Green hair, red mustache, stretchy pants and slippers... It's probably a good thing this oil painting business is only on weekends.

{Making Monday} Creativity Without a Brush

After a few years of painting here and there, I started painting again most regularly in 2015. I had lofty plans to complete several paintings by this time in 2016, but this year has felt extra busy...and they still are in pencil-only form without a single splotch of paint on them. My creativity has been channeled in other ways out of necessity, but it's enjoyable nonetheless. For example, my most recent project was a bridal shower and bachelorette. These are part of the decorations I made for the shower.

It was a Pinterest idea on the bride's wedding board (for seating chart placecards ). Though I give credit to Pinterest, it was NOT a "best chicken in 15 minutes" (which is never the best), nor "easiest chocolate cake ever" (that takes 2 hours + cleanup). It actually was REALLY simple. I can't take credit for the idea but it was fun to do something with paint that didn't involve careful detail. It's also great for when you have colors for an event/party that may be hard to find...unless you want to drop $200 at Paper Source for the right hue of chartreuse green. 

The process was delightfully simple.

Here are the steps: 

  1. Cut the paper to desired size.
  2. Mix the color and water in a plate. (I mixed a few watercolors to get the right shade)
  3. Dip edge of paper in different angles to get a jagged colored edge. Let it dry.
  4. Repeat 2 more times, each time dipping a little less of the paper in so you get that 3-tiered effect. 
  5. Write with a calligraphy pen. (I typed it on Microsoft word first to look at and then loosely followed that font.)

two ways to avoid the handwritten part:

  1. Make it a shared project: do steps 1-4 and pass off step 5 to a friend with good penmanship. 
  2. It's the 21st century and printers work wonders. Find a cute font, type it and print it on card stock, and then do steps 1-4.

It was a tea party theme (I'm sure that's obvious by now) so the favors were lavender earl grey cookies & tea. I added some lemon extract in the batter to freshen up the heavier flavor of lavender and earl grey. The center sign was on the door to welcome guests. The pen on the right is my favorite for cheater calligraphy style writing!

{Making Monday} Big picture goals from a weekly routine

One of the conversations that sticks out most to me was with my brother about goals for the new year, several years ago. When talking about things I would like to do in the coming year, my brother asked me, "what does your week look like?" I responded, "I guess I work, I exercise sometimes, I cook, I hang out with friends..." and he said, "Well multiply that by 52 and that will be what you do this year." 

That was a shocking reality check! I thought taking it a week at a time was fine, but when I realized that how each week is organized has a larger impact on the entire year, it made me rethink how I prioritize activities each week.

It's important to start in the big picture: What are your long-term goals? In other words: 

What are God-given gifts and desires that you want to use for His service over a lifetime?

That could be a 50-year plan, obviously impossible to know what it will look like, but we can figure out what kind of skills need to be polished to work in that direction. I was motivated even more after our retreat this weekend, being encouraged to work fervently, purposefully, and diligently in all things. We can only work hard with a specific goal in mind, so what am I working for? 

An ongoing tug on my heart since at least 10 years ago: the population is less than 1% Christian in Japan, so I want to share the joy and hope of knowing God. At the very least, so people will know God's love and can then decide what to do about it.  So, considering the family life I was brought up in and the skills I have now, that desire plays out like this long-term:

Two examples:

  1. Paint the history of Christianity in Japan 

  2. Teach kids Japanese language and culture

1. Paint the history of Christianity in Japan

What needs to be done?

  • Know the history
  • Improve painting skills
  • Know western art history to reference

For me, this means:

  • Study the history (--> I went to grad school)
  • Keep painting (--> I'm blogging and painting)
  • Know western art history to reference (keep looking at art books and going to museums)

Weekly (now):

  • Keep painting with different media so that I can incorporate western techniques into my Japanese painting... which is where this comes in: working on large oil paintings.

Now, breaking down the second example:

2: Teach kids Japanese language and culture

What needs to be done? 

  • Practice Japanese conversation so it'll flow better all the time at home
  • Read more Japanese to be able to teach
  • Keep up with Japanese culture
  • Know and practice Japanese customs

For me, this means:

  • Keep up relationships with Japanese friends
  • Read Japanese books
  • Watch Japanese shows, read news, look at magazines/websites
  • Celebrate holidays (& cook the holiday food!) and learn the background

Weekly (now):

  • Read the Bible in Japanese
  • Continue working as a translator and give it 100% effort

Basically it comes down to: *a notebook is crucial--write it down!*

  1. Big picture: long-term goal (not just a dream). Something clear based on the skills and desires God has given you.
  2. Talk it through: Pray first. Then, sharing and getting feedback is critical! People close to you can help identify your gifts and walk the journey with you.
  3. Break it down: Identify skills/components needed to see #1 (above) become a reality.
  4. Work on skills: Break down #3 into baby steps.
  5. Schedule it:  Subtract things in your weekly schedule that don't fit with the big picture goal, and add in things necessary to reach that goal.

Consider what is realistic for yourself now, but if the goal really is important then diligently work on at least one component!

Since those paintings are on my mind, I was thrilled to see the color palette I wanted to use on trees in Yosemite this weekend. The pops of bright green moss against the red bark with highlights of light mustard yellow was eye-catching. Bark is not brown! (Yes, I will die on that "nothing is brown" hill.) The outline of my paintings (photos above) will be bright green moss-colored, and the brick includes all these colors in the bark: 

It's no surprise that the Creator and Master Painter of the universe would have such a delightful color palette on a tree trunk. "The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." Psalm 19:1

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth...

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 

Colossians 3:1-2, 23-24

Let's work!!

Christmas Movies & Ewoks? {12 Days of Christmas Traditions Explained Quickly : Day 6}

Why did we watch a movie on Christmas every year? Our favorite was It's a Wonderful Life. It never gets old! 

The top 10 most-watched Christmas movies in the states:

  1. A Christmas Story
  2. Elf
  3. Home Alone
  4. It's a Wonderful Life
  5. Love Actually
  6. Christmas Vacation
  7. White Christmas
  8. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  9. Holiday Inn
  10. A Christmas Carol

DAY 6: CHRISTMAS MOVIES.

I suppose it's an obvious one that I never thought about. Families are together, there's often time off, and entertainment is nice way to relax. So, the last week in December is the highest grossing week of the year. It makes sense that if that's when people watch, making the story align with the holiday makes perfect sense! 

We don't go anywhere on Christmas but we will probably continue to watch Christmas movies at home. We will likely be watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens at some point during the last week of the year because I have that week off of work. In honor of the movie, here's a throwback to an Ewok painting that I painted for our biggest Star Wars fan friends:


Poinsettia? {12 Days of Christmas Traditions Explained Quickly : Day 5}

First of all, the pronunciation: poinsett-ee-a? poinsett-a?

I wish they were around more than at Christmas since they're one of the few flowers I can keep alive! And to find out they are barely flowers... (the flowers are the tiny little yellow buds). I'm bursting my own bubble of festivity. 

DAY 5: POINSETTIA.

We're back to the Aztecs in modern-day Mexico where the plants originated (see post here about hot chocolate from Mexico). They grew in the wild in the winter and were used in important ceremonies. Fast forward to 16th century Mexico, when a little girl wanted to celebrate Jesus' birthday by taking him a gift but had nothing. An angel told her to take weeds which then turned into beautiful poinsettias at the church altar. The church continued to use poinsettias at Christmas, and they are now associated with the holiday because of the season they grow and because of this legend.

The name Poinsettia is from the American ambassador, Poinsett, who brought them back from Mexico to his greenhouse in South Carolina in the 1800s. 

Now back to pronunciation...

Poin-set-ya. 

But that's a little hard to pronounce so some regions developed into poinsett-ee-uh, and some to poin-set-uh. I can't ignore the i so I'm going to stick with poinsett-ee-uh.

Mexican Hot Chocolate? {12 Days of Christmas Traditions Explained Quickly : Day 2}

Mexican Hot Chocolate? No, it's not a twist on hot chocolate. It's the other way around! The modern sugary-chocolatey-milky indulgence is a distant adaption of the original.

DAY 2: MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE.

Let's time travel back 2500 years to the Maya. They made a bitter chocolate drink made of ground cocoa seeds, water, chiles, and other spices. When the Spaniards came in the 16th century, it was still this bitter and spicy cocoa drink taken for its health benefits. 

After it was introduced in Europe, sugar was eventually added in the 17th century. It was an expensive drink since all ingredients were imported. Later in the same century, a British gentleman added milk. Of course.

It wasn't until the 19th century that the Dutch processed the beans into cocoa powder (and eventually to bar chocolate, hallelujah). I always buy "dutch process" cocoa powder because of the wonderful, smooth flavor but never thought about the name. The Dutch were the first to separate cocoa butter and cacao seeds, and the name stuck.

Fast forward a couple centuries:

Have you tried hot chocolate in Italy or Spain? I was shocked the first time I tried "hot chocolate" in Italy, after growing up with American instant powdered hot chocolate. The best way to describe it is an espresso cup of rich chocolate pudding. In Spain it's also a rich chocolate pudding (plus churros for dunking).

My cooking, traveling, and painting worlds collide- my favorite moments!

 心もあたたまる:"Also warms your heart"

心もあたたまる:"Also warms your heart"

I suppose my Christmas drink, my "Mexican hot chocolate" (a concoction of almond milk + dutch process cocoa powder + cinnamon stick) has little to do with the original form, but I'll keep stirring my cinnamon stick now as an ode to times long ago. 

Now with this wealth of hot cocoa knowledge, continue on with this merry December and enjoy the health benefits of good cocoa.

I meant my "hallelujah" very literally: 

And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it IS the gift of God. (Ecclesiastes 3:13)

24/50: How about a pigeon?

My sister who lives in London told me about a Chinatown scandal in which a restaurant in London Chinatown was serving pigeon. Not the farmed kind for eating. I mean, free range and local-- rooftop local!

I suppose they were calling it "squab"-- a delicacy. Not just pigeon.

Street pigeons would never make it on my plate (by choice), much less my "want to draw" list. On a practical level, they're fidgety and hard to draw. But beyond that, I don't like the way they look or function so they're not worthy of study.

If I dig a little deeper: I don't consider their Maker.

But this guy did, and that left an impression on me. I took a photo of him when I saw this scene in Nagasaki, Japan. Is this elderly Japanese man thinking, "God created this creature so I should study it?" Statistically based on the religious environment in Japan, I doubt it.

There's a lot God can teach us through people-- through those who may point out things that are usually ignored. Maybe through artists who have "weird" perspectives.

So, how about a pigeon? Perhaps not for dinner at a restaurant in Chinatown in London. But maybe to draw, maybe to point me to their Maker. 

"Worthy are you, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and because of your will they existed, and were created." Revelation 4:11

If creation in general isn't enough of a link to the Creator, here's a bonus fact: 

Pigeons are in the same family as doves. 

As I continue with this painting, it'll remind me of seeing things as made-by-God, not based on my judgment of if it's worthy of attention or not. 

"You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you." Nehemiah 9:6

Progress on this painting to come (once I actually make that progress).



13/50 : Picture-letter (etegami) painting

One day last week, mentally I was 150% over my summer cold/flu and ready to paint in the morning and apply to a job in the afternoon. Then my throat was dry, my head started to pound, my eyes got squinty from the "bright" light (shaded window)... But I was determined so I made a few attempts:

  • Dayquil for cold symptoms [but acetaminophen doesn't work for migraines, oops]
  • Hydrate, push through, it'll go away
  • Massage stiff neck
  • Do a yoga flow to increase blood flow and reduce migraine pain

Result: Nausea from the yoga inversion, migraine persists. Apparently it's time to lie down. Clearly my soul is DENSE and I need physical reminders of "let it go, you're not in control."

A family I met when I lived in Tokyo (2012-2013) has become closer than relatives, and are firmly planted in my heart as family. They welcomed me in as a stranger and have been the most hospitable people I've ever met. We eat together, talk about food, go to museums, look at art books, talk about life, God's goodness, culture... I look forward to every minute with them! I tried out "e-tegami," translated as "picture-letter," which is popular in Japan.

My formula to paint an e-tegami:

cropped image + ink + watercolor + words + signature

Each one is from a specific and memorable activity we did together while I was visiting.

I brainstormed painting one for another person I wanted to write a note to but since I'm not as close and have far fewer memories, I ended up opting for a traditional thank-you note. Interesting how that works. [These e-tegami were a special case, I've never done this before so please don't take it personally if I don't paint for you!]

There are classes on e-tegami in Japan but I've never seen them offered here and would love to do it! It's simple enough for anyone to try and the stylized strokes that are characteristic of e-tegami are what make each one unique so it's BETTER not to be a professional still life painter to make these! Most importantly, after a class they're still useful since they're personalized, seasonally-themed postcards.

Clearly I am indecisive in my interests [beyond wanting to eat 9 things on a menu at restaurants,] and am swayed between studio art, publishing companies, universities, and mochi-making in my kitchen! But my foundation is secure like the quote at the top of the page,

"I know not the way God leads me but well do I know my Guide."

Thanks for keeping up with this journey!

11/50 : Rust called for a double take

I just learned the basics of Japanese painting this summer at Japanese painting stores in Tokyo (about 5 years late).

  • how to make sumi ink with a pressed charcoal instead of pre-made liquid sumi ink
  • different types of Japanese brushes
  • rice paper vs. kozo paper (both of which I've used a lot!)
  • price of natural Japanese minerals for color. yikes.

Here's my favorite find that I had been searching for (at a reasonable price)- what a beauty. It's hand carved and even comes apart! [Clearly I underestimated the number of brushes-- double hanging isn't the norm.]

One of my jet lag projects at 2am was attaching purple string to the ends of the brushes. All come with an indent on the end, but not all with string attached.

Now moving on from drooling over new art supplies...

I made a list of 10 Nagasaki paintings to paint in an earlier post. I wasn't up for detailed architecture today so I painted #6.

IMG_0846

I never pinpointed the connection between the very different subjects I choose to paint, from Japanese martyrs to mossy Italian walls, until last night: I'm drawn to less-noticed parts of history. Maybe I relate to feeling insignificant and small, but still having something to say and hoping to make a significant impact somewhere. [I'm definitely not consciously thinking all these things every time I paint!] In the grand scheme of things, [each] "man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow" (Psalm 144:4).

But at the same time,

"Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?...Consider the lilies of the field...even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" (Matthew 6)

So yes, it's simply a rusted fence. But it pulled me in for a double take. It reminds me to look back. Some things look better with age- time and natural elements caused those contrasting colors (red rust on light blue paint!) and varied textures.

"Stop and smell the roses" or admire the rust.

I'm telling myself to be patient, most things take time.

Even though I pretend otherwise, I actually can't control every circumstance!

"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain." (Psalm 127:1)

8/50 : Art, vocation, and a terrible painting

First, a brief update since I've been MIA for a month:

  • graduated with a Master's in Art History (Japanese Art History emphasis)
  • travelled to Thailand and Cambodia

Now I'm applying to jobs related to Japanese, writing, history, cultural exchange, and art... decisive as usual.

The point of writing about my painting is for exposure- to fight perfectionism. Sometimes, oftentimes, my paintings suck. After writing my thesis for grad school, I see how painting and writing are the same. As author E.B. White says, "A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper." So forget the migraine, the not-helpful single AC unit two rooms away (how dare I complain about having more than 1 room??), and anxiety about an interview on Friday. I'm not a creative genius. No one is, we have to work at it.  It feels like I've never held a brush or used this ink before but it'll get better. My hands will remember how to control the brush and ink.

Working with your hands, or working in general, must be  done with diligence and excellence: Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men (Col 3:23). In Art and the Bible, Francis Schaeffer expands on this and also writes on how to think about contemporary art:

“What is the place of art in the Christian life? Is art- especially the fine arts- simply a way to bring worldliness in through the back door? What about sculpture or drama, music or painting? Do these have any place in the Christian life? Shouldn't a Christian focus his gaze steadily on "religious things" alone and forget about art and culture? As evangelical Christians, we have tended to relegate art to the very fringe of life. The rest of human life we feel is more important. Despite our constant talk about the lordship of Christ, we have narrowed its scope to a very small area of reality. We have misunderstood the concept of the lordship of Christ over the whole man and the whole of the universe and have not taken to us the riches that the Bible gives us for ourselves, for our lives, and for our culture. The lordship of Christ over the whole of life means that there are no platonic areas in Christianity, no dichotomy or hierarchy between the body and the soul. God made the body as well as the soul, and redemption is for the whole man.”

While I say I no longer believe in the myth of the spontaneous creative genius, my actions suggest otherwise. So it was time to begin painting #2 of my series of 10 Nagasaki paintings. Since it has been over a month since painting and I'm down to my last precious piece of Arches watercolor paper, a practice sketch was necessary. When I practice freehand sketches, I always work from the top left to bottom right. Maybe it's because I'm a lefty. One look at the left and right side of this painting make it very clear what difference a few practice strokes can make:

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Started at the top left with this sloppy cross:

Ended on the right, much different than the starting point:

Moral of the story: KEEP PAINTING.

The drafting table is now raised as a standing table (maybe hard to tell since my height doesn't change significantly from sitting to standing) which makes it much easier to paint!