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} 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.

27/50 : Learning to Teach

This painting is from my last etegami workshop in November. It has taken that long to get back to writing! Since my translation and copywriting work is in the retail business, Christmas is the busiest season and it has felt like I'm just barely hanging on. In the middle of that, I got selected on a jury for jury duty! It was surprisingly very interesting, and for short cases I'd say it's a worthwhile experience (even though I was grumbling the whole time).

I daydream about painting these days as I walk to and from the stations on my commute. Since I'm explaining how I paint when I do workshops or demonstrations, I think more step-by-step. There's a lot that's just second nature now- when to apply more pressure, when to lift the brush, where to leave space white, where to add pops of color. I'm now having to trace my steps back to how I decide. 

"Autumn is the season for pumpkin pie"

"Autumn is the season for pumpkin pie"

Some things I've learned that I can now explain:

  • To get better at composition, look at good photographs. 
  • Practice your writing style and perfect your signature. 
  • Boldly mess up. Those confident mistakes often turn into something great.
  • No more than 2 layers of watercolor...let the paper breathe!
  • Variety of strokes, color intensity and values is key to get eyes glued on the piece.

Things I'm trying to teach myself, talking to myself:

  • Stop comparing. (You'll never paint like them, and no one paints like you.)
  • Keep painting. (It's getting better.)
  • Be patient. (You've already passed the Michelangelo/Mozart prodigy age.)

I'm glued in the psalms during this busy season. I particularly connected with:

And I say, "Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest;
yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest." (Psalm 55:6-8)

How comforting to know that there are others that want to fly away and become a hermit sometimes. BUT right after in the same psalm:

"Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved." (Psalm 55:22)

 

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).



18/50 : "Never try, never know, honey!"

Mini-Thailand series continued! Fruits and herbs not even available at 99Ranch??

"Never try, never know, honey!" 

(The motto of our Thai cooking instructor)

Ah, music to my ears, the motto I live by but couldn't articulate so clearly. 

The variety of vegetables, fruits and herbs in the markets was beyond my imagination! I think I've seen a lot from exploring all the local Persian, Indian, Afghan, Mexican, Korean, and Japanese markets in addition to spending hours (cumulatively) browsing grocery store aisles in every country I visit. I've collected some random things like a 25 lb. bag of "the best" basmati rice and Portuguese salted cod, hoping to someday make some special dishes. They're still in the cupboard. 

Of course there are disappointments that come with this "Never try, never know" motto. Some things I've learned: 

  • Orange Mocha Frappuccinos are terrible. Orange+Coffee should never be.
  • Greek yogurt is NOT a suitable substitute for heavy cream in Chicken Tikka Masala.
  • The leg-lengthening effect of high-rise pants does NOT justify the horse-butt effect.
  • Street seafood in 80% humidity weather in Thailand WILL taste fishy. 
  • Layering oil-based paints over water-based paints works, but NOT vice versa.
  • Painting WILL improve observational skills.

I often don't notice unique details about objects until I paint them. In this case the detail was the two-tone color, green at the stem shifting to light orange on the opposite end. Water-based Japanese pigments are the best for two-colored gradations! 

With a handful of these freshly picked, our cooking instructor said to us, "never try, never know, honey!" They were delicious. They had a thin but tough skin like avocado, and the inside was jelly-like, similar to lychee, and very sweet. 

Though there are some risks with constantly trying new things, the benefits have always exceeded the disappointments! 

"Never try, never know, honey!" I'm grateful for these wise words. 

 

 

10/50 : "Mindless browsing" is an oxymoron

I realized something after four weeks spent recently with a smartphone that became useful only as a camera or a map. At first I thought I gained time from not browsing mindlessly on Facebook or instagram, or looking up random facts on the internet. But it wasn't time-- it was focus. I had time during breaks from grad school to paint. On weekends even during the semester, I could take a day off. So why couldn't I focus enough to paint the Japanese history that I wanted to? I'm certain I was distracted by constant input.

In Tokyo, I only had wifi access a handful of times with a painfully slow connection at a convenience store. My email loaded at a friend's home while my phone was deep in my bag in another room so I read it on the train on my way home. But I couldn't reply.  It was awfully inconvenient to solidify plans and make phone calls, hunting down the few remaining pay phones somewhere in a department store or train station. But what I gained from being semi-disconnected was worth it: focus.

Focus- that's why I sketched in Japan. Especially when out of consistent practice, it takes a surprising amount of concentration to look at something and repeat the shapes on paper. Below are some sketches from Japan:

Museum 1: Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art // Exhibition: Villains in Ukiyo-e

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Museum 2: Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum // Exhibition: Kyosai - Master Painter and his Student Josiah Conder

Museum 3: Yamatane Museum of Art // Exhibition: Maeda Seison and the Japanese Art Institute

I was both shocked and thrilled to see a painting from a series about the hidden Japanese Christians (the subject of my master's thesis) so I sketched the painting. I'll look up more about this artist!

Last sketch, not at a museum, just waiting for a friend and saw some bamboo in a hotel. Also a famous author's name whose historical narrative books I bought to read.

The day I left I went to see the underground Japanese Christian artifacts in the Tokyo National Museum, but read carefully instead of sketching the images.

I wasn't mentally distracted by 20 ways to redecorate, 50 recipes I must make now, or 10 miraculous exercises (that I'll probably never do). Possibly more significantly, I wasn't distracted by what everyone else was doing.  My life didn't suffer a bit in the few weeks of not being up-to-date in other people's business. Actually, I think it improved.

I like to be in touch with friends and the convenience of a cell phone, but I also like the mental space available when it's not glued to my hand. Now I have to consciously keep it in a separate room (with the ringer on loud), to use it for contact but not for "mindless" browsing. At least for me, I finally see that "mindless browsing" is an oxymoron. Perhaps it has to do with being a visual person, or maybe it's universal and I'm just slow to realize it. But for the first time in 4 years, I'm sketching, researching, and planning out my next painting continuing my Japanese martyrs' series.

So far I have my Japanese martyr subject (a family of 3 from an island north of Nagasaki) and the western painting parallel to work from (most likely, the Flight to Egypt).

It's humbling to realize how limited my mental capacity is! God's infinite abilities are more awe-inspiring when I see how limited I am.

Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.   Psalm 147:5

But Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."   Matthew 19:26

I can't take in much at once, and it takes me weeks to even realize that! But God has no limit.

Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?

It is higher than heaven- what can you do? Deeper than Sheol - what can you know?

Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea.   Job 11:7-9

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!

7/50 : "You should quit"

Part of a ridiculous conversation (in retrospect) that Page went along with for my benefit:

"I can't paint that well compared to a lot of people..."

"Then you should quit."

"What??"

"Yeah you should probably quit now."

"......Oooh I get it. You mean I only have two options: quit painting or try painting."

"Right."

[Disclaimer: this sort of cut and dry decision-making isn't necessarily effective for all personality types]

Thank God for a decisive man. If I can't quit, then I will paint. No more occasional dabbling which only causes frustration because I don't improve.

In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. [Proverbs 14:23]

I did my first art show submission! Similar to the job application process, you don't get accepted to most, but my excitement is in starting this submission process (even though it would be great to be accepted of course).  I thought of submitting a new piece and sat down to paint it. But I had to do it in two sittings to let the first layer dry, so I ended up only submitting older pieces. (click to see: wall paintings and drawings from Italy) The new one is a painting of mossy steps from a photo I took in Orvieto, Italy.

What if I try my hardest, make tons of paintings, try to sell them, and then "fail"? I don't know... But what if I succeed?

I haven't made a firm decision on post-graduate school plans since I'm still trying to finish up. I'm still looking into other jobs. But I've rearranged my studio space (again), this time for easy access to painting materials instead of research books.

My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. 

He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken.

On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.

Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.  [Psalm 62:5-12]

Decision-making times like these make it more obvious that I ALWAYS need to rest in my loving, faithful Creator who gives me every breath, and is guiding my steps.

I have a lifelong goal for what I want to paint, but here's a start in that direction: Make a series of 10.

10 locations in/around Nagasaki.

  1. Urakami Cathedral and ruins  (see previous entry)
  2. Xavier's Cathedral
  3. Church and temple scene
  4. Hara Castle and Amakusa Shiro statue
  5. Unzen hot springs : torture/martyrdom site
  6. Rusted gate
  7. Oura Church
  8. Covered bamboo bench
  9. Man with pigeons
  10. Megane bridge

"The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark." ~Michelangelo

3/50 : Custom art for a blank canvas (AKA bachelor pad)

A Christmas present to my brother: Custom art for his living room, to be completed by Jan 25. I had visited him in Chicago a few times and his blank 10 foot ceilings were calling my name for some attention. I went through the usual emotional ups and downs of painting:

  • "Ohh, great idea!" ---> "My creative juices are as drier than a forgotten raisin, how could I ever make anything good"
  • "This is going to be perfect for him!" --> "That's stupid, nobody would want that"
  • "This will look so modern" --> "It's messy, what is that?"
  • "I'm on a roll, this is fun!" --> "I can't do anything right"

That's what goes on in my head every time I paint going from excited to depressed and back again over and over until the painting is complete. I even dream about it. I've learned to accept that as normal. It also helps to make some small-scale versions and slowly work up so I don't put too much time into a messed up full-scale version.

One of my life goals is to complete a painting series of figures from the history of Christianity in Japan. Sadly there aren't that many which makes it a feasible goal.

Through these 50 blogs, I'm really slowly trying to grasp the fact that working hard does not equal perfection in art-making.

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each will receive his commendation from God.

What am I doing with "the mysteries of God?"

Now: I'm writing about it in grad school-- God has been faithful through the centuries of persecution of Christians in Japan.

Later: I'll paint about it-- God never abandoned Japan. He is near and lets us know that.

I beat myself up about some bad paintings and drawings because of my self-imposed expectations, but the expectations that actually matter are much different. I will use what I'm given to the best of my ability. My current best may be "flawed" (from my perspective) but I'll keep at it because my calling is clear to be a good steward of what I'm given (gifts, time, and "the mysteries of God"). I refuse to let the fear of imperfection get in my way of trying BECAUSE:

Ephesians 3:20-21

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Who knows what will happen?? [That's rhetorical, because obviously someone does.] But I have no clue, and that's exciting... at least when it comes to art.

Now back to the weekend, I rolled up the final painting and took it with me on the plane to Chicago.

First, we drove to Michigan to visit my grandparents. I wish I could explain more about the good conversations with them and the humbling reality of how I know nothing about enduring discomfort or English grammar. I hope to improve on the latter through the many books I brought home. For the post, I'll try to stick to the art stuff for now.

My brother and I went to IKEA for 2 hours. That's right, two full hours. Why waste time at a coffee shop when we can bond over home decorations, storage solutions, and indoor plants that are the hardest to kill? [We have really liking but not watering plants in common.] The 3-floor IKEA worked up our appetite for beefy Kyrgyz food (from Kyrgyzstan- a country in Central Asia) soon after.

We found the right frames for lots of prints and things he had collected from traveling etc. and got to work putting them together at home. He explained how double stick tape works (in manufacturing). I wouldn't be able to explain it. I had no idea it was so complicated.

Since I mentioned food I might as well include it:

Chicago is ethnic food & vegan food heaven. I'm not vegan, I just really like vegan food.

This isn't everything we ate, but a few highlights.

Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate "Cheesecake" & Carrot Cake

The Kyrgyz food: Piroshki, Carrot Salad, Pickles & Smoked Meat/Sausage Stew, Potatoes & Beef, Hand-pulled Noodles (tasted like Chinese noodles!) with Beef and Veggie Tomato Sauce, Cabbage Potato & Carrot Pie with Sour Relish (same wrap as a wonton wrapper!).

The Turkish, Chinese, and Russian influences in one country's dishes were fascinating.

Cafe de Olla (traditional Mexican coffee with brown sugar and cinnamon) and Chocoflan (my favorite)

Cactus, Huitlacoche (Black Mushroom), & Poblano Pepper Tacos

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Vegan Soul Food. That was a hearty lentil loaf.

Raw Vegan: Sampler Platter of Raw Ravioli, Raw Zucchini Noodles with Marinara, Raw Burger, Raw "Meat"ball, Cocoa Truffle, Sprouted Raw Wild Rice Salad, Raw Carrot Cake

Noah enjoyed it too!

I can't say I took the windy snow like a champ, but it was a wonderful weekend of sibling time. I'm grateful for rich and honest conversations. He shows me how to work hard, courageously seek new endeavors, and be conscious of his purpose each moment as a servant of God.

2/50: "Doesn't look like a mental hospital anymore..."

Thursday's project: build a frame to stretch a painting I painted in Italy in 2010. During the semester in Italy, as an attempt to conquer my fear of large paintings and obsession over perfect details I started "going big" with painting.

Thinking back, I'm sure my parents appreciated that I chose to begin to paint huge things overseas, also leaving thick strokes of paint for added texture instead of trying to smooth it over, especially with the heavy, thick materials (canvas + oil)...and then shipped them back home. I suppose they are seasoned parents and have learned to be gracious by kids giving them many opportunities to practice.

Maybe they were glad at least I wasn't inspired to imitate Michelangelo's marble sculptures or fresco paintings (Dear Mama and Papa, Italy is an inspiring place. I saw Michelangelo's Moses today and the Sistine Chapel yesterday! Speaking of Michelangelo, I shipped my lime plaster walls paintings and they should arrive home soon...Miss you! Love, Ema)

Anyways, I got the wood at Home Depot, looking lost in the lumber aisle, wearing my outdoor slippers and leggings, holding each piece of 8ft pine with one end close to my nose, staring it down with one eye closed and turning each side to make sure they weren't crooked. After my attempted careful selection of pine, I hunted down a Home Depot associate to chop the 8ft pieces in half in order to stuff into my Honda Civic.

I learned how to build stretcher frames in college, but that knowledge was useless without a wood shop. My dad recently built an incredibly intricate tea ceremony table, so I thought this would be the best time when his wood-working materials were easier to access than later if he moves on to a different project.

I can't take credit for this frame. I glued, measured, carried, swept sawdust... honestly my three year old niece who has a much better eye for precision would have been a better assistant.

  • Table saw step(s): cut each piece to make the top surface a long diagonal line so the painting rests on one outer edge. Shave off 1/2" width of one extra piece that will be cut in 4 to brace the 4 corners.
  • Chop saw step(s): 45 degree chops to make the pieces fit together.
  • Glue and nail: Apply wood glue. Check diagonal lengths to make sure they're equal. Nail in place.

There are tons of tutorials online and correct me if I'm wrong, but most people reading probably don't have a table saw, chop saw, nail gun, and a compressor handy, or the need to stretch an old painting to begin with.

After 24 hours of letting it rest, I wrestled the painting into place with my staple gun. It's surprisingly difficult to tightly stretch an already stretched LARGE canvas. Just stretching it probably took close to an hour...

Last step! I can't take credit for this either actually. Once we held the painting up all over the apartment and decided on a spot, since I can't hang anything straight, Page, who is much more precise and handy, completed the project.

Once it was up (& I cleaned my closet avalanche) Page's comment made me laugh: "maybe someone actually lives here, it doesn't look like a mental hospital anymore." After 17 months being married, our bedroom's four white walls finally have some color!

Is it fair to call this post 2/50 for the year since I was like a little elf running around and filling in details but not actually doing most of the hard work? Maybe not...

Now that I'm on a roll of asking for help with projects, if anyone wants to teach me how to properly make a bed, I am all ears.

1/50 : Paint and blog it, 50 times in 2015

Time for New Year's Resolutions 2015! [According to every personality test I'm an "Achiever" to put it lightly so I just can't help it.] First looking back, here are my 2014 resolutions written in pen in a notebook I started a year ago:

{BOLD: Resolution 2014 ------> Italic : Result 2014}

  1. Read the Japanese Bible through -----> [only 1500 more pages to go]
  2. Lift weights regularly----->[Yes]
  3. Paint -----> [Twice, maybe]
  4. Disciple/mentor relationship -----> [Yes]
  5. Become a yogi -----> [Yes... but now recovering with a sore neck from falling directly on my head a few weeks ago]
  6. Teach Page words in Japanese -----> [Somewhat]

Maybe the resolutions were too broad. Resolutions 2015 are for the most part related to last year. (Aside from my core identity and spiritual life) I've pinpointed things I love and am finally not embarrassed to admit them. I'll write more about how I see God's character through them in a later post.

  • Painting
  • Good food (all things related: to cook, experiment, & eat; cookbooks, menus, demos)
  • Learning history (currently, specifically comparative studies between Buddhist and Catholic practice & Japanese Christian history)

There are other regular activities that I don't necessarily love, like exercise. I've wanted to be athletic but I would rather roll around and stretch until I can fold into a pretzel...for what purpose? I have no idea. I work out because I want to use what I'm given (health) to take care of my family as long as I am able. As much as I wish I loved exercise, I don't. But it's just like hundreds of other things that are necessary regardless of if they are fun or not.

Finally getting to the point...almost. I'll finish grad school in May, so the "what next" question comes up often. Answer, as photographed below:

  • Short version-Paint and teach.
  • Long version- Continue large scale ink painting series of Japanese Christian history, using and "translating" Western art compositions of parallel historical events. For teaching, if there are positions available, then teach Asian art history at local community colleges.
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Resolutions 2015:

  1. 50 paint-blog entries: practicing ink line work and "translating" Western art into Japanese style
  2. Use Japanese daily at home
  3. Memorize portions of Ephesians 3 and Colossians 3
  4. Submit proposals for conferences and publications
  5. Finish reading Japanese Old Testament
  6. Continue yoga working toward a press-up handstand

There it is. After the long-winded explanation, this travel blog is reborn now as my 50 paint-blog entry resolution for 2015. Here is 1/50. I'm painting a photo I took in Sintra, Portugal this summer at Quinta de Regaleira. I'm still in love with old walls. (See http://emakubo.com/2011/02/13/more-from-italy/ and http://emakubo.com/2010/04/05/paintings-from-cortona/ )

I don't know why I chose to work on such a giant painting to "get back into it." Perhaps my "Achiever" personality?

Here's the painting in progress and a detail shot. Another aspect of this 50 blog post is to stop being a proud perfectionist by show imperfect things. I'm sure there will be "off" days for drawing but with this concrete goal I have to show it anyways!

...plus some photos of my most recent organized chaos of art supplies and research materials. Apologies for the darkness. I'm looking for how to light up the studio space more. Also I only had my 35mm lens around so please excuse the weird angles and cropping :)

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 Coming next: Process/result of building a stretcher frame with my dad's help for a large oil painting I painted in Italy. We have a building date on Thursday. The neglected painting has been rolled up for 4.5 years!