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} 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} 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!!

23/50: Portuguese Wall Painting & Yogi Adventures

While valuing everything I have from God (see last post)- his teaching, resources, time, talents- I want to share what I've been given. 

Now that doesn't mean I intend to give away everything I paint! The only paintings I give away are to family for now, until I build up a larger portfolio. This one was a recent painting for my mother-in-law's birthday.

16x20"

16x20"

At work she had a painting from a rotating collection that went through the offices but she wanted something that she would really enjoy looking at, not someone else's collection. I wanted the painting for her to match her character but of course can't encompass all of a person so I pinpointed a couple things about her: 

  • easygoing and relaxed but organized and responsible 
  • loves beautiful colors and being in God's creation.

Compared to a painting for Page (see here), the style is different. His was for a different purpose, more about structure and order. Hers is for enjoyment, for a breather. 

I took a photo of this wall in Portugal. It was part of a staircase tower in the magnificent garden/estate of Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra. We had never seen anything like it- the caves, palace, chapel, wild greenery, mossy stones, I can't do it justice in a sentence. 

[So if you're curious, look at pictures of this incredible place on trip advisor.]

Even plenty of space for yoga like the crane pose with a crane statue...what a cheeseball... I would love to spend days there. A yoga retreat maybe?

Back to the painting. I don't believe practice makes perfect, but that principle applies here. I attempted painting this wall earlier this year, and it's in my first post this year. I didn't end up posting the final version afterwards because it was a mess! In comparison, this new painting came together from start to finish in less than 3 hours. The point is, practice! The practice version (plus years of painting beforehand) wasn't wasted. If only I could remember that every time BEFORE my perfectionist tendencies take over and I'm discouraged after messing something up.

Lastly, something I'm meditating on: 

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing each other in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." Colossians 3:16

What do I dwell on and what kind of words result? (the latter seems to indicates the former)

21/50 : Careful what you Google! [Lessons from a new job, part 2]

I was working on a quick one-line translation at work. I looked up a name for a shade of pink in Japanese to see if it was a transliterated color name (like "pee-chi" for peach, etc) or a Japanese word. No photos came up, just text. That should've been clue number 1, but I wasn't aware that apparently Google doesn't show photos for graphic content. The summaries I skimmed in the first 5 hits that came up were unexpected! There I was, week 1 at work, already looking up...what? Porn. Noted, I am definitely NOT using this word in Japanese!

Lesson 1: Careful what you Google.

For my sanity, I must stop comparing this work commute to my previous Tokyo commute. Where could I begin? Why do people on the platform stand directly in front of the doors and block passengers getting off the trains? Why is there enough space to do yoga in the aisles between the seats while people are packed like sardines in the space between the doors on each train? Why is the escalator line far down the platform blocking traffic while the stairs are empty? Why are both sides of the escalator standing sides during rush hour? I suppose these questions answers my last question: Why is the train late 90% of the time?

As scary as it was to face a herd of morning commuting robots in Tokyo, I appreciated the unspoken systematic approach once I got the hang of it and became one of the robots.

Lesson 2: I've a feeling we're not in Tokyo anymore.

This etegami ("letter painting") below was for work also, included in a thank-you note. We talked about going to Humphry Slocombe for an ice cream break after a busy week so that part of the conversation went into the painting.

This weekend I realized (again) that my hopes and prayers are small. But time and time again I'm shown that the "impossible" is possible, and I should hope for great things. I should expect God to work miracles. I'm a pessimist. So, I need extra time spent focusing on the truth, like:

God's voice thunders in marvelous ways, He does great things beyond our understanding. [Job 37:5]

and my favorite that I forget too often:

"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory..." [Ephesians 3:20]

It's "risky" for a pessimistic-planner-type to expect great things and pray for miracles but here we go! Maybe changing this "pessimistic-planner-type" description of myself will be miracle #1.

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

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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i

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!