25/50 : What to do with"28 Thousand Days"

 Our days are numbered. Alicia Keys reminded me the other day--"28 Thousand Days"? Maybe. Maybe not. Often not.

 Some changes at work make me more grateful for and mindful of the people I see daily. It's not guaranteed to continue.

 I painted this stack of pants for my boss as a goodbye and thank you gift to him- he reminded us of the right perspective, that we are after all "just selling pants."(written in Japanese in the painting since my job is exactly this translation process)

"Just Selling Pants" 

"Just Selling Pants" 

Psalm 39:4-7

Show me, Lord, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.

You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you.

Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.

Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom; in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth without knowing whose it will finally be.

But now, Lord, what do I look for?

My hope is in you.

By hoping and trusting in God, who is eternal, it puts my petty daily troubles (which wouldn't even make a visible dot on a timeline of eternity) into perspective. They will pass, but how I respond and treat people in the meantime- those things last longer. While my boss (who is on to other adventures) was incredible at his job, his love for people and care for coworkers as family set him apart and impacted everyone.

 

"Let all that you do be done in love."

1 Corinthians 16:14

 

ALL? Yup. God can work miracles even in a hard heart like mine, so he can make the impossible a reality.

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).



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)

22/50 : Life lesson from football & Japanese sweets

Looks like commuting time is the best no-chores-or-tasks opportunity to write. I learned a lesson from Japanese sweets today, and while they aren't paintings, they're in the creating department of my mind so I have to share!

Happy Autumn Equinox Day, or "Shu-bun no hi!" I took 40+ ohagi to work today (ohagi=traditional Japanese red beans and sticky rice confection). It's common to eat ohagi on the first day of fall, and since I'm still giddy about having Japanese coworkers I wanted to celebrate properly. By properly, I mean "with food." Even if it entails waking up at 4:20. 

A quick photo before work of 1 of my many packages of ohagi.

A quick photo before work of 1 of my many packages of ohagi.

I am by no means a morning person. But I am a food person so that can override my morning haze. I made it to bed right before 12am, and I hopped out of bed with excitement at 4:20! What a weirdo!

  • 4:20am: rinse and soak rice, take nap.
  • 5:30am: cook the rice, get ready for work.
  • 6:30am: go time for speed ohagi making
  • 7:50am: guard my sweets on Bart

Page made coffee and took me to the station to protect my precious cargo. I had my bundle close to my body under one arm... the most football player-esque I will ever look! Now I finally understand that football-holding position. It's a secure yet agile stance while on the move. (No, there are no 250-lb men tackling me BUT proportionally, my odds aren't that great if I get shoved around.) This reminded me of treasure, protecting something important to ensure its safe delivery. 

"Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I might not sin against you." Psalm 119:18

I protected my little sweets like treasure so that I could share them- as I thought about "treasure" I saw a picture of protecting God's word in order to share it. 

"I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food. Job 23:12

This was by far one of the most unusual lessons that has hit me recently. God knows my language! First and foremost directly from the Bible, but then bringing it to my mind through funny experiences like guarding my sweets on BART.

"For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us." 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

Since ohagi (the Japanese sweets) are so common, hopefully they will be at least a seasonal reminder of what I truly treasure. And not to hoard it but to carry that treasure and share it. Also, If I can wake up at 4:20 for sweets, I can most certainly wake up for more important things.

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.

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. 

 

 

16/50 : Found some buns in Thailand

Here's an etegami (picture-letter) from a photo I took in Thailand. 

I was thrilled to find a steamed bun shop in Thailand- an entire store, like a cupcake shop, with a lovely glass display case with rows upon rows of steamed buns. 

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A bun-lover's dream. 

The standard flavors at dim sum places are custard, red bean, meat/veggie fillings, but there were fantastic options like Thai tea cream custard, Pandan, Chocolate Banana... It took a while to decide. I mean, maybe 25 minutes to pick a bun. I finally settled on one: Taro Bun with Red Bean filling.

More Thailand-themed etegami to come!

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

IMG_0757
IMG_0758

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!