Category Archives: Europe 2018

Jammin’ in Picasso’s Cafe

My recent trip to Barcelona was a visual feast of Gaudi buildings, art, food and music.  I mean when you visit a place, you can tell that the arts has a large and profound influence on the city.  You can immediately sense that in Barcelona.

I have been soaking up everything weird and colorful here.  From all kinds of unique shops dealing with eclectic art and raunchy chocolate snacks, there is literally something for everyone here.  It is nice when you can jump out of your own comfort zone and into a place like Barcelona.  People are very enthusiastic about their city.  Independence is important to them, to have their own Catalyn identity and history is what sets this region apart from the rest of Spain.  One of my own personal highlights came when I found a cafe that Picasso was associated with.

I found out that this cafe called 4 Gats was an important historic landmark because it was where Picasso had his first art show at 19. Which is ironic, because that’s how old I was when I began my art journey despite all the negative resistance from family.

 

Not many people know this about me, but I took piano lessons as a kid and have a greater appreciation now than before. I wanted to know what it was like to play at Picasso’s old hangout spot and once I saw that piano, I had to go for it. The moment lasted just a minute but I knew it would be special for me.

There are moments in life you just jump before your mind gets to stay stop, and you know that’s when it’s right for you. Luckily, I recorded this moment and had no idea what to play, so I improvised. And here is a taste of it…

 

 

Small Wings

Here’s a story you may have heard of.   It’s about a small bird called “Small Wings”.  He was a lonely, little bird who knew nothing of the outside world due to the hidden, overprotective nurturing his upbringing was bestowed on him since birth.  But this baby bird also had a special gift also in its infancy waiting to share with the outside world.

 

He was colorblind

This little bird wished that he could see colors. He loved painting and always enjoyed painting from his heart. But something wasn’t quite right. He was born with a limited ability to see black and white images. Maybe it was because this bird was using substandard art materials that clouded his own vision to see correctly. And he didn’t know it, just kept moving along and painting what his skills allow him to do. This bird tried watercolors, acrylics, pastels and everything he could find to express his vision. But he was still not satisfied. Not yet.

So one day as he was painting outdoors, an old bird who also was an artist painting the same scene, decided to give the boy one of his paintbrushes. The little bird was puzzled, didn’t know why the old bird gave him a paintbrush. He already had many paintbrushes. So the little bird dipped his new paintbrush into the color paints and painted on his canvas.

 

Suddenly, Small Wings could see a few strokes in color. He painted more!  First the sky, then the sun, then the foreground where the trees were sparkling a few more breaths of the last light of day. Everything the boy was painting, now the boy could see in color. He had no idea why he could see color. Was the old artist some kind of magician? Or a superhero? This little bird has never seen the colorful paintings he has been painting for years until now.

 

Then a miracle happened…

Then he suddenly realized why he could see color. The universe might have granted his wish? Maybe someone believed in him enough that it manifested at the right time? What Small Wings saw was amazing and could finally understand why he’s been painting all these years despite his inability to paint with beautiful colors. You see, his colors were not so bright, not so clear before. But someone activated the bird’s belief in himself. Small Wings tried for years to paint from his heart, his eyes, his hands to the canvas, but the paintings never turned out as well as he wanted to.

This little bird years later turned into an older, wiser bird and soon went out of his comfort zone from America to the island of Taiwan where he found a second master bird painter. It was the first time this little bird was now taking private art lessons and this very old master artist was teaching him techniques that were more old world than he was.

This hardworking bird studied the materials and discovered the right brushes, the right way to stretch a canvas, the right way to compose a painting, and some of the best paints he saw on the master artist’s palette. There were all different brands to experiment and try out. What Small Wings discovered he liked best was the paint that was thicker in consistency, higher in chroma and close to old world colors that would impress even Michelangelo. A few of these paints were oil paints, such as Michael Harding and Gamblin. The bird was hooked!  As if he finally was painting with the right type of art materials. Some of his favorite colors were Naphthol Red, Indian Yellow, Ultramarine Blue, Titanium White and Yellow Ochre.

 

Simplicity is still the best…

This bird believed that a simple core palette was the way for him. He liked his colors mixed and harmonious. He sometimes used a variety of other colors and brands, but usually went back to his core colors. The best part was that there was an art store in faraway Taipei that carried his favorite paints. “Just holding them in your claws makes you feel like a better artist” thought the feathery artist.  As he happily purchased his core colors and his paintings, especially his portraits began to improve and there was no looking back now. This baby bird was now a grown bird on a mission, painting his heart out in Portugal.

As a result of Small Wing’s newfound discovery of these amazing paints, his perception changed, and so his world as well. He will never forget how to paint his colorful paintings again. Things were not so black and white, or muddy again.  The right art materials do make a difference no matter how big or small you are.  His art became like a long-lost friend.  And our feathery artist finally learned to see…again.


Thank you for reading my blog. You can check out this painting in my gallery here. If you would like to keep updated with my latest art and blog posts, subscribe here.

Blue Gates of Fez

 

I’m doing a little catch-up here, I took a trip to Fez, Morocco in late December 2017.  It was a place of amazing architecture, food and contrasts of religions.  It felt like being in a different planet.  Kind of like Santa Fe, but with a more Arabic flavor.  But I later painted what became “Blue Gates of Fez”.

I’ll have the Medina Special please…

First, the city really didn’t feel like one.  It’s quite old, perhaps over 1000 years old.  I stayed in the old town part.  With tons of medinas in an infinite maze of cultural possibilities, not knowing what’s around the corner, there were surprises everywhere.  Most of the shop owners were friendly, but you couldn’t feel the tension of trying to earn a living there.  You can feel it in the air, and the smell of spices and other aromas in the air as well.

Walking in the medinas in old town

I loved the food, there was some really good couscous and orange juice. Yes, even better than Florida! Lots of meats and vegetarian options. Being here in old town with all the narrow medinas (small alleys) and large amounts of people can raise your blood-pressure. I found some secluded spots in town to relax as well. But you have to go outside of the blue gates, which I painted from this scene.

Blue Gates of Fez

I loved this scene because it represented a door into a special world that is as exotic, dangerous and profound as anyone could imagine.  It’s difficult to describe this place in just a few words.  The whole place is a work of art.  You can see it on its walls, arches, medinas.  The details are extraordinary.  It’s a living, breathing museum that is meant for everyone to experience.

 

And to be here for just a few days, the pace was dizzying of visual stimulation that overloaded my own senses.  I was scheduled for five days but felt three was enough and departed for Seville, Spain.  Sometimes you have to adjust your own schedule to help your sanity.  I wasn’t relaxing enough and felt too much nervous energy in my bones.  But what I received from this trip was a taste of a different world I’ve always wanted to visit.  I wanted to take a camel ride, but it was far too expensive for me at this time, and it was cold here during my stay.  Yes, even here it gets cold.

Beyond the Blue Gates

So when I went home, I painted the iconic archway from the Blue Gate.  And because it was dusk, there were lots of sunlight on the old walls.  I wanted to include the details of the bricks and walkway.  The opening was mysterious.  I didn’t feel comfortable putting people in, I wanted to paint possibilities, and that meant abstracting the scene.  It could be interpreted in many ways but it the end, it felt right to do.  Perhaps later on, I’ll paint more from my Fez trip.  But at least I ended up with a nice painting that took me a few months to complete in various stages.

 

 

And last, can’t forget the local music.  Combined with mint tea it was a nice way to end my Fez adventure.

 


Thank you for reading my blog. You can check out this painting in my gallery here. If you would like to keep updated with my latest art and blog posts, subscribe here.

Dance Like a Volcano (the wait is over!)

Hibernation is over, let the dance begin!

I spent this past few months doing much soul searching about some pretty deep stuff. Yes, I tend to do that often but I wanted to really dig in to what I’m about and what I want to paint. I’m very proud of everything that I painted in the past. I also believe in progression as well. If you don’t progress as an artist or human, then if feels like death to me. I have worked on lots of experimentation and studying other artists to help my own education. And I have been working on being a better English teacher for my students. My art-life is truly important for me and I need to express myself on a more regular basis. I’m learning to use my time more wisely as well. And my paintbrush must dance for this one.  I often come home from teaching classes and I’m usually tired. I tend to stay up real late either painting or a devoted procrastinator on social media.

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And Now For Something Beautiful

My latest painting started with a trip to Porto, where I visit often.  It’s the biggest city close to me.  I need my city fix quite often.  So off I go and I enjoy walking around without a game plan, cause I seem to have one in all areas of my life.  This is where the free spirit is unleashed into the great wide outdoors of magical possibilities.  Can you dig it?  I saw a small street full of local vendors and the star of this show happened to dance my way.  She was a beautiful gypsy dancer that somehow time-traveled to this particular street.  Swirling, smiling and dancing to unleash her free spirit as well.  I was enchanted and I took her pic during her captivating dance.  I knew I had to be quick because who knows when her dance was over.  So I took some pics and later found the best one.

The Dancer

So with this pic, I went home and soon after started painting this. I knew it would be challenging because I had to paint a portrait in motion.  I also planned to change the background so it wouldn’t distract from the focal point, which was the dancer herself.  For me, the background isn’t just filler, it accompanies the main subject.  There was already enough detail for the dancer.  (sorry, I didn’t get her name).  I sometimes meditate in my mind before I even pick up a paintbrush.  What do I really want to express here?

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Time to get bold

I wanted some bold colors to start the painting, and having that background orange-red really sets the mood and tone of the whole piece. Next I had to work on a great composition. Had to make sure all the facial features were aligned right or it will make the whole portrait look off. I didn’t want that. I work loose when I have to and work tight when I have to.  The first stage tells me where I should give more color or details, where the piece is suppose to evolve.  I listen and watch very carefully to ensure the painting remains harmonious and appealing.  After the larger shapes are completed, I work the face.  I need to capture that special look that will connect.  And the eyes, oh how I love painting eyes.   An artist named Robert Henri has always done some amazing portraits and I often think about his work process.  To keep it simple yet powerful.  Not so easy no matter any skill level.  And to do the smile just right takes so much patience too.  I work other parts of the painting such as the dress and background and come back to the face later.  I usually get a fresher perspective this way.  You need a mental break and pause, then come back and work some more.

Filling in the colors and shapes

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When it all comes together

Dance Like A Volcano 12×9″ oil on panel

When it’s done, you know it’s done. You can’t do more. There’s nothing left to be done. Maybe there will be months or years from now. But by then, you should move on or do another piece of the same subject if you want to. This captures what I am about today. And today’s really all we have. And to capture a moment in time is quite special too. I ended up taking all kinds of styles and throwing it in there like I’m making a soup. A little impressionism, a tad of surrealism, some classical influences. I wanted the face smoother and more delicate than the clothes. Like classical music, there are loud bits and quiet bits. This is what helps make a dynamic painting. Lots of interesting and unexpected things going on. For example, the background may look like fire, but it’s really a tourist with red hair and a backpack. And the dancer is still in command and nothing will stop her from being the center of attention. This is what I wanted with this painting.  I want her to dance like a volcano.  I wanted to see some boldness and attitude in this painting. What do you think?


Thank you for reading my blog. You can check out this painting in my gallery here. If you would like to keep updated with my latest art and blog posts, subscribe here.