Monday, July 27, 2015


Work in progress shot #1: The Cookie Monster song "C is for cookie, that's good enough for me" kept playing in my head as I was painting these. Here's a work in progress shot of them cream filled confections as part of a bigger composition I'm working on.

Work in progress shot #2: I found a yellow ceramic vase shaped like a pair of boots at a local thrift store and immediately saw how much charm it had. The yellow color, the glossy texture, the appealing shape ..and then I dropped it. The cashier charged me a bit less than half of it's original price wondering why I still paid anyway for 8 broken pieces. Well, I had other plans for it and it started with getting myself some supah-glue.

Work in progress shot #3: I had always wanted to paint this knife kebab that someone gave away at work but painting it on it's own would make it look a bit lonely and neglected. This was the perfect composition to add it in and the most fun to do!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


It was another first for me to join an even bigger plein air painting competition. This was just what I needed to get me to go outdoors and paint, otherwise, I'd be indoors...painting the outdoors. I learned quite a lot from painting outside. It allowed me to see more than what a picture limits me to. I was forced to stick with it until the very end, so concentration was at it's highest.  I discovered that  my competitors weren't the other artists. I had a different competition of my own actually. It was a battle between my understanding of watercolors and the environment. The external factors (heat, humidity, wind, dirt, noise) can affect drying time, water to pigment ratio and really shake things up with how I would normally go about my painting process.   I had to work at a whole different pace and make crucial decisions along the way, be confident with them and then just do it. It was as if the surroundings said:  "So you think you can paint? Let's shake things up a bit!"

This is my location along Elliot Street. We had a tent to keep us in the shade and it was possible to share the same tent with other artists who chose that location as well. I had very little choices if I stayed inside the tent. 

This was my view from the tent. The Dragon Fly Gallery. Allan, the owner, reminded me of a wrestler, almost like Jake the Snake Roberts, his long gray hair and a handlebar mustache. But he was a kind soul. He opened his doors to me an any other artist who might need to use a washroom. They opened the two red gates and brought out some of their cool stuff, rustic novelties and collectibles like wooden chests, cement painted birds, old vintage cans, bottles, wine crates etc. for us to paint. It was like a gigantic still life painting to do, however, as you can see in the picture, it was all covered in shade. 

I decided to go outside the tent and made sure that it was within the rules. I could technically go outside the tent but stay within 20 feet from the tent and this is what I saw. There was a restaurant called Sharkey's to the right which is not seen in this picture and a small arrangement of landscaped rocks just a few feet from where I was standing. Others were looking at this too. One of the organizers mentioned that this will be torn down soon and rebuilt into a more structurally sound facility with the same materials. It will become an art studio for children to learn arts and crafts. Now I have a good reason to make this my subject. I didn't like how neglected it looked, with the foliage in the front. I thought of changing that to make it more appealing and more inviting. So I thought of  "borrowing" other elements I saw that would look more interesting and colorful in place of the leaves.  

This building was just a few feet away from the barn. I borrowed the raised platforms with potted plants and flowers, the tree and the black posts. I incorporated that as the front of the barn and did a quick sketch to see how it all fit together.

The event was well organized and seamless. We had a contact person and number to call if we had any questions,  a bottle of water was provided by the volunteers, each of them were well informed and all answered questions well, our lanyards had our designated number, a lunch voucher, a price card to put the painting up for sale after, a raffle ticket and a thin plastic that held pencil led and an eraser. 

There were lots of people who came by to show their support and I received a variety of positive feedback from volunteers of the event, the Ladner community and the public. One gentleman said that he was told by the others to check out "the guy painting at the end of the street". That was very encouraging to hear. 
Here's a close up of the barn. I didn't have much space to put my water container and used the top of the fire hydrant as a base. My container was knocked by 3 times! Once by me, and twice by other spectators. They were so kind to refill it for me. One gentleman asked if I wanted water to drink and had his bottled water ready to be given. I politely declined as I came prepared with 3 that he didn't see.

When all was said and done, all entries were framed and hung in the Ladner Community Center gymnasium, for sale. (A huge thanks to Lily for lending me her frame. She had two extra ones and made sure to give me the one that looked best with my painting. I didn't realize I had to bring my own.) I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around. I didn't recognize the gentleman, but he asked me: "Where's your painting?" I pointed to the corner where my painting was hanging and he and his wife made their way there. He came back to me after and said that he really liked my painting and thought that the colors and style was unique and beautiful. He also mentioned that I was the only one who painted in the street number. I told him the story that I heard from other people which is why the number had to be there. It's a detail that provided character to the building and a tribute to the historic value it represented. 

I didn't win any prize, but this felt even better!

Monday, July 13, 2015


Well, I just made a couple of babies this week. A commission that was meant as a mother's day present to his wife by my good friend and colleague at Kodak. As we all know, and have experienced in "other" ways, making babies takes a lot of hard work and preparation(!) Two separate solo shots of each baby were used and combined into this one painting. I made several pencil sketches and color tests before I started with the actual one. You will see the color studies I did where I painted the clothes as is and I felt that it was commanding too much attention. So I thought of keeping their clothes "neutral" and splashing the color as the background instead. Where the colors intersect is where their separate identities become that special bond only shared between a brother and a sister, being born at almost the same time.

A close up shot of the mouth. Painting babies requires a great deal of concentration and a lot of pigment to water control. It's just not the same as painting an apple.

I used to think that babies were But they are also blue, purple, yellow, brown and green in very subtle gradations. The white you see is the color of the actual paper. Those have been carefully left out and painted around.

Sunday, July 5, 2015


Steveston Village. Canada Day. 10x10 ft pavement. 5 hours and loads of chalk. People stopped by with a variety of encouraging words to share, especially the kids! While in the zone, working on the orca, I heard a little girls voice asking me, Watchudoing?! I looked to my left, and there she was, just sitting beside me, a little girl with brown curly hair. I smiled and replied: "I'm coloring the ground, with chalk". After the painting was done, we revealed to the crowd that there was more than meets the eye. When they realized what was in front of them all along, they HAD to try it for themselves. Although we did not win the competition, I felt that we accomplished more than that: Six days prior to, when I accepted the challenge, I had zero knowledge of 3D chalk art. Since then, we progressed exponentially from trial and error using whatever free time we had. The reward was seeing the curiosity of a child ignite, witnessing adults being child-like for a brief moment, bringing smiles from those who chose to spectate from a distance or strike a pose with no reservations. It was an ambitious project for two and we made it happen Lily!

Mark Glavina was the brains behind this event. He is an artist-entrepreneur who owns Phoenix Art Studio in Steveston and travels around the world to paint and do workshops! It was nice of him to take care of the artists as each group was given an honorarium amount in dollars just to participate and entertain, 4 boxes of chalk pastels, food vouchers, a tent for shade and water as he walked around making sure we didn't pass out from dehydration.

These are the art supplies we used (coffee cup not included). We had to get creative with our tools. We used anything from zip lock bags, a rock, a shower curtain rod, paper plates, spray bottles and of course, the most effective and efficient tool, the human hand. (Photos: Hand courtesy of Lily Li and scenes by Xiangfeng Xu)

We were by the water so the wind was quite a challenge to work with as it would blow away the chalk we were laying down. (And it messed up the hair too.) There were two other girls and a boy with glasses who sat beside me and asked what I was drawing. I teased them a bit and said, it's big, black and white and likes to eat seals! The boy said Killer Whale! I said hey you just might be right. You're smart! One of the girls said, with a proud look on her face, yes he is...and he's going to Kindergarten. lol. (Photos: Hand courtesy of Lily Li and scenes by Xiangfeng Xu)

The ground was really craggy. You can see the raised edges that look like concrete waves. It was really unforgiving on the hands but there was no other way to pack in the chalk and get a good spread of colors to blend. (Photos: Hand courtesy of Lily Li and scenes by Xiangfeng Xu) 

This is what you will see if you look at it from the wrong angles. It will look distorted and stretched. We wrote some simple instructions on the ground and marked the spots where people should pose before we left. I went back long after the competition was over just to enjoy the boardwalk this time. As I passed by the spot, there was a family reading the instructions and taking pictures. They had a big smile on their face. That felt good.

Here's what the effect looks like when taken in the correct spot and angle. What happened to the fish you were to feed him Lily Li?

These are the other paintings done by the other groups. I didn't get to meet or see them but I do have the pleasure of knowing a couple of them. Here's a shout out to my good friends Bill and Olga for winning top prize! (I couldn't get rid of the shadows!)   


I decided to charge the first try to experience. The effect was not exactly how I wanted it. Lily also didn't feel it was working as it was too cartoony. She wanted more black! We had 3 days left before competition day and I didn't know where to start and how to fix it. I researched more and gathered bits of information from different sources that I thought were essential. I watched and re-watched recordings of the chalk art paintings from around the world, short clips of chalk artists in action. Nothing was instructional, but there was just enough to look at and observe....then it finally clicked (in the shower!). I feverishly drew up the concept and made the necessary preparations in the middle of the night for next day's practice. I was excited to try it!

This concept came pretty quickly as I knew exactly what kind of images I needed as reference. The orca of course is the center of interest as it is the biggest element and will have the most contrast in color and value. As your eyes move around, the pool will keep you within the scene. The maple leaves direct you to the salmon. It's eyes will point you back to the Orca. Steveston is represented by the whale and fishes and Canada day, the maple leaves. People will stand beside the Orca and interact with it, feeding it or playing with it. The concept still captured what I thought represented the spirit of the day, hopefully without being too obvious, but just enough to make references to Canada or Steveston.

The effect was starting to come out! I was so happy and relieved to see that my gut feel was right! I no longer had to reach up high into the sky to take this picture for the effect to happen. The ground was rough but smooth enough to hold chalk. This is important otherwise building up the color would be a pain. This blend came out very well as I quickly grew accustomed to understanding how chalk behaved.

A closer look at how the fishes were drawn. Each square you see on the grid is 1 foot.

I rushed the Orca. I didn't need to paint the snot out of the big guy as only the basic shape was needed to see the effect. It also started to drizzle so we quickly took pictures of it. There were people who came by and had very nice things to say smile emoticon One of them asked if we planned to finish it today. I said probably not since this was just for practice to achieve a 3D effect and that we will clean up right after. She said "please don't. Just leave it!" haha. One of them even thanked me for doing this. That's awesome. I decided to clean up since it will eventually become a blackness after the rain.

 Here's Lily and her little girl posing with the Orca. Haha. That was so fun to capture on camera just before we wash it all away.

The chalk will never remain but its in the photograph where the effect happens and stays forever. (As it was being washed away, I allowed myself to shed just one, one tear. I wiped it with the back of my hand and walked a man...with black chalk now all over his face. haha.)   


Who would've known that I'd be dabbling with chalk pastels...on the pavement! I was invited by a friend of mine to join her for the Chalk On The Boardwalk competition at Steveston Village on Canada Day. We quickly drew out some ideas and experimented with chalk. This was done at Mt. Pleasant park and we spent a good amount of hours during the hottest part of the day. The theme: "Capture the spirit of the day."

Lily wanted to do a 3D effect with the painting. Naturally, if it involves chalk art on the sidwalk, this is the way to go! These were the preliminary sketches in an attempt to capture the spirit of the day. I thought of integrating something from Steveston Village (Orca and Salmon) and Canada Day (Actual people interacting with the painting which I would guess, have some representation of Canada on their person). I had the idea in mind, but little did I know the technique and how much work goes into it. We went with the first one on the upper left to try out with chalk on a 10ftx10ft pavement.

This is a shot of the colors I used for this fish. I quickly learned how chalk behaved on pavement. I really needed to pack it in every nook and cranny for the powder to stick.

Trying to blend different colors for the next fish. This guy is jumping out of the water with his belly up.

Working on the orca now coming out of the pool in the ground. I quickly learned that a sponge brush worked well enough to spread the chalk as opposed to my hand. I only felt the effect of a palm exfoliation after. It turned the pads of my fingers quite red and sensitive to running water.

Heat? No excuses. The sun was scorching hot, people were in the park working on their color and we were making some headway with ours. (I had to extend my arms skyward, straining and struggling to take a picture blindly with my phone to get the correct angle for the fishes to look like they're jumping out. People should be able to take a picture just below their eye level for the effect to work so I knew there was something wrong with the distortion. There wasn't any "step by step" instructions on the internet to get this right, so this idea had to be scrapped eventually!)

There was a baby orca that I couldn't finish that day. So we decided to pack up and come back another day. We left a nice little message just to let the community know that yes, It's our mess and we intend to clean it up!

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