Thursday, 19 July 2018

Adding opacity to the painting, Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park

Another weekend excursion joining the SF Sketchers. Honestly I would have never noticed the lake (Stow Lake) and boathouse had the meetup not taken place there. Since I usually bike through the park, I never paid attention to this lake off the main road. 

Since I arrived very close to the end time of the meetup (insert blame on lack of motivation on weekend and SF traffic) I quickly got to work as soon as I parked my car. This little snippet is probably only a few steps away from my car, but it had a nice shade and a perfect view to test out adding gouache to watercolor. Ever since I saw James Gurney's video on drawing a water scene with gouache, I was hoping to attempt it myself. The combination of blue highlight, greenish refection in the distance (transparent), and the closer warm shadows from the trees (somewhat opaque) really makes a perfect testing ground. 

I'd say the drawing turned out much better than I thought, given I had very limited time.  The opacity really added body to the painting and put more weight to the shadow area. 


After finishing the show-and-tell session, I followed what everyone else had drawn and headed for the stone bridge. The green of the water really stood out, so I tried to bring it out as much as possible. The dark areas with added gouache really bring out the contrast with the bright green. Several boats/paddleboats made their way through the bridge, so I put two in also ;P


The Chinese Pavilion is the centerpiece of Stow Lake, situated on the island. I decided not to get too close to the pavilion (mostly because I was tired and hungry and still munching on my boathouse hotdog) and drew it from across the lake. The sunlight was shining at a nice angle on the roof of the pavilion, and gouache was able to save the day again by allowing me to add a few white beams back to the pavilion~

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Lots of snow, plenty of clouds: Donner Pass and the Sierra Nevada

After coming back from the 2-week work trip in Asia, I joined a small group of artists on their annual retreat at Donner Lake the following weekend. Since I already told my boss that I'm ready to leave my job, the trip was also a rare chance that I need not to think anything about work, which was on top of my mind since the beginning of the year.

I thought I left early enough on Friday afternoon, heading east towards Lake Tahoe, and boy was I wrong. I hit 5+ min solid traffic jams in at least 3 places heading out of the Bay Area, the worst of which was Walnut Creek, followed closely by Vacaville and Sacramento. At first I was driving hoping to catch dinner, after clearing Sacramento all I was hoping for was to reach my destination before nightfall. I grabbed a quick bite to eat in Auburn (quaint little town, but somehow the proprietor of the only Chinese restaurant in town refused to speak Chinese with me...) and barely managed to get there before the last light disappears. (A wise decision because the parking lot does not have lighting, neither does the uphill trail leading to the lodge) The lodge itself was nice and cozy. Despite the initial crisis of finding out the staff forgot to leave my key out, I settled in smoothly. The ancient heating system produces a thundering noise overhead, but heck I lived across from the I-280 for 2 years, so after a little getting used to the rhythm and I fell right asleep.



The next day was packed with unusual sceneries to admire. The old train sheds ran miles along the mountain. It was difficult to find my footing inside the dark (and wet) tunnels, but exploring it without artificial light and simply letting the eyes slowly adjust definitely felt like the right way to do it!


It was overcast most of the morning, and the sun just barely poked through the clouds close to lunch time. I quickly put the shadows on the cliffs in place before the sun disappears again (unfortunately along with its fleeting warmth)


Back in the cabin after dinner, I decided to give my newly bought casein a proper trial (I blended some in the first painting, but didn't go far with it) Unlike my normal sessions that are usually subjected to weather and constantly changing lighting conditions, drawing an indoor scene gave me much more freedom in spending as long as I wanted on a certain detail. Even more so that it is with opaque paint, because I'm often able to go back and paint over areas that I'm not happy with. Also the room was warm and cozy so why not take my time?


Another casein-dominated piece done while sitting next to the train track. A train actually came along and I waved back on the passengers. (Since it is a rare passenger amtrak train, I assume it is California Zephyr?)


A final one before heading back to the Bay. I wanted to do one with the classic lake-mountain-reflection and this tiny pond is located conveniently next to a parking strip.

And yes, I do need more hiking practice to aspire to be an artist.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

A Round of Ports: Busan, Shimonoseki, and Hong Kong

I was asked to fly out during the weekend a couple weeks ago for work in Korea. I regretted my decision to sacrifice my weekend but really had no reason to refuse. As I took on the much dreaded trip (departing Saturday morning, arriving Sunday night, then starting work Monday), I was met with the pleasant surprise that there is going to be a factory-wide shutdown the following week and all other factories in nearby countries are in Golden Week holiday. I've never really had more than one day of weekend when traveling for work, let alone whole 3 days! (Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday)

I wanted to see a little bit more of Korea, but also didn't want to miss the chance to go to Japan. So instead of flying out directly, I took a train to the closest major city, Busan, then rode a ferry from Busan to Fukuoka.


Since work ended early on Saturday, I had most of the afternoon to walk around Busan and enjoy the beautiful weather. I didn't expect Busan to leave much of an impression on me, since I figured it won't be much different from other Asian port cities I've been to. Boy was I wrong... Busan was surrounded by hills offering stunning backdrop to the busy port and numerous high rises. I tried to find a walkway closer to the waters and somehow ended up on an empty stretch of walkway along the piers. (there was exactly 1 person that went by in the one hour I was standing there) He muttered something in Korea (which I took to be along the lines of "oh what you're drawing here?!") and I returned a polite laughter of approval. 

I was under the impression that large ships dock forever, which was wrong, as the giant tanker left just as I was putting finishing touches on the distant hills. Throwing fist and protesting in its direction certainly did not help. Soon I looked like an idiot hallucinating of a large ship, so I quickly packed up and went on my way finding dinner.



 I arrived in Fukuoka around noon the next day. I was worried about the ferry ride because of my pathetic ability against seasickness, but the hydrofoil boat felt more like a bus than a boat when it was at speed. More than anything, I was glad that I could finally order food without guessing! I was never so happy when I saw the Kanji written on buildings as we approached the port.

After dropping of my suitcase and finishing up some shopping, I departed for Mojiko/Shimonoseki, along the strait separating Kyushu and Honshu. There weren't many tourists, even though it is the beginning of Golden Week in Japan, probably because most of them are heading to eastern Kyushu where there are hot springs and resorts. I quickly located my target: Kanmon Bridge, and set out painting this piece with a boat in the foreground.


The tour of ports ended in Hong Kong, where I met up with my parents in the last day of China Golden Week (Tuesday) After they set off to the airport to catch their afternoon flight, I decided to scout out one of the lesser known attractions of Hong Kong, Checkerboard Hill, usually associated with the old Kai Tak Airport. There was no clear signage for the place so I poked around online blogs and google reviews. Unfortunately most of the directions for the vista point were from 3+ years ago, and every single one of them contained explicit instructions to jump over fences and find holes in wires. It took me 3 hikes up the same mountain to find the actual checkerboard! I almost gave up after my 2nd attempt and decided to just look up at the hill from the nearby tennis court. However, right after I refilled my water bottle at the tennis court and was enjoying the gentle breeze, I saw somebody descending down the hill behind me. The hill was so clearly fenced off that I thought there was no way that person could make it...but he just bent slightly and walked through a barely noticeable hole in the fence!! (There was so much vegetation behind the fence that you can't see the hole unless specifically looking for it) I basically stared at him open-mouthed as he headed down to the tennis court. He then noticed me and told me something in Cantonese (I didn't understand him, but I assume it's along the lines of "you can reach the top of the hill from there"). I asked if this is checkerboard hill, but he seemed to not know the name. So I thanked him and walked gingerly up the steep stairway. I admired the spectacular view above the trees and paid my respect to the peeling colors of the original checkerboard pattern. After hearing and seeing it so many times online, I finally was able to see it with my own eyes (albeit not touching it, because I'm slightly afraid of height lol)

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Car Week!

I sorted started a car painting spree last week, experimenting with different color combinations. The first 3 are all Subaru STI's, specifically referencing the 22B. Last one is a Lotus Esprit. All done in Photoshop w/ Intuos










Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Spring in San Jose: Rose Garden and Rosicrucian Park

It has been quite a while since I was last at the San Jose Municipal Garden. I vaguely remember a unsatisfactory ink drawing of the fountain and being jokingly asked to include a portrait when I was working on a rose. Even though it is really close to where I live, I still preferred driving 1 hr one way to San Francisco than staring at roses and trees all day. That said, I was still looking forward to painting with fellow sketchers in South Bay.



There were a lot of merry-making people in the park, including families and friends taking commemorative photos. I thought most of the flowers would be gone after the rain storm the previous day, but the flowers were surprisingly resilient and I saw plenty still fully blooming.


We moved over to the Rosicrucian Park/Egyptian Museum a block away after lunch. It is an entirely different gardening style from the Rose Garden, with several walkways criss-crossing the foliages. I sat down on a bench in the shade (because digesting lunch was taking up too much of my energy) and chose a scene that is of my weakness. (not a lot of clear shapes, complex details) But since I was sitting and sunlight was consistent, I patiently worked my way through the layers of plants.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Gardens of Alcatraz

I was fortunate enough to get a spot to join the SF Sketchers in the Alcatraz tour over the weekend. When I signed up for the event 1 week ago, I was dead last at 18th on the waitlist. But by some divine intervention, I was confirmed to go the afternoon before the day of the event!

It was such a short notice that I had no time to rethink my decision to get up at 6am. To catch the staff boat we had be ready at the dock by 8am. Given 1 hr driving time, no prior experience parking around Pier 33, and the need to get breakfast and snack for the day, I gave myself a full 2-hour buffer. I was brutally awaken by my alarm, scrambled my stuff together, and then drove a couple minutes in the dark amidst light drizzle to a nearby donut shop (which opens at 5am for some unknown reasons...) I was expecting a dreary little place with no customers, but was pleasantly welcomed to a brightly lit and spacious diner with a handful of people already eating! Although I still have no idea what they're doing at 6am on a Saturday... I got my breakfast (tea and donut) and snack (breakfast burrito), then headed off North as the skies slowly brightened up. 

I scouted a parking location w/ good review the day before at nearby Pier 27. I did notice the side note saying no public parking is allowed if a cruise ship is docked there, but ignored it nonetheless since I don't recall seeing a single cruise ship in all my years in the Bay Area! As luck would have it though, I saw a cruise ship docked at SF for the first time that morning.. and that means of course that I had to find somewhere else to park...fast! (I did find an unlimited time meter on Lombard street in the end)


A volunteer guide from the Golden Gate Park Conservancy walked us through 3 gardens on the island. Two of which are normally off-limits to visitors. You could still see the gardens from usual walking paths, but getting down a level to the garden itself really offers an entirely different view! This one, for example, has the garden, Warden's House, and the Bay bridge! This piece alone justifies the early morning Odyssey from South Bay for me.



Here's the piece with the actual view. It was really when we got on the island that the sun started poking out of the cloud, which came as a total surprise to all of us. Given the rain storm the other night, I packed all my rain gear and brought my most waterproof bag!


When I was drawing this, I heard a mom telling her son, "No, she's not a prisoner, she's a painter!" The part in the audio guide about prisoners painting must have really got into his head haha.

In the end I had to head back on an earlier ferry because I thought the event end time is the time we get back to the mainland... so I didn't put enough time into the parking meter... oh well~