Sunday, December 21, 2008

Copy of Homer's "Sailing the Catboat"

For my final project in Watercolor Painting I did a copy of Winslow Homer's "Sailing the Catboat".  I really like how this one turned out, primarily because I love Homer's paintings so much.  He is, in my opinion, the greatest watercolorist ever, and one of my favorite artists.  Also I find that many people in the class paint in a tight, illustrative fashion, and I was trying to do the same and was getting a little frustrated.  But I realized that I prefer to paint watercolors in loose fashion like this, allowing the colors to run and intermix freely, creating a variety of spontaneous effects.  It's strange because my oil paintings tend to be very tight, but I think I will stick with this loose style for my watercolors.

More Watercolors

You guys seem to like watercolors, so here are two more I did for the class.  I'm having trouble photographing the watercolors, so bear with me.  The first one is from a photo I have of Central Park in January.  It's very complex, so I think it turned out pretty well.  But I tend to paint too light, so I have to layer a lot which makes the painting look overworked.  This is especially a problem in the trees.  The second picture is from Point Reyes Station.  It's more successful than the first, but still a long way to go. :(

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Workshop Drawings

My drawings have suddenly taken a turn for the better. I think all of these workshops I've been going to have started to pay off. But also I'm noticing a synergy effect between oil painting, watercolor painting, charcoal rendering, and this comic book / manga-style drawing I've recently been studying. It's surprising that things I learn in one medium carry over so much to other mediums. We only have 2 weeks left in this semester, but the fact that I still seem to be on the steep part of the learning curve means I'll probably stay in school for one more semester.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


This is an oil painting of my rascally nephew. I think he was having a low sugar moment, so he is relatively low-key. I've been wanting to paint this for awhile now, because I really like the sunlight effects. I think it's by far my best painting to date. The sunlight turned out well, but the major breakthrough for me is in the flesh tones. They are a lot more subtle and realistic than in my previous painting. It was nice to have this turn out well, because I had been suffering through a string of rather mediocre paintings.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Family Portrait

This is an oil painting I did of my sister's family. In general I'm pretty happy with it because I've never done a painting of this complexity. I think the likenesses are pretty good, which was my biggest concern. However, as my teacher pointed out, the main issues are with the colors. Everything feels a bit too plastic and cut-out, and the flesh tones are too gray. Also the yellow bench, the blue jeans, and the red wall are actually the three primary colors (or 'Triad' scheme, thank you Adam), which looks kind of strange. I'm going to be modifying this, but I just wanted to post it the way I submitted it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

More Pen & Watercolor

Here are two more, also watercolor over pen. The left one is based on a photo of the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto. The right one was done on location at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. I'm finding it hard to photograph these watercolors because they are kind of light.

Pen & Watercolor

This one turned out really well. It's based on a photo I have of the Mission in Carmel. It's a technique where we do the initial drawing in pen, then add color on top of it using watercolor. Some artists use this to do travel sketches, one of my favorites being Delacroix's sketches in Algiers. This kind of looks like those, so I was really happy. However, this might have been a fluke, because nothing I've done since has looked as good. :)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mosly Non-Naked People

CLOTHED people?!? I didn't sign up for this!!! Hmm, actually I did sign up for Clothed Figure Painting this semester. My figure painting has really taken a step up lately. My classmate said that the month break we had probably helped, which I agree with. But also I find that clothed figures are (somewhat counterintuitively) a lot more interesting than nudes. There's just a lot more stuff going on with colors, textures, and shapes, whereas nudes are just these big masses of orange and pink.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More Watercolors

Here's a couple more watercolors. The apples & pitcher was a class assignment. The fish paintings were done as homework to demonstrate different techniques (clockwise from upper left: salt, alcohol, masking fluid, spatter). I think watercolor is really effective in portraying water (duh), so I really like the way the fish turned out.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


My watercolor painting class has a couple interesting things about it. One is that there is an inordinate amount of female students in the class (I'm not complaining). Two, my professor is really awesome. She's an unbelievable artist, and also a very good teacher. Which is good because I sort of have a phobia about watercolors, due to a rather traumatic experience I had in a Sunnyvale class a couple years ago.

We are taking it step by step (which that other class didn't do). The first painting is black and white. In the second, we are trying different watercolor techniques like salt, alcohol (on the paper, not drinking), spattering. Watercolors are different from oils in that you build from light to dark, which sort of reminds me of charcoal. Also it's more difficult to correct/modify things, so you need to plan ahead better. I've found that it's also quite a bit more pleasant, because you don't need to deal with the fumes or solvents that are a problem in oils.

Monday, September 22, 2008


We painted these landscapes from photographs in the first class of Landscape Painting. The interesting thing is that despite my total lack of skill and training, it actually looks kind of nice. It's cool because you don't have to worry about total accuracy and can concentrate more on making a nice picture. I'm looking forward to trying more of these, but it may be a while since I dropped the class; dropped it like a used Kleenex.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Zhang Zi-Yi

Before each semester starts, I like to do one big project. This time I chose the incomparable Zhang Zi-Yi! I've collected quite a few photos of ZZY, but this one is unusual in that it is a full profile. It turns out profiles are a LOT easier than full-on or three-quarter views. Also the hair is really cool in this one, which is good practice for a really complex drawing I am planning. I really like how this one turned out. The Char-Kole I used in the hair gives a really rich, deep black. Also I like the detailing of the shoulder of the dress.

More Portraits

After all those toned paper portraits, I decided to go back to what I like the best: vine and compressed charcoal on white charcoal paper. These are two small portraits I did to get back into the swing of things. They turned out reasonably well. It's still difficult to work with the vine charcoal, especially when I'm out of practice. I used mainly vine on these, and they have a very gray feel to them, which I'm not sure I like.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Toned Paper Experiments

This is a drawing of my coworker Resmi's daughter, Fajita. (Names changed to protect the innocent.) In Heads & Hands we explored different colors of toned papers, from grays to blues and greens. This one is the color "Sand" (which my professor insisted on calling "sandpaper", confusing the heck out of us). I'm not sure I'm a big fan of toned paper in general, but some people like it because in building up the lights, it's more similar to painting than drawing on white paper. I just think that the white pencil is a bit hard to control, and stands out too much, but perhaps I just need more experience. "Sand", though, is too dark and greenish, and I probably won't use it anymore.

Last Self-Portrait

As a measure of redemption for all those I've massacred with my portraits, I was forced to paint this really horrible self-portrait for Heads & Hands. It's not a bad painting, but it doesn't really look like me, and I was totally unmotivated to put any time into it. It's interesting though to see how different it looks from my first painted portrait. We learned quite a bit even in the 3-4 weeks in betweeen.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Waterhouse Has Nothing to Worry About

This is our final 3-session painting in Intro to Figure Painting. On the left is the artist-in-training. This was a challenging painting on several levels. The 18"x24" canvas was the biggest I've ever used. My prof told me that in the art world it still is classified as a "miniature", but it felt gigantic to me! The two figure composition is challenging because you have to get the relative sizes and positions correct. Finally, we had to design an environment for the figures. I got the background from a painting by one of my favorite artists, the British painter J.W. Waterhouse. Since I added the background after the fact, it looks a little contrived, and the perspective is way off. Still, it was fun doing it and my professor liked it. Like most of my paintings this semester, though, this one will probably get painted over at some point. :)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Portrait Overload

I've been doing a ton of painted portraits for Heads and Hands and in the workshops. All of these were done in the last 2 weeks. It's really been a struggle, and my portraits have been very hit and miss. Slowly though I'm getting used to mixing up flesh tones and adding all the subtle facial features.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Figure In Environment

I'm really happy with how this painting turned out. The assignment was to paint a figure in an environment. I took a casual photo of one of my classmates in Heads & Hands, and it turned into a really nice picture. I love the gesture of her pose, and the way the left knee comes forward. Also nice are the light shining on her hand, and the rim lighting on the sweater. It was difficult getting all the different gray values in the wall, but I think it turned out pretty effectively.

Two Portraits

Here are two new exciting models. One is an ultra-powerful Korean businesswoman, and the other an elite Iranian textile designer. I have mixed feelings about these two portraits, because although I think they are pretty good to look at, the likeness is not really there. With the painting, I can blame it on the fact that this is my first real painted portrait, and the brushes are not quite as accurate as a pencil. But I'm not sure about the drawing. Seeing these together, one thing that is noticeable is that the painting seems much more vibrant because of the colors. But drawings have a very nice quality about them that doesn't translate well into photos.

Friday, July 25, 2008

More Stuff

Mixing classes here. My painting class is sort of a survey, and the painting on the left was our first clothed figure. It was actually kind of a relief not to have to stare at a naked person. But strange too, as anything new is. My painting turned out pretty well, as I was able to incorporate a lot of the background elements.

The portrait on the right is from Heads & Hands. My prof wanted us to try blue paper, which I didn't like much. The model was cool though. He had this Beatles-like mop hairstyle. And he had this slight smirk that he was able to keep on his face the entire 5 hours of the pose. Amazing!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Go Figure

With these two paintings I started to turn the corner a bit on my figure paintings. Especially the hands & feet one - I'm finally feeling more comfortable with the subtle colors and shading.

Friday, July 18, 2008


These are my first two homework assignments in Heads & Hands. They are drawings of two relatively unknown but up-and-coming models. To protect their identities I'll refer to them as Marcia and Pablo.

I actually don't like the drawing of Marcia. Even though it's a decent likeness, the drawing quality itself is not very good because I had a lot of trouble working on that type of paper (Strathmore Drawing). Whenever I would try to blend the vine charcoal, it would all rub off. Pablo's drawing is charcoal pencil on Strathmore storm gray paper, which for me is easier to work with.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Heads & Hands

My second class is called Heads and Hands. I thought I was pretty good at portraits ... until I took this class. My teacher is really good, though also very tough. It's a very structured class, which I like, and these drawings are all full-day (about 5 hour) poses. These are from the 2nd and 3rd week of classes - my first couple of drawings were horrendous. The first drawing is using the 'lift-off' technique, while the second is done in charcoal pencil on a storm gray paper.

Painting the Figure

I'm a bit behind on my posts because this semester has been really hectic. I'm taking two classes, which is a full load in the summer. The first class is Introduction to Painting the Figure. I had a lot of confidence going in because of my still life class, but that got shot down pretty quick. It turns out that painting the figure is much different than painting objects, because basically it's all one color, with a lot of subtle shades and blends. These are the first two paintings I did in class.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Spring Show

Well the spring semester has ended! I've been in school for one full year now. It seems so long ago that first day when we were stressing out about drawing our sphere. :)

The Academy of Art Spring Show is running now, showing the best student work from the year:

when: May 23 through July 25, 2008, 10am-6pm, (closed Sundays and Holidays)
where: Academy of Art University

601 Brannan Street (at 5th St.)

San Francisco, CA 94107

I really recommend going to the show. I went to see the entries for Fine Arts, and there are some amazing pieces. It should be interesting because of the range of fields like art, illustration, fashion, animation, etc. The facility is pretty kid-friendly, and there is a lot of 2 hour parking near the Caltrain Station on Townsend between 4th and 6th.

It would be fun if we could get a group of people to go together on a Saturday. I'll coordinate, so email me if you are interested.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

HW #4 - The Masha Objects

For our final homework in still-life painting, we had to find a still-life by some master artist, then try to copy the composition, lighting, and painting style. I chose my favorite still-life artist, the 18th century French painter Chardin. This is the painting I chose:

Chardin's still-lifes aren't as complex or photorealistic as, say, the Dutch masters. But his paintings have a wonderful feeling of light and space. I was actually trying to get this effect in my HW #2, with unsuccessful results.

This fourth assignment is composed of objects found entirely at Marta and Pasha's house. :) I had run out of interesting objects in my apartment, and they have an abundance of cool stuff. For some reason I wasn't that motivated to do this painting (probably end-of-the-semester burnout), but it turned out extremely well. This one finally looks like a "real" painting. My reflective teapot painting is nice, but I always thought it was kind of flat. This last one starts to have that quality of light and space that I've been looking for throughout the semester.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

High Key / Low Key

In consecutive weeks we were to do a 'high key' painting, and a 'low key' one. 'High key' simply means that the painting consists mainly of lighter values, and 'low key', darker values. I really struggled with the high key one. Part of the problem is that I didn't get much sleep the night before, and all my colors and shapes seemed to be off. But the main problem was trying to paint in light colors. I usually start with the darkest values, which in this case is a middle value. However this leaves only half the value range usable, which is very constricting. In particular I found it very difficult to go lighter, since many colors were so close to white already.

In contrast, low key is very easy, and this is one of my best in-class paintings. My prof really liked the bottles on the left side. I like the way the green bottle fades into the background. The brass vase, though, is really weak.

Friday, May 9, 2008


This didn't turn out super good, but I'm posting it anyway because it's interesting, and it's a nice break from those tiresome still lifes. Our final assignment for Anatomy is a two figure composition. I've had this idea floating around in my head for awhile now about a 'modern Annunciation'. The Annunciation shows up in a lot of Renaissance paintings, and depicts the angel appearing before the Virgin Mary to tell her that she is pregnant. I wanted to show Mary in a contemplative reclining position, with the angel sweeping around her.

I can't really draw figures from memory, so I had to find two photos that had the correct poses, which actually took quite some time. Placing them in position was fun, but I had to be careful to get the relative sizes correct. I was constrained a bit by the fact that we were supposed to show as much as the figure as possible. If I ever do a painting of this, it will be a lot more cropped in, and with more overlap. Also, again to show as much of the figure, I only put a hint of the angel's wings.

I think the angel turned out pretty well, but Mary is a bit stiff. Also the light around the angel really makes him stand out, but Mary is sort of fading into the background. It's been awhile since I worked on charcoal paper, and I'm a bit rusty. But also working purely in value has always been difficult for me. But it's a good exercise, because value is very important. In a color painting, you can differentiate by color, but if the values of those colors are too close, it can detract from the effect. The overall value pattern is important. One of my profs said that you should be able to take a black and white photo of a color painting, and it should still look good.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Complex Setup

We inherited some pretty complex setups from the previous class. The issue with these is mainly time management - trying to get everything done before class finishes. I'm pretty happy with how this one turned out. I've been wanting to paint that blue and white vase for awhile, and I think the old teapot turned out pretty well also. The flowers (supposedly chrysanthemums) are only marginally successful, but it's good to get in a few attempts before we do florals the last week of class.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

HW #3, or As The Reindeer Turns

I'm very happy with how this painting turned out. In terms of the whole process, from conception to planning to execution, this is easily the best painting I've done. (Though I'm still a bit partial to the "shoes" painting, if only for the patent leather pumps. Did I say that out loud?) But wouldn't you know it - as soon as I start to believe I can be a painter, today in class I painted probably the worst painting I've ever done. I had zero mojo, though possibly it's from sleep deprivation. Still, never mock the painting gods!

Painting the reindeer was really fun. I think that painting all those model airplanes when I was younger helps me with the small brushes. For sure I feel more comfortable with a brush in my hand than a charcoal pencil! My professor critiqued this today and he liked everything except the background. So I'll be repainting it as neon orange. Just kidding - he just wants me to make it less choppy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


This drapery assignment was tough. The whole class struggled with it; even the professor's demo went awry. :) The two girls next to me did a pretty good job though. The hard part about drapery is that the values in the folds are so close together. In my initial block-in, I made the colors too far apart and it looked horrendous. I had to wipe it all out with turpentine and start over, which shook me up a bit. Fortunately it turned out okay.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pattern with Shoes

We walked into class one day to find our professor had scattered all these shoes on the ground on top of these patterned cloths. I think the girls liked it, but the guys kind of freaked out for a bit. This turned out to be quite challenging. We were supposed to try for some unusual cropping, but since I like a more classical style, I'm not a very aggressive cropper. Plus I really like the nice diagonal created by this set of shoes.

I painted this one much looser than I normally do. The shoes are patent black leather, and a purple cloth type shoe, and our professor is always telling us to throw color into solid objects like this. So I put touches of pink and brown into the shoes. It looks a little strange at first glance, but I kind of like it - it has a very impressionistic feel. I probably overdid it on the first black shoe though.

The fabric was very interesting. It's a fruit pattern. Normally my instinct would be to wait until the white layer dried before painting the pattern, but since we had to do this in class I was forced to work wet on wet. Actually I think that was fortunate, because by keeping the pattern blurry it helps keep it in the background compared to the shoes which are done more sharply. It was tricky though with the color blending into the white paint, so I think if I did it again I would at least paint the white layer more thinly.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

HW #3 - 50%

Here is my setup and 50% for our third homework assignment. This assignment requires a reflective object and a patterned object. I kind of like these 50% pieces - they have an impressionistic quality that the finished pieces sometimes lack.

I'm trying for some different things in this painting. One is to make it very high key (light), versus the darker paintings I normally do. Another is to use more of the canvas. And I wanted to try for the cool light / warm shadows you might find in morning light, versus the warm light / cool shadows we normally use.

If you look very carefully in the reflection you can see me holding a camera. :) Fortunately I am fully clothed. I edited myself out of the painting, otherwise it would technically become a self-portrait. :)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Warning: Adult Content Ahead

Recently I've *finally* started to make some progress in my figure drawing. There have been several factors. One is that we've done a systemic study of body parts and how to draw them - torso, legs, arms, hands, feet, etc. - and that has at least given me a clue about how to approach them. Secondly, the girl that I sit next to in Figure Drawing is an excellent artist, and watching her (i.e. blatant copying) has impacted my drawing for the better. Finally, I've simply decided to stop drawing like a dork. I've been drawing now for 10 hours a week in class for the past 10 weeks, and I should be showing better progress than I have been. Still-life painting distracts me because it's so fun, but figure drawing is very important for what I want to do, namely classical figurative painting.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Things are getting a bit nutty in still life class lately. This one was about patterns - 3 glass items on a patterned cloth, with a polka-dot tie. I tried to talk our professor into giving us a break with fewer glass items, but he didn't budge. There was also a funny episode where one guy in our group suggested putting the tie into the small bowl to add complexity, and then he went off and painted another setup!

Anyways this one was really tough, but the more I look at it the more I like it. It was really crazy painting in the stripes and polka dots. Btw, red-orange and blue-green are complementary colors, which heightens the impact of the tie. :)

Friday, March 28, 2008

HW #2

Well here is the completed painting. It took me about 6-8 hours total. You can see the candle that I added. Ironically the book, which was the best part of the 50% probably has the most issues. The main difficulty is the representation of the type. Of course, you can't write out each word. :) So it has to be some type of simplification. I kept modifying it, and it ended up as gray squiggles, but I think I might do it a different way if I could do it again. I'm happy with how the glass, decanter, box, and table turned out. I still have a few issues with the colors in the brass candle holder.

Monday, March 24, 2008

HW #2: 50%

I thought you guys might be interested in seeing this. On the left is a photo of the still-life setup currently dominating my living room coffee table. This setup was chosen by an elite panel of experts.

On the right is my painting at 50% completion. I need to bring this in to class on Wednesday to be picked apart by my prof (i.e. "grapes too small"), after which I will ignore all his suggestions and finish it.

This concept of the first layer is interesting. The intent is mainly to cover the canvas, because it's hard to measure colors and values against the white canvas. (Also as I'm finding out, the blank canvas is very intimidating!) It then serves as a starting point for subsequent layers. This started out looking really bad, but it ended up being okay. The book is looking good, but it's obvious that the candlestick is too bright. The decanter shape is good, but the cup is looking a little wobbly.

I've never actually done a painting in multiple layers. All of our classwork is done in one sitting, i.e. alla prima (Italian for "at once"). It's good though because it moves me out of scared-silly mode into problem-solving mode which is better for me.

Update: My prof actually liked it. He really liked the book. He suggested putting a small candle in the candle holder, and he also wants me to change my background color. :( He also said that my grapes, if I had included them, would have been too small.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Technically this was our second attempt at metal, but we only spent 1.5 hours painting brass, so I refuse to display it. This silver one was REALLY hard. It's interesting how at school they keep increasing the difficulty, not totally unreachable, but enough to make us sweat! It's strange how with glass you're supposed to paint THROUGH it, but with metal, you paint what's reflected in it. It's almost like painting a mini still life in the reflection, but with shapes and colors all distorted. It was tough, but I think it turned out reasonably well. I really liked the old style teapot, otherwise I might have given up on it completely. The reflection is definitely too bright though, and I don't like how the horizon lines coincide so closely.

Monday, March 10, 2008


The painting on the left is our first attempt at glass. I still love still-life painting, but glass is hard! But it turned out reasonably well, especially the jar on the left. However I think the blue and the red are a bit too saturated and are sort of overpowering the glass objects. Probably I could have toned down at least the red cup, if not both.

The painting on the right, I did for a class I took in Palo Alto in the spring of 2007 before applying to the Academy of Art, so it makes an interesting comparison. I used mostly tube colors instead of mixed colors, and the rendering of the grapes and the glass is much more primitive than what I can do today. But this painting was probably the biggest factor in my going to art school. From that class, it was the only painting that I thought turned out okay, and I enjoyed it enough to give art school a shot. If not for this painting I might still be at Yahoo trying to figure out how to allocate video spaceids. Fortunately that task has passed into more capable hands!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

HW: Apples and Grapes

This painting was for our first homework assignment. I learned my lesson from Color & Design, where I almost killed myself by picking overly complex designs. I kept this one simple and concentrated on painting it well. (These objects were from my charcoal still-life from the summer, so I was very familiar with them.)

I think it turned out well. It didn't take me very long - only about 4 hours. Part of that is I actually don't know how to finish a painting yet. And I did run into some interesting problems with handling the paint. In particular I am starting to use more generous amounts of paint, but once it exceeded the grain of the canvas, the workability changed quite a bit. The paint started to move around more, and blending was more of an adventure. But these are things that I need to learn.

My professor, Sheldon, really liked it, although for some reason he didn't like my grapes. :) I think he was expecting this huge mass of grapes, but the one that I had picked was pretty sparse.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Still Life Week 4

This still-life turned out surprisingly well. Surprising because we lost 90 minutes when we attended a lecture on oil paints (which was awesome). And also because in the beginning it looked like crap. But I'm finding that whereas I'm a coward in almost all types of art, with oil painting I'm courageous. I am a superhero. :) I think because it's so easy to correct mistakes. As my expectations rise though I can feel the old fear coming back, but I am trying not to succumb to it. Anyways we're starting glass this week and I'm anticipating a string of failures.

Of all my still-lifes so far, this one has the best sense of light, and also the best unity of both color and light.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones

These bones charts are for my Anatomy class (a.k.a. "Naked People Parts"). I wasn't looking forward to doing them, but they were actually pretty fun. In computer science class we never learned what a 'manubrium' was. Though they also don't teach us about singleton classes in art school...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fun for All Ages

Man I love my still life class. This was a full-session painting, so 6 hours. For some reason I found it a bit more difficult. I think because we didn't really have a warmup. Also this really pretty Persian girl was sitting next to me, which I found very distracting. However in the end it turned out pretty well. I found out some of my classmates really like my paintings, which is encouraging.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Adding a Bit of Color

I'm really happy with how these next 2 still lifes turned out. In the first, we added yellow ochre to our palette to differentiate between warm light and cool shadows. That jar on the right was pretty complicated.

In the second we used a limited palette of cadmium yellow, cadmium red, ultramarine, white, and black. (I also used terra rosa for the background). I totally got infatuated with the cup on the right, and finished it before even starting the other objects, which we're not supposed to do. Then I had to rush to finish the other three. I really like this one, and I used many concepts from Color & Design.

I love my still life painting class - the 6 hours goes by like nothing!