Monday, May 8, 2017

The Shapes of Western China

Crescent Lake #1, watercolor on paper, copyright Nina Leung 2017

  I've begun working in a bit of a different way. Since looking through all of our old photos, I'm finally discovering that I can take something from all the travels I've done in the past. I wasn't able to do it at the time of travel, but I'm finally feeling it now. It's been a revelation. I'm still interested and pursuing the idea of microbes and growth and strange crystal cave creatures, but I now have a place to find inspiration for shapes and colors. They're coming directly from these old travel photos.

Crescent Lake #2, watercolor on paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017 

 I begin with a color scheme and then look for photos that meet that theme. After choosing them, I look for shapes I like within the photo and use them in my paintings of microbes. It's been great! I'm forever inspired and excited and intrigued. The weekly color scheme change keeps it interesting and I have an excuse to look at all my old pictures.

  The paintings above are inspired by our trip to Xinjiang province which has this amazing Central Asian culture. It's as if we were travelling in the Stans. The people are beautiful and kind and the food is so good. We loved it there so much.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Amniotic Microbial Worms

Amniotic Microbial Worms, watercolor and graphite on handmade paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017

  The micro-organisms are evolving in my work. I'm trying out some imagery of them in birthing sacs. I've always loved playing with these organic shapes and these micro-organisms are a great way for me to continue. This idea of microbial worms growing within the Crystal Caves is still resonating with me. Imagining these strange creatures is a never-ending source of subject matter.

  These last few days I've been limiting my palette to just green, blue, and red-orange. I chose these colors from a photograph I took of Mont Bre in Switzerland. The mountains in the background and the lake in the foreground were different shades of blue and the hillside was green with a little village tucked into it with red-orange rooftops. Limiting my palette has allowed me to free my mind a bit and concentrate more on the imagery and less on color choices. Of course the neutrals (white, black, grey, brown) don't count. More images inspiring my color palette are on my Instagram.

Detail of the handmade paper, Lupa with Abaca Strings
   I've been working with handmade paper more and more. Each type reacts differently to each media. This paper is really bizarre. It was given to me my Grandmother and had a label describing it as Lupa with Abaca strings. I looked it up and it's a handmade paper from the Phillipines. One side is smooth and the other has these strings running parallel through it. It's quite rough so it wasn't easy making smooth lines like I need to do. I can't not make smooth lines! So that offered quite a challenge, but it was fun. I love finding media that works with these strange papers. I used Caran d'Ache watercolor crayons, watercolor, and graphite. The watercolor crayons helped me create the smooth line. The paper did not absorb the watercolor much at all. The paint just stained the paper, but I tried to figure out how to make that work to my advantage.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Colored Embryo

Color Embryo #1, watercolor on paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017
 I love the idea of cells reproducing on their own and creating new life or different life. This is what I imagine it looks like if done with color. Beginning with a large sac, embryos form and stretch and begin to pull away from the "mother" cell and are then on their own. I believe this actually happens, that some organisms can reproduce on their own and create new life.

Color Embryo #2, watercolor on paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017
   This happening has always been of great interest to me. It's been an ongoing topic in my work for years. It always bothered me that people would immediately conclude that my interest was purely because I was interested in reproducing myself which was not the case. This subject of cell reproduction has been under exploration before I had children, during, and afterwards and I never related the two. Strange as that may sound, I view the two completely differently even though I know they are directly related.

Color Embryo #3, watercolor on paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017
  What's happening here, in my paintings, is an imagined molecular state where I can experiment with fluid forms and play with shapes and colors in endless ways. I love creating organic shapes or shapes that are impossible in reality.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Complex Organisms

Scipio, watercolor and graphite on handmade paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017
  I've had a grand time with these guys. I've realized, since my last post, how wonderful and even freeing it is to limit the palette. This time around, I limited myself to only yellow, green, and pink/red. Though the yellows are more of a yellow-green and the greens, green-yellow. I'm pushing for the split complementary. What a wonderful way to color combine. And since I decided on this palette, I'm seeing it everywhere! It's in our front yard with a yellow blooming shrub next to a lavender plant blooming fuchsia, it's up the street where I see a yellow and green striped aloe next to tiny pink wildflowers. There's a reason we mimic nature, our eyes love it!

  Scipio, above, was a pretty serious challenge. It's painted on handmade mulberry paper from Thailand. I bought it at the paper factory myself many years ago and have been carefully saving it all this time and I'm so glad I did. This big guy needed it as a home. The difficulty was in the way the paper took the paint. It mostly acted like a blotter paper so the paint wouldn't flow. I had to work lightening fast and figure out the exact amount of water to add so it wouldn't run too much when it dried. That challenge was quite fun, though. I enjoy working quickly and having to concentrate hard. It's a good brain workout! The imagery came, again, from imagining the weird micro-organisms discovered in the Cave of Crystals in Mexico.

Lovely Organisms, watercolor on paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017
  These two came from having a nice chunk of time to do some work and just laying some paint down and seeing what came of it. It got weird. I made some awkward shapes, but I knew I could save them or I should at least try and I came up with the one above. It was accidental and when that happens, wonderful things come about. I'm really happy with these simply because they're so strange and I so enjoyed making them. It also helps that my 7 year old really likes them!

Gnaeus, watercolor on paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Green and Yellow Microbial Worms

G/Y Microbial Worm #1, watercolor on paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017
 Spring colors are a definite influence here. It is so enjoyable taking notice of colors all around me. I can't believe I've ignored it for so long. It's as if a large space in my brain has opened up and now has time and ability to notice and do the things I've always enjoyed. I've become more mindful and it's been a natural progression. I haven't had to force it and I've been happier overall.

  These microbial creatures are still on my mind and I think they will be for a long time. The imagery is endless and there are many opportunities for different iterations. These paintings are a play on the development of microbes, starting out in cells and creating themselves.

G/Y Microbial Worm #2, watercolor on paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Pink Micros

Pink Micro #1, watercolor on paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017
   Pink and black are my new color obsession. Somehow I've been seeing it or maybe just noticing it lately. It has to be a pale pink and the black must be rich and velvety. Here's a little watercolor painting secret..

Pink Micro #2, watercolor on handmade paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017
  When I learned to watercolor in high school, my art teacher taught me to never use color straight from the tube, it must always be mixed, black especially. The black needs to be strong and it's best to mix it with another dark color. I chose green to help highlight the pink because they are complementary.

Pink Micro #3, watercolor on handmade paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017
  It has taken me way too long to learn the importance of color and how to pair colors. I've always thought of the color as secondary to the line or the subject. I normally just choose any color when I'm ready to paint the line. There is power in a particular color combination and it is so fun to play with. Now that I've discovered this, I'm seeing different color combinations everywhere, especially now that it's spring. The trick is, how do I remember so many of them!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Thing in the Garden

The Thing in the Forest #2, watercolor and graphite on handmade paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017

 Been working in the garden again. Every rock I turn over holds some delightfully wiggly creature whose image stays with me. I just can't get that A.S Byatt imagery out of my head. That Thing in the Forest was so grotesquely described by Byatt and is so fitting to my personal experience in the garden, only on a much smaller scale.  The strange creatures we find that are right outside our door or maybe even closer. Our yard is full of salamanders from 2" in length to as many as 8" as well as tons of roly poly's and snails and fat spiders with spindly legs.

  After my last couple paintings on the handmade paper, I felt the need to create some problems for myself and work on more obviously handmade paper. This paper is really weird! It acts like a blotter paper, it soaks up the paint immediately, no time to move it and the surface is so ragged it's impossible to get a smooth line, which is almost a necessity for me. It proved to be quite a challenge. I couldn't fight that raggedness and had to embrace it and try to find it's advantages. This is the beauty and the fun of the creative process, creating problems, finding problems and then trying to fix them or use them to advantage. I got a little outside help with this when midway through the painting, my three year old woke early from her nap and quietly went to the room I was painting in, pulled a dropper full of concentrated watercolor and proceeded to randomly drop paint all over! Completely spoiled all my plans. But, after much thought, those drops created a new possibility and I'm so happy with the results. If it weren't for her meddling, I would not have taken the risks that I was forced to. Thank you Elsa, my collaborator.