Tuesday, May 30, 2017

White, Brown, and Blue Color Scheme

Archways at the City Palace in Jaipur, India
   The ocean, blue skies, clean, white spaces, it's all very summery to me and with Summer coming, I feel inspired by these Summer colors. It's been amazing editing my photo collection and finding those photos that are limited to these two colors. It's like travelling to these places all over again. I can relive those experiences and look through my journals for more information about those experiences.

Jaipur Bloom, watercolor on paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017

  The little painting above was inspired by the City Palace arches. It's a loose interpretation, like all my other pieces. I like taking little shapes and pieces and colors from each photo. More after the jump......

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Colorful Color Scheme

  So I've decided to be very regimented in how I find inspiration for my work. I'm still working with the idea of microbes and growth and the idea of strange bacteria secretly growing in caves, but, I need further inspiration for shapes and colors. I decided to get those from my large photo archive. We've traveled to so many places over the years and I still haven't developed any serious work from it. Now feels like the time to finally do that.

  I am limiting the types of photos I can use. It's all by color scheme. Every week I've been choosing a different color scheme. For this week, it's colorful. Whatever colors I want. Last week was only yellow, green and blue. Limiting the colors forces me to concentrate on shape and helps me explore those particular colors.

  Above is a work I created for the #100dayproject, an instagram hashtag to get artists creating again. I've been doing it since it started in April and it's been a great kick in the pants. I used the photo below as a guide for shape and color. It's a very very loose interpretation, I just get basic shapes.

Hong Kong Island Street Car

Buildings in the La Boca neighborhood of Buenos Aires
   I took some of the color blocking from the photo above, in La Boca. It's been more fun combining elements from different pictures as well.

  The painting above is also from the #100dayproject and it was inspired by the photo below of Venice, hence the boat shape.

Venice Canals

Indian Crescent, watercolor on handmade paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017

   The painting above was influenced by the ghats of Varanasi. The umbrellas make such a great shape. I kept the crescent shape from the Western China paintings. The crescent is fun to work with.

Ghats of Varanasi, India

Indian Colors, watercolor on paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017
   After looking at a few photos and working with a few different shapes, they all begin to meld and I repeat the shapes and ideas over again. As long as I restrict my palette and loosely use the shapes given to me, I can explore and be more creative.

Ghats at Varanasi, India

Color Compartments, watercolor on paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017
   With these I went back to the crystal idea. I am still very into the crystal shape and concept. The idea of microbes being trapped in the crystal is forever inspiring.

Crystal Traps, watercolor on paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017

Indian Crystals, watercolor on paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017

Umbrellas of Varanasi, watercolor on paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017

Hairy Color Crystals, watercolor on paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017

Balloon Crystals, watercolor on paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017

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.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Aurora Rockets

Aurora Rockets #1, watercolor on paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017

  NASA is shooting 3 rockets into the Aurora Borealis to learn more about near Earth space. Reading about it immediately brought on strong imagery. I don't want to learn too much about it because I want to use my own imagination to picture exactly what it is they're doing, though I'm dying to know! The technology involved must be pretty wild. More after the jump...

Monday, March 20, 2017

Bacterial Evolution

Evolving Bacteria #1, watercolor on paper, 19" x 19" copyright Nina Leung, 2017
 I'm still working! The crystal caves in Mexico are my muse right now. It's too much fun imagining what all of those strange new micro-organisms look like. They've had to evolve in order to live in such a strange environment and that new thought has inspired some new shapes and forms. There's more.....

Friday, March 10, 2017

Compositional Studies Contiued

Bacterial Growth #4, acrylic on canvas, copyright Nina Leung, 2017

  And I've kept at it! As I'm continuing this series, I keep going back to my Grandmother Rosemary. So many of her compositions involved circles. She loved circles and organic shapes and I am compelled to explore the circle in particular. What was it about the circle that captivated her so much? I have one clue....

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Compositional Studies

Mingling Microbes, acrylic on canvas, copyright Nina Leung, 2017
   Here are the results of the flow of work from last post. It finally felt natural to paint. My thoughts are often absorbed in what I plan to paint and what is behind those plans. See the rest after the jump.

Friday, March 3, 2017

It's Flowing

Micro-Micro Paintings in Progress (Yes, that's my kid's train table)

  It's been so long since I've worked that it's taking some time to get back into it, to really feel like it's flowing. Today I started working with acrylic paint on canvas. The last time I worked in this medium was about 3 years ago. Yikes! Initially, it felt really forced and uncomfortable. It was missing the natural flow of watercolor that I love so much. As I continued, I thickened the paint and filled my mind with images of my imagined microbes and their movements and interactions. It started. I finally felt that flow with the paint, with the problem solving, the shapes and lines, it felt natural. The thick paint helped immeasurably. Honestly, I've always felt uncomfortable using thick paint because it's so expensive. My frugality gets in the way. But I stopped myself and just let it happen. I used a big brush and some heavy body acrylic and allowed the paint to guide me. The thickness of the paint made it feel more fluid. It's the spontaneity of the fluidity of the paint that makes acrylics so much more fun.

  After working for awhile, I realized that I'm finally feeling some influence from my Grandmother Rosemary. She loved black paint and big brushes, and thick paint. One of her favorite artists was Robert Motherwell. It's those big, black marks on a white surface that she was so interested in. The contrast, the simplicity; ideas simmered till they became a perfect, rich sauce. As I was painting I was thinking of her and how she worked, with her big brush and her circles and weirdly perfect compositions. She could compose the strangest shapes together in the most harmonious way. Someday I'll do a post of her work. It will be obvious that she's had a huge impact on me and my work.

Thursday, March 2, 2017


Micro-Disk, watercolor on paper, copyright Nina Leung, 2017
  Imagining these micro-organisms from the crystal caves has been too much fun. They must be so strange looking. Apparently, they're mostly bacteria. When in Biology class as a teenager, I remember thinking the viruses were the prettiest. They're much more complex looking.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Natural Sciences

Oxford University in the Summer
  All of these thoughts on microbes and evolution bring me to the dawning of the natural sciences. I always think of the old universities, Oxford and Cambridge, and imagine explorers sending seed samples or bringing birds or reptiles there to study and question. Greenhouses were built, gardens were grown, and students and professors pondered the origins and movements of never before seen creatures. How enlightening it must have been.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Microbial Worm

Microbial Worm, watercolor, copyright Nina Leung, 2017
  I'm loving this idea of weird microbial creatures that have never before been seen. What might they evolve into given the time? What are the implications of life and even the definition of life? I found a related article questioning what life might be found on other planets, similar to these microbes? Our space equipment could be bringing it back to earth unawares. Tiny, dormant microbes sleeping in a grain of sand from Mars and brought back to Florida.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Weird, Microbial Creatures

Weird, Microbial Creatures, watercolor, copyright Nina Leung, 2017
  Have you heard of the Cave of Crystals? It's in Mexico and it's an otherworldly place with oversize crystals continuously growing through it. The scale is confusing. While exploring this incredible place, scientists collected crystal and discovered dormant micro-organisms. With some coaxing, they brought some of them to life. 90% of them have never been seen before.

  This discovery just blew my mind. I've always been fascinated by the strange shapes of micro-organisms and how they evolve. This painting is my interpretation of these new life forms.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Thing in the Forest

The Thing in the Forest, watercolor, copyright Nina Leung, 2017

  "It's head appeared to form, or become first visible in the distance, between the trees. Its face-which was triangular-appeared like a rubbery or fleshy mask over a shapeless sprouting bulb of a head, like a monstrous turnip. Its colour was the colour of flayed flesh, pitted with wormholes, and its expression was neither wrath nor greed, but pure misery. Its more defined feature was a vast mouth, pulled down at the corners, tight with a kind of pain. Its lips were thin, and raised, like welts from whipstrokes. It has blind, opaque white eyes, fringed with fleshy lashes and brows like the feelers of sea-anenomes. Its face was close to the ground, and moved towards the children between its forearms which were squat, thick, powerful, and akimbo, like a cross between a monstrous washerwoman and a primeval dragon. The flesh on these forearms was glistening and mottled. every colour, from the green mould to the red-brown of raw liver, to the dirty white of dry rot." - A.S Byatt, Little Black Book of Stories

New to Gardening

Magnolia bloom with kangaroo paw in the background.

I've been spending a lot of time in our garden lately. Spring is almost here and for the first time since we moved into this house 6 years ago, I feel the need to start taking care of it. It was reading about roses that got me started. I learned that the end of January is the time to prune roses. The garden has a lot of roses that we have been ignoring this whole time. After reading a how-to in a Sunset gardening book and watching a few tutorials on YouTube, I gave it go. Once I started, I couldn't stop. It's like sculpting. It started with the roses and now I'm pruning trees and shrubs and digging up weeds and clearing away dead leaves and branches. Now I understand why people like to garden. It feels good to dig in the dirt, watch the first buds sprout, and know that worms crawling in the soil means it's healthy.
Today, while clearing muddy dirt from the root of a rose vine, I was reminded of a short story written by A.S Byatt about a little girl who ventures into a forest and speaks to a large slug. It's a strange story and full of magical and vivid imagery. It's a beautiful, modern fairy tale. I wonder of A.S Byatt is a gardener?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

One More Go

After an almost 2 year hiatus, I've come back to my blog to offer a space to journal my every day thoughts and ideas. I am making a change from featuring only projects and specific artists and inspirations to allowing myself the freedom to post and write about whatever I'm interested at the moment. No limitations.