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.