Saturday, July 31, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
While Fengping's high school reunion group wined and dined in a nearby Mongolian yurt, I escaped with my easel to this quiet spot where the rushing Kolang River serenaded me, and the groves of birches provided me with its shady canopy from the hot scorching sun. It is not too far from this location where 33 years ago I was dispatched after high school graduation at the end of the cultural revolution years to a rural settlement to receive the so called" reeducation from peasants" as it was manditary by the then Mao's government.
Of all the trees, silver birches always touch the string of my heart, partly due to my early childhood memory of my daily encounter with them . I joined Fengping's high school reunion team for a short trip today , so I got a chance to head for the deep valley of Altay Mountains where Kolang River originates and , where silver birches dance and stretches their limbs into the blue sky. Did this quick oil sketch while having a short break on the way to the mountains.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
It was quite an emotional moment as I set up my easel on this stretch of Kolang River to paint this view. Yes, we came to Altay for the day to visit with my childhood friends, some of them, I had not seen for 34 years! Before I joined them for the evening feast they prepared for me, I found myself standing here at this particular spot where my childhood home used to stand! Tears came to my eyes as I painted this view, for it was precisely at this spot 44 years ago when I was 6, I first spotted a plein air painter painting the view of a birch wood that is no longer there now. While I was painting , quite a few passersby stopped to chat with me, and a few of them are oil painters as well. One of them was quite eager to invite me for dinner when he realized that a fellow painter who painted with me over 30 years ago is none other than the now most well-known artist in Western China , Mr. Sun Liming who also serves now as the president of Xinginag Academy of Fine Arts. At the dinner table in the evening I was delighted to see my childhood friend Ma Zhong who is retired now after 30 years of teaching career at Altay Teachers' College. Of all the people, Ma Zhong is the most unforgettable one as there is so much memory of him and me painting and sketching together en plein air when we were both young teenagers. Sadly, he has long given up paintings now, however, he promised me he would pick it up again. He told me among all the collections of his own paintings and drawings, there was one pencil sketch of Altay Teachers' College I did in 1978 ! I told him I also stopped painting and drawing in 1979, and never picked it up until 2003! I got emotional at the moment for is not it precisely at this spot ?many many years ago when I was still a teenager for so many unforgettable morning I started a life long attempt of teaching myself English after giving up arts by reading aloud , reading really aloud proses and poems in English language . I still remember how I committed to memory Shakespeare's Sonnet Shall I Compare thee to a summer's day? and Robert Browning's Home Thought Abroad , and Frost's Road Not Taken. A brand new world was emerging over the distant horizon over Altay Mountains then, tantalizing me for a new adventure in life. The rest of the story now suddenly has become distant memory now.
Friday, July 23, 2010
This old machinery of a combine is a residue from hay days of Bingtuan organization. Apparently people there still employ it for their harvesting. While staying with my in-laws I saw few guys constantly trying to fix it day after day and to get it work. A quick sketch of this view as a reminder of years gone by.
Against the backdrop of lines of densely grown poplars are the ubiquitous sunflowers plants growing wildly and randomly in Northwestern China. Northwestern China is settled by a quasi military organization called Bingtuan in Chinese, literally meaning military- like battalions. My in-laws belong to this kind of organization as countless many families in this area. When they first came to this region , there were nothing here but Gobi desert and mosquitoes. It was these brave men and women armed with nothing but shovels and their bare hands who converted this arid land into fertile farm fields over the years.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Sitting on a chair too small for his size, my brother-in-law took over the dirty job of gutting fish freshly caught from the lake to prepare for our daily feast. The Chinese words on a faded paper banner on the gate means " Together, we compose a harmonious tune, and strive for a well-to-do life."
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Fengping had to resume her childhood chore of doing laundry by hand during our stay with her parents as their place does not have the in -door plumbing for a washing machine. With her dad chatting with his friend, and with Sarah helping , I did this quick oil sketch of Fengping doing her childhood chore again.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Planted by my in-laws along the wall that serves as a fence that separates them from their next- door neighbor, are the vegetables and a small plum tree. During our stay with them, we are served with these fresh produces for our daily meals.
Friday, July 16, 2010
It seems that modernization in most part of China came at the expense of blue sky. Here in the less developed area of Northwestern China blue sky at least stayed. A quick oil sketch on a hot summer morning when the morning sunlight started to pour into this courtyard.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
With Fengping sitting there tending the fire in the old coal - fire wood burning stove in her parents' kitchen, so much memory from my childhood years in the northwestern China flashed by. Did this quick oil sketch in the smoky and steamy kitchen.
Monday, July 12, 2010
My father's old friend invited us over for a party at this scenic location on Altay Mountains. He brought with him tons of food among them a live lamb to be slaughtered and prepared for a feast right on the spot. I painted this view braving the noon hour sun ,and left the painting to the fiend as a taken of our thankfulness.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
My childhood friend, Xingqiang has turned thousands of aches of arid land on the slops of Altay Mountains into impressive vinards and orchards in a matter of just few years, and made himself a billionaire as a result. He threw a big party this evening in honor of us , inviting local VIPs , and setting up a gigantic table with 40 courses of dishes, and tons of liquors, beers, and wines, followed by dancing and karaoke. Painted this view from a corner of his vineyard, and gave it to him and his wife as a present.
Friday, July 9, 2010
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Came to this spot to paint after a simple supper prepared by an ethnic Kazakh family. The mosquitoes were really vicious there attacking me constantly while I was painting this view against late afternoon sunlight.
While waiting for Fengping, Sarah , and Xiaokui, my cousin who went to climb the mountain in the distance, I started another painting of Lake Kanas with the mountain as backdrop. Right on the top of the mountain you can get a glimpse of a pavilion where travelers after climbing to the top will be able to enjoy the bird-eye-view of the lake ,and if lucky enough, will be able to spot the legendary beast of a fish , " the Red Fish". On a few occasions travelers do caught on their video cams a glimpse of the famed creature with its shadow zigzagging across the surface of the lake.
Stepping down to the edge of the lake in the early morning, I set up my easel there, and painted this view. While painting on the spot, I apparently attracted a huge crowd of curious tourists who came to take a peep and asked all sorts of questions. I must have puzzled them so much by telling them I came from as far as Canada and yet my birthplace is actually just 200 kilometers away from the park! Who can believe that I had lived in Altay for the first twenty years of my life without knowing the existence of Lake Kanas, and the park did not come to existence either until early 90s.!
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Right on Altay Mountain ranges next to the former Sino-Soviet border, travellers will find themselves in this well-known Chinese national park Kanas National Geological Park with Lake Kanas lying there like a gem dazzling in the sun. I set up my easel high above the lake , and painted this view against a strong gust of wind .
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Despite the far reaching and breathtaking changes over the past two decades , life remains the same for some ordinary Chinese like my parents-in-law who live in this kind of traditional bungalow style adobe type of housing with a big courtyard where they can still plant and grow vegetables and fruit trees and hang up their daily laundry which they still do it manually day after day.