Saturday, July 31, 2010

The rushing Ergis River

This is the first time I ever come to the upper reach of Ergis River. The view there is amazing!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Birch Wood at the border of Sino-Kazakhstan

I have never seen a birch wood as beautiful as this one as I am standing here alone painting not far from the China-Kazakhstan border. Since one of Fengping's high school friends serves now as the chief commander of Bingtuan, we get a chance to visit the furthermost corner of Northwestern China. Just across a creek you will find yourself in the territory of the Republic of Kazakhstan.  It is just mesmerizing painting here by myself in the sun steeped  birch wood. I asked to be left alone painting here so that I did not feel rushed when they had to wait for me. By the time they finished their  visit to a lake on a sandy hills, and came back for me, I was just about finishing this painting.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

At the upper stretch of Kolang River

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.

Silver Birches---- the essence of the land

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

Altay----------- my birthplace

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

Old house with an old combine machine

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.

The ubiquitous sunflower plants

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

Gutting fish for lunch

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

Doing daily laundry by hand

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

A plot of vegetables

 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

Sunny courtyard

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

Kitchen from the memory lane

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

A birch , and pine- dotted valley

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

Altay Mountains in the distance

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

Moment before sun rises

Had to say goodbye to Kanas National Park  today. Got up early to paint when the morning light started to break up the night sky. A moment of silence , then suddenly everything in sight was abashed in the morning glow.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sunset view of Mountain Altay

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.

A view of the park with cows grazing

With so many cows grazing there on the slop of the mountains, I painted this view early in the afternoon annoyed by mosquitoes and so many jumping crickets.

Lake Kanas

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.

Lake Kanas in the morning sun

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

A glimpse of Lake Kanas

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

A glimpse of a daily life from the far Northwestern China

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.