Archive for February, 2011

Chinese Brush Painting: Plum Blossoms

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

San Diego Plum Blossoms

The plum trees are blooming in San Diego and that means my Chinese brush painting teacher insists that the discipline involved in painting these fragile, delicate petals and sturdy branches is absolutely essential if we are to progress.

The tiny white or pink flowers bloom amid harsh winter snow in China and symbolize, for starters, fortitude and offer a hope of returning life.  In fact, every thing about the plum tree from root to branch to petal symbolizes something.  Blossoms represent Yang or Heaven, the wood represents Yin or Earth, and every part of the flower is referenced to cosmology.

Plum blossoms are the national flower of China and represent the season of winter in traditional Chinese brush painting.

They are fragrant. Beautiful.

Linda's plum blossom

Linda's Plum Blossoms and Bird

And painting them gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Why? Because in support of the complex symbol array, painting them comes with multiple rules and thirty-six faults which result from a failure to execute the rules correctly. The rules are listed in the 17th-century classic The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting:  “The hand should move like lightening,” “roots should never be gross or broken,” “blossoms should not all be whole,” “stamens number seven and are strong like the whiskers of the tiger.”

But here’s the reality of trying to paint them. Every stroke is an opportunity to screw up. The flowers are delicate and in outline form are painted with a small brush which has very few hairs at the point which makes it difficult to paint lively circles.  The seven stamens are supposed to taper quickly off the paper from the center of the flower.  Ink or color should show a variety of tones.

Fortunately, I have a very patient and kind teacher who demonstrates the techniques, explains clearly, and honors the plum blossoms for traditional reasons as well as because they burst into tiny units of color in her old, gnarled tree and make us happy.

Murals in La Jolla

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Next time you are in La Jolla to see the sea, check out a couple of walls as well.

Roy MacMakin's La Jolla Mural

The La Jolla Community Foundation is funding the Murals of La Jolla, a project to put commissioned art on available walls.  Not temporary street art as in “graffiti” but art designed to stay for one or two years. Roy MacMakin thought up the tile wall at 7596 Eads Avenue and it is visible from the street.  He had passersby choose a favorite color and that color tile was put up on the wall.  It is a wall of random color with interactive help.

Kim MacConnel's La Jolla Mural

On another wall is a design by Kim MacConnel.  You can see a part of this mural peeking above 7724 Girard but you do have to go down the alley behind the  building to see the whole, tall work on the back side of the building. More color in design.

Graffiti flower

There is a tiny red graffiti flower at spray can level low on the alley wall next to the huge Kim MacConnel design. I laughed.

It obviously is spontaneous.


And probably won’t be there very long.

John Banks’ Banner Art

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

John Banks' Banner Art

It’s tough to find out about the artist John Banks because a Google search tells us that there are 921 people named John Banks.

However, The Port of San Diego found one John Banks who has a keen eye for twisted shapes.  He is a Las Vegas firefighter/artist with the ability to see a shape from many angles.

Banks’ 2006 sculpture, Banner Art, is made from three red pipes which stand 21 feet high and is placed by the Port of San Diego at a perfect spot to view the Pacific Ocean just a few yards west of a small parking lot off Imperial Beach Boulevard in Imperial Beach. From many angles, the red pipes resemble twisted shapes.  If you walk north or south along the sand, that is what you see. Red shapes against the blue sky.

John Banks' Banner Art

But east a little, looking west at the pipes, you’ll be surprised to see that the twisted shapes actually spell ART.  That is a fun surprise, especially in the already gorgeous view of the splashing waves.

Fortunately, the perfect spot to see ART is documented by a “STAND HERE” marker in the sidewalk cement at the entrance to the tiny parking lot.

If you are lucky, you can also find the perfect spot to buy a warm cinnamon roll from a tiny donut shop next to a taco shop (maybe it’s on Palm).  That is the absolute best, sugary cinnamon roll anywhere.  So, thanks to ART,  we get man-made beauty and man-made pastry.