Saturday, October 5, 2013

Plein Air Painting in China

Wow! is about all I can say about the amazing experience of traveling with a small group of plein air painters and their partners to China with the very talented Qiang Huang and his lovely wife, Yuehong Song.

China is the most amazing country: so many people, such a rich history, such beautiful landscape. The two weeks we spent traveling, sight seeing, learning about the history and culture, and painting on site barely scratched the surface and left me wanting more. If you ever get the opportunity to take a future trip with Qiang and Song, I strongly urge you to do it. For the money it had to be the best travel value ever. Every detail was seen to. Hotels were luxurious, meals delicious, travel arrangements comfortable, the excursions fabulous. I can't imagine how they could have arranged anything better.

We started the trip in Shanghai with a day long tour of the museum and major tourist sites. Then we traveled by bus to the water village of Zhuozhuang for three nights.

"Reflections" 6x6 oil on board. Click for more info...
"Reflections" was one of the views I photographed from the bus on the way to Zhouzhuang and which I painted when I got home. 

Once in Zhouzhuang we enjoyed the village which is built entirely on canals. There are narrow alleys between buildings for foot traffic but most commercial traffic takes place on the canals. Early in the morning you can see the garbage scows picking up the trash, the restaurant supply barges dropping off supplies and clean place settings (most restaurants here use a service that delivers clean place settings each wrapped in plastic), housewives washing their clothes in the canal and beating them on the stone steps, fishermen casting nets, and more. It was fascinating to watch and try to record village life which except for the TV satellite dishes and cell phones probably hadn't changed much in centuries. I watched the woman below washing a basket filled with tiny silver fish. I later saw similar fish in the fish market nearby. We also had some tiny fish (maybe even smaller) flash fried whole for lunch that day. Delicious!
"Washing the Catch" 7x5 oil on canvas on gatorboard. Click for more info...
We painted several times in Zhouzhuang. Be sure to check out Qiang's blog to see his beautiful paintings of the trip.

This is just the first installment about my trip to China. I'll be adding more about it and a lot more paintings as I get them done.

"Tricycle Alley - Zhouzhuang" 8x6 oil on board. Click for more info...

Also I'll pass along some tips I've learned about traveling with oil paints. I was able to carry everything I needed to paint plein air with oils in a single average sized back pack. Naturally for flying I had to pack the tripod and paints in my checked luggage, but when I got to my destination, I repacked everything into the backpack. My paints packed into a clear plastic school box which I labeled in English and Chinese (thank you Google Translator) "Artist Colors" (never, ever use the word paint - some people think of paint as very flamable, no one worries about artist colors). More tips to come...

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