Saturday, October 6, 2018

Getting Paid

I took on two commission works this summer. Both are for birthday gifts. One is a tiger in color pencils.

The other is a sunflower in watercolor.

Getting paid to do art is a good feeling. I feel valued.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Philosophical Inspirations for Taijiquan

One thing that lead to me taijiquan was missing two adult teeth.

When I was about 8 year-old, x-ray showed that I was missing two permanent teeth. In the couple years following, I went to the dentist a lot. As I waited in the waiting room, I read and re-read whatever reading material available, which included a set of comic books by the Taiwanese cartoonist Tsai Chih Chung. The most notable among them was "Zhuangzi Speaks: The Music of Nature". The talented Mr. Tsai presented the Zhuangzi's humourous parables in an easy-to-digest format. I was a bit of misfit as a child. It struck a cord with me when Zhuangzi spoke of freeing oneself from rigid value systems, staying true to one's nature, and maneuvering through an ever-shifting and inconstant world. My affinity to Doaist philosophy eventually lead to me Taijiquan, a martial art that drew inspirations from Doaism.

Zhuangzi was a Chinese philosopher in 4th century BC during a period of political upheaval, known as the Warring State period. Zhuangzi's most famous story was probably his dream of being a butterfly, where he questioned human perception of reality.

But my childhood favorite was the story about the useless tree and the useless goose.

The story "The Cook Carved up a Cow" fascinated martial artists for thousands of years.

For anyone who's interested, I have the book in the lobby. Feel free to check it out when you come!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Top 10 Reasons People Seek Acupuncture Help

Since we opened in 2014, we have seen close to 700 patients. Out of curiosity, I tallied up their reasons for seeking acupuncture help as indicated on their initial patient intake information. Here are the top 10 reasons why people try acupuncture:

1. Back Pain (201)

Back Pain is the number one reason by a large margin. With conditions ranging from herniated discs to muscular tension.

2. Neck / Shoulder Pain (103)

Neck and shoulder issues are often intertwined. Sometimes overlapped with back pain or even jaw pain or headache.

3. Anxiety / Stress / Depression (101)

Inability to relax seems to be a sweeping issue. In many cased related to headache, weight issue, or even mood swing when attempt to quit smoking.

4. Migraine / Headache (65)

Many people suffer from condition ranging from chronic migraine to tension headache.

5. Hip / Sciatic Pain (51)

6. Knee / Leg Pain (51)

7. Weight Issue (46)

8. Digestive / Gastro-Intestinal Issue (38)

Ranging from Irritable Bowel Syndrome to acid reflux. Some seek to improve their digestive function of wheat or lactose.

9. Foot Pain (37)

Common source of foot pain is Plantar Fasciitis.

10. Allergy / Congestion / Sinus (36)

People seek relief from conditions ranging from seasonal allergy to chronic sinus condition.

The list goes on and some of the reasons might surprise you. The rest of the tally are as followed:

11. General Aches and Pain (33)
12. Fatigue (29)
13. Gynecological / Reproductive Issue (24)
14. General Wellness (23)
14. Arm Pain (23)
15. Cold / Numb / Tingling in Extremities (22)
16. Jaw / Mouth Pain (17)
16. Sleep Issue (17)
17. Wrist Pain (15)
18. Hand Pain (13)
18. General Joint Pain (13)
18. Blood Pressure (13)
19. Quit Smoking (12)
19. Ankle Pain (12)
19. Dermatological Issue (12)
19. Gland / Hormonal Issue (12)
20. Dizziness / Balance Issue (10)
20. Elbow Pain (10)
21. Cognitive Issue (9)
22. Respiratory Issue (8)
22. Post-Cancer Healing (8)
23. Feeling of Heat (7)
24. Curiosity (6)
25. Post-Surgery Healing (5)
25. Ringing in the Ear (5)
26. Urinary Issue (4)
26. Eye Discomfort (4)
26. Edema (4)
27. Bells Palsy (3)
28. Diabetes (2)
28. Light and Sound Sensitivity (2)
29. Hiccup (1)
29. Facial Rejuvenation (1)
29. Auto-Immune Issue (1)
29. Hearing Issue (1)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Honeysuckle / Jin Yin Hua / 金銀花 / Gold and Silver Flower

Kevin and I planted 4 different varieties of honeysuckle on the back of the building several years before we started the business.

In hindsight, 2 honeysuckles would have been enough to cover the space. They are incredibly vigorous and would tear down the gutter and swallow the building if left alone.

I have long since lost the variety tags from the nursery. I believe one is an North American non-vining variety and the other three are Lonicera japonica. So when it came to picking out the medicinal variety to paint, I just picked one that fits the Chinese name better - "Gold and Silver Flower".

The composition shows the three stages of the flower, from immature yellow-green (that's when you would picked it for Chinese medicinal use), to showy yellow and white full bloom, ends in dropping all its petals and forming a jewel red fruit.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Painting Chrysanthemum: From Reference Photo to Finish

Since last time I shared the process of wet mounting, I decide to share a bit about how I painted the botanical watercolor.

When I picked the chrysanthemum flowers in the fall, I took some reference pictures. The photo looked fine when I first took it, but later as I tried to draw and paint for it, I found it lacking contrasts and slight blurry, making the process challenging.

Sometimes in the beginning of the year, on a sketchbook I roughed out the basic layout of the painting, including the positions of the Latin botanical name, the Chinese name, and the seals.

On an new sketchbook page with a mechanical pencil, I drew the chrysanthemum with as much as precision as I can, making sure the shapes were well-defined. This step doesn't look like much but I would say it's the most important step.

Once I was happy with it, I put a transparency with grid on top of my pencil drawing, drew a grid on my watercolor paper, and transfer the drawing. I used hot-press paper for its smooth surface, and lighter pencil pressure so I don't etch too much into the paper.

As I transferred, I erased the grid lines as I go. I still looked at the reference photo and making decisions as I transferred, so the final drawing on the watercolor paper was a little different than the pencil drawing.

Looking at the reference photo, I applied the watercolor in layers, mostly with a size 0 brush. I had to make up some details as I go, because the reference photo was a bit flat, especially in the center of the flowers. It was just a big blob of yellow. After adjusting and re-adjusting the shades and tone, at some point I had to decided when to stop fussing over painting.

At this point, I wrote the Latin and Chinese botanical names with the respectively appropriate calligraphic tools.

Stamped on my name seal, the Peaceful Water seal, and call it done! The painting will be hanging in the hallway next to other botanicals. Next time when you come in, feel free to check it out!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Making of the Holiday Cards: Wet-Mounting

This is a quick behind-the-scene look at "Wet-Mounting". The finishing step in Chinese style watercolor.

When paper is soaked then dried, it inevitably buckles and becomes wavy. Usually for western style watercolor, a heavy-weight paper is used and/or the paper is stretched before the painting process commences to minimize buckling. In Chinese style watercolor, stretching is done after the painting is completed. This saves time because I only stretch the painting I wish to display. Two years ago, I did many different versions of "Journey behind the falls" but I only stretched two.

This year, I did a painting of Letchworth State Park. For Chinese style watercolor, very light-weight absorbent paper is used, traditionally made from tree bark and rice straws. After the painting is done (this is version #3), it's placed good-side down on a smooth surface.

I have my tools handy: backing paper (has to be larger than the painting), water-soluble paste and a wide goat-hair brush, a padded putty knife (traditionally a stubby palm broom is used, but I don't have that).

The whole painting is spritzed with water to help the paper relax. After smoothing out the all the bubbles, it's brushed with the paste. Backing paper is then placed on top, and pushed down with the padded putty knife, assuring good adhesion.

Paste is then applied to the edges of the backing paper. The whole thing is carefully peeled off and stretched good-side up on a mounting board to dry. Once it's dried, it can be remove from the mounting board with an utility knife.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Balloon Flower 桔梗 Jie Geng

Root of the reliable balloon flowers (桔梗 Jie Geng) is used in Chinese medicine. It was one of the first Chinese medicinal plants that I've acquired. I bought one from The Home Depot three years back and finally got around to painting it this year. Here is a comparison of the reference photo and the painting.