Leroy Forney

Artist, Oil Painter

March 17, 2014
by Leroy
0 comments

Underway now!

I’ve pretty much settled into my studio by now, and am finding my way to the stores and eateries in Feijiacun that carry the odd supplies, fruit and Chinese food that I enjoy.  I have a bicycle – one speed, and with a low seat that means I must pedal with my knees high.  Usually that is uncomfortable and annoys my arthritic knee, but bikes move slowly here and so it isn’t a problem.

Part of the shopping center - really, a long corridor

Part of the shopping center – really, a long corridor

One of several markets where you can buy just about anything

One of several markets where you can buy just about anything

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of several right angles in the warren of streets here - usually very crowded

One of several right angles in the warren of streets here – usually very crowded

 

The other artists in the program are good company, and we share many meals, trips, and activities.  Here we are at the MAAN Café in Beijing to plan for our Open Studio event on March 29th.  The MAAN is fabulous, specializing in fancy sweets and breakfasts, a sometimes welcome break from the local fare.

My choice at the MAAN was the French Toast Platter

My choice at the MAAN was the French Toast Platter

 

Suzanna, from the Netherlands, loves Found Objects and Assemblages.

Anna is Australian and has been a very active oil painter here since January.

Anna is Australian and has been a very active oil painter here since January.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tiyan is Malasian and specializes in Video and Photography.

Tiyan is Malasian and specializes in Video and Photography.

Tomash is from Austria, working on an application for his PhD

Tomash is from Austria, working on an application for his PhD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mika is an another painter, from the US by way of the UK.

Mika is an another painter, from the US by way of the UK.

 

Matthew and I continue to stay in touch and hang out with each other.

Matt, at work in Beijing

Matt, at work in Beijing

Taking Snoopy to play ball in the park

Taking Snoopy to play ball in the park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It has taken me much longer that I anticipated to get any art work underway.  One of the big problems initially was just that I was not sure how I wanted to start or what to do.  And then, the art supply stores are about 45min to an hour away, using public transportation which is a challenge in itself.  My list of essential supplies has been substantially modified as I find new ways and work-arounds that I can use to adapt the way I usually work and make them mesh with my situation here.  Still, a workable paint medium is essential, and on my first trip to the supply stores, I got a set of supplies that don’t work and I can’t use.  The problem is that most of the materials and their labels are Chinese with only a few cryptic words in English, and the terms don’t correspond to what I’m used to back home.  Some supplies just aren’t available.  I wanted a big pad of cheap Newsprint, but big pads of paper, cheap or otherwise, don’t seem to exist here.  Neither do tablets of canas pads, or disposable paper pallets.

Fortunately, on my second expedition I did find materials that will work for me.  Whew!  And I’ve gotten back into the swing of painting again.  Have completed a couple of initial paintings, and am working on several more, now.

I found some essential products that work for me, made in Netherlands

I found some essential products that work for me, made in Netherlands

 

 

 

 

 

March 7, 2014
by Leroy
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A Free Day

Yesterday Matt was planning to drive here to check out the Studio, and help me get art supplies from Beijing.  But then he noticed that the number on his licence plate meant he couldn’t drive yesterday, so all that got put off until today.

I used the day to explore the town some more, buy some fruit.  Two school girls followed me for half a block, and worked up their courage to practice their limited English with this strange foreigner.  Turned out that Na Ren Hua and Pao Pao were art students themselves, and so  they were quite excited to find that I was painting in an art studio in their town.  They wanted to show me their school and what they had done, and since I had no other particular plans for the day….

The Pingter School of Liangpin was about a twenty-minute walk beyond town, on the second floor of a big, very gray building.  We went to a large room with lots of paintings and charcoal drawings on the wall, and lots of scattered chairs with pallets and partially-completed paintings. Some of the work was well-done, especially the drawings.  The work the students had in their personal sketchbooks was heavily slanted toward video game atavars but hey, that’s what you find in the US, too.

Three students, including Na Ren and Pao Pao, wanted me to do a sketch of them, on the spot. So I did, with about half a dozen other students looking on.

Na Ren Hua, Pao Pao and a friend

Na Ren Hua, Pao Pao and a friend

Lots of work underway in this room

Lots of work underway in this room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beginning to pose for the sketch

Beginning to pose for the sketch

My sketch was rather quickly done - hop it did not disappoint them.

My sketch was rather quickly done – hop it did not disappoint them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at the portfolios of the art students.  Not bad!

Looking at the portfolios of the art students. Not bad!

They gave me a copy of their Yearbook, with photos of the students and their artwork

They gave me a copy of their Yearbook, with photos of the students and their artwork

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Experiences like this leave me with a bunch of questions.  This was mid-day on a Thursday, after all.  Students were around, but no classes were taking place.  Where are the teachers?  How many students are there?  What is their school schedule like?  What else is going on in this school – this building?  Where do the students come from?  What typically happens after “graduation?”  I wish I knew enough Chinese to ask the questions.

 

March 5, 2014
by Leroy
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Settling in…

Well, I’m ensconced in my new Studio now, but it has really been a bit hectic.  I got picked up from the Apartments on Monday as scheduled, deposited here.  The studio is very large, with an abundance of late-student second hand furniture, a nice kitchen with a new microwave oven, ill-stocked with utensils and no foodstuffs.  It has taken a lot of pushing things around to create something that is both reasonably comfortable and serviceable.  The loft bedroom is large, comfortable, and blessedly has a very modern and functional temperature control unit.  Also has a TV that doesn’t work but can be used for DVDs.  There is a ton of ancient broken electronic and hi-fi equipment in the studio that serves no purpose whatsoever – I hope to simply get rid of it.
A quick tour of my Studio #6, in the Shangri La Art Complex
or, as the sign proclaims, the “S_angr_  La Art Complex”
Looking from front door toward kitchen, below loft.

Looking from front door toward kitchen, below loft.

Looking to the left

Looking to the left

 

 

 

The right side.  This is the large painting area.

The right side. This is the large painting area.

From the kitchen toward the front door (that has to be locked or it swings open).

From the kitchen toward the front door (that has to be locked or it swings open).

From the loft.  Note how high the space extends.

From the loft. Note how high the space extends.

The bedroom- comfortably warm even if the Studio isn't.

The bedroom- comfortably warm even if the Studio isn’t.

Emma gave me a quick tour of of Feijiacun (pronounced Fay-Ja-Tsun) where our Studios are located.  It is a charming little flea-bitten town, with its myriad little stores, restaurants, bakeries, produce markets…  Emma would have bought anything I thought I needed during our tour, but I just wasn’t yet into to a mode of “let’s see, how about butter, bread, some vegetables, maybe some meat and eggs…

Emma, Liang who kinda handles whatever needs handling here and speaks some English and I did go to lunch at a house right around the corner that prepares and serves fixed-menu basic, substantial  all-you-can-eat meals for workers, both lunch and dinner.  Bring your own dinnerware and chopsticks.  The cost was a rousing 10 kuai, or $1.63.  Worth every penny!

Yesterday for lunch I had a tasty bowl of food in a restaurant “downtown,” for what would have been about twice that price around the corner, except that I’d taken along my sketch pad.  One of the Chinese patrons had me listen to his phone, where a woman with excellent English said her friend would like me to sketch his picture.  So I did.  He was happy with it, and insisted on paying for my food.  Wish I had taken his picture, and maybe a picture of the sketch.  He used his phone again to have his translator say how happy he was.  I have her phone number, and might invite her through WeChat to come to the studio and say hello, if I really can contact her.

March 2, 2014
by Leroy
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It Starts Tomorrow

I was accepted into the Residency program about half a year ago, and since then their Residency Coordinator has changed just a bit, and so have some of their schedules.  It turns out that the program gets underway tomorrow, and most of the other Residents arrive then, or a day later.  So I’ve been hanging out with my son Matt for a few days longer than I expected – always a welcome opportunity.

Last night Matt was off for a long Judo practice, so I used the opportunity to walk down the block to the massage parlor find out what a foot massage would be like.  The parlor’s been there a long time, and Matt assured me that the place was highly reputable.  Their posted menu of offerings is a mile long, and foot massages range from 30 – 60min.

70 min Health-Foot Massage:  RMB 88

70 min Health-Foot Massage: RMB 88

I opted for the 70min Health Foot Massage for 88 Quai ($14.33), and was introduced to a cute little Chinese girl and ushered into a room – sleezy is too strong a word for it, but… – with three rather threadbare couch-lounge-recliner things.  She left to get a tub of very hot water to soak my feet, and while they cooked she began to work on my shoulders and neck.  That must be the HEALTH part of the foot massage.  That girl DOES have strong thumbs.  Whew!  I was rather glad when she left my shoulder blades to begin working on my toasty marinated feet.

 

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Great Workout for the Feet

  2014-1869Fire!  –  For Cupping the Feet

My feet got oiled and patted, and each toe was individually pampered, pulled, popped, stretched, punched and scraped, as were my soles and heels as well.  It really did feel good, and I think she made short work of some tough skin and calluses.  Lots of time spent around the toenails, too.  So it felt good after the 70 minutes, and still feels good today.  My only regret is that we were so limited in our communication, since she knew as much English as I know Chinese.  Lots of “thumbs up,” pointing, smiling, and gestures.

This time visiting with Matt hasn’t been entirely lost in terms of art.  I found I can still use the subway system fairly easily, and used it to go to the National Art Museum.  In the subway, a little girl came up to me and asked me if I needed help, in perfect schoolgirl English.  I kind of did at that moment, and so I met her and her Mother, who said they have lots of American friends with whom they study the Bible.  Nice experience.  Last time I was at the Museum, there was a fabulous international art exhibition with lots of contemporary Chinese and foreign art.  I guess that set my expectations too high.  This time almost the entire exhibition area was devoted to classical ink and  brush drawings, and calligraphy.  Not to negate that, but it is not what I was hoping for, or interested in.

Yesterday Matt joined me in a trip to the Caochangdi (pronounced: Tsai-Chong-D) art area.  It is kind of hard to get to by public transport, and more spread out than the much more famous 798 Art District.  Even on a Saturday, there were not many people in the Galleries though, and things looked pretty slow.  I guess this just is not the season for tourist and local gallery hopping.  At least, we did get to some of the majors there – the Chambers Gallery, White Space Gallery, ArtMIA, and some other small galleries in between.   We were happiest at Shanghart Gallery, where we spent quite some time considering the meaning of a painting of an astronaut in a lounge chair attached by a plastic airway to a caged honeycomb studded with screws and mechanical inserts.  (It was lots better than it sounds in my description here!)  I’m still impressed by the meticulous detail that Chinese artists express in their work.

The weather here has been holding up well, since the gruesome pollution on my arrival blew away.  Comfortable temperatures, sunny days, only a little haze.

February 26, 2014
by Leroy
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Arrival in Beijing

Gotta hand it to Delta Airlines – they were very helpful in answering questions and making the flight comfortable.  Of course, a 747 flight from Detroit to Beijing that was only 1/3 full helped, too.  I had four seats to myself, so could sleep on the plane.

It has been good to spend a few days with my son Matthew here, before the Residency gets underway.  I’ve mostly caught up on the things I meant to do before leaving Philadelphia but just didn’t get to – including contacting people from my previous visit here last spring, and sending out a MailChimp announcement to inform friends about what I’m up to, here.  Actually, that MailChimp mailing was a disaster – I apologise for it.  I’m sure MailChimp is easy to use, but I have a way of making everything difficult.   So if you received that MailChimp fiasco you not only got my message, but lots of text about what I was supposed to be entering in various boxes.  But it did get the point across, and  I’ve had a lot of replies wishing me well, and that feels so very supportive.  Thank you all who took the time to email me after reading my botched MailChimp message.

Matt always seems to have a swirl of interesting people floating through his apartment.  Last night’s dinner included Miranda who was auditioning as the lead singer for his band, and Louise, a family friend who is staying in the apartment for a few months while working here as an intern at the European Union office.

2014-1853Miranda, Me, Matt, and Louise

I did hear from the Red Gate Gallery that there will be five other artists in the Residency program during March.  They include three painters, from the USA, Australia, and Vienna, a New Media artist from Iceland, and a sculptor who also works in a variety of other media, from Netherlands.  That should make for an interesting crew, I think.

I’d expected to spend a bunch of time just walking around, scoping out the neighborhood after my arrival.  Unfortunately, that just isn’t inviting in the least, right now.  Just the idea of a 10-15 minute walk to the subway is a turnoff.  The particulate level is pushing 500, about as high as it ever gets.  Western companies are advising their people to stay home and work by computer, if possible.  You really do feel it in your eyes and throat when you step outside.  Even so, only about 5% of the people on the sidewalks are wearing masks.  Matt says it will likely take a windy day to blow this muck away, or a rain and this is a dry period.

2014-1858View from Matt’s apartment, 17th floor.  Not exactly the bright sunny day you might expect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 17, 2014
by Leroy
0 comments

Get Ready, Get Set, ….

Some of the things from my library that I am reviewing before heading  to Beijing

Some of the things from my library that I am reviewing before heading to Beijing

I woke up yesterday morning with the stark realization that it is only one week until I leave for China. For so long it felt like one of those things that was way off in the future, but now it is practically here. Got to get serious now about what supplies to take with me, and what and how to pack.

Fortunately, the travel agent called to say that my visa has come back. That was the last big item on my list, after taking care of housing, insurance, meds, newspaper, Internet and cellular services, and the plant that I hope doesn’t die while I’m gone.

An additional pleasure of this trip is that I can spend a week with my son Matthew before the Red Gate Art Residency gets underway. He’s been splitting his time between family in Italy and his business in Beijing, and the timing worked out for us.  We’ll catch up together on what is going on in Beijing.

 

February 12, 2014
by Leroy
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Beginning Again

This is a start-over.  I haven’t made any blog posts since I was in Beijing last spring.

But now I am excited about returning to Beijing for a two-month Art Residency (March and April, 2014), based on my application, and contacts I made there last year.  The idea is that this blog will serve as my diary for the experience.

The Residency is sponsored by the Red Gate Gallery, a large gallery in Central Beijing.  It provides studios to about ten international artists at any one time – small studios in central Beijing for writers and poets, or larger studios for visual artists in Bei Gao, a small art community at the end of a subway line to the north of Beijing.  Fortunately, since it is an international program, English should be the lingua franca of the group.

I don’t expect to make “Chinese” paintings while there, but do want to explore the way Chinese painters have used perspective, and I hope to make larger works than I have been able to do in my more crowded Philadelphia studio.  In addition, I want to be very open to the subject matter around me, and the ideas and inspiration of other Resident Artists.  I also want to get back to the museums and galleries I visited in 2010 and again last spring, to see what is there now to and absorb and try new ideas.

 

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The Red Gate Gallery is housed in the five-centuries old Southeast Corner Tower.

The Gallery comprises a vast and impressive space within the Tower

The Gallery comprises a vast and impressive interior space within the Tower

March 10, 2013
by Leroy
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Beijing

 

March 8th:

For now I’m in Beijing with a couple days of down time until Ellen arrives from Seattle, and Matt and the family return from Cambodia. I found the Hutong House I painted three years ago. Thought I might reprint it, but it has not aged well artistically over these three years:

.  (The house next door does have possibilities, though)

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How about that scooter – guess they’ve gone upscale,

 

Meanwhile I’m hanging out with Francesca dal Lago who is also staying in the apartment here.  (Matt’s home is always like a United Nations, with interesting people passing through.) Francesca’s credits are a mile long – she’s an expert on Chinese art history, here to film a documentary.

Yesterday we took in a unique exhibition of paintings at the National Art Museum celebrating a Chinese-Russia friendship event of 1953. That was 50 years ago, just four years after the Chinese Revolution.

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Francesca, in front of the National Art Museum, one of the ten major buildings built to celebrate the Communist Revolution and the only one not strictly Soviet Realist.

China sent 33 politically correct art students to Russia to study from noted Russian painters and artists for a year. The exhibition collected their studies and finished works made in Russia during that time period.  All the exhibition is good, some of it is excellent, and I can learn a lots from both categories.  Here are a few works that really intrigued me:

The colors were much brighter, "live".

Small (5×6, maybe) but beautiful in its simplicity

 

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Another small delicious work, practically abstract

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I like the use of the tree trunks were added last, to frame the focus and provide depth

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The thing here is the change in the edges, moving from the ribbon to her feet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love this bold use of color and brushwork

 

March 7, 2013
by Leroy
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Beijing Surprise

Today is my first full day in Beijing, so after finishing unpacking I went across the street to pick up a magazine for the month’s activities and events.  Paged through it, checking stuff here and there — and then came across a TWO-PAGE SPREAD featuring Ellen and her book, Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me.  What a surprise – so she is here before I am!  She is due to arrive here from Seattle on Saturday to participate in the International Book Festival this month.

See more about the book at marblesbyellenforney.com

Otherwise, my arrival has not been very auspicious.  I arrived in late afternoon, and on the ride to Beijing on the expressway everything, even the air, was gray.   Cars were driving with their headlights on.  The leafless gray trees along the highway seemed to be reaching for sustenance, and the afternoon sun was anemic orange-red ball that disappeared into the haze as we got closer to the city.  It really leaves a strong visual effect.  Here is a photo taken from our apartment (17th floor) in mid-morning.  Ive been struggling to decide what color that haze is – there seems to be a strong component of violet there.

 

This view is looking south, toward the center of Beiing