To live and enjoy every day to its fullest, use my gifts to help others, I travel to wherever passion finds me.

What Will She Paint?

So many friends I met here...!

Monday, January 12, 2009


You may think I have a thing for bridges. we drove several times over this bridge in Nanchang, 12 hours W.(by train) of Shanghai, China.
After our son's first year of teaching English there, I and my hubby travelled with him to 4 cities. I had one backpack filled to the brim with watercolor and oil medium stuff. At the airports it gave for more searches (I don't know what they saw on their screen), but when they opened up all the zippers and saw what was in it, they smiled with glee, and some even with relief.

As in so many old cities, this bridge divides the residential area from the inner city with shops and restaurants. During the day this looks like a functional concrete structure with steel cabels coming down from the two main pillars.

Even though this city has more than 2 million inhabitants, and is known for its colleges, foreigners are treated and stared at like celebrities. Our company of three got plenty of stares - mainly because my hubby and son are taller than 6 foot. Not a day went by that he was not asked by Chinese fathers to be in the pic with their teen daughter (as a kind of a novelty and/or joke).

12 x 16,
St Germain

At sunset, the bright colors of the sky are reflected into the water. While edges in the landscape blur, this structure is transformed into two big watchmen standing by the water, as protectors of the city. This is why I love art: it seeks beauty and sees the potential in the ordinary things.

There are numerous bridges in Beijing, the capitol in the North, where the Olympics were held in 2008. This old, beautiful, marble stone looking bridge connects the main street, while we were on our way to the Forbidden City (where the palaces of the royal families are - a must see!).

Very interestingly, they built a new bridge, not even a block away. The Chinese are a very industrious kind of people. We always seemed to see them working. Here, by the new bridge, we finally saw some Chinese vacationers in small sightseeing boats. How indulgent must the Western yachts look to them!

Here, I finally took the chance to paint en plein air (in open air). Even though I do not speak one word of Chinese, I felt safe enough to walk alone from the hostel to the new bridge and started making a sketch. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw people looking, but they remained at a respectful distance.

Later I heard from one of the workers at the hostel, a twenty-something woman who spoke perfect English, that Chinese artists do not paint in the streets. So I may have been a novelty to them (even in the capitol city). When they would pass me, they made a friendly comment or gesture.

This young woman was very intrigued when she saw me do an oil painting at the patio of the hostel. She had never seen an oil before, even though her sister attends the art academy. Watercolor seems to be the main painting medium.

As she went on to talk about her brothers and sisters, I discovered that they are not really siblings, but nieces and nephews. In asking her about that, she said with longing in her voice that she wanted so much to have brothers and sisters, but they were not allowed to (referring to the one-child-rule, otherwise you'll pay a fee - so much for government interference over family life).

Oil, 18 x 36, St Germain

My paintings are usually not quirky, but this one turned out to be one. Maybe because I broke a major rule in design with placing the new bridge in the middle of the painting. A Chinese college student here in the US pointed this out to me. If you know a little about Europians (I am Dutch), you'll know that I do not care if I broke a rule in art. I responded with, "So?" she was shocked at my apparent disregard for rules, illustrating opposite cultural attitudes on this subject.

The use of color steers away from realism, when one sees a cloudy sky above the sunny colors of the bridge. My own perception also shines through in displaying the little boats almost looking like toys. I wanted this painting of the Two Bridges to be the Happy Bridge for the Chinese: a place to relax from monotone work, to laugh, being away from stress, and enjoy the simple pleasure of a boat ride.
Bridges, they may serve as a symbol of a connection between the past, the present, and the future.

After we came home and recuperated from jet lag, I painted my heart out before all my first impressions would fade away.


William F. Renzulli said...

I admire your courage to paint out of doors, on site. I tried it once and decided it is not for me.

These two paintings are interesting in their contrasts. the first is very dramatic and moody because of the strong, conflicting colors and values. The second one is very warm and happy, almost primitive in style. Without being there I can feel a serenity and stillness in the scene.

China must be an awesome country to "look at".

I hope will see more of your China inspired work.

jeannette stgermain said...

Thank you for commenting!
Yes, you got it - I LOVE conflict (it's my job as a therapist to work with it).
About working en plein air: it's experience, my friend, of 10 years of (fam.)vacations spraying myself with the most deadly musquito spray, double wrapping my lunch, so the squirrels can't get to it, and only my hands being exposed to the open air when I paint! I never finish outside, but for me, it really helps to get my first impressions of the real thing in front of me.

Mediterranean kiwi said...

hi jeanette, i've always had a fascination for bridges, maybe because i am not a swimmer, and a bridge is one way i can be in the middle of a waterway without getting my feet wet

you've chosen a great way to express yourself - and i hope you enjoy cooking up your favorite mediterranean dishes!

jeannette stgermain said...

It's a miracle you live in Crete then (if you don't swim), cause there's water all around you - or you don't go much to the mainland? Does Crete have its own government, or does it "officially" belong to Greece? Glad you enjoy the 2 paintings of my travels, and yes, now I know you I'll have more Medierranean dishes to cook(thanks for doing that!!)

Johnina Young said...

Really liked this post. I like the way you integrate photos and drawings on your blog. I don't paint yet but I do draw and was thinking of adding more. You do a great job with it. Johnina is my correct blog address.