Sunday, June 24, 2007

Botanical garden, 2007 / 2007的植物園


So many people have been telling me about the beauty of outdoor sketch this semester. I do not enjoy painting in front of people, but lately I have felt a strong desire to try sketching. Speaking of a perfect venue, the café in National Museum of History came to mind. Actually, I went there no more than a week ago for the exhibition of artists' handmade books. But I couldn't resist the temptation of going there again this weekend. I had my mind set on the long and narrow café on the second floor. It faces the lotus pond, giving people a full view of the lush garden. It is always quiet and well-lit. I can't think of a better place.


As you can tell, I've been addicted to the use of journal books. I dug out the old journal for the trip to New York City seven years ago. I do not mind the long interval between now and then. On the hot Saturday afternoon, half of the tables in the café were empty, but the good seats next to the windows were all occupied. I looked around while having lunch, not in any hurry. Fortunately, a couple stood up, ready to leave. I moved my cup and plates, secretly thanking God for such a heavenly twist of fate.


When I got down to work, little by little, the sounds around me were still distinct, but they didn't belong to my world, more like those coming from TV. The old ladies chatted calmly about their families, the young lovers whispered, and there were also the crisp digesting sounds of cameras. I was not aroused from sketching until the thunder outside struck. It rained.


To wait for the watercolor to dry, I turned to the previous pages. I hadn't read my own writing for many years. It was quite a coincidence that exactly seven years ago, I was also so fascinated with the New York Botanical Garden. The first half of the journal was all about it. I didn't quite remember how I had felt then until I read my words carefully. In the 24th summer in my life, how I liked that guy. But I wasn't happy most of the time. His fickle personalities were worse than unpredictable. My past sensitivity touched me. I thought to myself, so I was like that seven years ago.


It rained harder. More and more people came in the café to take shelter. The noise grew in proportion to the thunder and lightning out of the windows. I thumbed through pages and pages of sorrow and uncertainty. I read as if it had been about me from the previous life. I did remember that unrequited love affair, but the details were all too unfamiliar. I couldn't think of any. Then I turned back to a new page, starting another sketch. The small bonsai plants on the tables, the people next table were lovely topics. While waiting for the watercolor paints to dry, I would enrich the empty parts of the pages with lotus exposed to the rain, lotus blown by the wind, straight-falling big raindrops, the giant trees and shades, etc. etc. etc. After the pages were filled, I would go back to the past, traveling between my words.


The rain let up little by little. The guests left one by one. The scenery around me kept changing, from the old couple to the young lovers to a girl to two foreign men. I traveled from the present to the past and back to the present through words. Among all these changes, my brushes kept dancing on the pages. I seemed to be alone, but I was not alone.


It was almost the evening time. I felt sort of fatigued. I closed my journal, took up the big bags, and walked out of the café in a very relaxed mood. On the short Saturday afternoon, I saw everything, but there was nothing in my mind. The only question I gave a thought to was where I should have my sketch lesson next week.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

roses / 玫瑰花


This afternoon on my way home, I bought a bouquet of roses. When waiting for the MRT, I stared at the rosy petals and suddenly all the memories came back. A long time ago, on my trip to New York City, I was full of envy when seeing people buy roses for themselves. I was a poor student then, having no extra money for little luxuries like that. So I told myself, one day I am going to buy flowers for myself because they can brighten my day and make it so colorful.


Beautiful girls would say, I'll just wait for flowers from my lovers. I've come to such an age that I don't care if anyone sends me flowers. When I am blue, a trip to the flower market or a bouquet bought from a street vendor will lift me up. Before my lover shows up, I have to make myself happy.


Many years ago, I wished to live in a big city like New York. My dream didn't come true. Now I live in Taipei, doing a job I wished to give up many years ago. People around me are so ordinary, but whenever I am with them, I feel loved. What's more important, I can bring a bouquet of roses home anytime. Though Mom would often complain about the prices, I would respond with a quiet smile, saying, sorry, I need a bunch of roses today, at any price.


So bouquets of roses have become an extremely important part in my memories for this city.


PS: The picture is about our trip to Chien-kuo flower market, me and my girls.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

mumbling / 喃喃自語


There is a period of time each year when I feel like living without computers. Compared with many people, I do not rely much on the modern age technology. For example, I detest MSN to such an extent that I do not want to hear people talk about it. Lately, I've been more into reading books, sending real postcards than surfing the Internet and sending email. This has something to do with my preferences for old things. When I do not touch the computer, I can focus on the real life. I like that kind of pureness.


I don't think I have many regular visitors to the little room, but I feel ashamed about my willful laziness. I think of you from time to time, so I'd like you to know about this side in me.


During the past month, I was still drawing. I made a journal book about the Taipei city. It was originally for the contest held by the Italian brand of notebooks—moleskine. However, after I started the project, I realized that the purposes for making the book had changed. My best friend Liang-huei is about to head for the UK soon. Since last year, we've been to so many places in Taipei, and she has changed my outlook on life. I'd like to put all the memories into a book. Then it also dawned on me that I was recording my own life. Even though I was as tired as a dog after work, my conscience would take me to my desk. I would sit down and paint away the whole evening. I am glad that I persisted. I have to say that I feel a sense of loss after I finished the project, but I have other new challenges. I don't have time to be sentimental...


Sometimes I remain silent on purpose, but my blog records everything, including my quiet waywardness. Yet I am far from being stingy. I love to share my art more than anything...

Sunday, June 03, 2007

My teacher / 老師的老師

by Jim Jiang


After taking Chinese painting class for a semester, I had an epiphany—no matter how hard I practiced, I was not born for it. Therefore, in the beginning of this semester, I told Jim with firm determination that I should focus on what I am good at. With no talent in Chinese painting, I didn't want to force myself. I had intended on stopping the lesson, but Jim and our class leader came to me, trying to change my mind. I still remember how Jim looked then. He wore a magnanimous smile on his face and said, "Silly child. Learning Chinese painting should be fun. Even if you just come and watch me paint, it will still do you good. Within these two hours, you can detach yourself from your old mode of thinking. Perhaps you can even learn something new from me and apply it in the field you are more interested in."


Well, this semester I haven't taken up the brush pen, not even once. A few months ago, I couldn't accept the idea that I didn't do any homework after the class. I wouldn't have imagined that I am so happy now. Sometimes I spend much time chatting away about all with the senior ladies in class, and I've stopped blaming myself for my laziness and distraction. It's like a cog in my brain was stuck. It was fixed at a certain moment and I've become quite broad-minded.


Last autumn when I first started, Jim said something very philosophical. He said that one can learn about life in Chinese painting. He interpreted the life philosophy according to his own experiences, and we benefited so much from his wise words. Sometimes when I am about to lose my temper because of certain trivial things, Jim's poise make me ask myself how he would solve the problem if he were in my shoes. I don't know the answer, but I am sure that he wouldn't fly into a rage. I want his calm badly and that leads me toward a more peaceful way of thinking.


Sometimes I concentrate too much on painting and have the idea that it is the only thing that matters in my life. A few days ago when I was kind of upset, Jim happened to say that painting isn't everything. There are other important things and people such as taking care of our family. I was very touched by his humble attitude. Jim has been working in the art field for more than 3 decades, he still believes that painting is mainly for making life more interesting. In fact, if there were no interaction with other people and responsibilities, I wouldn't cherish the joy of painting. I knew this too, but sometimes we forget as we move ahead...


This weekend I had a reunion with Florence, whom I hadn't seen for four years. She said that I am so much more mature and at ease than before. That's because many people around me have been teaching me how to live well. You know, even teachers need teachers!