I’m going back to China in a little over a week. I’ve been there once before with my wife, whose work takes her to southern China usually once a year. That first trip was an incredible experience for me, and I’ve been looking forward to returning ever since. I love to travel and I’m very lucky that my wife’s work makes this possible.
I.M. Pei's Bank of China building in Hong Kong.
I have many strong memories of my first trip to China. I remember the continuous drama of Hong Kong harbor, with the shipping traffic and the backdrop of ultra-modern skyscrapers marching up the side of a mountain that rises from the sea. I did several paintings of the towering tropical clouds that brought brief, torrential downpours and rainbows in the afternoons. Hong Kong and Guangzhou are cities where food is taken very seriously, and since I’m an adventurous food-lover, I was in my element. I also remember the contrast between the old and new China; traditional architecture and street markets dwarfed by large construction projects, and everyone talking on cell phones long before they became ubiquitous here in the States.
Construction in Guangzhou; the scaffolding is made of bamboo. All the construction and industrial activity has had a devastating impact on the environment. Air pollution is a real problem.
In the mainland city of Guangzhou there were construction projects on a vast scale - half-built skyscrapers wrapped with scaffolding made from bamboo, and elevated superhighways carved through the center of the city. These highways were so new that there weren’t enough cars to use them - they were empty except for an occasional bicyclist. It will be much different now, since the economic boom in China has made cars affordable for many people in the rich southern cities. Ten years ago, the level of human and industrial activity was astonishing, and made NYC feel calm by comparison. I expect this activity will be even greater today, and some of the city scenes that I painted on my first trip might be almost unrecognizable.
The Courtesan's House, an historic site in Guangzhou.
This is the first time in China for my three children, a real family adventure (they arrived yesterday, and I join them next week after I perform with the Half-Tones at the ICON opening reception). I’ll bring my sketchbook and watercolors, and hope that I find time to document this trip as I did before. I’ll look forward to posting some new paintings when I get back.
Cathedral in Macao. Ten years ago Macao was still a Portuguese colony. Now it is the gambling center of China and a rival to Las Vegas.
Professor Nimbus at the recent Olympic ski jump trials in the Alps.
As I continue this series of prints, I've been playing a game with myself: How much of Professor Nimbus's face needs to appear to show that it is clearly him? Can his face be hidden? Is it enough to show his trademark hair style?
I've always loved these outdoor binoculars which are a permanent fixture at places like the observation deck of the Empire State Building. They have a face of their own.
Guillermo Nagore is sitting in as art director at the NY Times Op-Ed page this week. Here's a Letters piece which we worked on yesterday, for publication today.
I did two sketches for this assignment, beginning with sketch #2. I liked the concept but felt this sketch was too cluttered and confined by the box. I wanted to do a variation for insurance, something with a more minimal treatment that had no frame around it.
Guillermo liked the more minimal sketch, but asked if I could add something to give the image a little more weight on the page. His suggestion was right on the money. I added a shadow, and experimented with different background treatments. With the clock ticking I ended up with three versions of final art. I think he chose the best version. Thanks, Guillermo.