Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sneak Preview! Surf's up

The last of the trip-tiki!

This tiki is Marquesa-style, after the Marquesas Islands where the term tiki comes from (the word is Maori--the indigenous people of New Zealand--in origin and it's believed that the Maori came to New Zealand from the Marquesas).

He's a creator god, as can be seen from his prominent phallus. (Ah, the days when sex wasn't a guilty pleasure. It was just a part of life.). The familiar belly-holding pose signifies valuing one's heritage (the core of who we are).

The challenge with painting these tikis is not to paint them in the usual way they've been depicted (animated stone or wood), but the challenge, as when I paint bodhisattvas with statues as references, is to translate the stylized features into something just as stylized, but appropriate for a painting that isn't about painting a statue!

The face is always the biggest challenge and with this piece, I've worked hard to keep the traditional features (circular eyes, large and flat nose, even the faces on the ears--which are hard to discern because yes, I finger painted this and the other two paintings) because I think they're important.

These gods (and tikis may also represent the first human) looked like the people they arose from (or created). Their noses aren't ski jumps and Nordic, and they're not Roman or Semitic, either. They're broad and flat and they're beautiful the way they are.

Just like all of us.

Take care,


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sneak Preview! Part two of the trip-tiki!

You've probably seen this before--it's a painting of a moai, found on Rapa Nui (Easter Island).

They're carved from volcanic rock, weigh tons, and many were moved by the original inhabitants--we still don't know how--from where they were made to a new setting. Kind of Stonehengey in its mystery.

As with many symbols, or what we assume to be symbols signifying something else, the meaning of these statues are lost.

The appreciation for them, however, is not. Good looks may be fashionable, but seeing beauty is an eternal gift we give ourselves.

Take care,


Sneak Preview! Something tiki this way comes

And now for something completely different.

I've been wanting to paint tiki images for a long time now, but I hesitated--the idea of making images that somehow caricaturized the divinities of another religion and culture made me extremely uncomfortable.

However, I do love Oceanic art (art from Polynesia, Australia, etc.--islands of the South Pacific) so I studied and researched like I usually do for all my pieces and found what I expected to find:

The Hawaiian Independence movement.

Yes, we've been asked to free Tibet. Let's not forget Palestine. But what's in our own backyards? Ireland? Sardegna? Alaska?

It's never a simple picture with me, is it?

Sure, we can enjoy art and stories outside of context and history, but it all comes from somewhere and our imaginations are impregnated with it, it's in our DNA: we conquer and are conquered, we assimilate and appropriate, acculturate and segregate. What does this all mean when it comes to art, stories, and music?

I think we--the artists, storytellers, and musicians--are as free as the birds who carry seeds with them from island to island, populating the fertile ground with new life, mixing things up to create new beauty. That is, if we do what we do with respect.

If we don't, we're like those "meat sowers"--the sailors that would stop, drop a few pigs onto an island to breed for food at a later time--but would come back to find the land ravaged by the feral pigs, the native animals and vegetation devastated by what they've introduced.

This painting I've just made is an experimental one, more than usual. It's still finger painted, this time with acrylic (which behaves oh-so differently from oils). It's an image of Ku, the most popular "tiki" image from Hawai'i that's brought back by mainland tourists.

I find it ironic that he's also the god of war.

I've painted him in the colors of the Republic of Hawai'i's flag, a reminder that even as we take in and share the joy and peace of the aloha spirit, the people from which this philosophy comes from yearn to be free.

Take care,


Monday, June 18, 2007

The uses of art

I love multitasking.

The idea that you can be doing more than one thing at the same time--the efficiency gives me goose bumps!

Do your laundry and reply to email. Commute to work and learn another language.

Make art for the spirit that also takes care of the body.

Case in point, Balance 4 Kids is having their annual Bid 4 Kids auction in September (more info soon!), and I've donated the above two paintings (Dreaming Boy and Flying Tangerines with the Stars as Blossoms) to this wonderful non-profit organization dedicated to supporting families and schools who have children with disabilities.

I was doubly honored when Victoria George, one of the founders of Balance 4 Kids, asked for permission to print Flying Tangerines with the Stars as Blossoms on their official auction invitations! (It's also on their web site, under "News Flash!")

In the near future, look for a special limited edition print of one of my paintings that will specifically support Balance 4 Kids by having a percentage of the sales donated to them.

If you're an artist or any type of seller on eBay, please consider choosing Balance 4 Kids through eBay Giving Works to help this compassionate organization continue its important work. Contact Balance 4 Kids with any questions you may have.

Take care,


Friday, June 15, 2007

Monday, June 11, 2007

Changing the world and other fallacies

For a long time, even when I had the opportunity to make art, I didn't.

I needed to do something that would change the world. Make it a better place. Should I be a schoolteacher? A therapist? What would heal the violence, mitigate the suffering, and root out the injustice I saw around me?

I originally chose writing (surprise) as my tool for changing the world. I thought stories were the best way to go, especially because I had been so influenced by them (still am). I don't think I'd be an environmentalist today if it weren't for Alan Moore's run on DC Comics' Saga of the Swamp Thing. And let's not talk about Joseph Campbell's work on mythology, or other great teachers I've had in my life. This blog doesn't have the space for what I owe them and what they taught me about the importance of stories and the importance of being who I am.

And yet, it's taken me a long time to accept who I am, what I do, and how I participate in the world.

That's what gives me this insight: you can't change the world.

Why? Because when we think about changing the world, what we're really thinking about is changing people: how they think and behave in the world. You ever try to stay on a diet? Break a habit? Yeah. It's hard.

So it makes me understand better what Gandhi meant when he said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Who else can change us but ourselves? Who else can choose to learn but ourselves?

Don't get me wrong. This isn't a battle cry for narcissism and navel-gazing. It's also not an incitement to shame and guilt. There's a lot of terrible things happening in the world--have always been happening--and I'm angry about it. If you find any peace in my work--in my stories, writing, and art--it's peace that I struggle for.

And it's how I participate in the world. It's my contribution, and it's my offering. Love it or ignore it, because I'm done thinking I can shove it (with all the best intentions) down anyone's throat. The world doesn't change. We do.

From a roadside attraction on the highway of evolution,


Sunday, June 10, 2007

New from Ivan Chan Studio! Black Bamboo Blue Cat SOLD

Black Bamboo Blue Cat, oil on canvas, 18" x 36"
Finger painted

Please click on the image to read the description in my gallery. This Original Finger Painting is from my Here Kitty Series.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Sneak Preview! Return of the Blue Cat

There's another Here Kitty painting coming, but here's a sneak preview of the latest one that will be up for auction soon. If you're interested in purchasing it before I list it, please feel free to contact me.

I've been in love with black bamboo for quite some time, and although it translates easily to monochromatic Chinese brush paintings, it's another thing to do it in oils, in color, and in my finger painted style. It was fun, though, and I look forward to painting more black bamboo, as I've looked forward to painting more cherry blossoms.

The background is done again in a celestial, iridescent gold to pay homage to the gold leaf used in East Asian art. It represents a heavenly state of being or plane of existence. In the foreground is a rock, again painted in a way influenced by Chinese brush paintings, and atop the rock sits that darn cat--Here Kitty in its other incarnation.

There's only one other painting so far with this version of Here Kitty--it's the popular Meow & Zen image you can see in my gallery. I'll be exploring the soulful, backward glance of this divine cat as I've been meaning to these last few months.

Invite beauty,


Friday, June 01, 2007

Yours truly, Featured Artist

This is Pride weekend in Santa Cruz, California, and things are starting off up at the university with Kresge Presents Pride 2007.

Now in its second year, the festival organizers anticipate more than last year's 500 attendees! It's going to be a wild party and yes, I'll say it again, I'm honored to be the featured artist.

My work will be moved from the Owl's Nest Restaurant to the Kresge Seminar Room (instead of the Feminist Studies Library, due to renovations), where a gallery in memory of Chancellor Denice Denton will be set up.

For more information, please visit my Events section!

Take care,