Friday, May 30, 2008

Radio interview tonight, Art show tomorrow!

My first radio interview is tonight at 9 PM, 101.1 FM in Santa Cruz or Free Radio Santa Cruz on the World Wide Web!

I'm not sure if the radio show will be taking calls, but please ring in and show your interest and support of my work. The studio line is 831-427-3772.

And my art show, Heaven & Earth, is tomorrow! It will be a full day and I'm looking forward to it. You're all invited--please bring your friends, too!

For more information, please visit my Events section.

Take care,


Thursday, May 29, 2008

New from Ivan Chan Studio! The Lightness of Being

The Lightness of Being, oil on canvas, 24" x 30"

Please click on the image to read the description, see detailed pics, and to bid on this Original Finger Painting in my Buddhist Series.

Ivan Chan Studio: Invite Beauty

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sneak Preview! Serenity

Besides preparing for my Heaven & Earth art show this Saturday, I have another show that will begin a couple of days after on Monday, June 2nd, at Pacific Thai in Downtown Santa Cruz.

Some of the pieces I'm exhibiting at Heaven & Earth will be exhibited at Pacific Thai, so for those who can't make it for the one day show, please come to Downtown Santa Cruz and enjoy my Original Finger Paintings in person. The colors are more intense, and many details difficult to capture in photographs are revealed when you experience the paintings in reality.

For this particular work, I wanted to draw on Thai art traditions to create a more harmonious exhibit at the restaurant. I was particularly attracted to the Thai art of the 11th through 12th century, when Buddhist images began to be depicted in a uniquely Thai style and stopped following the aesthetic traditions of India and Greece (which stylized and idealized images of Buddha).

The Thai people made Buddha look more natural, and as with all cultures that adopt a foreign religion, adapted the images of teachers and divinities to look like themselves. There are Black Madonnas and doesn't Jesus look notoriously Anglo-Saxon in the Western countries?

My work isn't merely copying ancient art traditions or established conventions of depiction, so again, the above painting is a fusion of influences: Odilon Redon's powerful portraits, time-worn Japanese Buddhist sculptures made of wood, Tang Dynasty voluptuousness, and of course, 12th century Thai Buddhist art.

In my original conception of this painting, I had the seven-headed Naga (water serpent) King, Muccalinda, shown in his traditional pose of protecting the Buddha by spreading his cobra-like hoods above him like an umbrella. These images are common throughout Thailand and probably represents a native religion merging with the new religion of Buddhism (the myriad Catholic saints and the various guardians in Mahayana Buddhism are similar examples of how people reconcile their belief systems by having their gods "make friends" with the locals).

I decided against this idea after painting the main head of Muccalinda and finding him rather terrifying (he's a guardian figure, after all) and thinking that this might not go over well with guests of the restaurant. (The fear of snakes is also common, so I didn't want to show something provocative in a place that wanted to encourage patrons to come in.)

I can't say I feel it's much of a compromise, though, as there are obviously many images of the Buddha without Muccalinda (but I'm saving the image for a possible later painting!). What interests me more is the potency of the snake as symbol: wisdom, rebirth, renewal, water, life, good fortune, evil, cunning, etc.

So much to be said, without a word.

Invite Beauty,


Friday, May 23, 2008

Details of The Merman's Kiss

Please visit my gallery to see the full version of The Merman's Kiss.

I'm providing detailed pics of this Original Finger Painting in my Merman Series because it was a commission, and so there was no opportunity to present the close ups for appreciators of my work in an auction listing. However, I didn't forget you! And here they are:

Again, please visit my gallery to see the complete final version of The Merman's Kiss.

To see the progress of this Original Finger Painting, please check out the post, Creating The Merman's Kiss.

Merman Series art is available on Etsy, and direct through my studio by contacting me.


Creating The Merman's Kiss

Here are some pics that show the process of creating The Merman's Kiss for a private collector.

I began with a pencil sketch (the above is cropped from the full sketch) of my client, who wished to appear in the painting without an "extreme makeover." Although it's a tradition in portraiture (which this painting is not) to play to the sitter's vanity and alter his or her appearance, it was a pleasure working with someone who had the strength to be depicted as he is.

Here are the initial figures. My client requested that the merman look Hawaiian, which went well with the direction I've been going with my Merman Series. What I do in my work is to focus and share neglected beauty, and men of color are among the most neglected. I don't paint subjects that are stereotypically pretty. There's meaning behind my choice of subjects--I'm inviting you to see more of our world.

I've sketched in some of the background--the sand and rocks--using as my inspiration the beach (Halona Cove) from the movie, From Here to Eternity. Again, based on suggestions from my client, I aged the merman a bit by adding gray to his temples and also (for the first time in my paintings of mermen) added scales to his tail.

I'm on record for saying I think of mermen as mammalian and so they're closer to dolphins than fishes (it's partially my background in science illustration, but it's also in the mythological descriptions), but for my client, mermen are half-men, half-fish.

After adding the scales, though, I have to say I really like the way they look! Here they're light because they're only sketched in, but in the final draft the tail is fabulously evocative.

Please visit my gallery to see the finished painting, The Merman's Kiss.

For close ups, please check out the post, Details of The Merman's Kiss.

Merman Series art is available on Etsy, and direct through my studio by contacting me.


Free Radio Santa Cruz Interview!

Yes, it's been quiet on the ol' blog, but it's because I've been preparing for my upcoming show and working on some commissions. I just finished one and will be sharing that in my next post, but wanted to let everyone know that there will be a radio interview with me next Friday!

The R. Duck Show on Free Radio Santa Cruz has invited me next Friday, May 30th, to come in at 9:00 PM to discuss my show, Heaven & Earth, which happens the next day on Saturday, May 31.

If you're in Santa Cruz, California, tune your radios to 101.1 FM or on the World Wide Web point your browsers to Free Radio Santa Cruz and download a player (iTunes will work, too) and a file to start your live streaming experience.

If you miss it, an archive of the interview will be in the Awards & Articles section of my web site.

Invite Beauty,


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Heaven & Earth

When: Saturday, May 31, 2008

Time: 11 AM to 7 PM

Where: Art Center, 1001 Center Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Live music, wine, tea, and food served.

Join my mailing list to find out how you can receive a complimentary glass of wine to enjoy at the art show!

For more information, just click on the image to visit my Events section.

Selected works include:

'Death 'Tumbling 'Purveyor 'There 'I

Friday, May 09, 2008

Is a Cigar Ever Really a Cigar?

A Buddha in Your Garden, mixed media on canvas, 18" x 36" COLLECTED
Original Finger Painting

My latest Original Finger Painting, A Buddha in Your Garden, has struck a chord with some of you and you've shared what you've seen in this image.

Of course, being a symbolist, I wasn't surprised that some people saw a yoni and lingam in this work.

Yoni and LingamFor those unfamiliar with what a yoni and lingam is, they are ancient Hindu wombic and phallic symbols, often created from stone. The yoni looks like the moon gate in my painting--a circle with an opening--and the lingam, usually a smooth, long, and rounded at both ends, is placed in the center of the circle (like the Buddha statue). Although both pieces can be admired separately, they are often joined and offered devotions of flowers, incense, etc.

What I like about symbols like these is that they can be taken on many levels, the most obvious being physical (fertility) and spiritual (creative). Like the yab yum Tibetan Buddhist images of Buddhas (representing compassion) engaged in intercourse with their consorts (representing wisdom), the joining of two qualities is beautifully expressed through one of the most basic and powerful drives we experience as humans.

You'll find similar sexual imagery in the Jewish Kabbalah, the recounting of ecstatic experiences from Christian saints, and in essentially all religious scriptures; it's unavoidable and the obvious choice when expressing a desire to be one with the ultimate.

This is something that I've been expressing for a long time through my art--not just that "sex is okay" but that our path to the spiritual--or towards secular self-knowledge--involves being fully in our flesh.

It seems silly to ignore sex and to sequester our physicality when it's beautiful. Divine, even. This is a part of us to celebrate, especially in art.

To that end, I've recently unrestricted my images in my gallery, which is hosted by Flickr. The powers-that-be there had already deemed my content safe, but I felt more caution was necessary. However, I've decided to make my stance, and it's political, too.

I rated my work based on their guideline, "Would you show this picture to a child, your mother, or a person sitting next to you on the bus?" It seemed to make sense at first, but really, does this apply to images designed to be artistic? Would I cover the eyes of children in front of Michelangelo's statue of David?

There are many double-standards in society to deal with, too, particularly in America. We can show a man's bare chest, but not a woman's (people even get squeamish with breastfeeding). A man and a woman kissing is alright, but not two men or two women (even if it's depicted in The Bible). How will these things ever change unless we normalize it?

Sure, there are those that never want to see a same-sex couple kissing, or let their children see such a thing, and I'm sure there were people who thought interracial relationships were an abomination, too.

How people feel about things changes, and I don't want to shrink from one of my responsibilities as an artist to facilitate and even speed on that change if it makes for a finer world.

Invite Beauty,


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Spotlight on Meow & Zen Card Set and Journey of a Thousand!

Little Beauties: Meow & Zen Card Set

Journey of a Thousand, oil on canvas
12" x 36", finger painted
Please click on an image to read the description, see detailed pics, and to bid on these wonderful offerings from my studio.
Ivan Chan Studio: Invite Beauty

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

New from Ivan Chan Studio! A Buddha in Your Garden SOLD

A Buddha in Your Garden
Mixed media on canvas, 18" x 36"
Finger painted

Please click on the image to read the description in my gallery. Original Finger Paintings, limited edition prints, and collectible cards are available in my online shop.


Sunday, May 04, 2008

Show and Tell at Children's Mental Health

Meow & Zen Unwritten Wishes Fugu! Sacred Blue Hippo Between Heaven and Earth Change Is Inevitable Raven Laughs Again Make a Wish The Flower of Compassion Serenata Plata Essence of Motion A River Runs through Us

There is an exhibit of my Original Finger Paintings featuring the selected works above (click an image to enlarge and to read their descriptions in my gallery) at Children's Mental Health in Santa Cruz, California. For more information, please visit the Events section of my web site, under News.

Artwork can be seen during office hours and because there are lovely floor-to-ceiling windows to the front lobby, my work can also be seen after hours (with the exception of the two koi paintings, which are inside the reception area).

There will be a reception in the beginning of July (during office hours), specifics will be announced here in my blog and also in the Events section of my web site, under News.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Sneak Preview! Dreaming of maples

I have been taking longer with my paintings, which has thrown my schedule off in terms of my newsletter (sorry, faithful subscribers!) and also my auctions.

However, I appreciate it as an artist. Who, during sleep, hurries a dream? Most things require the time they require, and when they don't have it, there are sacrifices. You can taste it in your food, feel it in your clothing, and read it in your emails.

This isn't to say that some pressure isn't good for a person--there's such thing as "good stress," and I know I've created many pieces I'm proud of under a deadline and limited resources.

Anyway, my latest Original Finger Painting was created from deep meditation on what should be my next subject. While at a friends' backyard movie night, I saw a beautiful Japanese maple whose elegance took my breath away.

Inspired by this tree, I started painting my own, and here's the sneak peek. It's specifically a "Coral Bark" Japanese maple--the kind that has pink-red bark in the winter and deep red leaves in early spring (which later can turn green, depending on the variety). I've painted it from memory and imagination, at a moment when the bark is changing color to follow the season, and the leaves are on fire with new life.

The background is textured gold (hard to photograph as my blog readers know) and provides a nice contrast to the reds. Staring at this painting all day long, I can tell you the beauty of this piece is how it changes from flaming brightly to smoldering embers as the sun makes its way across the sky.

There may be changes, and there may not be. You'll know when I've awakened from this dream.

Invite Beauty,