Monday, October 31, 2011

Day Nine

Shaoguan University, a day of painting models at the art department building, visiting the school's drawing and painting studios and interacting with the art students. It is Sunday, so there weren't any classes. As our bus pulled up to the school, there was a huge crowd of students eagerly waiting for us to arrive and begin painting. Our models arrived and we let our brushes fly! These young ladies are art students and they sat perfectly for us.

After yesterday, the day of lots of thick paint, I was geared up to jump right into the portraits. It was a little intimidating, however. The room was very big, but shrunk quickly as we set up and the students melted into any free available space so they could watch.
Such eager college students. They stood behind us for hours quietly watching. Whenever the model took a break and we laid down our brushes, the students would step right up with questions. Many were intrigued with the way that Howard and I use a small mirror to look at our painting and the model at the same time, but flipped. That opened up a lot of questions and more photos showing how to use the mirror.

Lunch was at the cafeteria. It is huge, modern and served us
wonderful dishes. This is the same university that our translators go to school. Most of them are seniors majoring in English.

After lunch, a quick tour of the drawing department and the painting department. amazing young artists producing excellent work! The crowning glory was the view on the roof of the huge campus library. From there we could see the entire campus and all the lovely gar dents, fountains and reflecting pools. This university has about 15,000 students. It is a small school by China Standards, but very hard to get into.

Back to our second set of models. After feeling pretty frisky in the morning, I was dragging in the afternoon. It just seemed to take longer to find my "muse". My model had the cutest dimples and decide to hold that pose for the entire time. Clayton and I are sure that her little cheeks will be sore for a few days after modeling for 3 hours.

Our interpreter James was there and we got to meet LaiLai, his girlfriend. All of us are very attached to these bright and happy youngsters and will miss them terribly.

We were private guests of honor at the President and Vice President's request for dinner in a very nice private room.

That gave us a couple hours to walk around downtown and visit little Tu's (a famous artist and former student of Tu's) tea shop. We got to see more paintings of local artists, too. Full day but filled to the brim with wonderful memories!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Redstone National Park of China

Somewhere in National Geographic Magazine, I have seen the magnificent stone elephants marching across a river valley. Today I saw them with my own eyes and camera lens in the Redstone National Park of China in Danxiashan. This fascinating geographic beauty is known throughout the world. As a matter a fact, this afternoon, as I stood painting one of these "elephants", Jock Whitworth introduced himself and gave me his card. Jock, as the  head of Zion National Park, back home in Utah, and is in China on a cultural exchange of geographic national parks world wide. Small world. I told home that the artists painting in the park today are also on a cultural exchange for fine art, specifically, plein air oil painting.

The gorgeous formations, though very unique, in the park are not unlike many of the formations that we see in Utah and Arizona. We painted all day in the park, one in the morning and one in the afternoon and after dinner, we all rushed to our rooms to set up our easels and do some tweaking, most of us anyway.

After painting 16 x 20 Plein air paintings for two weeks, I have a much greater concept of why and how the great Impressionists developed their unique and history altering style. Try painting a 16 x 20 and larger and limiting your self to a maximum of 3 hours. Voila, as the French say... The birth of dots, dashes and dabs of color that capture the light. There literally is no time to even clean your brushes between color. The fastest way to capture what you are seeing is with very fast brushwork. I couldn't help myself this afternoon, my paint was thick and my brushes were flying!

Here are a few photos of us just getting started on our paintings this afternoon. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

The brushes stayed quiet today!


It was a day of Gift Giving and Celebration at the academy on the fourth floor where we painted the models. When we arrived we were whisked into the main assembly room. There on all of the walls was the showing of our paintings. One by one they lined the walls at eye level. The paintings were once again framed beautifully and hung according to each artist. Howard had 8 paintings and I had 5 paintings (cause I had been sick.... But you probably already figured that out.) I was right, there were 91 paintings once again. In the center of the room were chairs lined up facing a huge speaking area. First, all of the artists signed a big book of rice paper with a huge chinese calligraphy brush. For some of the oil painters, this was a foreign tool, but for me, this oversized watercolor brush was lovely in my hand. It felt really good to sign my signature in large expressive letters with that flexible brush.

Next, we were ushered to the front of the room to sit in the honored chairs. Five of our paintings had been chosen as gifts for the government and I am honored to say that one of mine was chosen and is now part of the collection of the Chinese government. There were several speeches, even one by our Neil, all beautifully translated by Tina or Shirley. Next we exchanged gifts. Our five paintings are given to the government in thanks for such an incredible trip. In turn, They gave us a beautifully hand calligraphied saying by the famous calligrapher and several excellent art books on his work and other famous artists. To our delight, Tu's paintings are included in the books. My gift was for long healthy life (everyone was worried when I got so sick). Howard's gift was a dragon. Later as we
were taking a gazillion photos, another calligrapher wrote out each of our names for us in Chinese! Can't wait to frame them all for our studio!

Now all of this happened before lunch. We again dined with top dignataries.

On the bus again, lots of good byes and photos and a big truck to carry all of our suitcases! Our translators traveled with us to Shapguan, where they all go to college, and stayed with us as we got settled in our new hotel rooms, had an audience with Zhentao Zheng and during the elegant dinner at our incredibly Deluxe Shaozhou Hotel with the Officers of CCP Shaoguan Municipal Committee and the Municipal Government.

Here are the names of the officials tonight at dinner.
• Zhentao Zheng ( Secretary of CCP Shaoguan Committee )
• Ping Li (standing member of the CCP Shoguan Committee)
• Weiqing He (Vice Chairman of the People's Political Consultative Committee )

The audience with Zhentao Zheng was in a room set aside for dignitaries. I am not kidding! Huge upholstered chairs, similar to chairs you would find in an elegant living room or hotel lobby, lined the walls facing each other. That is where we sat. At one end of the room were three of these chairs facing toward the open center. That is where Zhentao Zheng sat. In the center the camera man was rushing back and forth getting photos while the reporters were quickly taking notes. Okay, maybe this will help. Imagine a room with a throne at one end and elegant chairs for the council on either side.... You got it. A scene from a newscast of Hillary Clinton and you name the head of state.... That is how we felt! It really made me sit up and mind my posture! Pinch me... Is this real? If not, please don't wake me up.

Dinner was beyond elegant ( and at the all time largest round table that we have seen in China). No turntable for this table. Instead we had a lot of lovely ladies serving us each course and we had 14 courses, all designed and placed perfectly on each beautiful china plate! This, too, was fit for royalty, no kidding. The toasts abounded with "Gambai" ( drink up). Each dignitary came to each of us, one at a time with an interpreter and gave us his or her card and thanked us for coming. We would thank them and give them our card ( with both hands...that is proper). Then we would drink a toast and they moved on to the next person. Tu was very happy that they served a wine that is made in the region of his home town.

Okay, if we keep this up, those pounds that I lost the last few days will just jump right back on my body!
One more thing that I want to let you know about.... All during this trip, Everywhere that we travel, we have police escorts. REALLY!! A big white SUV vehicle goes in front of us and has the sirens blasting if a car, truck or bus gets in our way or even near us. Needless to say, all the cars on the road give us room. It is so nice to know that we are in such good hands!

Good news... We have WiFi in our beautiful hotel room ( over looking a gorgeous lake surrounded by trees and mountains - you get the picture) so I can send you some photos!

Here are some photos of us painting models at the academy.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


(OH MY GOSH for those of us that don't text)....
You know the mountains that are in all of the ancient Chinese paintings, very tall and very rounded, well, today we spent the entire day in their presence! We painted all day in Nanpu Village literally nestled among these geographic giants. I want to Google these mountains and find out why they are shaped this way. The air was misty. The village is old and surrounded by patchwork of fields, sugar cane, Chinese cabbage, rice fields, yellow greens, dark greens, warm yellows and bleached whites. It is ancient and timeless. Workers in the fields were carrying water buckets on a long pole balanced on their shoulders. Some were stirring the rice as it dried, some were separating the rice from leaves. There were ittle dots of color among the patches of greens. One by one the villagers would come up behind us and quietly observe.  Then some would comment to our interpreters. It was heart warming to hear that they loved my painting of their peaceful village. It captured the way that they felt about Nanpu. That is why I paint!

We paused for lunch down the road. I am not sure who ordered the lunched, but they arrived steaming hot and in individual containers. Yummmm Delicious! Then it was back to the easels for an afternoon of discovering this world through our colors. We aren't used to these shapes, contours and light of this mountain village, so there was the challenge of adjusting our thinking and colors. It was a great day!

So, you may have been wondering..... What has been happening to the paintings that we have finished the past 4 days. Well, unlike the other locations where the paintings were literally framed and whisked away the instant we signed them. Here we have been able to take them back to our rooms each evening. Some of us were relieved that we could work on them a bit more in the evenings (me especially). But this morning all of the paintings were due in the lobby. One by one they showed up and soon the lobby was filled to the brim with exciting paintings. That is how the day started and that is also how this day ended. After dinner tonight, our paintings that we did today were also gathered in the lobby and whisked away for framing because tomorrow is the Opening of our next show of about 90 paintings. I will have an exact count tomorrow at the show. It is hard to comprehend all the exciting paintings that are being produced on this trip.

But wait! The day is not over! Tonight was also our last night in this location and the government gave us a special party, a Karaoki party! Now I have never been to a Karaoki party and I must say that I had a blast! The young interpreters couldn't wait for us to get there. We had a very nice private room with a huge wall to wall video screen. The music played and the words appeared over the musical video! There were wonderful sofas, fruit and drinks. We sang, we danced and we laughed! Yes, I sang too! "Yesterday" by the Beatles, and a couple of others with Shirley one of our interpreters. She has a terrific voice. We discovered that Joe (interpreter) is a fantastic dancer and has a great voice too..... and Neil and Vera and Nancy and Gar can really "cut the rug", so to speak. Bill did several duets to some of our old favorites and we discovered that he has a terrific voice! Shirley, Tina and lots of us took turns singing, dancing and all of us laughing and cheering. The upper crust of our group. ( over 50 .....) slipped out around 9:15 and let the younger ones cut loose. I am sure that they will still be going strong for another couple hours, at least! Actually we need to give our ears a rest. But then, I do remember when I would go dancing as a teenager and couldn't even hear my self shout at those dances and concerts...... Ah youth!

By the way, I am feeling ever so fine. Thank you for all of your prayers. I had a nasty turn for the worst last night and discovered that my earlier throwing up angered my ulcer and my innards were in knots with pain. Howard to the rescue. He realized what was happening and got me stoked up on Prilosec and anti-acids. That got me through the night and the nurse and doctor took over from there in the morning. They gave me several prescriptions that fixed me right up and I am doing terrific now. I wonder if I can find similar pills at home! Everyone else is mended or on the mend. Tu is the last one to get better. He is battling a bad chest cold but holding his own. He is out there painting with us every day!

Tomorrow we move to a new town and a new hotel. Let's hope that we will have WiFi to attach photos!

my apologies

i am so sorry for the odd background format that is happening. it must have something to do with the transfer of information and limited internet. hang with me until we are up and running smoothly again!

Day Eight

Did I tell you about our incredible interpreters? Well, these young volunteer college students, eager to practice their English with us, are our guardian angels and continue to amaze us.  Susie is my interpreter. James is Howard's interpreter. There is Shirley, Tina and quite a few others. Judy is head of the interpreters, also a terrific gal. All of them extremely helpful and lots of fun. They look after our us, carry our art materials and see to our every need.  Susie was by my side the day that I got so violently sick and helped me describe my illness to Dr. Yung.  She has been an angel by my side ever since!  Everyone is charmed by these wonderful young people (here again, I wish I could attach photos so you could see them, too).
By the way, James wrote out the name of the district that we are in now.... Wengyuan. And he wrote the name of the Temple that we visited yesterday, it is Donghua Temple.
Today we were guests at the local art academy. It is huge!  The top floor was set aside for us today to paint models! What a great surprise! In the morning we had two gorgeous young ladies dressed in the traditional red dresses of China. Neither of them had ever modeled before and they were excellent! Then in the afternoon we had two more models, one gal and one guy, dressed in normal clothes of today. Wow, they were great too! I did get photos of all of us painting them that I will share with you soon. Every day that we have painted, we have been joined by local artists, some students and some very famous. Today was no exception. What a memory to be painting with them! Just painting with the American and Canadian artists on this trip is amazing. These artists are incredible! I can't wait to start showing you some more of their work they are doing each day!
After lunch we were invited to sample the highest quality tea at a beautiful tea shop, one of the finest in the area.....Tatea. The owner is also one of the finest calligraphers in China.
Apparently, our visit to China is consistently showing up in the news on the TV and radio every day. We caught a glimpse of one broadcast a couple nights ago, Nancy was on TV last night as she painted at the temple, and more about our trip is on tonight at the 8 pm and 10 pm on the news channel 22. We really are representing our countries (United States and Canada) while we are here. 
It is such an honor.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Foot note on today.......

This is what we missed when we came back to the hotel after lunch..... A huge parade, very festive with the Master wearing a full headdress and lots and lots of ceremony.  PLUS.... and this is the grand finale.... after the ceremony, the Master gave the artists and the assistants an audiance. While he was with them, he asked to see the paintings that were done at the temple.... and he BOUGHT THEM ALL! WOW!!!! Boy did we miss that one!!!
As for the health report.... Zhiwei Tu's cold had gotten worse. It has gone into his chest. He was taken to the hospital for two injections. Let's hope he feels better in the morning.

Day Seven

Okay, so remember those pesky 10 pounds that just never seem to come off? Well, I think I just found a way to loose 'em.  Travel in China! 
Actually I am feeling a lot better. I'm still a bit weak and shaky, and not eatting much (hence the weight loss), but feeling better. Gar is back to feeling good. However, Nancy still isn't feeling very well, but she is out there painting up a storm. Clayton opted to stay home and fight the bug. Even Tu is not feeling very well, he has a cold. Our dear friend Craig, who travels all over the world, consoles me that..... all this is common for travel.
We spent a delightful, peaceful morning at an ancient Buddhist temple. It was destroyed about 1000 years ago and recently rebuilt. To our delight we were there on the biggest day for this temple.  Once a year believers from all over the world gather to celebrate and we were right in the middle of it! All morning long the drums were beating and the chants were chanting. What a way to make a painting come alive! Saffron robes floating in the wind drifted this way and that way as different ceremonies were called. What a delight!
The weather was unusally cool and a bit drizzly. Though I had on a jacket, I didn't have on socks, so Howard, Tu and I decided to head back to the hotel after lunch. Better to take it easy on my first day back. Our hotel room became the perfect studio, we pulled back the curtains, set up our easels and finished our paintings. Once again our iPads were invaluable as we plalyed music that we downloaded from home and used the nice big image for our reference to finish up our paintings. That new Application called ValueViewer has also been a blessing on this trip. It enables us to quickly see the subject in 3 values of our choice. Plein Air Magazine sponsored this App and I can see why! I used to spend 20 minutes doing a value study..... precious time that I could have been putting down paint. This little App helps me see my subject quickly and help me decide if I really want to paint it.
I wish I could attach some photos. You would love to see the Temple and all of the Monks and our paintings.... I promise, I will send you some as soon as we are getting WiFi again.  By the way, Nancy did a terrific painting of the happy Buddah statue that greeted us at the entrance of the Temple.
Talk to you tomorrow.....

Sunday, October 23, 2011

hi everyone!

We have traveled to the north of Guangzhou and are in a different hotel. This hotel has computers in our rooms, but we can't use our iPads. that means I can't send you any photos for the next 4 days. Hopefully our next hotel will have WiFi, but that is a pretty advanced system. We are just fortunate to get on the internet.

Yesterday I was sick all day....throwing was awful and I am very weak today. The group is off to a wonderful mountain village today, but I need to stay home and rest. We have a doctor that has been hired to be on our trip and we each have an interpreter. They couldn't be treating us any nicer. As we drove up to the hotel yesterday, we were greeted with many dignitaries and 12 beautiful girls dressed in the traditional long dress of China, all in RED! They presented flowers to each of us. I was so sick that I stayed on the bus for most of the ceremony until we were ready to go to our hotel rooms.

Earlier in the afternoon we had the rare privilege of seeing the museum that is being built for Zhiwei Tu. It is as big as the Googenheim in New York! The architecture is absolutely gorgeous! Situated on a river, this building over looks the country side. When it is finished in 2012, it will house the 6 huge paintings ( 8 x 28 foot ) of Zhiwei Tu's and many more of his work. There will be a studio for him to work in and where he plans to create at least 4 more oaf these giant paintings.

Nancy and Gar were sick last night, too, but they decided to go out to the village to paint. Otherwise, I can't say much about today until the gang returns with their stories of adventure. I am staying in bed, resting. Howard promises to take lots of photos, so, through his eyes and the lens of his camera, I can see it too.

That's all for today, I am heading back to bed.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Day Six

It is 2 pm and I am writing to you as we journey down the road to visit some studios of local artists. This morning was Amazing.... Am I using that word too much?
This morning we said good by to Cassie and Gordon and checked out of our hotel.  Some of us had the hotel do our laundry and had big surprises when the bills arrived! I guess 5 star hotels anywhere in the world will charge a lot for laundry and this was no exception! oh well, we all have clean clothes to start week two.
Our first stop was the Kwanwu International Museum in Nunhi. The museum timed our visit to coincide with the Grand Opening of the Museum and once again we were the honored guests. The place was full of important people and reporters. Remember those paintings that each of us brought from home? Well, they have been on display at this museum since we arrived in China. To our delight the entire show sold! Every painting now has a nice red ribbon hanging on it!
Our show was just one part of the celebration. Mr Kwanwu is one of the artists that painted with us all week and was part of our show in Shunde. This museum is dedicated to him, his paintings and his marvelous sculptures. This outstanding artist was born in Nunhi, the same city that is honoring him with this museum. Mr Kwanwu now lives in Kansas City and does many commissions there.
Surrounding this museum is a beautiful park. As part of the ceremony, they unveiled 5 huge sculptural monuments in the park. Each was covered in red silk. Confetti shot into the air as the cloth was pulled away to reveal the beautiful sculptures.
While we were at the Kwanwu Museum, we were honored with young student interpreters. Gloria (my interpreter) is 19 years old. She is studying English literature in the school of business. This was the first time that she was able to use her English with a foreigner. It didn't take long before we were laughing and talking freely. I admire anyone that learns how to speak a second language. Chinese has strong underlying tones that rise and fall like the song of a bird. It is very beautiful.
After all the ceremonies and photos, we were back on the bus to go to a celebration lunch with the artists and the organizers. This was punctuated with several toasts and we lifted our glasses high! Unlike our evening meals when we toasted with wine, we were toasting with Coca Cola.... but it worked just as nicely as wine! The glass is held with two hands and the eyes meet as we whisper shayshay (thank you).
The government of China is emphasizing the importance of the fine arts in their cultural development. There are academies established that give the artists salaries and space to work and in many cases, even pay for their housing (how about that)? What an honor for an artist to be chosen for an academy. We toured one of these academies and had a chance to talk with the artists (I am very grateful for interpreters). As we nibbled on delicious peanuts, giant oranges and bananas, we discussed the art world. We were in agreement that paintings are a universal language, uniting us all and need no interpreters only the hearts of the viewers. They talked about their Russiona influence in the past century. Now they desire the influence from the western cultures for their artistic growth. We agreed that we have much to learn from each other. This really was a chance for us to relate to the Chinese artists. And the world began to shrink some more.
As an interesting side note..... The compositional design in all cultures is determined by the direction that the culture reads their individual language. For instance: in the USA we read form left to right. Our words start on the left side of the page and read over to the right. Consequentially, our culture is more comfortable with compositions that start on the left and the eye travels to the focal point on the right.
For thousands of years, the Chinese read in vertical columns from top to bottom and their paintings reflected that trained eye movement. They are very beautiful vertical paintings that read from top to bottom. Well, about 50 years ago, the Chinese changed the direction of their writing. They now read with the same eye movement as the western world, namely left to right. Growing up with the new way of reading the artists in China are now creating paintings that read with the eye movement left to right. I find this so fascinating! From 1975 to 1978, I lived in Pakistan as an art teacher for the Lahore American School. I learned so much while I was living and painting there. That was the first time that I noticed that the direction of the written word is directly influencing the compositions of that culture's paintings. Urdu, the official language of Pakistan, reads from right to left..... and so do their paintings. If you are interested in this concept, there are great articles on the Internet covering this very subject.
Back to our day....
Then we were back on the bus and traveling to our beautiful hotel on a lake. At first none of us could figure out the air-conditioning in our rooms and they were very hot. One by one we figured it out in preparation for a good night's sleep.
Dinner was once again delicious and once again we had a huge variety of entrees. The evening air had cooled off just enough to be absolutely delightful. It reminds me of the wonderful evenings in Florida, or Venezuela or even the Bahamas.
Today is Calyton's 47th birthday! What a great way to celebrate his birthday in a land of a thousand surprises and delights. Each day is a present here!
Oh, dear, no Internet at this hotel. They have been working for hours to get it set up, but we still can't get on the Internet. That means that this blog won't be posted for a couple days. Hopefully tomorrow at our next hotel, we will be able to use our WiFi.
Here are some pics of the day:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Day Five

Oh Boy! The Desheng International Canvas Week opened with a wonderful ceremony and an excellent exhibit. Actually there were three exhibits in the compound. Our exhibit was the main feature and then there was two more exhibits of local and regional artists. How exciting to see our brush strokes link across the ocean in a common language!

We had prominent speakers from the American Consulate General, the Commerce Department and others. We were very honored! They cut the ribbons and the show opened.

You can't imagine how exciting it was to see our work appreciated by so many people. Regardless of the language barrier, our paintings spoke to their hearts. More paintings were sold. An interesting side note... Instead of putting a red dot or writing sold on the title card, this exhibition placed a card next to each sold painting that said "this painting is cherished."  It gives more respect to the painting. I like that!

The reporters from tv and radio were very busy interviewing the artists. here is Bill Chamber surrounded with reporters.

These three photos show only 1/4 of the show. Over 70 paintings.... It was all hung at eye level in a huge room.

There was a plaque for each artist with our bio and our photo in Chinese and in English.

By two pm we were back on the bus and heading to our hotel. The afternoon was free and a bunch of us chose to stroll the streets taking in the shops and getting great photos of the local sights, people and buildings of downtown Shunde. Clayton J Beck III was honored with a commission of the newly elected Governor that we had dinner with several nights ago. So while we were hitting the streets, the governor was posing for his portrait and Clayton's brushes were flying.

Okay, side note..... We all stopped into the Kentucky Fried Chicken place, just for a few snacks this afternoon. It tasted so good, really, that we returned for dinner and had a great time. The Chinese really know how to cook chicken...even for a Kentucky Fried restaurant!

The evening air was a perfect temperature laced with spices from all the street vendors cooking up their specialties. 
Great night....good night!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Day Four

Hi Everyone out there in cyber space! Thank you for following our adventures here in China!
Our dear friend Molly has requested that I include some photos of us as we are painting. Great idea! Actually I have been meaning to do this each day, but the painting time is so limited that before I can blink, the paintings are being framed and the artists have cleaned up and put away their palettes. I have a plan for the next time that we paint.... I will take a couple breaks, walk away from my painting with my iPad in hand and take some of those much requested action shots!

Big day today! The bus didn't leave the hotel until 9:30 am so we had about an hour and a half to get a few things done, like arranging for our laundry to be done ( love it)! I also was able to help Nancy and Gar with their iPads. They now have the ValueViewer, an incredible app from the App Store that is sponsored by Plein Air Magazine.... A must for every artists....the magazine and the app! check it out! Enthusiasm for the iPad is spreading like wildfire!

First we headed to the gallery to sign our paintings and add finishing touches. Each of us will be hanging 5 paintings, holding back our 6th one to be added when we sell a painting.
Seeing all of our paintings together at the same time was very impressive. It will be a fantastic show of 60 paintings! Most of us didn't bring our easels, so we worked on the floor.

Here is Howard singing one of his paintings.

Here is another one of Howard's paintings that I Love!

After we did our touch ups, we were in for an amazing day of touring.
First stop,the Bao Mo Gardens and the amazing gate, the largest gate in China and it is huge and stunningly beautiful! The Eiffel Tower of the Orient!

This recently restored garden dates to the last days of the Qing Dynasty ( 1644 to 1911 -the last imperial dynasty ) in the village Zini near Shawan town. The garden is a fine specimen of the Lingnan architecture.

Lunch at the Jie Da Huan Xi restaurant was great and huge. The food is all so incredible that it is hard not to sample it all, but, like I said, our pants are shrinking!

That left the afternoon to tour two more incredible gardens, both palaces at one time nearly destroyed and then recently restored to it's fabulous glory! This was breath- takingly beautiful, peaceful, relaxing and amazing. Soaring architecture, exquisite carvings, reflecting ponds filled with happy fat fish... The famous Koi fish are Nnot for eating like the many we have seen swimming their last minutes before we ate them. These beautifies were just for the pleasure of the senses. I could watch them for hours! All it took was a handful of crumbs and these gentle creatures turned into a rugby tournament of twisting and jumping to get the treats. Howard and I were amazed! Years ago we gave up trying to keep our gold fish live and here we were gazing down at the healthiest, happiest fish we had every seen!

Everywhere we looked was a painting and our cameras got quite a workout, as did our iPads.

Finally we took some photos of each other, too!

Nancy and Gar Crookston

Bill Chambers

Howard and I

The whole gang

Eddie, our great leader, with lots of our cameras for a group photo!

Back to the hotel to blog, send e- mails, Skype and get ready for the Opening of our show! The organizers reported tonight that they have sold over 130 tickets to the event and today they had special invitations to clients and share holders to come in ahead of the opening to get first pick of the paintings...... They sold 20 paintings already!... But no one knows which paintings sold!

Stay tuned!