November 25, 2009

Zoucheng Girl: "My First Painting"

This is an earlier version: (I changed the bottom left corner a bit and the rendering of the corner of the building, and played with some of the edges.

"My First Painting" .Portrait of Zoucheng girl. 16"x20". Oil on linen.

Detail from "My First Painting"

Closeup of head from "My First Painting". If you click on this picture twice, you will be able to see how the paint layers were built up. The main idea was to keep the edges soft around the mouth and eyes.

This little girl watched me and my student friend Nancy painting plein air in a small village near Lake Erhai, Dali, in Yunnan China. She was fascinated by Nancy's oil paints and wanted to try them out. I have been working on this painting ever since (from before June 2009). I painted and repainted the head at least five times before I managed to capture something of the expression on her face that I was looking for, and at the same time keep a freshness to the paint application. She had a wonderful intelligent and earnest look on her face, that reflected her enthusiasm for painting. I think she would have watched us all day if she could have.

I only just finished this painting this week since I had been thinking about what to do with the background to complement the portrait from a design point of view and at the same time to tell a story. So I included the brush holder with the oil painting brushes sticking out of it, and the paper with her painting on it, and called the painting "My First Painting". The white and dark shapes complemented the notan structure of the painting, and help draw the viewers eye across the canvas, to take in the various textures I used in the background.

Anyway, in 30 years time, look out for a famous female plein air painter from Zoucheng village in China, and you'll know where her early inspiration might have come from!


  1. Hi Barry,

    I posted a comment here last night but I do not think it went through. So I try one more time.

    I said This is very good painting, I think one of the best of your work. Do you agree? I love it and I am jealous.

    Hope to see many more like this...

  2. Lovely. You have captured her expression, and it is a lovely portrait. I treasure the drawing she gave me ... of a giraffe!

  3. AnonymousJune 10, 2010

    Beautiful Barry! Love the brushwork and soft edges.
    Richard Robinson

  4. Sharon CasavantJune 10, 2010

    I love the painting! The girl is so life-like. She has had a hard life but seems fascinated with your painting abilities. I like how you changed the corner. The values are better, and that is something a child would do - stand up on the bench!

  5. I have been trying to learn watercolor painting for some time now. I cannot seem to tell a story or emit emotion in my work. I guess I need to buy your poetry and music lessons. I wish I had a more natural instinct for it. Your work has such power in it.

  6. AnonymousJune 11, 2010

    I love the portrait of the little girl, also the composition and colours giving the painting a true life feel and her surroundings attmosphere.
    I wish I could paint half as good.
    Maggie Garner

  7. Her expression is just wonderful, it is a lovely portrait, Best yet

  8. AnonymousJune 11, 2010

    Wow, I love it. Beautiful portrait.
    From one of your VirtualArt Students

  9. While the painting in general is great, I do feel that the block of stone on which she is standing looks as though it is hanging in mid-air maybe a ledge several hundred feet up. Will she jump? I think it needs a little more foreground to site the stone firmly on the ground.

  10. I love the changes you made in the lower left corner - not so rigid as in the first painting - you certainly captured the little girl's expression very well. Congratulations!

  11. Elsa MarthinsenJune 16, 2010

    Oh, she is just beautiful, both your painting and the model. As a very green student I can see what I'm striving for: The warmth, interesting look, something sombody will stop and take more than a second glance.
    Yes, I love it.

  12. What a beginnig! woderful work!

  13. AnonymousJune 22, 2010

    Hi Barry,
    Your last 2 sentences made me cry!Not only your paintings,Your words are also so effective!

  14. AnonymousJune 23, 2010

    Hi Barry, just discovered your lil Zoucheng girl, sweet painting in deed. What bothers me, I hope it's allowed to post a critical note, the gray wall shadow behind the lil girl actually looks like it's licking over her, instead of the girl is standing infront of the wall she is fusing into it. But you still can correct the somehow confusing effect.
    Best regards, Drea

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