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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Orchids in Imari Fishbowl


I have been diligently working on this mixed media piece for the last few weeks. It was commissioned by a friend and collector whose mother owned this lovely Japanese fishbowl planter filled with a similar white orchid in her home years ago.  When she recently passed away, I was asked to paint this work to evoke a special memory.  It was an honor to do so.

An exquisite, large white phalaenopsis orchid placed in the original fishbowl planter has been living in our front window while I carefully transcribed the details of the pot and the orchid's arch.  The large blossoms of this flower are stunning white with yellow-red centers and a gorgeous purple tinge framing the outer petals.  I loved working from the live plant as there were so many details that do not show in a photograph!

The origin of the planter is unknown but it looks very much like the Japanese Imari style of porcelain that was made during the late 17th and early 18th century.  The boldly colorful style derives its name from the port of Imari near Arita where the porcelain pieces were exported to European and Chinese buyers.  In the 1800s the Imari style became popular and many variations were made.  At this point, the style was influenced by Indian aesthetics fusing Indian and Japanese style. English porcelain companies followed, absorbing this style into their collections. The Chinese also adopted the Imari style and began making "Chinese Imari" for European collectors. Since then, many decorative copies of Imari style have been found in both China and Europe. 

Imari style porcelain is characterized by blue underglaze with red and gold overglaze. The chrysanthemum motif seen on this pot is very common in Imari ware as it symbolizes autumn and was the imperial crest.  This colorful and ornate koi fish, a Japanese symbol of love and friendship, appears as the central motif in this piece.  The sinuous lines of the surrounding water and curvilinear patterns throughout the bowl bring a sense of movement to the design.  Decorated with swimming fish, the interior of this pot indicates its original use as a container for goldfish.  Today many decorative ceramic pots like this are made to resemble antique fishbowls. 

The completed piece is a 16x 20 mixed media painting, created with watercolor, colored pencil, decorative papers, and ribbons.  It is accented with gold and silver metallic line work and adorned with dark blue opalescent beads. 

For more information on Japanese Imari Porcelain, see The Victoria and Albert Museum's article on Japanese ceramic styles, and Wikipedia on Imari Porcelain.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Yosemite and the Castle by the Elderberries


Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, CA

Now is the time to start thinking about summer travel and Yosemite National Park is one of our favorite destinations. A while ago we discovered the enchanting Chateau du Sureau in Oakhurst, California.  The Chateau is nestled in the rustic Sierra Nevada Mountains just a few miles south of the park but it has the atmosphere of a magical old-world castle.  The beautiful architecture, elegant gardens and unique collection of art and antiques are examples of European taste and tradition.

Chateau du Sureau or "The Elderberry Castle" was named for the many surrounding elderberry bushes featured in the estate's wooded landscape. Erna's Elderberry House Restaurant is also on the grounds and is celebrated for its delightful cuisine and cooking classes. There is a spa on site as well and a gift store.



The gated entrance is closed to all but those who are staying in the Chateau. Placed apart from the more public restaurant area, it welcomes guests for the night into the regal estate grounds. And, behind this gate lies the castle...



Near the entrance of the Chateau, the parlor is in view with its opulent decor, art and antiques. The grand piano and fresco paintings are exquisite!


We chose the Sweet Geranium Room which was elegantly designed with a beautiful view of the pool and gardens. The canopy bed, antiques, fresh flowers and deep sunken bath added to the luxury of the experience. One unique aspect of our stay was the quality service provided by chambermaids dressed in old-fashioned black dresses with white aprons.  This emphasized the old European character of the inn.


The view from the rose-covered balcony outside the room is spectacular as it overlooks the pool and the surrounding Sierras. Garden sculptures are found throughout the grounds and of my favorite pieces is pictured below. It was visible from our room and quite lovely...


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