Cross cultural myth and art

Posted by Leon Sun

I’ve been absent in posting on this site – not out of negligence but because, 1) I’ve decided to slow things down a couple of notches. Screenprinting is so process intensive that each stage of production must be pursued with full attention and care. 2) While my original intent was to link up the commonalities found in indigenous art of the Americas and early Chinese art, I found very little factual knowledge of the cultures and philosophies underlying and propelling those arts. This is further complicated by the fact that I do not want to simply appropriate form without understanding content and intention.

These challenges did not discourage me from pursuing my original quest. I proceeded from two basic points. 1) Art is universal and can give meaning to anyone outside of its own place and time, and 2) As an artist, the only sure thing I can follow is my intuition.  If I feel it, it must be true.

One area where commonalities intersect is the way animals are depicted, how animals figure in our lives. Yet, even as I studied the arts of indigenous and early Chinese  peoples, I came to face the fact that, as an artist living in 21st century America, I have no tradition that I could draw upon in a way that is felt, believed and lived. How could I possibly invent imagery that is not stereotypical and superficial?

I realized that I need to start from basics. Start with animals I have some relationship with and through using the most – to me – basic of art forms: drawing. The pencil provides the most direct expressive link between what’s inside of me and what I wish to put out. The process of drawing, by itself, will be the method by which I learn to feel and understand the spirit and spiritual force that give life to indigenous and early Chinese art. At this point, I still have no visual language that could connect myself to the arts of an earlier age. My hope is that the process of drawing and bringing the images to full fruition through printmaking, I will find that language. It’s a process that I’m committed to, for however long it takes.

I am fortunate to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where nature has not been completely wiped out, and where some areas have been restored to almost their original condition. Environmental and multicultural consciousness are strong here, all leading to a nurturing creative environment. My first close relationship to animals is, of course, with my dogs and, by extension through lineage, to wolves. I’ve already done a print of a crow, whose members are everywhere. And every time I see pelicans, I sense some ancestral recognition or memory.

Here, then, are a couple of images I’ve been working on since printing of the crow.

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First sight

Posted by Leon Sun

The morning light has been beautiful lately… except for a couple of days of pretty dense fog. Frankly the fog suits me better but who could not like this warm light that infuses everything with an orange glow.

Had a busy day and finally got to go into the garden. For some plants, the drought is already here. I had to water them. Fortunately there were not many. Most are pretty well established and can weather the dry spell some more. The plants in the cinder block pyramid have settled in nicely.

I am aiming for denser growth around the perimeter of the garden, punctuated by intimate little spaces where things can happen.


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October doings

Posted by Leon Sun

A week ago I finished the last of the previous series. I also experimented with mixing monoprint with silkscreen print.

Finished Moondog

mono Xprmt

Began working on a new series of prints for the Animals,  Myth and Dreams themeThese images carry on the same theme but represent a new chapter in an ongoing journeyI am now using my drawings for the basic image. The purpose of these prints is one, to use hand drawn images for a more personal look and two, to transform the drawings into something different through the process of printing. It’s like a call-and-response thing between drawing and printing.

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Meanwhile, back in the garden, things are taking care of themselves. The cinder block pieces seem well-taken by the garden. The blocks, at the same time, bring new energy to the space. Yesterday, I did a meditation walk through the whole garden – circling , going back and forth several times. Nice work, if I do say so myself.

Pyramid frm hi Pyramid terraces Pyramid

Because things continue to change, the Garden Gallery will now have new photos added periodically.


October Changes in the Garden

Posted by Leon Sun

Two of my three installations from the Creative Spaces exhibit at the Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA) came down last month. One of them is still there. The materials were brought back here with the help of CHSA staff who were kind enough to schlep them all into the far end of my garden. That meant going through the whole house! Much appreciated!

It was like getting a new pile of toys to play with. Going off of their energy, I started building things right away. Of course, it was too much for the garden but I let myself have fun – just let go. I wanted to understand these cinder blocks in this new setting. And I wanted the setting to accept them. This is the most current iteration of an evolving place.

Shortly after – in the next day or so, I moved a lot of the blocks back to the area near the house and built only what fit in well with the existing set-up.

The bricks and stones came earlier than the cinder blocks, and I already did something with the bricks. As I piled the remaining cinder blocks, I started to have some fun with them too and managed to make something that could sit there for a while and not be annoying. This would give me time to think of something else to do with them… or not.

Meanwhile, I finished a print – the last in the current series, Animals, Dreams and Myth. I will continue the series, but in a different chapter. See the prints at the Screenprinting page of my Gallery:

1 cinder piles 2 cinder stack 3 cinder tops 4 cinder curve 5 cinder texture 6 cinder wall gap 7 cinder walls 8 early cinder pyramid 9 cinder sculptures 10 cinder altar 11 cinder bocks in circle 12 cinder wall 13 cinder pyramid 14 succulents pyramidDSCN2337 15 cinder stripDSCN2333 16 cinder brick stones 17 cinder brick detail

1 brick stacks


Garden Intimacy

Posted by Leon Sun


It seems that things in the garden grow much more profusely when I’m not watching. From when I first planted the succulents to deal with the apparent drought, they have grown a lot – nestling into their neighbors, expanding and even bearing seed.


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Now it’s raining! In the middle of August! It’s a light, misty rain, perfect for the Baby’s Tears and the succulents. It seems clear that they have become established enough to be on their own so I won’t have to water them. And now, this light rain. Perfect!


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The garden has evolved much since I built it. Through changes in weather, plant growth and landscaping, it has always been the intimacy that draws my attention. Plants openly let me in on their sensuality. It’s satisfying to know that I had a hand in bringing them about.


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Open Air Studio

Posted by Leon Sun

Today Open Studio goes outside. I took Nikki for a run while I biked. We started from Golden Gate Park – JFK Drive just before the turn-in to the Polo Field. We rode to the top of the paved path at Land’s End, to our usual rest-stop and turn-around point. The sky today was strangely hazy. This is not fog, I thought. But what makes haze? I had not yet heard about the fire in Southern Oregon.

The rock that inspired the dharma dog painting and poem: Land’s End – from Travels with Dharma Dog. The sea was pretty calm today.

The smoke filtered sunlight resonated with the red of Nikki's fur, giving him a beautiful glow.

The smoke-filtered sunlight resonated with the red in Nikki’s fur, giving him a beautiful glow.

Silk screen print: Sister/Sister

Posted by Leon Sun

Finished the last run – black – today. Still need to work on some technical problems but got enough good prints for a small edition.


Sisters-Sister print



Draw, paint, print

Posted by Leon Sun

Last week I began color separations and screen preparation for my next – now current – print, “2 birds” (working title).

It began as a drawing I did at the beginning of the year.

sketches detail

Then I did a painting from it, joining other paintings in the series.

Bird painting

paintings in circle

Now the painting has “mutated” into a print. Did the first run of it today.

2 birds mutateCan’t wait to do the next run… and the next … and finish it! I have three more prints to do!

The Dogs

Posted by Leon Sun

A couple of pictures of the dogs in the last few days.

Took both dogs out together the other day.  We went to Baker Beach. It’s been a while since I did that. Did Trina a lot of good as she got to run and explore and play. She’s still got a lot in her. It’s better not to “over think” her age and aging.

TrinaNik sandstairs

4web Queen & Prince