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The Artist Who Cares for Night Blooming Cereus

 by Joderber, October 31, 2018

Courtesy: T. L. Liang

T. L. has planted night blooming cereus for years.  It is a special plant that takes, I’ve heard, at least four years from first planting to start blooming, though mine took 13 years to finally bloom!  The plant yields fabulous but very transient flowers at late summer night. T. L. trimmed his plant properly, and fertilized them with nutrients for both the flowers and the leaves.  “Why care about the the confusing ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium if the flowers grow from the leaves?”
Not surprisingly, year after year the flowers bloom only more profusely.  T. L. would count the buds, invite family and friends to see the blooms, capture their beauty in photos, and post them on Facebook. Next morning, the faded flowers would be arranged on the table like a mandala. Then, after a final glance, the fragrant flowers would be stewed as a tasty, sweet delicacy.

After the first blooms withered, the plant continued to bloom over and over.  Again? More blooms? But it was so late and he was so tired! Just too lazy…but how could he forsake them?  His mind was tormented; he had enough. He finally turned on the light and went out to see the blooms. 
(Courtesy: T. L. Liang)

Once, he decided to try painting one bloom which would never posed for him.  The pure white, delicate petals unfolded gently, trembling subtly, until it was fully bloomed if for only an instant.  Then it started to close, eventually faded with its neck drooping down.  It was hard to capture the fleeting form and getting the right color in the night.  He’s not happy with it, and determined to paint another one. When a good friend expressed her love of the painting, he gave the painting to her.

Courtesy: T. L. Liang

As years went by summer came and the flower bloomed.  He came upon the painting on Facebook, and could only sigh….  His friend passed away after more than 30 years of fighting with cancer, the painted flower was long gone, and the location of the painting unknown.

Actually, he seldom paints flowers.  For a guy that’s somehow unmanly, though he used to paint flowers for his job while designing for displays of lady’s fashion.

Over the past decades he has done caricatures, working on product design for television stations, and after moving to the US interior illustration for department stores. Usually half a year before the holidays he started to work on multimedia designs, incorporating various opinions, and present a good looking perspective painting to please his boss and the customers.

After retirement about ten years ago, he started planting in his garden, or traveling here and there.  Life has been so much more relaxed and pleasant!

Courtesy: T. L. Liang

Courtesy: T. L. Liang

He started to seriously work on oil painting.  He googled and watched YouTube to learn from other artist’s experiences.  Many times he was aghast by what he didn’t know that he didn’t know. “Boy o boy!  One can paint in that manner!”

When he was young his artist father asked him to copy works by his father and other masters.  Years later his father saw these copies and thought they were his own until he checked out the signatures!  Now with his serious studies of how others approached oil painting, he realized that copying other works can be used to improve his brushstrokes, capture colors properly, and refine his skills.  Doing so increases the rate of his learning and is instrumental for his major artistic leaps!

For example, he did a master copy of a lion which “helped” him finish a painting of a tiger.  He’s not satisfied with the tiger, but gave it away when someone wanted it desperately for his father’s birthday gift!  “I can’t imagine that a painting could bring so much joy to someone!” 

(Courtesy: T. L. Liang)

He loves horse riding and he loves horses.  He has registered in courses in Cal Poly Pomona to study wild horses, and even rode on horseback for five days in Nevada to observe wild horses over there.  Once he participated with a group to deliver more than a hundred horses and mules to a mountain in the summer to live; in the winter they rode on a horseback to the same mountain to gather all of the horses back to the farm.  During that time he had to live in a tent.  

He discovered that painting horses is most gratifying, and so he focused on painting horses thinking it’d be his special niche, and someday he would become “That T. L. specialized in painting horses”!

Courtesy: T. L. Liang

Before retirement he planned and wondered how to making a living.  Sell paintings in exhibitions? Find a gallery to promote his works?  

Now he has pushed all these thoughts away!  He only needs three meals a day and a bed to sleep in.  As long as the basic needs are met, what’s wrong with an ordinary life?

Better to be painting for fun than as a job!  Imagine the pressure driven by winning awards, and the hassles for framing art works, and socializing for exhibitions! Even if he can successfully promote his works, it only means a little more income when there is never enough time for art, and never the freedom to do art whenever he so wishes!

Frankly, it means letting go of painting for fame and profit!  “I don’t mean to sound aloof from material pursuits… to enjoy art is the most important thing for the rest of my life!  Everyone walks his or her own path. Sooner or later the path leads to the same end. It is up to us to live life in the way we want.”

Letting go!  So much happier and relaxed doing painting!  Now he can draw whatever he wants without caring for per square foot charges.  Dislike an artwork? Throw it away! Start working on a new canvas! Or change a topic!  Do what feels right!

One day he suddenly felt the need to let go further of his self-imposed limitations.  Why not paint animals and not just horses? Flowers? Anything, as long as he is enjoying doing the painting?  So he painted the Night blooming cereus… otherwise his house would be filled with only paintings and paintings of horses!

Courtesy: T. L. Liang

His son also loves painting, and frequents workshops to better his art.  He would look at dad’s work, give critique, and help him improve his painting.  Proudly, T. L. says, “In the past father taught son, and now son teaches dad!”

He is not happy to be called an artist.  “Just because I am doing something I love to do, so I am called an artist?”  

Born among generations of artist family, he has not been the one that captures the most attention.  But he has always loved art and enjoyed the beauty in the process of creation. “I cannot be more grateful for the fact that I can enjoy the rest of my life in doing art.  My life shall henceforth not be lived in vain!”

Courtesy: T. L. Liang