The Birth of a Painting Begins in the Dying:

An Artist’s Inspiration: Heroism even in the state of decay


Two heroes in Arcadia National Park. Decaying trees facing the wind and sea; they've faced life and now death together, proudly.

When I happened upon this scene at the Acadia National Park, out on the harsh Schoodic Point, the first thought that came to me was a Chinese saying: seek to be an honorable man while living on this earth, and to be a hero among the spirits after death. 身为人杰,死为鬼魂.

The second thought I had was the phrase widely used in western wedding vows: "Til death do us part." But these two trees - two silent sentinels, seem to take the commitment even further, proclaiming to the rest of nature, "Even death can't do us part." I couldn't help painting these two heroes, two proud witnesses of life, and two steadfast companions!

And so this watercolor painting came to be. Little did I know that when posted on social media, it could speak so deeply and mean so much another soul as it had to mine. Deborah reached out to me with the hope of purchasing this work. She, along with her husband Ben, came to my studio a week later. She had been my student previously, but I had never met Ben. He came to say hello… and also good-bye. You see, Ben was dying of a rare form of ALS that was gradually taking away his ability to breathe. He came that sunny Saturday morning in July with Deborah to meet me and thank me. We chatted, and he smiled and laughed. What a hero! What a human being! To face the coming days and, indeed, his final day, with such gratitude, smiling! We hugged. He and Deborah would take this painting home to celebrate their anniversary - 46 years of life and love together.

Ben and Deborah purchased the painting from JJ Jiang at the Village Art Circle, Cary, NC.

And then Ben would be gone before July even ended. It is I who am grateful to have shared a brief moment in time with him talking over life, love and art.

"Even death can't do us part."

An artist’s inspiration often starts deep within our emotions. At least, this is how it often is for me. So when my work touches another and resonates somehow, as it has with Deborah and Ben, it gives me profound and deep satisfaction.


I find the sentiment that Vincent Van Gogh wrote in a letter to his brother Theo is how I've felt in the journey of this painting, “I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say 'he feels deeply, he feels tenderly'.”





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