A brief encounter in a big city


christmas lights at brookfield place

Last night I was at the financial district near the Brookfield place, I decided to go inside and check out this year’s Christmas lights display. The Brookfield place atrium used to call BCE Place (named after a bank) for me is one of the most beautiful indoor spaces in Toronto. The light display was as stunning as I expected.

I took out my camera and started taking photos. No sooner, a well dressed middle age man, likely a lawyer or banker walk up to me and ask if I know what it means? Being a long time Toronto residence I know this is a rarity because Torontonian do not start conversation with total strangers. Although I been to this building countless times and knew the history and the building designed by the great Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Knowing he must think I am a tourist and he wants to share his insight of this building with me. I answer “No”.

He said, the cascading lights represent the forest and the arched dome is the Cathedral. I thanked him and wish him a good evening. He walk away and head home..


Art and weather

iris in winter

I don’t know about other artists, I notice I tend to choose subjects opposite to the weather. Yesterday was a very cold winter day with strong wind. After spending an hour outside taking photos of snow, I started to work on a painting of iris.  Iris is a spring flower and likely not to be seen here for few more months. However painting it make me forgot how cold it was out there.

In the summer, my studio has no air conditioning. On a hot day, I would paint waterscape, ponds or lakes to keep cool.

I guess it is mind over matter with little help by art.

Winter iris, watercolor on arches 140lb rough paper, 12”x20”

Five free things to do in Qingdao, China

There are many interesting things to do and see in Qingdao. Here is my recommendations for five free things to do while visiting Qingdao.

1)      Mayfour square

kite flying at mayfour Square

qingdao at night s

The name came from the May four resistance movement in Shandong province. This vast open square with the giant red sculpture (wind of May) it is the symbol of the modern Qingdao.  It is a place one should visit both day and at night because it offers a completely different feels. During the day, it is a great place to relax take photos, walk along the harbour, shop at the souvenirs stales among the board walk, people watching or even kite flying on the square. At night the square is lively with the sculpture lighted up. There were venders selling snacks and singers entertain you for your spare changes. One should find a seat experience all these activity and watch the spectacular backdrop of lights up buildings by the harbor.

2)      Qingdao city museum

qingdao museum

The entry is free for this wonderful museum; it offers both art and history exhibitions the first floor of the museum with two large gallery devoted to the history of Qingdao. The bilingual (Chinese/English) descriptions are very informative. The second floor galleries there are display of Chinese paintings, ceramic and craft. On the main floor also houses a compact book store and a gift shop also worth a visit.

 3) Old stone man bathing beach it is less crowded than the other one bathing beaches in Qingdao. The water is very clear and the sand is very fine.

old stone man beach

4)  Qingdao Olympic Sailing Park.

sailing at Olympic park

harbour by Olympic Park

Qingdao hosted the 2008 Olympic sailing event since then this area been turned into a public park. There are many restaurants, shops around here. On the weekend is very busy with tourists. One can take one of the tour boats to tour Qingdao harbour as well.

 5) St Michael cathedral

st michael cathedral

who is the fairest of them all

This German Cathedral is the only Catholic Cathedral in Qingdao it was built by the German in 1934. Although it is not open to the public but still it attracts a large members of tourists during the day. As for me, the real attraction was the wedding couples. During the day, teams of newlyweds would arrive with their wedding photographers and stylists. Each would dress in their wedding finest posing for the camera. Many like I would just sat on the steps opposite the Cathedral to watch.

Chen Quan Ming the epic Olympic Traveler

Chen Quan Ming the epic Olympic traveler

chen guan ming;s rickshaw

Today, I was going to Chinatown to have my haircut. When I arrived at the Chinatown Centre I spotted a colorful rickshaw covered with photos of Chen Guan Ming of his travel around the world. For the ones don’t know him here a brief story of him:

Mr. Chen living all his life as a farmer in Tong Shan, China and never left far from where he was born. Until Beijing landed the 2008 summer Olympic, he decided to ride the 800 km with his rickshaw to the bird nest stadium for the opening.  During his trip he passed 33 provinces and 1,700 towns and cities. After he achieved his goal but he didn’t stop there, he went on to an even more epic trip to the 2010 London summer Olympic again by riding his rickshaw. After 22 countries and two years later, he finally arrived in London and became an instant celebrity.

After a brief return to China visit his elderly father. Mr. Chen is on the road again. With the help of British Airway, he flown from Shanghai to London, then started his rickshaw ride to the next 2016 Olympic in Rio, Brazil.

well traveled passport

Inside at the Chinatown center, the Chinese media group has a small reception to welcome his arrival to Toronto. His Canadian trip started from Halifax, Ottawa and now Toronto.  Although he looks a lot older with his weathered face, long white beard and hair. His actually age is 58 years old however he spoke with a strong blooming voice. He describes some parts of his epic journey, the difficulty he experienced with snowstorms, heat, floods and his logging is his trusty rickshaw On a table there were note books to document his travel with pages of well wishes from strangers, official seals from every countries and cities he visited.

Although the Rio Olympic still three years away but Mr., Chen is determine to make it there for the opening.

Chen guan ming in Toronto

.  When ask what the reason for his epic travel was, he replied, his goal was to promote the sprite of the Olympic and world peace.

One of the onlookers, a non Chinese asked me about the gathering. I told her about of Mr. Chen’s tale. She was so moved by his courage and determination, said “Wow, Thank you!  That made my day”!

chen quan ming the epic traveller

Cafes in Qingdao, China


Tea is the choice of beverage in China and coffee is more expensive here than in North America. Qingdao with its European influence has plenty of cafes. A cup of coffee usually goes for about 30-35 Yuan (about $5). For the same amount one can have a decent meal in most restaurants.  In order to justify the cost and attract customers most cafes offer customer a unique experience more than just coffee. I discovered a few of them while I was there. The first one is in the old town district called “liangyu Books”.

One day, during my tour of the old town. I noticed a number of young Chinese got off and heading into a book store in a historic building.  I got off at the next stop and head back. It was the “Liangyu, (good companion) books. The name came from a well known pictorial journal founded in 1925 in Shanghai.  The café open since 2006 and pays tribute to the magazine. It is a combination of book store, café, gallery and museum.

art show at Liangyu Books

When one enters this café, on the right side is the gallery space with exhibitions devoted to mainly artists related to the Liangyu magazine or Qingdao.The days I visit it was showing paintings and sketches by a Chinese artist  to celebrate the 100 anniversary of his birth. The café and books section is on left with one large wall displaying reprints of the magazine. Another wall is a selections of books for sale.  The café is full with charms with the few tables for one  to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee while rest your feet or just get a tastes of  Qingdao past.


Liangyu books cafe

lunch at liangyu books

window at Liangyu books

Liangyu books #5Anhui Lu, ( old town)  Qingdao, China.

Rob Ford Protest at Toronto City Hall

This afternoon, people spontaneously show up at city hall to ask for Mayor Rob Ford to resign. Many came with their own protest signs. A couple were making “Ford must go” buttons to give away. There are so many messages on the wall to demand him to resign. Pretty soon the wall was covered and the messages started to spill onto the concrete floor.  One man came wearing his own Ford T shirt with his now infamous remark which been heard all over the world.

protesterRob Ford you wore me out

protest buttonscrackkula Ford

Street food in Qingdao China

Eating is more than a way of life; it is a national passion here in China. Everywhere there are foods for sell and to consume. With that reason, there are plenty interesting street foods here in Qingdao. Being a coastal city Qingdao is known for its seafood it reflected in the street foods as well

Along the beaches and the busy street corners one of the common sights is street foods vendors with their bicycle carts. One thing I noticed they are more relaxed than the ones in Beijing. The vendors are more aggressive not only calling out for your attention also treats you as a challenge to make sure you will buy from them. One almost need to keep repeating no and walk fast to escape from them.

Here are some common street foods in Qingdao:

grilled octopus  streamed crabs

Grilled Squids, because being a coastal city Qingdao has plenty of squids and they are an inexpensive snack.

stinky tofu

green onion pan cakes s

Stinky tofu, although they smell bad, in fact this fermented, deep fried tofu is rather tasty.

 candied hawrhorn

candied fruit seller

Candied Hawthorn: hawthorn is similar to the crab apple; candied Hawthorn is a popular snack food popular in Northern China. It usually sells on a skewered bamboo stick covered with hardened sugar syrup. I also seen candied kiwi and yam offered as well.

Roasted sweet potato.

They are inexpensive and very popular

Roasted chestnut:This one is my favorite Chinese Roasted chestnuts are roasted in hot gravel.

Remembrance Day Art

remembrance day poppy bag

Today, November 11 is Remembrance Day here in Canada. It is a day to pay tributes to ones who gave their lives in the wars.

Although none from my family went to the wars but many of my parents’ family members has lost everything including their lives because of it. Many are like us has their live changed and needed to escape to a more peaceful country. Today, I think of the ones were not as lucky as I am and had to experienced the horrors and the pains of the war.

I made the paper cut poppy on this shopping bag because the red poppy is a symbol for Remembrance in Canada.

Picking up where I left


Although I been busy writing my recent trip to Qingdao, China but I haven’t forgotten my more important job:

art making.

Here are some of my latest shopping bag make over, they are all done since my return from my trip.

jacob kingfisher  baggreat blue heron  bag  owl shopping bag blue jay face of mac

Morning glory paper cut

Morning glory paper cut

morning glory paper cut

My originally idea was to work on a simple paper cut of a morning glory maybe the most to spent a day on it.  Somehow as I work on it, it was getting more and more intricate and time consuming.  I end up spent three days on this small paper cut.

Morning glory 8.5”x11’