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  • Writer's pictureElena Stoeva

Beijing China, Day 6 - Plein Air

Updated: Apr 26, 2018

A lot happened today. I went plein air (painting outside) and to the store. My museum friends invited me to paint with a group of folks with disabilities, most of them non painters. It was a museum initiative to promote plein air. There were a few volunteers- teachers from the art academy and one who led the group.

It is the first time I woke up so late. It was 9:40 and I was supposed to be by 10 at the museum for a tour. I had 2 cups of French press coffee for less than 15 minutes and showed up at the museum at 10:20. Luckily the tour was in Chinese and I didn’t miss anything. They organized for someone to take me on a private tour instead. I got super excited when I heard my tour guide Fei’s English. She said she studied in England.

Chinese art never stops to impress me! First, I didn’t expect to see so much art work practically everywhere in Beijing, and second, of such hight standards.

I found out that my host museum was founded by two revolutionary Chinese artists, Zhao and Yang. They had to hide when painting, first because painting (and singing!) wasn’t allowed inside your home, and second because their style was considered too modern and disobedient for the times. Learning about those two artists open my eyes about Chinese culture and about our differences.

All Chinese use WeChat, which is something like Facebook but more clean and simplified. They chat, search, call, pay, do anything via WeChat. And if I had known before I came, and if I had spoken Chinese, I would have been able to learn a lot more about the museum. Or about not so touristy locations. There are certain things, that you can’t learn unless you speak Chinese. Very little is translated in English, and it is usually the most touristy and unexciting stuff.

My tour ended at 12 and at 1 the plein air group was departing from the museum to go to a local park. I had one hour for lunch, which could be a challenge if you don’t speak Chinese. I walked into a restaurant, recommended by my friend Huili who I met yesterday. She even sent me a few pictures of dishes I may like. She told me not to sit on the street side but I didn’t understand why. I sat on the street side. The waiter showed up and I pointed to a chicken soup. It even said in the description that Obama had it when he visited Beijing. Must be worth. Waiter said something in Chinese, which of course I didn’t understand. I insisted on my chicken soup. He wrote something in Chinese my translator didn’t understand. I called my museum buddy Vanessa for help. She didn’t answer. I got very frustrated …and I learned my lesson:

If I ask for something, and too many questions follow, it means I get up and leave!!!

I got up and left. It was 12:20 already. I had a picture in my mind how I starve because I am not able to order in Chinese. I remembered what Huili told me and sat on the other side of the restaurant. I showed a picture of a beef noodle and then my translator saying “not spicy” The waiter smiled and left. Jackpot.

After a short lecture in Chinese at the museum, for which I was late again, we all got on a bus to go to the park. The driver honked his horn 15 times on the way there and 22 on the way back (it was rush hour) 40 min ride. Honking works as a therapy here. If someone did it at the states they would get pulled over for sure. Maybe I should try. Too bad I didn’t rent a car so I can honk while I am here.

A view from the window on the way to the park :(

The experience in the park was nice. I sat apart from everyone else and turns out I was the closest one to the path. At least a hundred nosy visitors stopped by, took a picture and talked behind my back. I did try to ignore them. It didn’t work as kids wanted to touch me too.

At the end we had a critique. The teacher said something I will never forget “It is not about knowing how to paint, but knowing how to see” Then he said that painting should go beyond what we see and that our imagination is bigger than reality….

He said he didn’t expect to have an American artist join today and how different my painting looked from everyone else’s. Good or bad?

I always clarify that I am a Bulgarian who lived in America for 17 years. But not today….

The press release after the event:

end of my day:

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