Opium, Tea, Lemon and Chili

October 14, 2013 § 18 Comments

Untitled (Tea Plantations),  Oil on Paper, 5.5 x 7″ (14 x 17.75 cm), 2013

Opium, Tea, Lemon and Chili, Mae Salong, Oil on Paper, 5.5 x 7″ (14 x 17.75 cm), 2013

Opium, Tea, Lemon and Chili, Mae Salong (2013) is the seventh still life painting in an ongoing series called Objects and Oddities from the Thai-Burma Border. For me this piece is about a lot of things, but particularly it is about being in the right place at the right time, and incorporating more of the serendipity and chance encounters from life into my artwork.

Detail of (Tea Plantations)

Detail of Opium, Tea, Lemon and Chili, Mae Salong

About the Painting

The painting includes a lemon, a spicy Thai chili from my summer garden, a tea cup, and a photograph. The day I found the small tea cup featured in this painting I was in what was to become one of my favorite places in Thailand, a remote mountain town called Doi Mae Salong, also known as Santikhiri, Thailand. That same day while on a hike on a high mountain road outside of Mae Salong, I took the featured photograph of a valley and a Buddhist temple with the mountains of Burma rising behind it.

Two painting on easels beneath the skylight in my studio.

Two painting on easels beneath the skylight in my studio.

History of Mae Salong, Thailand

Doi Mae Salong has a fascinating history. It was founded by China’s “Lost Army”.  The Lost Army was made of Nationalist soldiers of the Republic of China Army, who along with their families fled Yunnan, China in 1949 rather than surrender to the Communist Army. They first fought their way into the jungles of Burma, but eventually found themselves up in the remote mountains of Thailand, where they became heavily involved in the opium trade. These days, the opium has been replaced with tea plantations.

Untitled (Tea Plantations), first layer of ochre oil ground.

The first layer of ocher ground on Opium, Tea, Lemon and Chili.

Often, I start a painting with a pencil drawing to get the composition roughed in, and then add a first thin glaze, or ground, which will be painted over in layers of oil paint to come. This initial ground informs the rest of the painting and affects the overall hue of the piece. It was a lot of fun to paint this one– honestly, I could spend all day every day painting smoky little landscapes.

The second layer of ground for this work was a gold cadmium color.

The second, cadmium-gold colored layer of ground on the canvas.


Thumbnails composition drawing with objects and oddities.

Drawing Thumbnails compositions.

Drawing thumbnails compositions from objects in the studio.

Preparatory thumbnail drawings

Preparatory thumbnail drawings of Opium, Tea, Lemon and Chili, Mae Salong.

A three dimensional birthday card for a loved one.

A three dimensional birthday card for a loved one.

Harvest moon in the sky, Autumn in Portland, Oregon.

Harvest moon in the sky above Portland, Oregon.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment!  <<<>>>


Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

§ 18 Responses to Opium, Tea, Lemon and Chili

  • There is so much about this painting I really like. The color in the foreground and the gray background, the personal nature of the subject matter and an overall sense of respect and peace.

  • beautiful. i actually thought the lemon was a real lemon. you nailed it.

    • Mike Schultz Paintings says:

      Oh, you! Thanks, Janine. This was was really fun to make. All I want to do is paint every day of my life. How’s your work going?

      About the illustration conference, you should establish a yearly illustration convention in London! I think the only reason things happen in Portland is that people decide they are going to do shit, and then just do it like it’s a thing– and then suddenly it IS a real thing. How does stuff happen?

      • it would be really really hard in london. the rent is insane. maybe in wales or a small village (which could be awesome like the hayes book festival)

      • Mike Schultz Paintings says:

        Awww, too bad! High rent sucks. Maybe you can start small?

      • but the thing is you need to be a certain personality type to be good at organising and wrangling people, esp artist and i’m not very extroverted that way. i dont think i could do anything like that. or i could, but i would hate it.

      • Mike Schultz Paintings says:

        Well, in that case your only real option is to move to Portland, so you can go to illustration conferences and the like. :)

      • its a good plan! :)

      • Mike Schultz Paintings says:

        You know, it’s not until July of 2014. I think I’ll be back from Thailand by then, in which case you and the ex are welcome to come crash on my couch and go to the conference. It’s a stretch, I know, but an option. :)

  • jackbaumgartner says:

    Mikey, I am so proud of you! I am stunned by this picture. It is all very well done. The tea cup is so wonderful with the lemon, a very dynamic and interesting relationship of color and surface. You are painting like Mike Schultz, which I love!

    How many layers is that lemon, by the way? And what was your sequence?

    • Mike Schultz Paintings says:

      Thanks, buddy! I really wanted to show you this one– and you know often I write these posts as if I am writing to you alone, anyway. I was really happy with how this painting turned out. It was a struggle, as they all seem to be, but in the end worth the push.

      Basically, I made the ground for this painting what I thought the brightest part of the lemon would be, and started from there. This gave me some interesting choices to make along the way as that yellow really did push its way through, informing the overall color of the work.

      I remember my pal Bill told me that if you start super bright (with amplified colors like lime green or purple skin tones- or whatever it is) that you can always continuously dull the colors down until you get what you want, but not the other way around. This turns out to be true!

      Each section of the painting has 2-3 sessions (or layers) painted over the ground. If you look at the detail picture, and specifically next to that main tree and the hut– to the right of them, you can see where the ground is peeking through– kind of a warm, duller yellow at that point. I believe the lemon was mostly painted in two layers, not counting the ground, with a lot of small over-touching up and tonal shifts.

      I basically worked the whole thing in circles and finished with the lemon and the tea cup last, as Bill also told me you always want to start with the background as it will inform the dominant. Experimented with the notion of the ancient Greek compositional tool of the dominant, sub-dominant, and minor. The painting I am currently working on with the Bible and the two Buddhas is kicking my ass. It’s the other painting in the shot of my studio.

      • jackbaumgartner says:

        One of the things I like about this painting – and really all of these in your current series- is being able to see your decision making process so beautifully. I think I may have mentioned this before. I can see your intensity of struggle throughout. Struggle being a higher form of “art” in my opinion. I actually spent some time showing Amy parts of this painting that I think are brilliantly accomplished. One such instance is the way you treated the edges. The lemon on the right side is a great example. There is almost a halo around it as it moves into the shadow. The subtle blues around the cup on the wood. Also the right side of the cup over it’s shadow by your emblem. I could go on. I love it.

      • jackbaumgartner says:

        And how can I neglect the bottom of that cup as the design fades into shadow. Mikey, it is so beautiful how you painted that cup!

      • Mike Schultz Paintings says:

        Thank you so much for the kind words, my friend. After I read this I thought about it for two weeks and then actually went back into my other paintings.

        I’ve since repainted three of them so far (from this series) and I think they are much stronger works because of it. So, I appreciate your words and they have a real life affect. I am myself completely unable to see the struggle of decision making that you spoke of– as I am weirdly blind to it. They just look like paintings to me when they are finished. Anyway, I am anxious to show you some of the updated works.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Opium, Tea, Lemon and Chili at Mike Schultz Studio Blog.


%d bloggers like this: