Watercolor Sketch: The Bank of China Building in Hong Kong & Feng Shui


Watercolor Sketch on Hand Made Paper

In Hong Kong, I loved just up the hill from the Hong Kong Zoological Gardens and Botanical gardens.  Both just a 5-10 minute walk from my apartment building.    Living in one of the most populated and bustling cities on earth, I was amazed at how many opportunities there were to connect with and be in natural environments.  I walked through and enjoyed these gardens often, as did many locals and expats. I had my watercolor kit with me one day and decided to do a sketch of the Bank of China building.  One, because it was designed by architect I.M. Pei who also did the glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris and I like his work. Two, because it is such an iconic building in the city.

Bank of China building

The Bank of China Building designed by I.M. Pei, image via wikipedia

There was some controversy surrounding this building, at the time it was built.  It is the only major building in the city to have bypassed the normal practice in Hong Kong of consulting with feng shui masters on it’s design prior to construction.  According to feng shui principles it’s triangles, sharp angular features, and many “x” shapes have negative symbolism.

HSBC Building

The HSBC building designed by Norman Foster, image via Wikimedia Commons

When another iconic building in the Hong Kong landscape was built, the HSBC bank building, designed by famed British architect Norman Foster, metal rods were installed on the top pointing directly at the Bank of China building to protect it, by deflecting the negative energy right back to Bank of China.  Take that Bank of China!  Hmmm, that sounds like a good idea.  I’d like to have something like that to deflect negative energy.


Shipping Large Paintings: What I’ve Learned



In the next couple of weeks I will be shipping five paintings to two different shows so I have packing and shipping on my mind.  This week I thought I would share another shipping story.

It seems like when you need to ship artwork once you have done it a few times you think to yourself okay, I got this.  I’m finally figuring this whole thing out.  See my previous posts on shipping FedEx vs. UPS and Declared Value:  What does this mean?

After my last shipment of a large painting I have another dilemma that I’m going to try and solve before my next shipment of a painting this size.  This particular experience is with UPS and shipping large artwork.   I’m not sure what the guidelines are for FedEx.  If anyone knows please feel free to make a comment with this post.

Last spring, I needed to ship a painting on a full size watercolor sheet, 22” x 30”  after it was framed the total dimension ended up being.  35” x 43”.  From my experience with the Florida Watercolor Society show, helping to unpack and pack paintings when the show was over, I discovered most, but not all, artists used the Airfloat  Systems box. It’s used for ease in packing, and durability and the fact that it can be used multiple times.  After a lot of research I decided to get an Airfloat box for this painting and ordered one that was thick enough to pack the two paintings that I needed to send to a show.  I had seen another artist ship two paintings in the same Airfloat box and figured it would be okay.  The box was a few inches bigger around than the largest painting to protect it.  I used an extra layer of foam between the 2 paintings, with the larger painting on the bottom.  Each painting also had the foam pieces on each side, that went from the edges of the frames to the box’s outer edge.

I ordered an Airfloat box measuring 45” x 48” x 5.5”.  However, before I ordered the box,  I called UPS to make sure that this did not fall within the oversize box category because these Air Float boxes are not cheap even with the 20% discount I got from being a member of the Florida Watercolor Society.  I figured since I could re-use the box it would be an investment when I need to ship large paintings.  This dimension fell with in the guidelines for NOT being oversized, which if it was, would result in up charges from the already expensive shipping cost!

Here is where this gets interesting.  The UPS formula for calculating whether a box is oversized is Length + Girth = not to exceed 130.”  Girth is 2 times the width of the box plus 2 times the height of the box.  As long as this figure added to the length doesn’t exceed 130” you are safe.  If this figure is 131” to 164” then you will be charged a $55 up charge and if it exceeds 165”  then there are more charges beyond that.  This is what a UPS representative told me over the phone.

You can imagine my surprise when I got my invoice from UPS and they had audited the size of my box and charged me extra for it being oversized!!  Trying not to let the steam escape from my ears, I called UPS and  reiterated the whole process of calling them before I made this big investment, buying this Airfloat box with plans to re-use it, but didn’t feel confident doing so if I was going to be charged every time for it being oversized.  She told me they had measured the box at 46” x 60” x 7”  on the way to the gallery,  and if you apply the formula, Length + Girth = 134,” it’s four inches over the 130” maximum!

I told her that was not the dimension of the box I sent.  I had measured it myself when I packed it and it was what Airfloat had stated it was when I ordered it, 45” x 48” 5.5.”

When my second invoice came after the box had been shipped back to me from the gallery, same thing, an up charge for an oversized box. You have got to be kidding!  After I got the box back I measured it to clear this up once and for all, and to my surprise again, UPS was right!  The box was 46” x 60” x 7,” it had grown!  It literally stretched with the packing and movement of shipping.  It was no longer the acceptable dimensions I was counting on when I ordered it to begin with.  The extra layer of foam to ship two paintings may have had something to do with the increased depth, but the sides also expanded as well.

The moral of this story is, if you ship large artwork with UPS, be aware of this formula or you will be slapped with up charges!  Also if you order from Airfloat, don’t count on the actual dimensions they have on their catalogue.  The box may grow after it is used just one time!

This story did have somewhat of a happy ending.  Even though my box was bigger, UPS waived the up charges for me this time.  However, now I have an expensive Airfloat box I can’t use again unless I’m willing to pay more than $100 dollars more in up charges in addition to the charge to ship the box to it’s destination and back.  Maybe I can make it into a work bench or lay out table.  Any other ideas?

Watercolor Sketch Wong Tai Sin Temple, Hong Kong

www.kimminichiello.comWatercolor Sketch on Handmade Paper

This watercolor sketch is of one of the roof ornaments at the Wong Tai Sin Temple in Hong Kong.  Wong Tai Sin is one the largest and most famous  temples in Hong Kong. A Taoist temple named after Wong Chuping, it  is known for it’s fortune telling.  Supposedly the fortune sticks here are very accurate.  Worshippers kneel before the altar shaking a bamboo container holding slender sticks of wood, similar to those coffee stirring sticks at Starbucks only a bit bigger. There can be as many as 50 or more worshippers doing this at once and there can be quite a  commotion from all the shaking and chanting. When one falls out, the stick is exchanged for a piece of paper by the sooth sayer at the temple, bearing the same number as the stick.  The sooth sayer then interprets the fortune for the worshiper.  Some temples like this one have many stalls, with fortune tellers or sooth sayers which are open for consultation for anyone seeking guidance.


 Roof Detail at Wong Tai Sin

www.kimminichello.comWorshippers at Wong Tai Sin

www.kimminichiello.comWong Tai Sin’s Chinese Temple Architecture

The temple has extensive gardens in the back including a replica of the Nine Dragons Wall from the Forbidden City in Beijing.  What is really odd is the juxtaposition of the temple and gardens surrounded by the towering Hong Kong apartment buildings.

www.kimminichiello.comDetail of Apartment Buildings Surrounding Wong Tai Sin


Kyoto Tanuki



Kyoto Tanuki, Watercolor on Archival Paper, 8″ x 10″, 20 cm x 25.5 cm

Anyone who has traveled and lived in Japan can’t help but be intrigued by the Tanuki, the Japanese Raccoon Dog! This animal is a subspecies of the raccoon dog native to Japan.   An artist’s version in ceramic statuary is mostly seen outside of Japanese bars and cafes, to symbolize wealth and prosperity, because of some Japanese word play associated with a certain anatomical feature! (See number five below.)   Folklore legend of the Tanuki  portrays this creature as a mischievous prankster with shape shifting abilities that can take on a human form.

The legend of the Tanuki has eight special traits that bring on good fortune:

  1.  A hat to protect against trouble or bad weather
  2.   Big eyes to make good decisions
  3.   A sake bottle that represents virtue
  4.   A big tail that provides steadiness and strength
  5.   An over-sized scrotum that symbolizes financial luck
  6.   A promissory note that represents trust or confidence
  7.   A big belly that symbolizes bold and calm decision-making
  8.   A friendly smile

While traveling in Kyoto, I visited a workshop that made ceramic Tanukis.  They can be as tiny as 3 inches and as tall as 6 feet.  All varieties and sizes were nestled in the bamboo wooded area around the workshop, this particular guy caught my eye and was the inspiration for this painting.

Watercolor Sketch: Hibiscus in France

www.kimminichiello.comWatercolor Sketch on Hand Made Paper

Hibiscus is a genus of flowering plants from the Mallow family.  There are hundreds of species that grow all over the world in warm or temperate climates.  This sketch was done in my friend Muriel’s garden in the south of France in the Cevennes region.  This mountainous area is west of Nimes. Nimes is a wonderful city to visit, with a rich history dating back to the Roman Empire.  It has one of the best preserved coliseums, from the Roman era still used today for concerts and events.



Artists That Inspire: R. Tom Gilleon

R. Tom GilleonShadow of the Sixth, oil, by R. Tom Gilleon, in private collection (image via C.M Russell Museum web site)

I have been wanting to do a new feature category on my blog, “Artists That Inspire.”  When I lived in Paris, I had the fortunate opportunity to visit many museums and special exhibits in France and throughout Europe.  I’ve been wanting to share some of those experiences as well as feature artists whose work I admire and inspire me that are working today.  So without further adieu…. today I am featuring a good friend R. Tom Gilleon.

I know Tom through working at Disney.  Tom was born in Florida, his grandmother was a full blood Cherokee Indian.  After playing baseball on a scholarship with the University of Florida and putting his dreams of becoming a professional base ball player aside, he worked as an illustrator for NASA’s Apollo Space Program.  Later he want freelance and eventually worked as an illustrator for Walt Disney World designing and doing conceptual  sketches for the Florida theme parks.  This eventually led to his move to California to work with Walt Disney Imagineering, where he was involved with the planning and design of Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland  and Disneyland Paris.

During the 1980’s he and his wife Laurie, also an accomplished artist, went to Montana for an outdoor painting workshop, fell in love with it and moved there. He has lived and worked in Montana ever since.   Tom’s work encompasses the West with landscapes, Native American imagery and his iconic Tee Pees, all with a freshness of color and innovative compositions.   His work appeals to many collectors.  Even though his subject matter is traditional, he represents these images with an almost contemporary feel with his use of color, composition and brush work.   I have admired his work for years and am proud to say I own a couple of his paintings.

Tom_at_the_easelTom at his easel (image via Tom Gilleon’s web site)

I am also honored to know this living artist who this year has had two one man museum retrospectives of his work.  Last year at the Booth Museum of Western Art in Cartersville, Georgia, and opening August 16, 2013 “Let Icons Be Icons” opening at the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls Montana.  Way to go Tom!!

For more information on Tom and his work please visit his web site by clicking here.

P.S. For a good laugh check out the BS section on his site. 🙂


Dinner Plate Hibiscus & Amish Acres

www.kimminichiello.comWatercolor Sketch on Hand Made Paper

This watercolor sketch is of a Dinner Plate Hibiscus from my mom’s garden. These blooms are literally 8-10” in diameter, hence the name!  Gorgeous!!  I have never seen these grown in Florida, but on my recent visit to Indiana you seem them everywhere. I like doing these long vertical formats in my sketch book.

Kim Minichiello

My Schmincke Palette

This sketch has a slight departure from my other sketches.  I didn’t use my regular Windsor Newton kit.  I have a Schmincke palette which I sometimes use.  It’s a lot heavier than my normal kit so I don’t take it when I have to carry my supplies around.   Since I knew I was going to be painting at my mom and dad’s house, I brought it along.

 Kim Minichiello

Dinner Plate Hibiscus at Amish Acres, Napanee, Indiana

We drove to up to Nappanee, Indiana, which is one of several areas in Indiana with an Amish population.  I love traveling to these areas and being caught off guard when you see the horses clip clopping down the road among all the cars, pulling the ubiquitous black buggies with the orange triangle warning signs on the back.  My mom and daughter and I had a discussion about the simple, but surely hard-working lifestyle of the Amish and wondered if we could do it.  Although it sounded appealing to all of us, the consensus was for a variety reasons we couldn’t.

While in Nappanee we visited  Amish Acres which is known for it’s little village featuring a restaurant in an actual barn and a round barn theatre.   For a fixed price they serve you a family style home cooked meal.  Your choice of two of three meats, fried chicken, pot roast or ham, plus, bean soup, home-made bread, green beans, dressing, mashed potatoes, beef and noodles, sweet pickles and slaw with a vinegar dressing.  Last but not least your choice of several types of pie for dessert.  We were famished after walking and shopping at their annual artisan and craft fair that weekend on the grounds behind the restaurant around the lake.  We had a glorious lunch while admiring all our treasures we had purchased. 🙂


Indiana Heirloom Tomatoes



Watercolor Sketch on Hand Made Paper

I took a week off from my blog to drive up to Indiana to see my family.  It felt like fall!  Lows in the 40’s and 50’s at night 70’s in the day.  Was a niece relief from the rainy hot and humid weather we have been having in Florida!  This sketch is of heirloom tomatoes from my mom’s garden.  There is nothing like a home grown tomato just picked from the vine, sliced with a pinch of salt.  Pair that with green beans cooked with bacon and new potatoes, and corn on the cob.  All from the garden of course. And, don’t forget the homemade bread and butter.  A piece of pie for dessert is nice too!  A friend  of my mom’s had given her some beautiful sour cherries picked from her tree, therefore we had to make a pie.   The perfect summer Indiana dinner!