A New Beginning

After months of anticipation, I have returned to the Art Students League of New York earlier this week, painting among familiar and new painters at the league. It has been beautiful to paint from life once again as it has been done before the pandemic.

You see, the League and the artists there had survived the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 2018. Fast forward 100 years, we are now in the middle of battling Coronavirus Pandemic, but better equipped to fight thanks to multiple vaccines that are now available–I suppose only time will tell what happens next. At the moment, New York City is preparing all its school students to start 2021-2022 school year on Monday, 13 September, including under 12 year old students who couldn’t be vaccinated.

September 13, 2021 — I spent some extra time with the model today, getting the likeness by moving some paint.

September 10, 2021 — Here is my first oil portrait that I have worked on this week. I chose to work on a small canvas board to test drive all my materials, including some new brushes and colors.

On the easel – 10 September 2021 – WIP

What are NFTs?

There has been a lot of conversation about non-fungible token (NFT) and cryptocurrency in the recent months, but many folks don’t understand what these mean to artists so I am going to break it down for us–even traditional oil painters like myself–need to know about what these are, because through understanding, we may be able to better protect our works and to profit from our art, including photographs, videos, and other digital assets. 

Cryptocurrency gained momentum and use when companies like Twitter and Tesla openly purchased Bitcoin, one of the better known cryptocurrency. Fueling the fire, this month, June 2021, El Salvador announced that it made bitcoin a legal tender, making it the first country to accept cryptocurrency–countries and people who hold unstable currencies will soon learn to embrace cryptocurrency. While bitcoin still is a risky investment, the technology–called blockchain–that powers cryptocurrency is a reliable way to keep track of digital records. Why is that important for artists? Because all things digital can be recorded using the same technology, allowing artists to (1) profit and (2) protect their digital works. It’s a way to put a fingerprint on digital assets.

Buying and Selling NFTs

The following examples show the difference between the traditional way of selling art vs. using NFT:  

  1. Traditional: Susie was a talented artist who made a modest living from selling her paintings.  She sold a painting for $10,000 USD to Jack. Years later, Susie’s artworks gained recognition so Jack privately sold Susie’s painting to Nancy for $100,000 USD. Sadly, Susie didn’t get a penny from this transaction.
  2. NFT: Tara sold a digital image–using NFT–for $10,000 USD worth of Cryptocurrency to Jack. Tara also specified that she would receive 10% of future resale value of the digital image. Days later, Jack resold Tara’s digital image for $100,000 USD worth of Cryptocurrency, $10,000 of which will be sent to Tara.  

Protecting Your Digital Assets 

Okay. Making profit is great, but another way to use NFTs is to protect digital assets from theft. Digital images and sound have been stolen from artists since the beginning of the digital era–NFT is a way to digitally sign your original work and have a record of it online. So when someone steals a digital asset, one can refer to its record.

Next Steps

I hope this short introduction has sparked your interest. Here are some additional information and how to get going with NFTs: 

Leading NFT Market Places

Related Reading

Follow me on Instagram (@jesoundkeepers) for your chance to purchase my first NFT in the future!


May 2021: Online Auction

27 May 2021 — Congratulations to the lucky bidder! If you are reading this, Thank you for your support. The framed Limited Edition of the Little Red Lighthouse will be delivered this afternoon and it will be ready for pick up.

Front view

22 May 2021 — Please allow me to take a moment to thank all of you that have bid on the Limited Edition of the Little Red Lighthouse. Thank you for supporting the organization that we all love.

I am happy to inform you that the Little Red Lighthouse is ready to be delivered to the lucky winner. This is a unique and framed version, especially prepared for the auction. Handling frames–especially with glass–is a delicate business, so this will be delivered inside a custom built shipping crate as shown below.

Little Red Lighthouse inside a shipping crate
Little Red Lighthouse inside a shipping crate

Good luck to all the bidders. – Je

Portrait Paintings


I traveled to India some years ago. I have vivid images from my experience there. India is a beautiful place, full of colorful people and big smiles.

Pencil on Paper

It has been tough listening and watching all the news about what’s happening there now. There were more than 414K+ Covid-19 cases within 24 hours…

I have been looking back to my photo archives from my trip. To my surprise, there are lots of pictures of people that I met there, because people were so kind and inviting to take photos of them. I wonder how all of them are doing at this moment. My heart goes out to everyone there.

I hope the situation improves rapidly in India.

Portrait Paintings

Another Night In NYC

So I have been painting these little portraits between working on my commission works. This one was painted via Zoom, last night with Henry, who I have painted and spoken with in the past.

Oil on Paper, 12” x 9”

During this pandemic, I have been using various way of preparing painting surfaces on paper, and it’s working out pretty well. I typically have used double primed linen, and I have found hard to use any other surface for oil painting, but I think I found a reliable way to paint as I do on linen on paper.

If you want to see painting process of this painting, check out my Instagram Reel on this painting. Enjoy!

Eco-Friendly Oil Painting Series

  • PART 1 – Know the dangers of using solvents and chemicals
  • PART II – Recommended Colors for Portraits Painting
Portrait Paintings

25 Percent

Oil on Paper, 12″ x 9″ — As of today, according to CDC’s data tracker, about 25% of Americans (~82,471,151 people) are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19. I am optimistic that things will be much better in the coming weeks. To celebrate my optimism, I began painting oil portraits for my 100 Human Project–I had produced the first 50 using mostly pencil and pen.

Here are three photos showing my painting process for this painting that I originally posted as my Instagram Post on 13 April 2021.

Portrait Paintings

Girl with a Scarf

Oil on Paper, 12″ x 9″ — After months of focusing on value studies using graphite pencils, I have begun executing oil portraits using a modified version the the Zorn Palette.

Visit the following Instagram link to view the painting progress:

These type of portraits take about 2 to 3 hour from start to finish, and they are quite fun little projects between bigger projects.

Follow me on Instagram to see more or them.

Once finished, the painting is hung to dry for a few days.


What are my favorite oil painting surfaces?

Over the years, I have painted on almost any surface that I can think of. So what is my preference? Well, I like all of them. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Oil primed linen – I wouldn’t try to prime your own unless you have months to wait for it. Oil primed linen doesn’t absorb much of your oil paint
  • Acrylic primed linen – This is my recent favorite. I put one or more layers of quality grade Gesso with marble dust (a.k.a. calcium carbonate)
  • Acrylic primed cotton canvas – This is fun for messing around.
  • Aluminum panels – Painting on aluminum panel can be fun. You can also put linen canvas on it. Be super careful with this, though.
  • Acrylic primed wooden panels – Put a few layers of Gesso on the wooden panel to get going. You can also put GAC100 medium from Golden so the oil paint doesn’t go through the wood.

Are you interested in painting over Acrylic Gesso? Read these:

General Recommendation

Do some research before you purchase expensive painting surface. If time allows, you can experiment preparing your own canvas from scratch. Use cotton to practice and gradually move on to linen canvas. And, if you really want to use oil ground, save it for the last layers. Remember that it could take a while for oil primed surface to dry.


Eco-friendly Oil Painting – Part 2

My search for a safer way to paint with oil colors have made me research all different types of reds, yellows, whites, and black colors. I have listed them in the Part 1 of Eco-friendly Oil Painting.

The absolute Eco-friendly Oil Painting option is to limit your colors to use natural earth based colors, and eliminate the use of solvents. I hope I can lead up to that in the coming series, so stay tuned!

At the time of writing the Part 1 of this series, I had listed a few options for red pigment, but I actually narrowed it down to Pyrrole Red as mentioned below. Pyrrole Red has been used to replace cadmiums and other reds, and based on my experience, it’s an excellent color.

As of February 2021, my recommended minimal palette for painting portrait stands as follows:

Color IndexNameBrand RecommendationBrand Name
PY42Yellow Iron OxideMichael HardingYellow Ochre
PW6Titanium WhiteWilliamsburgTitanium White
PR254Pyrrole RedWinsor & NewtonBright Red
PBk9Bone BlackWinsor & NewtonIvory Black

Above are fine choices for beginner artists. There are cheaper painting options, but it’s worthwhile investing on better paints. In the long run, making solid painting material option will save you considerable time.

I have also used Vasari Oil Paint and I like them very much for its silky consistency. When painting with Vasari oil paints, the tend to require less oil and/or solvent. If you have a few extra dollars, go with Vasari.

Color IndexNameVasari Color Name
PY43Natural Yellow Iron OxideYellow Ochre
PW6Titanium WhiteTitanium White
PR254Pyrrole RedPermanent Bright Red
PBk9Bone BlackIvory Black

Although there are lots of colors one can use for painting now, I am definitely a minimalist when it comes to painting in oil.

Material Links

  • Bright Red (PR254-Pyrrole Red; Lightfastness: Excellent) – Excellence choice from organic, red pigment options.
  • Yellow Ochre (PY42-Yellow Ochre; Lightfastness: Excellent) – One of the oldest and safest pigment of all times, allegedly enjoyed even by cavemen. Some companies also use PY43, but I prefer Michael Harding.
  • Titanium White without Zinc – (Williamsburg: PW6-Titanium White) – This pigment is considered completely non-toxic. Titanium became the most commonly used pigment since 1940s. Be mindful that this Winsor Newton Titanium White contains Zinc White, which has been known to be problematic in the recent years.
  • Ivory Black (PBk9-Ivory Black: Lightfastness: Excellent) – Ivory Black is a misleading name since it’s no longer made using Ivory. The ones that are in the market is made from Animal Bones, and is referred to as Bone Black.

Eco-Friendly Oil Painting Series

  • PART 1 – Know the dangers of using solvents and chemicals
  • PART II – Recommended Colors for Portraits Painting

Interesting External Content

Non-Toxic Oil Painting


Egyptian Woman With Earring – Master Copy

John Singer Sargent was born on this day, 12 January in 1856. While American, he was born in Florence, Italy. As a gifted artist, he studied and traveled widely. I have seen much of his work, but I didn’t really get to learn more about John Singer Sargent until I moved to New York City–I must have slept through that day when my art history teacher was talking about him.

John is probably most well known in the US for his Madam X painting at the MET. That’s a beautiful painting. I still remember encountering that painting for the first time.

If you happen to visit the Metropolitan Museum, though, I highly recommend seeking out to see John’s works there. There are many of his paintings there thanks to a number of folks that joined force to purchase John’s works. And, you can learn all about that if you are into American Art History and all.

Egyptian Woman With Earring - by John Singer Sargent
Pencil Master Study of Egyptian Woman With Earring by John Singer Sargent

Visiting the Metropolitan Museum can be exciting. Before the Pandemic, I would visit the Museum frequently. I went there so much that I even have my preferred route to the American Wing. I am not going to reveal my secret passage here, but you know the route if you have gone there with me–it’s the best route.

Once the museum opened again to the public, I have gone back to examine John’s works once again. This particular drawing is called “Egyptian Woman With Earring”. There are two paintings of the same woman. At the moment, they are hung next each other. I sat down right in front of them for about 30 minutes for this quick master copy. In honor of his birthday, I decided–remembered–to finish this little drawing that I have forgotten all about. Happy B-Day John!

My Favorite Painters

Anthony Van Dyke