We have been to several arts festivals around the area in the past, most notably while we were staying near South Tampa, which was a stone's throw away from Old Hyde Park, a popular venue for such events.
Since moving next to USF, we have planned to visit more of these events that serve as artistic outlets for the richly creative veins of painters and crafters, most recently several that were held across the Bay at St. Pete when CY visited us in October. However, my then unanticipated medical predicament led to their last-minute cancellations.
Then the Temple Terrace Arts Festival (Nov 8-9, 2008) came around, and the fact that the venue was another stone's throw away (by driving) from our new home made it too hard to resist. Earlier today, Linda called Wify and informed that she had just returned from the site and had met a Chinese artist who exhibited Chinese brush paintings.
So there we were, in the midst of festivity brought about by the open-air performances, and the rows and rows of gaily-decorated exhibition booths, each showcasing the works of the respective artists.
At first, we followed a row-by-row coverage to look for the display of Chinese brush paintings. The first one we came upon had Chinese ink paintings (the display board identified as such), but the calligraphy was obviously not by a traditional Chinese calligrapher.
Just when the search was going to be an exhaustive one, we chanced upon an unmanned table with festival programs. Thumbing through the Festival map therein, we located the name of the artist that was given to us by Linda, a Mr. Kou, at Booth 36. I oriented the map to be parallel to the abutting Hillsborogh River, and pinpointed Booth 36 to be just behind the Gazebo.
And the next instant we found ourselves looking with admiration at the exquisitely done paintings of Bamboo, Orchid, Chinese Plums, Fish, Panda, Shrimp, and many more adorning the booth. A table at the front of the booth held several tools for Chinese calligraphy: a wet Chinese brush resting on a partially filled small ink container, a name stamp, and several book marks for writing names in Chinese for patrons, at a charge of $4.
A tall thin Chinese man emerged from within and introducted himself as Godwin Kuansoi Kau, the proprietor. While Wify rummaged through the arts collection vertically stacked inside the many boxes occupying the center of the booth, having gone through those hung along the three walls, I struck up a conversation with Mr. Kou.
Mr. Kau hailed from GuangZhou, China, where he started learning the intricacy of Chinese brush painting and calligraphy since young. He moved to the US in 1986 and has since won numerous accolades for his fine Chinse brush paintings in addition to being a stalwart of the Chinese artists association in US. He has participated in arts exhibitions in Taiwan, and is now a full-time artist exhibiting his works in primarily the southeast US area covering from his homebase, Alpharetta in Atlanta, Georgia.
He had an Arts gallery before, but found the cost of maintaining one with a fixed premises taxing, and has since stayed on the roving Arts festivals circuit. He has stopped teaching Chinese brush painting becuase of his busy schedule, neither has he published his works nor established an online presence. But he can be reached via phone and email contacts, both of which appear in the cover of the Festival program below.
Wify bought two of his works, one a painting of bamboo and two birds obviously in love (he said he had had to do the background layer depicting a moon-lit setting first), and a hand-painted card of butterfly and flowers, respectively at $40 and $5. The prices levied gave us a sense of the prevailing selling prices for such works, and also the different charges for original and printed works, in case Wify wanted to plunge into the painting for sale market (just kidding!). The fact of the matter is she really likes them, from one budding artist (see her painting blog here) to an established one. And she added that the card was actually recommended by Mr. Kou.
I also elicited valuable feedback as regards the practical side of operating a painting for sale business on one's own, and its business costs including whether one could make a comfortable living from such pursuits. Mr. Kou was forthright in his responses, willingly sharing his experiences gleaned from many years of personal involvement for which we are grateful.
He is also a devout Buddhist (I grathered as much from glancing at a paper lying under the table depicting the seven-day buddhist retreat, and Wify, from the Chinese word, Zen, inscribed on his name card over a partial extract of the Diamond Sutra). He said practicing Buddhism has given him serenity and tranquility, which we concurred unreservedly, having enjoyed the same benefits ourselves.
Armed with our new purchases, we bade farewell to Mr. Kou, and would like to wish him a fulfilling life ahead on propagating the essence of Chinese civilization as embodied in Chinese brush painting and calligraphy, and also on the path to Buddhahood.
The cover of the Festival Program book, with a copy of Mr. Kou's namecard.
A group of yound cheer-leaders just finishing their dance routine at the center court.
Yours truly and Wify in front of Mr. Kou's booth (this is the very first shot of me just after recovering from my medical condition with relief written all over my radiant face. Photo taken by Mr. Kou who was gracious in returing the favor.)
A proud and beaming Mr. Kou standing in from of his booth.
Moonstruck (the horizontal lines are caused by the three-parter scanning as it is too large to fit into our letter-size scanner).
The romance of the butterfly and the flower.