Memories Hidden In A Painting

Have I ever told you how romantic the music was in Hong Kong? When our family moved to Hong Kong in September of 1992, there was so much to do to get our flat ready. We had to coordinate appliance deliveries, handymen and our shipment from the States. Oh, I remember so well the first time I listened to Cantopop music and was smitten with the sound. I sat in our flat waiting for furniture deliveries and various handymen to arrive before we could officially move into our new place. My mother was watching the girls at our place in the hotel called the Suites in the Parkview complex and Ned was at work. The views of the mountains of Tai Tam and the China Sea were my only company, except for a radio.

Ashley and Mittens in our new flat, she was just seventeen months old when we arrived.

I sat on the beautifully finished parque floors staring at the views and listening to this music. Many of the songs were in Cantonese and I didn't understand a word, but I knew that they were singing love songs. It was the beginning of a five year love affair with the most exciting, romantic city I have ever known. The people I met, the culture, the vibrant colors, and exotic sights were rich with adventure.

Sarah on the mountain overlooking our home in Hong Kong Parkview, she loved living there, and wants the two of us to return as her college graduation gift.

Living in Hong Kong always brought so much inspiration. A walk in Hong Kong Park and watching the brides pose by the beautiful white bridge with a waterfall backdrop was a daily inspiration. The Cotton Tree Drive Marriage Registry is located in the heart of the park, so numerous brides arrive in beautiful traditional white gowns or the Chinese traditional costume. The year was 1993 and I remember painting this bride on an Asian paper board, sitting in the park on a beautiful September day. Later when I arrived back at our flat I added Asian papers typically used for oragami. It seemed to capture the texture and vibrant colors of Hong Kong,

One day I was walking along the Tai Tam Reservoir. There are so many beautiful country parks in Hong Kong, but my favorite was in walking distance to our home. The path was wound around the steep hills, making the walkway difficult to negotiate if you were out of shape. The mountains of Tai Tam are spectacular and on this particular day the purple bushes were being visited by the usual hundreds of butterflies.

On that particular morning the weather was beautiful and as I looked around I was greeted by a crowd of lovely Chinese Grandmas all climbing up the steep hill. Each Grandmother climbed the steep hill as if it were flat ground, they wore Chinese pajama style outfits and carried parasols to protect their skin against the strong sun. The scene took my breath away and although I did not have my camera with me, I memorized each detail. Years later when we had moved to Canada, I would finally paint from memory this glorious scene. I used vibrant Asian papers typically used for oragami and painted using watercolor on hand-made Japanese paper. I did two versions, but this one is my favorite. When I finished these paintings I felt as if I had given birth to a magnificent memory, one that is rekindled every time I pass by one of these paintings.

One of my very first Asian paintings was this Happy Hong Kong Washline. I never grew tired of seeing the buildings in Wan Chi and other areas of Hong Kong boasting flowers on the fire escapes with poles jutting out from their windows. The poles served as washlines, and sometimes large buildings would have so many washlines that it created a giant mosaic of color. Birds and beautiful bird cages are a common scene. When I would walk along Bowen Road I would often see several elderly men chatting away as their favorite singing birds housed in beautiful little cages were hung in the branches of a nearby tree. The birds were socializing in song, as their gentlemen keepers engaged in a morning chat.

When we first moved to Hong Kong we lived in a place called Hong Kong Parkview. When I tell you that it looked just like Oz I would not be exaggerating. There were several pools, one with a lovely waterfall, brooks, gardens, lily pads, fountains, and garden sculptures that were remarkable. Podiums with gazebos and well kept grounds proved a lovely backdrop for any painter. I often sat in the gardens and painted. The flowers were amazing, and as I painted I was often visited by numerous butterflies, one more beautiful than the next.

Sarah on top of the mountain in Tai TamI have just added prints of these paintings to my Etsy shop. They are 5 x 7 images and I have found wonderful soft canvas cloth measuring 8 x 10 to allow for a nice white border for framing. I am excited about sharing these prints and I hope that they express the love I will always have for Hong Kong.

My creation
This was the view of the China Sea from our balcony and our master bedroom. I watched ships sail and clouds dance around the mountains making them magically disappear and never grew tired of the view.

Andy Lau is one of my favorite Cantopop singers, and the song for this post is called Caravan of Life, which he sings in English and Cantonese.
Alison Gibbs said...

What wonderful memories of a place you loved to live - Hong Kong


Hello Karen,

I absolutely love these photos of HK, I would love to visit!

Warm regards,


Betzie said...

Hi Karen!
These are just gorgeous photos and such wonderful art came from you in the midst of your journey there. My husband doesn't like to travel, but I used to do some with my parents and I treasure those memories. Thanks for sharing!

Debbie said...

What a great post! I love the song, especially the part sung in Cantonese. Happy Mother's Day to you :)

StitchinByTheLake said...

What wonderful music - I can understand why you loved it. And the paintings are heart touching. God has blessed you with a great talent.

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

When my husband was a soldier in Viet Nam, his R&R was spent in Hong Kong. He has often tried to tell me what it was like there, especially the music. He loved it (even if he was going back to a war after that week).

While there, he met and spent time with a group of Christians who had just come out of the famous Indonesian Revival. There have been books written about it. He believes God had him there at that time as he was so profoundly affected by these Christians.

Beverly said...

It is important that we each allow ourself time to relive and treasure our memories.

Yours are lovely. Happy Mother's Day to you.

Sandy said...

Hi Karen,
Happy Mother's Day!
What gorgeous paintings. Thanks for sharing those memories with us all! My husband and I went to Hong Kong for our honeymoon (1990)and LOVED it! We had such a great time that we had to go back in 1991.
Have a fabulous week.

Penny @ Lavender Hill Studio said...

What beautiful photos and memories of a stunning place! How lucky you were to be there. Your paintings are just lovely! The colors are so vibriant....

Kari & Kijsa said...

Happy Mother's Day! Hope you had a wonderful day with your family.

kari & kijsa

faerie enchantment said...

Karen, how wonderful, I enjoyed your blog post so much! I almost moved to Singapore 3 years ago, but decided to stay and finish my works out here!
Those countries are filled with so much beauty and culture,
Thanks for sharing this experience with us!
Magic and Joy!

Marina Capano said...

Hi! Lovely post! so cute all pictures! see you