In 2013 Orange Li and I opened our first art gallery called Steam 33 in Taipei, Taiwan. It was in a busy tourist neighborhood that brought people from all over Asia to collect my work. While in Taiwan I did commissions and sold originals to collectors in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan.
I always rode to work on my bicycle with my little doggy Xiao Hong Doh (Little Red Bean) in the front basket. I would paint the days and nights away in the back of our studio/gallery with our little dog by my side.
One of our first and biggest collectors in Taipei was a confident man named Leo. He worked as a manager in a restaurant at the time. He had never bought a painting before, but after commissioning his first one, the "Cambodian Buddha", he went on to become a passionate art collector.
Strangely enough at the time of his first purchase he had roommates and not much wall space in his small apartment, but he knew that one day he would have his own place, larger than what he has now and so collected for where he expected to be in the future and not where he was in the moment. The most important thing for him was to acquire the paintings he loved.
Also he wanted to commission paintings to capture different stages in his life journey. So far he has bought a total of seven paintings, four big commissions, and three originals.
One of the paintings he commissioned was simple in idea but it became one of the most popular art prints. It was "Elephant Mountain", which gets its name from the mountain Leo used to hike with his beloved husky. Occasionally he would hike up the beautiful mountain that has a breathtaking view of the city. From this viewpoint you can gaze at the marvels of what was once the tallest building in the world, Taipei's 101. Leo only asked that I include three things in the painting and left the rest up to me. He wanted his husky, his whiskey, and elephant mountain. Though in conversations Leo would talk about finding his "Dream", so I decided to include a doorway to his dreams below him, and the key in his hand. Thus whenever he chose to look for his "Dream" he would easily find it.
Leo loved to come to our gallery and we would sit around and chat while I would be painting away in the back of the studio. One day he told me that Steam 33 gallery felt like it was a church because the color had a sort of spiritual feeling.........
The painting above is one that Leo commissioned so he could remember our place. He wanted to make this painting because our place, my paintings, and our friendship had become a big part of his life and our life. That really felt amazing and to this day I feel like Leo and Philip will always be one of our tribe. In the painting he wanted to be in our gallery with, Orange, me, and his partner. I love how the painting came out and it captures the magic of our first gallery and some really good friends. .........You can spot our little doggy Xiao Hong Doh trying to make an escape in the bottom left corner.