Artist / Author / Educator / Professional Speaker About BiLan
BiLan into Tibet 30 in x 24 in, Oil on Canvas
I have had a long time appreciation for Tibet, and I have spent much time there. When I began traveling to Tibet, it was a very difficult place to visit;
however, it is more fantastic than can be imagined. It is a land with a deeply religious people and immense contrast: snowy peaks and sand deserts, barren
plateaus and forested mountains, empty expanses and crowded cities.
I am very interested in the people of Tibet, their religion, their distinctive culture, and their beautiful colors. It is very amazing to me that Tibetan people
all have a commonality in culture and religion, even though they live in very different environments in Tibet and other states in China. Their clothes and
style are similar; Tibetans love bright, colorful clothes and jewelry to decorate themselves. Usually, one can see their social status from the quality of the
clothes they wear.
Coming into Tibet celebrates the Tibetan people by depicting their religion, spirit, their daily lives, the rich colors and patterns of their clothing, and their
architecture. The paintings are based upon personal observations in Tibet with the support of my photography. They provide an introduction to Tibet and
its people from my perspective.
The Coming into Tibet series of paintings combines impressionistic color with realistic forms distilled from observation.The realistic forms symbolize the
hard lives of the Tibetan people, and the impressionistic colors represent their religious spirit and rich culture. In this way, I combine realism,
impressionism and naturalism to show colorful and lifelike scenes.
Hope and Prayer 30 in x 24 in, Oil on
Hope and Prayer is a part of the Coming into Tibet series
of paintings depicting Tibetan subjects. Every July, Tibet
celebrates the Xuedeng festival in Lhasa, the capital of
the Tibet Autonomous Region, claimed by the People's
Republic of China. This ancient sprawling city, settled
approximately 1,300 years ago, is the region's political,
economic, and cultural center, as well as the sacred
place of Tibetan Buddhism. It is also one of the highest
cities in altitude in the world.
Tibetans and others come from near and far to Lhasa for
religious purposes. The painting is about a family who has
come to Lhasa and dream to see God's heaven in the sky,
where they pray for their hopes. Huge silken portraits of
Buddha cover the high mountainsides during the day. In
this painting, I realistically rendered each of the pious
prayers, their eyes all focused, looking upward into the sky.
I was attempting to depict their deeper feelings and
convictions about their own nature, philosophy, and need
for religious centering. I used warm, subtle colors to render
their faces to achieve this emotional effect. Because the
Dawa with His Mother 30 in x 24 in, Oil on Canvas
In the painting Dawa with His Mother, two people are shown: Dawa, which means son in
the Tibetan language, and his mother. The mother has just taken a break from inscribing
religious sculptures. They now take their break to eat some candy. This painting combines
impressionistic color and naturalistic form. The two figures are very naturally set in the
beautiful landscape; the colors are bright and colorful, the values are carefully arranged.
The conception in this painting is a representation of their natural life. They are
consuming that which many people might take for granted, finding great joy in the
simplest of things. The two figures are rendered in much more detail than the background.
This painting contains much bright color and also renders an atmosphere for the
Contributions 36 in x 24 in, Oil on Canvas
Throughout Tibet, one can see young monks communing in
small groups. Often, these young monks are seen in cities,
particularly close to a temple, where they are usually seated,
collecting without solicitation the generous donations of
passersby. Such a scene is shown in the painting
Contributions, representing five young monks taking
contributions for their temple, while they contribute their lives
to God. Much money is in a bag and on the ground, money
given by people who pass by. The woman on the left is shown
helping the young monks organize their collection of money.
One young monk's face is portrayed as weary. They may have
sat in this location all day to obtain the contributions. These
young monks have not the innocence and heartiness of young
children who often have some time within their day for play.
These young monks instead are burdened with long hours of
heavy religious responsibilities. I used a realistic style to
capture the young monks complex of mental distractions and
emotional faces. The warm red tone is used to provide the
effect of a religious environment in the painting.
Where Are You From? (sold) 40 in x 30 in Oil on Canvas
The painting Where Are You From? Is expressing an image of everyday Tibetan town
life. This small town is located in Dege County in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of
Garze. My artist friend Nyima grew up in Dege County. He invited me and some other of
my artist friends to visit the place, as we wanted to experience authentic Tibetan culture
and observe how some Tibetan people really live.
Many Tibetans live in tents in the mountains. They choose a place to live where the
grass is good for their sheep and their horses. Sometimes, they come to town to trade
their food for other things they need. The store is one of their most favorite places, to not
only shop, but also a place to watch town life, which seems to fascinate them.
In the painting Where Are you From?, two small boys with a girl sit on a counter in front
of the store, while two Tibetan women stand against the wall of the store. I tried to
capture their emotive stares, which I noticed as we walked into the town. All of their eyes
gazed upon us, seeming to ask the question, "Where are you from"? The postures of
these figures are more naturally attractive, and I tried to render Tibetan characteristics
that I noticed not only in them, but in many other Tibetans as well: simplicity, relaxation,
peace, and unworldliness.
The store is surrounded by warm sunlight, and inside the store is shown a rich dark interior
scene behind the forms. I was careful to present the effect of each person in beautiful
color of their faces and hands and portray their inner emotions. Also their fascinating
standing and sitting positions bring an interesting composition. The rough wall has
contrasts with the figures?texture. I represented their colorful clothes, strong sunlight and
shadow, and the reflection of light through the painting, as the reflecting light on the
right lady's hand and her ring to show the interesting texture of the ring. This painting
also follows the same techniques, methods, effects of light, and use of color as many of
the other paintings in the Coming into Tibet series in order to create a harmony within
In Tibetan religious culture, the people do not like to have pictures taken of them,
because they believe the camera can take their soul out of their body. When I was in
Tibet, I had to be a snapshot photographer, to catch images of the people as a record for
my future paintings.
Pilgrims (sold), 20 in x 24 in, Oil on Canvas
In Tibet, monks are often seen hurriedly walking through vast fields of grass. A representation of such an image is seen in the
painting Pilgrims. This painting depicts the monks in an Impressionist style, the fleeting of the brush corresponding with the fleeting
movement of the subjects. The sharp contrast in hue between the figures and the landscape, in conjunction with the sharpness of
the figures superimposed against a background highly affected by atmospheric perspective, brings the figures strongly to the fore.
While in Tibet, I learned that most Tibetan families have one person who becomes a monk. They believe that this brings the family
closer to God. They seem very devoted to and proud of their religion. In most small villages, the people usually have their own
temple, and each family will provide food to support the temple. Religion is a very important part of Tibetan life. The monks travel
from village to village and city to city, teaching the people, but also themselves on a pilgrimage to enlightenment.
Sisters 18 in x 24 in, Oil on Canvas
Conversation 36 in x 24 in, Oil on Canvas
The painting Conversation is representative of a Tibetan way of living. The two cows almost seem to be having a good
conversation after their day of work, as the sunlight brings warmth to them. The wall of the house has a beautiful pattern in the
background, in which I used variety in the brushwork, and a repetition of forms and colors, to create continuation and rhythm.
Although many people outside Tibet may not know it, this pattern on the actual house wall comes from cow dung, hand mixed
with hay and dried in the Tibetan sun. The hand prints can be seen in this material that has been placed on the wall. Once
dried, it is taken from the wall throughout the year for use as a household fuel.
Inscribing Old Man with Jokhang Temple 18 in x 36 in, Oil on Canvas
The painting, Inscribing Old Man with Jokhang Temple, shows a Tibetan inscribing God's words on a stone below the imposing structure of the Jokhang
Temple. The Jokhang Temple, close to Lhasa, was built many hundreds of years ago. It is a gigantic architectural complex and a spiritual center in
Tibet. Many mythical stories surround the Jokhang Temple. Pilgrims and other visitors come to the Jokhang Temple to look for their dreams and make
wishes for their future. Sometimes, these wishes come true -- including mine. When I visited the Jokhang Temple, I was attracted to the spectacle of this
man inscribing his God's words on the stone in front of the Jokhang Temple. Local people told me that he had come to this place and had been
inscribing for some thirty years. I wanted to photograph him and the Jokhang Temple to use for my future painting. However, although it was during the
day, it was a cloudy day. After I had been on this scene for a short time, I could see that a storm was brewing in the sky. The ambiance of the place was a
powerful influence upon me. I so believed that if I fervently prayed to God, God would bring the sun to me. So, I waited and waited throughout the
afternoon. Within a very short period of time, the sky went very dark, and then lightness showed through the clouds. Suddenly a storm burst upon the
landscape, with torrential rain, and much lightning and thunder. As people ran away to look for shelter from the rain, the old man continued to inscribe,
and whether from divine intervention or the most amazing coincidence, no rain fell on the small place in which he was set. Then, almost instantly, the sky
changed to very blue and dark blue violet, then suddenly the sun appeared, shining on the temple and the old man, and a colorful rainbow appeared, as
if it were a bridge from one of the buildings of the temple complex to the dark sky. In this way, I was inspired to paint the scene.
In this painting, I realistically rendered the man's wrinkles in his face, deep gray of his hair, and the concentration of the movement of his hand to
represent his hard life. I designed the composition in the form of a long path: from the old man, using the Jokhang Temple as a bridge, to the sky, where
the rainbow in the dark blue sky carries his dream to God's heaven. Further, I used the effects of light, and rich, warm colors on the temple to show the
Tibetan religious spirit and their rich culture.
Tibetan land is so high above sea level, the colors in the faces become more intense due to the high elevation. The people are wearing colorful clothing
and a variety of cultural adornments. I used rich middle tones in a variety of colors to render the religious images in the background, which represent very
important beliefs of the Tibetan people.