Posts Tagged ‘Ari Lankin’

Flyers Honor Danny Briere who once scored 30 Pts in 23 playoff Games | Painting Process

October 22, 2015  |  Featured, New Painting, Painting, PROCESS, video  |  1 Comment

Danny, we salute you.

Danny Briere’s arrival turned the Flyers around and he was clutch in the playoffs throughout his tenure. This is a painting celebrating Briere’s unforgettable performance in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals. He was literally able to change the space around him when he scored 30 points in 23 playoff games. I tried to capture some of that energy in this painting that has Briere doing his signature celebration. The knock out uppercut he started when he was 15.


The Flyers playoff run of 2010 was two wins short of one of the greatest in all professional hockey.  Danny Briere continued to find the net and create incredible chemistry on the ice.  This painting is inspired by one of his goal celebrations during a 30-point surge in 23 playoff games.

Process and thoughts…


A quick sketch of his iconic uppercut to gauge the space.

Had the pose, but had no idea how the rest of the canvas would develop.  Discovery is a large part of my process.

The only way to find out where you are going is to get there.  Reacting to the painting as it develops.

After filling most of the canvas with orange, white, and blue a little black to set the figure.

Some times you have to go backwards to go forwards.  Hey Danny, sorry for engulfing your head in fire.

The sound and reaction of something hot hitting water and it instantly turning to steam is similar to that of 20,000 fans jumping to their feet.

A quick rectangle to help me ground the figure in the atomosphere.  I was thinking about the reproduced image.  Collective and individual memory is cultivated from videos and photographs.  Rectangular media.


Time to get rid the blue except for the ice and a little bit in the glass. Adding paint to obliterate imagery.

Get Flyered up! Danny Briere lights the lamp again.  The red trim and the yellow dasher make an appearance.

Can you see any subliminal messages in the flames?  There’s a Flyers symbol, and a “D”…

Now there is a Flyers symbol, his initials (D and B), and the number 48.  His uppercut fracturing the lens of reality all around him.

Mr. Playoff.


1 of 30 Danny Briere | 18 x 24 inches | graphite, acrylic, and oil on canvas | Available

click for larger image

When the game is on the line, especially in the playoffs, Briere is a lethal weapon.  He probably has the best tight game in the league, and very sneaky. Boom! It’s top shelf.

This painting is available for purchase.  I am currently accepting a limited number of new commissions.   If you are interested in a sports player/moment commission, or different type of commission contact me directly.

Recent Hockey Paintings

Strength In Numbers | 24 x 30 inches | paint on panel

Strength In Numbers | 24 x 30 inches | paint on panel | click for larger image

Winner of Bernie Parent’s Flyers Stanley Cup 40th Anniversary Mask Competition

Giroux OT Winner | 22 x 18 inches | acrylic and graphite on canvas | 2012 | Sold


The Crown Keeper | 30 x 26 inches | acrylic on canvas | Available


Chris Pronger | oil, acrylic, graphite on canvas | 12 x 12 inches | 2011


Jaromir Jagr | acrylic, oil, pen, collage, and crest on canvas | 11 x 14 inches | 2011 | Ari Lankin


Immortal Captain | oil on canvas | 30 x 30 inches | 2011 | Ari Lankin


Lord Stanley’s Castle | 30 x 30 inches | oil on canvas |2011 | Ari Lankin

Hawaiian Smolder – A Burt’s Bees Commission

October 20, 2015  |  No Comments

Hawaiian Smolder is one of a six painting series commission for Burt’s Bees in celebration of their new Lip Crayon. Each painting celebrates one of the luscious Lip Crayon colors by infusing that into the landscape.


Follow the path to the ocean,

scale the highest mountains,

literally and metaphorically,

but for a minute scroll back up to the top and just sit back to enjoy the process video that celebrates magic hour over and over again.

Hawaiian Smolder

Hawaiian Smolder | 24 x 30 inches | paint on panel

Hawaiian Smolder | 24 x 30 inches | paint on panel

Imperial Hue – A Special Restaurant Commission

Video soundtrack by the very talented producer under his new alias Komputer Prophet


Usually when I share a painting I give you a breakdown of how it was made, the concepts within, and other relevant information. For this painting I am going to share the process video, and the words of the man who commissioned the piece. Lucky for us restauranteur and all around great guy Tam Le took the time to share the catalyst for Imperial Hue.

Words from the founder of Pho Linh and his thoughts behind the painting:


“My name is Tam, and I met Ari during our undergraduate days at Brandeis University. We became close friends over time, an important factor in choosing of Ari for this commisioned piece. Ari’s understanding not only of me and my vision, but also of my culture and passion, is the reason why this piece is such a success and a focal point in my new restaurant, Pho Linh.

The process started with a quick write up in which I explained the central themes: the importance of family, remembering our ancestors, and preserving the Vietnamese culture.   I provided some source materials to give Ari an idea of the direction in terms of colors and visuals. Ari was quick to create a couple mock ups which showed a couple different artistic directions and compositions. After choosing a draft to move forward with, Ari worked relentlessly not only because he was not afforded the luxury of time, but because he attacked the canvas with the same passion as I would have.

While I would encourage you to take on a personal meaning from the imagery, here is my own interpertation. The large profiles on the edges are current images of my mother and father. They are both adorning “hats” that they wore decades ago while still in their youth in Vietnam, but showing how they have aged throughout the years. It is important to not lose sight of the humility and modesty of my parent’s upbringing in Vietnam.

The landscape represents the beauty of the Vietnamese countryside, lush with vegetation and void of commercialization. The stepped rice fields and mountains in the background are from Sapa, the northern region of Vietnam which boarders China. The Sapa region symbolizes the roots of phở, a northern Vietnamese dish, with Chinese influences, and a dish that is the hallmark of my restaurant. The female figure traveling along the road (back to Hue) is adorned in the Vietnamese traditional long dress and the dress is white, which symbolizes a youthful innocence. The figure traveling along the road is the personification of what my restaurant is about, and that is returning to our roots.

    The other elements of the painting are borrowed from the tombs of both my paternal and maternal grandparents, as well as the royal temples from Hue, the city where my parents are from. It is the understanding and appreciation of the hard work that got us to where we are today, which gives us meaning and a sense of purpose and pride.


The finished piece far surpassed any expectations I may have had. It is beautiful in not only its visual execution, but also in its ability to convey my deep rooted passion. My restaurant takes on the character of the painting, and the painting feels very much at home on our walls. Many thanks to Ari for creating a piece which found a way to capture everything I love most about Vietnam.”


Thank you Tam for sharing some of your family history and our vision. I wish you and your family an abundance of health and happiness. Respect and honor are two very admirable traits you practice with the utmost humility. Congratulations on your wonderful new restaurant.

Click address below for a Yelp link with directions –

Pho Linh 

409 Hancock St

Quincy, MA 02171


Imperial Hue | 57 x 50 inches | paint on canvas

Imperial Hue | 57 x 50 inches | paint on canvas | 2014

click for larger


Thanks to Google, you can click here for a virtual tour of the restaurant and see the painting on the wall along with this fantastic portrait by Paul Zepeda.


Spirit of Vietnam | 60 x 48 inches | oil paint, gold, copper and silver leaf on canvas

Spirit of Vietnam | 60 x 48 inches | oil paint, gold, copper and silver leaf on canvas

Painting release with Process Video – DESTINATION UNKNOWN – Avatar

February 9, 2015  |  Featured, New Painting, Painting, PROCESS, video  |  No Comments

Avatar is one of the most recent additions to the series DESTINATION UNKNOWN. It is the second black and white painting of the series, and the first one in this format. Enjoy the process video and click on the image below for a larger view.



Avatar acrylic on canvas 71 x 71 inches

Avatar | 71 x 71 inches |acrylic on canvas




Gallery notes on DESTINATION UNKNOWN –

The cycle/series of these works is very much entwined with Lankin’s connection to the universe. We move from the first cognition of space and the infinite beyond, through the gathering of energies into life form, the pulsing of physical matter and mental force, through to a culmination of spirit, dissolving and leading once again to infinity. It is an ambitious and thoughtful series that, for the artist, brings a varied expression that encapsulates his very personal and unique style, honoring the brilliance of abstract art that precedes him, but also approaches new territory. The works explode with energy and physicality, pathways and mindscapes for the viewer to commune with.

Process Video and Painting Release – Elixir – DESTINATION UNKNOWN

January 10, 2015  |  Featured, New Painting, PROCESS, Uncategorized, video  |  No Comments

Brand new process video featuring a spine tingling score by Komputer Profit. In one minute watch Elixir go from start to finish in a poetic dance of color, movement, and music.

View the entire DESTINATION UNKNOWN series.


Elixir | 71 x 71 inches | paint on canvas

Elixir | 71 x 71 inches | paint on canvas | click for larger image


















Flyers NHL Hockey Painting – Process & Video – Gagne OT Winner

 There’s more about the backstory, inspiration, and a very special dedication of the commission after the finished painting near the bottom.

The 2010 Philadelphia Flyers season was magical.

The team barely made the playoffs by winning a shootout in the last game of the regular season. They dismantled the New Jersey Devils in the first round, but in no way dominated play. In the next round they faced the Boston Bruins. Falling behind three games to none and allowing Boston to tie it up with less than a minute to go in Game 4, it looked like the Flyers were gonna get swept out of the playoffs.

But not so fast. The newest reincarnation of the Broadstreet Bullies had a whole lot of what Coach Peter Laviolette likes to call “jam.” I’d translate team jam as a mixture of grit, determination, chemistry, and recklessness.

A game time decision, Simon Gagne returned earlier than expected from a major injury. In his first shift of overtime, he scored to keep the season alive for the Flyers.

He blew the roof off of the building. The Flyer’s seventh player, the fans, exploded in appreciation. The Cinderella team went on to win the series even after trailing 3-0 halfway through the seventh game.

That’s what we like to call “Flyers’ hockey.”

Now let’s get to the painting…

Ari Lankin













I started with a colored pencil drawing to map out the space.

Ari Lankin













A great celebration of Flyer favorites Claude Giroux, Simon Gagne, and Danny Briere.

Their bodies are twisted and contorted in almost a Renaissance posture.

Ari Lankin













Now you can begin to really recognize them. Darroll Powe is in the background.

The lines on the boards, on the ice, and the criss-crossed hockey sticks were carefully balanced within the painting. The effect of the lines both freezes and activates the composition.

Ari Lankin













The lone Boston Bruin player is no accident. Mark Recchi was a four-time NHL All-Star during his two tours with the Flyers.

He is a Philadelphia hockey legend, has three Stanley Cups, and is a total class act. Salute to Mark Recchi!

Ari Lankin










Getting serious with the crowd at this point primarily with oranges and reds.

The crowd is probably the part that took the longest. I had to capture the magical energy of frenzied Flyers fans.

Ari Lankin













This stage of the painting is what I would call the rough draft. Most of the framework of the story is there but it’s not cohesive.

Ari Lankin













After many revisions the story is almost finished. Texture and colors bring the players in the foreground to life. The shadows on the ice shift from orange to purple. Ice sprays around the skates, and a roar like none other begins to ring in your ears as you gaze up at the crowd.

Strength In Numbers | 24 x 30 inches | paint on panel

Strength In Numbers | 24 x 30 inches | paint on panel | click for larger image





The Flyers and the fans are in a state of euphoria after the overtime goal to keep the season going.

The organization made major changes after that magical run, yet two things remain the same in Philadelphia: the passion of Flyers fans, and the brotherhood of the people in the Flyers organization.

Strength In Numbers | 24 x 30 inches | paint on panel

Backstory & Inspiration


Earlier this year I was approached by a passionate Flyers fan to revisit the incredible run of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He wanted a painting that would “capture the energy of the crowd and feature a team celebration.” 

I went to a lot of the 2010 Stanley Cup games, and have been involved with hockey from many angles, so I knew exactly what feeling he was talking about. That ecstatic energy that erupts when a big game is ended with an OT goal is sublime. The way the players feed off of the crowd and vice a versa is one of the main components that makes sports so exciting. 

The collector has many fond memories of going to games with his father, especially during the 2010 cup run. In honor of this I slipped them both into the crowd high fiving each other.  

Thank you RV for collaborating with me on this project.

Dedicated to Barry Burgoyne


Ari Lankin
















Near the end of the painting a friend of mine, Barry Burgoyne, lost his battle with Sarcoma Cancer. He was a loving family man and a huge Flyers fan.  As a tribute I put him, his wife Michelle, and their twins Giuliana and Luca celebrating together in the crowd. A small gesture to an incredibly large person. Someone who always put others before himself.

He was on my mind a lot as I finished the painting. Barr touched so many lives in a positive way and fought with incredible determination. He always had a smile on his face and his eyes on the bright side of things. He even played hockey when he could barely walk. We miss you, and we know you are cheering for us.

Barry was also extremely passionate about the charity Face Off Against Cancer.  A great charity that organizes an annual hockey tournament with the Flyers Alumni Team (among other things) where proceeds go to support families and individuals as they enter the battle of their lifetime against cancer. 

“Strength In Numbers” is the motto Barry and his supporters embraced during his battle. The tradition and the spirit carries on today both on and off the ice. Strength In Numbers gear (vinyl decals, shirts, hoodies, etc.) is available. ALL proceeds go to benefit Michelle, Giuliana, and Luca Burgoyne. Contact Adam at Denial Print Co. to secure one of these limited edition pieces.


Design by Jesse Krupinski





… Strength In Numbers.





Other Hockey Inspired Paintings

Winner of Bernie Parent’s Flyers Stanley Cup 40th Anniversary Mask Competition

Giroux OT Winner | 22 x 18 inches | acrylic and graphite on canvas | 2012 | Sold


The Crown Keeper | 30 x 26 inches | acrylic on canvas | Available


1 of 30 Danny Briere | 18 x 24 inches | graphite, acrylic, and oil on canvas | 2011 | Available


Chris Pronger | oil, acrylic, graphite on canvas | 12 x 12 inches | 2011 | Sold


Jaromir Jagr | acrylic, oil, pen, collage, and crest on canvas | 11 x 14 inches | 2011 | Sold


Immortal Captain | oil on canvas | 30 x 30 inches | 2011 | Available


Lord Stanley’s Castle | 30 x 30 inches | oil on canvas |2011 | Available

Recent Commissions

Ari Lankin

Sam’s Universe | 16 x 16 inches | paint on panel 2014

Ari Lankin Portrait 2014 Commission New York City Oil on Canvas

SANKOFA – 24 x 24 inches – paint on canvas

If you are interested in commissioning a hockey, sports, portrait, landscape, architecture, or any other kind of painting contact me to discuss your vision, for pricing, and my current availability.

Sam’s Universe – Four Artists – Four Portraits

This was the first time I’ve been commissioned to create a portrait that I knew would be hanging with three other portraits of the same person. On top of that I know the other three artists (Jeremy Penn, Paul Zepeda, and Jason Borbay) selected for the project quite well, and admire their talent. A fun spin on a traditional portrait commission that will no doubt be looked upon as historic.

Our only guideline was to make the work of art 16 x 16 inches so all four would be the same size. The end result would be all four paintings hanging together.

A young girl by the name of Samantha, or better known as Sam was our muse.

Theres more about the backstory and inspiration of the commission at the end.

Now let’s get to the painting…

Ari Lankin

In the beginning I wasn’t sure where I was going with the portrait. I started with two of her favorite colors and put my trust in the process you are about to watch unfold.
Ari Lankin

Mapping out the general shape of her head and getting the placement of the figure.
Ari Lankin

Once the placement was locked in I started adding features. The white spots look like the glow of distant stars. Around this time I was listening to the Inexplicable Universe while I painted.
Ari Lankin

After adding the rest of the facial features it starts to look like Sam.
Ari Lankin

Time to build the flesh….
Ari Lankin

… and the volume in her hair.
Ari Lankin

Now that the face was getting far along I knew I wanted to run with the idea of the surrounding imagery to look like highly magnified images of the distant universe.

Ari Lankin

Sam’s Universe | 16 x 16 inches | paint on panel 2014













With all of her varying interests I was inspired to paint Sam enmeshed in a universe of color and energy; alluding to her unwavering curiosity, her love of science and nature, and her many interests in life. 

With so many passions and support from her cherished family and friends I know Samantha will blaze a colorful path of discovery. In the painting I like to think she is firmly embracing the present and sagaciously gazing into the future.

Backstory & Inspiration

I have known Sam’s father Peter for a little over a decade. We met in Central Park playing roller hockey. This led us to be teammates on the ice for a few years, and eventually we linked up again coaching for the same program at Lasker Rink for a few years. I had met Samantha a few times over the years, heard stories from Peter, and saw her around the rink more than anywhere else.

For extra inspiration Peter supplied us with a list of some of Sam’s favorite things like: science, hockey, nature, friends, family, scuba diving, helping others, theater, and music.

In addition he gave us a bunch of photos to work from. It took me a little while to decide what image I would use as source material. It came down to four pictures: one of her smiling ear to ear outdoors, one of her snorkeling underwater, one of her looking very cool in a pair of aviators, and one of her day dreaming in profile.

I decided to select the profile of her gazing because it was the most natural and she didn’t seem aware of the camera. A candid moment of a child on the cusp of becoming a young adult.

Ari Lankin

Sam | 16 x 16 inches | paint on panel – click for larger image









When I was almost finished the colorful painting I created the above black and white study.

More about musical guest Angela Schwickert –

Angela Schwickert is an accomplished composer-pianist, whose music has been performed in Europe and in the Unites States. Her album, Follow My Piano Music, was released to wide acclaim in 2012. Schwickert’s major new work, the score for The Ariadne Songs, based on Carey Scott Wilkerson’s libretto, premiers in December 2014 at SUNY Stony Brook. She holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in music from the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz and lives in Wiesbaden, Germany, with her husband and their two sons.

Recent Portrait Commissions

Ari Lankin Portrait 2014 Commission New York City Oil on Canvas

SANKOFA | 24 x 24 inches | paint on canvas


Ari Lankin

Carol | 24 x 24 inches | paint on canvas

Ari Lankin

Ethan | 24 x 24 inches | paint and ink on canvas

Burt's Bees - Ari Lankin - Final - 2 - 540

Glamour | 44 x 34 inches | paint and ink on canvas

Burt's Bees - Ari Lankin - Final - 1 - 540

Earth Woman | 44 x 34 inches | paint and ink on canvas


Chris Pronger | 12 x 12 inches | paint on canvas

Lady Gaga - Ari Lankin - Final 540

Lady Gaga | 30 x 30 inches | paint and collage on canvas



High Wire Love Owl Painting and Process Video

August 13, 2014  |  New Painting, Painting, PROCESS, video  |  No Comments
Highwire Love Owl | 48 x 60 inches | oil on canvas

High Wire Love Owl | 48 x 60 inches | oil on canvas

Luxuriously glossy and juicy oil painting from the Love Owl series. The first and only at this large scale.

Click painting for larger image.

Available for acquisition.

SANKOFA – The Matriarch that protected and hustled – Portrait Project


For the first time I will share the process story from three different point of views: the planning and research by Steve, the reaction and naming of the painting from Sara, and my own insight to the creative process.

Steve and Sara are married, and Steve commissioned the painting of Sara’s late mother as a surprise gift.

After seeing my Burt’s Bees portrait commission Steve approached me about doing a commemorative portrait. I suggested my more painterly style and sent him some examples. It was instantly agreed upon.

An impeccable small black and white full length photo of a young woman was my starting point. It had a dreamy elegance. A strong gaze juxtaposed with simple beauty and sly confidence.

Ari Lankin TSAO

A few days later I received an amazing story.


When I asked for a few details about the subject I received a life story synopsis fit for the lead role in a Hollywood blockbuster. We’re talking about war, pirates, the hustle, love lost, diamonds, self-sacrifice, the American dream, and above all an unyielding love for her family.

About the picture from Steve:


  • This picture was of her during her early twenties.  This is probably the quintessential glamour shot of the time.  She actually made the dress that she is wearing.  She was a seamstress that would actually be able to re-create the fashions of the day (or any day for that matter).  She didn’t have children yet here.  This is probably the siblings’ favorite photo of their mother.  It probably wasn’t cheap to get portraits taken at that time and she certainly got all dolled up for it.


Immediately I was inspired by her story from Steve.


Steve’s descriptive letter (below) transported me into the subjects life. His words produced cinematic visions which continued to unfold as I looked into her eyes for hours at a time. He used the stories Sara  had told him and others gathered from members of their family without her knowing. After all, this was going to be a surprise: a portrait for Sara of her late mother.

Below are excerpts from Steve’s letter…



  • The subject was born in Vietnam but of Chinese descent due to her mother and grandmother marrying Chinese men.  She was a middle child and grew up in less than comfortable circumstances.  Often tasked with taking care of her siblings she still had time to work a job (seamstress) and hustle (apparently she was a really good hustler).  She was described as ‘always having money’ by making and selling items, a true entrepreneur from an early age.

Early Romance

  • She had experienced young romance with a boy around the age of 15 however; it was not meant to last as the Vietnam War forced many families to flee the country including her early love.  It’s believed that she was very heartbroken over this.

Reluctant Union

  • Always an independent woman, she was ‘arranged’ to marry her future husband.  This came about when her grandfather, thinking she was too old, asked one of his workers/acquaintances if he wanted to marry her.  He said yes, and she agreed.  They had two daughters in Vietnam, but as the war continued it came time for them to depart the country to ensure their family’s safety.  The Chinese were being targeted and with them being of Chinese descent and the father holding a fairly visible position, they had to leave sooner rather than later.

Diamonds in the seam

  • The husband was willing to leave the country without his wife and children; however, being the hustler that she was she had amassed diamonds over the years.  He was not going to be able to go anywhere without her assets and she made sure he understood.  They became part of the ‘Vietnamese Boat People’ (refugees from the Vietnam War).  In this particular case the boats were run by Thai ‘pirates’ that would take refugees to Thailand for a fee.  So with very young children and elderly parents in tow they set off on the 7 day journey with little to no food and water.  Since their hosts were pirates any items of value were taken from refugees.  Having the street smarts and hustler mentality she sewed her diamonds into her clothing so that the pirates would not take them.  The diamonds would come in handy later when men on the boat were raping women.  She offered the men diamonds in return for leaving her and her children alone.

Coming to America

  • Thailand was not receiving refugees and it is unclear how it happened but the family ended up in Malaysia, safe and far away from the danger and uncertainty in Vietnam.  Showing her resourcefulness again, she was able to get a photo taken of her so that she could send it back to family members in Vietnam to let them know they were safe.  There is no doubt that arranging that had to cost money and intellect.  Eventually the US was taking in refugees (as they still do today) and they were able to make their way to California to start over.  It was here a son and another daughter was born.  She sold the rest of her diamonds to put money down on a home and found work as a seamstress and babysitter.


  • The thing that she enjoyed the most was cooking!  There was no doubt that her cuisine was the best.  Her children’s friends would love coming over to eat and she would be so generous and loving.  She took such pleasure when someone enjoyed her food.  If she liked you she would usually make fun of you but only as a sign of endearment.  She was certainly a strong woman to have endured everything that she had gone through.  It’s said that her biggest achievement and legacy is her children who love her so much and miss her dearly to this day and beyond.  She was the matriarch that protected and hustled. Her life was certainly riddled with tragedy but it is the truth.  She showed an immense amount of character, smarts, fire, love and respect which can be found in the four children that she has brought up.


Let me take you through my creative process…

First I will give you a barebones play by play followed by descriptions of the visual elements.

Ari Lankin

I decided to focus on her face and create a painting that is virtually life-size. The person looking at the painting experiences the face at a natural scale.
Ari Lankin

After a line drawing exploring the space it was time to paint. I can’t recall my first mark, but this is very early on.
Ari Lankin

After filling in most of the form I feel like I got my sea legs.
Ari Lankin

A face is a mask without a hairline. As the hair builds I feel the need to start mapping out the space around the figure.
Ari Lankin

The absence of color in the photograph allowed me to invent my palette without any influence from reality.
Ari Lankin

Green changes everything, everytime.
Ari Lankin

The symbols in the sky on the left are her name, which I found out later from Sara mean colorful phoenix.
Ari Lankin

A fourth flower is added. Down the red stripe in the middle I added diamond patterns. A direct reference the diamonds she smuggled in the seams of her dress to save her family. If you missed Steve’s letter above definitely go back and read it.

Ari Lankin Portrait 2014 Commission New York City Oil on Canvas

SANKOFA – 24 x 24 inches – oil on canvas















Here is my quick overview of the painting I sent in an email to Steve right after it was finished:

  • I tried to tie in elements of the story as I added color and energy to the image. The left side is blue and airy and alludes to an open sky. This blue is also found on the right side of her profile. She was a dreamer willing to travel far for the best life possible for her and her family.You will see her name written in the sky as well. I did it in such a way that is clearly visible but does not dominate the imagery.
  • The four flowers in the upper right represent the four children she lovingly raised. Inside the flowers are yellow stars. Stars that are found in both the Vietnamese and Chinese flags. Both of which contain a predominantly red flag. Notice the red on the right side of the painting. Below the flowers in the red bar (seam), are subliminal diamonds that refer to the diamonds she had sewn into her clothing to save her family. The red not only refers to the previously mentioned flags, the red vertical stripes on the right also allude to the American flag.
  • The red also symbolizes passion and danger. In her life she often protected people from danger. She faces towards the red and everything behind her is blue. Optically the blue and the red play off each other as well as the orange hues in her face. The strong dichotomy in the background is balanced by the subject. I gathered from the story that she was a strong woman who would balance forces and protect her loved ones. This is also literally referenced in the geometric architectural structure in the upper left, that grows out of the top of the canvas.
  • I wanted her to appear glowing, like the beacon of light that she was to her family so the orange in her skin tones creates that feeling.

The art of the surprise

Steve had the idea to not only surprise Sara with the painting but to really surprise her with the unveiling. Steve told Sara they should drive a few hours to New York City to come visit my art studio and see a few sites.  She thought it was a little strange to go visit my studio considering he never really mentioned me before to her but she was up for the adventure. It was the weekend before Thanksgiving.

When they arrived to my studio I had the portrait hidden behind a large painting. We discussed some of the new pieces that I was working on while catching up.

About a half hour into our conversation I got up and said “I have this new one I think you may like.”  Without saying anything else I picked up the giant canvas and moved it to the other side of the room. As soon as Sara saw the portrait she gasped and repeated “where did you get that?!” I could only keep my poker face for so long. I watched as tears came to her eyes and she hugged Steve.

That was a tremendous moment in my life. We sat and heard  stories from Sara about her mother, Steve’s cunning planning, and my inspiration and meanings behind the visual elements.

The birth of a name…

I left the title of the painting for Sara to decide. A few months went by without any word about a title. I was in no rush. Then Sara saw the first preview of the process video. Yet another surprise, Steve slipped it at the end of her video birthday message video by friends from out of town.

The song for the process video was inspired only by Steve’s letter. Usually I send the producer the final image of the painting, but this time I sent him only the story and told him to come up with a song and I would create the video around the song. He was inspired by the story, particularly her departure from Vietnam on the pirate ship.  He came up with the powerful song “Diamonds.”  The full song plays in the process video at the bottom of the page.

After Sara saw the video a title for the painting came to her.

In her own words:

“I’d also like to share with you the name I picked out.  I have been looking at the picture every day, wondering if i’ll ever come up with anything good enough to suit the beauty of the art.  What’s in a name?  A lot. I was starting to get disappointed, but your video inspired me.  The day after watching the video, I was remembering some of the most special things that my mom had done for me.  I remembered that she allowed me to go to Ghana.  Amongst her friends and family, she appeared to be opposed to me going to side with tradition, but she told me she was proud of me being so bold and saved up $200 for me to spend while I was there. That was a big deal because we were so poor. When I was in Ghana, I was fascinated by symbols that represented concepts (could be philosophies or teachings) that were painted on adinkra fabrics.  One of my favorites was the concept of SANKOFA.  It is my pleasure to announce that I would like to name the portrait of my mother, SANKOFA.  Before I go on, you should take a moment to read about it.

You see my mother was the first in her family to leave Vietnam and she made it a point to sponsor all of her siblings and finally her father to come to America in spite of her struggles as a non-English speaking immigrant in the US.  The concept of SANKOFA is represented by a mythical bird reaching for an egg on her back, that is often stylized in the shaped of a heart.  My mother left Vietnam with two children on her back, an infant and a toddler.  While she did not know where she was headed, she always had her mind on her roots.  My mother’s name means colorful phoenix, which is a mythical bird.  Even more appropriately all three of my sisters and I have Chinese names that were named after my mother as follows gold phoenix, jade phoenix, and color of jade phoenix.  I never made the connection, but my mother lived out SANKOFA. I am so excited to share that I experience SANKOFA when I look at this portrait and I continue to pursue, not only my dreams but to live out the colorfully rich life that my mother hoped I would.  Thank you again Ari for helping me to do something that means so much to me.  I thank God for you and I looked forward to seeing how your work will keep on giving.  I believe that the glory days of this portrait are still yet to come and I’m not done being surprised.

Truly, I cannot express how blessed I feel to have received such kindness from you and Steve.”

Sankofa, the perfect title.

Thank you Sara and Steve for sharing this with me and allowing me to use your words to tell this beautiful story to the world. Say hello to SANKOFA for me.

Sankofa – Portrait painting process video, watch the portrait unfold before your eyes Ari Lankin – Music by Andy Cracks “Diamond from Ari Lankin on Vimeo.

Grow Together In The Sun | On Location in Maine

April 27, 2014  |  Location Painting, New Painting, Painting  |  No Comments

This is my fourth trip to the same lake cottage in Maine. A place where I’ve made 45+ paintings over the past eight years. I have a special connection to this land.

First process photo

Long trees deserve a long composition.

First painting of the trip and the first process shot. I shot process videos of all the paintings, but at the moment they are missing.

First process photo

Good enough to eat.


I’m using a palette adapted from the Maine trip last year.

First process photo

Vivid contrast from the sun and shade.


I carefully selected this composition. Primarily for the triangular sun spot that frames the two pink trees growing side-by-side in the middle of the composition.

First process photo

Between the two trees are stacked logs. A subtle presence of human intervention on the landscape, but a bold visual moment that anchors the trees.

Notice the reflective lake peeking through the trees on the left side.

We Grow In The Sun Spot

We Grow In The Sun Spot | oil on canvas | 36 x 24 | available

Conceiving this painting I was thinking a renaissance composition interpretation. I created movement using nature instead of the figure, focusing on geometric color relationships, and intuitive paint application. Every compositional element is placed like actors in a play, and the plot is heightened by the siren of color and texture.

More new paintings from this series soon

Previous Maine Paintings

Ari Lankin

Life Partner | oil on canvas | 14 x 18 inches | 2012 | sold

Ari Lankin

Liberty, where land meets water | oil on canvas | 30 x 30 inches | 2012 | sold

Ari Lankin

The Good Life | oil on canvas | 11 x 14 inches | 2012 | available