Sunday, January 25, 2009


A couple of days ago I was exchanging emails with some friends about the twelve western signs of the zodiac and the twelve astrological animals of the eastern calendar. Our conversation led me to mention a watercolor project I was involved in ten years ago which took me three years to complete. It was called EAST MEETS WEST. It was the brainchild of our famous local patron/collector of the arts Ruth Hoffman. The website, books, posters and notecards were beautifully designed by her sister Joanne Mell (available in the San Diego Art Institute store

Along with five other artists (including my wife Stephanie), I illustrated 31 out of 144 imaginative depictions of the various Eastern and Western signs combined.

Each watercolor is full of various symbols represented by minerals, plants, flowers, planets, constellations, symbols, colors etc. Other than being asked to include these symbols, we were all given free reign to let our imaginations fly. FUN!!!!

Most people know a lot about the twelve western astrological signs but very little about the eastern animals. Here is the story of the birth of the twelve eastern astrological years. If you want to know more, please go to

The Story of the Eastern Astrological Years

One day the jade emperor, ruler of the heavens and the cosmos, realized he knew little of the earth and the wondrous creatures who lived there. He summoned his chief advisor and asked to meet the animals of this rich kingdom. “Too many to pass through heaven’s gate,” he was told. The emperor decided to meet twelve of the most interesting. Those who served humanity and were beautiful or clever were determined to be of most interest, so the advisor set out to make the selection.

After pondering his choices, the advisor issued twelve summons. At the appointed hour all but the Cat made their appearance; as it happened the Rat, one of the first chosen, liked the Cat but was jealous of its beauty and so gave the wrong appointed time. The Cat overslept and the jade emperor was furious at its lack of manners. He sent his advisor to earth to find the first animal he saw. That’s how the Pig, in a basket on the way to market, was chosen to substitute for the Cat.

Once assembled at heaven’s gate, the animals clustered and jockeyed to be first in line. The Rat, both wily and charming but small, began to fret at his chances of being first. Just as the gates were to open, it jumped on the Ox’s nose and began to play the fiddle. The ploy worked, the emperor was delighted and the rat was admitted first. The Ox, who had born the affront with good humor and patience, was admitted second. And one by one the rest of the animals were put in order according to their appearance, their attributes, and their beauty. The lucky dozen and their positions: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

If none of these images represent your combined Eastern and Western sign,
please go to and find your own. Please scroll down as fast or slow as you like and enjoy three unique years of my painting career.






Myrna said...

So fantastic! I love the inclusion of your friend in the rabbit/scorpio image. I saved the award winning painting of her from one of the art magazines. The painting is as magical as she appears to be. I think I also detect a self portrait in one of the images, too.

Marilyn Webberley said...

Marvelous! What an exciting project, and they are all wonderful. I love the designs, colors, compositions - everything! Them make me smile. Thanks for sharing them.

Puglady said...

I am so amazed at the work that both you and Stephanie do. These paintings are beautiful! Is there anything you can't do in art?? Are the paintings that Stephanie did for this project, part of the ones on your blog? Is that Stephanie depicted on the Gemini/Horse painting? I know that is you on the Aquarius painting. These paintings are so beautiful and they have so much going on within each of them. What size are they? Approximately how long did it take to do each one? I know you said this was a 3 year project, but I am curious how long did it take for you to come up with an idea and follow it through for each one of the paintings? How was the lettering done? Thank you for sharing your work with others.

Puglady said...

This project is beautiful. Is there anything you and Stephanie can't do when it comes to art?? Are Stephanie's paintings included with yours on the blog? I know you said it took 3 years for the project. How long did it take for you to think up the idea for each one and then to create it? What size are the paintings? Is that Stephanie depicted in the Gemini/Horse painting? I know that is you in the Aquarius painting! How was the lettering created? Thank you for sharing this work with others.........

Ken Goldman said...

Them's some mighty kind words! Mastiff size, not Pug size :-) Thank you from both of us. You are such a validating person - much appreciated in this hyper critical world.
Stephanie did fourteen which can be seen on her side of our site under giclees, but the ones on this blog are all KG. As I said in the blog, we were allowed to let our imaginations run free but were given a page of symbols, gems, flowers, planets, characteristics etc. that were apart of both eastern and western astrology. I tried to include as many of those things as possible but could never put in everything. I started each watercolor as a "free flow of association" sketch and then using tracing paper, slowly composed each one using assorted photos I could find or taking my own ie. Stephanie in Gemini or my profile in aquarius and me also in aquarius/rabbit. I did about ten a year so each one took a little over a month to complete. They are about 16 x20 or 18 x24 each - don't remember for sure. There are giclee prints, posters and cards of each one. There are also 12 books ie. Book of the Dog, Rat etc. This is the year of the OX - my sign. I'm Ox/Aquarius. The lettering you see is on the posters which were designed by Joanne on computer.