a part of the ceiling painting “Peony”
a part of the ceiling painting “Peony”

the ceiling of my studio

For a while now, I have been wanting to make the ceiling of my studio a bit cheerier, a bit brighter, and yet not detract from the paintings on display below. I had come up with the idea of painting ceiling panels, but orders for commissioned paintings made making time for that difficult. I had planned to paint with gold powder on a beautiful green made from roasted mica on a gold background. It would be understated enough to accentuate the paintings on display below, but hopefully be exciting enough even though it is just these two colors.

a ceiling painting of Edokoro Allan West in Yanaka

My wife suggested, “If we can’t sell the paintings you installed in the ceiling, it would be better to spend that time working on paintings people can buy.” I thought about that for a while and realized that if I made prints of the paintings, I could sell those. She thought that would be a great idea, so I planned for the twelve paintings on the outer perimeter to each be a flower of the twelve months and arranged them in order. The four panels on the inside would be the representative flower of each season. Once completed, I was surprised to find out that patrons were buying the flowers of their birth months. August is the month when Peonies blossom the most. Peonies in addition to being beautiful flowers, they also have symbolic meaning in Japanese art. They are thought to represent noble woman. So, when peonies are paired with roses, they suggest wealth. When they are paired with chrysanthemums, which symbolize the noble gentlemen, together they represent the social graces.


Born in 1962 in the US, Allan West settled in Tokyo and eventually graduated with a Master of Fine Arts from Tokyo University of the Arts. You can visit his open studio in Yanaka, Tokyo. www.allanwest.jp

text & artwork / Allan West,
coordination / Mariko Takahashi, photo / Keiji Okazaki