How do you describe yourself as an artist? I am a watercolorist. For me painting is about three things. It is about inspiration, manifestation and ownership. Painting is like music to me. I enjoy painting in a fluid and spontaneous way which allows me to create a variety of moods on paper to evoke a feeling, a memory, or a moment in time. Watercolor is a wonderful medium for expressing these qualities. For these reasons, I have been practicing again and again full time since 2010.
Please describe your work. I am attracted to the style of watercolor that is loose and suggestive of form, still realistic, but not tight and fixed with detail in the way of many photo realists. I like to explore through travel sketches and Plein-Air paintings.
I often hunt for new places to paint, checking morning or afternoon lighting conditions. Once as I was painting a cottage house at the Bird Sanctuary in Irvine, a woman stopped to watch me paint and after some time she said “Jai I have been working here for many years and this is the first time that I see this area is beautiful.” Most of my work is accomplished through observation of my subjects and referring back to my preliminary studies. I develop my final composition in watercolor by drawing from life and from my memories. An artist can be inspired by any subject, use their personal visual language and celebrate by painting as a visual writer.
Describe the path you have taken to develop your art. I have been drawing and painting since childhood. But I did not have formal training until Korea was redeveloped after the Korean War. In 1966 I went to architecture school. The university offered drawing classes, color and rendering classes, sculpture and perspective theory.
When I joined the Korean Air Force, as an installation officer I maintained all facilities, this involved landscape design for Korean Air Force Academy. I also had the opportunity to teach drawing and 3D craft classes to cadets.
Then at the university of Minnesota, I spent approximately two years in architecture school as well as art school. Professor Mary Abbott gave us timed exercises during class but we did not know when she would say “stop”. It might be five minutes or half an hour. When time was called we were required to have line, value, color, texture, shape, size and direction arranged. This practice was helped me to layout my canvas and work an overall area. As I improve a painting step by step, I still remember her saying “work overall, don’t get stuck in one area.”
What inspires you? I am inspired by nature, landscapes, seascapes, wildlife and town life including people and their habits. Like a good music symphony, all the elements need to work together: color, contrast, composition, design, texture, shadows and strong light.
What do you want to communicate with your art? I want to reveal the world with a personal visual language, speaking in a direct and instantly recognizable style. I spend a great deal of time refining that artistic language in order to express my personal message. I aspire to communicate more clearly and directly in my art work like John Singer Sargent’s paintings.
Do you teach art? I have taught several personal friends basic painting rules and loose watercolor techniques. I also taught drawing and 3D craft at the Korean Air Force Academy.
Please talk about your associations with art groups, galleries and your experience exhibiting/selling your work. I have exhibited my art in several shows and I have enjoyed receiving several awards. Coastline Art Gallery, Huntington Beach Art League, the National Watercolor Society and at Sea & Sage Audubon.
I belong to several art clubs/societies: National Watercolor Society, Watercolor West, Huntington Beach Art League, and Costa Mesa Art League. I also participate in three Plein-Air Painting Groups: H2O, ad hoc, and I lead the Thursday Painters group.