An Unintended Journey into Art
On this sunny and pleasant Sunday morning in October, a gentle cool breeze brought me a bit of good news. My painting “After the Rain” won the Past Presidents Award in the 2021 Watercolor Society of North Carolina (WSNC) Annual Juried Exhibition. The painting I submitted this year is of an old farmhouse in Northern China. It’s a nostalgic scene of a quiet and unadorned life with pigs and chickens roaming about after a cool rain, and smoke emanating from a fireplace within. As I selected and worked on this scene, I felt an inner romantic pull, a yearning for those humble and simpler times when distractions were few and work was hard. Though I had many paintings to choose from, I submitted this one with ease and confidence.
Perhaps the more exciting news alongside this is that with this juried entry I have been awarded “master” status with the Watercolor Society of North Carolina. I know it can be difficult to measure one’s growth as an artist as we have no objective measuring stick. But this year I can look back over a journey -- one that I didn’t even realize I had started on -- and see just how far I’ve come. I can’t help but look back to the year 2002. I had decided, almost on a whim, that it was time to submit one of my own (and few) watercolor pieces in the WSNC’s annual juried exhibition. This painting is also a Chinese scene, my birthplace in China -- a famous city called Suzhou. This city, known for its cultured history and winding canals, seems to have also become the birthplace for my journey as an artist now to think about it.
This was my first ever submission of a piece of artwork to any exhibition, and I was hesitant, even anxious I remember. The wait for the results seemed to take forever! I still remember the thrill of my painting being accepted into that exhibit and being shown alongside those seasoned artists.
Almost 25 years ago, when I came to North Carolina, I didn’t see myself as an artist, let alone an NC artist. In fact, becoming an artist was the farthest thing from my mind. In those days, I worked in architecture; dappling with my watercolors was just a weekend pastime.
Today I have no hesitation in calling myself a full time artist. I own and operate my own gallery in downtown Cary, North Carolina - the Village Art Circle Studio & Gallery - where I draw, paint and teach as well as interact with other artists and the community. My art is no longer limited to the medium of watercolor, and I participate in national and international shows... All of this reminds me of a beautiful Chinese proverb: “有心栽花花不活， 无心插柳柳成荫”。In English this means something like this: Intentionally planting a flower, yet it may not live; unintentionally sticking a branch in the ground, yet a willow tree grows up and provides great shade.
Upon reflection, the WSNC has been instrumental in this journey. In particular, the artist members of the WSNC have been very impactful in my personal growth as an artist. Over these two decades, though having had limited personal contacts with many of them, through the work I have seen and even studied in each year’s show, I feel that I’ve gotten to know a number of them. These artists, unbeknownst to them, have inspired and challenged me to press on, explore and advance in my art. Now I hope that I can do the same - that my work might somehow motivate young or aspiring artists stepping out on their journey.
Some of these artists have gone even further by volunteering to make WSNC what it is today. Though I don't often know their names, I do know and am so grateful that they’ve dedicated time, energy and thought to serving all of us. Whether those on the board or the many volunteers working behind the scenes, they have all played their part-- even unintentionally -- in my journey to being the artist I am today. I am grateful.