Love Letter to Art Collectors

I know I haven’t been diligent with the upkeep of my online artist journal but this was just too big a news for me to pass up unannounced.


Some of you know this, but for those of you who don’t, I’ve been struggling with something in my art career for a long time: selling my work. Many of my mentors, friends and colleagues in the art industry have assured me time and time again that it wasn’t my art. Maybe it was where I was showing my work, my marketing, or the time just hadn’t come, Australia didn’t have much of an art market, etc, etc. And indeed, several times I have had interested folks from the States inquire about my work but I think to a certain degree I did feel like it had to do with my work. Something about it was just not coming together. It wasn’t the form exactly, it just wasn’t coming to life like I hoped it would in my mind.


When I finally got my hands on some crystal glass, I knew I had found the final piece of the puzzle. The glass itself had a presence. It sung in the light in a way that resonated with the excited buzzing in my heart. James Thompson (of Blackwood Crystal Glass) had promised me beautiful crystals and he had delivered me magic to work with.

I was crying tears of happiness for days! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such beautiful glass in my life and kept asking myself why hadn’t I switched to crystal sooner!  Blackwood Crystal Glass is a local Australia made glass with James Thompson, an absolute master, the brilliant mind behind the creation of over 30 colours with rare earth minerals. An epic achievement!

I was crying tears of happiness for days! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such beautiful glass in my life and kept asking myself why hadn’t I switched to crystal sooner!

Blackwood Crystal Glass is a local Australia made glass with James Thompson, an absolute master, the brilliant mind behind the creation of over 30 colours with rare earth minerals. An epic achievement!

blackwood crystal glass


How do I describe the feeling of when I first opened the buckets of crystals and felt them glow in my hands? How do I describe the first time I cast an artwork and the feeling when the investment mould just fell off the glass so clean and perfect? Does it feel like an exaggeration to say that in that moment I felt my life change? Because it does not feel like an exaggeration to me.


Because every work that came after has been a dream. The visions in my mind manifesting before my eyes. (Mind you, I still have a long way to go but-) I was finally, FINALLY creating artwork I was proud of. And that made me confident about my work. I loved what I was making. So I kept going, savouring this new power.


I haven’t had the chance yet to exhibit many of my new crystal creations, only twice so far. The first glimpse of the crystal ballet slipper Persistence VII showed for a brief period at Summer Sojourn (an Art Atrium event) at the the end of last year. And the second and latest time was in Melbourne at the Vitreous Exhibition (as a part of the Herring Island Summer Arts Festival with the Contemporary Arts Society of Victoria). It was there that came the second life changing moment I am going to mention in this entry.


It was where I sold my first serious artwork. Someone fell in love with my vision enough to buy it. Someone saw enough value in my craft to fork over their own hard earn money for it. 194 (wo)man hours. 3 years of imagining went into that artwork. It was worth every dollar I had set as the price. Some would even say more would be fair but I figured I was just starting out.


This was just enough that I wouldn’t feel insulted for my blood, sweat and tears. Because how many nights have I lain wide awake anxious about what was going on in the kiln, how many times have I had to restart over, how many issues have I had at each step of the process be it clay, silicone, wax, moulds, casting or polishing? Countless trials and errors. How many nights have I questioned how long I could keep on this path as an artist putting in all this work with no return other than words of assurance?


But I could only look forward, not because I couldn’t take any other pathway in life but I felt like this was the one I was supposed to be on. That it was mine.


But what was abstract feeling in the face of cold logic? What was stubborn hard work and insistence that this was what I was meant to do in the face of a thousand criticisms from friends, family, strangers on the street even, in the concern and doubt they showed for my future. This is the pressure every artist goes through. The world seemed to have presented us with this passion and then turned its back on us by having everyone ask in one way or another what exactly were we doing?


Can you imagine the frustration?


Can you imagine the helplessness in the face of all this concern?


Because it was true. It felt true. Why was I working so hard? How could an artist continue being an artist under all this pressure?


But I was fortunate.


I was lucky because I was in a studio full of supportive artists who knew what I was going through, who had been where I was at and I will never forget what Kate Banazi told me.

“The Artists who make it are the Artists who last.”

The artists who kept going.


I never forgot that. I will never forget that.

Head Case I Cast Glass Sculpture Nancy Yu NC Qin
Head Case I Crystal Sculpture Helmet Nancy Yu NC Qin


So when I got that call asking me about my artwork Head Case I, just when I arrived in Melbourne to collect my work personally for de-install on Sunday, 17th of March 2019, something settled in me.


This was something solid I could grasp onto.


And maybe you won’t know how much it means to me and to all artists, but art collectors are so special. Because when they buy an artwork it’s not only money they give for our craft but they gift something far more precious. Confidence. Belief in our work.

Herring Island Gallery 17/03/2019

Herring Island Gallery
17/03/2019


Humans were never meant to be alone.


And us, artists, are always making work for an audience.


So thank you to the collectors for responding back to us and especially thank you to Mike and Sandi Faulkner for being the first ones to take a chance on this young artist. For giving her the much needed confidence boost that she had been anticipating for ages. And who knows where this life changing event may lead. ;)


Growing Part 1 - Facing Potential

I began to question myself, whether I was really content with sketching and painting when I had access to a glass studio. Was it really the most I could make of my prime when I was still young and strong enough to take on the laborious work of glass. Whether I would have any regrets when I didn’t. And on the quiet 5 hrs drive back to Sydney, I had a vision of what I wanted to make - the first seed of Potential.

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What makes mona lisa so captivating?

Portrait Painting/Sketching as Storytelling

 

Many people know I have a very classical taste when it comes to art, not just in classical paintings but also as you may have guessed from my Persistence series, classical art forms in both dance and music. But today, I’m going to go in depth about the reason why classical portraiture is so different and special from what is produced today.

As a disclaimer I want to make it clear that I am not against painting/sketching from photographs (I do that alot) but I do not endorse working purely from photographs.

Have you ever wondered why the Mona Lisa is so captivating? People say that the eyes move, and if you look at the greatest portraits in history all of them seem to have life and a gaze that follows you. I’ll never forget that time I went to the Art Gallery of NSW with my dad, he doesn’t really understand much about art, but he couldn’t get over how the gaze of Ruben’s self-portrait. It was so life like - it seemed more intimate and realistic than a photograph. He couldn’t understand why, at the time I knew there was more to it than just techniques and lighting, but I couldn’t grasp how.

Today I believe I have found the answer after making copy after copy of master paintings in my 100 portraits series. What makes a Rembrandt so memorable? What makes a Velázquez so filled with life, when you look at his portrait of Juan de Pareja he feels like someone who exists, someone you could encounter on the streets. It’s the ability to not only paint a likeness, as most people would make you believe what a portrait should be, but also the ability to show you the story of the life behind the subject. Who were they? What were they like? And not, just, what do they look like.

A sketch of Velázquez's  Juan de Pareja  part of my 100 Portraits series on my instagram. It's said that this was actually a practice painting of a slave he did before he did the commissioned portrait of the Pope, but what's fascinating about this portrait is how  n oble the subject looks. There is an internal  b earing about how the subject carries themselves that doesn't make him look like someone of lower social standing.

A sketch of Velázquez's Juan de Pareja part of my 100 Portraits series on my instagram. It's said that this was actually a practice painting of a slave he did before he did the commissioned portrait of the Pope, but what's fascinating about this portrait is how noble the subject looks. There is an internal bearing about how the subject carries themselves that doesn't make him look like someone of lower social standing.

What I learnt from this sketch of Rembrandt was his use of tone treatment. He uses midtones everywhere in the face but the eyes are hauntingly dark. Self-portraits are a very special type of genre when it comes to painters, every time I've done one of myself in front of a mirror I always felt an answering touch on the part of my face that I'm putting onto paper.

What I learnt from this sketch of Rembrandt was his use of tone treatment. He uses midtones everywhere in the face but the eyes are hauntingly dark. Self-portraits are a very special type of genre when it comes to painters, every time I've done one of myself in front of a mirror I always felt an answering touch on the part of my face that I'm putting onto paper.

And how can you possibly get that sort of depth and storytelling from a photograph? Unless that photograph was taken by a cinematographic expert, who knew how to interact and capture an interpretation of the character they saw. But then would that be your vision? Would you see and notice the same things if you met the subject?

Portrait painting/sketching is a conversation between the subject and the artist. It is a conversation without words, it’s a conversation between what the artist can notice and feel and a subject of what the sitter is going through at the time of creation. Everyone has a story, and if you look hard enough you’ll find the soul under the noise. It’s why studying the works of Masters is so fascinating, you’re seeing not only their skill but also the world through their eyes and hearts.

What makes a truly good portrait? It’s portrait that can tell a story, more than just what the sitter looks like. Or at least that’s the criteria I hold myself to.

 

INSPIRATION E MARTË (4) - Robert Greene

 

Since we’re talking about storytelling, this week I want to introduce you all to a personal inspiration of mine: an author of a book I often reread: Robert Greene.

This is the man that really transformed the way I saw the world from when I was just a nerdy little teenager trying to learn about how to pick up someone (romantically) by reading some ebooks, to a sort of...not quite enlightened but certainly more thoughtful young adult that really questioned the motivations and perspective behind certain actions people took. This is the author that penned: The Art of Seduction, The 48 Laws of Power and as you’re probably aware I’m obsessed with his book Mastery.   This is also a portrait done from a photograph so in order to engage with the subject I really had to do research into the life and imagine the story of who they are if they were a breathing person in front of me.

This is the man that really transformed the way I saw the world from when I was just a nerdy little teenager trying to learn about how to pick up someone (romantically) by reading some ebooks, to a sort of...not quite enlightened but certainly more thoughtful young adult that really questioned the motivations and perspective behind certain actions people took. This is the author that penned: The Art of Seduction, The 48 Laws of Power and as you’re probably aware I’m obsessed with his book Mastery. 

This is also a portrait done from a photograph so in order to engage with the subject I really had to do research into the life and imagine the story of who they are if they were a breathing person in front of me.

Do you have a book that you constantly go back to reread again and again? Where every time you reread it just seems to unveil some new perspective that was there when you first read it, but it wasn’t quite the time for you to absorb it; the situation in your life hadn’t aligned enough to create that opportunity for it to resonate with you. As I am going through shifts in my life and creative career I’m constantly butting into new challenges and obstacles that can really disturb me mentally and physically, and in those times it’s really important to have someone or something that can kind of encourage and mentor you through it. For me Mastery was one of those books that I could really rely on to uplift and fuel me.

I don’t know too much about Robert personally, I’m mostly just a fan of his writing, but one of his personal stories that really resonated with me was the story of his life before he found his true calling in life: writing.

It wasn’t until he was 39 when he published his first book the 48 Laws of Power, which became an instant best-seller but before then he was really drifting around from job to job, going through an estimated 80 jobs as a construction worker, translator, magazine editor, and Hollywood movie writer to name a few. (Now I’m doing the maths I don’t know how he managed that...say he started working from when he was 15, that would be an estimated 3 - 4 short-lived jobs per year…)

But as he describes in his books Mastery, sometimes you need to go through all those things that weren’t really quite suitable for you to eventually find something that is perfect for you. I always joke when I’m introducing Greene’s works to friends by describing them as self-help books for people who don’t believe in self-help books. I’m a big fan of his writing because it’s so thoughtful, he really takes an observation and lays it out in clear points backed up with historical stories that are both really entertaining and memorable.

 

INSPIRATION E MARTË - (3) Pivoting from the bottom : Kim Brennan

One of the perks of starting this series is researching into the inspirations of my readers and either learning about someone who is truly admirable or finding a story in the lives of someone I might have known before but never truly understood. Sometimes the story is tinged with dark humour, sometimes it’s relatable, but it is always moving in some way, even if it’s just a little bit.  

This week’s inspiration was volunteered by my brother, Neil, a law student who takes rowing very seriously. So it came with little surprise to me when he nominated his rowing idol Kim Brennan, who won the women’s single scull at the 2017 Rio Olympics and who also happens to be a lawyer. How could one find so fitting a role model??  

My first introduction to her was a youtube video; a replay of her rowing at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She moved swiftly and consistently, the muscles in her arms bulging and making the unable-to-do-a-single-pull-up me very envious. But beyond that, I didn’t understand the finer points of rowing and while I knew how hard it must physically be to compete on an Olympic level, I couldn’t really relate. But because I’ve always enjoyed doing portraits of people I feel connected to, I did some further research into her story.

One thing I realised as I was drawing this portrait of Kim Brennan was the incredibly piercing gaze that athletes have. They always seem to be looking into the future and the potential the exists everywhere, this focus is something I love.

One thing I realised as I was drawing this portrait of Kim Brennan was the incredibly piercing gaze that athletes have. They always seem to be looking into the future and the potential the exists everywhere, this focus is something I love.

Kim has always been an athlete but she didn’t take up rowing until she was 20. Prior to taking up rowing she was actually a sprinter and a hurdler who was competing on a professional level. Going by how focused athletes are, it was hard to see how one can transition so dramatically from a sporting arena concentrated on the lower-body strength to another arena that primarily uses the upper-body. What made this 180 pivot? 

A devastating injury would be the answer. At 19 years of age she was told that her desired sporting career was over. What a thing to go through! It would be like a doctor telling me I’ve damaged some nerves in my hands and I can’t draw with any level of finesse anymore, as a teenager I would have thought it was the worst day of my life and at the time Kim thought exactly that. But now looking back and reflecting on the depth of emotional despair she had felt at that point in time, it has become her source of strength, it has become the best part for her.

It has given her not only the opportunity to find a new sport to go into but also the perspective for any future failures and dark pits of emotions. It’s something that once experienced and lived through becomes a nourishing well that one can constantly dip back into as a reminder that they can get through their current obstacle and come out stronger.

SKETCHES: BLESSING THE WAY OF BIRTH AND LIFE with Lana - (2) FRIDA KAHLO

Last Sunday I experienced my first baby shower and blessingways event. I started off the morning a little bit anxious, I’ve done life sketching before but never in such an intimate sphere. I would be entering a circle of love and care but as a stranger, an outsider, there to witness and record. I had prepared my materials the night before to cut down on any clumsiness on the day, I had with me: 2x fine artline pens, 2x medium aquash brushes filled with premixed ink, a roll of pencils and 2x stacks of 216gsm paper (just in case I messed up).

To give you some background, I was a surprise organized by Lana for the Momma to be (we’ll call her M). Lana is a close friend of M, and she had contact me only days before for this customized live sketching session. I was to rock up and sketch the blessingways ceremony (conducted by Lana from the Parents Village) and if M was comfortable, squeeze in a few nude drawings as well. (Luckily, being an petite young woman worked in my favour this time!)

 

Oftentimes we come across a mat of flowers and talks of energy beads and label it as hippie, I’m guilty of this myself. But it’s not until one actually experiences one of these understated rituals themselves that they truly grasp the meaning of them. It was an experience that made me see not only the magnitude of a birth that was coming but also the circle of love and support the new mother had around her, but more importantly it was a ritual that would make her see this without any doubt.

It starts off with Lana setting the tone, expressing that this was a safe place where everyone was not only allowed to be honest and free with the emotions but would be accepted with love. Everyone present would not only be giving support but also receiving it in turn.

A cute little detail in the circle was the presence of the mother with the newborn baby sitting directly opposite the mother to be. She blessed the water with happiness and courage along with her infant daughter.

A cute little detail in the circle was the presence of the mother with the newborn baby sitting directly opposite the mother to be. She blessed the water with happiness and courage along with her infant daughter.

This was the last ritual. Here M, the mother with the flower crown holds a bundle of red string, in which she wings around the wrist of each woman present 3 times. When the bundle arrives back the web of support she has around is made visible to her giving her warmth and strength.

This was the last ritual. Here M, the mother with the flower crown holds a bundle of red string, in which she wings around the wrist of each woman present 3 times. When the bundle arrives back the web of support she has around is made visible to her giving her warmth and strength.

 

The first ritual utilizes Dr Masaru Emoto’s thought experiments with water. Where positive and negative thoughts are experienced by water and over time changes their molecular structure, one prominent among them is the rice experiment. It works quite simply, one separates a batch of cooked rice into three containers label love, hate and ignore, speaking loving and encouraging thoughts to the one labeled love, spewing angry and hateful messages to the one labeled hate and the last jar was to be ignored. By the end of two months the rice in the one labeled love still looked edible for something left out of the fridge for two months but the ones labeled hate and ignore were rife with mold. The most common way to cook rice is with 2 parts water making it around 66% water based; just as Humans are 60% water, and the brain and heart is 73%.

In this ritual, Lana presents a cup of water that is passed around the circle. Each person blesses the water with a loving quality they wish upon the unborn baby, which the mother drinks at its zenith.

My personal favourite was the bead ritual, where a string was passed around the circle and each of the women in the circle would recite qualities that they admire about M and think will help her in birthing the child, adding a bead for each quality. The necklace was then tied up and given to M, being something that she could hold onto during the birth, reminding her of the characteristicsinnate in her and the love and support of her friends present with her.

Although I was only present in the capacity as an artist, I was touched by this gentle yet strong show of friendship as everyone opened up about what they loved about each other and allowed themselves to be vulnerable. I had only known them for two hours but I feel so privileged to be there for such an intimate moment that could only be cultivated by the trial of time. As I scribbled onto paper hoping to record the connection, I was strongly reminded by my own circle of friends who are constantly with me whether present or not. I was reminded by how they were there in times of need and how their belief in the person I am carried me through.

If you're an expecting mother or know someone who will be, I highly recommend this blessing way service that The Parents Village provides. It's truly empowering to witness and I can only imagine that it is even more so to be involved in the circle. 

 

 

To end this entry, I will be presenting the Inspiration of the Week, nominated by Lana: Frida Kahlo, a woman who coincidentally also sports a flower crown on her head.

Here, it might surprise you because I've talked so much about the bold, direct gaze of Frida, but here, her gaze is actually depicted away from the audience into her inner world. This is simply because I love creating portraits of greater intimacy. where the sitter does not feel a need to put a face on to deal with their outer world.

Here, it might surprise you because I've talked so much about the bold, direct gaze of Frida, but here, her gaze is actually depicted away from the audience into her inner world. This is simply because I love creating portraits of greater intimacy. where the sitter does not feel a need to put a face on to deal with their outer world.

Most of us know Frida Kahlo as the Mexican artist with the monobrow, which she depicted consistently in her self-portraits. As a child who first saw her paintings on a poster up in the art classroom wall, I was not impressed. I had a monobrow myself, which while I was not bothered by, it wasn’t my standard of beauty either and there was too much yellow in my opinion (I have an irrational dislike of the colour yellow, it probably won’t surprise you that when I first saw Van Gogh I wasn’t too impressed either lol, though it’s since become one of favourites). But as I revisited her story when I was older, I saw past the bold, cool glare that she is always challenging the audience with and I saw a character of great emotional complexity and sensitivity.

It reminds me of a small anecdote Carlos Fuentes once made on their first meeting of Frida Kahlo.

Right in the middle of the overture in an Opera production, played in The Palace of Fine Arts, New Mexico a noise invaded the theatre that silenced even the orchestra. When everyone’s attention turned to the balcony where the noise came from they were greeted by the regal entrance of Frida Kahlo bedecked in jewels, necklaces, rings, bracelets and everything in between, all jangling with their own tune. To the casual observers it was all too ostentatious, but if you knew her and her story, then maybe you would be able to guess that they were there to distract attention from the weakness of her body. Frida had survived polio as a child, she had survived a bus accident in her adolescence that left her pelvis fractured and speared by an iron handrail. But just as her gaze was always firm to hide the thoughts inside, she dressed and carried herself in a way that made transcend her physical world.