Please follow me on instagram, @hyeseungs, if you're interested - I post these a bit more quickly there. Thank you so much!
I spent most of December at a residency at the Vermont Studio Center and am in the midst of preparing for two fall shows (dates TBD).
Please drop by my OPEN STUDIO WEEKEND next month if you'd like to see what I have been up to!
Saturday, March 3 and Sunday, March 4
59 Scholes Street #207 | Brooklyn
Here is a thumbnail gallery of a few works that will be available during my open studio weekend. Pls contact me at hyeseungs(at)gmail(dot)com for pricing. Thank you!
Afternoon Update: Sold! Thanks, Social Media!
I had some trouble getting to sleep and staying that way last night. I finally decided the hell with it and got up at 4 am this morning, and had my first of three breakfasts (cold pizza). I decided to give up on my painting of Lilo-- there was some major distortion in the transfer when I projected the drawing, and I have been fighting with it for days. I will retransfer next week, using a copy instead of projecting. I was disappointed in the hours lost and the frustration, so I decided to get some instant gratification and do a quick alla prima (after my second breakfast of overnight oats).
The morning light is weak into the kitchen, which is far away from the wall of windows in my apartment. The shadows cast by the pots above the stove are beautiful in that early time-- very quiet, very somber. I worked on that this morning for a few hours, though it was very challenging given there wasn't too much light on my canvas at the start.
In progress... this was supposed to be done in January, but it got away from me. I'm working on the tattoo right now. This is the first pass, and then it'll get knocked down and look like a real tat soon. Right now, it's too bright, etc.
Writer Tommy Zurhellen is re-imagining Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in Nazi-era Germany. His work is entitled Frankenstein: Konfidential. Tommy and I will be collaborating on a project together this year where I make a series of paintings inspired by his book. The beginning of the first painting is below.
This painting is about 7-feet x 11.5-feet in size and is still in progress, but it is just about there; I'm keeping it relatively open. There is a light-installation component to it as well.
I also started another painting of one of Tommy's characters, a young woman named Lilo, who is a Nazi Resistance fighter and a student of Professor Viktor Frankenstein. Here's the beginning of that, too:
I started both of these at these at the Vermont Studio Center, where I had a residency this past December. It was a beautiful time.
This is a portrait of Molly - her mother commissioned me to paint her high school graduation portrait last year. In their family, when the children graduate from high school, they choose a painter who they want to have do their portrait, and I was very honored to have been picked by Molly. I kept her head, especially her eyes, the focus of the painting, and the rest of her unresolved, to reflect her incipience as she is away from her family for the first time.
I put together a little 50-second video on youTube with muzak- if you're interested in watching.
Finished and delivered the fairy tale piece a couple of weeks ago. Gus Lammers and I installed it (slid the thing onto a French cleat screwed into drywall) after taking photos at my place. Here are some images--the more saturated ones are truer in color. Thanks to my go-to repro maven Alayna Citrin for helping out post.
Left top: Crone
Left bottom: the Crone-Turned-Sexy-Witch who casts the spell on the withholding prince and turns him into a hairy beast.
Middle Top: Beauty ministering to the Beast after problems with Mr. Bad Guy who comes after him.
Middle Big: Beauty and the Beast(-Turned-Sexy-Prince). That's a fire-and-ice rose that they're hanging out in.
Right top: Bad Guy getting his just deserts.
Right bottom: Beast not knowing what the hell is happening to himself but not to worry-- soon to be a Sexy Prince again.
These are hands...
I forgot to sign this sucker.
I was asked to give a TEDx at my alma mater. Here it is.
The castle commission will be a painting of a fairy tale. The client's four-year-old daughter is very enamored of story of Beauty and the Beast-- specifically the Disney version. However, he's given me creative carte blanche-- very exciting-- and I've decided to follow the traditional version of the tale, written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villleneuve, and published in 1740 (no Gaston in this one), and update it in a visual language that is more contemporary, with modern haute couture fashion and imaginary landscapes with ruins and reliquaries (the kind that I normally paint), while incorporating dream-like illustrative elements.
One of the main challenges right now isn't the initial drawings or esquisses for the castle, but the preparation of the wood itself.
I can't afford to work with models long-term for this project right now-- and even if I had the money, my schedule is so whacked out: I doubt anyone would want to come by the studio at 5:30 in the mornings during the week when I do my work before getting dressed to go to my day job at the bank (hello to my boss, dear friend and Mama bear at my new job, Michele: here is your shout out!). So as a sane alternative, I asked my friends Amy and Pablo if I could take some reference photos. I don't usually work from photos unless I'm painting children who have a tough time sitting still. (See here for a long, and earnest, manifesto about my feelings about the use of photographic reference in painting).
Here is the drawing that I did from the reference photo. You can see that I used it especially for proportions. Deciphering where Pablo's mouth, chin and nose began and ended was challenging because of his healthy beard; I didn't want facial hair on the Prince character, since the Beast was going to be mad hairy.
As an alternative, I asked the client, 33, to take a picture of his profile and send it to me. I thought it might be fun to use his nose and mouth as a reference since he's a good-looking guy. He sent me the following picture:
I have done loads of portraits of profiles over the years, so I will use those paintings as references. See below "McCallum" and "Ninotchka."
Here's the drawing for the left door (open). It's the sorceress that turns the Prince into the mad hairy beast. She's going to look a little steam punk, a little BDSM.
The next drawing/painting is going to go here:
I'm kind of cheating with the background of this painting. I originally thought to do something very illustrative, very Mucha, and have all these cool birches going straight up and down, but now I'm thinking to do a variation of my "Ode to Caspar David Friedrich," which I painted a few years ago in my Sunset Park studio.
Ok. It's President's Day and I don't have to go to my day job, so now it's time to kick it big time in the studio. Hope you guys enjoyed this blog post. I think there will be subsequent ones quickly following (though "the best laid plans of mice and men"....)
I recently got a job at an investment bank in Midtown. I really like it, but the whole process has been pretty intense. Consequently, it's been a challenge figuring out how to get to my own work, which is my main priority and which has also ramped up in the past couple of weeks. Obviously, posting here has fallen off precipitously. All's been quiet with one of my projects for the past few months as the fabrication of has gone out of my hands and into more capable ones-- Augustus Lammers' of East Brunswick.
The commission is to create a kind of book with paintings of a fairy tale for my client's four-year-old daughter. The original commission was two portraits of the client's son and daughter, which is sort of more my speed, so this was a very different kind of project for me. I decided I wanted to design a triptych based on wooden altarpieces of the past-- a much simpler, and of course, infinitely humbler version of the Ghent altarpiece. (Embarrassing to even refer to Jan van Eyck's work in the same sentence as mine.)
These are my initial mockups, with scale. Scroll left to right.
The first iteration of the commission was HUGE, but the client decided he wanted it a lot smaller, which is actually a bit more difficult, because little jigsaw piece where I'll paint will be smaller: this means tinier brushes :). This is not always easier.
Gus is obviously a master craftsman. Here's the finished fabrication, with varnish and stains, before I start going at it myself.
This post took me a ridiculously long time to write, mostly because Squarespace had big-time issues and bumped me about a dozen times. I hope the two of you out there in the world who read it enjoyed it. I am very excited to get started on the painting.
Saturday night in Roscoe, New York, was cold. Very cold.
My friends Kristin Künc and Josh Young have an incredible several acres Upstate in the Catskills near Roscoe, and last weekend was peak foliage-- perfect time to bust out the oils and the M-box. My friend, the painter Chris Eastland (aka "Jesus"), and I were lucky enough to spend Saturday and Sunday with Kristin plein air painting on and around the property. Though the fire in the wood-burning stove going out at three o'clock in the morning in the small cabin we were sleeping in made for a "brisk" sleep, the weekend was absolutely perfect, and the daylight hours no less.
The resourceful Josh, who owns Serett Metalworks where the inimitable Gowanus Ballroom is housed, has planted all kinds of trees and bushes on the land, which has a creek and a little pond, too. Here's a painting of an apple tree that I did. It was the first painting I made when I got out there-- the throwaway painting, the "burnt pancake," so to speak.
On Saturday night, Josh, Shane, and Wyatt made a gigantic bonfire. I've been steering clear of beer for a while, but, hey, nothing like one (or three) after a day of plein air painting.
No plein air trip into the Catskills would be complete without a stop at the Goshen Diner. I had a chicken parm wrap with French fries. I ate them all-- with the nonorganic ketchup. You might say I like it dangerous when it comes to my potatoes.
In the past week, there was a mass shooting in Oregon, which drew the focus of the national media and the ire of President Obama who used it as another opportunity to push the gun control debate, as well as two shootings in Baltimore, which unsurprisingly have drawn less attention.
Apparently, it's National Mental Health Awareness Week, but there's not been much consciousness raising in my opinion, and we're hearing very little about mental illness in general, except in relation to this mass shooting at a community college in Oregon, which left 10 people dead, including the gunman, and nine people injured. One bright spot this week was when the host of "Last Week Tonight," John Oliver, delivered this incisive segment on his show:
Instead of focusing on gun control, talking mental illness, when the mentally ill are more likely to be victims-- not perpetrators-- of gun violence, is simply misdirection.
Suzy Favor Hamilton's memoir "Fast Girl" just came out a week ago and I got my hands on it at the Brooklyn Public Library and flew through it. (Incidentally, I'm doing the library a lot these days because I'm currently sans money, and also-- did you know?-- libraries are awesome.)
Favor Hamilton is a three-time Olympic middle-distance runner, and a bipolar. I have a theory about runners' personalities. In the season I ran track in high school, I was a short-distance runner. In my experience, sprinters are a different breed from the long-distance runners-- cut from a different cloth. We sprinters, running the 100-meter, 200-meter, are extroverts--impatient and maybe even intellectually lazy because things come, you got it, faster for us. When I was in high school, the long-distance runners, I noticed, were more introverted, less joining, and the cross-country kids in college were among the most intellectual of us all, going on to get Ph.D.'s and filling the ranks of top tier academia. It makes sense that the long-distance runners have the more cerebral ethos given the technique and strategy they have to deploy to win the long game. No doubt we sprinters have technique, strategy and work ethic, too, but let's be real; mostly it's just (a) push off the starting block as hard as you can, and (b) run as fast as you can for less than 10 seconds. Middle-distance runners, I suppose, have to bridge those two extremes.
Favor Hamilton's memoir traces the arc of her life from her first successes as a young runner to her astounding athletic achievements in college, to her disappointing showings at the Olympics, and finally to her explosively self-destructive mania when she became "Kelly," Las Vegas' Number 2 escort. She was ultimately outed and subsequently diagnosed with bipolar. The memoir, written in conjunction with Sarah Tomlinson, is an easy read and the story moves very quickly-- no boring stuff and thank God, no groan-inducing terrible writing. The book is very tightly structured, and it's clear she wrote partly as a way to educate her readers about mental illness (Her brother also suffered from bipolar and committed suicide when she was younger.)-- and she does this without being insufferable! A true achievement! I enjoyed most her times in college when she was kicking major ass as an athlete as well as of course the more prurient details of the double life she led as a Las Vegas escort. After all, I like to read about people (a) succeeding and (b) having sex, just as much as the next person. Favor Hamilton's memoir deserves to be a success.
I am working hard, but I am hardly painting, because I'm in the throes of finishing my book, Head Study: A Life In Two Extremes.
For the first time in a while though, I'm also doing a lot of reading, which isn't always possible when you're in a medically-induced brain-fog. In a brain-fog, medically-induced or not, you get stupid. Very stupid.
I'm reading a lot of bipolar memoirs. You'd think that this would be gun-to-the-head depressing, but it's only claw-your-eyes-out annoying. Juuuuuust kidding. There are a lot of meh memoirs out there, and there are a lot of overtly titillating ones, too (I say "overtly" because it's so obvious some editor went to the author and was like, you gotta sex this shit up.).
One memoir that is on all the "Best" lists is Andy Behrman's Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania, and it is freaking fantastic. Reading it reminds me of the time in high school when I was skiing in Aspen and coming down a hill too fast and couldn't stop and freaked out and closed my eyes and then slammed into a tree-- with my head. I had to be strapped down on a gurney, and skied down the mountain. I suffered a concussion worthy of a Texas football player and got about 14 stitches on the left side of my head behind my ear, which was hanging on by a thread (of skin). Things had been going so fast and careening out of control, and life could only stop once the earth had tasted blood.
That's what Andy Behrman's mania feels like.
This is happening, people. I'm posting. And I'm posting some more.
It's been more than a month now, but the first week of August, some of us went out to Pennsylvania, to Patty Watwood's place, and did some painting. Here's some of what happity-happed:
It was a real good group of people that Patty assembled. We all had a great time, there were lots of inside jokes by the end of the four days, and shit, if the phrase "Secrets of the Masters" comes up one more time, I swear....
My best friend Amy and I used to live in Park Slope, on President Street. We've become really good friends with the two ladies who've taken over our old apartment, so it feels like the place has stayed "in the family." The four of us try to meet up periodically and have dinner over at The Hearth on President to catch up.
The menu this time was tacos, and they were amazing, but I was on a big time cleanse so I held back for the most part (womp, womp). Nicole, Leni and Amy have been incredibly supportive since my divorce and my move back to Brooklyn after LA and Houston-- and there's been nothing but total awesomeness re: this cleanse I'm on, which is actually pretty simple: no drinking (because I was drinking heavily ALL the time, whenever I was alone and bored, too) and no eating anything but protein and vegetables. Turns out you feel better when you're not drinking like a fish and eating like a pig.
I took about an hour to do a quick sketch of the three of them at the dinner table while they were drinking the fun juice and eating the tacos:
Incidentally, I was getting a lot of flack about my weight for a while from my dad. (He's not a bad dude- it's just a cultural thing. Ahhh, Korea.) Over the past year, I gained about...wait for it...20 pounds! CRAZY! I'm 5'2", so anything more than two pounds is quite noticeable on my small frame. I think I was loving drinking like a fish and eating like a pig, but also I am on a VERY high dosage of Abilify, an anti-psychotic notorious for causing weight-gain. It's also notorious for being awesome for bipolar people, so you just go with the flow sometimes. Anyway, the cleanse helped. Here's a picture of me from that night at The Hearth, where I'm striking distance of striking distance of my normal weight:
You gotta read this email exchange I had with my brother and my dad which ensued after I sent them the picture:
I guess I have cheekbones again and I look skiny.
I'm rebranding this blog. When I did blog before, from my old website, I usually only put up articles about realist painting, events I was participating in, and stuff I was doing in the studio. I migrated all those old posts here in case you're interested, but now I want to talk more broadly AND more specifically. I want to talk about the creative life as I live it: both as a writer and a painter, and as a person who used to use her professional work to medicate and manage bipolar illness. (Hint: Not a great idea.)
I guess that means putting up pictures of Rumi quotes I've written in my diary. Not cheesy at all.
THIS IS AN OLD ESSAY I WROTE AND POSTED ON MY OLD WEBSITE. IT'S FREAKING LONG IS ALL I CAN SAY.
Anyone can be a photographer these days thanks to their 8-MP cellphone cameras and Instagram, and the digital images we are bombarded with today are so numerous that many of us never even get around to printing out our jpegs and making the electronic files physical. Nevertheless, people are still awed by the painted portrait.
I work in the visual language of realism. My portraits are “realistic” insofar as they resemble the people who are sitting for them. If I paint Nancy, I would hope that most people who knew Nancy would be able to point to the portrait and say, “that’s a portrait of Nancy,” which would mean I captured some universal truths about Nancy that others see in her as well. But I would hope that they would also realize the addition of some other truths as well, truths they might not known before about Nancy but that I observed and distilled.
Sometimes well-wishers tell me that my paintings look “just like photos,” and sometimes I’m even given the shorthand of “photorealist,” whatever that means. I am not sure that true photorealists would actually stand to be grouped with the likes of me, and while the comparison of my paintings to photographs is meant as a compliment, I take gentle issue with it.
I hope that my paintings, which I see as interpretations of moments or events, diverge a great deal from what a photograph of the same historical moment – or even a painting made from such a photograph—might convey. As a realist painter, my overarching goal isn’t to record and to record accurately. If that were the case, I’d think my work is irrelevant, and I would happily cede ground to photography, which is a beautiful and informative medium, which has, just as any other medium, its advantages and disadvantages. As a human, I bring my own personality, experiences, and technical skill to a subject: by accident or will, I make certain decisions that are different from those a camera would make about the same subject, especially if that subject is a living, breathing and changing person. I will trust my faulty eye over the mechanical precision of the camera’s, for even technically there is an argument to be made that lenses suffer from distortion and do not rise to the sensitivity levels of human scotopic vision. A camera is made to record whatever is in front of it, and most of the time, rather quickly: an infinitesimal point in time is captured and magnified. But a portrait captures more than a moment, more than 1/2000th of a second, say, and is a historical record of the interaction of two people, which, when successful elicits a truth about the subject as distilled through and shaped by an artist’s worldview, and not a machine’s. To that end, perhaps I was wrong to say that the goal of my work is not to record accurately: perhaps it’s better to say that the goal is to record accurately according to my own lights, and not to another person’s and certainly not to a machine’s.