I’ve probably been influenced by countless events, ideas, images and styles that I have yet to acknowledge as an influence. I also have the “problem” of parsing out what influenced me from what I just gravitated toward as a matter of taste.
I suppose the two go hand in hand.
In grade school, I had a particular interest in Harriet the Spy and Sherlock Holmes. Both had intriguing pass times and both were assisted by illustrations… and honestly, the … illustrations may have had more to do with drawing me to their stories than the writing; though, to be fair, the stories themselves are what kept me reading. Maybe I felt a natural affinity toward spying on people or covert activities in general. (I also liked Inspector Gadget… but not for the artwork. Obviously, it was for the cool hypothetical toys.)
Moving on to my middle and high school years, The Secret of Nimh, the 1990 animated Nutcracker Prince film, and of course, Sanrio products stand out in my memory. I usually did not choose anything from Sanrio with my own allowance, but I did get the occasional Hello Kitty stationary, as a gift, while I secretly coveted Twin Stars, not aware whatsoever of what their stories were.
So what does this say about my personal tastes? I believe I had from an early age an appreciation for dreamy atmospheric colors, and I’ve always liked a good line.
I’ve had, off and on, a small interest in stamps, and the best stamps, I believed, were the ones which had the best line work.
But what about my own stuff?
From high school and college, I sketched a handful of random drawings, which I’ve kept, and I tried pastels for a couple of months at 19. But that was all. When I finally started thinking about art as something more than what was on the surface, I gravitated toward the obvious and much college-appreciated Van Gogh — for his rhythm more than his color — and Klimt for his use of gold.
Then in 2008 – 2010 I doodled first as a distraction and then as a growing appreciation for what a “good” line could do. I also took an interest in Klee and Bauhaus for looking at art at its most basic level.
I was in school for creative writing and, sadly, a few months after I graduated I abandoned the visual arts all the way until 2017, when I found myself mesmerized by the drawings of any and all artists. I was especially moved by again very obvious choices — Da Vinci, Michealangelo, Van Gogh and Durer.
Since then, I’ve been experimenting with a variety of materials, always asking myself, “What do I like?” I know my tastes have changed, but I’ve also learned that a style can be just an idea — you need to let it develop and it doesn’t have to encapsulate the whole of one’s artistic output.
Moreover, it always helps to be aware of what’s out there.
I don’t shy away from copying others’ work, because going through the motions of recreating a given work (or attempting to) can be very revealing in how materials work (or don’t work) together and what it takes to create a given effect.
I’m currently enamored by the muted tones of classic Chinese paintings.
(Left: Copy of a detail from a painting by Li Xue Ming, Right: Copy of figures from Meguro Drum Bridge and Sunset Hill, No. 111 from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo by Hiroshige)
It had started as a duty, on some level, to be more aware of my own cultural heritage, but it’s grown to be much more.
For now, I’ve only done a couple of sketches, so while I go through the motions of putting materials and ideas to practice, I hope you’ll allow me to share with you thoughts on artists of particular interest, materials familiar and not so familiar, and even the philosophical.
Gaa Wai, by the way, refers to my common name in Chinese:
家 or “Gaa” means “family”
瑋 or “Wai” is a word for a kind of jade, or it can mean “valuable.”
It’s phonetically spelled according to the Cantonese dialect, which is spoken in and around Hong Kong.