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  • Writer's pictureKOH-I-NOOR HARDTMUTH

"I’ve spent thousands of hours working with oil paints" • Jon Ching

Jon Ching is a self-trained artist originally from Kaneohe, Hawaii and currently lives and creates in California.

He regularly works to bring awareness to endangered species, the current mass extinction crisis and climate change and continues to partner with environmental organizations in fundraising and educational efforts.

In Koh-i-noor we got fascinated by Jon’s work and it’s surreal imagining of what limitless wonders and combinations nature can produce. Get to know more about his oil paintings and his journey in this interview.

Jon, what or who introduced you to the world of visual arts?

When I was a teenager, my mom came back from a trip to Prague with a deck of playing cards with the work of Alphonse Mucha and seeing his work really opened my eyes to the world of art. I would draw his lithographs, learning from his bold line work and subtle shading and from then on I looked at the world differently.

For how long have you been a full-time artist?

I’m in my 6th year, though it feels a lot longer than that!

Where do you draw your inspiration for your work?

The natural world is endlessly inspiring to me. I could spend many lifetimes painting the unique aspects of nature and never get bored!

Climate change, endangered species and social issues inspire the themes of my work as I try to convey my thoughts on the issue, raise awareness, or start a conversation.

Have you ever created with other techniques than oil painting?

Before painting I drew a lot. It formed the foundation of my oil painting and I hope to make more time to draw with pencils again. I also have a love for ceramics and have spent years on the wheel. That is also something I’d love to pursue again as I’ve put it aside to focus on painting. The same goes for photography, which I am able to continue to practice, but wish I could do more. I just love to create and enjoy learning new mediums and techniques.

Why do you prefer oil painting to other techniques?

I love how versatile my process can be with oil painting. I can work in many thin layers, refining as I go, or more direct painting with plenty of time to blend. I think the depth of color with oil paint is unmatched. Honestly though, I work with oil because it’s what I’ve invested my time and resources in. I’ve spent thousands of hours working with the medium and I think if I had put that much time into another medium, I’d prefer that one.

Have you ever used Koh-i-noor products in your art?

Yes! I have a set of soft and oil pastels from Koh-i-noor and think that is pretty much the standard. And of course I’ve used the graphite and colored pencils as well.

Why did you choose the animal kingdom as your main expression?

I just stumbled upon the animal kingdom through a book of birds my partner gave me as a present and I’ve been hooked ever since. At first I was attracted to their movement in flight, but as I looked closer at their details, I became more fascinated.

Later I realized animals could help me comment on the human world and experience without getting too specific or have things like race or sex layered ontop of those topics. I also feel like we are too human centric and enjoy painting plants and animals as a way to de-center humans and give the importance that is due back to the nature world, especially now when we are such a destructive force.

Do you paint other motifs besides animals and plants?

I used to paint people a lot, but not anymore.

If you had to choose 3 artists who inspire you, who would they be?

As I mentioned before, Alphonse Mucha was an early favorite. Egon Schiele is another favorite and I wonder sometimes what art would look like today if he hadn’t passed at such a young age. Contemporarily, James Jean is a huge inspiration for me in his ability to make beautiful art and having built such an amazing art career.

Which of the artistic directions or styles is closest to you and why?

I supposed surrealism because the work I make is often of a surreal nature. I’m not sure if magical realism is an artistic style, but I’d feel closer to that as I love exploring the magic of nature in a realistic manner.

What exhibition did you visit last and what inspired you there?

Before the pandemic, I went to many gallery exhibitions and I still got to view a few even during the pandemic. But the last museum exhibition I went to was maybe The Book of Beasts at the Getty Museum, featuring medieval works of fantastical beasts. It was very interesting to see what people really believed existed back then and to see how some beasts still live in our imaginations.

Do you remember your first show?

Definitely! I was part of a large group show and had a last minute invitation to participate. I think I had maybe 2 weeks to make a piece and it was the first and last painting that I delivered lightly wet! I still have that painting and it’s a nice reminder of where it all started.

Do you have an unforgettable experience from your artist career you would like to share with us?

There is a certain energy at opening receptions where serendipity has been strong and with me and has created big moments in my career. It’s maybe too long to mention here, but in those moments I felt like I was in the right place at the right time and I will never forget it.

What are your plans for 2022?

Parenthood! I’m expecting my first child in August and very excited to start the new journey of being a father. I’m going to take it easy for a while and am looking forward to slowing down a bit. Soon enough though I will be working on a solo show in September 2022 at Beinart Gallery in Melbourne.



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