WHO's NEXT? KEINOK CHAN
Updated: Aug 9, 2019
A colour blind artists and father whose work inspires meaning speaks to Geneyclee Gallery about his journey, his experiences, inspirations and shares with young artists some personal advice.
Q. Tell us about your journey as a self-taught artist.
A. I started participating art lessons when I was five years old. Drawing was only my interest until 16 years old. I met my high school art teacher at that time, I didn’t think of taking art in the future, not even senior high school, therefore, it was my final year of leaning art in high school and I decided to take this year seriously. This changed my mindset and set my foundation for my future journey. I started to read books about fine art history and biographies of different artists. I realized most of the artists valued sketching very much and I started to teach myself sketching by using online resources, mainly YouTube.
Besides that, I have red-green color blindness, therefore, I have difficulties to distinguish color. To cope with this problem, I only use the primary color and limited palettes. Using limited palettes is a really good source for training your brain and eye to perceive objects, such as breaking down a color by analyzing the tone and the value.
The way I practice is fairly simple, there are three parts, they are measuring, drawing and critic. First, measuring is the most important thing in my work, it can be proportional or not proportional, measuring is also involved. I use rulers a lot at the beginning of my journey which set a concept of proportion. Once I have a concept of proportion, I started to practice my free-hand drawing, this is a very long process, and it has to be repeated a lot times. What I mean is you have to go back to your old drawing to spot the difference against the reference photos or object. Try to take photos of the “finished work” and keep comparing with the references.
Once I gain confidence of my hard skills, I applied to my oil painting and paint freely. I always have ideas and I love constructing my painting with brushes. I don’t really “plan” and design, I just painted with imagination, but I do find reference photos if I want more details of certain part of my painting.
"I have red-green color blindness"
Q. What is the message you want your viewers to understand when admiring your work?
A. I don't induce too much deep meaning in the painting, like I just want the audience to perceive in their ways. I'm more stressed on the method and the structure of the paintings, the content is rich enough, no need to emphasize it. The set, the atmosphere and the people are sufficient to create a story. However, there are always different classes in my paintings, such as age and social status. People already have their fix belief about the class, like the conflict and tensions. When the audiences perceive the paintings, they may put their beliefs in and make the paintings "meaningful". For me, my work is just a platform for the views to explore or understand the world more.
Q. In your career, what has been an unforgettable experience?
A. I won’t say it is my career but I am trying to build it up. The most unforgettable experience is that “I decide to build up my career as an artist”. I set myself a deadline to create my unfinished collection, which I should have started a year ago, namely my “Hong Kong Collection”. I really enjoy pushing myself to create and paint after work, I have to be disciplined and concentrated. I like the achievements of finishing a project. From structuring to executing, I have learnt a lot and have explored the relationship between impressionist, post-impressionist and cubism throughout the paintings.
Q. Why is being an artist important to you?
A. I would say “At the end of the day, money follows people and people follow dream”. Living in a life that can do something that you adore and that can motivate you is a bliss. I always ask myself a question, let’s say you work really hard, you have a great income and also have a good family, I encourage my children to do something that they enjoy and they ask me “what do you enjoy doing the most?” Maybe I'm not able to answer them because I didn’t do the most enjoyable thing. At this stage, being an artist to me, I would say it’s an attempt, life is always related to attempt, “life is like a box of chocolate”, you have to try in order to know what will you get. That’s why being an artist is important to me, not just because I can do something that I enjoy or it’s my dream, it’s a process to me as well, you learn and grow. At the end of the day, you may not get the corresponding or expected outcome, but at least you tried, it’s another form of success, in my opinion.
Q. What in life inspires your work?
A. What in life inspires my work… I would say psychology and philosophy. I study these subjects at college and I really enjoy studying these subjects. They expand my knowledge and help me to engage more with the society at a different level. Objects are just objects, color is color per se. However, if you create a value to the objects, they will become alive. Just like you asked me “What is the message you want your viewers to understand when admiring your work?” Some logic follows here, my work is just a platform for the views to explore or understand the world more. What inspires me should be the same as what inspires the audiences, not really my work but the expression of the beauty of the knowledge, my work is a mediator between the audience and the knowledge.
Q. What kind of advice can you share with young artists working hard to have successful art careers?
A. I am not successful at all, but if you ask me what advice to share. I could say be consistent and disciplined and be realistic. Being consistent is necessary to be successful in any areas, it’s easy to do something or paint or draw when you just started, when the spark is still here. The most challenging thing is to be consistent, because it is boring. Someone may argue if you like something, you will do it. However, people are not motivated every day, sometime you feel down, sometime you feel lazy or something comes up which interfere your progress. That’s fine, but you still have to do something, maybe something easier, pick up a pencil and sketch something for may be just an hour, that’s a progress already. And try to set up a flexible schedule for yourself, what it mean is you have to do art for maybe two hours, you don’t have to give a specific time frame for it, as long as you will do it, morning, afternoon, evening, midnight, doesn't really matter if it fits your schedule, be water.
Being realistic, being a professional artist is not easy, if it affects your daily life, maybe find a job and keep creating and keep trying. You can’t just stuck there and hoping something will come to you but you can prepare for the opportunity. It is a marathon not a sprint. If you only focus on the short term goal and you are not rewarded, you will get fed up easily and you may give up eventually. Just keep up. Keep trying.
Thank you Keinok, it was inspiring and a pleasure speaking to you.
Make sure you follow his progress by following her on social media