Today we’d like to introduce you to Calvin Lai.
Hi Calvin, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
My art, and the meaning of art for me, has changed so much over the years that thinking about where I started seems like another life. With a pencil in my hand, at the age of 5, I started drawing as any child would, but it wasn’t until I carefully rendered some shoelaces around that time when I first felt the bug for art. It was this feeling that pushed me to keep drawing and learn about value, perspective, and composition. I quickly fell into realism in high school and continued to hone and refine my skills in college at San Francisco State University where I received a Bachelor’s Degree. It wasn’t until 2008 at the Academy of Art in San Francisco when I first started painting. My style these days was forged after I graduated, going from classical realism to more abstract realism.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
An artist’s road is usually a bumpy one, and mine has been filled with all sorts of debris and potholes along the way. Being a successful artist means spending time learning. Learning not just about composition, or value, or any other artistic concept but learning how to find opportunities that will give you the financial means to continue creating art. This shift away from creativity to the more practical mundane parts of running a business isn’t natural for most artists. It definitely wasn’t natural for me. Even though now I am able to make a living as an artist, I am still trying to learn better ways to reach a larger audience, better ways towards financial security, and better ways to organize my business to make it run as smooth as possible. Artists spend time creating and dreaming, but the need to ground one’s self to become a sustainable success is something that is challenging to most creative people, Along with the challenges from the outside world, there are also inner struggles that artists attempt to overcome almost every day. Being an artist is a naturally insecure state of being. I’ve yet to meet an artist that does not suffer from the complex of not being good enough. I am always dealing with these self-deprecating thoughts in regard to my skill and body of work. I feel that these inner conflicts started with my first drawing and have been scattered along the road ever since.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
My work is based in realism but often wanders into abstract and impressionistic territories. I’ve spent a lot of my artistic life doing more traditional realism, but after a while, my art felt stagnant and rudderless. I began adding visual elements in my work which pushed the realistic boundaries but gave my art a much more kinetic and expressive feel. Marks outside of an object often appear and blur into the background and the main subject matter creating motion through my brush strokes. My main love is figurative and portraits painting, but I have exhibited and sold landscapes, still lifes, and cityscapes as well. My attention to detail, combined with expressive mark-making has become a distinctive style among collectors and art lovers. The two obsessions within my art are my drive towards rendering as realistically as possible while learning how to let go and loosen up. It is this tense line that I walk along. When I can create a work that balances the two elements, I feel a success that goes beyond any monetary value.
So, before we go, how can our readers or others connect or collaborate with you? How can they support you?
I can easily be contacted through my website, my regular email, or my number. On my website, one can view and purchase available work. One can also try to reach me through Instagram. I sell my work regularly through Abend Gallery, Signet Contemporary, 33 Contemporary and Modern Eden. Also, one can go to my Artsy page to see all the available work I have through these galleries. I am also available for commissions.
- Website: www.calvinlaiart.com
- Instagram: @calvinlaiart
- Youtube: Calvin Lai Art
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/calvin-lai-art-san-francisco?osq=calvin+lai+art