Watercolorist Soon Y. Warren was born in South Korea. She immigrated to the United States in 1987. Her favorite subjects are those found in nature: people, animals, trees, a tangerine, pear, oriental poppies and she is known for her spectacular renderings of everyday objects. Creative Catalyst carries seven DVDs by Soon.
When did you become interested in art?
As long as I can remember, I have always wanted to draw and paint. My dream was to become a painter, an artist. When I saw images of painting from my sister’s school books, I couldn’t believe they were paintings. Those two dimensional images fascinated me, and they seemed magical. Then, started my childhood devotion to copy those images. Drawing was my play mate, and I wanted to learn the ways to paint, which became my lifelong dream. Therefore, I have been creating art most of my life even till this day. I am grateful that I paint full time to fulfill my dream.
What inspires you?
I like subjects that are pretty and make me happy. I always look for interesting compositions created by natural form or light. I often use subject matter from still lives.
Is art a spiritual experience for you?
I am not sure if art is a “spiritual” experience for me. I love it, and it never has and will wear out of my passion. Creating painting makes me happy, and I get up each morning looking forward to it. That is one thing I know for sure.
Did you go to art school? How did it prepare you for a life as an artist? How did it not prepare you?
I have AAS degree in commercial art. Although I had been painting for more than a decade, I have been working without painting for several years before I returned to school at middle age. The school taught me to widen my concept of art, art history, understanding of expression, and new ideas rather than technical aspects of painting. I struggled to understand all aspect of art and the technical aspect of creating art. I had an attitude that realism is the only style I liked, and I didn't want to change that. I couldn’t understand and didn’t want to accept new ideas. The result of my stubbornness was low self-regard, and I stopped painting what I liked for a while.
After several years, I decided to paint what I like. I realized that it doesn’t matter what it is, what style it is, how good or bad it is, or how important it is. I just want to paint something that I like. I don’t have to make a statement with my painting. I just want to paint because that makes me happy.
When did you decide to make a career of it / become a full-time artist?
I wasn’t sure if I was going to make my career as a full-time artist. My husband, Peter, told me to pursue painting as I didn’t have to worry about our financial situation. That was my life-long dream and I ran with it.
Earlier in your life, before becoming a full-time artist, how did you find the time to paint? Was that a struggle? How did you balance life and art?
When I was working from nine to five, I had a hard time painting after the work. I knew that I wanted to paint whenever time permitted it, but the energy and concentration wasn’t there. This interrupted my creative energy when I tried to paint, and it was a big huddle to overcome. My personality is to focus on one thing at a time, so it was very difficult for me to combine my painting and job.
How did you approach learning to paint? Was it self-instructed? How did you use teachers, art videos and books to direct your learning process?
I have been drawing with anything in my hands since elementary school. My painting technique was trial and error, learning from colleagues or coping masters. These days, I sometimes think that if I had more access to instructional books, DVDs, or YouTube, I would have saved a ton of wasted time and the agony of frustration. However, it was all worth it.
What advice would you give about self-teaching to someone who wants to learn to paint?
Only way to learn is to keep painting, using all the tools, instructional books, DVDs, Youtube, and workshops that are available for anyone who wants to paint. How lucky for the newcomers.
Have you ever changed mediums you work in?
I sometimes use acrylic on watercolor paper that is not salvageable with watercolor pigment.
Do you work on more than one painting at a time? Describe your process.
Yes, I usually have many paintings in progress at the same time. Some of them are stuck behind for a while, several of them are in progress for many months or even years, and couple of paintings are in progress to finish. The paintings that get left behind are the ones that I have lost inspiration for. I wait for the right moment to restart these instead of struggling with them.
How do you know when to quit (a painting)?
When the overall painting is done and adding additional brush stroke doesn’t change the overall picture plane, that is the time I stop. At this point, my satisfaction is met in the painting. Then, I put the painting where I can see it regularly and check if any element or unbalanced value stands out too much from the overall painting. I make adjustments, and I am done. As my mind changes and I grow older, I sometime see things I want to fix in many of my older paintings.
How can less experienced artists find their style?
I think "style" is in each individual’s heart and desire. I see myself as a realism painter because that's what I paint 75% of time. I still have freedom to paint something I like to explore and try new things. But, I always return to the realism. The only way to find out one’s style is paint and paint again. Then, the style will be there among many paintings.
Do you teach?
Yes, I teach regularly at home and give workshops nationally and internationally. I learn when I teach, and I enjoy sharing my knowledge with anyone who wants to listen. .
Where do you see your art taking you in the next 5 to 10 years?
Where I will be in the future never crosses my mind. I know that I will keep painting.
Too learn more about watercolorist Soon Y Warren, visit her website.
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