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calvinlaiart
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ArtistSan FranciscoUnited States

I collect moments. If you look through my collection you'll see paintings of people I've met, places I've been, and things I've seen.

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ABOUT ME

I collect moments. If you look through my collection you'll see paintings of people I've met, places I've been, and things I've seen. As an artist with roots in classical realism, it's important for me to paint moments realistically. But solely painting realism feels incomplete, and it can become a bit too academic for me. It's not only about the visual recreation that is crucial  in my work. Instilling a sensation within my pieces holds an equal amount of relevance. I want to make my audience feel that they are walking down a rainy street, climbing up a sun drenched hill, or sitting in front of a loved one. I want a viewer to feel the moments I collect.

 

In my work, I find myself breaking free from traditional ways of painting and incorporating much more expressive means. I place highly developed detail next to looser, almost abstract, areas. I'm fascinated with how to combine near photographic rendering alongside the roughness of the palette knife, or the randomness of a loaded brush. This combination of realism and Impressionism techniques creates a natural tension in my paintings, as well as directs where I want the eye to travel. I also create compositions outside of conventional rules and gravitate towards subjects that do not necessarily follow a standard of beauty. There is a bit of provocation in all of this, as I am playing off of and challenging the traditional ways art should be, but it is also an invitation. An encouragement to see what else beauty entails.

BIOGRAPHY

Calvin Lai's art is a mixture of medicine, meditation, and personal growth. He found early on that drawing was something he loved, and to make a picture appear lifelike became his goal. Through constantly drawing, Calvin’s work began to breath, and his fascination with value and perspective led him to become a student of realism. Eventually, he moved from where he grew up in Los Angeles to San Francisco. There he studied drawing and printmaking at San Francisco State University. In 2008, he enrolled in the Academy of Art for illustration, but began painting instead. He found that he preferred the fine arts over commercial illustration, and now works as a full time oil painter.

 

Since then he has continued to develop and refine his oil painting skills. Lai’s work has been shown nationally in galleries, group exhibitions and juried shows. He has executed a large number of commissioned portraits over the past several years, and his paintings have appeared in national and international publications. Throughout his career, Calvin Lai has expanded his focus from figurative and portraiture to encompass a variety of subjects such as still lifes to the San Francisco cityscape. Now he has no borders to what he chooses to paint, and he is driven to capture everything around him through his paints, brushes, and determination.

TECHNIQUE

I come from a realism background. Rendering accurately is essential for my artistic integrity. But I came to a point as a painter where my drive towards accuracy became a cage. Art began to feel more of a struggle. As an artist one always is working towards figuring out their style, but the direction I was going became less and less inspiring. I needed to change. It started with how I approached the background. I left the edges of my paintings less developed leaving obvious brushstrokes and paint drips and even letting the canvas underneath show through. This allowed me to feel more freedom as I worried less about making the whole composition highly detailed, and added techniques that allowed me to be more expressive. This change pushed me towards a major shift in my painting as I purposefully chose certain areas in the composition to be rendered less. Whether the detail in these areas would be slightly realistic or close to Impressionism, my main intention was to suggest detail, and the suggestion of detail has been the most powerful tool in the evolution of my style.

To render an object or a person with realism is a very specialized and difficult skill. It is something that I will always employ in all of my work, but the reduction of detail in order to suggest an object or a feature has been a far more challenging lesson for me. I had to learn how to reduce what I saw around me to its basic shapes and colors, and break down my subjects into their most essential elements. I believe it was during this time when I finally began to understand the power of oil painting. It's ability to create very fine details, as well as it's natural tendency to be very general, opens up a new wave of creative possibilities within my art. I render highly detailed focal points and place them next next to areas that are much less developed. This adds energetic movement throughout the composition, and the combination gives vibrancy to my paintings that I did not have before. As my style became looser, my work has become more engaging. I feel that a person's own imagination will fill in detail that is not there in order to complete a picture that is less rendered. My love and passion for art was reignited by becoming less obsessed with rendering every inch of the canvas. It allows me to become more painterly.

EXPERTISE
AWARDS

2018

Honorabel Mention. Artists Magazine's Annual Art Competition. Artists Magazine

Honorable Mention - Painting Category. Cityscapes Art Exhibition. Light, Space and Time Online Art Gallery

2017

First Place/ The Bold Brush Award. Bold Brush Painting Competition December 2017. FASO Fine Art Studio Online

Finalist. Bold Brush Painting Competition October 2017. FASO Fine Art Studio Online

Fellowship. Clark Hulings Fund Busniess Accelerator Program. Clark Hulings Fund

2016

Finalist. 12th International ARC Salon. Art Renewal Center, Port Reading, NJ

Merit Award. Best of America. National Oil & Acrylic Painter's Society, Bella Vista, AR

Finalist. Artists Magazine's Annual Art Competition. Artists Magazine, Ash, OH

2015

Finalist. Artists Magazine's Annual Art Competition. Artists Magazine, Ash, OH

3rd place Painting Category. Figurative 2015 Art Exhibition. Light, Space and Time Online Art Gallery

6th place Overall Category. Figurative 2015 Art Exhibition. Light, Space and Time Online Art Gallery

Finalist. Bold Brush Painting Competition. FASO Fine Art Studio Online

2012

Finalist. Artists Magazine's Annual Art Competition. Artists Magazine, Ash, OH

PAST EXHIBITIONS

Solo Exhibitions

2015

Divergent Tendencies, 625 Sutter Gallery, San Francisco, CA

2014

Art Murmur, Awaken Cafe, Oakland, CA

2012

The Pour House, San Francisco, CA
 

Group Exhibitions

2018

Small Works Holiday Show, Christian Daniels Gallery, San Francisco, CA

Cityscapes 2018, Christian Daniels Gallery, San Francisco, CA

People and Places, Christian Daniels Gallery, San Francisco, CA

Streets of San Francisco, Christian Daniels Gallery, San Francisco, CA

Spring Showcase, Christian Daniels Gallery, San Francisco, CA

Urban Landscapes, Christian Daniels Gallery, San Francisco, CA

2017

Cats Vs. Dogs, The Vendue, Charleston SC

Art Auction, Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento CA

Urbana Contra Naturaleza, Wonderland SF, San Francisco, CA

In Dreams, Spoke NYC, New York, NY

Lover's Eye, Modern Eden Gallery, San Francisco, CA

2016

The Best of America, National Oil & Painters' Acrylic Society, Addison Art Gallery, Orleans, MA

Fall Gallery Night, Art Room, exhibited at Brik, Fort Worth, TX

Anniversary Show, Wonderland SF, San Francisco, CA

Portraits of Friends, Modern Eden Gallery, San Francisco, CA

Art Auction, Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA

2015

Wes Anderson Art Show, Spoke Art, exhibited at Joseph Gross Gallery, New York, NY

Never, Never, Ever Land, Wonderland SF, San Francisco, CA

Portraits of Strangers, Someones, and Nobodies, 111 Minna Gallery, San Francisco, CA

2013

Wanderlust, Modern Eden Gallery, San Francisco, CA

Chillin' Productions Annual Holiday Show, 111 Minna Gallery, San Francisco, CA

The Seven Deadly Sins, Wonderland SF, San Francisco, CA

SmithKlein Gallery, Boulder, CO

ODC Theater, San Francisco, CA

2012

Notorious, Modern Eden Gallery, San Francisco, CA

Art Matters Encore! San Marino League, San Marino, CA

2011

Character, Million Fishes Gallery, San Francisco, CA

Academy of Art Spring Show, Academy of Art University, San Francisco, CA

2010

Faces and Figures, Pacific Art League, Palo Alto, CA

PUBLICATIONS

2019

Artists Magazine Annual Art Competition, Artists Magazine

2016

Artists Magazine Annual Art Competition, Southwest Art

Vogue's Gallery, British Vogue March Edition

2013

Back cover, Harmonica Happenings

Artists Magazine Annual Art Competition, Southwest Art

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