An eye for the ocean
This story was featured in the April 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art April 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
When it comes to inspiration, it’s no surprise that water is an ever-flowing resource for Michelle Jung—she splits her time between the Boston area and Santa Cruz, CA, both conveniently located on the shore. Jung’s main artistic goal is to convey the captivating nature of the sea, she says. Last year her painting ROCKS AND SURF won an honorable mention in the Oil Painters of America’s fall online showcase. The piece was inspired by the California coastline, specifically a breathtaking scene along 17-Mile Drive on the Monterey Peninsula. “I wanted the viewer to feel the power of the ocean as it breaks close to the rocky shore. The sunset lighting was a bonus,” she says. “It is an area that is unique because the cove creates a land mass in the background, giving depth. The fog coming in over the mountain shows how different subclimates exist very closely in Northern California.”
Jung’s fondness for water goes all the way back to her childhood in rural Connecticut, where she ice-skated in the winter and swam and water-skied in the summer. Also artistic as a youngster, Jung eventually went on to major in art history at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and earn her master’s degree in fine arts at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Today she describes herself as both a plein-air and studio painter who enjoys portraying scenery that ranges from Napa Valley vineyards to Rocky Mountain ski towns. Each work begins as a plein-air study, which Jung considers a way of taking notes. “Finding the true essence of a subject comes from observing from life,” she says. “The light and atmosphere must be interpreted with a naked eye, not a camera lens.”
Back in the studio, she completes the painting, sometimes referring to books such as Composition of Outdoor Painting by Edgar Payne to help with conceptual ideas. For Jung it is the unpredictability of plein-air work that captures her attention time after time. “A painter must be fluid, adaptable, and resilient to the constantly changing elements,” she says. “I find these challenges exciting.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff
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