Artistic Excellence 2013 | 1st Place: Jonathan Ahn


Jonathan Ahn, Descent, oil, 24 x 18.

Jonathan Ahn, Descent, oil, 24 x 18.

What inspired your winning entry? The main inspirations for my painting are the nocturnes painted by James Whistler that are interpretations of Hiroshige’s woodblock prints. The haunting twilight colors, the lights like embedded flakes of gold, and the ethereal feel of the paintings have considerable personal appeal.

Where did you study art? My formal art training was done at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where I received a master’s degree of fine arts.

How has your work changed or grown since you won an honorable mention in last year’s Artistic Excellence competition? I hope my artwork has continued to progress. I experiment constantly, although my abysmal failures never see the light of day. Recently I have pushed to mix up my working process to improve efficiency and effect, especially in regard to composition.

How has your subject matter or style changed? My subject matter has not changed significantly, although my style still continues to evolve and, I hope, improve. My personal aesthetic has stubbornly remained constant. I strive to better my interpretation and broaden my perspective rather than adjust my tastes.

Why do you enjoy painting San Francisco? San Francisco is one of those cities where every street holds a treasure trove of visual stimuli. Being a local resident also makes on-site painting readily accessible. I take photographs and sketch on location. When size permits, I do the work en plein air. When working toward a large-scale painting, I will take photo references and use the on-site painting as a study.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you? I sculpt better than I paint.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? From Nancy Angell, “Mastery comes from 90 percent hard work and 10 percent talent.”

What artists, living or deceased, have influenced your work? My first love and strongest influence has always been Michelangelo, the Italian Renaissance master. There are numerous artists whom I admire, but I would point out two influential mentors: Nancy Angell and Zhaoming Wu.

What’s the most meaningful recognition you’ve received for your artwork? The previous and present Southwest Art competition awards are among the top I hold dear. A recent recognition by the Portrait Society of America also holds importance to me since it is judged by my peers and esteemed organization judges. But the most meaningful recognition would be—the next one.

What galleries represent your work? Waterhouse Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA; Silvana Gallery, Glendale, CA; Studio Gallery, San Francisco, CA.

This story was featured in the December 2013 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art December 2013 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!