Kai Lun Qu is a professional artist and the Director and Founder of CalColor Atelier in Cupertino. He graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Arts, as well as having studied at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.
In 2018, He was one of twenty-six recipients chosen out of nearly 3000 entries to be awarded a Certificate of Excellence for his painting Ashton in the 20th Annual International Portrait Society of America Competition. Kai has had his work exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the US, such as the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, US Capitol Building in DC, and Crystal Moll Gallery in Baltimore.
His work has also been included and published by Poets Artist Magazine and Plein Air Magazine. In 2018, Kai was featured in Southwest Art Magazine's 21 under 31 Article, where he was one of 21 artists under the age of 31 being celebrated as rising art stars from across the West and around the country. He recently partnered with Sentient Academy in 2020 as a mentor to bring his knowledge of painting and drawing to a wider online audience.
My preferred medium to paint is oil! I've been drawing for almost ten years before picking up my first oil paints, and I just felt that the immediacy of oil paint was the logical next step in transitioning from charcoal. Alla Prima (Wet on wet technique) is my preferred style of painting and oil is, in my opinion the best medium to utilize that as well.
What do you do to get out of an Artists block?
There are two types of artist block in my opinion. The first is the lack of motivation to start, the second is not knowing what to paint once you start. In order to get around the former issue, I usually would look at blogs, videos, images of my favorite artists working and their art journey. For example, I've recently been reading up on Scott Burdick's travel blog and it's given me such jolts of inspiration to get out and start painting.
In the case of solving the latter issue, I recommend setting up your paints and brushes first, then without too much deciding, paint the first thing you see in front of you. Whenever I feel stuck and not knowing what to paint, I would take my pochade box downstairs with me and a small 8x10 panel, plop my pochade down on the ground, close my eyes, take a spin, and look at what scene I happen upon when I open my eyes. That right there would be my subject for the day.
At what age/what turning point led you to be an artist?
I grew up in a family of artists so I've been drawing since I was young. During the start of high school when I was sent to China to study at one of the art academies for two years, was where I initially picked up how to draw in more of the traditional realist methodologies.
However, I didn't truly make the decision on becoming a serious painter until my second year of college where I visited the National Portrait Gallery in DC and saw my first John Singer Sargent painting, "The Spanish Dancer". During that time, I still haven't done much oil painting but it was from looking at Sargent I made the goal to myself that if I could successfully even capture 5% of the beauty Sargent presents in his paintings, I feel like its a goal worthy of pursuing.
What do you listen to when you are painting/creating artwork? Why?
I really enjoy listening to podcasts of other artists that I admire. A few favorites of mines are Suggested Donations Podcast hosted by Edward Minoff and Tony Curanaj, Savvy Painters Podcast hosted by Antrese Woods, and the Studio Podcast hosted by Danny Grant. I've also recently been enjoying listening to the various demos and interviews conducted by Sentient Academy as well.
Do you feel it’s necessary to finish your painting prior to beginning another? Why?
For me, it is necessary to finish my paintings before starting another because I could never fully concentrate on another knowing that the one prior is left unfinished. Because I work alla prima, it is also hard for me to leave projects unattended for more than two days due to the paint starting to dry and not making it the ideal surface to paint on.
When you receive unsolicited critiques or comments, how do you feel/how do you react?
I believe accepting critiques and comments is one of the only ways to better yourself and improve. I would of course also see if I agree with the critique presented and whether it would indeed improve upon the piece.
I believe that accepting critiques that are targeting more of the technical aspects of the painting (that leg looks too long, the nose looks too big) are necessary and should not be challenged but comments that aim more at the subjective could be taken with a grain of salt. I of course feel that people should always still mind their social manners and respect the context of the situation and only give critiques when it is appropriate and asked upon by the artist.
Kai Lun's Favorite Trekell Products:
I have been falling in love with Trekells line of Opal and Legion long flat brushes. The way that they pick up the paints and allows me to place them in the exact thickness and texture I wanted is nothing short of amazing. I have also been a fan of their other products such as their brush restorer (which smells so good) and their line of panels. I used their oil primed linen acm panels and it is honestly to this day still the best surface I ever used, even compared to some of the more expensive brands I've tried.
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