HeeJune Shin

Lowcountry Originals 2023

HeeJuneShin0723July 2023 Issue
photography by T.R. Love, T.R. Media World

Art: Painting, Colorist www.HeeJuneShin.com
Current Home: Bluffton
Hometown: Seoul, Korea
Career: Public Health Nutritionist (before Artist)
Gallery: Four Corners Fine Art Gallery, Bluffton
Family: Husband, Retired Neurologist; three married children;
two grandchildren

When and how did you discover your artistic talent? How and/or why did you choose this medium?
I am thrilled to be able to paint. The first time a painting made an impression on me was when I was 8 or 9 years old. It was a painting of garden flowers done on silk fabric. The painter was Shin Saimdang who was a poet and painter in the 1500s in Korea. She is the first woman painter celebrated in Korea. I wanted to paint like her. However, that desire didn’t have a chance to grow when my middle school art teacher said, “You don’t have the talent.” It had to wait 30 some years until I was old enough to say, “I want to do what I really want to do.” Meanwhile, I obtained a Masters in Public Health and worked as a nutritionist.

What artist has inspired or influenced you the most?

For the past 20 years as a painter, I am grateful for many mentors, friends, and my husband for their support and encouragement. My first mentor, Frank Wetzell, who is a Minnesota watercolorist, instilled in me the joy of moving paints around on a surface. He also said, “You can always fix a painting, so don’t be afraid to make a mistake.” About 10 years ago, I met a California oil painter, Camille Przewodek. She, I think, is the best living colorist in America. She taught me the pride of pursuing the colorist’ tradition initiated by Monet. She also showed grit to stay on course by her example. It was truly my honor when she chose two of my paintings for her book Mondays with Camille: Capturing the Light in Color.

What’s the color palette of your life? Are you bold, soft, neutral, primary?
I am a colorist—painting light! Like many impressionists, I am awed by the colors affected by the light of the moment. A green tree does not always have the same green. The green color changes by the light in different times of the day, weather, season, etc. It is a joy to see it. Without light, the joy of colors wouldn’t exist. My personal faith affirms that light was created to show the attributes of the Creator. When I am painting, I feel I am singing along with Him. When He sings in a soft minor key on a cloudy day, I don’t want to sing in a random major key. It is my pursuit to be able to see and paint colors as they are, so mine will match with His. Henry Hensche, a mentor to Camille, coined it “visual realism” which is different from mechanical realism.

What would people be surprised to know about your art?
Instead of brushes, I use a palette knife to paint. It started in my early days of Plein Air painting. When you are painting on location, you have to work with constantly moving light and shadow. You might have 2-3 hours to finish a painting. I was frustrated wasting time to clean my bushes when the light was moving fast on me. But with a palette knife and a piece of paper towel, I get a clean tool in a second. A palette knife also brings unique elements to a painting like immediacy and intimacy. It makes one feel right there when the strokes were made.

Do you have a hidden talent?
I have to thank my parents who put me though many years of calligraphy lessons when I was young. I acquired good dexterity from these lessons, which allows me to make a variety of strokes with my palette knife.

Tell us more about your method.
My typical Plein Air Painting is small in size because of time constraint. A large painting is done in the studio usually based on a Plein Air painting. However, it never is just a duplicate. It is an interesting process to watch a painting develop with time and intentionality. I also enjoy making still-life paintings, which are usually florals. It is a totally different process from landscapes. Here, I design the set-up. I try to finish a painting in one day. If not, you can find the floral arrangement in my fridge overnight.

What do you want to shout from the mountains top about art?
The joy of light in the slice of a particular moment! The light is ephemeral. We can easily miss the voice of the light while we are attending to the ordinary duties of life. Come with me to see the colors. Let’s be awed together!

Final Thoughts:
Light is Sweet!—Ecclesiastes 11:7