Studio Tour: Adam Fung
Ro2 represented artist Adam Fung sits down to talk about his studio, his favorite brushes, and share some advice with young creatives.
Adam can you tell me a little about your background including school and area of study?
I got my MFA from Notre Dame, which is 90 miles from Chicago. It shaped my studio practices in a lot of ways. There is not a lot do in a small college town in South Bend, Indiana so I'd have these intense weeks of studio time, and then I'd go to Chicago on average every 3 weeks to see art and engage with that more professional art scene. ˜
Before that I was at Western Washington University which is 90 miles north of Seattle which is near the Canadian border. That's where I received my bachelor of fine arts.
Do you think having a studio has really impacted your ability to create art?
I don't think you need a huge space. My studio is about 200 square feet, it's a single-car garage luckily with some windows. I can make pretty decent size paintings in here, 6 by 8 feet would be pushing it. I think you need some kind of space to store things in and that you can call your own. I always wish my studio was adjacent to other people’s studios just to have more of that exchange.
Since my studio is at home it can feel a little isolated but one way I deal with that is I try to invite artists & non artists over to do little studio visits so I don't get tunnel vision. The nice thing about this garage studio is [now that it's air-conditioned] it leads into my domestic space.
I'm able to come in here every day even if it's just to look at art because it's super convenient. It's got two doors to get into the studio and can be locked so I can close off the noise of children and life but that being said there are a few paintings that will be in the upcoming show that I did take with me when I visited my parents this summer and I was painting out on their patio.
That was an unexpected benefit of of simplifying these palettes, is that I only had to take 3 or 5 tubes of paint with me. It was cool for me to have that experience because sometimes I think you can be too rigid about your studio practice. You're like I can't get into the studio today, I can't make anything - but you can. You can draw or sketch to fill that gap, so I did a couple of the paintings in Iceland and then another of the paintings I did in Hawaii.
What medium do you paint the Icebergs with?
A: It’s all [done with] oil.
Which creative medium would you like to pursue in the future but haven’t yet?
A: I love doing etchings in printmaking but I've never done ceramic work. There are some painters that are doing things with ceramics as well now and I find that interesting. It seems like there's this very tactile interaction between the materials [and the artist]. Like when I mix color for a palette - there are a lot of videos now online where people are just mixing, and it's satisfying.
What is the most indispensable item in your studio?
Can I pick two things? I've been much more cognizant about having a color wheel around and also these hand-painted charts. The one I have is a Williams Burg one which is a paint I use a lot. It's been really great to help me navigate this palette as I shift my paintings to be more monochromatic
I also started using these angled brushes, especially when I'm painting detail it's kind of like I always tell my students make sure you don't use the same brush throughout the painting . The nice thing about these is that you can get a lot of different marks out of them you can change between the two sizes and the same shape get a lot of different [brush strokes] I’ve also been using these rubber tips, it’s just a different way to move the paint around.
Have you used any of these tools in the Iceberg X series?
I have, they are great when there's a little more wax in the painting to clean up the edge or to kind of push the paint over and around a little bit, they are also nice when you're painting the oceans.
What's the last great book you read?
I basically don't have time to read anything longer than a page cause I teach full-time [plus] family and studio practice but I try to read a book when I go on vacation, that's my downtime.
[The one I last read was by] Ursula K. Le Guin (author of "the left hand of darkness" and "The Dispossessed" )
I think having these other interests is super important to informing your work.
What work of art do you wish you owned and what would you do to get it?
I would love to have a Vija Celmons piece. She's been one of my favorite artists for a while [and has] done a lot of prints and drawings of spider webs, starscapes & water. I’d love to do a trade with her, not that she would ever agree to do that. That's my ideal way to acquire work haha I like doing trades.
As opposed to a jewel heist?
Yeah if I was going to do that I wouldn't tell you.
What international art destination would you like to see one day?
I love going and finding museums. They don't have to be very prestigious, I just love finding something surprising in them.
A lot of my friends went to the Venice biennial this year. I’m interested in those types of shows but not interested in the kinds of crowds around the show. I like the idea of these artists coming together on a global scale.
There's a great museum in Oslo, Norway built around these ships these Arctic explorers took called the Fram. I got to go to that right before I did the Arctic trip which was really incredible, this experience that directly related to the experience I was about to have.
What’s the best advice you ever had about how to be more creative?
When I was in grad school I complained about something to my mentor, Maria Tomasula [Notre Dame] and she basically said [I heard her say this to other people eventually] “Well you could be working in a factory, right?” Which really grounded me. I was like okay I'm making art which is super important to me and it just put things into context.
I think that's important to know to find that thing you really love doing [whether] it's art or something else, whatever you do, make sure it doesn't push that out of your life.
The art world and art professions are really difficult to navigate. It can totally be done, it just takes a lot of work- you have to figure out on your own there's not a lot of handbooks to how this works, especially for each person’s situation. Based on my own experience, I just had to keep making work that it was important to me. If I hadn't gotten a teaching job I could have been happy working at any other job as long as I could have been making my own work and exploring new things.
Always keep pursuing your art?
Pretty generic but I think so.
Is there anything you would want to share with artists who are just starting out professionally or creatively?
One thing I always like to share with people especially my students is that the year after I had my first child I didn't have that much time to make work and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do at the time. I didn't have time to just go into my studio and sit there to sketch or work through problems.
What I did do is I constantly thought about what I wanted to do when I was going out on walks with my son. It was just something I obsessed over mentally & it was like I was able to build this whole body of work basically walking around my neighborhood in Chicago.
Then when I finally had the time, energy and resources to make the paintings it just came together so easily. I wouldn’t even start the paintings with a drawing. It was like having a little studio in [my] head.
So you're always sketching in your brain, because it is hard to find the right time to do your work.
There's going to be periods of time where you don't make something for 3 months and I think some people freak out about that... It [feels] like I'm not doing it right or I can't keep doing this I gotta move on to something new, but you can keep working through it even if it's just in your head.