Thursday, July 25, 2019

Joan Lok's 2019-2020 Fall/Winter Sumi-e Workshop Schedule at Plaza Art

Just confirmed my sumi-e workshop schedule with Plaza Art.  The workshops are from 1 pm to 4 pm.  Plaza will provide all the materials and supplies for the workshop.  Call Plaza Art to register.  Hope to see you there. 

Plaza Art:
Rockville: 1776 E Jefferson St, #119, Rockville, MD
Tel: 301-770-0500
Towson: 519 York Road, Towson, MD.
Tel: 410-823-6406
Sun, Aug 18, 2019 - Roses - Plaza in Rockville
Sun, Sept 22, 2019 -Sunflower - Plaza in Towson
Sat Oct 12, 2019 - Goldfish & Koi - Plaza in Rockville
Sun, Nov 3, 2019 - Goldfish & Koi - Plaza in Towson
Sat, Dec 14, 2019 - Cardinal, Pine & Snow - Plaza in Rockville
Sun, Dec 15, 2019 - Bamboo, Pin & Plum Blossom - Plaza in Towson
Sat, Feb 8, 2020 - Sunflower - Plaza in Rockville
Sun, Feb 23, 2019 - Horse - Plaza in Towson

Friday, December 30, 2016

Capturing the Webb Telescope – A tale of modern technology and the ancient art of sumi-e

I was contemplating what subject to paint when the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) issued its call for artists to create artworks inspired by the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Webb telescope will observe distant objects in the universe, provide images of the first galaxies formed and see unexplored planets around distant stars. In November 2016, I was among 23 lucky artists selected from over 150 applications to attend NASA’s first artist event at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. 

The Webb telescope’s primary mirror consists of 18 hexagonal mirrors covered in a microscopic layer of actual gold. It measures over 21 feet and resembles a giant puzzle in a sci-fi movie. Standing in front of the telescope, I felt I have been cast

in “Honey, I Strunk the Kids.” The artist event included presentations by experts about the engineering challenges, a behind-the-scenes tour of the center, and creative time to sketch and paint. The afternoon went quickly and I came home with a few sketches, many reference photographs, and a great amount of inspiration to create more artwork of the Webb telescope.
My goal is to create an artwork that represents the amazing technical advancement of the Webb telescope, yet pays homage to the remarkable cultural tradition of the eastern art of sumi-e.  I considered many sumi-e techniques and styles, and examined a variety of materials that might best represent my vision.  After more than a few learning attempts to test the composition and design, I used ink monochrome on gilded gold rice paper and presented the artwork in a four-panel “Byobu” folding screen format.  Monochromatic ink painting is one of the finest forms of artistic expression in China and Japan, and is conductive to contemplation and enlightenment.   The folding screen, measuring 3 feet by 6 feet, suits the magnitude of the Webb telescope, and challenges me to work on a larger scale.
I kept the gold paper untouched to capture the glowing, glorious hues for the primary mirror. I drew the rest of the telescope with simple brushwork. For contrast, I painted the space surrounding the telescope in black sumi-e ink. Instead of solid black, I applied the “tarashikomi” technique, in which a second layer of sumi-e ink is applied before the first layer is dry. This effect creates backflows for fine details, ideal to represent the mysterious universe.  I repeated the process multiple times to build up the complexity.  Although there is no cloud in space, I took my artistic license and created golden floating clouds to preserve the precious gold paper.  These clouds served as tactile barriers to the mysteries of the universe that the Webb telescope will help us understand. 
Because I was reusing an antique folding screen and only had a limited footage of gilded paper from a Japanese artist’s estate, I conducted many tests and created multiple smaller work samples to resolve technical and design issues.  I am grateful for the opportunity to create artwork of the Webb telescope.  The commitment forced me to look deeply into the art of sumi-e to choose what is available to capture new technical subjects while keeping the rich sumi-e tradition.  The scarcity of materials stipulated detailed planning. The process demanded repeated evaluations in which I saw continual refinement as the project progressed. 
The folding screen, with an embroidery quilt I have created, will be featured in a special show at NASA’s Goddard Visitors Center in Greenbelt, Maryland in March and April 2017.  Online exhibition of artwork created by the selected artists is also being planned.  Please contact Joan Lok, for more details.  

Monday, October 24, 2016

Winning Artwork by Joan Lok

I won an award at the 2016 Sumi-e Society Annual Show.  Here is my artwork Koileidoscope.  It is a departure from my style into a more colorful world of watercolors.  Let me know if you know it.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Video Brief of Chinese Brush Painting:Flowers by Joan Lok

Here is my new book, Chinese Brush Painting: Flowers, published by Barron's Educational Series, $22.  Full color, 128 pages, 40 demos of how to paint 36 flowers, plus segments on history, materials, basic brushwork and composition.  Get it at

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Joan Lok's Fall/Winter 2014/2015 Workshop Schedule at Plaza

Just completed the Fall/Winter 2014/2015 sumi-e workshop schedule at Plaza Artists Materials.  $45 each.  Hope to see you there.

Sunday, August 3, 2014, 1-4 pm, Japanese Koi, Rockville
Saturday, September 27, 2014, 1-4 pm, Squirrel and Pumpkin, Rockville
Sunday, September 28, 2014, 1-4 pm, Squirrel and Pumpkin, Towson Store 
Sunday, November 2, 2014, 1-4 pm, Sumi-e Landscape in Snow, Towson 
Saturday, November 22, 2014, 1-4 pm, Sumi-e Landscape - Focus on Trees, Rockville 
Sunday, December 21, 2014, 1-4 pm, Peony, Rockville
Saturday, January 24, 2015, 1-4 pm, Cat, Rockville
Sunday, February 15, 2015, 1-4 pm, Japanese Koi, Towson
Sunday, February 22, 2015, 1-4 pm, Lotus, Rockville
Visit  Listed under "workshop/shows"  for address and phone numbers of Plaza's Rockville and Towson stores to register.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Joan Lok's new book, “Chinese Brush Painting: Flowers”

Sumi-E Quarterly (SQ) Joan Lok (Lok)
SQ: Congratulation on the publication of your book.  Can you tell us a little more about your book?
Lok: "Chinese Brush Painting: Flowers" is a book on how to paint flowers in Chinese brush painting.  It includes a brief history of painting flowers in China, different styles, materials and basic brushwork.  I also have a special segment on composition and placement of name and seals as the aesthetic concepts of the East are quite different from that of the West.  The culture, history of development, and materials influence the way design and composition are treated in Asian art.  The book contains 40 demonstrations of painting 36 flowers.  Each flower includes step-by-step instructions, a palette of colors, and a mini demonstration indicating the order, direction, and type of brushstrokes.  I also included the painting of a bird in Lingnan style.  Professor Cheng-Khee Chee generously wrote the Foreword of the book.
SA: Forty demos of 36 flowers!  There is very impressive, can you tell us what some of these flowers are?

Lok: Sure, besides the classics like grass orchid and chrysanthemum, I also have flowers that are not commonly illustrated in art instruction books, including calla lily, cockscombs, cyclamen, poppy and day lily.  Several flowers are so attractive that I painted them in more than one style: peonies, lotus, water lilies and cherry blossoms are shown in both contour and mo-ku (boneless) so the artists have more options in their own creation.  I also added Bauhinia Blackeana, the floral emblem of Hong Kong, my birthplace.   

SA: How can we get a copy?

Lok:  The book will be widely available in bookstores and craft stores.  I am working with various organizations to have book-signing at their locations with possible painting demonstration, lecture and art workshops.  You can also order it from my website,, the only place to get a signed copy without attending a book signing. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Joan Lok workshop with Sumi-e Society's National Capital Area Chapter

Thanks to all the students and artists who came

to my NCAC workshop in Falls Church, Virginia in January.  It was cold the week before and after, but we were lucky to have a sunny and slightly warmer weekend for our workshop.  We painted cyclamen, wisteria, sparrow, swallow, cardinal, carp, and koi.  It was a fun weekend and I look forward to our next workshop.