Tributes - Quang Ho

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If you have read the last couple of posts on Dawn Whitelaw and Scott Christensen, then you know by now that I consider myself one lucky girl. There is absolutely no way I would ever have given this art thing much of a run had it not been for those two.

Flash forward a couple of years to Quang Ho. We first met at the Oil Painters of America National Exhibition in Fredericksburg, TX in 2007. It was my first time to be accepted, and Quang was the judge. Because Mark and I had sold our home and belongings by this time, I had just enough money to go to the exhibit and stay for one night. It was the first time I ever saw Quang paint. Little did I know what effect that would have on me that day and for the rest of my life.

Mizuna 20x20 by Quang Ho

Watching Quang paint is like watching dance. His brush movements vary from beginning to end. Some are slow, lean, and graceful while others are pop, jump, and spin. I distinctly remember him starting with a flourish of soupy, swaths of paint, a pirouette here, a two-step there, slowing, moving in and out of the canvas until a portrait of Neil Patterson mysteriously appeared.

When Quang reaches a certain point in the completion of a piece, his entire stance changes, he sort of steps back, widens his feet, and arches back with his head tilted to one side before attacking the painting again with even more determination and gusto. The OPA demonstration in front of a sold out crowd came to an end and Quang turned and just said, "Wow, that was fun! I don't think I've ever painted a big gray beard." Not a bit of ego in that guy... none.

Classical 20x16 by Quang Ho

Grateful to my friends, Chuck Rawle and Mary Rawle, I was invited to lunch that day with them and Quang. I think I drooled the whole time. I don't remember anything I actually said, but  know it either probably made no sense whatsoever, or I sounded like I was trying too hard. That's what happens when I'm intimidated (which is only natural being around someone so extraordinary for the first time). Quang seemed like a happy guy, enjoying life and work, and I found him very funny. As soon as I returned home, I emailed to be added to his workshop announcements list. A few months later, my wish came true.

Even though Quang lives in Denver, he had another studio in Cincinnati at the time and I attended his workshop there. Honestly, I just remember being amazed for most of the time. The things he said, the philosophy he shared, the enthusiasm he spread was overwhelming. I'd never heard anyone speak like this or talk in these terms before. The workshop was not about how to paint or the technique of painting. It was about life of painting. I remember that I couldn't wait to share everything I could with Dawn as soon as I returned home.

Ohio Dusk 24x30 by Quang Ho

Mark and I moved to Italy soon after my Quang workshop experience. It was such a gift to have 8 months to chew on what he had said. A few months after we moved back to the U.S., I attended another workshop with him here in Nashville. I'm not sure at the time if he even remembered that I had been in the first one. As an instructor, it's hard to recall every student ... the name, the face, the work ... but I didn't care if he remembered me or not. I just knew I needed to listen, absorb, and try to get in that brain of his some way or other.

At the risk of misquoting him, I began teaching what I lovingly called "Quang Ho for Dummies." I emailed him. I sought his advice. I basically drove him nuts trying to glean all I could from him and told him I was sharing the Quang-gospel with anyone who would listen.

Winter's Web 24x24 by Quang Ho

Still, no matter how hard I tried, I simply could not make a "pleasing" shape if my life depended on it. Finally, in my third workshop with him (probably out of frustration more than anything), he took a brush and made one, small, pinky-nail-sized mark on my canvas. It was the one and only time he has ever painted on my canvas. It was the most beautiful shape I had ever seen and SO different than my clunky mark making. Ding! Bells, lights, and confetti. I could see "pleasing, unique, and specific" with regard to shape.

It is always a joy to have him come for a visit or to teach here in my area, (something he does every year or so). I could go on and on about what I have learned from chatting with this man, about expression, intention, visual dialogue, and freedom. I have never known anyone like him. I don't think there is anyone else like him.

The circumstances which brought him to the U.S. in 1975 from Vietnam; the ones that allowed him to return to find his family 20 years later; all of the challenges he faced in between and since; his artistic influences and his paths formed this creative genius. He has shown me a completely different world than I would ever have seen without him in my life.

Quang, I look at your sketches here in my studio every day. You have given me courage to experiment and say "what if." You've taught me that fear and ego hold us back and that excitement and surrender make us artists. I cannot imagine what you will do next. Your creativity has no boundaries and I love that about you. I also love that you say "ya'll" when you call.

Painting with Dawn Whitelaw and Quang Ho

Quang's full story is an amazing one. If you ever have a chance to hear him speak, I hope you will do so. For now, here is a link to his website to get you started.