Johnny Lung, Master Chinese Painter


I take a special back road when I drive into Pittsburgh just to look at the trees. It is lined with these gigantic 100 year old tress that change into a multitude of colors during the Fall. You tend to find artists who either live in metropolises like New York or LA or in the country or in the middle of a desert. I’m the country type of guy. I think my aversion to the city is from growing up in one. It was always so hot, humid, and crowded in Taipei. No thanks. I’ve got my half acre of land, my koi fish pond, and my own studio where I can paint, stretch silk, frame, cut mats and glass, and ship. I even have a photography studio and wood shop. On top of my Koi fish pond is a small waterfall where song birds play in it in the morning. I think they are getting their daily shower. One time, a mother deer gave birth to her fawn right next to that pond! That was a nice surprise. Although the pond attracts some less pleasant surprises like the raccoons who use it as their own seafood buffet. I usually have to chase after them with a rake to keep them away. My neighbors are amused.


And Oh yea! The Steelers are an awesome part of Autumn.


Fall is Here

Time to say goodbye to summer. I do about 20 shows in the Summer around the country. Kind of like a big road trip. I meet all sorts of new people, see new artists join the ranks and old artists retire. I just finished up another show in Devenport, Iowa and driving alllll the way to the East Coast for the Festival in the Park in beautiful Charlotte, North Carolina.

I’ll have to tally up my mileage, number of hotel breakfasts eaten, total hours spend on sidewalks at art fair shows, and pieces of art sold.



Arts Beats and Eats!

Want a fun way to spend your Labor Day Weekend? If you’re in the Royal Oak area in Michigan, check out the Arts, Beats and Eats festival. It runs to this Monday and includes not only hundreds of the country’s finest artists but a Heart Healthy fair (very important,) a Footloose Dance competition and an attempt at the world’s largest Zumba dance class. Proving that Art is not always a stuffy pretentious affair. There will also be 65 restaurants and over 250 musical acts.

Arts, Beats and Eats

Where: Downtown Royal Oak

When: 9/2-9/5

Admission Fee of $3 that goes toward local charities

Click here  to visit the site for more information.

When I was young…

I was born in 1949 under the Ox sign. Not in a hospital and not in a home. I was born on my father’s battleship en route to Taiwan. He was a loyal member of the Kuomingtang and was an officer in their Navy. Taiwan is my homeland. I have very fond memories of growing up in Taiwan especially during my teen years in the 60’s. If you ever have the time, see the Taiwanese movie ‘3 times‘ or in Mandarin it’s called ‘zui how de xi quan.’ It’s a love story told 3 separate times in 3 different time periods. The point it makes is that love is shaped by the society we live in at that time. The second story “a time for love” is set in the 60’s in Taiwan and marks it as a period of  innocence.

Scene from the 60's period in the movie '3 Times' starring Qu Shi and Chiang Cheng

I met my wife in English class. As we both struggled to learn the strange sounds of the English language, I began to like her. She had wide brown eyes and jet black silky hair that ran down to her lower back. On our first data, when I came to pick her up, I had to meet her parents first. You needed their approval first before you could take their daughter out. Even when I called, I had to go through her parents first before I could talk to her. Talk about old school innocence.

The Cat that stayed…

In earlier posts I mentioned that I had a Siamese Cat named Prince. We were planning to only borrow him for a few weeks so I could have a live model for my Cat Bradford print series but he ended up staying around for another 17 years.

Before him we had a dog named Flash. He was a Irish Settler and Golden Retriever mix. My wife and picked him out of a box on the sidewalk in 1980 at the Ann Arbor Art festival. Yea, I get that’s pretty bohemian, driving around the country in a van with my wife and a dog. Those were the days…

Animals have such personality. Even the birds in my backyard. They like to shower in my waterfall in my backyard and they dance and sing. They are so happy.

Prince hogging a whole heating vent in the middle of winter. What about the rest of us?!

A Deeper Dive into technique…from Met Curator Maxwell Hearn

Maxwell K. Hearn is the curator of the Metropolitan’s Department of Asian Art. He speaks Mandarin Chinese as well as I do (from the videos I’ve seen of him,) and has an extensive knowledge of Asian art. Something I greatly admire and am grateful that an expert of his caliber is yet so interested in the preservation of Traditional Asian Art. He is extremely knowledgeable in Traditional Chinese Art especially regarding technique and style.

Here is part of an interview he gave regarding a Xie ZhiLiu drawing:

Jennette Mullaney: As a traditional Chinese artist, Xie Zhiliu copied the work of earlier masters and drew directly from life. How have these disciplines informed this work?

Maxwell K. Hearn: Nice question. They haven’t. Well, that’s not quite true. This appears to be a study from nature, which underlies traditional artists’ training, but Chinese art is almost never about recording the actual appearance of the natural world. Instead, artists distill their impressions of nature to create works that idealize the natural world and emphasize the graphic qualities that enable them to translate nature into an essential calligraphic medium. So in this drawing, we see that Xie first sketched these two plants in pencil and then he went over the pencil drawings in ink. And as he did so, he emphasized the beautiful lines; he abstracted the natural world into a set of patterns. And that’s most obvious in his treatment of the leaves of the hosta, which have become geometric arcs, regularly spaced and perfectly formed. So he’s perfected nature to emphasize the beautiful line work of his drawing. Look, for example, at the wavy contour of the hosta leaf that bends towards the viewer: it’s a very elegant, almost musical, set of curves. In fact, the whole silhouette has been transformed into lines that carry the energy of the artist and convey as much about his technical prowess as they do about the nature of the plant itself.

To read more, click here.







Best Asian Art Displays in the Country

Don’t miss the Qing Court Portraits exhibition at the Freer-Sackler Museum. The Freer-Sackler Museum is part of the Smithsonian Institute and is free to visitors. On one side, by the courts, you can visit the Peacock Room. An exquisite decadent room used by museum founder, Charles Lang Freer used to display his collection of 250+ ceramics that he had collected throughout Asia. It has been restored back to its 1908 state and it overwhelms you with its beauty.

Double Golden Peacock Murals in the Peacock Room

A wall in the Peacock Room, Freer-Sackler Museum, Washington D.C.

But back to the Qing Court Portraits… These are massive, larger than life-size, as if when hung the Emperors, Empresses and Princes could still look down on you. Beside the history of the turmoil that is Chinese history, my favorite part of these portraits are the clothes. Many of their decadent robes still use the same motifs that I use in my paintings such as peonies (the flower of good fortune,) butterflies and dragons (the most supreme being of the land, a god-like equivalent in Chinese mythology.) They are at the Freer-Sackler museums until January 2012 so make a trip if you can before they are gone.

Portrait of a Manchu Noblewoman, 19th Century

It’s a (big) dream of mine to have my art displayed at the Freer-Sackler. It would be such an honor.

What are your thoughts of this Noblewoman’s clothes? How about her chair made from a taxidermy Cheetah? It still has the claws on.

Who is Chung-Lin Yu?

If you tried Google-ing Chung-Lin Yu (or Yu Chung-Lin since in Mandarin we put the last name first) you might find video clips of this kid…

He starts piping out Whitney Houston’s “I’ll always love you” around 1:12

No, that is not my Master that I apprenticed after. But! I do have to say this kid has talent and a *unique sense of style. It’s like Bruce Lee meets Pee Wee Herman.

Themes in Chinese Art

The same themes in Chinese Art can be seen scattered out throughout Asian culture. The are stemmed by the same pool of shared beliefs, values and superstitions. One of the most major themes is the liberal use of Vibrant Hues. You’ve probably noticed how much we love the color red. Red corresponds with the element of Fire and symbolizes luck, joy and good fortune. We use red at every major holiday and special occasion including Chinese New Year; every town in China turns into a sea of red drowning in red fire crackers, red banners and red envelopes. Red even plays an important role in Chinese weddings. When my wife and I got married back in our homeland Taiwan, she walked down the aisle in white then…changed to red for the reception.

Roof of Temple in Taipei, Taiwan. This picture was actually taken by my daughter.

Red Envelopes used to hold money and are given out during Chinese New Years and Weddings come in all sorts of designs

Observers of my work my notice that Red does play a large role in my color palette, especially in my subjects. I have painted Peonies both in pungent shades of deep red but also in soft shades of pink and white as part of my exploration in the concepts of traditional Chinese art. Chinese art can be both opulent and minimalist. For example, during the Ming Period (1368-1644) was known as the “brilliant period” and the arts reflected China’s prosperity. The use if rich vibrant colors, intricate design, expensive materials were commonly found. Influences of the Ming Period opulence can be seen in my “Vibrant Spring” series as well as my current Gold-Leaf paper series.

This is a large departure from my master’s style which usually depicted at most 3 subjects in his paintings usually done in the least number of strokes needed. However, this style gave his subjects more personality instead of  inhibiting them. It was a less serious approach and gave Chinese art a more playful feel than the usual stoic serious impression it presents to the viewer. I channeled this in my “Softly and Calmly” series with a softer palette and less flamboyant subjects. Like my master, I gave my subjects as much unique personality as possible to show that they too could interest and flirt with the viewer’s eye. To help me with this, I drew upon family members for inspiration. I found it to be especially therapeutic, since my kids were teenagers at that time.

Purple Peony by Master Chinese Painter Chung-Lin Yu. I especially admire how delicate the butterfly looks as it flutters towards the greeting Peony

Travel, travel, travel

It should no surprise that I prefer to drive than to fly. I’m an epic road tripper. I’ve driven through 18 states this summer. Can anyone name them all?

States I’ve visited this summer so far:

New York

New Jersey




North Carolina

South Carolina












My kids when they were little used to ask me what their friends’ parents did because they would see them every morning driving off in their suits and brief cases. They thought everyone stayed home, painted in splatter covered clothes and then disappeared in the summer to travel around the country.