“Painting has been my passion since childhood, and my parents were always supportive,” recalls Dora Chen, a remarkable artist who embarked on a journey that led her from China to Taiwan and eventually to the United States. With a background in literature and a career as a librarian, Dora’s love for painting remained a constant in her life. She sought every opportunity to take art lessons, honing her skills in both Eastern and Western art forms.
“In the 1980s, while working at Rutgers University, I had the privilege of learning Chinese painting from a renowned artist who came from New York to New Jersey. I followed her guidance for six years, which laid a solid foundation for my journey into Chinese brush painting,” Dora recounts, reflecting on the pivotal experience that shaped her artistic path.
Moving from New Jersey to Singapore for a period of time, Dora continued to immerse herself in the art of Chinese painting. However, it was upon settling in San Diego, California, that she found a sense of belonging and a platform to showcase her art. “I feel really privileged and lucky to have this hobby. Life is never boring, and whenever I have time, I paint,” Dora expresses gratefully, having found a supportive artistic community at the Southwestern Artists Association, located within the picturesque Spanish Village Art Center in Balboa Park.
Dora’s artwork is a harmonious blend of Eastern and Western influences. “My art combines traditional Chinese brush painting tranquility with contemporary Western art free spirit. It reflects the modern version of fusion,” she explains, emphasizing the unique and refreshing style she has developed over years of practice and exploration. Her paintings have captivated audiences in various exhibitions and have been collected by art lovers around the world.
When asked about her transition to retirement, Dora confidently responds, “Painting had become my major pastime. Whenever I ask myself, ‘What do I do now?’ I go paint.” Painting provides her with a creative outlet and a source of fulfillment in the scenic surroundings of San Diego, where she enjoys hiking and walking with her husband.
Reflecting on the differences between her younger years and the present, Dora acknowledges her diverse artistic training. “When I was younger, I took mostly Western art lessons, starting with sketches and working with colors,” she notes. However, her encounter with a talented Chinese painting teacher sparked a fascination with the poetic and abstract nature of Chinese painting. “Because painting, to me, is very poetic in a way. It’s just like a different world,” Dora describes, highlighting the ethereal qualities that captivate her in this art form.
Dora’s journey into Chinese painting allowed her to develop a unique style that blends elements from both Eastern and Western art. “In Chinese painting, there’s no talk about perspective or shade. That’s what I mean about being more poetic. In Western art, the first lesson is perspective and shading,” she explains. While her medium may lean towards Western techniques such as watercolor and acrylic, Dora’s approach retains the essence of Chinese painting. “Even when I use acrylic, it’s more like Chinese painting style to me,” she asserts.
Intriguingly, Dora’s artistic process transcends traditional methods. “I prefer a spontaneous approach. I don’t do a sketch first; I just look at the paper and decide where the flowers should be, where’s that, and then paint!” she reveals. Her intuitive decision-making and emphasis on composition are key factors in creating her captivating paintings. “Composition is really important to make a good painting, but it’s hard to learn. I look and I feel; should it be further? Should it be closer? Bigger or smaller? And that’s composition,” she explains, emphasizing its significance in the art-making process.
Having embraced diverse artistic influences and undergone extensive training, Dora’s style has evolved into a distinct and personal expression. “I took so many lessons in Western and Chinese painting and digested it, and then it came out as my own style,” she remarks proudly. Her art now embodies her unique perspective and creative intuition.
As Dora Chen continues to paint and inspire others with her artistic endeavors, she remains steadfast in her belief that art should bring joy and beauty to collectors’ lives. Through her fusion of Eastern and Western influences, she bridges cultures and celebrates the power of artistic expression as a universal language. With each brushstroke, Dora invites us to explore the meeting point of East and West, reminding us of the inherent interconnectedness and beauty found in the blending of cultures.