Michelle Jung has made what many would consider a surprisingly quick leap from finishing formal art training to becoming nationally recognized for her high level of technical and expressive mastery. Within a very few years of receiving an MFA in painting from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Jung was elected into membership in the historic Guild of Boston Artists, where she has earned top awards and has been asked to judge a non-member show; the Salmagundi Club in New York City, which invited her to take part in their Masters Exhibition; and the California Art Club, where she received the honor of being juried into their Gold Medal Show. She is also an active member of Oil Painters of America and the American Society of Marine Artists.
Yet in Jung’s eyes, there is no mystery to her rapid ascent. As she sees it, many artists put the cart before the horse, first wielding a paintbrush and then, down the line, learning about art history and collecting and studying the work of artists they admire. By the time Jung began foundational training in painting, she had already spent four decades deeply involved in art: from a childhood love of drawing to a university art history degree; from a museum internship to working in galleries; from hours of scrutinizing artwork she loved to becoming a collector of fine art.
After taking workshops with several highly respected painters, she realized a more intensive classical instruction would benefit her progress. She enrolled in one of the nation’s finest art academies, where she was ready to fully absorb the lessons offered and filter them through the perspective of life experience. By then she had a sense of what she wanted to accomplish: to communicate with the viewer on an aesthetic, emotional, and even subliminal level.
Indeed, much of what inspires Jung’s art originates in the compelling dualities inherent in life. Light and dark. The powerful edge where sea meets land. The visual dichotomy of order within chaos in a forest scene. This dualistic model is reflected in her day-to-day life. She alternates regularly between a West Coast home and studio in Santa Cruz, California and one on the East Coast near Boston, welcoming the stimulating challenge of adapting to different qualities of light, atmosphere, landscape, and mood in each place.
For Jung, every painting begins with visiting a location multiple times, experiencing it through all the senses and sketching en plein air. Observation and painting from life, she believes, are the most important elements in painting. Later these oil sketches may become reference for larger — these days often quite large-scale — pieces in the studio. Working in series, she enjoys exploring diverse subjects, including seascapes, landscapes, figurative, nocturnes, and still life. While oil is her primary medium for finished works, she is also accomplished in watercolor, pastel, graphite, and pen and ink.
Jung’s art has been included in shows at the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles, the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art in Malibu, and currently is part of the 17th American Society of Marine Artists National Exhibition, which travels to six museums around the country through Jan. 20, 2018. Yet for the artist, every award, honor, or past training is simply a springboard to whatever is on her easel today. “I feel like I’ve just started,” she says. “I can’t wait for what comes next.”