Boring?...Not really

Every year there’s a conference held in London, UK for all things “Boring”. Sounds dull right? Not really – considering it’s been sold out for the last 6 years. I only found out about it 2 months ago and I am pretty upset I missed it this year. I now have my calendar alerts on for 2017 ticket sales. I can't wait! 

So what is this conference about and why am I writing about it even though I've never been? The conference discusses an array of topics, from post card collections to sounds made by vending machines; it’s apparently where people congregate to discuss the most mundane topics one can ever imagine. The founder, James Ward, seems like an interesting enough character. I read his blog and LOL’d my way through it. It must annoy him that ‘being boring’ is the new interesting – those hipsters. I even contemplated writing in his style for this post just to reflect the irrelevance of it all, but being satirical isn’t the point of this entry. The point is that finding genuine interest in our surroundings is what makes life less boring (for some).

Summer Exhibition 2016 @ Royal Academy of Arts London 

Summer Exhibition 2016 @ Royal Academy of Arts London 

In painting the piece ‘Neighboring Back Alley’, my father spent hours studying how the light reflected off the tire tracks in the snow. He was fascinated with the subtle contrast in the whites and how it created a dynamic palette; one that is not so easily captured in an oil painting. He wanted to be firm and decisive with his brush strokes and probably thought more about his technique than anything I’ve ever contemplated in my life. We sometimes question why he just stares off into space when he paints, making the assumption his mind is blank. The reality is that his mind is constantly turning and observing his surroundings. He is pulling from old references and memories while looking at photos and his paintings in different lights. He's studying and researching how other artist have stepped up to this challenge and absorbing it to formulate what fits his style. Sounds almost as exciting as understanding the design of a spoon right? For my father, this is one of the most motivating things in his life (aside from us, his family, of course). Getting lost in the depth of one color and finally achieving the visual affect he wants will have him glowing for days. It's the satisfaction that what has taken him hours and perhaps days to conjure up looks effortless and carefree. It’s even better when he gets recognized for his obsession too; this painting won second place in the landscape category of the 2016 The Artist's Magazine's Annual Art Competition. Something that the whole family is very happy about and proud of. This painting was not only picked because it reflected my father's abilities, but also because of the ambiance it embodied. 

The subject matter of the piece was the alleyway by our home. One that we pass by on a daily basis and one that few would take notice to. Maybe that's why its such a lovely piece, because it brings our attention to the daily life. It turns something common into art through a collection of emotions and atmospheric references. Something that many artist, like Monet and Warhol, and photographers, like William Eggleston, have been doing for decades. Finding beauty in the ordinary is something we are not wired to do, but ought to learn how to do. We live in a society that chases the bold, new and innovative and we forget that the humdrum things in our lives come about in extraordinary fashion; usually in a painful manner which requires a lot of diligence, thought, and perseverance.

Neighbouring Back Alley 

Neighbouring Back Alley 

For more about this post:

Publication of my father’s piece in The Artist Magazine will go on sale November 2016...more details to come

James Ward’s Blog: I like boring things –

Boring Conference (if you want to fight me for a ticket in 2017):

Read for more 'interesting' boring stuff: 

Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik

The Thing Explainer by Randall Monroe

Reunited With The Past

My father recently reunited with an old friend, who is a collector of his art and an avid traveler. After many years of not being in touch, him and his wife searched for my father on the internet and when they found him, commissioned for another piece to add to their collection. It was a pleasant surprise and exciting news as this time my father was asked to paint a region in France he’s never been to; a famous view from the small village, Saint Emilion.

Side Note – A little about Saint Emilion

Anyone who’s a wine lover knows about this region as some of the best old world wines come from here. About an hour and half outside of Bordeaux, it is easily accessible by bus or car and definitely worth a visit if you’re road tripping around France. The village is named after a Breton Monk from the 12th century and it is there that you will find one of the world’s largest underground monolithic churches; beautifully constructed and deeply symbolic of the times in which the structure was built. Also found in this little village is the origins of the infamous French Macaron, from Veritables Macrons de Saint Emilion. Before the fancy colors and flavours of Pierre Hermé and Ladurée, the first macrons where simple sweet almond cookies and were amazingly delicious. My trip to this region was memorable for more reasons than I can explain. It will forever be a place of great friends and  happy days. 

For this piece we didn’t have time to take a trip for onsite research like for his last piece on Positano, but France has always had lasting impressions on my father. He summoned up his memories and created a piece that reflected that exact feeling I had when I stood upon that ledge looking over the vast French countryside. It brought me back to that happy place and all I could think was how I'd be able to scheme up a reason to convince him not to sell this piece so I could have it for my house one day. 

The commission piece took nearly 5 months to complete. It started with a few smaller pieces to scope out the color palette and perspective. The draft canvases are always mini masterpieces and are always presented, communicated and agreed over a warm cup of Chinese tea at the studio. After this, he starts to paint the final product and week by week, you will start seeing the painting come to life, detail by detail, stroke by stroke. 

The final painting unveiled mid May 2016. The collector invited Jennings and my parents over to their house to mount the painting. The event, although seemingly mundane, was oddly emotional because when my father arrived at the house, he realized it was filled with his old family; paintings he hasn’t seen in over 10 years. He said seeing these paintings were like reuniting with his children after many years of separation and knowing they are being taken care of and happy. The past, present and future was discussed over a lovely dinner and my father left his dear friend's home knowing his family was in a happy place. 

Huang Travels - Amalfi Coast

One of my favourite Joseph Cornell pieces that was in his recent exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts

One of my favourite Joseph Cornell pieces that was in his recent exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts


Joseph Cornell loved Naples, Italy and he let his imagination run free when creating pieces around this subject matter. The beautiful thing here is he’s never been to Italy, let alone Naples. Those who have seen his pieces are usually at awe to how he was able to capture the precise ambiance of the city with only his imagination, people's stories and  photos. 


Naples is the definition of forgotten beauty. The run-down streets laced with overhanging laundry. The peeling paint tastefully coloured the city’s alleyways. Wandering around looking for birthday cake with my father was an adventure on its own. We didn't find any of course…it was Easter Monday. Nevertheless, it was the journey more than the destination, as it is in most cases. So why were we wandering about in Naples?

My father was commissioned this year to do a piece on one of Italy’s beautiful regions, The Amalfi Coast; Positano to be exact. Though he’s never been to the area himself, the couple who commissioned him loved his pieces from Cinque Terre and he was more than excited to take on the challenge. For me, it was an opportunity to travel with my parents. So for their Easter trip over to visit me, I decided to take them to this exact destination.

Naples – Sorrento – Capri – Almafi – Positano – Ravello – Pompeii


Each town is significant in their own ways, the towns that trail the south western coast of Italy are simply stunning. Although my father is still more drawn to the Cinque Terre area, his breath was still taken away by Positano. We hiked up around the village and found the location that shared the panoramic view of the painting he was working on. Needless to say he was taunted by the moment and needed to sit down and sketch it right away. My mother and I joined in as well. As you can see, my perspective is highly inaccurate and I need a lot practice to even come close to the reality of the scenery.

The final commission piece completed in 2015

The final commission piece completed in 2015


The trip was fantastic, as it was long breakfasts staring off into the horizon, lazy lunches along the coastline and  pasta filled wanders through endless villages. I would say Italy has yet again left another lasting impression on my father's mind. 

An inspirational piece from this trip

An inspirational piece from this trip