In traditional Chinese landscape painting, the image not only served as a source of visual information, but also expressed philosophy and emotions. Though artist Evelyn Wong appreciates a careful study of nature, her drawings share in this very principle where she communicates nature’s expressiveness. Withering plants like fruits, flowers and foliage are of particular interest to the South Carolina based artist, rendered in a style that she describes as “grunge”, a reference to her materials like dirt, carbon, charcoal, and chalk pastel, on synthetic papers. Her ongoing series titled ‘Finding Romanticism Among Grunge” consists of drawings inspired by her studies of botanicals.
Evelyn Wong, “Finding Romanticism Among Grunge: Short-Lived Dreams”
All of Wong’s subjects are drawn from life at different points in the season in which each plant is growing or weathered, and working en plein air presents its challenges that are reflected in the immediacy of each piece. About her drawing “Short-Lived Dreams”, for instance, she notes: “One of the most difficult things about working with irises is that they are indeed, short-lived. “The flowers bloom briefly during the start of summer, and as quickly as they came, they wilt away and disappear until next year. During their brief time, though, I feel like they bring us so much beauty, and I really wanted to capture how beautiful and delicate they are.”
Drawings like this one make use of the elements of nature that found their way into the piece as Wong was creating it; spots from damp grass and droplets from rain are mixed together with dry powdered charcoal to get the effect of dirt and grunge on the paper. The effect is rich and dark with the ability to make gradations in every shade of gray, which Wong likens to ink and wash painting. Other pieces incorporate subtle hints of color like pinks and yellows that highlight the romance of blooms against the morose of dry leaves. Though admittedly a test for her abilities, Wong shares that nature’s unpredictability is one of the most exciting parts of illustrating it.