Ginok Song helps new students find the artist within

As one of Newfoundland’s better known artists, Ginok Song has received a fair amount of recognition and even awards for her paintings. On Sunday, it was her students at the Petty Harbour Art School who were getting all the attention as they displayed their year’s work in the basement of St. Joseph’s Church.
The paintings ranged from portraits and scenics to the occasional still life. The basement was full as friends, family and the inquisitive perused the art, which was surprisingly good, some even excellent, given that many of the artists have only been painting for several years.
Shelly Humber, for instance, started painting three years ago after she retired as a physiotherapy assistant at Agnes Pratt Nursing Home. She paints “whatever catches my eye,” she said. Most of her works on display were scenics, including one of trees, a railway station and an old red barn.
Humber had taken up “dabbling” at painting once a week with a friend from her old job. Then Rhodie Ann Woodfine from Herbie’s Gift Shop in the harbour pointed her towards Song’s art class. “I started from there, and I love it,” Humber said.
“I’m a newbie,” she noted, admitting she couldn’t draw a stickman before she started taking lessons. She works with stained glass now too. Humber was delighted with the turnout for the school’s first show and the reaction the works were getting. The artists put a lot into the display of their paintings. Humber’s uncle even crafted a frame for one of her works from old farm board. “It’s perfect for it,” Humber said.
The oldest rookie artist, Marge Ward of the Goulds, turned 87 last Sunday. She took up painting less than three years ago, though her works look like they were done by someone with more experience.
“I talked about doing it for a long while, but I didn’t do it,” Ward said. “I kept busy at everything else. I have a list a mile long.”
Ward’s daughter Michelle Ward signed her up for Song’s class and insisted she attend. “So I came,” said Ward. “I didn’t know if I had the ability or not, but I thought I’d like to it.”
Ward isn’t particular about what she paints. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “We have fun.”
Another latecomer to painting is Connie Murphy of the Goulds. Her pencil sketch of her grandson was one of the most striking works at the exhibit. She took up painting about three years ago after she retired as a commercial banker. She had been planning to do it for years.
“I really like to draw,” she said. The portrait of her grandson was going to be special to her anyway, she allowed, but doing it in graphite enabled her to capture much more detail, bringing the character of the child into the work. “I don’t think I could have painted him so realistically,” she allowed.
Not surprisingly, Song’s students sing their teacher’s praises.
“Fantastic,” Humber said, when asked to describe her teacher. “You couldn’t ask for any better.”
Murphy agreed. “She lets us do our thing,” she said. “And she guides us. That’s the best kind of teacher to have.”
Song’s teaching has even attracted established painters such as Peter Gard, a noted writer, journalist and artist. Gard has been dropping in on her classes off and on the past two years. One of his works on display at the exhibit was a whimsical ‘evolution of the egg,’ depicting eggs dressed up in human like costumes, including that of a knight. Gard used egg-related items from his household as ideas for the egg men. The painting got an honourable mention in this year’s provincial Arts & Letter’s Competition and would likely fetch a nice price and appreciative nods at any art gallery. “It’s good to have some funny art, I think,” said Gard.
Attending class with Song is good motivation to keep painting, Gard explained. “She’s a very warm person,” he said. “I enjoy coming here and if you go to her class, it always inspires you to do something as opposed to thinking about it. I really enjoy coming to the class.”
Song’s own works are collected throughout Canada, the United Kingdom and Korea. Lately she’s turned to moody, striking portraits whose subjects and tone are reminiscent of those of the great American realist painter Edward Hopper. Her work can be viewed at Song was born and raised in South Korea, where she obtained a degree in fine arts, and moved to Newfoundland in 2000. She is working on a master’s degree in the humanities at Memorial University.
Song started offering art lessons in her house in Petty Harbour in 2003. About five years ago, she moved the classes to the basement of St. Joseph’s Church, which despite being a basement is above ground and catches lots of light. “This is a great space,” she said.
Song too was delighted with the turnout at the exhibit. Some of her students were even being asked to sell their work, which left them baffled about how much to charge. Eventually some of them will be able to have solo exhibitions, she said.
Teaching art serves as a way for Song to remind herself of the things she has learned over the years. “I’m learning a lot from the students as well,” she said.
Song isn’t surprised that her students’ work is so good even though many of them only started painting within the last few years. “I think most people have some kind of talent,” she said. “As an art teacher, I can teach a few things from the beginning, like how to draw and to mix colours and this leads into what they want to paint... I also try to teach different techniques so they can find what they like and develop their own artwork.”

Posted on June 24, 2015 .