Artist draws from nature to bring peace to herself, her audience


July 05, 2000|By Pamela Woolford | Pamela Woolford,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

JING-JY CHEN uses simple strokes to create serene, fluid depictions of wildlife and nature.

Chen teaches Oriental brush painting in public schools as a Maryland State Arts Council artist in education. She finds her art form is meditative for not only the viewer, but also the painter.

"You do need a kind of mental concentration," she said. "When I sit down, it's very quiet."

The Artists' Gallery in the Columbia Town Center will hold a reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday for Chen, an Oriental brush painter and a Long Reach resident, and watercolorist Ann Schluederberg, a Wilde Lake resident.

The work of the two artists will be featured through July 28 at the gallery.

Chen uses ink and watercolors on surfaces such as rice paper and silk to create her paintings.

"Mostly I [paint] the birds and flowers, because I can see it right there from my garden. I can hear it," she said. "You need to have the mood when you paint."

Chen, who is from Taiwan, has taught Oriental brush painting at Hammond Middle School four times since 1994 through programs sponsored by the PTA.. In May, she taught the art form to the entire student body during a 10-day program.

She uses imaging methods to teach students this Eastern form of watercolor painting.

"When we [paint] the dragonfly, we close our eyes, and we meditate, and we think about the dragonfly flying. And they think about all the colors," she said.

Often, as a part of Chen's instruction, students work together to produce a mural, which will hang in their school or be displayed at a local mall, art center or senior center, Chen says.

"Group work is very important," she said, "because they have to know how to cooperate with each other."

There are certain common subjects in Oriental brush painting, Chen explains. Birds, dragons, dragonflies and bamboo are among them.

Visualizing the subject is an integral part of her instruction.

"When we do bamboo, I bring bamboo from my back yard to the classroom," said Chen, who has a master's degree in education.

The next step is to reproduce your mind's image with a clean, simple stroke, a method that has its roots in the art of calligraphy. To paint the bamboo, "I have yellow on my brush, and green, and the tip in ink," she said.

Chen teaches a class for adults in her home once a week. With 10 students, the class is filled to capacity.

Some of the adults have studied with Chen for as many as nine years.

"They have full-time jobs, and they say [attending the class on] Wednesday nights makes them really relax," she said. "No stress."

Chen will teach students at the Smithsonian Institution, and elementary and middle school art teachers at St. Mary's College this summer.

The work of the two artists is featured through July 28 at the gallery, 10227 Wincopin Circle, Columbia.

Information: 410-740-8249.

Energetic octogenarian

What's more impressive than a 65-year-old woman who is an avid race-walker who skis regularly, plays golf two or three times a week, and does 100 stomach crunches each morning?

Her mother - who at 87, exercises aerobically five times a week and has energy that just won't quit.

Octogenarian Hilda Stephenson, an Owen Brown resident, and her daughter, Beverly Taylor, who lives in New York, can only be described as age-defying.

The two women were featured in the January issue of Essence magazine for their ever-present youthfulness and appeared on the "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in May in an episode that will re-air on Aug. 11.

An exercise student at Florence Bain Senior Center in Harper's Choice, Stephenson's energy astounds others.

"The ones that really can't get around as well - they get a big kick out of seeing me rushing in and out, and I go over and give them a big hug. And I like that," Stephenson said.

She worked in boutiques in New York as "a girl Friday," she said, before she moved to Columbia in the 1970s. She said she has been an avid exerciser all her life.

In her late 60s, she took a lifetime sports course at Howard Community College several times, studying "archery, boating, swimming, basketball, volleyball, even riding a bike," she said.

"Sometimes the boys [fellow students] would look like they were saying, `She's not going to make it,' but I always did, and that made me feel good. I like being with them, because they always treated me nice and respectable," she said.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree: When Taylor was 60, she race-walked the 26.2 miles of the New York marathon.

"As one gets older, a female discovers that she is becoming [like] her mother," says Taylor, who is a retired school principal and a consultant for Bank Street College in New York City.

My mother has a lake right opposite her house," Taylor said. "When I go down, I race-walk in the morning with my brother, who is 62."

Allen Stephenson, Hilda's son, is a Wilde Lake resident and a district director for the Small Business Administration. "He also works out all the time," Hilda Stephenson said.

"I like to walk near the trees. I always feel so peaceful," Hilda Stephenson said.

"The green trees and the greenness with the vines -it makes me feel so wonderful. I guess I'm a lover of nature," she said. "And I like walking, because I meet people occasionally. I talk to anybody that gives me a smile."

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