Sam Park was born on an island in the Yellow Sea, Korea in 1949. He first showed an interest in art at the age of 12. His saga as an artist began in the 1960Âs when, as a middle school student, he enrolled in his very first art class. He did so after a teacher noticed a watercolor painting he created and urged him to sign up for instruction. At the time his only interests were in sports, but at the teacherÂs insistence he took that middle school course and entered one of his pictures in an art contest organized by a university. He won first place.
Park continued to win competitions and recognition, but there was a significant price to be paid for these early achievements because ParkÂs father, who failed at a number of business ventures, was determined that the only boy in the large family would have a career in business. The more recognition the son received for his artistic talents, the more uncompromising and abusive the father became. The conflict eventually reached such a dangerous level that Sung Sam was forced to leave his home in Seoul and live with his friend, Paju, in a nearby farming village.
Living in the country proved to be beneficial to Park because, for the first time, he was surrounded by trees, grass, mountains, and people who made their living from the earth. The contrast between the stressful, crowded city and this new life of simplicity, beauty, and peace had a profound influence on the young man. He understood that nature could be a source of comfort and renewal, an idea that began to shape his direction as an artist.
After high school, Park spent six months in the army after which. he then enrolled in the Seorabul Art College (later known as Choong Ang University) where his high school art teacher, Mr. Byum, was a professor. Byun exerted a profound influence on Park with his instruction and encouragement, and he instilled a need for progress and growth in his young pupil. ÂArtists are geniuses and should never stay in a safe place. Venture out into the bigger world,Â he would advise Park. Before long, the young man was following his mentorÂs advice.
Out into the World
The years after his graduation in 1973 were difficult for the young Park, as they are for many young artists. He struggled through by teaching at local schools. He married briefly, but the stresses caused by the financial difficulties led quickly to a divorce. Park persevered however, and in 1982, Park was finally able to realize his dream of leaving Korea and studying in one of the art capitals of the world Â Paris!
Instead of studying in a formal art school, Park took lessons from the great masters whose paintings hung in the Louvre Museum. On Sundays when there was no admission charge, he would carry his lunch and spend the entire day studying the works of the great painters. Park took his paintings into the streets in hopes of selling them to passersby.
Here he made many contacts, as the streets popular with artists were often frequented by art dealers looking to make that next big discovery. Park was befriended by a number of these dealers, and at their invitation, travelled to many countries in the Mediterranean, including Spain, Morocco and Greece and Cyprus.. Park was commissioned by the President of Cyprus to paint a portrait of the First Lady. That painting, along with five others by the artist, now hangs in the Presidential Palace. In between his exhibitions, he travelled to the coasts of Spain and France, becoming enamored of and invigorated by the beautiful climate and scenery.
During the run of an exhibition in Athens, Park met a delightful young Korean woman, Jennifer, who became his wife in 1987. Before long the couple had a son, Se-June.
Jennifer brought order, stability, and brightness to Sung SamÂs life and his art. Whereas his paintings had been varied in style and quality, they quickly took on a consistency in appearance and content, with an emphasis on beauty, tranquility, and joy. However, ParkÂs need to keep growing as an artist didnÂt abate, and his new family was soon on their way to Paris and, shortly afterward, to the southern region of Provence.
Provence: The Birth of New Impressionism
Provence provided a culture that had nurtured some of the most important 19th and 20th century artists, Park was inspired to make dramatic progress towards establishing his own voice as a painter. In the company of other gifted artists, he formulated a new style of painting founded in the work of the Impressionists and Naturalists: New Impressionism.
He was joined by other artists from around the world who were drawn to Provence by the regionÂs history and beauty. Meeting in cafés, studios, and garrets, they talked endlessly about each otherÂs work, about the great painters of the past, and about their ambition to formulate their own view of the world through painting. Over cups of espresso and French wine, the artists shaped their ideas and motivated each other.
Park worked in the Impressionist style, but made his color combinations more precise and established an overall configuration that gave rise to stronger impressions. His sunny landscapes were inviting, bright, and realistic. The warmth Park craved and found after his long journey was finally present in his paintings in the New Impressionistic style.
A Home in America
Park and his family spent eight years in Provence, but his sense of needing to change and grow as an artist began to tug on him once again. When a friend suggested that he move to the United States he thought seriously about that possibility. In 1993, Sung Sam and Jennifer flew to California to determine if they could start a new life there, and when the Pacific coastline reminded them of the landscapes of Provence, Greece, and Spain they decided to make the move. They bought a home near San Diego and Sung Sam began to establish a market for his art.
In 1996, Park participated in the New York Art Expo, where he met New York art publisher Elliot Burns of Soho Editions. They formed an allegiance that continues to this day. Soon, his limited editions were published and shown in over 50 galleries throughout the United States and Canada. Now, with over 100 one-man shows to his credit, Park is one of the best known artists painting in the impressionist style today.
ÂAmerica is a country of opportunity,Â Park says in assessing his recent experience. ÂIn Europe an artistÂs background is more important than his work. But in America, an artist is recognized for the quality of the work he produces..Â
Today, Park, Jennifer and Se-June are American citizens and continue to live in sunny southern California.