Ong Kim Seng BBM. A.W.S. DF. N.W.S. was born in Singapore and has been a full-time artist since 1985. He has won six awards from the AMERICAN WATERCOLOR SOCIETY; the Paul B. Remmy Memorial Award in 1983, the Lucy B. Moore Award in 1988, the Clara Stroud Memorial Award in 1989 and the Barse Miller Memorial Award in 1992, Winsor & Newton Award in 2000 and the Ida Wells Memorial Award in 2001. He has been an active member of theAMERICAN WATERCOLOR SOCIETY since 1990 and was the first Asian outside the U.S.A. to be awarded membership. He was President of the SINGAPORE WATERCOLOR SOCIETY from 1991 to 2001 when he became Honorary President, in which that capacity, he interacts with other watercolor organizations in the other parts of the world. In 1993 his work, 'Bhaktaphur' was the first Singapore watercolour painting to be auctioned by Sotheby's in Hong Kong. In March 1994, his work, 'Bali' was auctioned by Christie's in Singapore. Ong Kim Seng was the Organizing Chairman of ASIAN WATERCOLORS 97 SINGAPORE, the first international watercolor exhibition to be held in Singapore. He was Founding Editor-South East Asia forInternational Artist and an article on his works appeared in the first issue of the magazine.
Ong Kim Seng. Everest the North Face.1988
You represent watercolor of Singapore in the world. Are there any specific features in Singapore watercolor? Does it belong to a certain bigger region watercolor society?
I represented SIngapore in many occasions in International art exhibitions . Whether other art critics and artists would agree with me about the Singapore form of watercolor is the tropical light source in particular in its presentation . It is actually a mix of traditional British and Californian watercolors . In my case I prefer to apply fresh primary colors creating a luminous finish on my painting .
Ong Kim Seng. As The Night Falls
Could you tell how you become a watercolor artist?
Since young I dreamt to be good at drawing and painting although to be a full -time painter never comes into my mind . This is because my mum was strongly against my childhood aspirations .As a result I went through the normal education and did a number of jobs before I turn full time artist in 1985.
Ong Kim Seng. Beding Rawaling Himalaya.1989. 42x28
Who or what the most influenced you as an artist?
The British artist Sir William Russell Flint was my greatest influence as well John Singer Sargent . It is the unpredictability of this medium that attracted me and to keep me painting till today .
When did you become a full-time artist?I became a full time artist in 1983 after I left my last job as a audio visual specialist with multi -lateral organisation.
Ong Kim Seng. Mighty Annapurna.
What is your attitude to critique of art? What is proper: to enjoy the good sides or to find defects of the painting?
The words of critique of art is subjective and it cannot be taken seriously , for example they called " watercolors as a stepchild of art or as a preparation for a large scale oil painting " ! It is human nature to look for faults then to appreciate just on the good sides when it comes to art. Or else people may think that you are not educated enough to admire a painting !
Ong Kim Seng. Veliko Bulgaria
You travel a lot. Do you always paint on a spot? How do you organize the process?
Most of the time I paint on the spot although I do paint at home or in my studio. I usually pick a spot i like and select the most interesting part of scene to start painting .
Ong Kim Seng. Morning Light Tongli. 22x31''
Can you find difference in painting made in studio with a reference photo and the same subject painted on a spot?
There is a great difference between painting in the studio and on the spot of course . When you are painting "plein air" whatever you see is clear and sharp whereas with a photograph even with very high density there are bound to be areas which are not clear and details blurred or even black! I agree that it is comfortable and safe to paint in a studio but there are limitations to the feelings of the environment and to attain first hand reference of the place you are painting . In the studio you are confined to the four walls!
Ong Kim Seng. Xitang Bridge. 53x38cm
Do you have certain colors in your palette those you can`t do without?
Yes French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna the two most important colors I cant do without !
Do you use masking or white opaque color in your painting?
Ong Kim Seng. Morning.
Can you formulate most important rules of watercolor for yourselves?
Achieve what watercolors was when they were painted by British Masters that is to stay transparent and clean !
Ong Kim Seng. Bali
What brushes do you use?
Winsor and Newton size 12 and and the most useful size 10.
Do you follow what is happening in watercolor media?
I read magazines from many countries in particular the United States and China .
Ong Kim Seng. Western Himalaya. 2005. 22x30''
What are the tendencies in watercolor media in the world in your opinion?
Watercolor had been regarded by even critiques that they are a "step-child" of art ! Many collectors are skeptical about the medium itself . They always think they fade ,and the paper is less durable than canvas . However watercolor was the oldest medium since the dawn of civilization . Many of the paintings in the water medium were kept in museum last till today in its original form.
Ong Kim Seng
Some “do” and “don`t” for the young watercolor artists?
Watercolor is to keep painting and never give up . It is the most challenging of all mediums . Do not paint it the way you paint oils ! This is a different approach .