This year’s festival season welcomes a new wave of emerging artists.
By Kelly Shannon | Photos by Carrie Zeller
Among the most scenic places in the world, with its captivating coastline and canyon, Laguna Beach cultivates creativity. It has birthed world-renowned artists and is home to one of the best colleges for art and design, scores of art galleries and a monthly art walk. This locale’s beauty catches the eyes of artists from near and far, inspiring its residents and visitors at every nook in town.
Every year, young artists seek enrollment at Laguna College of Art & Design (LCAD), and the competition is high. For those talented and lucky enough to be offered admission, the experience pushes their art to new limits. This summer, some of these students and other young artists will be displaying their work for their first or second time at the Festival of Arts, Sawdust Art Festival and Art-A-Fair.
With so many longtime artists exhibiting at these iconic festivals, and a juried selection process for Festival of Arts and Art-A-Fair, it’s difficult for many new artists to gain entry. But each year, a handful of emerging artists make the cut and inject new energy into these events. Among them are charcoal artist Stefan Cummings, a first-year exhibitor at Festival of Arts, and oil painters Michael Harnish and Junghwa Hong, who are both second-year exhibitors at the Festival of Arts. Additionally, abstract painter tul-Tanya U. Lozano, a first-year exhibitor, will be at Art-A-Fair, while streetscape artist Amy Hammond, a fourth-year exhibitor, is putting roots down at Sawdust Art Festival. Here, get to know the talented, fresh-faced newcomers before you visit the festivals this summer.
This art instructor is a painter on a quest for beauty.
Getting started: At an early age, Michael Harnish began constructing scenes of his own invention with Legos in his parents’ garage and also making films of his friends showing off their skateboarding skills. “I believe it may have been innate or there were experiences that served as a good foundation for developing my craft as an artist,” he says. “I was introduced to serious oil painting at the age of 22. I fell in love with it and, to this day, am still in love with it.”
His artistic process: Michael sets out with the goal of capturing a specific moment in his existence, either taking photos of something he sees or visualizing a picture he wants to create. Michael gathers reference material, and then begins putting brush to canvas—a meditative experience for him. “I explore paint in a very organic and chaotic way, especially during the early stages of the work,” Michael says. “Then, I make some areas of the painting more realistic while leaving some of the painting abstract and allowing some of the early brushwork to remain. I never really know when I am finished. … I think that is part of what keeps me sustained in the experience of exploration.”
His inspiration: Michael is motivated by beauty he finds on his continual path of discovery. “I love to travel, experience many different people [and] cultures, and explore new ideas and conversations,” he says. “I am constantly searching for beauty, as I believe it changes or maybe it manifests itself more as I attempt to continue being receptive to it. My paintings are constantly changing in accordance with what I believe [is] … an attempt at a deeper search for beauty.”
What he loves about Laguna: “Laguna Beach is a truly undeniable place of beauty,” he says. “The whole community was basically created with an artistic vision over the course of decades. … It is the reason I decided to go to school here as well as to continue living and participating in the local art scene.”
This portrait painter gives voice to victims of violence.
Getting started: “As a child, I was fascinated by one painting that hung in our home,” Junghwa Hong says. “It was just an ordinary representational landscape that had been hanging in my old house, like air, but it stimulated my visual sense, and it let me travel deeply into my own imaginable world.” This imagination led Junghwa to create her own paintings, just for fun. “But then, when I learned about other artists’ imaginations and worlds, I truly chose to be an artist,” she says.
Her artistic process: Junghwa starts with a subject or concept that she wants to share, then gathers photos on this topic. “These images form the basis of my realistic, empathetic, painted depictions of tragicomic human existence,” she says. Junghwa sometimes works with images of women who were victims of gender-based violence, creating portraits that allow the viewer to take another look at the impact of these often hidden atrocities. Junghwa’s art is also a form of therapy, allowing her to work through life’s uncertain outcomes and giving her a deeper understanding of what it means to be human.
Her inspiration: “I feel a strong kinship with and compassion for people who are victims of irrational social systems, ethical prejudice or religious restrictions,” Junghwa says. “Women and children are powerless in many societies. When I saw an article and photograph about a woman who was brutally attacked … because she offended her family’s honor, I had to voice a response through my paintings.” Junghwa also has an interest in burkas, the full-body coverings worn by some Muslim women. “Somehow, they are beautiful for me, but they also symbolize an effort to suppress desire and restrict women,” Junghwa says.
What she loves about Laguna: A receptive audience is one attraction for artists in this community, Junghwa notes. As she says, “Laguna Beach’s residents have the desire and the affluence to consume art.”
Drawing helps this artist delve into his surroundings.
Getting started: Coming from a family full of musicians, Stefan Cummings was exposed to creative endeavors growing up, taking art classes, acting in plays and singing in choir, and so the arts seemed a natural path. “Since everyone in my family is a musician or a teacher, I didn’t have a lot of pressure to pick a ‘sensible’ career and make a ton of money,” he says. “… I was lucky enough to end up at Laguna College of Art & Design.”
His artistic process: “For me, art is just about pursuing the things that I am interested in, and being authentic to who I am as a person,” Stefan says. While some ideas are clear, he often just starts exploring something in the world around him as well as various methods to achieve different effects. “This is always a two-way street; technique dictates concept and vice versa,” he says. “It’s hard to know when a piece is finished. Sometimes, it’s just about getting it to a level where I’m no longer embarrassed to have other people see it.”
His inspiration: Stefan says he’s attracted to the paradox of familiar things becoming unfamiliar, such as his drawings of family and friends. “[The emotional connection] becomes heightened or even distorted … and the result is something very visually accurate that is unrecognizable to a certain extent,” he says. Meanwhile, his landscapes typically reflect his home state of Washington. “I love the trees in the Northwest, the air and mist in the morning,” he says. “The light there is very different from California. It’s cool and diffused as opposed to being warm and direct.”
What he loves about Laguna: Stefan says the tight-knit, small-town atmosphere and a wide range of art at LCAD helps to inspire creativity. “… The diverse art forms and expressions that I am exposed to … broaden my horizons and make me aware of things that I would have no exposure to otherwise. I think the same is true of Laguna Beach as a whole.”
Light and color guide this streetscape artist’s paintings.
Getting started: As a born and raised Lagunan, Amy Hammond has been encased in creativity since childhood. From jewelry making and painting to sewing and even refinishing furniture, Amy uses her artistic talents while exploring many mediums. “I was born and raised in Laguna, and many in my family are artists, so art and artists have surrounded me always,” she says. “For much of my life, art was more of a way of life than a way to make a living. It wasn’t until attending Laguna College of Art & Design in my mid-20s that art occurred to me as a means to make a living.”
Her artistic process: Amy says inspiration for her work typically starts with a photo snapped with her smartphone through the dirty window of her 1974 Karmann Ghia. “Something will catch my eye on a drive, and I’ll snap a picture of it,” she adds. “Later, I’ll begin to sketch what is often a loose rendition of the photograph. From there, I begin adding in the elements of color and light.” The resulting images, swirled with colors of the sunset, are usually very interpretive—and a little like the photo that inspired them in the first place.
Her inspiration: Amy’s artwork is influenced by everyday scenes in nature and around town. “One hundred things a day inspire me,” Amy says. “Anything from the colors of the sunset, the way the shadow from a telephone pole falls across the asphalt, the juxtaposition of a dirty alley with the most beautiful blue sky above it, the color of blue sky out the window or even street lights on Coast Highway can set my imagination in motion.”
Why she loves Laguna: “The light—there’s something about the way the town is surrounded by the ocean on one side and the mountains on other,” she says. “It creates a magical light. I know that the light inspires me countless times every day.”
This artist finds freedom in abstract painting with many layers.
Getting started: From a young age, Tanya U. Lozano took art classes in charcoal and watercolors while growing up in Japan. “I always liked the freedom and creativity that art brought to me,” she says. In college, while studying advertising and marketing, Tanya took some classes in photography, which quickly turned into a hobby. “I enjoyed the aspect of developing in the darkroom even more as I had control of the exposure of darkness and light,” she says. Photography led to other creative endeavors. “That is when I found my true passion: painting. The medium I use is acrylics, and my style is nonobjective abstract.”
Her artistic process: Since Tanya expresses herself with vibrant hues and dramatic texture on the canvas, she begins each piece by thinking about the colors she wants to use. “I visualize the composition and then make a quick sketch of it,” she says. “Once that is established, I can’t wait to get to the canvas and begin the process of layering and combining the colors. I get lost and let my creativity lead me; time flies by as if it were standing still.” Once she feels the piece is balanced, she leaves it hanging on the wall and adds more detail each day until she feels it’s complete. “It’s always about light and dark, and how they play off one another,” she says. “It’s on [my] mind day and night until it’s finished; it consumes me.”
Her inspiration: “I visit museums and galleries of contemporary art locally and always while traveling on vacation,” she says. “Seeing others’ works always inspires me along with two of my favorite [abstract] artists: Gerhard Richter and Mark Rothko. I’m drawn to their work as it’s nonobjective, so I’m able to see what I want to.”
What she loves about Laguna: Tanya says the location’s stunning scenery is what captivates creative types: “Laguna Beach is such a beautiful place that it draws in so many diverse artists, giving them inspiration.”