In praise of the unsung artist

I mentioned the other day that we were acquiring a new picture. Well here it is.


It was painted by a friend of cost centre number 2. It is not what I would normally think of buying but when I saw it in the original I was thrilled. If you look at the detail in the hair, the skin textures, the eyes, it really is a very fine work. The artist’s name is visible – Janet Fong – and she will do commissions I believe. The amount of time spent on this can’t be costed. It was constantly refined and even after I agreed to buy it Janet was striving for the final perfect brush stroke.

She paints because she loves to do so. I don’t think she really wanted to part with it but it has not travelled far. She will see it when she comes to the barbecues that CC2 holds when we are away and she is house sitting. Most young people in HK struggle to make ends meet unless they have family help. Selling a favourite painting is something few can do. They are not blessed with the talent to create like this. I hope Janet continues to paint and occasionally sell her work. Maybe one day she will get the recognition others strive for. And I can always say, I have an original Fong.

24 thoughts on “In praise of the unsung artist

  1. Sadly most artists struggle to make ends meet – everywhere. The last painting I sold was 10 years ago at a fairly prestigious exhibition in London. I did get a sculpture commission when I was in Hong Kong visiting my family in 2012. When I lived in Zambia I could make a living from my work, but here in the north of England people just don’t have the money to spend on original art. We artists submit work to national exhibitions, pay an entry fee and pay an agent to deliver the work. If it isn’t accepted we pay the agent to collect and return. If it is accepted, hung and sold the gallery or organisation takes anything between 30 – 50% commission.

    In total I have had six years art training and worked in graphic design, sculpture and fine art. To make ends meet I have also worked as a draughtswoman, shop assistant, postwoman and in several factories. I was working in a factory when I retired nine years ago and now I am thankful for the state pension, but still worry if I will be able to keep my car on the road – or get my roof fixed. This is not meant to be a sob story – just the harsh reality. My eldest grandson is about to embark on an art & design course and I really hope it works out for him, but you can see why I might be more than a little concerned.

    I don’t know if you have looked at my stuff on WordPress, but if you would like to have a peek, you will find a broad selection under Artwork.

    My very best wishes to your young friend, Janet Fong.

    • I have just been over to look and I have to say I am genuinely shocked that you have not sold a painting in 10 years. There is wonderful breadth and some terrific humour. I loved “Lunch at the Natural History Museum – Darwin Ponders Evolution!”

      I used to go to the British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water and twice bought sculptures from a lady in Lincolnshire – boxing hares and a fox. Several hundred pounds each but I treasure them. I never really buy anything as an investment. I only buy pieces I like and only on a small scale. My most expensive purchase was about £4,000.

      I can understand that people can’t afford to prioritise art these days. It is very sad. I wish your grandson much success in his chosen vocation.

      BTW, when I retired I was given a painting of a bird, Gurney’s Pitta, which is found in Thailand and Burma. It is critically endangered. Ironic that it was painted in Kenya! I had one Zambian painting that I bought at a charity auction for about US$3,000. I donated it to the bank when I retired so they could re-auction it. I liked it very much but it was huge and I had nowhere to hang it.

      • The Darwin picture was the last one I sold! it was in the Discerning Eye Exhibition at the Mall Galleries and the price £950. It was selected by Mark Lawson – the journalist and former BBC arts correspondent, who was one of the six selectors. He said he ‘was considering buying it for himself, but someone pipped him to the post!’ The organisers take 40% commission and I paid the train fare to London for myself and my late partner to go to the opening, plus an overnight stay in a hotel, so not much left from the proceeds!

      • Have you used an online gallery? Janet was going to put the picture I bought with one. They charge 30% commission but you don’t have physical delivery to a gallery or exhibition; only if you sell.

      • No Andrew, I haven’t tried an online gallery – I suppose because it seems such a strange concept to me – that someone wouldn’t want to inspect the work to see the mark making or how it is created (I’ve tried with prints, but again no luck and it was even very hard to give them away for charity when I appeared on the 4th Plinth in Trafalgar Square, as part of Antony Gormley’s ‘One & Other’ project in 2009). Several of my friends have put work online, with no success (there is just so much ‘art’ out there) and of course collectors are only interested in younger people’s work. You wouldn’t think age would matter would you, but alas it does. On every entry form you are asked your age range and although that wouldn’t necessarily be shown, anyone can work it out from your CV. Having said all that, there is no harm in trying, so I might just give it a whirl, though these days most of my time is occupied with ongoing repairs to my house. Watch this space!

      • For some reason, your name is not a link, at least on my screen. So thanks for the link. I am surprised there is not more call for you do do children’s portraits as I think those are quite good and I enjoyed the sculptures as well.
        I read one of your blog posts and am sorry for the loss of your mother, Willo. My father just passed away from the Dementia/Alzheimer combination after several years in a nursing home. At the end he had no idea who I was, who he was and had little idea that he was even alive.. Not an easy thing to watch happen to a loved one.

      • Hi Steve – most of those portraits were done when I lived in Zambia, where some expats had money to spare and nothing much to buy. Few people can afford to commission a portrait now when times are hard. Also the advent of Photoshop has almost made the painted portrait redundant, when anyone can create a masterpiece in a few minutes! I must say I am a convert to computer graphics – and you can get such wonderful effects in an instant.

        Sorry to hear about your father going through the same trauma as my mum – and it is so difficult for loved ones watching the slow decline.

  2. Agreed: extraordinarily fine work. I must see if I offer to pay her a commission to do me I’ll end up looking like this …

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