Richard Wong is an artist, and no one is more surprised by it than the artist himself.
Now 58, he picked up a paint brush for the first time in early 2011. “My partner Jackie (Swan) asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I said, ‘maybe a sketch pad.’ I don’t know why I even said that.”
The water colour kit sat unopened for a while, then Wong registered for an art class at the Esquimalt Recreation Centre. “One of the first water colours I painted was a hut. Then when I painted behind it, I just touched the hut with the water and it disappeared. It was very frustrating. I almost quit,” he said.
Instead, he signed up for Chinese brush lessons with Kileasa Wong, the foremost teacher of traditional Chinese painting in Victoria. At the end of his second session of classes the instructor told him his work was “good enough to sell.”
“That just planted a seed in me,” he said.
From there Wong, who has lived in Esquimalt for seven years, dove into the art world, expanding his horizons with Western brush technique and showing his work at the Victoria Look Show. “I was very apprehensive about it,” said Wong. “I was not quite sure I was ready.”
During the show he was approached by Greater Victoria Community Arts Council president Bob Williams, who asked him to join the board. “I’m like: ‘say what?’ Those things don’t happen to me.”
Wong joined the board in May. He was resident artist at Abkhazi Gardens and artist in residence at Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites in July where he taught an introduction to Chinese Brush Painting workshop.
“It was fun. It was over capacity with people who wanted to take the class. I was taken by surprise. I thought, I’ve just started to learn and here I am standing in front of a crowd,” he said with awe in his voice.
After a 25-year career in the ministry of environment, Wong retired in 2009. Up until his unusual request for a sketch pad he “didn’t have an artistic bone” in his body, but now gets great pleasure from creating his fusion of eastern and western methods.
“As long as I’m painting and I continue to be enjoying it and satisfied, I’ll keep going,” said Wong. The public can meet Wong and see him work at the Esquimalt Arts Festival on Aug. 12. The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the English Inn and Resort, 429 Lampson St.
Painters, photographers, musicians, carvers and other local artists will be displaying and demonstrating their art. There will be creation stations where families can participate in free art projects. Learn more about Wong at richardwong