A stroke of artistic spirit

Asian brush painters exhibit work at Rosehill Community Center
By Nicholas Johnson | Oct 04, 2017
Photo by: Nicholas Johnson Hyeh-Yeon Hoffer rinses her paintbrush, made with animal hair, while painting in her living room in Mukilteo on Monday, Oct. 2. Hoffer teaches a class on Asian brush painting at Rosehill Community Center. Work from that class is now on display there through Dec. 20. An artists’ reception is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5.

When Hyeh-Yeon Hoffer became a mother, she took time off from work to care for her children, but found she also needed to do something for herself.

“I was looking for something meaningful for myself, so I took an art class,” she said.

A woman was teaching Asian brush painting at a local community center. Hoffer, who grew up in Korea, had always wanted to study that style of painting. Instead, she had been pushed toward applied art, studying industrial design before moving to the U.S. to study mechanical engineering.

Sitting down to paint, Hoffer found, had a calming effect on her.

“You sit down and grind your ink into the stone,” she said. “The whole process is like meditation.”

After of year of taking the class, Hoffer began teaching others the techniques of Asian brush painting.

It became fun to gather with friends and just paint together and learn together,” she said.

In 2001, Hoffer and her family moved to Mukilteo, where she took a job as an engineer with Boeing. After about 10 years she decided to start teaching a class on Asian brush painting at Rosehill Community Center. Today, after consecutive six years, Hoffer’s is the longest-running class offered at Rosehill, and it’s developed a core group of regulars.

“There’s a lot of camaraderie,” she said. “I have many of the same students since I started six years ago. I feel I am no longer teaching; I am just observing now.”

Paulette Hunter of Mukilteo has been attending Hoffer’s class for the past five years. It didn’t take long for Hunter to pick up the basics and begin “flourishing and blossoming” as a painter, Hoffer said.

“I am so proud of all my students, especially Paulette,” she said.

Hunter, who took art classes in college before focusing on her career in public education, said she, too, has always been drawn to Asian brush painting. Since retiring, she said she’s had more time to explore art.

“Once I started attending the class and saw how beautiful the work is, I was really captivated by it,” Hunter said. “I find the simplicity of form particularly beautiful.”

There’s a reason it’s called Asian brush painting, Hoffer said.

“It emphasizes the brush,” she said. “Without the subject’s spirit running through the brush, it wouldn’t depict anything. Your painting will depict your mood, your hesitation, the strength or timidity of your stroke.”

Hunter said Hoffer’s class is an ideal environment to try something you may have no experience with.

“Art is a funny thing; you sort of bear your soul when you put your art out there,” she said. “To be in an environment that accepts that is particularly important for anyone who is just starting out. For example, often at the end of class when someone has come up with something we all love, the group will spontaneously just applaud.”

Some 40 finished and framed paintings by Hoffer and Hunter and six others from the class are currently hanging at Rosehill Community Center. The free exhibit runs through Dec. 20, and an artists’ reception is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5. This is the second time the class has exhibited its work.

Hoffer said painting has changed the way she sees the world. Whether sailing, flying, driving or climbing a mountain face, Hoffer said she likes to take excursions in search of the natural beauty all around us.

“If I see something I like, I’ll try to paint right there, or I’ll take pictures and bring them home,” she said. “For example, I was driving the Oregon coast and saw the fog coming in early in the morning, so I took pictures and did a painting that is now hanging at Rosehill.”

Hunter said she, too, sees art all around her.

“One of the things I love about art is once your eyes are opened to it, you see it everywhere,” she said.

Hunter said she’s thankful to have stumbled upon Hoffer’s class because it’s allowed her to explore her long-held interest in art.

“The gentleness and kindness of spirit of our instructor is really a key element,” Hunter said of Hoffer. “And newcomers are always welcome. A person doesn’t have to be an artist to come into class. That’s what you discover and explore when you get here. I think there’s an artistic side to all of us and it’s a just a matter of tapping into that.”

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