Making the Rounds

For Oakland, California, artist Zimou Larry Tan, nothing is off limits in his quest to be a better artist. “As an artist I like to explore more and more. I don?t want to lock myself into one direction,” he says.

Although he began creating art at a very early age, Tan didn?t discover painting until his third year at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco. Working toward a degree in illustration, he took a painting class and discovered his passion for fine art, which drove him to add a fine art degree to his studies.

“I fell in love with oil,” Tan says. “I just couldn?t do anything without oil. You can see more color; you can control the color better and it?s so rich. But I still do other mediums?even some printmaking and a little sculpture. I just want to be an all-around artist.”

Across the Field (oil, 16×20) is a 2000 Art Competition Finalist.

Now that he?s graduated from the academy, Tan spends 8-10 hours a day, six to seven days a week painting outside or in his studio. He also teaches workshops at his alma mater. And although his work runs the gamut of subjects and media, Tan?s forte is potraiture. Working from life when he can, he takes inspiration from well-known masters like Richard Schmid. “The things I see in other people?s paintings inspire me to do better work,” he says. “I?m not trying to copy what they do, but I use some of their ideas to create an atmosphere and experiment and just try to do something different from an everyday painting.”

And that holds true whether he?s working on a portrait or a landscape. For example, in Across the Field (oil, 16×20) Tan worked from a photograph but took artistic license and created a different setting for the scene. Forgoing a preliminary drawing, he goes immediately to his oils. “I start right away with the paint. I like to work alla prima. The wet-into-wet lets me play around with the color a little bit and the color stays fresh.”

A member of various art organizations, Tan likes to enter competitions and exhibitions as often as possible. “Since I have painted so many, I don?t think I should put all of the pieces in my garage and not expose them to others,” says Tan. “And sometimes when you paint in your studio you don?t have conversation with the other painters you need. You can exchange your ideas and figure out how to work on a particular piece.”

With three years of professional painting under is belt, Tan loves working as an artist and having the opportunity to meet and learn from others in his field. “Once we get touched with the right key, we hold on to it and open more doors with it,” he says. “That?s why I paint.”

To see more of Tan?s work, check out his Web site at

A graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art and a former commercial artist, Ann Pember has won numerous awards for her artwork, which has been selected for inclusion in more than 100 national juried exhibitions and more than 20 books and publications. She?s a signature member of many artists? organizations nationwide and the author of Painting Close-Focus Flowers in Watercolor (North Light Books). She?s been teaching painting workshops since 1988, and she lives on the shore of Lake Champlain in the Adirondack region of New York.

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