Artist Sung Eun Kim Finds Inspiration in the Ordinary

His muse goes from streetscapes and still lifes to portraiture.


Artwork courtesy of the artist

Streetscapes, then still lifes, and now portraits serve as muses for Alameda artist Sung Eun Kim.

“As an artist, finding beauty is what inspires me. I seek the balance of light and shadow, depth, and space when painting. I find cityscapes are the perfect subject matter to display these elements,” said Kim, who counts the rich urban landscape as his original inspiration.

Kim discovered Alameda as an undergrad at California College of the Arts in Oakland before pursuing a MFA at Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Kim, born and raised in South Korea, sought a quiet home away from the hustle and bustle of city life — and found small-town inspiration along the way.

His refined scenes of San Francisco are regularly represented at Hang Art Gallery in Lower Nob Hill, where he will host an extensive solo show in June 2018. Kim found Alameda while looking for a home that allowed him to break from his work. He was seeking a serene spot to give his mind and spirit a rest from the bustling metropolis.

Alameda inspired a whole new subject — floral still lifes. Extraordinarily detailed and equal parts delicate and bold, the blooming roses, peonies, and daisies that Kim paints express the beauty of small-town life. Exploring the lush gardens of the Island’s majestic Victorians and inviting Craftsman bungalows inspired an artistic balance to his soaring cityscapes.

“Alameda is a great place to recharge,” he said.

For the last 18 months, Kim has worked out of a studio space at Phoenix Alameda, a local artist collective. After years of working in a solitary studio, he said he treasures “the inspiration and energy of working alongside other artists.” Kim also offers weekly oil painting workshops at Phoenix every Tuesday 6-9 p.m. Beginners focus on still-life florals, while more seasoned students move onto landscapes. He launched a portrait workshop series in 2017 and hopes to hold similar series oriented workshops in 2018, focusing specifically on portraits and landscapes.

Much the same way Kim has elected to work in a collective space and draw energy and inspiration from other working artists, he finds the pursuit of teaching art as self-revealing and enjoyable as his own creations. “Helping others explore their creative vision inspires me to challenge myself as an artist and further my own work,” he said.

The cozy, comfortable, and neat studio space is adorned with his work — landscapes, cityscapes, still-life florals, and portraits. His intriguingly animated portraits are a fresh departure from his signature subject. “With cityscapes, I paint mostly from photographs,” he said. For portrait work, however, he always uses live models and finds such painting represent an interesting paradigm shift away from depth and light, creating a path toward intuition, emotion, and personality. Kim enjoys the change of pace, adding, “Portraiture reveals the more personal nature of an artist, and the way we view humanity around us.”


Learn more about Kim at,, and

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