Art News and Articles: Featured Artist

Realizing a Lifelong Ambition
Steven Pon Shares His Paintings with the
World at

Musicians are fond of saying that music is a universal language. And it is. But not more so than art. You can place the earliest cave paintings, a Greek marble, a Rembrandt self-portrait and one of Pollock’s drip paintings side by side and each will speak in an instant. Art stands outside of time. In any case, both art and music are languages that anyone, anywhere, at any period can understand.

Born in Canton, China in 1945, just after the end of the war with Japan, Steven came into a land that was destined for more turmoil. The Chinese Revolution would soon be under way and Steven’s father, a school principal, saw that the prospects of life under Mao did not hold much promise, so he went to nearby Hong Kong and found work. Steven’s mother followed with the rest of the family, crossing a dangerous river to make it to the colony.

Hong Kong was overcrowded and impoverished at the time and Steven recalls living on the seventh floor of an apartment house teeming with other families who had fled the mainland. Around age 7, Steven picked up a pencil and discovered drawing. His mother admired his early efforts and showed these to the neighbors who were also impressed, and Steven’s lifelong hobby began.

A New Beginning with New Challenges

In America, the story goes, if one fell through the center of the earth, one would come out in China. The reciprocal must be true, too. And culturally, Steven fell through the center of the earth when his family emigrated to America, settling first in Oakland, California in 1957. Living with his older sister’s family in an apartment situated above a grocery store, this was about as far from Hong Kong as one could get. “I remember the aromas from the grocery store coming up to our apartment,” Steven recalls. Life became more comfortable, but not in all respects. Steven did not speak a word of English, and in the context of this back story, it is easy to imagine Steven communicating in a language that had not changed despite his relocation: drawing.

In America, he discovered new sources of inspiration: comic books. “I collected hundreds of comic books like Spiderman and The Fantastic Four. I learned to draw by imitating the figures,” he says.

Naturally, having to learn English delayed his progress in school, and it wasn’t until high school that Steven caught up. There, he always took art classes and thought he would move right into commercial art when he graduated. He enrolled in a trade school to train as a commercial artist, but left during his second year and eventually went to work for the post office. Art remained his lifelong interest and he continued to draw in his spare time.

As a boy, Steven became aware of the art of Normal Rockwell from the covers of the Saturday Evening Post. “I loved the details he put in his paintings,” he says. Later, he saw the paintings of another commercially successful artist, Thomas Kinkade, and again the detail fascinated and inspired him. Steven still had not begun painting yet, mind you, but the bug was in his system, where it incubated for many years. “Art was always on my mind,” he continues. “I was doing drawing most of my free time. Sometimes, wherever I was, I would start drawing something on a piece of paper. Anything that interested me at the moment.”

A couple years ago, he took a painting class at De Anza Community College and enjoyed the learning experience. But it wasn’t until recently that he took the plunge and began to pursue a lifelong aspiration.

One day, Steven was at his job in the security department of the Silicon Valley firm where he works.

“I was sitting at my desk and the receptionist came by and saw one of my drawings,” he tells it. “She said she liked it very much. I said ‘Yeah, but I’d really like to start painting,’ and she asked me to do a painting for her. So I said, ‘Okay,’ and I did one. She liked it a lot. And that’s really what got me started.”

Just like many years ago in Hong Kong, this simple fact of admiration sparked Steven’s interest and has opened his creativity.

Looking at Steven’s paintings, it’s easy to understand his admiration for the detail in one of Rockwell’s works. Steven pays the same attention to detail in his own. And it’s no stretch to see in his work the niceties found in classic brush and ink Chinese landscapes, with the addition that, instead of blacks and grays, Steven’s palette is filled with bright, rich reds, yellows and blues.

“I prefer using watercolor and mix it with acrylics. I also use water color pencils and other media to bring out that certain look I try to achieve. I also do acrylics on canvas. I usually begin with a photograph I like and sketch it onto illustration board. I change it around to give the best composition and then I begin painting.”

The cheerful luminosity in Steven’s work makes prints of his paintings very popular, and he has sold dozens to friends and family. Currently, several of his paintings are on display at the Quinlin Community Center in Cupertino where he lives.

He is a member of the Fine Arts League of Cupertino ( where, he puts it, “We have a large group of artists who get together each month and have discussions on painting. Sometimes we have a well-known artist who comes over and gives tips and lessons on how they do their paintings. Since I joined the group, I have learned a lot from them.”

Giving Himself a Permanent Window for His Art

Joining FALC recently opened up another door for Steven. At one meeting he met member Sylvie Levesque who was handing out fliers about “I checked it out and really liked it, so I decided to join up. I have gotten great support from them,” he says.

Like other registered artists, Steven sees big advantages to tagging and registering his paintings. “For one thing, you know who created it. There’s no question that I am the artist, and that it is authentic. The tag and certificate of authenticity prove it. If someone buys one of my paintings and later someone else buys it from the first person, the new buyer knows where it came from without question.

“The way I see my future as an artist is very simple – I will just continue to paint. I already like that part. I don’t worry about that, I just let it happen. If people start buying my painting or my prints, that would really make me happy. I live day by day right now and just enjoy my painting.”

By connecting with, Steven has given himself a window on the Internet where anyone can see his art. Looking back, it’s a long way from the day in Hong Kong when he first picked up a pencil. But then, as now, anyone can look at and appreciate the universal language in Steven’s art, which you can see at

by Dan Koon | June 26, 2007

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