Sam Park was born on an island in the Yellow Sea, Korea in 1949. He first showed an interest in art at the age of 12. His saga as an artist began in the 1960Ã‚s when, as a middle school student, he enrolled in his very first art class. He did so after a teacher noticed a watercolor painting he created and urged him to sign up for instruction. At the time his only interests were in sports, but at the teacherÃ‚s insistence he took that middle school course and entered one of his pictures in an art contest organized by a university. He won first place.
Park continued to win competitions and recognition, but there was a significant price to be paid for these early achievements because ParkÃ‚s father, who failed at a number of business ventures, was determined that the only boy in the large family would have a career in business. The more recognition the son received for his artistic talents, the more uncompromising and abusive the father became. The conflict eventually reached such a dangerous level that Sung Sam was forced to leave his home in Seoul and live with his friend, Paju, in a nearby farming village.
Living in the country proved to be beneficial to Park because, for the first time, he was surrounded by trees, grass, mountains, and people who made their living from the earth. The contrast between the stressful, crowded city and this new life of simplicity, beauty, and peace had a profound influence on the young man. He understood that nature could be a source of comfort and renewal, an idea that began to shape his direction as an artist.
After high school, Park spent six months in the army after which. he then enrolled in the Seorabul Art College (later known as Choong Ang University) where his high school art teacher, Mr. Byum, was a professor. Byun exerted a profound influence on Park with his instruction and encouragement, and he instilled a need for progress and growth in his young pupil. Ã‚?Artists are geniuses and should never stay in a safe place. Venture out into the bigger world,Ã‚? he would advise Park. Before long, the young man was following his mentorÃ‚s advice.
Out into the World
The years after his graduation in 1973 were difficult for the young Park, as they are for many young artists. He struggled through by teaching at local schools. He married briefly, but the stresses caused by the financial difficulties led quickly to a divorce. Park persevered however, and in 1982, Park was finally able to realize his dream of leaving Korea and studying in one of the art capitals of the world Ã‚? Paris!
Instead of studying in a formal art school, Park took lessons from the great masters whose paintings hung in the Louvre Museum. On Sundays when there was no admission charge, he would carry his lunch and spend the entire day studying the works of the great painters. Park took his paintings into the streets in hopes of selling them to passersby.
Here he made many contacts, as the streets popular with artists were often frequented by art dealers looking to make that next big discovery. Park was befriended by a number of these dealers, and at their invitation, travelled to many countries in the Mediterranean, including Spain, Morocco and Greece and Cyprus.. Park was commissioned by the President of Cyprus to paint a portrait of the First Lady. That painting, along with five others by the artist, now hangs in the Presidential Palace. In between his exhibitions, he travelled to the coasts of Spain and France, becoming enamored of and invigorated by the beautiful climate and scenery.
During the run of an exhibition in Athens, Park met a delightful young Korean woman, Jennifer, who became his wife in 1987. Before long the couple had a son, Se-June.
Jennifer brought order, stability, and brightness to Sung SamÃ‚s life and his art. Whereas his paintings had been varied in style and quality, they quickly took on a consistency in appearance and content, with an emphasis on beauty, tranquility, and joy. However, ParkÃ‚s need to keep growing as an artist didnÃ‚t abate, and his n