Sally Feng of Jericho is an art teacher by trade; she’s been teaching on her own out of her private studio, in addition to holding classes at the Jericho Public Library and SUNY Old Westbury College, helping her students mold and shape their own individual artistic voices and colorful styles for a number of years.
Feng’s skills run the gamut from Asian-inspired Sumi-e watercolors to oil painting, and said that art has been a passion of hers since she was a small child. Of course, artistic talent certainly runs in her family; Feng’s daughter, 13 year-old CiCi Fader, is a renowned child piano prodigy who has placed first in many national competitions.
Up until recently, Feng’s art students have remained primarily children, but after years of teaching to that audience exclusively, the parents of her charges started clamoring for art classes of their own with her. After enough badgering—including some from Phyllis Cox, Public Relations and Program Coordinator at the Jericho Public Library—Feng finally gave in to popular demand and opened up her program to adults.
“I asked her if she could do the class because she’s so talented, and she was doing such good work with the children,” Cox said. “It took me a little while, but I convinced her, and we’re very excited here at the library that she agreed to do it.”
“I love to be around children, so I only took kids for years,” Feng added. “But soon some of the parents of the children said asking me when I would start teaching adult classes, but I told them that I only take kids. But soon after that, Phyllis asked me to teach some classes here for adults at the library, so I finally did.”
Feng’s once-a-week classes at the Jericho Library have culminated in an art show featuring their impressive work in the library’s gallery room throughout the month of May; the exhibition marks the results of the first time Feng has ever taught oil painting to an adult class, she noted.
The reason for venturing into oil painting with her adult students, Feng said, was because they were all Chinese women who were interested in trying western-style artwork depicting landscapes and still lifes; in order to break from the traditional Chinese watercolor technique they were used to in her class, Sally figured that oil painting was best way to go, although she worried that the transition might prove difficult.
“I wasn’t sure they were ready, because they’re all moms just like me, and I know how busy they are with their family and their kids,” she said. “However, they were all very determined to learn and I wanted to make sure that I was with a group of women who were determined to stick it out to the end, as opposed to somebody who might take a class or two and then leave. But I knew they were very talented and would stay to the end.”
As it turns out, mastering oil painting for his students wasn’t nearly as difficult and Feng had initially envisioned; in fact, she soon found herself surprised by how quickly her protégés were advancing.
“I was like, ‘okay, let’s see what happens,’ but I was very impressed just after the first couple of classes at how much they wanted to learn and how well they were all doing,” she said. “I was very impressed by how not only how well they were doing, but how enthusiastic they were. Whenever they would come to class I would never give them homework, but they would do their own homework and bring it in to show me. They were all very determined, and that impressed me so much.”
“I just feel so lucky and appreciative of Sally, because I was intimidated at first…I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to start oil painting on my own,” said Daisy Huang, one of Feng’s students. “But Sally is a great artist, and she teaches everything from the beginning, from sketching, mixing colors, shading…I’ve really been progressing so well, and I owe it all to her.”
Wen Xin was a complete novice when she first picked up a brush in Feng’s class; now, she said, she’s capturing a creative talent that she never knew she possessed and found a way to express it in a way she never knew she could.
“I’ve never painted anything before…I wanted to paint, but I didn’t trust myself,” she said. “Sally encouraged me, and I found out that I’m very sensitive with colors…I’m not as good at drawing shapes, but I’ve discovered a talent for expressing myself through color and I’ve really surprised myself by how much I’ve taken to painting now.”
Feng noted that throughout the course of her weekly classes with her students, they’ve become more than just people she was helping to find their artistic spirit; they’ve become close friends as well, sharing stories about their families and lives.
“When we’re together, we’re not only doing painting and learning, we’re sharing, laughing, and they all have such great senses of humor,” she said. “I’m very proud to have this group…not only are they very talented with unique styles, but they’re all enjoying what they’re doing. And that gives me so much pleasure, that’s for sure.”
Sally Feng’s students will be showing off their wares at the Jericho Public Library’s art gallery throughout the end of the month of May, 2017.