For most people, a harbour is a just a haven for ships, an appendage to the landscape known as the concrete jungle. But for Christina Sun, it’s a world unto itself. This New York native and maritime artist is enamoured with the ships and tugs that sail in and out of the historic New York Harbor. We first discovered her art not too long ago when we stumbled on her blog, ‘Bowsprite: A New York Harbor Sketchbook‘. We were instantly captivated.
Ms Sun’s illustrations, which accompany her journal of goings-on in the big harbour, have a child-like quality. The style is somewhat reminiscent of the visual art of American poet Elizabeth Bishop, described by The Economist magazine as ‘seemingly simple and unsettling at once’. But have no doubts about it. Ms Sun has a style all her own which makes her no ordinary illustrator but a genuine artist like the poet.
This New York artist has mastery over her medium (she doesn’t use pencil to start off her pen-and-water colour drawings). Playful and witty, both her artwork and her writings have a lightness about them, an elflike flavour – whether she’s depicting a tankerman on a barge waiting to fuel a cruise ship or our favourite ‘cup of joe’ in the context of US naval history. Oftentimes, we get the feeling that the artist is a magical sprite frolicking in the water and sunlight.
Yet, there is real substance behind the form. Ms Sun obviously knows New York Harbor by heart. She also knows about ships and maritime commerce. She draws seafarers and waterfront denizens with insight and empathy. It’s something that can only come from interacting with them and knowing their stories. Ms Sun’s art is ulimately much more than a montage of New York Harbor and its rich history; it is a window to the human side of shipping. ~Barista Uno