Two Life Goals Down!

Gain inspiration from someone who successfully accomplished some long-held dreams

Elinor Cheung wanted two things: to live in a warmer climate and to paint. Item #1: She moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, from Minnesota.  Item #2: She completed the Specialized Program in Painting in 2015 and the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Visual Arts in 2017. Now, she has a solo show at our SF Campus (among other locations during the past few years in). We interviewed Elinor recently about her life and artistic process. You can see some of her artwork in this interview—more are viewable at her website.

Tell me a little about what you did before coming to UC Berkeley Extension?

semi-abstract painting of buildings on Las Vegas Strip with car in foreground
A Remarkable Event

I retired after a 33-year career working for Thomson Reuters Legal Publishing, in Eagan, Minnesota, as a Senior Product Developer designing online databases and tools for lawyers, accounting firms and government agencies. But I’ve always loved art. There’s so much more joy in my life when I’m drawing and painting. 

How did you hear about Extension?

I found UC Berkeley Extension by researching the web for degree and certificate programs in painting. I’ve never had formal coursework or training. I wanted an affordable school with good reviews, was located near friends and family, and where the tastes and aesthetics were similar to mine.

Why did you choose the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Visual Arts?

At first, at my age, I wasn’t sure I needed a post-bacc certificate. I just wanted to hone my technique and learn more skills.

But after the first year of coursework, I learned that the world of art was an entirely different culture from anything else I’d experienced. The post-bacc students had a different mindset. They possessed an all-consuming drive to create art. They also had a broader understanding and vision of their place in the world and some notion of an identity as artists. I wanted to be one of them.

I was fortunate to be in classes with students who communicated and worked well together. We’ve managed to stay in touch and formed an artists’ collective for mutual support, participating in shows, sharing resources and seeking out other opportunities for sharing our art with the community.

What courses interested you the most?

Semi-abstract paintings of high rises in Las Vegas with palm trees in foreground
Crystals III

My favorite classes were Approaches to Abstraction in Painting, Contemporary Painting With Water-Based Media and the Painting Workshop.

The experience was life-changing. The certificate changed how I see art and gave me the tools and skills to operate and sustain a studio art practice.

What does the certificate mean for your future?

Validation, opportunity and networking.

How would you describe your art?

A study of space, form, line and color on canvas that reflects my view of the world.

Can you describe your artistic process?

Abstract painting evoking Las Vegas Strip
Crystals II

I collect photos, art books and other periodicals to keep on hand for later reference. Then, as I’m inspired or projects and opportunities present themselves, I may draw upon these for inspiration or building blocks for a project.

I may then sketch, do thumbnails or other studies before actually starting to decide on surface or media. I’m currently a resident artist at the Bothwell Arts Center in Livermore, California, working in acrylics, water colors, collage and mixed media on canvas or wood block.

What advice would you give someone just starting out in the program?

Experiment, work hard, have fun and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Develop your talents and bring purpose to your artistic practice with the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Visual Arts.