'Wakeup call' aids Alameda painter
By Suzanne Storar   suzannestorar@gmail.com

Oakland Tribune
Thursday, October 16, 2003

As a little girl, Magdalene Chan could draw a convincing likeness of Scooby Doo
while watching the cartoon dog on TV. But art never figured into her grownup
work at a bank and a district attorney's office.

Six years ago, Chan was establishing child support orders for the San Francisco
District Attorney when her workplace was assailed with toxic fumes. Chan, who
is asthmatic, developed chronic chest pains. Pain killers only made her sick.

"I was in a lot of pain, just trying to survive every day," says Chan. "I decided if I'm
going to be in pain, I may as well go on with my life."

She took art classes at College of Alameda and noticed that working in
watercolors distracted her from the pain. She continued the classes, and a
teacher suggested she attend the Academy of Art College in San Francisco. Her
husband, Andrew, encouraged her as well.

Chan spent over two years in art school with a goal of learning the basics, not
getting a degree. Artworks created there -- charcoal and color studies plus
modern pieces incorporating symbol and story -- fill her home. At first, she
thought she would pursue an illustration career.

"Then I realized I was not an illustrator because they are hired to do what the
client wants. I like to do what I want to do. I wanted to be a fine artist," she says.

Chan was limited to working in watercolors because oil paints irritated her chest
pains. Yet, watercolor paintings were typically freeform, and Chan wanted to
emulate the ultra-realistic paintings of artist John Arbuckle.

Out of Arbuckle's tutoring came two watercolors that combine Chan's religious
beliefs with her art. "Compassion" is an almost photographic image of a lemon
plucked from a tree, leaves still attached. One damaged leaf among the other
leaves symbolizes God's compassion for everyone. "Brokenness" shows a bowl
of oranges partially peeled, which Chan relates to the concept "sometimes you
have to be broken to be made whole."

She used her art in Christian outreach activities at Bay Area churches, but soon
realized she would need to show and sell her work to reach more people.

"I'm not going to glorify God with all my artwork inside my house," she says.

In 2002, Chan participated in Alameda's Art in the Park. The exposure led to a
one-artist show at the Alameda Museum last August.

When she first toured the museum's gallery, she wondered how she would fill the
large space.

"I don't paint quickly and I don't want to compromise my art, so I dedicated my
year to just painting," she says.

In addition to new works, she included pieces from art school, such as charcoal
still life studies, to show that learning art requires hard work and discipline.

Chan's work is hanging in Au Lait, a local cafe, plus a Berkeley gallery and a
restaurant soon to open on Park Street. She is also teaching art to two young
girls, using her own curriculum, out of her home.

Teaching art, she says, gives children an opportunity she didn't have.

Chan recognizes that she had lived on what is considered the safe side of life
before the workplace accident.

"The pain was a wakeup call. I wasn't doing what God intended me to be doing.
Now I can use art as a way to share with people what God is doing in my life."

Call Suzanne T. Storar at 523-6641 or e-mail STStorar@aol.com with
information about Alameda's interesting people, places or events.
Artist finds an art that heals
By Tricia Caspers    caspers.ross@gmail.com

Alameda Journal
Friday, July 25, 2003

Feel-good art-- Magdalene Chan loved art as a child but never had time to
pursue it. She worked in banking, advertising and child support services until a
work injury forced her to leave her job six years ago.

The injury left Chan with severe, chronic chest pains, and there was no cure. When
she signed up for art classes at Alameda College, she discovered that painting
eased her pain considerably.

Her art teacher, David Hernandez, encouraged her to apply to art school. She
won a summer grant to study illustration at the Academy of Art in San Francisco.

Chan's artwork, including a painting titled, "Alameda Sunset" which depicts a
sunset over the Island just before a rainstorm, will be displayed at the Alameda
Museum in an exhibit titled "I Can't Believe It's Not a Photograph."

The exhibit runs Aug. 2 through Aug. 30 with a reception 1-4 p.m., Aug. 16. The
museum is at 2324 Alameda Ave. Details: 510-521-1233.