Clifford Wun sometimes spends 12 to 14 hours a day in his studio painting, but he doesn't get lonely. Instead, the solitude inspires him.
"Art is about producing a language that is completely visual," he said. "When you're by yourself working, it's about developing this language and speaking to the canvas. The better you develop that language, the better you will be."
Mr. Wun, a 28-year-old artist from Baltimore, is exhibiting six oil paintings and several drawings at the Carroll County Arts Council Gallery, 15 E. Main St., Westminster, through Aug. 19.
This is his first showing at the gallery.
Seven years ago, Mr. Wun seemed well on his way to a successful career in illustration.
After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1987, he was offered a job with Creative Concepts, an advertising firm in Ludlow, Mass.
He did artwork for companies such as Milton Bradley and Parker Bros., promoting and marketing new games.
But he felt something was missing, and left the position after only eight months.
"The money was great, but I found I was less happy," he said. Thus began what he calls his "slow seduction into painting."
He moved to New York, landed a job as a bartender at Studio 54 and started to paint. He lived there for a year and then took some time off to travel.
When he returned to Providence, R.I., in 1990, he started a business painting houses to support his new love, painting pictures.
"It's not as lucrative as illustration, but I liked the freedom that painting allowed me," he said. "The more I did, the more I found that I really loved [it]."
In 1992 he won a Philip Morris Fellowship to the Maryland Institute, College of Art.
He graduated in May with a master's of fine arts in painting.
The works Mr. Wun has selected for his first solo exhibit contain themes of control, love and belonging.
"The Curtain," which depicts a person with a cleft palate, was inspired by a female friend who had 14 operations to correct the deformity, Mr. Wun said. Her courage impressed him and led him examine the pressures to fit in, a recurring theme in his work.
Mr. Wun, who is Chinese, said that growing up in a predominantly Caucasian society had its difficulties. But an appreciation for his ethnic background gradually emerged in his paintings, which previously had depicted mostly white figures. He pointed to recent works, which show people with yellow flesh tones.
Another work, "Carousel," depicts two people on a merry-go-round and represents a world out of control. Instead of riding horses, the subjects -- a man and a woman -- are shown on beastlike creatures that symbolize chaos and confusion, Mr. Wun says.
Born in Hong Kong, Mr. Wun moved to the United States with his parents at age 2. His family settled in Massachusetts, where they still live.
Mr. Wun said he often works six- or seven-day weeks to build up enough savings to "pay for the chunks of time I spend in my studio."
His current job is at Braeland Herbs & Farm in Hunt Valley, where he makes hand-painted crafts.
He said he doesn't mind sacrificing his weekends.
"I look at it as time that I'm buying to do artwork in the future," he said.