Press Release

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

1212 Mission Canyon Rd, Santa Barbara 93104

Suemae’s greeting cards and limited signed prints are available for purchase in the Garden shop.

Suemae is an award winning artist and instructor. Growing up during the 1970’s in Taiwan she studied Chinese calligraphy & brush painting with two masters, then from 2008 to 2010 she studied how to teach the skills to others with Ning Yeh. Most recently in 2018 and 2019 Suemae studied new techniques with Master Lee based at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts. She has served on the art faculty of the Santa Barbara City College, School of Extended Learning, and is available for private lessons. Suemae incorporates Meditation, Tai-Ji in her lessons to help quiet the spirits of her students.

Suemae draws inspiration from the beauty of Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Figueroa Mountain in Santa Ynez, and Carrizo Plain to paint California native plants & animals. In the Spring of 2015 Suemae began researching California native plants at the suggestion of staff working at the SB Botanic Garden. After studying CA Wild Flower books and joining the CNP Society she began to grasp the link between the plants and animals that have thrived California habitats. Suemae employs delicate fine lines and dynamic brush strokes to depict subjects such as California Poppies, Hummingbird Sage, and other plants found here at the garden. California Native Plants have become some of her favorite subjects.

Articles in the press about Suemae

Santa Barbara News Press, November 26, 2018

2 Suemae cover page News Press20181126_11305787
News Press Article on November 26, 2018

Voice magazine, November 22, 2017. page 22. “Painting Meets Meditation” featured painting “Chi= Life Force” article about Suemae creative process.

Santa Barbara Independent, October 8, 2017 Interview at the El Presidio about Asian American Festival. You can view it on Facebook.

Newspress, November 10, 2014. Featured Suemae’s coffe mugs and greeting cards.

CASA Magazine- October 1, 2014 issue.

SB Seasons Magazine


“Artist Suemae Lin Willhite brings focus to the art of the orchid with her  dramatic Chinese brush paintings, often inspired by the thriving orchids  in her own back yard.

Suemae's Grandparents in 1898

Willhite, who teaches Chinese calligraphy and brush painting, gives demonstrations of brush painting techniques at the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show. An award-winning artist with more than 40 years of experience in Chinese brush painting and calligraphy, her work can be seen in local galleries and is inspired by her grandfather, a well-known Chinese artist in Taiwan. Orchids—which symbolize grace and elegance in Chinese brush painting—are frequent subjects for Willhite’s artistry. Drawing her ideas from nature and spiritual inspirations, she says she paints, when inspired by a vision in her mind’s eye from a wide range of subjects and compositions, with a unique style of Chinese impressionism, abstract and her own fusion of East meets West. She paints with a joyful harmony that is apparent in her work as well as in the classes she teaches. For more information about Willhite, visit”

The Channels NewsApril Issue 


Award-winning Chinese brush painting artist inspires students

BROOKE HOLLAND, Features Editor,

Nora Abou-Dabous and Matt Johnson

Surrounded by the sweet-smelling fragrance of lemon and orange trees, light pink and yellow orchids fill a local Santa Barbara artist’s garden.

Suemae Willhite, City College art instructor, turns on soothing Zen instrumental music to enlighten her imagination. Her ideas are inspired from nature’s beauty and spiritual peace.

Before painting, Willhite relaxes her mind, body and spirit with meditation or T’ai Chi. This routine begins her creative process of Chinese brush painting and calligraphy.

Creative blood runs in Willhite’s family. Her grandfather was a well-known artist in Taiwan.

Willhite uses multiple bamboo brushes and colorful Chinese chip colors in her art. She paints traditional Asian subjects such as flowers, animals, landscape and bamboo.

She is an award-winning painter who has studied Chinese brush painting and calligraphy for over 40 years.

Willhite was awarded honorable mention for her hummingbird and orchid painting at the 2014 Santa Barbara International Orchid Show.

When she’s not painting in her free time, Willhite teaches meditation, brush painting and basic Chinese calligraphy for the City College Center for Life Long Learning. She also combined her Bachelor of Arts in advertising with her passion and created her own business.

Willhite’s original paintings are displayed at local art festivals, restaurants and in the administration office of the City College Wake Campus.

When practicing this art form, her mind, heart and hand are in accord.

Spring issue, 2014  Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine
World of Wild Orchids on page 55.

Noozhawk- March 26, 2013

CASA Magazine – February 11, 2011

News Press – March 13, 2011

News Press – March 5, 2011


Untitled“A new feature showcases local artist Suemae Lin Willhite demonstrating Chinese brush painting. Ms. Willhite grew
up in Taiwan, where her grandfather — an artist famed in his native land — inspired her to practice Chinese calligraphy (also called Japanese Sumi-e painting) several hours a day as a way of life.
“I began my brush painting with my grandfather at 8 years old,” said Ms. Willhite, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1975 and teaches art in Santa Barbara City College’s Continuing Education program and in her home studio. “I have fond memories of Taiwan. I remember visiting orchid gardens and enjoying the fragrance that is enticing but not overpowering.”
Ms. Willhite grows about 30 orchids at her Santa Barbara home and uses many of them as subjects for the work she has exhibited at the Orchid Show during the last three years. When she paints, she begins with the simple form of grass orchids to get her brush strokes flowing.
The “orchid symbolizes grace and elegance in Chinese culture,” she said, “and is my favorite painting subject. When I paint an orchid, it is a joyful process, spontaneous movement that signifies the essence of carefree spirit.”

Although Ms. Willhite paints a wide variety of orchids, her favorites are Cymbidium, butterfly and Cattaleya. Regardless of the type, she strives to create work that conveys spirit and vitality.”

Color and Flair

Thursday, November 6, 2008 by HEATHER JENO

“At the other end of State Street, Fresco Five Points continues to provide refreshing and innovative examples of art. Most recently, Fresco curator Shelley Flanders has chosen a trio of artists who embrace color with an almost unnatural fervor. Suemae Whillhite is no exception, with works that exaggerate colors found in nature, like the bright orange and yellows refracted in the blue waters of a koi pond viewed from above. Amir Jabbari, a frequently featured Fresco artist, contributes to the hyper-colored atmosphere with his Santa Barbara landscapes, replete with the stunning views that characterize our fair city. And Marilyn Kandus, with an expressionistic flair for the dramatic, finds whimsy in the everyday scenes of nature, like birds feeding on brightly colored fruits. While this Fresco location is known for its pleasant patio seating, even from inside, there’s no shortage of stunning views.”