Se­cu­rity guard wins of­fer from top art academy

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By FENG ZHIWEI in Chang­sha fengzhi­wei@chi­

Walk­ing from the east gate of the Cen­tral Academy of Fine Arts to its main stu­dio takes less than 30 min­utes, but for Li Cheng, a for­mer cam­pus se­cu­rity guard at the academy, the jour­ney has taken al­most a decade.

The 28-year-old re­cently re­ceived an of­fi­cial of­fer from the academy in Bei­jing, nearly 10 years af­ter his first failed ap­pli­ca­tion at the coun­try’s top arts academy in 2008.

Dur­ing his time as a se­cu­rity guard at the east gate, start­ing in 2012, he sketched work­mates on the night shift in a silent hall­way. When it came to the day shift, he would mem­o­rize English vo­cab­u­lary.

Li was born in a small moun­tain­ous vil­lage in Hu­nan prov­ince. At age 4, he started scrawl­ing ba­nanas and watermelons with char­coal un­der the guid­ance of his mother, who nur­tured his pas­sion for paint­ing.

Upon en­ter­ing mid­dle school, Li was able to con­tinue paint­ing thanks to his art teacher, Peng Dezhi.

“It is Peng who per­suaded my par­ents to al­low me to pur­sue my pas­sion for paint­ing,” Li said.

Peng told him about the Cen­tral Academy of Fine Arts, the most cov­eted art school in China. He ap­plied for the first time in 2008, but was re­jected due to his poor aca­demic per­for­mance.

Li then took on a va­ri­ety of jobs to make a liv­ing, from a food de­liv­ery courier and a sub­sti­tute art teacher in Chang­sha, cap­i­tal of Hu­nan prov­ince, to a fac­tory worker in Shen­zhen, Guang­dong prov­ince.

How­ever, he got a chance to visit the academy in 2012 and de­cided that he would never give up his dream of study­ing there.

“I was so thrilled to visit the academy. I thought to my­self, ‘I must study in this di­vine place,’ ” he said.

Li ap­plied for a job at the academy and be­gan work­ing as a se­cu­rity guard at the east gate. He started paint­ing again and picked up his brush when­ever he took a break. His art­work was seen by some stu­dents, who en­cour­aged him to pur­sue his pas­sion.

Li signed up for a train­ing course at a small stu­dio near the cam­pus and went there every day af­ter work. But suc­ces­sive fail­ures in aca­demic per­for­mance in 2013 and 2014 left Li feel­ing his dream was un­achiev­able.

How­ever, in 2016, he tried out for a fourth time, start­ing his aca­demic cour­ses from scratch. Even­tu­ally, his hard work paid off. He passed the pro­fes­sional test at the academy, rank­ing eighth na­tion­wide.

“Sit­ting with class­mates 10 years my ju­nior makes me feel like I am re­cap­tur­ing my youth,” he said.

Wang Keju con­trib­uted to this story.

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