In­formed by Cul­ture

The fig­u­ra­tive wa­ter­col­ors of Liu Yun­sheng re­flect the Ti­betan way of life

International Artist - - Contents - Liu Yun­sheng

Igrad­u­ated from the depart­ment of oil paint­ing at Shan­dong Arts Acad­emy in 1963. The same year, I was as­signed to an en­closed mil­i­tary unit on the Qing­hai Prairie (3,500 me­ters above sea level) and en­gaged in work com­pletely un­re­lated to paint­ing. One day I en­coun­tered Ti­betans. Wow! I was so shocked and im­pressed. Ever since then, I de­vel­oped a love to paint Ti­betans. How­ever, due to the mil­i­tary reg­u­la­tions, I was pro­hib­ited to paint, which left me with an ev­er­last­ing re­gret. After 35 years of ser­vice in the unit, I fi­nally re­tired at the age of 61. I started paint­ing fig­ures in wa­ter­color. What fig­ure should I draw? Of course, the first, the most ex­cit­ing and touch­ing im­pres­sion of my en­counter with Ti­betans 35 years ago was call­ing me. Since then, I have gone to Tibet, Sichuan, Qing­hai and Gansu to col­lect re­source ma­te­ri­als 24 times. I live with Ti­betan peo­ple to­gether in their home, which gives me op­por­tu­ni­ties to de­velop an in­sight­ful un­der­stand­ing about their cul­ture and to col­lect cre­ative ma­te­ri­als. The Ti­betan com­pa­tri­ots and their lives that have been im­printed in my heart since my early age have be­come the cen­tral mo­tif of my artis­tic cre­ation.

My Artis­tic Con­cep­tion of Paint­ing Ti­betan Peo­ple

I be­lieve that re­gard­less of the rich and the poor, all eth­nic groups have their unique cul­tures and na­tional spir­its, which are some­thing great and wor­thy of pride. There­fore, I never di­rect my works into drama or preach. I just pur­sue to ex­press their un­so­phis­ti­cated, orig­i­nal hu­man na­ture. I never try to cap­ture nov­elty but just pur­sue the orig­i­nal scene of their la­bor for sur­vival, the thick­ness and the trans­parency of the air on the

plateau, the mean­ing of the sun­light and peo­ple’s needs. I like the sim­plic­ity and good­ness of the Ti­betan peo­ple. I like their bold and un­con­strained na­tures as well as their splen­did tra­di­tional cul­ture. So I chose Ti­betans as the life­long mo­tif of my wa­ter­color fig­ure paint­ing.

My Un­der­stand­ing and Prac­tice of Paint­ing Fig­ures in Wa­ter­color

Paint­ing good fig­u­ra­tive works in wa­ter­color is dif­fi­cult, but it is also what in­trigues peo­ple to learn. The unique artis­tic ap­peal of a good fig­ure paint­ing in wa­ter­color is ir­re­place­able. In my opin­ion, to paint fig­u­ra­tive works in wa­ter­color well, one should pay at­ten­tions to two points: tech­nique and char­ac­ter mod­el­ing. Re­quired tech­niques in­clude the con­trast and the co­or­di­na­tion of warm and cold tones, trans­parency and sed­i­men­ta­tion, meth­ods of fin­ish­ing in one and mul­ti­ple lev­els, use of wa­ter, preven­tion of dirt­i­ness and grease, etc. Char­ac­ter mod­el­ing should fo­cus on the is­sues of struc­ture, style, tex­ture, back­ground and in­ner emo­tions. The mo­tif of my paint­ing is Ti­betans who live on the roof of the world— 4,000 me­ters above sea level in strong ul­tra­vi­o­let beams and harsh cli­mates. In or­der to re­flect

the dis­tinct unique­ness of Ti­betans and their en­vi­ron­ment, I go to col­lect re­source ma­te­ri­als in win­ter. How­ever, be­cause the weather is too cold to paint on lo­ca­tion, I have to use my cam­era to cap­ture a large quan­tity of scenes that in­clude images and plots of men and women, young and old, rivers, grass­lands, moun­tains, tents, streets, vil­lages, ea­gles, cat­tle…ev­ery­thing, and then I re­turn to the stu­dio for re-cre­ation of the scene. The use and treat­ment of light is an im­por­tant el­e­ment in my wa­ter­color cre­ation. In par­tic­u­lar, the light treat­ment on the hair of the char­ac­ter takes a lot of men­tal and phys­i­cal ef­forts. First, use mask­ing liq­uid be­fore spread­ing col­ors to care­fully pro­tect the bright parts of hair strands as well as other bright parts of the rest of the body. After the col­ors dry, re­move all the mask­ing liq­uid us­ing a small oil paint brush (the tip has to be cut off with a cer­tain length) with wa­ter to care­fully sort out the strength of con­trast and the pri­or­ity of gra­di­ents. At the end, we can make mul­ti­ple ad­just­ments with com­ple­men­tary col­ors to fi­nally have the hairs look ra­di­ant with rich lev­els and vivid live­ness. Here, we need to pay at­ten­tion to the rhyth­mic changes of lights and con­trasts with the sur­round­ing col­ors. Do not touch the bright parts dur­ing the process of spread­ing col­ors. Only at the fi­nal stage of fin­ish­ing can we add col­ors to ad­just ac­cord­ing to the needs. The ad­just­ments have to fo­cus on sub­tle nu­ance un­der the premise of re­tain­ing the orig­i­nal bright­ness of the pa­per. Skill­ful styling and color knowl­edge are re­quired for wa­ter­color fig­ure paint­ing. To con­vey the in­ner world of a char­ac­ter, the ex­press of soul and emo­tion are es­pe­cially im­por­tant. Be­sides the pos­ture, hands and feet, clothes, and jew­elry that rep­re­sent emo­tion and gen­der of a char­ac­ter, the key point lies in the por­trayal of the im­age, es­pe­cially the por­trayal of eyes and mouth. The eyes are the win­dow to the soul. To make a good por­trayal of eyes is dif­fi­cult in­deed. A bit of in­ac­cu­racy and ne­glect can change the emo­tion of a char­ac­ter, which may ruin the pre-set­ting theme of the en­tire work. Be­fore paint­ing eyes, I nor­mally have the sur­round­ing struc­ture and ar­eas around eyes painted al­ready. With an ac­cu­rate struc­tural po­si­tion, fol­low­ing up with care­ful de­pic­tions of won­der­ful de­tails of the eyes, a suc­cess­ful fin­ish­ing touch is bound to hap­pen.

Child in the West I, wa­ter­color on pa­per, 62 x 54 cm (24 x 21")The in­spi­ra­tion of this work is de­rived from Yushu, Qing­hai. The child’s un­kempt hair and con­densed eyes show dreams of the fu­ture. This is also a por­trayal of my child­hood. I used a grey tone to ex­press his de­pressed mood.

Red Ap­ples, wa­ter­color on pa­per, 60 x 45 cm (24 x 18")The in­spi­ra­tion of this work is de­rived from Gan­nan. In or­der to ex­press in­no­cent chil­dren,I sim­pli­fied the clothes and the back­ground. I adopt the tra­di­tional Chi­nese paint­ing phi­los­o­phy to draw only two or three strokes, which im­plies that more comes from the less. Though only the hands and the head are de­picted, the paint­ing also feels com­plete and uni­fied

Two Sis­ters, wa­ter­color on pa­per, 75½ x 54 cm (30 x 21")The in­spi­ra­tion of this work is de­rived from the prayer wheel room in the Ti­betan area in Sichuan. Strong sun­shine, typ­i­cal Ti­betan cos­tumes and cute and in­no­cent chil­dren catch my eyes, re­mind­ing me of my child­hood. The pur­ple hue re­flects the warmth of the mor­tal world.

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