Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Watercolor Portraits of Liu Yunsheng

The upcoming issue of International Artist (#123 Oct/Nov) has a feature article about Liu Yunsheng, who was born in China in 1937. 

He earned a degree in painting in 1963, but put his love of art aside to serve in the Chinese military for 35 years. During that time he was prohibited to pursue his art. He took up painting again after retiring at the age of 61. 

He was deeply moved by his encounters with the Tibetan people, and has traveled to remote areas of Asia 24 times on reference-gathering expeditions during the winter months. It's too cold to paint at that time of the year, so he takes photographs. He lives with the families to get to know them better.

He doesn't want to pursue novelty for its own sake, nor is he trying to preach or to make a political statement. Rather, he's interested in universal ideas, such as the struggle for existence, the quality of the air on the Tibetan plateau, and the expression of complex emotions.

He uses some modern tools such as Photoshop (in the planning stages), but otherwise his watercolor method is fairly traditional.

Liu Yunsheng uses Winsor & Newton watercolors and a medium-size wolf hair brush for painting faces, hair, and clothes. He saves out his white areas with masking fluid. What fascinates me about Mr. Liu is how his surface technique is so conscientious, but yet he is always striving to capture deep feelings and human nature.

One of the great things about International Artist Magazine is that, for the most part, the artists write their own articles, rather than having their ideas filtered by someone else. In addition to the article on Liu Yunsheng, (#123 Oct/Nov) also includes articles on Daniel Keys, Richard Schmid, Morgan Samuel Price, Daniel Greene, John Michael Carter, Colley Whisson, Jesse Lane, Haley Hasler, and the winners of the International Artist Magazine Challenge with the theme of "Wildlife."

The #123 Oct/Nov issue of International Artist will also have a feature that I wrote on painting animals from life. Why paint live animals? Of all the plein-air subjects, animals sharpen my senses the most. When they inevitably move out of position, I can no longer rely solely on observation and must shift over to knowledge and memory.

Painting Animals from Life
69 minutes Widescreen, MP4 video. 
Digital download:
DVD at Amazon

“James Gurney has an uncanny ability to take on challenging painting subjects, and then make his methods clear and easy to understand in low cost, high quality instructional videos." —Charley Parker, Lines and Colors


Christopher Marcus said...

That is an absolutely inspiring little story! Thank you so much for sharing it. I feel compelled to find out more about this artist - right away :-)

And thanks for a wonderful blog, YouTube, Facebook page - etc. You share a lot of beauty, Mr. Gurney. Not in the least that which you create yourself.

Kate said...

I really appreciate the generosity in your sharing, as well as the breadth. For so many years now James. Thank you. You've taught me so much.

CForester said...

I always enjoy getting your posts with artist's full history. It helps to know the origins and experience attached to the paintings of great artists. The link provided for this artist and your written text do not match as for date of birth and education. The link provided states he was born in 1958. Thank you for always enlightening passages of history and painting knowledge.

James Gurney said...

C Forester, Yes you're right, and I found another website that says an artist with the same name who paints Tibetan scenes in watercolor was born in 1958 in Shanghai. But another website says he was born in Laizhou, Shandong, China in 1937, which corresponds to what he said in the article, which he wrote himself. In the photo in the magazine he looks to be a man around 80 years old, which matches the earlier date and the biographical details. So I would suppose that either that other website is incorrect or that there's another artist with the same name who is a generation younger.

Thanks, Kate and Christopher, glad you're enjoying my gleanings.