Thursday, September 19, 2019

DPW Spotlight Interview: Yangzi Xu

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. To enter to win Yangzi's painting "Rainy Night" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Yangzi's DPW Page:

While juggling hats as a marketer, a mother, and a wife, she squeezed every single moment to practice her art. She started with watercolor, but eventually migrated to acrylic and oil. Her subject drifted in many directions, but again and again, she came back to painting cityscapes. She discovered something magical about city streets. The reflection of car lights on a rainy day, the blurry silhouette of buildings in the snow, the endless play of light and weather on the streets, all dominated her art.

Yangzi is mostly self-taught, but was greatly benefited by studying under masters such as Bill Bartlet, Alvaro Castagnet, and recently with Xiangbin Shi.

Her works are collected by private collectors from many parts of the world. (click to read more)

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

While growing up, my favorite activity was drawing, but in the middle of my teenage years, other interests carried me away.  It was not until about seven years ago when I was dragged by a friend to accompany her to a watercolor class and the passion for art suddenly came back to me in full force. I have been painting almost every day since then.

Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career? 

Since my passion for painting was rekindled seven years ago, there were only some short spans that I paused, mostly due to family reasons such as giving birth to my daughter and moving. Other than that I've been pretty consistent with it.

Rainy Night
(click to view)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the DPW home page announcing Yangzi's interview.

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

I painted in watercolors for a few years. During this period I didn't try other mediums, mostly because we lived in a small apartment. Two years ago we moved to a larger house and I started painting in acrylics and very soon migrated to oil and settled there.

In my watercolor days, I explored a variety of subject matters, but since I moved to oil my focus has shifted to cityscapes, especially city streets in inclement weather -- rain, fog, snow, you name it.

Which ones are you looking forward to exploring? 

Perhaps charcoal and graphite -- I've dabbed in figure and head drawing in the past and I am interested in exploring that again.

Lost in the Rain
(click to view)

Who or what inspires you most? 

My previous watercolor teacher Bill Bartelt and his paintings are huge inspirations for me and motivate me to capture the moods of Chicago and other urban milieu.  I have been living in Chicago most of my adult life, but it wasn’t until I saw Bill's paintings that I started to paint them.

Since I started painting in oil, I got a lot of inspiration from Jeremy Mann for his lush cityscapes.

What does procrastination look like for you? 

I need to clean the desk; I need to re-arrange the easel, I need to place an online order for a few crucial paintbrushes… okay, now I only have 10 minutes to paint…maybe I should just skip it today.

I am getting better at observing myself; if I suddenly become very active with trivial things, it is usually a sign of procrastination.

State Street at Dusk
(click to view)

What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art? 

Telling myself all I need to do is to simply show up - it's okay if I make a lousy painting or even destroy a work-in-progress one, as long as I show up and do something.

If you have a day job, you know you simply must show up no matter what. To me, this mindset is very helpful to allocate time for painting.

On some days if I don't feel like painting, as long as I get started, I usually get absorbed and make some progress. If I am really not in the mood, I still spend time in the studio to sketch out ideas or select reference pictures.

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings? 

I keep a queue of ideas and reference photos. I constantly look at my queue, tweak the order, and add things to it. This way, I almost always know what the next one, or next ten things that I want to paint.

I use iPhoto folders to save and organize reference photos, inspirations, painting ideas and so on, and I found it tremendously helpful. I use an iPad at home, and can access and edit the folders and materials on my phone whenever and wherever I need to.

Snowy Day
(click to view)

How do you keep art "fresh?" What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging? 

I always allow myself to experiment and fail. I constantly try to extend myself, but just a little bit every time.

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist? 

Being patient! Due to personal reasons I stopped selling art for a while and restarted recently, and things are pretty slow for now. I hope with time more opportunities will emerge.

Rainy Day in Chicago
(click to view)

What makes you happiest about your art?

Inspiring people, connecting with people and bringing people together.

Seeing the world through a new lens and finding beauty in everyday life.

Thanks, Yangzi!

© 2019 Sophie Marine

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