Unforgettable 1994

Indulge me a little with this post as I walk down memory lane… I’m reminiscing about the 6 months I spent in Tianjin, China, as a student. This was back in 1994 when China was not open and as modernized as now. Much to my dad’s anger, I enrolled myself in the Spring semester of Traditional Chinese Painting at the Nankai University’s East China Art College, which had opened under the guidance of the famous contemporary Chinese painter Fan Zeng. I was the first foreign student they had ever accepted and was placed with the senior class because that semester, the curriculum was best suited for a “newbie” like me.

Why am I suddenly thinking about this time in my life?

Well, I came upon my old pencil drawings from that month we spent drawing and painting Flowers & Birds subject. The curriculum only covered 1 subject for 3-4 weeks, and class time was only in the mornings; the rest of the day was constantly spent painting the same topic/theme or homework. The Flower & Birds is the third part of the curriculum. I was fortunate that the class was going off to Heze in Shandong Province, bordering Henan Province.

Source: Global Times

As I looked through my drawings from our time there, I could not help but feel grateful to have had the opportunity, even if that meant alienating myself from my dad for months. We drew peonies inside a big park showcasing the wide varieties of peonies that blossomed only during that very short period. This was the Peony Festival. We could go inside the fences to draw as close to the flowers as possible. (It would be impossible to do that now.)

Anyways, I only realized that I did a form of journaling on almost all the pencil drawings I did, writing about what was going on at that particular moment. I remember my teacher asked me to write something on each drawing I did since typical Chinese paintings have a poem or some message that is handwritten in calligraphy. Mine were very simple and could have been more poetic, but I’m still glad I did add these. Reading them brought me back to that time…

During the 3 weeks we spent on location drawing, we stayed at a farmer’s house organized by the school. All female students were in one house, while the male students slept at another farmer’s home. We slept in their storage room, cleaned ourselves using the water pump, and were served breakfast while lunch and dinner were whatever we could find around there. There was an outhouse that didn’t have any space to shower, so 3 weeks of not having a bath or shower.

After returning to Nankai, we started inking the drawings we did in Heze onto rice papers. A lot of repeated rework and fine-tuning. These inked studies below are not the final artwork I submitted, as that is framed and huge.

Thank you for stopping by and indulging me in reminiscing about the good ‘ole days.

Can’t wait to see you at the Summit!

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