The outstanding control and harmony between the watercolor, and sketching techniques on one side, and paper on the other is something Liu Yi is known worldwide. This renowned Chinese artist skillfully blends material, form, and tones into a compact unit. The painter accents patience, creativity, and restraint in his style, but also anticipates the right moment to let go with the flow, that’s why Liu is considered a ‘water whisperer’. Yi’s compositions, portraits, and landscapes are very diverse, made on wet and dry paper, by using different brushes like Chinese, flat, squirrel or round, and including many details and figures. His inner voice tells him what to put and what to leave out of his artwork.
Liu Yi’s Hometown Inspiration
Liu Yi was born in 1958 in Jiang Nan, Shanghai. The love for his hometown is hidden behind the beautiful garden scenes of his village and can be seen in paintings that show local folk customs. The artist’s sentimental interpretation of rainy, misty atmosphere and picturesque landscapes of his surroundings became his signature style. Yi graduated fine arts at the Hua Dong University of Education and later finished postgraduate studies of watercolor paintings at the China College of Fine Arts. He truly believes that artists should emphasize individualism, and find inspirational subjects or objects in accordance with their interests and aesthetics, in order to express themselves in a best possible way. He thinks that his apprehension of the water as ‘the harmony of men with nature’ is the essence of Chinese philosophy.
The artist’s sentimental interpretation of rainy, misty atmosphere and picturesque landscapes of his surroundings became his signature style.
Highly Demanding Watercolor Techniques
Liu is very fond of using the wet technique that allows him to create coherence between an internal meaning and an external look, which is supposed to leave a strong impression on the viewers. Known for quick brush painting and fast tempo in the process of making, Yi succeeds to make his art look unintentional and appealing while stressing the effect of the watercolor. Amazing skill, talent, and insert the artist owns is seen in the way he achieves incredible morality and clarity with the subject of the piece, leaving no room for confusion.
Yi succeeds to make his art look unintentional and appealing
Chinese Artist’s Complex Style
Although he finds the creation of the satisfactory work exhausting and painstaking, Yi enjoys in combining elements like color, randomness, water and rhythm. The watercolor painting has a unique beauty, with softness and hardness, swiftness and steadiness, lightness and heaviness, calmness and excitement that makes a poetical narrative and establishes harmony. Liu Yi is famous for the series of ballerina paintings, with young girls dressed in their ballet attire as subjects. As a professor, he tries to transmit everything he knows to his students and encourages them to be positive and self-confident.
Liu Yi is famous for the series of ballerina paintings
Awards and Honors
The artist is a lecturer at the University of Painting and Design and a member of the Chinese Artists Association. He was a Deputy President of the Shanghai Watercolor Painting Society, and now is the Deputy Principal of the Shanghai Arts and Technical College. In 2004, he got the Charles Comfort Medal in Canada. His works are displayed in numerous exhibitions, and part of both private and public collections in museums and galleries all over the world.
Liu Yi lives and works in Shanghai, China.
Featured image: Liu Yi – Portrait – Photo via sterkhovart.blogspot.rs
All other images used for illustrative purposes only
Liu Yi. Interview
Dear Mr. Liu, there are a lot of art lovers in Russia who anxious to know more about you and your painting methods. Thanks to internet, some time ago your works became available for a wide audience. There is no much information though or, it is all in Chinese language.
Mr Liu, what is your personal feeling for watercolor media?
Watercolor painting is not only difficult for water color painters but also for most of the artists who know about it. It is an ingenious form of art with a touch of randomness. It demonstrates painters’ overall skills as well as the competence in controlling over colors. Therefore, I have been fascinated by its charm and profoundness for twenty years.
What is the significance of water in your painting?
My unique interpretation and mastery of “the language of watercolor” derive from my great and pure love for watercolor painting.
“Water, the softest thing in the world, conquers everything.”
“The excellence of water appears in its benefiting all things, and in its occupying without striving.”
“A perfect person, blessed with virtues of water, is close to Tao.”
These expressions about water show my reflection on Chinese philosophy — “the harmony of man with nature”. They are exactly what I want to achieve while painting.
What qualities do make the Artist?
From the perspective of artistic creation, an artist should attach great importance to individualism and possess special skills. It is rewarding to create your own style by finding the best technique to express yourself and by discovering something that meets both your aesthetic and interest. Only when you find subjects in accordance with this style and display them to the full, will you reach a new level.
Which objects do inspire you the most?
I use wet technique to create my works. Jiang Nan Water Village, Jiang Nan Garden, The Rhythm of Water & Wind, Folk Customs, and Ballet Enchantment, all illustrate my understanding about water to express my imagination and concepts.
I depict Jiang Nan villages on rainy days and picturesque ancient gardens. My love for my hometown is hidden behind these bridges and pavilions. The pictures, further, purify my soul.
I portray the grace and elegance of ballerinas, conveying the eternal charm of this performance.
Can you describe your creative process?
The art of watercolor painting is a perceptive one, which I merge one color into the other with my perception. Only when I “talk” with water, can I produce a variety of styles and concepts on the paper, like narrative, lyricism or something. It is painstaking or even exhausting for me to create a satisfactory work. However, if I am totally engaged in it, nothing else interests or bothers me any more. It is a real enjoyment to combine different elements – color, rhythm, water and randomness into my creation. The pleasant air penetrates my studio.
Which qualities of watercolors are the most important in your opinion?
Watercolor painting, with its outer and inner beauty, is more than a lyric poem.
I am seeking morality and harmony in painting. Some elements are designed to blend while others to contrast. Softness and hardness, swiftness and steadiness, lightness and heaviness, calmness and excitement — all of these and more challenge consistency with appropriate charms. I believe they are an expression of Chinese basic assumptions about life itself.
Perfect Blend of Water & the Sky Moisture penetrates the nature so much so that it makes the landscape and the sky blend into each another.
Sunset Thick cloud and thin mist lyrically converge into stormy waters.
Cold Wave The emergence of cold wave brings hundred of birds to a halt — the intangible air is poetically embedded in the picture.
Fluting in the Distance My perspective on internal coherence between nobleness and holy music is woven into the picture.
Is the appreciation of the audience important for you?
My paintings involve natural rhythm and inexhaustible charm as well as the emotional and aesthetic implications. Hopefully, they will suit both refined and popular tastes and be appreciated with delight
Do you finish your works in one session?
I like to finish my works in a hurry. I am very fond of painting on wet paper where softness and thickness are created and balanced in harmony.
What paper do you use?
CANSON – 185/300 gm
SAUNDERS – 190 gm 300 gm
BOOKINGFORD – 300 gm