My name is Qinghong Wei, artist and educator at Starry Dreams Studio. I live in Florida, and I travel nationwide and internationally to work on art projects with diverse people. Here is my story.
I grew up in China learning Chinese classical ink wash painting from a very young age. I was in love with the ancient Chinese art, especially amazed by its mystery, gentleness, and harmony with nature. As a little girl, it was my favorite play time to pull out a brush, the ink, and rice paper and paint just anything.
When I entered college for architecture and started to learn watercolor as required by the program, I encountered an art professor who had a fierce masculine style. I couldn’t genuinely connect with his style, but I felt the huge pressure to paint like him in order to succeed in college. I tried very hard to paint like him, but I couldn’t. Going to watercolor class became a nightmare, and one day in front of all my classmates, the professor said to me loudly, “You are hopeless.”
As a young adult, this experience completely shattered my faith in my art, and also to a large degree, in myself. I stopped painting for many, many years. But my love for art and creating beauty was not killed. I left architecture and ventured into other fields: urban planning, organizational development, writing, dance, theater, etc. Whatever I did, I tried to create beauty. I eventually earned my doctoral degree studying how art affects people and community. During these long years of searching, I also met many amazing people who nurtured me to believe in myself and be in my truth.
About three years ago, I finally had enough courage to learn watercolor again. Deep down in me, I was always attracted to watercolor, its mystery, freedom, and beauty.
It was very hard in the beginning because every time I picked up the brush, the painful past experience with watercolor would flash back. But I didn’t let it stop me. Holding the fear, I forged ahead. This time around, I decided I would only paint for myself, not to please anyone else.
And I would only paint things that I genuinely resonate with, that brought me a true sense of connection, joy and wonder. So I did, and my watercolor has progressed so well. Little by little, one painting after another, the fear disappeared. Watercolor has now become an intimate friend who brings me joy and nurtures my spirit.
With the growth of my skill, I want to paint for others – not to please others, but to serve others. For example, I have been creating a watercolor series called “Thriving Women, Thriving World”. The series features real women who have touched my life. It’s my humble effort to appreciate these women, share their wisdom, and help more women be more empowered and connected.
I also love to create the series of “Prickly Joy”. It features a hedgehog and his random acts of joy. I hope Prickly, the hedgehog, would be a gentle messenger who reminds us of living life’s little wonders.
My Painting Tools
I use a mixture of professional and student grade tools. I love sable brushes because they hold a lot of water, versatile, and last a long time. My go to brushes are Winsor & Newton sable brushes size 8 and size 12.
My Painting Process And Tips
Water, air, life. None of these we can grasp. But we can engage.
Because I love the freedom of watercolor, I normally don’t have a pencil sketch to start a painting. Sometimes I will have a big picture in mind before I start. But sometimes I just give it a complete free run of water and colors, and follow the flow. I find it to be a very invigorating process and it grows my creativity and skills.
With any subject, I pay attention to what attracts me and inspires me the most, and I will paint to convey that essence. I am not trying to recreate the reality or a photo with my painting, but to share a unique lived experience, an emotional and spiritual connection.
Here are some of my humble tips on how to improve watercolor:
- Believe in your passion. Make consistent effort to learn and practice, and RELAX.
- Give yourself a lot space to play with watercolor, like you were a little child playing with mud. Focus on understanding the true nature of watercolor.
- Always try something different. I love to ask my friends what they want me to paint, because they would often name something out of my comfort zone, thus helping me grow.
- Invest in the best art supplies you can afford. But don’t sweat it if you are not using the most expensive supplies. Beauty always comes from the heart, not anywhere else.
- To me, art creation is a whole-body experience. Engage yoga, dance, martial arts, etc., to help your body, mind and spirit integrate, flow freely, and create beautifully.
Recently I started teaching watercolor. Being aware of my own learning experience, I vow to nurture the unique artist in each person. Everyone is a genius in creating her own life’s art. Let it flow.Recommended5 recommendationsPublished in
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!