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.
For watercolor paper, I love Arches cold press paper, while I also use lots student grade paper for sketch and practice, including Strathmore 300 series and Prima Marketing watercolor paper pad.
My favorite watercolor paints are from Daniel Smith – the colors so gorgeous, re-wet easily, and a little goes a long way. I also enjoy paints from Van Gogh, vibrant and economical.
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.
good insight into the journey of an artist, happy days, amen
I appreciate your feedback, and happy days to you too!
I love this!!! Your style is filled with love. I am so sorry what your teacher said to you. I was always the non artistic twin and finally at 65 began to learn how to watercolor. Your story is inspiring!
Jean, so wonderful to read your comment! Your watercolor is so precious, filled with joy and wonder! Happy painting to us both!
Wow! I am so happy you found your true calling. Your work is beautiful!
Thank you Lori! I do feel this is my true calling, so even though this is not at all easy, I am on it! Love to you!
Beautiful work. I had a similar experience with a male art teacher when I was in middle school. Fortunately, not quite so off-putting as your experience. During my first year of art he was very supportive. By the second year, he seemed to have turned away from my effort, suggesting that I “must have discovered boys.” That was hurtful.
Laura, thank you for sharing and I am sending a big hug! So glad to see you continue to create art in your unique way, yay!!
Thanks for sharing your painful experience and for over coming it. You are a beautiful person.
Much appreciated and sending love your way!
Thank you 🙂 <3
It’s so hard to hear her experience I had to
hear comments like that. So happy to have come out of my shell, it’s not important to me anymore others opinions on my Art or anything else. Am enjoying so much sketching and watercolor. It’s meditation for my soul. Qinghong master pieces are completely stunning. Thanks for a inspiring and wonderful interview. Many blessings to all.
Dear Miriam, thank you so much for sharing your thought and very kind words. I really feel the same way – watercolor nurtures my soul, and I learn how to live a better life through painting. 🙂 So glad to know you are enjoying art! Happy painting and blessings!!!
Beautiful work and thank you for sharing your story. I had a very similar experience when i was in high school so I completely understand. So glad that you overcame the obstacles.
Dear Mary, so wonderful to read your comment. Thank you for your encouragement and very lovely to meet you!
Thank you, lovely friend!
Loving your awesome work! Keep going!
Thank you for your love and I will! 🙂 <3
Your work is so beautiful and full of joy! I’m glad you didn’t let your teacher convince you to stop painting because the world would be a less interesting place without your watercolors!
Sandra, your comment brought up a big smile for me. :))) Thank you for your kindness, big hug and so wonderful to know you!
Qinghong, there certainly is much joy in your art. I love the way you employ unexpected elements in your compositions, from a baby elephant frolicking among the flowers to a tiny hedgehog with multi-colored spines. What a pleasure, it’s so good to know you’ve returned to watercolor and make success where your old teacher projected failure.
Dear Sharon, awww thank you for the heartfelt comment! So appreciated! I guess my early painful experience also led me to inquire deeper into art – what does art REALLY mean for life? I am thankful to be back to watercolor through the support of so many people and I am ready to offer joy back. 🙂 <3
I love your story and your paintings. So glad you pursued what you love and enjoy.
June, thank you for your love! So wonderful to get to know you here. Sending a big hug!
I love your Thriving Women Thriving World series and will look for more examples at the links.
Cheryl, thank you! This series is very dear to my heart too! You can find more paintings on my Instagram and Facebook accounts. Links at the end of the article. Love, Qinghong
Beautiful work! My favorite is “Happy Dance.”
Sharon, Thank you, and Happy Dance is one of my favorites too! Cheers! 😀
Your animals hold us humans accountable. Your interplay with nature flows beautifully. You are learning and living out loud and in the colors of life. Bravo!
Thank you for sharing your story, your inspiration and your art. The little hedgehog makes me smile 🙂
Qinghong, I am in awe of your vibrant color–such different techniques from rich, free thoughts. I loved “Together” and your wet in wet background, full of joyful women probably from a day spent painting! I am sorry for the unkindness of your former teacher. I am 60, started painting 2 years ago. And while I am better than 2 years ago, the hope I gleaned from your story and art impact and motivate me. And I can see we both adore turquoise and reds, pinks! Probably why I enjoyed viewing your art many times here on Doodlewash! I wish you full joy from all you paint. Make that mean instructor’s comment to you a springboard for your watercolors! Best wishes.
Beautiful paintings, a joy for the heart and the eye!