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January 17, 2016

African American Portraits IV - Why I paint

On this special day, I'd love share my story how I started painting African American portraits, because some viewers are always curious about what inspires me to paint them. I was told by many that the colors I painted were warm and soft, and the facial expressions were so well captured. I was asked why I kept painting them instead of others, or if I had a secret reason to do so... A lot of very interesting questions...


First I don't think that each artist has to have a hidden reason for painting.  I haven't been professionally trained in a real art school.  Painting Asian faces is challenging to me. I don't live in a neighborhood full of African Americans, but I enjoy their music and culture.  Their face expression can tell a story to a visual artist from China like me.


One of my favorite novels is "Gone with the Wind".  I read it many times in Chinese, and watched the movie countless times.  In June 2007, I visited Atlanta, Georgia.  Of course the first place I went to visit was Margaret Mitchell's house located in the middle of the town.  Watching the part of movie again with a quite heavy mind walking out there, I took some photos by using a small hand carry Casio digital camera.  It was a hot and steamy day, following the map to the Atlanta Botanical Garden, it was closed.


Next morning I arrived the park before nine.  I walked around alone, still repeating the movie in my mind.  It was steamy and quiet.  But not on the playground, there were many kids.  I took a break and sit down watching them playing.  Most of them are black kids, girls and boys about ten years old I guessed.  They were full of energy having so much fun.  One boy came to a black gentleman on a nearby bench to report something that upset him.  He was so kind and patient explained to both boys to be careful and treat each other nice etc.. while I was watching.  Then he asked me where I came from. We started a short conversation.  He told me that he was the teacher of those kids, it was part of their summer class etc..  After that I suggested to take a photo for memory, they were very happy to participate. Also he showed me the way to the botanical garden.  What a different impression that he was not a parent but instead a teacher, I thought.


I found myself staring at people's faces on the underground in New York City, especially African American's.  Don't take a wrong way, the color tones, the structures and the expressions are very interesting to me, I studied in my mind each time I had a chance to see them.  So I decided to paint these portraits.  So far I only paint portraits from the photos I took.

(Please click the image to enlarge)
Living in California over fifteen years now, I have no idea if it is the history of America, the stories from the novels, the art and culture, especially the dance the music that inspire me, or just because I live in an environment with very few chance to meet African Americans.

One thing I was sure that I wanted to give my portrait to the teacher.  My friend suggested to write to Oprah Winfrey.  I did and included the photo of portrait I painted, but she is a very busy person we all know...

This series of African American portraits I painted is based on the portraits I captured at the Fillmore Jazz Festivals in San francisco, CA 2015.  Please let the people know if you recognize a familiar face, it might be you, your friend or family member.  Hope you will like my portrait art.

Here is the link of the teacher I painted 'A Teacher From Atlanta Ga' - http://fineartamerica.com/featured/a-teacher-from-atlanta-ga-xueling-zou.html

If you are interested to see more my portrait paintings, please visit my online gallery at:
http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/xueling-zou.html?tab=artworkgalleries&artworkgalleryid=29949



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