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: