The Pastels of China | A Gallery

At the mention of Chinese art, you may think first of decorative porcelain jars and bowls, or delicate ink wash paintings, but the contemporary Chinese art scene includes a great variety of art disciplines, styles and media—including pastel. Not surprisingly, the artists who utilize the medium are just as passionate about its special qualities as their Western counterparts. To showcase the exciting talent and distinctive flavor of Chinese pastels, we interviewed three celebrated artists working in the medium—Wang Xiangzhen, Hang Mingshi and Shi Tao—for a feature article in the August issue of Pastel Journal (available here).

Here are a few excerpts from the article:

  • Wang Xiangzhen does enough preliminary sketching to determine a focal point and work out a composition. “I spend time painting in my head before ever hitting the paper,” he says. “If I do a thumbnail, it’s not just a study. It must be considered a good small painting with accurate tones, areas of warm against cold and light against dark, and varying levels of texture.”
  • Much of  Hang Mingshi’s work is done as demonstrations for his students. When he paints a live model for a one-hour lesson, he doesn’t focus on capturing details. Rather, he paints a suggestion of facial features, relying not only on what he observes at the moment, but also on his familiarity with the basic structure of the human body based on his years of experience. He likens the artist-model relationship to two competitors at a Judo championship. “The competitor doesn’t quite understand his opponent—just as I do not quite understand my model,” he says.
  • Shi Tao says, “As an artist, I think the emotional work is most important.” Not surprisingly, he makes it his goal to create art that not only has visual impact, but also engages some of today’s major social themes. “Painters work to convey their understanding of life,” he says. “And the hope is that the art resonates with an audience.”

Enjoy our gallery of additional pastel paintings by the three artists below:


On Board the Canal (pastel, 14.5×20.5) by Hang Mingshi


Homely (pastel, 21×31) by Hang Mingshi



A demo sketch in pastel by Shi Tao


steamed fish-pastel-shi-tao

Steamed Fish, Soy Sauce (pastel, 31×31) by Shi Tao


The Evolution No. 3 (pastel 21×15) by Wang Xiangzhen

The Evolution-pastel-Wang Xiangzhen

The Evolution (pastel, 21×15) by Wang Xiangzhen





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