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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Zhou Tianya. Interview.

Well known Chinese watercolorist Zhou Tianya is a member of China Artists Association and a Signature Member of National Watercolor Society(USA)Artistic Advisory Member of Asian Museun of Watercolor Art. he studied art at the Hubei Institute of Fine Art in Wuhanand taught watercolor and was Chair of the Art Department at Jingchu Academy of Technology in Hubei for past 7 years. Zhou has participated in more than 150 solo and group exhibitions including t the Ministry of Culture of the P. R. China and China Artists Association, American Watercolor Society, Royal Watercolour Society, National Watercolor Society and won more than 50 awards for his paintings both in China and abroad including the Bronze Medal Award of the 10th National fine art works exhibition of the Ministry of Culture of the P. R. China and China Artists Association.

What is the sources of your inspiration?
The sources of my inspiration — rural ethnic populations and landscapes, Tibet — as well as the creative process itself. I paint anything that interests me, from people and landscapes to animals and still life.

Zhou Tianya. St.Temple. 72x104cm

You paint merely the rural areas. Is there any difference between their life and yours? 
I live in Shenzhen City, which is one of the frontiers of the “reform and opening up” of my country. Indeed, it`s one of the most prosperous and westernized cities in China. Even though there`s a large contrast between where I live and the places I travel, I think my paintings still express my thoughts, as the presentation is a conveyance of my feelings.

Zhou Tianya. St.Mountain Water Land. 110x150cm

Can you consider your style?
I try not to form a certain style. I think style is the reflection of the artist . It`s more important to find your own joy in painting.

Do you use reference photos or your own sketches? 
I usually sketch on site. I also take photographs for reference. In my studio when necessary, I draw the sketch again and again until I`m satisfied with the final draft. I think sketching on site is very important, as everything I see is alive; it makes me more passionate and helps to stimulate my senses.

Zhou Tianya. Returningat Dusk. 75x83.5cm

What is the role of drawing in preparing your painting work?
I use a 2B pencil to outline the image—the level of detail depends on the level of reality I want to portray. I outline more detail if the image is to be more realistic. But too much details limit my creativity and makes me excessively careful.

Could you tell about your painting technique? 
Typically, I combine wet-into-wet, dry-ondry and wet-on-dry techniques, as well as a process I call “washing”. I apply a thick coat of paint to rough paper and then gently wash it off the surface until the texture of the paper is revealed. Then I work on every detail, often several times.

Zhou Tianya. Passerby. 56x76cm

What do you attempt to control when you paint?
I try to control the overall color balance of a painting, it`s important that I control the interactions of cool and warm tones, and dark and light areas.

Your colors choice?
I use W insor & Newton Artist colors (United Kingdom) and Maimeri watercolors (Italy). In China we cannot find a large variety of colors and they`re all named differently. I never use white paint.

Zhou Tianya. Pilgrims. 76x56cm

Your paper choice?
I usually use Saunders W aterford (U.K.) watercolor paper, but I also use Fabriano (Italy) watercolor paper and sometimes a few other brands. I always choose a 300gm rough surface.

Your brushes choice?
I mainly use flat brushes to paint. I only use very small round brushes sometimes for detail. I try to stay with large flats because they help me focus on the entire painting.

Zhou Tianya. Mother and Child. 36x56cm

Do you use masking materials? 
I hardly ever use masking fluid or tape, because they create edges that are too hard, which looks unnatural. I`m usually very careful to leave white spaces.

Zhou Tianya. The Passing Setting Sun. 154x46cm

What is your attitude to opaque colors?
I hardly ever use opaque colors. If I need to create an opaque effect, as for a rough or heavy object, I use transparent paint to make a thick cover. Sometimes I mix acrylic paint with water until it`s very thin and use it as an underpainting for my watercolor work. The diluted acrylic paint is just as transparent as watercolor, and it won`t be washed away.

Zhou Tianya

Your advice to young artists?
Don’t let fear of failure stifle your chance for success. Observe, plan, prepare—then let go and paint with confidence. For beginners sketching from nature is an especially important exercise.


  1. Thank you, Konstantin, for introducing me to the work of Zhou Tiyana. And I love the last photo of him with his son.

  2. Got to know another wonderful artist through your blog! Thanks Konstantin :)