There’s no shortage of contemporary artists painting sweeping pastoral scenes of China. But Hu Yang has a sharper focus: the life of his 70-year-old grandmother who lives in a small village in Shangqiu, Henan province.

Hu said his interest in painting stems from childhood. As an introvert, he found inner peace and an escape from the outside world by sinking into his art.

His childhood experiences in Shangqiu left Hu with a deep inspiration. One time, while taking the train home, he passed a large wheat field and wondered why no one was recording the village’s beauty. He decided to create an independent publication to introduce the area to visiting tourists.

But after returning to the village, the theme of his painting had changed.

“I found that my grandmother’s life was actually a miniature of my hometown. I used to think that her life might be dull because she lived on her own in the small village. My mind changed when I went home and lived with her for a while. It turns out that my grandmother’s life is much more interesting than I imagined,” Hu said.

Hu painted many works based on the life of his grandmother in the village. The collection, titled My Grandmother’s Days, appears on his personal webpage. Hu asks his grandmother to add her comments on each piece.

“She writes very carefully. She likes my works,”Hu said.

Among the collection are daily scenes of making dumplings, doing the laundry and dancing with other elderly residents. It’s the paintings of everyday chores that make viewers feel like they are home, Hu said in an interview from Wudao, an online magazine.

Apart from his hometown collection, Hu also paints other subjects. He has won numerous awards for his work in Chinese painting, and gongbi is among his favorite techniques.

However, the theme of his works is rarely related to traditional culture. Hu’s Catwalk219 depicts scenes of people holding cats in a cafe, a lucid and lively image unlike traditional art. The fusion of Western themes and gongbi technique works amazingly well, transporting viewers to a relaxed world. When asked how he created such a combination, Hu attributed it to the use of light.

“The thing that makes Catwalk219 a little different is that I use a strong contrast between cool color and warm colors. But the Gongbi technique is still the same as other Chinese paintings. It took me a long time to find the right way to express the lighting, which was neither too strong nor too dim,”Hu said.

Hu’s latest collection is called The Aviator Tony, inspired by the world-famous children’s book The Little Prince. Hu said Tony, whose figure is a white bear, is inspired by the experience of the author of The Little Prince and his disappearance in a desert when on a mission. Hu reimagines Tony as an aviator who has to land in a desert and find his way home.

“While creating this collection, the adversities Tony might have faced were always on my mind. I drew this series for myself and for people faced with difficulties in life,” Hu said.

Believing that works mirrors artists’ inner world, Hu said that he would love to further explore his personal feelings while finishing the Tony collection. As for his hometown collection, Hu said he is pursuing crowdfunding on

“I consider the publication of my grandmother’s life as my first try to create a whole series that introduces my hometown to others. Next I will start recording the time-honored shops in my hometown. I hope my publication will show tourists the memories of locals one day when they visit us,”Hu said.

Karena Hu

About Karena Hu

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Karena was born with the English name Karen but decided to add an “a.” She dreamed of a career in astronomy, but bad scores in physics kept her out of the science department. She seeks other worlds in reading and writing and is a super fan of the Hunger Games trilogy.

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