Text by Jennifer Poff Cooper
Photos by Always and Forever Photography
Local artist Aili Wang has not stopped drawing and painting since private art lessons at age 15. A native of China, Wang received a Bachelor of Arts degree in art education with a minor in art design at Yangzhou University. After moving to the United States in 2002, when her husband landed a job at Kansas State University, Wang served as stage and fashion designer for the Chinese New Year Festival Show at KSU. She and her husband lived in California for five years, where she took art classes at Merced College, and in 2008, they came to the New River Valley for Wang to study and obtain her Master of Fine Arts in painting at Radford University.
Wang’s love for art is also her primary business. “I usually paint at home, where I changed my garage into my art studio. Listening to music when I paint makes me feel very relaxed and have more joy in the creation of my art.” Wang classifies her style as impressionistic. “My favorite artist is Oscar-Claude Monet; I like every detail of his paintings. I have studied with Nie Weigu, one of the famous artists in China, and Z. L. Feng at Radford University. Both are good examples on how to make my painting color beautiful, but I always try to make my own art instead of emulate anyone else.”
Though she also does sketches, oil paintings and acrylic painting commissions, Wang’s specialty is watercolor. “Watercolor is a wonderful medium, the relaxed and unpredictable art form makes it the most exciting and expressive medium. I enjoy the fun processing of watercolor paintings.” Inspiration for landscapes, her primary subject matter, comes from nature scenes around the area. “After the first day I moved to Virginia, I was captivated and inspired by the beautiful water scenery of the New River. This place is very different from where I grew up in southeast China. For me, the process of painting is an extraordinary moment of expression and also contemplative, spiritual understandings of Mother Nature,” she relates, adding that she still enjoys painting water villages of China.
Comparing the art business here to that in China, Wang says that artists here have more chances to show their work in galleries or art festivals. “These shows bring many buyers to the artist, and it’s much easier to sell art in the U. S.” Art is not just Wang’s vocation but a passion she wants to share. She gives art lessons to students of various ages in the NRV, and she once taught art at Dayspring Christian Academy. She was an instructor in China at the Yangzhou Normal School and taught Basic Painting, a class for children ages 6 to 12, as part of community service hosted by the Chinese Student and Scholar Association of Kansas State University.
Wang has received numerous awards including the Allen Ingles Palmer Memorial Award by Taubman Museum of Art. She is a two-time first place winner in watercolor at the Chautauqua Indoor Art Show by Wythe Arts Council. She also has received scholarships and grants for her art, such as the Zheng L. Feng International Scholarship in Art. “I think an artist has to have both the talent and a solid foundation of fundamentals skills to be successful. If you are gifted but don’t have the fundamental skills, you don’t know how to express yourself on art. If you only have the skills without talent, your art will never attract the viewer. Am I gifted? I don’t know. But I do know after many practices, my paintings looks better and better.”
Aili Wang’s art can be found at Steppin’ Out each August and at various galleries and art festivals in Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina. Paintings can be previewed on her website at http://www.wangailiart.com. Interested persons can contact her at 540-577-0661 for an appointment to visit her studio.
Jennifer Poff Cooper is a Christiansburg-based freelance writer and regular contributor to New River Valley Magazine.