An Interview with My Artist Father Yang DengW hen I was 5 years old, I already knew how the turpentinesmelled. I used to lean on the door and see my father sitting infront of the easel, using his brush rubbing those beautiful colorson the canvas. I loved the color mixed and its smell, and I wasamazed by the image that my father created. “That’s the magic ofoil painting”, I told myself. Father used to mix up colors and letme paint on his canvas, he would circle areas that I could just putthe colors on. I loved the feeling when the brush touched thecanvas and made the interesting sounds. However, when I gotolder, I started to play basketball and got obsessed with mangadrawings, father’s painting was no longer interested in me. Itbecame too realistic and those skills was too stressful to learn.Father said I was no longer standing behind him and watchinghim, that made him feel down for a while.
An Interview with My Artist Father 02 I use to think that my father was an antique. I had never understood him until I got into college. We used to have “coldwars” whenever I didn’t agree with him. We could ignore each other for more than three days until I couldn’t bear thesilence any more. So, I was the person who always said sorry first because he never thought he was wrong. Me and my father were miscommunicating when I got into high school. I wanted to be a manga artist but he wouldn’tagree with me. I didn’t dare to make this decision by myself since I still wanted to get into a good college as a way to havea bright future. So I only had two ways to choose, either to become an manga artist and take all the risks by myself; or to get into an art college and be trained by my father. It took me more than two weeks to make this decision, and finally I forced myself to choose the second one (since I was hoping I might become a great manga artist after graduating from a good art college, and as a manga artist, I had to have good drawing skills to be successful. ) Those Days Yang Deng 2010 ( Imaginary Painting) Bride Xian-He Deng 1992
An Interview with My Artist Father 03 1996 1991 2005 1990 2009 2009 My father, Xian-He DENG, is a very rigorous and passionate person, his art work was strongly impacted by theModern Russian Art in the period of Soviet Union and the Impressionism , especially the paintings from IIya YafimovichRepin was (one of his favorite artists in his early works.) My early works, obviously, had been influenced by my father. I’dbeen trained on learning realistic skills almost two and half years, started since I was in10th grade. It was painful andboring during those practices, but because I was forced to draw 10 sketches everyday, that’s why I could be able to passthose horrible tests and get into one of the best art colleges in China, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. 2010 2007 2005 2004 2005 2004
An Interview with My Artist Father 04Interview: I always believe that he was born as if he already knew art fora long time in his past lives. None of his parents were artists, buthe showed his talent when he was a kid. His infatuation with artand perseverance on achievement had succeeded him as an artist,however, because of who he was, officialdom never got alongwith him. He was a straightforward person. He loved it, he wouldsay he loved it; he hated it, he would say he hated it. He neverlower his head to those pretense and fake “political friendships”.That’s why I use to think that my father didn’t have any friendsuntil I realized that those friendships were not worthy to have atall. The First Sunlight of Millennium Xian-He Deng 2001 Our conversations were really interesting. I never expect thatmy father uses to refuse me to be an manga artist but now he hasthe same ideas as I do on teaching manga drawing skills in highschool.The interview that we had was based on 3 topics: 1. How do we consider a person as an artist? 2. What do we think about art education based on cultural differences between China and the United States? 3. What do we think about teaching Manga in high school? The Season of Wheat Harvesting Xian-He Deng 2000
An Interview with My Artist Father 05What Made an Artist? Xian-He DENG believes that any kinds of artists should have two qualities: relatively good professional skills andhis/her own personal style. He defined a great master as an artist who not only has these two qualities, and also givesstrong influence to artists and people. The Vicissitudinous Peaks and Prehistoric Spines 山峦苍茫 Xian-He Deng 2010 ( Chinese Ink landscape) In my father’s art work, the sense of light is one of his habitual artistic languages. Having no fears of chasingperfections is his long lasting goal. And to create the perfect balance of the colors is also what he is always looking toachieve. For me, this is too stressful and sometime it was too crazy for me to even think about it. I respect the way hetreated himself very strictly on practicing skills only because he has passion on it, but the reason that I don’t think I can doit unless he forces me to is because I love art as a way to enjoy my life and to create art should be a cheerful thing to do.Because the passions we have are different, that’s why we have contrast on it.
An Interview with My Artist Father 06What Made an Artist? Xian-He DENG also has definitions of differences among artists, art educators and art- enthusiasts: He said educators have their own philosophies, some of them may not have good professional skills but they are really good at educating and inspiriting their students, and they could have strong influence on academic circles. In this case, he wouldn’t call them artists, he would A Village in Inner Mongolia Yang Deng 2011 call them good art educators. The Old Yard Xian-He Deng 2011 Good artists may be really successful on their own artistic development, but maybe some of them are not as good as educators on teaching or communicating with people. He would just call them good artists not educators. Also, he has his own belief of the difference between artists and art- enthusiasts based on our ChineseOur Friendships Yang Deng 2011 culture. The Gateway of the Village Xian-He Deng 2011
An Interview with My Artist Father 07Chinese CultureVS.American CultureI n Chinese, “artist” be translated in “艺术家”, but each Chinese symbol has itsown meaning. 艺, is Art , 术, is Skills, M ethod, 家, is “ school of thought” “respectful call”. So based on our traditional believesthat a person who have great skills andhis/her own belief or thoughts which caninfluence people, we call him/her “大 家”(大 ,big,great). So an “artist” for surehe/she should have skills to supporthis/her understanding of art and personalartistic style. Which means, Chinesepeople give definition on artists based ontheir skills and thoughts, just like those Sewing the Songs of the Souls Xian-He Deng 1984old Chinese Painting masters, Beihong (Woodprint)XU, Baishi QI.
An Interview with My Artist Father 08Chinese CultureVS.American Culture As I said before, Xian-He DENG has his own belief on the differences between artists and art-enthusiasts because of this traditions. An art-enthusiast such as an art-fan: one may have good skills but doesn’t have own artistic style, or one may have great understanding of art but doesn’t have skills to support, in these cases, he would call them art-enthusiasts. Not as same as most American people would still respect them as artists. I am influenced by this thought for a long time until I came to the United States that I was overwhelmed when Brooks Frederick called me an “great artist”. I never thought about myself as an artist until I started to understand how American people define a person as an artist. Based on the English root: -ist, means someone engages in certain things such as a person engaged in art we call him/her artist, or a person engaged in science, we call him/her scientist. As simple as it is. But my father is really strict on definitions, that’s why I use to call him an old antique, inflexible. He doesn’t agree with giving too flexible range on the definition it is because this would not help art-enthusiast to work on their personal artistic development, especially young people could easily get complacent and be lack of practicing skills or chasing higher Self-portrait of 4 Seasons Yang Deng 2008 goals. (Woodprint)
An Interview with My Artist Father 09Chinese CultureVS.American Culture The skills that he talked about was not only realistic painting skills, it can be any kind of professional skills. In other words, a person who has great skills but only imitate others’ styles without his/her own thoughts shouldn’t be called as an artist neither because personal style and thought is the soul of being an artist. In Chinese art education, we emphasize skills teaching or passing on our own culture more than creativity because of the influence by our traditions. In American art education, self-learning and creativity is the educational Ocean Dream Yang Deng 2008 Noon Xian-He Deng 2011 center.
An Interview with My Artist Father 10What About Manga? What about manga? In most Chinese parents’ minds, to be an manga artist was not an esteemed job to have. They didn’t understand the meaningful values in manga or comic books, they only believed manga and comic book give bad influences to their children. However, teaching manga can help students develop their personalities, linguistic ability, creativity, perseverance, sense of humor, imagination and intuition. It’s interesting that my father didn’t let me choose manga as my personal life to be, but he totally agreed with me teaching manga as a subject in high school. He said he was concerned about my career as an manga artist that I would be stressful and crazy on delivering my stories before the deadlines. It would be a tough life that he wouldn’t want me to have. However, about my father himself as a kid, he wasn’t a well- behaved student. He told me that most of the teachers didn’t like him because his mind was always stayed away from the class. He loved to draw on his text book based on the subjects in the readings. When he was in 5th grade, while he was really into drawing his funny illustration for the text book, he suddenly felt his head was hit by a piece of chalk which thrown by his teacher for punishment.Building up A Character in Manga My Story Yang Deng 2005
An Interview with My Artist Father 11What About Manga? Like my father, I wasn’t paying to much attention in the class also. I guess I also took after him of being a “bad” student. I always loved to draw stories in the class, those stories always related to myself and my friends who loved playing basketball as crazy as I did. I drew everywhere, my textbooks, tables, even the back of my papers. About those certain teachers that I disliked, I would create them as funny looking in my stories and make fun of them since I couldn’t really do it in real life. When people ask me if I regret of giving up what I really loved to do, the answer is no, and it will never change. But I do wonder what if I chose my own way, how my life would be? Even though I had struggled and I even hated all those things that I learned, I trust in what I had chosen to be and I am happy with who I am now. Even though me and my father still have different standpoints of art or the definitions of certain subjects, we still have good communications started from the time when I was in college. Moreover, the online-overseas conversations during this interview and the process on my own research made me realized that how strong of the impact that I got from this great artist and how much he loves me as a father. As my appreciation to him or to art, I want to become an art Building up A Character in Manga My Story Yang Deng 2000 - 2011 educator who can balance students’ skills and creativity during teaching. I also want my students to understand how skills practicing can shape a creative artist and how cheerful that skills can be learned.