Wednesday, June 22, 2005
A conversation with . . .
Z.L. Feng mixes realism and impressionism
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Gene Dalton | The Roanoke Times
Artist ZL Feng with one of his
Z.L. Feng stands out in an art scene dominated by two universities and by young artists whose work often trades subtlety for power. The
What brought you to Radford?
Z. L. Feng: I came here … direct from
I’ve seen some of your portraits, they’re very realistic. With your landscapes, is it an impressionist style?
Z.L.F: Totally impressionist style, yes. The portraits are more realistic because I kept the personality and the inside of the soul. So they’re more realistic, especially on the eyes. … Not many people can do well in watercolor in portraiture, so I challenge myself technically and also … in capturing the depth of the person.
I read that you said the technical skill is not really worth anything unless you can express some kind of depth and soul. I think what really makes it art is when you can create that empathy that you were talking about, between the subject and the viewer, because then it has some meaning as opposed to something that’s just duplicating something faithfully.
Z.L.F: You have to understand the person you paint. Sometimes now when I paint a portrait, it’s not really a real person anymore. … Maybe it’s just like painting landscape. I get the person’s expression, then I change it. It’s not any particular person anymore. … You try to not just make it look like the person, but look behind the person. In landscape I do the same thing. Just check something out and make my way to explain how I see nature.
What do you like about teaching?
Z.L.F: I really enjoy teaching here at Radford. We have a very good program. … The students learn from me, and there’s a lot that I can learn from them, too. I think the students there are doing very well right now, and they are also becoming very good artists. In my class on watercolor … I’m not just talking to students. The best way to learn, for me, is that I can show them. So during the class time I also demonstrate. … What happens though is that finally the whole class is doing the same thing I do. But it’s fun because they have fun with it and they can do the technique I do, and later on they can enjoy that "Oh, four years ago I had a class with a professor at Radford and he showed me this technique, and I feel like right now painting trees using his technique."