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Artist Spotlight: Chen Wei

Wei Chen, also known as Lorland Chen, is a Chinese artist who has worked with various gaming and publishing companies. He brings strong sensibilities gained from years of experience with traditional media to his CG artwork, which combines aspects of Eastern and Western painting. Wei was interested in art from an early age, and he sees mastery as coming from learning fundamental skills of art, not from using any particular tool, digital or otherwise…

Knowledge and Wisdom by Chen WeiWhat was your inspiration to paint “Knowledge and Wisdom?”

This piece was inspired by a Russian movie—I’ve forgotten the name of it. It is a political movie with many subplots, killings, and struggles, but all of them are observed from the viewpoint of a little girl. It was shocking to me. An extremely young eye to see such brutal realities. The character you see in “Knowledge and Wisdom” is based on that girl. I tried to capture the irony and strong contrast.

Your style seems very painterly, sometimes including visible “brushstrokes” or color laid down in “tiles,” yet you paint using CG. Can you tell us about how your style developed?

I once had a dream to be an oil painter. It took broad study, and a large amount of time. I tried so many approaches to learning oil painting skills! So, you see, that’s why my pieces seem very painterly: I intentionally leave some brushstrokes and color laid down in “tiles.” These can make the piece more like a real painting, not like a lifeless CG product.

Which artists do you feel have most heavily influenced your work?

No one artist was the special influence for me. I think maybe the Neoclassical style of 19th century Europe had a big influence on me. As for Asian artists, I was crazy about Yoshitaka Amano, the brilliant artist who worked on the Final Fantasy games.

What helped you to thrive at the Sichuan Fine Art institute, when the focus of your department was on traditional painting?

Thrive. HAHAHA! I just did more hard work than other people. In China, art institutes are not only for people who love the arts, but also (even largely) for the students whose grades in such subjects as Math, English, or Chinese Literature are bad. These guys are not qualified to get into a university, so the government expands the enrollment at art institutes … These students don’t like art, even hate it. So it’s not very hard to understand why Chinese art institutes have big numbers of students, but the good artists are proportionally very rare. My department is in name only an “Animation and Cartooning” department. Actually it’s a messy mix of traditional painting, some photography, industrial design…

How do you feel your art fits in the context of Chinese art, whether speaking historically or among today’s artists?

I just define my art very simply. Art is for people. Although I like my art, I want more people to like it. Even Van Gogh must obey the rule. Artists are not creators, I think. They just combine different visual elements in new orders. Their only special traits are that they can be moved strongly by some visual elements and are very sensitive about their own feelings. So, speaking to history or the present or some specific artists, I think we can choose what we want. It’s not a fixed relationship.

How did you first become interested in fantasy illustration?

From childhood, I was crazy about Japanese games and manga. In this regard, I have to say “thank you, Japan.” It’s not just me: in China, almost all arts are influenced in this way.

What has working with digital art tools allowed you to do that is harder using traditional tools?

Harder? I don’t think so. Digital tools were developed for lazy, quick success and instant benefits. They are some easy tools. I have trained more than 300 people in China. Most of them had never touched art before, but after 8-10 months of training, they became qualified illustrators working for game and illustration companies. It is, of course, not a miracle. It’s just the digital tool’s contribution.

If someone tells me he wants to become a traditional artist or an illustrator, using traditional tools like watercolor, oils, acrylics, etc. in 8-10 months, I’ll say “sorry, it’s impossible.” Although Michael Jordan says “nothing is impossible,” yeah, it’s absolutely impossible. If he just wants to use Photoshop to paint, I’ll give him encouragement and say this would be OK, to go for it.

If you could be commissioned to paint your ideal subject, what would you paint?

I’d paint something in a gorgeous style mixing both the Han Nation’s culture and Western painting skill.

What do you think distinguishes good fantasy art from good art in general?

The usage of the fantasy elements is the important criterion, I think. Good fantasy art is not just beautiful art, but it must represent the culture’s background.

What are you painting right now?

I’m crazy busy—training some students, doing commission work, and I’m decorating a new apartment. So I don’t have a huge amount of time to develop a whole new style. But I keep on thinking about new works, non-stop.

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J.T. Glover

J.T. GloverJ. T. Glover has published fiction, non-fiction, and poetry in Dark Recesses and Underground Voices, among other venues. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, he currently resides in Richmond, Virginia with his wife and a not inconsiderable number of aquatic friends. By day he is an academic reference librarian specializing in the Humanities.