Tianhua Mao Blending Traditional Influences and Modern Aesthetics

Tianhua Mao’s worlds are the places of gods and spirits, but not from any mythology other than her own colourful imagination. She talks to us about the influence of Chinese art on her work and the desire to entangle viewers in her universe.

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Tianhua’s visual language has clear accents of the Chinese ink drawings that she talks about below. But the the hints of imagined lore and suggestions of worlds beyond what we see also brings in the dreamy magic of folk tales and legends.

It’s a beautiful contrast with the electric palettes she employs, creating an intrigueing play between traditional themes and vibrantly modern tones.

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My working process is a combination of digital and traditional techniques.

I prefer to start with paper and pencil. Most of the time, I won’t use the sketch, it’s just a way to help me think.

Creating textures is a big part of my work. I use all kinds of materials to experiment. Once I get enough textures, I will scan them and start my drawing in Photoshop.

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I love the foggy and watery atmosphere in Chinese ink art. I do tonnes of ink dots and blur color patches on rice paper as textures to reach that effect.

Then I color them in a digital way. The color I use is vibrant. I think it’s interesting to learn from the classic techniques and create something brand new.

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As you see, my work is full of details. It always takes me 1-3 days on each drawing. And when I review it after couple of days, I will still find something I’m not satisfied with.

I’ll open that file and edit it. It’ll go back and forth several times till I think, “OK, I’m done with this ”.

So nearly 80% of my working hours are spent on the delicate adjustments, and I really enjoy the feeling of rendering the super details.

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I see drawing as my natural way to express myself and also build my inner world.

The theme of my work is always fantasy. I don’t want to add any realistic features to my drawing. What I want when people look at my work, is that they are purely involved in the narrative and atmosphere of my own world.

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© Tianhua Mao, 2016

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