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Featured Artist - Qing Zhang of Choose Arts

24th February 2021 Featured Artists


Artist Qing Zhang.  (Photo courtesy of Scott Jamieson Photography
Artist Qing Zhang. (Photo courtesy of Scott Jamieson Photography

Qing is a locally based artist and illustrator who uses the unique characteristics of watercolour to create delicate native bird and animal portraits.  Qing's impressive creative background in visual arts encompasses studies in Painting, Printmaking and Drawing at RMIT and Painting Techniques at VCA.  Qing takes a largely traditional approach to her watercolour pieces, though her creative process is constantly evolving to incorporate more contemporary brush techniques.  

Qing's business Choose Arts has grown rapidly over the last year despite setbacks caused by Covid, mainly due to a real passion for her craft and her business-centric approach to marketing and selling her artwork.  Not only that, Qing turned the experience on it's head by creating her hugely popular Pandemic Cats series, a light hearted and amusing take on life in lockdown.  You can find reproductions of Qing's gorgeous watercolour birds on everything from tea-towels and face masks to marble coasters and cards in her online shop, but you won't find her work on Redbubble or Society6 - all her products are locally sourced or handmade by Qing, a testament to her love for meaningful, hand-crafted art.  

Qing has become one of our favourite regulars over the last year, and we always look forward to seeing her new pieces (and having a lovely chat with Qing of course!) For those interested in learning watercolour practices and techniques, Qing is also holding a beginners watercolour class at two venues from mid March - she'd love to see you there!

Tell us a bit about your creative background. What made you want to become an artist?

One of my earliest memories is drawing people and house on a door with chalk. I’ve always loved drawing. As a child, I also read a lot. One of my favourite books was a big book about Art History. Becoming an artist has been a dream ever since.

Developing your creative practice into a healthy business can be a real sticking point for a lot of artists, but you’ve managed to achieve this in a relatively short amount of time. Can you offer any pointers to other creatives wanting to sell their art successfully?

Heater Cat - Qing Zhang
Heater Cat - Qing Zhang

I’m humbled by this question! Starting an art business is very challenging, and Covid has had a huge negative impact on my business, but I am staying positive and hoping the best for the future. There are 2 things that I can share with other creatives:

1, Be true to ourselves. Once I figured out that I truly wanted to be an artist, to do art everyday and make a living, other things are not important any more. It helps me to stay focused.

2, Learn to be a business owner. Have a business plan, understand the finance, marketing, and operations of the business.

You’ve used a variety of watercolour techniques and styles to produce your work in the past, such as salt granulation and traditional Chinese brush techniques. What attracts you to the medium of watercolour above all others?

To be honest I really like many kinds of mediums and art forms. For now I am focusing on watercolour. Watercolour is a very interesting medium. The fun of painting in watercolour is to be fully present and enjoy the unpredictability. It is like being human! I have a plan, but I don’t have sole control. I give my full attention to what’s happening on the paper, and seize the opportunity whenever I can. The decisions can only be made in the moment.

What draws you to bird and animal portraiture as a focus in your work?

I’ve always been attracted to portraits. I've tried other subjects, such as still life and landscape. In the end it’s still the bird and animal portraiture that interests me the most. I think what draws you is an innate thing, you cannot rationalise it even if you can give it meaning. I feel that different birds or animals have different energy. When I am painting them I am in tune with that energy.

Talk us through your creative process – do you stick to tried and true methods, or do you find your process is always evolving?

I think mine is an evolving process, and I hope that it keeps evolving. However I believe that each of us has some habits or tendency that will remain unchanged. For example my inspiration comes from many sources: reading literature, walking in nature, talking with others…but when I decide to paint something such as a bird, I like to thoroughly research the subject. I am curious about it. I also often do a lot of studies before painting. Through these research and studies, it becomes clear to me how I want to paint it.

Working artists usually need to generate their income from several different sources, which can fluctuate and make it difficult at times to maintain a stable routine. How do you stay organised enough to consistently create art and run a business? Do you have any tips or tricks to help stay on top of time management?

To be able to consistently create art, I prioritise art making in my routine. However, even art making shouldn’t be artists’ number one priority. It should be our wellbeing. It is a lot easier to get things done when we are well. In terms of time management, I have a habit of planning the day every morning. It is a simple to-do-list, but I also set a time budget for the tasks. This gives me control to prioritise art, and to keep things in balance. For example, I always try to paint during the day to take advantage of the daylight. In the night I am happy to spend a couple of hours in front of computer to work on my finance, inventory management, etc.

Who or what has been the biggest influence on you creatively?

This is a really good question…I will probably say that it is the inner self, or the curiosity that leads to exploring it. Even if most of my artworks are representational, I think I’ve always been searching for an energy, or a feeling, and my art is probably an expression of it.

Do you have any advice for artists on how to successfully build and increase a customer base?

I am also working on this myself! I believe that “stay true to ourselves” still applies here. Creating art and marketing art are two separate things, but the latter shouldn’t determine the former. We attract and connect with our audiences through our work, so creating good art is the best thing we can do here. Apart from busy making, we should also be active in showing, and try to enjoy the ride! I have met many customers who share with me their stories that makes me feel even more meaningful about what I do. It is a precious thing.

Do you have any long-term goals for your creative business?

I hope that one day we will be able to expand my business and set up a studio, where a small team can work together on making and marketing products from my designs. This will also enable me to keep working on my fine art as the business grow.

How have you found working with Image Science?

I really enjoy working with Image Science since day one. I will always remember walking into the office for the first time, meeting the friendly team and learning so much after the consultation. I also learned a ton from the website!

What’s next on the horizon for Choose Arts? Do you have any exciting projects or exhibitions lined up for 2021?

I like to be busy, and 2021 is no exception. I will keep doing what I am doing now: try to paint on a daily basis; sell my work at the markets and online. I will enter a few art prizes, and teach watercolour classes and workshops. I’ve been contacted to paint a panel for a mural near where I live. I will have a few group exhibitions and the next one is “Water”, the Glen Eira Artist’ Society members exhibition, in the Glen Eira City Council Gallery, from the 25th of March to the 18th of April.

To contact Qing for an original commission piece or to browse her wonderful selection of prints and products, you can find her website at choosearts.com.au. To keep up with the latest news and class announcements or just to see her post beautiful art, follow Qing on Instagram at @choosearts.  Photo of Qing in her studio is courtesy of Scott Jamieson Photography, who you can find on Instagram at @scottjphotography.people.