Tell us about yourself.
My name is Yuming Zhu and I am originally from Shanghai, China. I went to Sonoma State University for graduate school and planned to study art therapy, yet, I graduated with a Master’s degree in Clinical Counseling.
My interest in art began when I was about 9 years old. I followed a traditional Sumi master to study calligraphy. After a year of studying calligraphy I began to peruse drawing and western style art. I was later introduced to an artist who studied with teachers from France and Russia. He taught me techniques in drawing, etching, plein-air sketch and oil painting. From age 15 I went back to follow my original master for sumi art, and began to incorporate eastern and western art style techniques into my own style where I used media such as sumi, oil and pastel in combination with one another.
Before the age of 25 I got the opportunity to study with three masters in art who encouraged me to find myself as an artist. I feel very lucky and humbled by the opportunities that have helped me form my style and pave my way of making a living from my artwork.
What made you take an interest in sumi ink?
I am passionate about sumi art because it is so disciplined, yet, so expressive. So controlled, yet the most free style. Sumi art is like poetry. I like sumi because it uses the least amount of strokes to express the deepest emotion.
What are your beliefs as an artist?
Artist should create as if it is his/her last day. Be truthful to your art, to yourself. Art is to increase awareness of emotions, the world around us. Art teaches people how to see. Art helps me to express my love feeling in a beautiful way. An artist purpose is not to just bring beautiful paintings to this world, but to create personal and unique statements.
I like to connect with others who could be aroused by my art, and seek connection at a sub-conscious level.
What inspires you?
Nature, Beauty, love, passion, social phenomenon, a branch in sunlight, a tilted barn with red roof in the midst of mountain field, all inspire me.
What are your thoughts of turning art into a business?
The joy of being an artist is to create and to be carefree about what others think of your art, but when you turn your art into a business it changes. When setting up a business, one has to think of what the market wants, what others like to buy. You have to find a balance creating what you love while keeping the consumer in mind. It may take time and practice to get to know your audience and find how your personal style fits into the art world, but with determination you will find your niche.
What opportunities do you get to experience as a working artist?
Being a working artists gives me the opportunity to travel and do shows, demonstrations, and lectures throughout the year in various states and countries. This year I did a solo show in Woodinville, a workshop and lecture at Mount Mary College in Milwaukee, WI, as well as two more workshops in Texas and Minnesota in April. I am often flown out to Hawaii and Oregon to do demonstrations of my sumi art. My next big showcase will be on October 26th, in Shanghai, China where I will be doing a group show at the Ying Gallery.
I’ve also got the opportunity to collaborate with brands and help create art tools for a sumi art line.
What products and brands do you use to create your sumi art?
I use Paragon sumi rice papers, Paragon Sketch books and Bee Paper Super Deluxe, as well as Sumi bamboo brushes, which I found are also good to use for regular Western style watercolor painting. The brand of brush I use is Yuming by Connoisseur, a brush I created in collaboration with the brand Connisseaur.
The ink I use is professional grade Yi-De Sumi ink (bottle ink), which is dark, yet diluted with water, can create variety tones and beautiful graduations. If I need it be extra dark and dry, I use Paragon China Premium (top quality) dry ink stick, or Paragon Jade Purple (professional grade) ink stick to grind and mix water with Yi-De bottle ink.
For paper I like to use Paragon Sumi rice paper, a professional grade Jin Pi Shuan, Best Shuan. I also like to sprinkle Gold and Pi-Ma (Mulberry) on the paper which are semi-absorbent, and creates beautiful and unique effect.
What supplies would you suggest to artists wanting to start sumi?
I would suggest people to get five fundamental items”
1) A Yuming by connoisseur good brush (Best Combination brush).
2) A roll of Best Shuan or Jin Pi Shuan paper, (hand-made rice paper.) I don’t recommend machine made paper to start.
3) A professional ink stick, “Jade Purple”
4) An ink stone (Natural stone), such as PIA 5” Silver Line round ink stone.
5) A wool “Ivy” Felt.
These items are most necessary to begin your journey into sumi art. Other items I highly recommended are the Paragon 3-Well Brush Washer, a porcelain Fan Shape (gives large surface to mix color) palette.
Follow Yuming on his Facebook at Yuming Fine Art to catch up on his latest artworks and events.