PREFACE -- by Yang Ming-Yi

"Beautiful things are so concrete, I do not dare to make abstractions of them" -- Huang Yongyu Extract from "Desert of Sweat Drops" from the Five Journals of Huang Yongyu

Few artists have not done paintings from life and life sketches. In order to successfully portray grasses, insects, branches and leaves, the old master Qi Baishi drafted numerous rough sketches from nature, and made detailed records of the characteristic shapes and colors of his subjects. Another artist, Zhang Daqing, became world famous later in life for his color splash landscapes, but I have kept at hand several of his early works: pencil sketches of scenery in Hong Kong, such as "Kowloon City" and "Leiyumun," which are composed of light and buoyant lines, and are very absorbing.

I have the habit of always carrying a sketch pad with me, and I keep another in the car. Whenever I have a spare moment, I sketch a few lines -- there are just too many interesting things in life, and it would be a shame to let them slip unrecorded into the past. Paintings from life and life sketches can record your authentic impressions of the moment, and can, at the same time, constantly exercise your skills of observation and analysis of the material world. Sometimes, the beauty of a scene demands a serious response. In such cases, I pack up all my heavy artillery -- large palettes, blankets, paints, pens, brushes and even food, and go out fully armed to paint for one or two days. I learned this from my teacher, Huang Yongyu. In the early 1970s, Huang Yongyu, Wu Guanzhong and two other artists came to Suzhou to do life sketches. I had the honor of accompanying them every day, and witnessed their endurance of hardship and the earnestness of their pursuit to faithfully express on paper the beauty they encountered in nature. This experience taught me to understand the working attitude of genuine artists, and I began to emulate these artists, and started to enjoy the pleasures of life sketching myself. I learned a great deal in the process of analyzing, studying and portraying subjects. Art is part of science. Required for artistic creation are not only inspiration and passion, but also a rational analysis as to how to portray the characteristic beauty and substance of different subjects. In the brief but enduring process of making life sketches, many techniques and methods come together, and in this process an artist gradually develops the persistence and patience needed to adapt and adjust to all kinds of environments. This is what I have learned from life sketches.

In today's world of advanced science, cameras have become so popular and convenient that many artists have become dependent on cameras and slide projectors to facilitate their artistic creation. In this way, artists are able to collect large quantities of material in a very limited time frame and proceed later with their creation indoors. This is the result of modern technology. However, very often, after one returns home and looks through the hurriedly-taken Photos, the passion and the impulse of the moment have weakened and diffused. It can sometimes feel much like looking through someone else's albums. Therefore, in addition to taking a camera, I never forget to bring along a sketchbook to record some images that move me and express my sensations at that moment in nature. When I look back at the sketches later, these remnants of my experience reawake in me the essence of those moments.

The paintings from life in this collection are the true records of my artistic life from the 1960s to today. A small portion of them have been reworked in the studio and some have been embellished through my own imagination. Although I have lost many of my works from these years, I have still kept the majority of them. Looking at them always makes me happy, because they remind me so vividly of the circumstances in which I sketched them. I hope these works will also resonate in the hearts of the readers of this collection.

I would like to take this opportunity in the preface of this collection to sincerely and profoundly thank my revered teacher, Mr. Huang Yongyu, who has been influencing me, teaching me and caring for my development for over 30 years. I would also like to sincerely thank the famous collector, Mr. Hu Yunhu, and my friend Mr. Shen Ping, who made the publication of this album possible.

Portrait of Yang Ming-Yi -- Pencil Drawing by Chen Yifei

Ming -Yi is my old friend. Whether we're in China or abroad, we often get together to discuss art, study art works, go sightseeing and make sketches, and engage in sincere and understanding exchanges. Ming-Yi is a talented, unpretentious, vigorous and creative artist. I especially like his Jiangnan landscapes in water and ink, which are so elegantly expressive and full of charm. His art works have met with a lot of success in recent years, and he has had numerous one-man exhibitions in many countries. His works are attracting more and more admiration from the public and more and more attention from collectors. Thus, on the occasion of the publication of this collection of his sketches, I would like to sincerely wish him even greater success in his art.

-- Chen Yifei, Summer, 1996

At the "May 7th Cadre School", 1975

On the beach of Qingdao, 1977

In Huangshan Mountain, Anhui, 1979

In the outskirts of the watertown Tong Li, 1980

In Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, 1981

At Huangguoshu Waterfall, Guizhou, 1981


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