Student Artist Spotlight: Cici Chen’ 23

“Sometimes my inspiration comes from reveries about the use of colors and painting techniques.”

Cici Chen ’23 is a visual artist who loves applying color in different depths.  We asked her some questions to learn more about her process and the meaning behind her work.

Could you tell us a little bit about the process that went into each piece, and how it is meaningful you?

I try to use different materials for every different work. When drawing portraits of animals, I use pencils. When drawing mountains, I choose to use slow-drying oil paints to paint on thin plastic. And when I draw collages made of paper, I use bright oil pastels. The time I spend on each work is different. When drawing daily sketches of plants and flowers, I may spend a short time, 20-10 minutes; when painting oil paintings, I may spend several weeks.

What were some challenges you encountered in creating these pieces, and how were they overcome?

My two biggest challenges occurred when I was painting mountains on plastic, and when I was using oil pastels. When painting mountains, I chose to paint on plastic, but the plastic was very thin. The thing is, oil paint is relatively corrosive, and this piece of plastic was so thin that it could be blown away by a tiny wind. My teacher and I began to worry about whether it could be corroded and damaged by the paint, so I started to do several experiments. I found some new plastics and smeared the paint on them. After the paint had dried for a while, I could see if there were any traces of flakes. Fortunately, these pigments did not seriously corrode plastics. In order to make the work more stable, I added a few more layers after painting one layer after another, and it turned out to be stable enough.

When using oil pastels, I ran into more difficult problems. At first, I wanted to melt the oil pastels and then spread them on the paper with a spoon. But I found this was not feasible. The oil pastel’s temperature dropped so quickly that I couldn’t spread all the liquid on the paper, and the black coal on the back of the spoon mixed into my color. I tried many different things. I tried to melt or not melt them in a container, or press them into powder, but this still made the oil pastel particles run everywhere. Then I started to melt the oil pastel directly on the paper, and then paint directly on the paper, and my problem was finally solved.

What inspires you and why?

I think many things give me inspiration. Sometimes my inspiration comes from animals, plants, flowers, and landscapes in nature. Sometimes my inspiration comes from reveries about the use of colors and painting techniques.