Shilei He’s Luminous Pastels | Artists Community

Steeping in Gold: A muted stillness in Shilei He’s profitable work each conveys and invitations contemplation.

The lifelike high quality of Shilei He’s exquisitely designed and rendered portrait, A Kashgar Girl, elevated this piece to win the Pastel Journal Award of Excellence. Portrayed in profile view, the in any other case peculiar lady takes on a noble air, primarily because of her gold-threaded head scarf and ornate gold earring. The artist’s use of sentimental lighting and a luxurious deep-purple background reinforce the genteel impact. In actual fact, it was the fabric’s vibrant metallic sheen, with its vivid glints, clean folds and refined texture, that drew He, of Shanghai, China, to color this portrait. “Personally, I choose a wide range of shiny objects, in addition to people who function a powerful texture,” says He, “so I attempt to paint them as a lot as potential.”

A Kashgar Girl (pastel on cardboard sealed with acrylic primer, 13 7/10 x 13 7/10)

An Best Illustration

Suffused with a quiet dignity, A Kashgar Girl pays tribute to the folks from a specific ethnic space. The artist identifies Kashgar as an oasis metropolis in Xinjiang, in far Western China. It was as soon as the epicenter of the traditional Silk Street commerce route. “A lot of the ladies from that area are Muslim, they usually put on all types of head scarves, in response to their age and preferences. They view this follow as a type of respect for girls, and it has develop into a practice,” he says.

The topic in He’s prizewinning portrait is a lady the artist met at a meal in Shanghai, in 2019. “Her look intrigued me, so I took a photograph of her earlier than consuming,” says the artist. Every stroke of pastel on this masterwork coalesces to evoke a splendid sense of texture, heat, finesse and presence.

Portrait & Determine juror Corey Pitkin praised A Kashar Girl as a “tour-de-force of classical portraiture.” The juror went on to say, “The dealing with of the pastel on the lady’s face has echoes of Rubens in its detailed rendering. The values are expertly dealt with with attractive delicate transitions that hyperlink all the small shapes collectively right into a cohesive entire. The flesh has a weight to it that’s palpable. You possibly can really feel the heat of her pores and skin. Complementing all this are the looser marks of her head scarf, with the highlights cascading fantastically throughout its satiny floor.”

Grasp of the Medium

Pastel is, fingers down, He’s medium of selection. “I feel pastel works are extra sturdy than oil work by way of preserving the vibrancy of the colours,” he says. “Additionally, I like how the medium is delivered immediately from the hand to the floor, so it conveys info sooner than different media, similar to oil and watercolor.”

Given the artist’s talent degree, it’s exceptional that he took up the medium comparatively not too long ago—in late 2018. Impressively, that is the second time that He has gained the Award of Excellence within the annual Pastel 100 competitors. His touching figurative work Coronary heart and Cuddle, wherein a prayerful Tibetan monk and his younger grandson affectionately embrace, garnered the prize two years in the past. Though A Kashgar Girl presents a less complicated composition, it exudes a equally delicate high quality that’s singularly arresting.


Cat in Window III (pastel on cardboard sealed with acrylic, 11 4/5 x 11 4/5)
Cranium, Candle and Moth (pastel on cardboard sealed with primerer,17 7/10 x17 7/10)
Sheep in Winter (pastel on cardboard sealed with acrylic primer, 23 3/5 x 41 3/10)
Large Panda (pastel on cardboard sealed with acrylic primer, 23 3/5 x 23 3/5)

A Considered Course of

Sometimes, as soon as He has recognized his topic, he’ll take a number of reference photographs, however he finds {that a} firsthand shade drawing is of great worth. “If potential, I choose to seize my topic by sketching it as a result of the ensuing colours can be extra vivid,” he says. On this case, nevertheless, he snapped only a single photograph of the Kashgar lady. “I selected a profile pose,” he explains, “in order that extra of the top scarf could possibly be featured.”

The artist does a number of conceptual work as a way to understand his imaginative and prescient for a chunk. His prizewinning portrait was no exception. “In the course of the inventive course of, I modified many components, together with the sunshine and shadow, which look completely different from what appeared within the photograph,” says the artist. “I adjusted the facial options barely, and the pores and skin is extra delicate and ruddy in complexion towards the encompassing head scarf and background.” The artist did hold some unique components, nevertheless, similar to the lady’s black garments, in addition to the colour behind her. “The background was a deep blue-purple, which harmonized with the gold head scarf,” he says. “That darkish shade additionally emphasised the contour of the face, presenting its form in essentially the most concise method.”

To start the portray course of, He first created a 6-inch- sq. shade examine. Then, transferring on to his floor—a grey cardboard that he sealed with Sennelier acrylic primer for pastels—the artist drew his composition in charcoal. Subsequent, he brushed the complete floor with a deep purplish- blue Sennelier pastel stick, establishing an even-toned underpainting earlier than utilizing a mix of Sennelier and Rembrandt pastels to construct subsequent layers.

When he developed the determine’s head, he used a number of Derwent and Stabilo CarbOthello pastel pencils for the fantastic facial particulars. By mixing along with his fingers, the artist achieved the nuanced shade transitions and exquisite modeling that offers the determine’s pores and skin its lifelike look.

The top scarf required a thought of dealing with of the encompassing values. “The golden texture can solely be created by evaluating the sunshine and shade of the thing,” says He. “The highlighted space, particularly, couldn’t be too giant. The smaller the dimensions, the stronger the optical luminosity can be.”

Moody Explorations

A lot of He’s work reveals a palette restricted to muted, neutral-toned colours. Charged with an total sense of austerity, his imagery usually conveys a taut stillness and sense of solitude, as seen in such items as Distant and Cat in Window III (slideshow). Cranium, Cradle and Moth (slideshow) additionally evokes these emotions—with added intonations of the transitory nature of life. “The general tone of my work is often solemn, which can relate to my very own propensity,” the artist says. “I prefer to elicit that temper in low-contrast footage.”

Along with his deal with figures and nonetheless lifes, the artist likes to discover different material, which he says retains him from being “constrained to a set sample.” Journey to different places additionally generates new portray concepts. Sheep in Winter (slideshow), for instance, grew out of a serendipitous scenic interlude in the course of the artist’s journey to Xinjiang, China. As he remembers, “The early morning solar had simply risen, and it was shining on the farmyard sheep. The impact of the nice and cozy mild was very stunning, so later I composed this piece from my assortment of photographs.”

One other animal portray, Large Panda (slideshow), has its roots on the Chengdu Large Panda Breeding Base, in Sichuan, China, which He visited in 2020. The artist, who relished his first dwell panda sighting, initially encountered this endearing creature fortunately consuming bamboo shoots out- doorways on a scorching summer time day. As is likely to be anticipated, He at all times brings his drawing supplies with him on journeys in order that he can create fast shade research of attention-grabbing material. Consequently, to design the piece’s imagined background, He culled and reassembled photographs of bushes from his on-site work.

The artist continues to hone his abilities by conducting his personal analysis; via a examine of artwork masterpieces, he learns completely different portray strategies. The artist additionally pushes himself with profession objectives—hoping to sometime see his artwork develop into a part of a museum assortment, for example. As well as, he understands the significance of neighborhood. “I want to meet different excellent painters,” says He, “to develop into pals with them in order that we are able to be taught from each other.”

Meet Daud Akhriev, the 24th Annual Pastel 100 Founders Award winner, here.

See the profitable work of Pirkko Mäkelä-Haapalinna, the 24th Annual Pastel 100 Gold Award winner, here.

To see all the award-winning work within the 24th Annual Pastel 100 and extra of Shilei He’s, take a look at the Spring 2023 issue of Pastel Journal.

Christine Proskow, a California-based author and editor, is an everyday contributor to Artists Community magazines.