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Interview: We Talk To Wu Jianzhong

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

We talked to the incredibly talented watercolour painter Wu Jianzhong about his beautiful work and process.


Wu Jianzhong - Hong Kong - Painter - watercolour painter

Photograph: Courtesy of Wu Jianzhong.


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your art?


I live in Hong Kong and make my bread and butter as a graphic designer before rushing home every day to be the best father to my young son. Watercolour is my outlet of expressing, recording and experiencing everyday life and changes in the city. I’m captivated by the magic of light and the beauty of texture. My works have been accepted by the American Watercolor Society and National Watercolour Society in which I also received an award.


Wu Jianzhong - Hong Kong - Painter - watercolour painter

"A Brand New Day" by Wu Jianzhong.


How did you get into art?


I started studying graphic design at KTVTC in 1999. My lecturer Leung Kam Hung, a watercolourist himself, shared his passion for Western art history and stories and inspired me to start painting. I remain grateful to him for starting my journey.


Wu Jianzhong - Hong Kong - Painter - watercolour painter - baby buffalo

"Baby Buffalo" by Wu Jianzhong.


What's your favourite thing about working with watercolours?


The unpredictability of watercolour is both lovable and detestable. I once painted the same painting 5 times and still failed to paint what was in my mind. Watercolour knows how to paint on its own. It will not cooperate wholeheartedly but at the same time it can create magic which you wouldn’t expect. I also practice calligraphy and frame drums so in a way the medium represents me: lightweight, non-intrusive and rhythmic.


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Tell us a bit about your process?


I begin with a design in mind and sketch various thumbnail drafts even if its plein air. This helps me understand and plan the layers, focus, shapes and distribution of colours. This helps with the “big picture" and makes the overall process of painting more enjoyable. The thumbnails also help to reveal the composition, perspective and many other challenges. If I’m painting in the studio I’ll also do a colour draft as it allows me to unify the overall colour palette I want. Once I start to paint it is full focus and full speed because watercolour provides you with different saturation, colours and results when it dries at different times. It can be deceiving to the eye while you work. As for the final details, I typically do not add much.


Wu Jianzhong - Hong Kong - Painter - watercolour painter - star ferry painting

"Star Ferry" by Wu Jianzhong.


What is your favourite time of day to paint?


I prefer mornings in my studio with or without natural light. I can usually finish my work in one go. As for plein air, it mostly depends on the weather that day.


Wu Jianzhong - Hong Kong - Painter - watercolour painter

Photograph: Courtesy of Wu Jianzhong.


Do you have advice for up and coming artists?


Be totally committed. When you are not creating, read, plan, associate with and imagine everything possible that can make you better at it. The more committed you are, the closer you are to realizing your goals and dreams.

Read more about Wu Jianzhong and view his work over on his profile page.

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The Hong Kong Arts collective (HKARTS) was established in 2019 by local artists for local artists. It was created as an online artists village to support and promote artists living and working in Hong Kong. We offer exhibition opportunities, fine art printing, art consultations and our online shop supports both our artists and the wider community as a whole.

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