Mrzhen's Blog
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I remembered when I was growing up in china; I would always stay up late with my uncle Li to watch Dragonball Z cartoons. Since my parents were never around to take care of me at the time these were probably my fondest memories. It was my uncle Li who attempted to teach me how to draw. Although he was not the most artistic person, he was the very first and I remember this, to show me how to draw a face. I still remembered the day when he drew these faces on a miniature piece of paper and told me to repeat after him. I never really realized how important this moment was to me.

I’m not sure how time worked when I was a kid but at some point when I was 7 I immigrated to America. It was a devastating point in my life. I was being put into a place where I did not understand the language or culture.  And the only way that I was able to connect to my peers was by doing spaceship drawings. I continued to draw and many of them were very crude drawings of Dragonball Z characters. But once I had adapted to American culture and the language, I was too busy playing with my friends to think about art.

It was not until my junior year of high school that I decided to pick up drawing again. My motivation for doing art was not for arts sake but it was to be able to draw a face; I was just really obsessed with the idea of being able to draw a human face and I still am. I don’t know why but it was just so important to me that I was able to draw human faces. At the time I couldn’t really understand it and I still really don’t understand it now. A face is what defines and identifies a person but why am I so devoted on wanting to capture it? Maybe there really isn’t an explanation for it, or maybe Uncle Li’s art lesson had impacted me more than I’d ever expected.

Living in New York City has definitely helped me strengthen my portrait game. Traveling everyday on public transit has really given me the opportunity to sketch hundreds of different people. These daily practices have made my lines, forms and tones stronger than ever and if it weren’t for my obsession of the human face I would have never drawn as many people as I have.

sketchbook 1

Sketchbook 2

Sketchbook 3


Then going into art school have made me realize that art was much much more than what I had anticipated. I treasure every second of school. All the many different artists that I’ve been inspired by, the techniques that I’ve learned and most importantly the people that I’ve met.

3rd semester self portrait


1. Lucian Freud-

The first time I really learned about Lucian Freud is the second semester of my freshmen year. Although I’ve seen his work before it never really stuck with me until I started to learn to paint. I really like his work because of his subject matter and the way he depicts his subjects. He is like a much more personal and grittier Pearlstein.  Every portrait that he does is done with a variety of muted colors arranged in a very planar manner. The way Freud applies the paint, the texture that he gives every slash of color is simply amazing. His portraits really inspire me to learn to paint in that way and hopefully take it to another level. Here are a few of my favorite paintings by the man himself:

Self-Portrait,1985 Portrait of Baron Hans Heinrich 1981

2. Jenny Saville-

Naturally, looking at Lucian Freud’s work lead me to another great English painter, Jenny Saville. Many comparisons have been made between the two, the use of muted colors, the thick paint strokes, and of course the production of amazing portraits. I really really admire Jenny Saville’s work because of the daring subject matter. Although many of her paintings depict a very gorey, personal encounter they are extremely beautiful to look at. Lucian’s work is sorta like the girl you take home to mom whereas Jenny’s work is like the girl you never ever want your mother to meet. One of my favorite painting of Jenny Saville is the dead cow carcass hanging on the meat hook. Even though that is not a portrait it really caught my attention. Really intense stuff. I can not find the painting on art stor but these two paintings are good examples of Jenny Saville’s work:

Aperture 2002Atonementstudies(panel2) 2005

3. Alice Neel-

On a much lighter note, I also like Alice Neel, for some reason I thought her name was Alice Neely. Hmmm… Alice Neel’s portraits are somewhat humorous to me. They look very cartoonish because of their slight disproportions and prominent blue outlines. I really like her attention to light and shadows and her repetitive depictions of her subjects in chairs. Each portrait has a feel of the previous one, its hard to mistake it for someone else’s work. Alice Neel has such a looseness and movement in her lines. These lines really carry your eyes through the painting.

David Bourdon and Gregory Battcock 1979 Phil Bard 1957This second painting looks a lot like that famous bather painting by cezanne.


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