Liu Yi /   Liu Yi

China 1958

Fine Art, Painting

Liu Yi
Liu Yi
March 2, 2017
Ok, I know it's so damn corny to quote somebody just to describe yourself, let alone Confucius, but this quote says all about my relationship with Widewalls, so forgive me for doing this: Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. Am I forgiven?

The outstanding control and harmony between the watercolor, and sketching techniques on one side, and paper on the other is something Liu Yi is known worldwide. This renowned Chinese artist skillfully blends material, form, and tones into a compact unit. The painter accents patience, creativity, and restraint in his style, but also anticipates the right moment to let go with the flow, that’s why Liu is considered a ‘water whisperer’. Yi’s compositions, portraits, and landscapes are very diverse, made on wet and dry paper, by using different brushes like Chinese, flat, squirrel or round, and including many details and figures. His inner voice tells him what to put and what to leave out of his artwork.

 search alvaro castagnet comments watercolour video and watercolour paint home landscape in 2014, 2015
Liu Yi – Untitled, watercolor – Photo via

Liu Yi’s Hometown Inspiration

Liu Yi was born in 1958 in Jiang Nan, Shanghai. The love for his hometown is hidden behind the beautiful garden scenes of his village and can be seen in paintings that show local folk customs. The artist’s sentimental interpretation of rainy, misty atmosphere and picturesque landscapes of his surroundings became his signature style. Yi graduated fine arts at the Hua Dong University of Education and later finished postgraduate studies of watercolor paintings at the China College of Fine Arts. He truly believes that artists should emphasize individualism, and find inspirational subjects or objects in accordance with their interests and aesthetics, in order to express themselves in a best possible way. He thinks that his apprehension of the water as ‘the harmony of men with nature’ is the essence of Chinese philosophy.

The artist’s sentimental interpretation of rainy, misty atmosphere and picturesque landscapes of his surroundings became his signature style

Liu Yi edit color video, Alvaro watercolour art
Liu Yi – Holy Music, watercolor – Photo via

Highly Demanding Watercolor Techniques

Liu is very fond of using the wet technique that allows him to create coherence between an internal meaning and an external look, which is supposed to leave a strong impression on the viewers. Known for quick brush painting and fast tempo in the process of making, Yi succeeds to make his art look unintentional and appealing while stressing the effect of the watercolor. Amazing skill, talent, and insert the artist owns is seen in the way he achieves incredible morality and clarity with the subject of the piece, leaving no room for confusion.

Yi succeeds to make his art look unintentional and appealing

Liu Yi - Untitled, edit and search for comments in watercolors
Liu Yi – Untitled, watercolors – Photo via

Chinese Artist’s Complex Style

Although he finds the creation of the satisfactory work exhausting and painstaking, Yi enjoys in combining elements like color, randomness, water and rhythm. The watercolor painting has a unique beauty, with softness and hardness, swiftness and steadiness, lightness and heaviness, calmness and excitement that makes a poetical narrative and establishes harmony. Liu Yi is famous for the series of ballerina paintings, with young girls dressed in their ballet attire as subjects. As a professor, he tries to transmit everything he knows to his students and encourages them to be positive and self-confident.

Liu Yi is famous for the series of ballerina paintings

Liu Yi - Ballet dancer, watercolor
Liu Yi – Ballet dancer, watercolor – Photo via

Awards and Honors

The artist is a lecturer at the University of Painting and Design and a member of the Chinese Artists Association. He was a Deputy President of the Shanghai Watercolor Painting Society, and now is the Deputy Principal of the Shanghai Arts and Technical College. In 2004, he got the Charles Comfort Medal in Canada. His works are displayed in numerous exhibitions, and part of both private and public collections in museums and galleries all over the world.

Liu Yi lives and works in Shanghai, China.

Featured image: Liu Yi – Portrait – Photo via
All other images used for illustrative purposes only

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2015The 1st International Watercolor ExhibitionHa Noi, VietnamGroup
2013Experiencing Simplicity: Realistic Paintings from Long CollectionLong Museum, ShanghaiGroup
2012LIU YI‘S OIL PAINTING - SHANGHAI STATIONShanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, ChinaSolo
2011LIU YI OIL PAINTING EXHIBITIONToday Art Museum, Beijing, ChinaSolo
2009Metaphors of Un/Real - Animamix Biennial 2009-2010Shanghai - Animamix Biennial 2009-2010, TaipeiGroup
2009FINE ART BEIJING 09 (art fair)National Agriculture Exhibition Center, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2003Curator`s notes on Prayer Beads and Brush StrokesBTAP (Beijing Tokyo Art Projects) - Beijing, ChinaGroup
2003Prayer Beads and Brush StrokeBeijing Tokyo Art Projects, BeijingGroup
1989China/Avant-GardeNational art gallery China, BeijingGroup