Interview with Shuhua Dai /China/

  • December 15, 2013

1) Could you introduce yourself in one sentence?


I am lucky person who believes in good stories, always smiling, with pleasant expectations from live and sharing positive energy with the others…


2) From your bio, I learned you graduated from the AMDFA in 2003. What are the most valuable things you learn from art school?


I learned many skills which I can not discover or just pass alone. Basically I passed trough the classics there, learned and practiced in painting, engraving and even sculpture.. Entered in debt in the anatomy and made hundreds of sketches and drawings.. I met interesting people there, some of them are good friends of mine in present! I have got many recipes of making and exploring ground coats, oil colors – painting and engraving.. There are very old ones, which can not be found easy..


3) When and how did you decide to be an illustrator? Did your family influence you?


I am not an illustrator actually. I paint my world with my heroes… In my childhood I dreamed about the world who watched from books stories. I appreciated every colorful book given to me as a present or simply bought from me.


4) Along the way of achieving your dream, what decisions you made deeply influenced your future career when You look back?


When graduated the Academy  I had to decide how to continue my career as an artist. Most of my colleagues became anything else but not artists, because of the difficulties of our art community in Bulgaria. At that time I made engravings because it was my speciality but I didn’t feel in my territory, on my way…

Once I woke up with idea to change my life, my style and make what I want. And my spirit was crying about fairy tales, about the funny little heroes who laugh, about the colorful stories which provoked all my imagination… I made it despite all the World who was in doubt of my success. I felt happy! J



5) Does being an illustrator accord with your initial expectation?


6) Did you ever have difficult times in your career? How did you overcome it?

Yes of course, I had. Once a very good friend of me said:  – You have to choose what you wanna be – artist or someone else who can not do things which he wants. If you decide to be an artist then BE Artist and believe in you and your creations even if you don’t see the light in the tunnel! Accept all the circumstances and keep going!”  This sentence still helps me in some difficulties.



7) To what do you attribute your success as an illustrator?

If I become an illustrator to a popular publishing house then I would achieve one of my goals. In present I am an artist who makes illustrations of her life and her dreams. Making exhibitions and publishing the paintings into my web site gives me energy to go further and share my joy with many people who need it.


8) What’s your big plan in 2013?  

To come and live in France, Cote d’Azur. I already did it. The next step is arranging of exhibition here and in New York if possible.


9) To me, your pictures are filled with romance, brightness, flight, freedom, reminding me of fairy tales. How do you define or describe your art style? Does it relate to Bulgarian myth or old stories?


Some of my stories are related to Bulgarian traditions like Bulgarian national dance called “horo” / On the meadow; Horo;/. Others are related to my hobbies like biking in the mountains, around the hills of my city or  travelling and visiting interesting places /The Hillock; Travel/. Some Christian rituals and traditions like Easter /Break; Friend/. I also appreciate everything related to the air and clouds, balloons, cats,  fairies and love /The tightrope dancer; So many balloons, Kiss, Steps on the clouds;.  I have been attracted by the mysticism  and at least but not last – I have been inspired by nice book as well / Joss. Autumn leaves dancing on the river/.



10) What are some visual influences that make their way into your work? 


Visual influences.. Hm.. Our surrounding is filled with visual influences. Wherever I turn I see many ideas for drawings. Sometimes places I pass and people I meet are enough to start painting.


11) Do you see yourself and your work existing as part of a movement, or in a particular context? If so, what is that? If not, has that been purposeful and why?


I have seen myself partially as a supporter of naïve art and partially as a new builder of art arena. I can not categorize my style totally as naïve art, because there are some characteristics  which rather can be relate to the detail in hipper realism and surrealism.


12) How has your work developed and changed over the years? How would you describe “where you are now?”


First I was graphic, then totally changed the type of art with painting. I was inspired by many classics in art history who left their traces to my future appearance. I am simultaneously casting between naïve and figural compositions which apparently show my dualistic nature and psychological habitat of interests.


13) How long does a picture usually take you from design to finish? What are the steps?


It depends on many factors- for example If I have ready idea or just receive it in my head like an email then I spent less time of making it. Sometimes I have only the detail that will participate in my composition. Basically making- time varies between a week or two, or a month… There is no recipe.

The first step begins always with good ground base then making composition on the canvas and then applying the oil colors. At the end I sign the painting and when enough dried put the fixative and frame it or just leave it like this.

Many people think that it takes just day-two but it takes really huge patience and skills to make all the details and wait for technological time.


14) Could you share your mental approach to developing concepts for your  illustrations? 


I already pointed – this is the way to see when watching and perceive the environment like a part of a vast painting. The concept of my paintings so far was sharing some moments of my live with the drawing. Now I want to enter into the drawing and get inspirations from the from the fairy tales and perform them in my real life.


15) Could you give a list of your favourite works you ever made? And could you tell us a bit about these works, like where do you get the inspirations, and what do you want to express in each picture?


My favorites: “The tree of wishes” / it was my first one in this style. I don’t sale it, because is very close to my way of live; “Poppies”, “When I love”, “Kiss” – the endless topic about love; “Brasserie” –made in very important point of my life – my first visit in Cote d’Azur, France and never failing thirst for creating; Archangels – “Michael”, “Gabriel”, “Azrael”, “Haniel” – I was told to make seven Archangels and this idea became fix-idea, it exited my emotions when drawing them; “The Equilibrist” – the eternal way of balancing the day and the night; “The Gift” – actually this is proposal for marriage, but the “ring” is just an apple, as a symbol of purity and also apples are my favorite fruits; “Magical smoke” – because I have a souvenir – a lamp of Aladin who made one my wish true;  “Wedding guests in the air” – I like weddings!

From the figural: “Joss. Autumn leaves dancing on the river”; “Teresa’s tea”; “Apple afternoons”.



16) Being a full time illustrator you draw a lot and with that comes tools, what does your workstation consist of ?

Like every artist – I have a lot of tools – three tripods, plenty of brushes, oil colors, acrylic colors, ceramics, cartoons, kinds of paper, different textile products, thinners – usually turpentine, fixatives, canvases, frames, plots, pens, paper sheets, pastels, tools for engraving, plates for engraving, intaglio press, inks, glues, ironware tools, art albums & literature etc. This is investment gathered for decades..  J It was really stressful the moment when had to replace all my studio in a brand new place of living…


17) Could you describe your typical day? 

I usually wake up at nine then drink tea after that coffee, take my time before midday. Check emails and then start working. I live in my studio, so I don’t need to rush for work. Some days continue working till 2’00 am or more, sometimes till midnight. I have days for meeting friends and doing sport.



18) What are your hobbies? What do you do in your spare time?


My hobbies are cycling, spinning, pilates, yoga, listening to the music, reading, dancing and watching movies. I like the trips in different countries or just unknown places, shared with friends.


19) Last, a big question. How do you look at  Bulgarian illustrations? What are the main characteristics of Bulgarian illustrations?


It is not possible to describe one endless part of any national art only in a sentence but if I can be objective, I will describe Bulgarian illustrations close to the precise drawing, abundant variety of performances, unlimited imagination and inner vitality.

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