CHARLOTTE HIRD: The Workers of Wuhan in Watercolour

An opportunity to work and live in China for a year has provided me with new inspiration for my watercolour paintings. Everywhere I look around me here there is activity and industry. On our desperate dash to and from work each day in a taxi or on the 755 bus I glimpse people walking, riding, driving, sweeping streets, clippinghedges, pushing barrows and all manner of manual labour.

The air is heavily polluted adding atmospheric muted colours anda hazy horizon. I often use the same raw sienna for the sky and the street. A mixture of coal fired power plants and dust from the desert
creates spectacular sunrises and sunsets. The pollution levels are well beyond safe limits by the WHO guidelines; this winter Wuhan air quality index has regularly seen heavily polluted over 100 and
severely polluted above 200. Under 30 is deemed safe. I feel like I’m smoking three packs a day. Everything is coated in a thick layer ofdirt as trillions of RMB is spent on new infrastructure: light rail, motorways,metro extensions to the suburbs, bike paths, landscaping and more 34 story apartment blocks marching across the horizon.

My husband Dean is lecturing Themed Environment Design in Wuhan, China. It is a small city of 12 million people in the middle of China. We are living on the 27th floor in Vanke – a gated community of 20 buildings 34 floors tall. We estimate over 12,000 people live in our one square km block. Our apartment is brand new, spacious and has great views of the city on a clear day and the amazing sunsets.

I am teaching Visual Communications lessons developing drawing and painting skills. We are using an overhead camera to record my lessons and project in real time onto the wall behind me. Our translator Jennifer will translate my words to the 30 Chinese students. We can record a file and build a library of lessons. Planning these lessons has reinforced my skills and simplified my methods.

We face the usual first world problems of students addicted to their smart phones, sitting hunched over watching a tiny screen and not paying attention to the lecture. I get them standing up, breathing deeply and working large. We try to make it fun and get them off that screen for 20 minutes at a time so they can learn something.

The range of stationery and art supplies for sale in the campus shop is exciting and prices are very cheap. I can buy a very nice brush for $1. However there is no paper to compare with my favourite Saunders Rough 300gsm and the quality of the paint is not good. Quality materials are available on-line from Taoboa with fast delivery.

I have slowly decorated the walls of our apartment and the office with large paintings and maybe one day I will have a show. I found some good frames at IKEA and will frame up some works to sell.
We have a spare room so anyone is welcome to visit for a workshop.
Bring raw sienna!


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