"For me, it's about capturing the human spirit, not just addressing the technical side of painting... My best paintings happen when the model is taking a break or even taking a nap."
Mary Qian is a Chinese-born artist who has been painting impressionistic oil portraits for more than a decade. Originally hailing from Shanghai, she earned her B.F.A. in Fine Arts and Illustration from Brigham Young University in 1998. Both of her parents are scientists, and Qian’s early studies in China focused on the sciences. Yet, from her earliest years, Qian had also felt a passion for traditional Chinese calligraphy: “It’s considered an art form, and throughout school I always did it in my spare time, along with Chinese-style watercolor painting.”
After graduation from high school, it looked like Qian would continue to concentrate on science in college. “I wanted to go on to study art, but in that education system, I really didn’t have a choice,” Qian says. Fortunately, Qian’s parents listened to her wishes, and her mother remembered a good friend in the U.S. who worked at Brigham Young University. Qian applied and was granted permission to come to Provo, Utah, to study art for six months. She ended up staying for five years, earning degrees in both representational painting and computer animation.
After college, Qian’s skills in digital art landed her a job working for a division of Warner Bros. specializing in video games. She gained expertise in creating backgrounds and characters alike, and the job moved her to Chicago in 2002. But all along, a greater creative passion kept her enthralled during her evenings and weekends: painting. She began working and studying at Chicago’s renowned Palette & Chisel Academy of Fine Arts, winning second place in their 2004 Gold Medal Show and first place a year later; she now serves on the club’s board of directors. Qian gradually evolved her own distinctive style of figurative work, a dynamic combination of realism and impressionism that is informed by her exposure to European figurative artists, while also enhanced by subtleties of execution and expression that clearly derive from the graceful traditions of Chinese watercolor and calligraphy.
With continued success in exhibitions, including a Best of Show award at the prestigious Salon International juried exhibition in 2007, Qian was inspired to leave the world of computer animation and become a full-time painter in 2008. Today, she works both in a studio near the Palette & Chisel and at her own home studio. Qian’s love of painting shines through in her figurative canvases, which present seemingly unposed subjects that somehow feel vibrantly alive. “For me, it’s about capturing the human spirit, not just addressing the technical side of painting... My best paintings happen when the model is taking a break or even taking a nap.”
Selected Commissions & Collections
Mary's work is included in the permanent collections of the several prominent institutions as well as numerous private collections throughout the United States.
Honors & Awards
· 2018 - 2nd Annual AIS Impressions Small Works Showcase Award of Excellence
· 2017 - American Impressionist Society's 18th Annual National Juried Exhibition, Second Place
· 2016 - Oil Painters of America Eastern Regional Silver Medal
· 2015 - Best of Chicago, Portraits
· 2015 - Oil Painters of America National Silver Medal
· 2015 - American Impressionist Society 3d Place
· 2014 - Oil Painters of America Eastern Regional Silver Medal
· 2013 - Oil Painters of America Eastern Regional Golden Medal
· 2013 - Oil Painters of America National Silver Medal
· 2012 - American Art Invitational Award of Excellence
· 2012 - American Art Invitational Purchase Awards
· 2011 - Oil Painters of America Eastern Regional Silver Medal
· 2011 - American Impressionist Society Third Place
· 2011 - Figurative Merit Award Winner at Scottsdale Salon of Fine Art
· 2010 - Gold Medal Award, Oil Painters of America National Juried Exhibition