Running Wild

Shangran Sheng

May 24 – June 30

Artist Statement

My greatest interest is to design various kinds of human characters, vehicles, weapons in a mechanical and futuristic way. I grew up playing video games which, unlike online games, have realistic graphics and cinematic plots. These games, such as Halo and Borderlands, have an epic storyline and an enormous fantasy world which inspired me a great deal. I enjoy style called “Steam-punk” most, because I find it very exciting to see the combination of the ancient and the future. I have gained so many resources that there are all kinds of eerie imaginations going on in my mind every day, and whenever a good one comes, I take note. Now I already have a list of inspirations that I can use in my future creation, but it will still take great practice to copy my imagination exactly on paper. Before talking about future, I would like to talk about past, introducing myself as well as my tortuous story before I stepped on this path of art.

Both of my parents used to be artists, and I believe I inherited some of their “artistic” genes. I enjoyed drawing stuff since I was small, such as stickmen and cute little comic strips. My parents have told me multiple times that they wanted me to be an artist just like them, but I refused. It is completely different between being an artist in China and in Western countries. In China, if you are going to study art, you have to prepare for the art college entrance exam, and the exam is so harsh and strict that you have to spend at least 2 years prior to it to stay in a training studio, practicing sketching and painting from 5 to 11 every day. The exam is so competitive that usually a good art college only enrolls less than 100 people from each province. After getting into a college, you will still spend most of the time sitting in a college studio, drawing human figures and plaster casts. After graduation, most of the art students cannot find a profitable job in society, and a lot of them end up renting a small studio, doing commission work for others, earning the lowest possible. They live in the darkest corners of the city. Because of that, people who study art in China usually do not get appreciation from other people. A high school art student may be deemed as “too weak to study other subjects and have no other choices but to go with art”, as if art is the last harbor for the worst students in China. For me, I just want to draw whatever I want, and I just want to do art in an interesting and fun way. I refused my parents because being an art student in China is too boring for me. But interestingly speaking, I came to Wake Forest not to study art initially, but to study pre-med which, of course, did not work out. I spent 18 months experiencing different courses of study in Wake, changing routes multiple times until that spring 2014, when I realized that life is about pursuing what I truly love no matter how impossible it sounds. So I chose art. But then I also realized that I lacked the basic art training, since I have never taken a formal art course before. Art study in China emphasizes the basic training but not creative mind, so lots of artists in China, though possessing incredible art techniques, still have a hard time making a living. It is more or less the opposite in western countries. Since then, I started art training with Chinese art students whenever I came back home. Soon Junggi Kim, a Korean artist, became my idol, and I bought all his sketchbooks to copy and study human anatomy, car engines, and everything I was interested in but did not know how to draw. In two years’ time I improved so fast that I even surprised myself.

I think that art is all about fun. There is usually no reason, for example, why I designed this spacecraft or this soldier; I just enjoy drawing them. But I believe there is something missing, something bigger yet to come, something that can drag all these scattered drawings together to create a complete story. Although I want to design an epic video game of my own, but deep down I know that my true dream is to become like Junggi Kim, a freelance artist, who can be invited to different countries to perform live drawings around the world.

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