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Su Dabao, Telling Stories with Sands
    2009-12-21 11:12:10     CRIENGLISH.com

Some people tell stories through paintings. Some build structures with sand. Has it ever occurred to you that sand and painting can be combined? Today our reporter Du Lijun introduces you to Su Dabao, a 28-year-old Chinese sand-painting artist. Let's see how he manages to tell stories stunningly.

Su Dabao Pouring Sands on a Glass Board [Photo: hutong.com]

With the beautiful violin concerto from the "Butterfly Lovers", known as the Chinese version of "Romeo and Juliet," audiences' eyes are all drawn to a large hanging screen.

Sand-painting artist Su Dabao is presenting the story plots in a very creative way. Images of peonies, butterflies, and ancient schoolboys and girls are rapidly formed and then replaced by new ones, just like the frames of a comic strip. And all these images are made from sand, delicately controlled by Su's fingers, palms and the backs of his hands.

With a glass board and a light below it, Su has produced many impressive sand works such as the 2008 Olympic Games, the celebration of China's 60th National Day, and a tribute to Michael Jackson.

Su explains the process of creating a sand painting.

"First, I light up the glass board, and then pour sand on it to create shadows. The shadows have various shapes and styles, so that they can depict different things and plots. Pouring is the most basic skill."

As he says this, Su grabs a handful of sand, lets it fall gradually from the middle of his fist, and makes an impromptu painting of a lively fish in traditional Chinese painting style within three seconds.

But if an amateur tries to imitate the work, it is likely that he will just end up with an unrecognizable pile of sand.

Grasping the technique is not as easy as it seems. It took Su nearly five years to teach himself to be a successful sand artist.

He says a sand painter must be very sensitive to how much sand falls from his hand, where it falls on the board, and controlling it according to the image that is to be created.

"Take the fish I just painted as an example. If I had made the shape of the poured sand in the same way but slightly curved to let the amount of sand change a little bit, it would have turned out to be an eggplant, like this."

Su's sand-painting skills never fail to fascinate young and old alike. Thanks to several years of performing magic shows, he is adept at holding an audience's attention and building suspense.

The several months that Su spent learning traditional Chinese painting has enabled him to create sand paintings, showing a wide range of subjects.

Su says sand painting originated in the West where artists usually adapted western painting styles, such as oil paintings and cartoons.
But traditional Chinese fine arts are more likely to be painted in sand because they are more liberal.

"I don't think Chinese sand painters would lose out to the westerners, because sand is perfectly suitable to depict some of the elements in traditional Chinese fine arts. For example, I can imitate an ink and wash painting in sand. Pouring sand on the surface is just like splashing ink on paper."

But there is a major difference between sand paintings and ink ones, because the sand sketches are unfixed. While many viewers express dismay that Su's images are not permanent, the artist himself doesn't see it that way.

"I think the value of sand painting lies in the fact that it's an instant art. Every time I draw it, I make it different."

Now, the young artist has opened his own culture company, creating sand art for fashion magazine soirees and various business ceremonies. The animation, variety, and distinctiveness of his works have stunned many in China and around the world.

For China Now, this is Du Lijun.



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