Ren Lili is an artist who is well-known for her paintings that highlight the images of animals, including cats, dogs, rabbits and squirrels. Of the animals, cats play the leading roles in Ren's paintings. Her paintings are appealing and exquisite, and they give spectators the impression that Ren is gentle and the animals are lifelike. In her art, spectators can find a female artist's understanding of and emotions about the lovely animals.
Ren's interest in cats began when she was an infant. Her grandmother adopted a feral cat, and her mother often fed feral cats on the street. Their love of cats had an influence on Ren. She believes cats are special. Now, she is raising two feral cats, and she often feeds the feral cats in her community. When she decided to draw animals, cats became her primary focus.
Different from traditional Chinese paintings, Ren's paintings combine elements of Western paintings and/or features of illustrations and cartoons. However, Ren believes she creates Chinese paintings. "No matter how I paint, I just want to express my feelings through the writing brush. I have not learned any painting techniques of any art forms. I only draw according to my feelings. When I see some good paintings, I study the techniques and/or compositions. On the surface, my paintings integrate the elements of traditional paintings with those of contemporary paintings, or I integrate the elements of Oriental paintings with those of Western paintings. In fact, my paintings reflect my understanding of life and culture," says Ren.
Artists emphasize how to wield the writing brush, and how to use black ink and colored pigments when they are creating a traditional Chinese painting. Spectators also appraise a traditional Chinese painting from the two above-mentioned aspects. However, Ren pays more attention to the meaning of her paintings, and she hopes to tell a story through a painting.
"A painting reflects an artist's understanding of his/her life. I hope to express happiness to spectators. I hope people will love the pets when they see my paintings. I hope people who raise pets will not abandon them, as every life is valuable," Ren says.
Compared with ordinary gongbi paintings, the pets under Ren's writing brush are more vivid, and their fur is more lifelike. Generally speaking, the first step in painting an animal is drawing its contour. The second step is to paint its fur. Ren paints the fur of an animal first. Then, she draws its contour. Later, she paints its fur two or three times. That is so the animals she paints will look lifelike. Many pet owners have invited her to paint their pets.
(Source: Women of China English Monthly July 2018 issue)