And Dim Sum More: A Summer in the Motherland

This past June I traveled to Taiwan and back to The Motherland (China) with my family. Our destinations included Taipei, Shanghai, Zhangjiajie, and Xi’an. It was my fourth time going to China. I’d been to Shanghai and Xi’an before too, but Taipei and Zhangjiajie were two completely new experiences. Nevertheless, throughout the trip I felt much more connected to my Chinese culture and gained a greater appreciation for it. When I returned home and started attending a painting and drawing class at the California College of the Arts Pre-College in Oakland, my trip served as inspiration for my final project. It was a collective of any theme we wanted to paint, and I chose to focus on Chinese culture. The paintings and drawings turned out to fit perfectly in my column.

“MaPo Tofu,” 16″x20″, acrylic on canvas

At every street, storefront, or tourist attraction on my trip I could find no shortage of grandmas. Whether local or tourist, traveling as a lone wolf or in a pack, they’re there, usually donned in layer upon layer of colorful, patterned clothing, no matter the weather. Protection from the sun is a top priority and you can always find them carrying hats, visors, or (sun)brellas. Don’t let their small stature fool you; many of them are stronger and healthier than I am from hiking up the mountains of Taiwan and the narrow ledges of Zhangjiajie on a regular basis. Most of the elderly women I saw on my trip were big fans of selfie sticks, snapping multiple angles with their friends. I encountered so many grandmas on my trip that I knew I had to paint them. But what was a grandma painting without including my own grandma? She can be found in green carrying a napa cabbage.

“Bobaland,” 11″x14″, watercolor and ink on bristol paper

Not gonna lie, one of the things I was most excited to do in Asia was drink lots of authentic boba milk tea from Taiwan where it originated. Bay Area boba is great, but most times it’s overpriced and too Americanized. To my delight, boba in Taiwan was usually only $1(!!!) for a full sized cup and tasted great. It was much less sugary and I usually stuck with only the original milk tea flavors; eliminating the stress of trying to choose one flavor out of thirty. Boba shops are so common in Taiwan that I bought a cup of boba almost every day. At the end of our stay, while we were stranded at the airport due to a 6 hour delayed flight, we got to try THE original boba milk tea from Chun Shui Tang Teahouse! The motherland really is bobaland.

“Hanging Laundry,” 8.5″x11″, ink on bristol paper

A staple of living in Asia is hanging wet laundry outside your window to dry. Due to the high population and subsequently small apartments, there is often only room for a small washing machine, but no dryer. But who needs a dryer when you can just let 85ºF weather dry your clothes for you? I’ve seen laundry hanging out of windows all over San Francisco’s Chinatown, China, and Japan. So, this was the first thing that popped into my head when trying to come up with drawing ideas for my Asian culture theme. This piece definitely took the most concentration and precision, leading to plenty of frustration and sore hands, but I’m surprised at how fast and how well it turned out.

“Cherry Blossoms,” 7″x8.5″, watercolor and ink on bristol paper

The entire time I was in Asia, I was in complete awe of the fashion trends young women wore. Effortless, casual streetwear looked comfortable yet stylish at the same time, and it was refreshingly different from American styles I was so used to seeing. Many women wore more loose fitting clothes, like oversized graphic tees and flowy culotte pants. I liked the style so much I bought three pairs of culottes, which I’ve been consistently wearing ever since coming home. Another popular style was layering a tank top or dress over a tee shirt, which has regained popularity in America as well.

I hope you enjoyed these pieces and related to some of them or learned something new! Stay tuned for more illustrations!