AP Art of the Week

Spotlight on Artist Kenneth Qian

The Elective’s digital art museum this week features an illustration made by Kenneth Qian from Concordia International School Shanghai in Shanghai, China.

Welcome to The Elective’s digital art museum, dedicated to the incredible work of AP Arts students. Each week we highlight a work or series created in one of the AP Arts concentrationsAP 2-D Art and Design, 3-D Art and Design, and AP Drawing (the AP Program also offers Art History and Music Theory)—as well as a statement from the artist (and, occasionally, their teacher).

From the first cave paintings to contemporary breakthroughs in virtually reality, art, in all its forms, has been a crucial way for people to process, make sense of, comment on, and grapple with the world around them. After more than a year of life in a pandemic, AP Art students have risen to the challenge of processing and making sense of the challenges—and opportunities—that have come from this perilous time. The work they submitted in their final portfolios is explicitly of the moment. It’s often challenging and provocative, but always insightful, inspiring, and expansive.

This week we feature an illustration made by Kenneth Qian from Concordia International School Shanghai in Shanghai, China.

Red and green illustration of a large tree with tiny communities at the top and bottom

Here’s Kenneth’s statement on the work:

"The artwork focuses on two large trees in a forest, joined together through large connecting branches and covered in many man-made structures built by those who call the tree home. The piece was in part inspired from the concept of tree houses and how we can build structures intertwined with nature, as well my interest towards large shapes and forms in relation to smaller objects.

"The environment piece was made through the use of ink, watercolor and a little bit of pastel and gouache. The general large forms were made before working on smaller parts, adding in smaller detail and shading through the use of crosshatching. Another interest was texture in the piece which was supported through the use of crosshatching and pastel. After finishing coloring the piece, I found that the color usage on the piece was simple and generic, so I brought it into photoshop and did some color adjustments to reach a color scheme I enjoyed."

Here’s Kenneth’s teacher Jane Klammer on Kenneth’s work:

“Highly articulate, highly organized, Kenneth rarely disappoints. He consistently maintains a high standard of quality and finishes especially in the completion of his APAD inquiry, “Strange and Weird Environments.” Observational and imaginative to an extremely high degree, Kenneth has been creating large illustrative drawings with expressive mark-making and precision throughout his high school years. He truly understands the spatial world and knows how to render it with depth and illumination.

“Kenneth practices the art of automatism-creating art without conscious thought, accessing material from the unconscious mind as part of the creative process through many of his artworks, especially these landscapes. Kenneth’s face stays inches above the paper and he makes the ever-moving line flow, both by employing the ink cartridge ballpoint pen, the watercolor/ink brush, and then often, the digital ink pen stylus.  He devotes much time to practice, experimentation and revision. After multiple practice attempts, he settles on creating each strange and weird environment with a ballpoint pen on paper. Multiple revisions usually occur again, as many results are not to his satisfaction. Lines, thick, thin, undulating, express his creative process and satisfaction is apparent as colored ink, gouache, watercolor, and pastel are added by hand, then embellished by digital means. When Kenneth arrives at a finish, his compositions present worldly landscapes that are warm and inviting, similar to the world around us while warping the landforms with pen and brush. While he is quickly growing in the development of digital means, Kenneth maintains his passion for the traditional means of art creation…the flow of the ink and color through the use of pen point and the paintbrush—traditional and digital.”

And here are a few other works from Kenneth’s portfolio:

Nature illustration of a forest and stream in red and white

Sketch was drawn lightly with ballpoint pen before building up darker layers of ink by overlapping.

Illustration of a sci-fi-like scene of yellow orbs on monopods glowing in a barren landscape

A dark underwater environment where bulbous creatures float around and light up the darkness. Multiple practice sketches were made before the final one. I built up colors from light to dark.

Black and white illustration of creatures in a woodland-like environment

A dark underground cave made of many textures and where people have managed to inhabit. Layout sketch was made of object placement. During inking all the details were made while working.

Abstract illustration of a young man looking out a door among a soaring urban scape

A warped and bent city skyline that is unusual in its perspective and structure. Rough blocking with light layer of paint before using tape to block out straight lines and painting.

Student and teacher statements are lightly edited for length and clarity.