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[Special Report] Passion and Skill Help Dreams Take Wings

Last updated :2015-05-14

Source: SYSU News Center
Written by: Tan Yanyan
Proofread by: Jin Feng, Ian J. Heuer, Wang Dongmei, Zhao Xinrong
Edited by: Jin Feng

SYSU Images: Butterflies in SYSU

Butterflies in SYSU
, a collection of pictures, has recently been widely spread among students and teachers on WeChat. The butterflies, with their graceful postures, rich colors, and sophisticated wing patterns, are so lifelike that it is easy to mistake them for real ones. People all around SYSU can’t stop talking about the butterflies’ beauty and vividness. The most incredible fact of all is that they are actually colored pencil drawings.

The artist behind these beautiful butterflies is a girl named Zhu Lin, a 2014 graduate from the Department of Chinese at SYSU. Besides drawing butterflies with colored pencils, Zhu Lin has also combined the butterflies she drew with carefully selected scenic photos, all of which she took herself during her college years. In order to present a more natural effect, she has also applied Photoshop skills to integrate the butterflies with the background images. The combination of artistic talent in drawing, photography, and Photoshop has led to wide praise, making Zhu Lin and her work a hot topic on campus.

Nearly 5 months, 28 kinds of butterflies

When Zhu Lin was assigned the task of drawing Butterflies in SYSU by the Publicity Department teacher responsible for the “SYSU Images” column on the university website last November, she had already graduated from SYSU and was a new recruit in a big company. She ran to the nearest stationery shop and bought a box of colored pencils and a sketch pad as soon as she got the assignment and took on the arduous task of drawing 28 kinds of butterflies. She chose pencils over other kinds of drawing instruments because others, like oil paint, need many supporting instruments and take up a lot of space. She did all those drawing during her spare time after work.

Zhu Lin is drawing a butterfly with colored pencils, embracing her pet cat with a nickname "wild horse"

Zhu Lin first searched online for pictures of specific kinds of butterflies. Given a copy of A Photographic Guide to Butterflies of Sun Yat-sen University, compiled by group members of the group “Fancy Butterflies” from the SYSU School of Life Sciences, she deliberated on whether to use the online pictures or the guide as reference to guide her drawing. She had to spend a great time of deciding on the best posture for each kind.

"The most difficult part is to sketch the outline of each butterfly", Zhu Lin explained. This first step is the most complicated because the outline determines the overall shape and the wing pattern; one mistake might lead to an errant depiction of the type of butterfly, which led her to exercise extreme caution when dealing with the sophisticated patterns on the wings of the butterflies and their delicate feet and antennae.

After sketching the intricate outlines with black pencils, she then carefully added rich colors to the outline, achieving different shades and hues by delicate control of intensity. If she found that the wings’ patterns were not as satisfying and beautiful as she had imagined, she would start anew. To show the bright colors of some wings, she also resorted to her Photoshop skills. Through nearly five months of strenuous effort, 28 kinds of elegantly shaped butterflies with various patterns and colors were brought into life through her pencils.

The catopsilia pomona is Zhu Lin's favorite among 28 butterflies because of its radiant color and simple pattern
When asked about her preference, Zhu Lin told us that catopsilia pomona, a kind of small to medium-sized butterfly with golden wings was her favorite because of its radiant color and simple pattern. She almost got sick when drawing argynnis hyperbius because its wing pattern is too complicated and it is too colorful, and she also noted that she detested some of the larva pictures that she had seen in the guide book when using it as reference.

An Interest for Drawing Grows

The butterfly pictures have shown how talented and skillful Zhu Lin is in drawing. It would be easy to assume that she must be an art major. However, she is actually a Chinese major, who was enrolled at SYSU in 2010. Although she didn’t choose to make a career out of drawing, her passion for it has grown through time.

Zhu Lin in Tibet

With her father a professional painter and her mother having some knowledge about painting, Zhu Lin has been fond of painting and drawing ever since she was a little girl. However, her father didn’t approve of her dream of becoming a painter and was unwilling to teach her the basics of painting, very cognizant of the ups and downs in his own painting career. Once, she even got blamed by her mother for smudging the canvas when her father was teaching her oil painting. That was the only time her father gave her formal instructions in painting. So most of the time Zhu Lin resorted to secretly watching her father paint and practicing on her sketch pad.

Sketching was Zhu Lin’s favorite hobby when she was young. She would draw whatever she liked and as time went by, piles of sketch pads began to accumulate. Growing up in the beautiful Tibet, Zhu Lin liked to draw ideal and lively scenes dreamed of by Tibetans – a bird flying, or a house with rivers in the foreground and mountains in the back.

The thangka, a kind of religious painting in Tibetan Buddhism drawn by Zhu Lin
Her first formal chance to learn drawing skills came during her high school days, when there was a city competition called “Praising the Classics”. Knowing her talent in painting, Zhu’s teacher sent her to study Gongbi with a traditional Chinese painting teacher, who had a huge influence on her painting skills. Meanwhile, she has also developed an interest for thangka, a kind of religious painting in Tibetan Buddhism, whose mysterious and meticulous nature fascinated her. She started learning thangka through scriptures and pictures. After finishing a thangka picture, she would show it to thangka painters that she found online and ask for their opinions.

After entering SYSU, she continued her practice of drawing by keeping sketch pads. In her junior year, she took a course on seal engraving. Besides theories of seal engraving, the course also gave an introduction to artistic history, which further refined her artistic taste and improved her drawing.

A Versatile Girl with Various Artistic Interests

Having finished drawing the butterflies, Zhu Lin spent another week combining them with selected photos of SYSU’s campuses, using the technique of filter processing near the outlines of the butterflies to present a more natural and aesthetically pleasing effect.

The scenic photo behind the papilio xuthus is taken by Zhu Lin herself during her college years at SYSU
Contributing to the eye-catching beauty of those pictures is not only the butterflies but also the scenic photos, nearly all of which were taken by Zhu Lin herself during her college years at SYSU. She used pocket cameras during the first two years and later, unsatisfied with the limited functions of pocket cameras, bought a single-lens reflex camera at the end of her sophomore year and began to study its use.

The picturesque south campus, with its old trees, vast lawns, and antique houses, is a land of idyllic beauty in Zhu Lin’s eyes, on which she wandered around to take photos during her spare time. The tranquil and remote beauty of the scenery in her photos reveals a fine taste and an observant mind.

Zhu Lin's seal engraved by herself and her tools for seal engraving

Meanwhile, she has also grown fond of seal engraving. It began with the course she took called “History of Seal Engraving” that cast light on both seal engraving skills and artistic history. Besides Chinese characters, she is also fond of engraving complicated patterns with ethnological color.

Zhu Lin applied Photoshop skills to integrate the graphiumagamemnon with the background image
When asked about the excellent photo processing skills that she used in creating her butterfly pictures, Zhu Lin told us that it was due to her three years of working experience in the publicity office of SYSU’s Chinese Department and two years in “SYSU Images”. She learnt Photoshop skills by herself from the Internet, not merely out of interest, but also because it was required in her work. She joined the “SYSU Images” team in her junior year as a text editor and later she was asked to do photo design work due to her distinguished skills in photo processing. She became close friends with both teachers and students there, who gave her a lovely nickname: “Julin”.

Now working in the publicity department in a big company, Zhu Lin has found her skills in Photoshop, AI, and CorelDRAW an extraordinary help. Her interests have refined her taste and increased her working efficiency, Zhu Lin said, though her current job was not directly related to painting. She has thought about switching to a more flexible and inspiration-oriented job, such as illustration, but she realized that her knowledge of painting is not enough for her to make it a successful career. “Maybe I’ll do something related to painting and photography in the future, such as opening a photography-themed hotel.” she said.

The postcards designed by Zhu Lin with the photos taken by herself

Zhu Lin in Dunhuang of Gansu Province
Zhu Lin’s love for drawing, photography, seal engraving, and photo processing have refined her artistic tastes and distinguished her from her peers. Ultimately, her interests have made her dreams take wings, flying high and far through the sky. It is Zhu’s story that tells us that the freedom of pursuing what one likes will someday become her ultimate strength. So once you find your interest, hold it tight and let it take wings.