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Chao Ma

Chao Ma

Kentucky Crafted Artist
  • Graphics; Painting


    The first step in creating my work is to decide upon a theme. The theme might come about as a result of going camping or hiking, visiting a historical site, watching a documentary, etc.

    I then "go on location" and take lots of photos. My paintings are not strictly based on the photos, but the photographs provide me with the details that jog my memory when I'm indoors.

    Back in the studio, I sketch each of my ideas onto canvas. I work on several paintings at once, rotating through each in the series. This process keeps my senses fresh, allowing me to see each one with "new eyes" when I return to it. I usually work on one painting in the morning and another in the afternoon. In the evening I work on pen and ink drawings.

    I started learning to paint in middle school. At that time, both my parents worked in the theater. I learned the basics of painting from one of my mother's friends, who was a set designer. In high school, a friend and I spent the summer at the home of my father’s friend, who was an art professor at the Xi'an Fine Arts Academy. Every day we painted in his studio.

    In those days, there were few art schools in China. Passing the entrance exam for the Xi'an Fine Arts Academy was difficult, but I got in. One unique feature of my education was that each semester, students lived off campus for a month in order to be inspired by daily life and ordinary people (this was a communist idea). I spent a month in Tibet, I traveled in the Chinese countryside and I even lived at a factory for inspiration.

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