His approach involves using Chinese ink and watercolors, special brushes and rice paper purchased in China, and he has a Taiwanese born and trained art teacher speaking to him only in Chinese during weekly studio art sessions.
“I definitely do some traditional Chinese series featuring seasons or flowers like bamboo, chrysanthemum, orchid and plum blossoms,” said Zhu. “But I also like to change it up – right now I’m working on a cactus with brightly-colored flowers. It’s in a traditional Chinese style and setting, but is not a traditional subject matter. Living here, I’m influenced by Western colors and art styles, and plants that grow well in this climate,” he continued.
Zhu took his first art class at about five years old. Originally an opportunity to do something social with friends and connect with his Chinese heritage, painting became a passion and a calming, creative outlet to escape the stress of school life. In addition to his three-hour weekly lessons, he paints whenever he can find the time – summer, school breaks and weekends. With his time constraints, a typical series of four paintings will take him about six months to complete. But painting time is getting harder to find.
He’s submitting an early application to enter the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) next fall. Though painting and mechanical engineering may not be an obvious pairing, Zhu maintains they are deeply connected.
“Aesthetics are an integral part of engineering, and both take training and discipline to execute well,” said Zhu. “Plus, studying math and science all day can be tiring, but art is liberating. That’s why I will definitely continue to paint in college.”
Zhu’s artwork is being featured at a special exhibit at the Alameda Free Library, 1550 Oak Street, Alameda, through December 10, 2015.
The young artist has been awarded the gold medal in Chinese painting from the national Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts every year since 2011.