|Zhou Yanli (first from right) guides her students to make a drawing. [Jiangxi Daily]|
A well-known oil painter from Lichuan County, east China's Jiangxi Province, recently spoke to journalists to share her story about building her career, gaining training and teaching other so-called "left-behind" women to become artists like her.
Now, Zhou Yanli leads a busy life, juggling between giving classes, negotiating with merchants about business, painting for the village
Recalling her transformation into a well-paid painter with local government support, Zhou is grateful. "Painting has improved my living situation," she says.
"In addition to years of persistent efforts, the government's supportive policies toward the oil painting industry has been particularly important."
However, Zhou's oil painting path was not always smooth.
In 1993, before she discovered her talent, she heard that some professional painters from Lichuan earned reputation in some big cities such as Xiamen, in southeast China's Fujian Province, and Shenzhen, in south China's Guangdong Province.
Therefore, she joined them there to take a crash course in painting and set up a local studio with several of her peers. However, because of their poor painting skill, the studio closed within a year.
Undefeated, Zhou went to join other oil painting companies to learn whilst painting. But her income could only support her daily life.
Plus, her parents who were engaged in the food business stopped her from painting. Finally, Zhou returned to her hometown and got married.
She recalled that after getting married and having children, she did not paint again for as long as more than 10 years.
"In those days I always had the same dream: I could never finish painting a picture. I knew that painting was a long-cherished dream which I wouldn't let go unfulfilled," said Zhou.
Therefore, Zhou picked up the brush again in 2010.
The same year, officials in Lichuan established Lichuan Oil Painting Street, which provided a free store, training and exhibition services for artists, attracting a large number of them to return home and start a business.
All kinds of preferential measures and the favorable atmosphere gave Zhou the confidence to realize her dream. She set up a studio with several friends and started a company in the cultural development industry.
Zhou had the honor to go to the Central Academy of Fine Arts for six months in 2015 for further study.
Over the years, her oil painting level has rapidly improved, and she has been attending exhibitions in different places in the province. Gradually, she has gained a reputation and can receive many orders from home and abroad every month.
Moreover, she integrates bamboo shoots, tea tree mushrooms, peppers and other agricultural products in Lichuan into her paintings, which have been widely received by the market.
Today, Zhou's company sells oil paintings as well as undertakes the task of providing training for impoverished students and disadvantaged women in Lichuan.
So far she has provided more than 30,000 people per year in total.
(Source: Jiangxi Daily/Translated and edited by Women of China)
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