Watercolor instructor reports on her trip to China
Eva Nichols, who teaches Adult Watercolor Classes at the Club, recently traveled to China to teach a watercolor workshop there. Here she answers questions about her trip.
Why did you go to China?
I went to China because I was invited to join a good artist friend of mine, Ying Muncy – she is an artist in Reno well-known for her whimsical ceramic and bronze sculptures. Ying is originally from Beijing and she had accepted a position as the Head Professor of Art Design & Artistic Director for the Turenscape Academy in China. One of her most important tasks was to bring over international artists to teach art classes for the Turenscape Academy. She asked me if I would be interested and of course, I said yes! I love to travel, and combining my three loves – painting, teaching and traveling seemed like a wonderful idea! I went over to do some research in November 2017 and fell in love with Xixinan, the village where the workshop would be taught.
What parts of China did you visit?
I spent a couple of days in Beijing, before meeting up with my watercolor class, so I got a chance to visit The Great Wall of China, see Tiananmen Square, and wander around the lovely pedestrian shopping area in Qianmen and visit the ancient, preserved part of Beijing called Shichahai Scenic Area, which literally means “a watery place in Northern China” because it is built around three adjacent lakes.
Once united with my workshop participants we took the high-speed train from Beijing to Huangshan City in the Anhui province about 700 miles south of Beijing and about 2 hours west of Shanghai. The train ride (5 hours) gave us a chance to see the landscape as it changed, and not least lots of new developments popping up all along the route.
We were then driven about 15 minutes to our end destination the 1200-year-old ancient village Xixinan, where we spent a fabulous time painting and exploring. It was springtime and all the trees and mustard fields were blooming and everything was so fresh and green.
We stayed at a wonderful boutique hotel called Villa Lotus which is owned and operated by Turenscape Academy and located right in the center of the village. They grow all their own vegetables, all meals are created using fresh, local ingredients prepared by an excellent chef on site.
The streets in Xixinan are so narrow that no cars can pass, so it’s a wonderful, quiet oasis, with plenty of opportunities to explore the village and the green areas along the river that flows at the edge of the village. Since this is an area of China that is seldom visited by Western tourists, we were greeted warmly and felt very welcome everywhere we went. People would invite us into their homes or stop and ask to take a picture with them. We had many, many wonderful experiences that I am sure we will never forget!
How did you communicate?
Ying, who speaks fluent Chinese was an invaluable help with all the arrangements, and some of the staff at Turenscape Academy and Villa Lotus spoke English, so it made it very comfortable and easy for us to communicate and get around.
Tell us about your class and your students.
We were a small group of watercolor painters from Reno/Tahoe, and we divided our time so that we had time to do some sight-seeing, sketch on location, and then work in the beautiful studio at Villa Lotus. In the first studio session I demonstrated some watercolor techniques, and then spent most of my time giving individual instruction to my students, so they could work on their own paintings. I was really impressed by the beautiful paintings and sketches created during our stay.
I had brought all the painting supplies for our studio sessions, and each student got a small sketch kit to keep, so they could continue their practice beyond the workshop.
What were the highlights of your trip?
We went on several excursions during our 6 days in Xixinan, but I think the highlight was our all-day visit to Yellow Mountain National Park known for its “ocean of clouds,” ancient pine trees, and unique jutting granite peaks. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990 for its scenery and for its role as a habitat for rare and threatened species. The scenery has been the frequent subject of poetry and artwork, especially Chinese ink painting, so for us painters, it was especially inspirational to see the impressive mountain peaks that have inspired painters and artist for thousands of years.
We also visited Cheng Kan heritage village (it’s home to a Chinese reality show so it’s very popular with Chinese tourists). The layout of the village is based on Fengshui principles and was founded 1800 years ago.
It was such a lovely experience that I will be taking another group over for a watercolor workshop in Xixinan next Spring, and the plan is for me to teach a watercolor workshop in Xixinan each Spring and Fall.
Adult Watercolor Classes at the Club
Eva’s classes at the Club are open to all Somersett members, including Sierra Canyon residents. Here is the summer schedule: