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Q&A with “Large Works” Winner Jordan Xu

Bella, oil on canvas, by Jordan Xu. (click for a larger image)
Bella, oil on canvas, by Jordan Xu. (click for a larger image)

The “Large Works” award winner above comes to us from an artist you might have seen around Art League classrooms. Longtime painter and Art League student Jordan Xu was recognized with the Cora Rupp Award for Best in Show for Bella, and we asked him to tell us more about the story of this painting and his career so far.

Can you tell us a little about how this painting came to be, and how it changed as you worked on it?
The vision I had for this painting kept evolving during the process of creation. I changed her original posture to a more sensual, seductive one. I changed the background to include an Asian screen, as well as the sofa she was sitting in, and the dress she was wearing. The final painting is significantly different from her original pose.

What was your goal with Bella?
Bella is a beautiful young woman who was about to get married, full of vitality, and she seemed to have everything she ever wanted. That was the image I wanted to paint. As I was painting her, the image of young woman having the greatest time of her life emerged.

Bella by Jordan Xu (detail)
Bella by Jordan Xu (detail)

As a longtime student here, how has taking classes changed your work?
My painting style has certainly evolved because of the classes I’ve taken at The Art League. My colors have become more vibrant and expressive over the years.

Why are you a painter? Why oil?
I love being able to create a compelling vision for the audience on a two-dimensional surface. Oil provides versatility and range which allows me to create my visions and tell my stories most effectively.

What makes a good portrait or figure painting?
I think painting a portrait is like writing a biographical novel on canvas. Besides technical excellence, I like a portrait that tells a story or conveys a message about the subject(s) – something that makes the viewers ponder, something that creates a dialog between the painting and the audience.

What is your process like, from an idea to a finished piece?
I usually get my inspiration from my life experiences and personal development. So when I have an idea, I immediately try to visualize it and create an image in my head. Sometimes I draw out my ideas on paper, but more often I go straight to painting on the canvas and let it evolve and grow as it is being created. So I guess my process is more like that of a writer.

What are you working on now?
I’m working on a series called “Self-image.” It’s my first attempt to present a philosophical statement on how people try to create an image of themselves through which they would like the world to see them, but how that self-image sometimes ends up changing themselves instead.

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