Pen artist illustrates 600-year-old residential area before demolition

Pen artist illustrates 600-year-old residential area before demolition

“The resemblance is amazing,” “this looks exactly like my old house,” “these are not paintings, but memories of my life here.”

These are the comments on the work of a Chinese pen artist who has spent over ten years illustrating old buildings and streets before demolition, according to the official Wechat account of Chinanews.com.

Wang Xiangjun, the artist, managed to “move” buildings and streets in Suochengli, a 600-year-old residential area in Yantai city, east China’s Shandong province, on to paper before they were demolished and rebuilt.

In 2004, Wang heard that the residential area Suochengli, the birthplace of Yantai city, and also the place he grew up, was about to be destroyed. However, as a then senior college student, Wang couldn’t do much about it.

During an internship after he graduated, Wang encountered ultra-realistic pen drawing, and found himself attracted to the unique characteristics of the art form. As soon as he mastered the techniques, he went to the old town and started to draw what was in front of him with a fountain pen, adding the old houses and walls as he went.

Over time, Wang penned many old residential areas, not only around Suochengli, but in many other old towns in the city. With precision, he reproduced typical scenes that would evoke nostalgia among residents, such as people walking to buy breakfast in the hutong, a small yard with clothes hanging out in the sunshine and the cicadas singing in the old streets.

“Snow was the most difficult thing to draw,” Wang said, disclosing that he didn’t dare to draw the snowy winter at first. However, the artist couldn’t bear to see the houses in front of him disappear forever, so he kept practicing.

After practicing for eight winters, Wang finally managed to bring the snow to life in his illustrations, often spending two hours out in the cold to get it right.

Over the last few years, Wang has produced enough illustrations to cover the whole floor of a room, and emptied so many ink bottles that they can now be piled up like a mountain. It hasn’t always been easy, Wang disclosed, explaining that he spent eight years being supported by his parents while staying at home, drawing for 16 hours a day. However, after finishing his pieces before the buildings within them were torn down, Wang felt accomplished.

In 2015, Wang made his paintings into postcards, and started to create products while painting more of the city, hoping to introduce Yantai to more people.

Some said that there is a magic to Wang’s paintings, as they allow the observer to take a peek behind the curtain of life on the streets of Yantai. You may see a wall, but you get to feel the vitality of life inside the yard, and you come to know the life of the kids and their parents who lived there.

(Photos courtesy of Wang Xiangjun)

Pen artist illustrates 600-year-old residential area before demolition

Pen artist illustrates 600-year-old residential area before demolition

Pen artist illustrates 600-year-old residential area before demolition

Pen artist illustrates 600-year-old residential area before demolition

Pen artist illustrates 600-year-old residential area before demolition

Pen artist illustrates 600-year-old residential area before demolition

Pen artist illustrates 600-year-old residential area before demolition

Pen artist illustrates 600-year-old residential area before demolition

Pen artist illustrates 600-year-old residential area before demolition

Pen artist illustrates 600-year-old residential area before demolition