Drawing & Painting

I have been doodling since I was a kid. Most of my spare time during middle school was devoted to an unfinished fantasy manga. Neither the artwork nor the story were good in my own judgement today, and I never shared it with anybody during the several years of creation or afterwards. But I think it was the purest joy and desire for drawing and dreaming.

I stopped drawing during high school due to heavy loads of coursework, and picked up again during college. I started developing interest in other styles (non-cartoon) of drawing after college, and during my PhD years, started learning to paint by taking studio classes and watching video tutorials online. Nowadays, I mostly do human figure / portrait and landscapes.

Manga / Cartoon

I can't really tell if I like reading mangas (and watching animes) because I like drawing them or the other way around. Here are some of my earlier cartoon studies.

I think manga is a great artistic style that could go very abstract while still be visually appealing (though maybe that's because I'm so used to it). On the contrary, the artworks in typical American comics are usually too heavy for me. Different way of simplification and abstraction lead to different manga styles. There are definitely many manga styles that I don't like.

Figure Drawings

By figure drawing I mostly mean drawings of human figures that are not primarily portraits. My earliest non-trivial attempt of figure drawing is probably during my travel sketches. My first time doing life drawing is in 2017, when I was attending the Industry Workshops in London. There was a session with professional models posing for 5 to 20 minutes. I wasn't prepared but decided to have a try. It turned out to be really fun. I think timing your drawings is a very exciting and demanding experience (especially 1~2 minutes poses), and it pushes you to focus on essentials without worrying too much about rendering the details. Also drawing with human models is much better than from photo references because you get the most realistic 3D observations.

The left hand side of the sketches above are timed drawing from human models. The sketches on the right hand side are from photos, usually not timed. I'm planning to learn some anatomy to improve my gesture drawings. I think human body is one of the most beautiful constructions in the world (presumably due to some gene hard coded in my DNAs).


It is much easier to draw generic beautiful faces than to draw faces that looks like someone or with specific characteristics or expressions. Human brains have dedicated patches for human faces. So, on the one hand, it is very easy to make a few simple strokes that looks perfectly like a face (think about how minimum manga style faces are). on the other hand, it is very easy for the viewer to recognize mistakes in a portrait with detailed rendering. Therefore, for a long time, I was very afraid of drawing too detailed features in faces, let along shadings.

Some hidden trigger in my head suddenly got switched on in 2012 and I drew a lot of portraits in a few months. I improved a lot during that period, and then staggered after hitting a wall.


Landscape is another fascinating topic for visual arts because of its almost infinite varieties and colorful nature. I think it is more difficult to represent most of the landscapes with lines than with faces, so I mostly paint (as oppose to draw) landscapes.

Landscapes could be very complicated and vary a lot from one to another. I think one of the most important thing of landscape paintings is to show the depth. However, many of my landscape paintings still have very basic mistakes like weird perspectives, or contradicting light sources (because I did not think about it during painting). So there is still a long way to go.


I do draw or paint other things, such as still life, a scene from my dream, or a short comic story (Yonkoma). I sometimes study or copy other people's artwork to learn how other people interpret and simplify things, but I also draw from real life, paint with photo references or occasionally even from imagination.