The Q&A: Chemin Hsiao

By Peggy Roalf   Monday July 10, 2017

Q: Originally from Taiwan, what are some of your favorite things about living and working in Queens?
A: Working in Queens allows me to conveniently connect to the art community and resources around Manhattan, but at the same time have more space (physically and mentally) compared to the crowded downtown. Also, the place I live is full of choices of Asian food, which I feel most comfortable living with.

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between art you create on paper [or other analog medium] versus in the computer?
A: Yes, the sketchbook is one of the most valuable things in my practice; I try to always have one in my bag when I commute. I use them to draw on location as part of my art practice (the drawings piled up over the years as a continuing subway drawing series), to jot down ideas visually.

I lean much toward traditional medium on paper these days. The digital process is often only required when there is more complicated content/composition or for color scheme study purposes, as I can manipulate elements to find the best arrangements. 

Q: What is the most important item in your studio?
A: Mop brushes. They provide me the most freedom with watercolor or ink on paper.

Q: How do you know when the art is finished?
A: “Does the image fulfill the emotion I felt or message I would like to convey when I started?” If the answer is yes, it is completed.

Q: What was your favorite book as a child? 
A: I grew up with a lot of Japanese manga, DoraemonBlack JackSaint SeiyaSlam Dunk... to name a few. They served as the earliest visual art/storytelling education in my childhood. However, I would say my favorite book as a kid was I Can’t Accept Not Trying by the basketball legend Michael Jordan. It sounds as a super serious book for a child, but the conversational content influenced me greatly in dealing with obstacles in life.

Q: What is the best book you’ve recently read?
A: Professional Writer  by Haruki Murakami. Mr. Murakami’s approach to his writing is very similar to creating a series of paintings. I admire his dedication to his craft and how he focused on the balance of physical maintenance and creative energy. 

Q: If you had to choose one medium to work in for an entire year, eliminating all others, what medium would you choose?
A: Watercolor on paper. The process of water and brush always gives me a sense of freedom, especially when you turn/rotate the brush on the paper, you feel the connection with the work at the moment of painting.

Q: What elements of daily life exert the most influence on your work practice?
A: A stroll around a zoo, botanical garden, beach or a nearby park with my sketchbook. As my work is reflection of the emotions I’ve felt in my surroundings and daily life, the walk is a big part of the process.

Q: What was the [Thunderbolt] painting or drawing or film or otherwise that most affected your approach to art? 
A: The concept of Zen (but not religiously), established a way of approaching life/art without too much "mind" involved. I strive to approach my creative process with the same mindset.

Q: Who was the [Thunderbolt] teacher or mentor or visiting artist who most influenced you early in your training or career?

A: It's hard to simply mention one single mentor without counting on others. I have to say it is a combination of all and I appreciate those who has given me any input with the same respect.

Q: What would be your last supper?
A: Ba-wan, a delicious Taiwanese street food, with a cup of green tea. 

Chemin Hsiao is a Taiwanese painter, illustrator and art instructor based in Queens, NY. His artwork has been recognized by Society of Illustrator, American Illustration, 3x3 Illustration Directory, and Illustrative Berlin. He has exhibited at Queens Botanical Garden, NY; New York Foundation for the Arts, NY; New York Hall of Science, NY; Lite-Haus Gallery, Berlin, Germany; Abrons Arts Center, NY; Williamsburg Art & Historical Center, NY; Taipei Culture Center, NY; Direktorenhaus Gallery, Berlin, Germany; Society of illustrator Gallery, NY; Local Project Art Space, NY; Gallery Nucleus, Los Angeles, CA. 

He is the recipient of the 2017 New Work Grant from Queens Arts Fund for the ongoing individual exhibition
Sitting with the Gardenat Queens Botanical Garden from June 30th - September 24th, 2017. He will offer a workshop and a painting demonstration this summer: Workshop: Framing the View: Watercolor Painting for Beginners. Sunday, July 23rd, 1~3pm 
Painting Demonstration: Aug. 18th - 20th, as part of
Taiwan: A World of Orchids.

Portfolio website:



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