Expressive watercolors capture candid images of people


Ineffable in-between moments are immortalized in Stephen Zhang’s graceful paintings. The Texas-based artist uses delicate color washes and sweeping brushstrokes to capture a variety of different people going about their lives. From serving food to dancing to cutting hair, these intimate performances focus on small, often overlooked occasions.

Originally from China, Zhang moved to the United States to complete a master’s degree in communication design at the University of North Texas, where he currently works on the faculty. Although he is versed in a variety of mediums, he prefers watercolor as his medium of choice. “I have a special connection with watercolor because it connects Eastern and Western artistic traditions,” Zhang told My Modern Met. “When I paint, I take advantage of the contradictions inherent in the medium, between complexity and simplicity, control and letting go, external and internal, permanent and temporary. My painting always starts with something that moves me, then it starts to follow its own path.

His series of watercolors is called In the moment, and it features snapshot-like images of people of varying ages and ethnicities. These figures are set against minimalist backgrounds usually compromising only a few washes of color, which highlights the human element of these pieces. “I believe that what makes us human are our inner qualities,” he continues. “Without spirit or emotion, a portrait is only the representation of an object. My observation is that human emotions are infinitely rich and rarely one-dimensional. Paintings must be able to convey these complex emotions and inspire empathy. I prefer to paint people while they are in the moment and absorbed in their actions.

Scroll down to see more exquisite paintings by Zhang, and keep up to date with what the artist is up to by following him on Instagram.

Artist Stephen Zhang creates candid portraits of people.

Watercolor Portrait Paintings by Stephen ZhangWatercolor Portrait Paintings by Stephen ZhangWatercolor Portrait Paintings by Stephen Zhang

He captures characters living in the moment.

Watercolor Portrait Paintings by Stephen ZhangWatercolor Portrait Paintings by Stephen ZhangWatercolor Portrait Paintings by Stephen Zhang

Subjects vary in age and ethnicity.

Watercolor Portrait Paintings by Stephen ZhangWatercolor Portrait Paintings by Stephen Zhang

“I prefer to paint people while they are in the moment and absorbed in their actions,” he told My Modern Met.

Watercolor Portrait Paintings by Stephen ZhangWatercolor Portrait Paintings by Stephen ZhangWatercolor Portrait Paintings by Stephen ZhangWatercolor Portrait Paintings by Stephen ZhangWatercolor Portrait Paintings by Stephen ZhangStephen Zhang: Website | instagram

My Modern Met has granted permission to feature photos by Stephen Zhang.

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