I was invited to present to Chongqing artists and creatives about my art work that had been inspired by my home town, Sheringham. I described how Sheringham had built a strong tourist economy through establishing quirky festivals and events to bring visitors to the seaside town in rural North Norfolk. It was these events that had inspired my illustrations, but in turn I had realised there was huge potential to use my art work to create souvenirs, such as greetings cards and to create a brand identity for my home town: my illustrations on marketing collateral.
I visited an e-commerce company in Chengu called Yitian who has been amazingly innovative in building economies for rural towns and villages in over 20 provinces in China. I met the Chairmen of Yitian, Desu Teng and signed cards and had photographs with the employees.
I learnt that there has been a boom in the construction of new themed-villages, whose economy is based on tourism. In Tongnan I drove through a town called Shuangjiang which is still under construction. I saw a massive traditional Chinese gate to the town through all the scaffolding.
I was a delegate at a conference in Liangfeng village, which is a brand-new themed village that has been built in seven months. It used to be an extremely poor fishing village, but the hope is that with government investment towards the construction of scenic fishing lakes and landscaped gardens that it will attract tourists to the area. I met with the village leaders and I gave a short talk about Sheringham’s tourist industry and how art and festivals can be used to bring a unique sense of place. Trust me, I am in the photo above but the bush is hiding me!
As I walked through Liangfeng, I noticed wonderful things beyond the shiny new pavements and plastic fish decorations: there were people fishing by hand in a quiet river away from the main tourist lakes and there was wildlife and local flowers. I captured these images with my camera and I cannot wait to illustrate these scenes!
My visit to China has been an incredible exchange of knowledge. I have been genuinely amazed by the rapturous appreciation of my art work. I have been told more than once that my love for my home town is abundantly clear in my illustrations and how that should be applauded over generalised imagery.
Read more about my visit to China: A presentation in China
Illustrating Liangfeng Village
I took a morning walk by the river in Liangfeng. It was about 9am but already touching 40°C. There was no one else out walking! I could see people in their yards, in the houses that flanked the mountains, and I could hear dogs barking in the distance. I noticed movement under the canopy of trees and bushes that grew by the river; there were people in the river! I realised that they were fishing and I watched them at a distance for some time. They took regular breaks and sat on the rocks by the shallow river side. Amazingly, they seemed to be catching the fish with their hands! I was soaked in sweat and burning in the sun, so I returned to the cool hotel room. I wondered how many hours they would be out there fishing?