A file photo of artist Yuan Hongbin, 61, who can replicate almost any painting using cotton. (Photo/Xinhua)
Yuan Hongbin, 61, has a unique skill. He can replicate almost any painting using cotton. It matters not whether it's a Western oil painting such as The Death of Marat, or a traditional Chinese painting.
The artist, who used to work in a textile factory in the city of Ma'anshan, Anhui Province, spent 10 years exploring a new way of painting inspired by his daily work with cotton.
The cotton paintings are formed by layering the cotton on canvas.
Without any kind of adhesive, Yuan can "glue" the cotton together by static electricity.
"The cotton sticks to the canvas after I rub it to generate static," he said.
A painting of dogs using cotton by Yuan Hongbin. (Photo/Xinhua)
When he started, Yuan could only make monochrome paintings by putting white cotton on a black canvas.
Over the years, he gradually developed a method to make colorful paintings.
"I think I found the meaning of my life after I received my first prize at a national-level competition in 1981," he said.
"Cotton painting incorporates the features of both Western oil and traditional Chinese paintings," he added.
As the inventor of cotton paintings, Yuan has made a series of "cotton portraits" for government leaders worldwide, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Many of his works have been collected in national museums such as the Palace Museum and the National Museum of China.
A painting using cotton by Yuan Hongbin. (Photo/Xinhua)
It takes Yuan up to a year to complete a cotton painting.
"I barely speak with other people when making the painting, totally immersing myself in it," he said.
Jian Yuanhong, an entrepreneur from Taiwan, is an admirer. "Although I'd heard of the famous cotton paintings, I did not realize they were so true to life until I saw them," he said.
Yuan founded a company to promote his work and it now has about 200 employees. "I want to show more and more people around the world the charm of cotton paintings, which I consider a reflection of traditional Chinese craftsmanship," he said.