Behind the Scenes with Yao Cheng

Behind the Scenes with Yao Cheng

We had the delight of filming with Yao Cheng recently, and not only did we watch her bring to life gorgeous watercolors on paper, but we filmed it.

And we also got to know her a little.

If you aren’t already familiar with the talented Yao Cheng, please prepare to be utterly charmed by this painting powerhouse.

Behind the Scenes with Yao Cheng

1. Where do you live?

Columbus, Ohio.

2. Do you have any adorable pets/kids/life partners we should know about?

My husband. He’s kind of adorable. We just got married last June.

3. How (and when) did you get into watercoloring?

Behind the Scenes with Yao Cheng

I was a painting major in college for a semester, but then I switched over to textiles. I was out of school and working at Abercrombie and I wanted a way to stay creative outside of work. My friend introduced me to it but the first time I tried watercolor I was really frustrated. And this is a really common reaction! Lots of people don’t know how to be okay with the lack of control they have. But once you get past that, it’s really fun.

But I became obsessed with it and it really clicked for me when I learned to use a little extra water to create tone, and how to make textures. It’s so expressive; it’s my voice for visual communication.

4. For you, what’s the hardest part of watercoloring?

Honestly, getting started. Staring at that blank sheet of white paper can be really intimidating. I’ll stare at a blank page and go “I don’t know.”

But then…I also have a hard time stopping. It’s hard to know when you’ll add something whether it will make your piece better or worse. It’s hard to be okay with the imperfect.

5. What is your advice for people new to watercolor?

Don’t be afraid.

Know that it’s going to take you a few paintings before you make one you really like.

Stay loose.

Watercolor is about capturing an emotion, not realisticness.

6. Where do you get your inspiration?

Behind the Scenes with Yao Cheng

Like most people, lots of different paces. Pinterest is definitely one. Also Instagram, where I follow artists and designers who inspire me or might trigger an idea. In the spring and summer I like to go outside and paint. It’s special to experience it all in real life, witnessing the movement.

7. How do you make time to craft?

I’m a full-time artist…but I wish I painted more! It’s amazing how much you have to deal with, regarding the business side of things. That being said I am tremendously lucky that I can do this for my career. It’s my dream job.

8. Who are some of your favorite artists?

Helen Dealtry

Rebecca Atwood (I went to school with her!)

Britt Bass on Instagram

Anna Bond

Design Love Fest

Julia Rothman

Lisa Congdon

9. What are some of your favorite materials to work with?

I usually only work with Winsor-Newton paints – they have a really rich pigment. I switch between Arches cold press paper and Fabriano cold press. For brushes, I almost always paint with a round tip brush. They’re so versatile, and since I don’t have to switch back and forth between brushes as much there;s a better continuity of my thoughts on the paper.

10. What is your most favorite thing you’ve ever made?

My paintings are like my kids! It’s really hard to say. But I do go through phases of painting abstracts, or florals, or landscapes, and a few favorites usually emerge. I really love my Forest in Indigo landscape because it’s really complex. I also like my Birch in Autumn piece because of the balance.



My new favorite products are my pillows! I designed the fabric and my mother-in-law, who used to be an interior design seamstress, is helping me.


11. Be honest – how much fun is it to film these Creativebug classes? Or at least get to hang out in SF for a while?

IT’s really, really fun, Filming is challenging and hard but I’ve actually learned a lot in a short amount of time. It’s making me more aware of how I talk about my work. There are things I do intuitively that are actually pretty complex; I paint things swiftly and gesturally because I’m responding to the paint’s colors and I’m learning how to better articulate that.

12. Okay, last question. Where can we stalk you online?

Well, you can find pretty much everything on my website. I’m also on Pinterest and Instagram, and you can buy work from my Etsy shop too.