Chinese people love to view and collect art, especially if it has a western influence. Almost every weekend you can find outdoor art exhibitions in parks, gardens, and even displays lined up along sidewalks. Art enthusiasts gather around to witness first hand the artistic bravura of its creators.

Like the west, art is introduced and taught at an early age. Beijing Normal University Hanlin Experimental School, in Dongguan City, recently held an art exhibition to boast the progress of their students in the Art Department. Easels of sketches were arranged under multicolored canopies just inside the entrance of the school for all who entered to view. The soccer field and basketball courts served as the backdrop, with a size and resemblance of an American University. The art displays were grouped from the most simple to the most complex. Although these art students may be considered too inexperienced to be given the official title of “Artist,” their work exhibited maturity and talent required of those seasoned.

Like writing, art has its cliche’s. Fruit and vase on a table was the theme of most sketches, measuring 2’ x 3’, completed with charcoal pencils. Students were allowed to add items on the table to sketch, should they have chosen. Some placed combinations of hair dryers, books, wine bottles and glasses, bottled water, and even a mountain goats skull in their sketches. Scattered throughout the arrangements, were sketches of Greek columns and the head of David.

From a distance the sketches all appeared basically the same. As you neared the display, details of each particular piece seemed to take shape. Viewing them again in the afternoon light, it was clear to choose two sketches I felt stood out amongst the rest. With the assistance of one of the students viewing the collection, I tracked down the artists responsible for those sketches.

During a short interview with seventeen years old, Mindy Liu and Vivi Chen, I learned they both enrolled in the art class last year with no previous art experience. When asked why they chose art, they agreed, “To be admitted into a better University.” Not quite the artistic answer I was expecting. Art was only an additional course for them to place on their University application.

Knowing beforehand their sketches would be displayed outside, their focus was on light and shading. Their intention was to render the sketches with equal appeal throughout the day, taking into consideration the direction of sunlight at each given point of the day, an almost impossible feat considering they used charcoal pencils.

At this point, neither student has a desire to pursue art as a potential career, but were proud to present their personal sketch books for me to view. The first pages could have been easily been mistaken for a right handed person drawing with their left hand. As I quickly turned the pages, it was clear to recognize their talent taking new form. They had sketched: human figures; landscapes; the Eiffel Tower; historical buildings and monuments in Paris; skyscrapers; and clothes from different periods of time.

The exhibition attracted hundreds eyes from students, faculty members, and cameras. Mindy and Vivi discovered their hidden talent, but like so many Chinese students, modesty gets the better part of them, which prevents them to excel. It is my hope they will continue, and at least use it for a hobby, sharing their art with others to view.