Where are you from originally and where do you live now?
I was originally born in China, but I came to join my parents in the states when I was 8 years old. After that, I grew up in Texas and through numerous art classes in high school I realized that I wanted to continue pursuing art in college. Currently, I live in Columbus, Ohio with my fiancé, Eric.
Do you see yourself as foremost a designer or an artist? Do you think the distinction matters?
That's a hard question, and one that I've asked myself many times. For me, that distinction is never one or the other. I think it is important to have skills in both areas, because that fluency is what has the strongest effect in visual communication. What I mean is that while being a fine artist is the ultimate art form, there isn't as much opportunity to reach a greater audience if you don't combine and package it in some form through design. Ultimately, I think of myself as an artist because painting and drawing is at the root of all of my creative work and thinking. I prefer the immediacy of pencil or brush to paper when I begin with an idea.
You studied textile design at RISD but now mostly work in watercolor it seems. What compelled you to switch mediums?
My time at RISD studying textiles was about exploring pattern making through a variety of mediums like weaving and silkscreening. I don't see it so much as switching mediums as it is an extension of my textiles education. Watercolor has just become the best tool for me to voice that continued love and fascination with patterns and color. When I first started using this medium, I really felt like it has triggered something in my work and how I communicate visually. It is a really flexible sort of medium, allowing me to paint very translucent images and also very rich and gestural images.
What inspires work like "Dots" and your other geometric watercolors?
For those abstract watercolors, the first thing is always color. I am quite obsessed with colors and their relationships to each other. Sometimes I find these color combinations in a photograph of a landscape, or sometimes it is the light reflected off of a sidewalk at night. Either way, I like to capture these color relationships and so abstract paintings serve the best way to communicate that!
I love the quilt that you designed and your mom made (which I saw on your blog). How did you go about selecting fabrics?
That was such a fun project for me and my mom to collaborate on! I knew I wanted a shift of colors from warms to cools, and after figuring out how many patterns I needed to choose for each color family, I just set off finding the patterns in stores and online. I had a lot of fun collecting those patterns for a few months before handing them off to my mom who I knew could work her magic and make an awesome quilt! It turned out to not only be a great collaboration (with hopefully more to come in the future) but also one of our most beloved items in our house now!
You own your own business, Yao Cheng Design. Where would you like to see the business go?
I have big plans for my business, it's something I've dreamed about since I was really young... I hope to see my watercolor paintings applied onto numerous different applications from wrapping paper to beddings and bowls in home decor. It has only been a year since I have set off completely on my own, so I know this is something that will take many years to grow and refine. Still, every day that I am creating more work is another day where I feel incredibly lucky to be dedicating my time to something I love and care about!