Liveliness matters in teaching – Royal Purple

Ivy Steege, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Passion is the engine of a UWW professor, Xiaohong Zhang. With over 50 group and solo exhibitions to his name, Zhang has had a monumental impact on the Arts and Design department at Whitewater.

I am passionate about being an artist. I consider myself very lucky to be an art teacher. I love being able to share my knowledge and experiences of creating media art with my students and helping them grow as media artists and creative thinkers. My passion for new technologies and media art motivates me to do media art and teach media art,” Zhang commented. “I want to be a good teacher. I found that researching and creating artwork in the field also supported my teaching. I can share my work experience with my students during my teaching.

Zhang’s enthusiasm for teaching can also be seen in the students who take his classes.

“Not knowing much about Photoshop or Illustrator was pretty hard, but I think {Zhang} taught it well. Now I can say I can use Photoshop and Illustrator pretty well,” said Logan Mueller, major in media arts and game development, about visual design for digital media with Zhang “I think he’s a great teacher.”

Zhang, who works in the Arts and Design Department at Whitewater, is originally from Hubei, China, where she did her undergraduate studies at the Hubei Academy of Fine Arts. In 2002, she earned her MFA from Southern Illinois University.

“I never planned or decided to be a teacher. I applied {for a} teaching position after graduating with an MFA. I was offered a teaching job at UW Whitewater, and I love teaching,” said Zhang, who says she first went to graduate school to become a full-time artist. It wasn’t until her classmates at SIU started applying for teaching jobs that she decided to do so as well. “Maybe it’s fate. Majority of my family members are teachers. My mother is a primary school teacher, my husband is a teacher and even my younger brother is a teacher.

While at SIU, Zhang immersed herself in Western digital art – such as 3D animation – and continues to do so while teaching at UWW. His featured artwork blends traditional Chinese art forms with digital publishing.

She says, “I was traditionally trained in academic art forms like Chinese brush painting, Western-style drawing, painting and graphic design in the early 1990s. I always wanted to find a way to give the Chinese folk art of paper-cutting, traditionally practiced by housewives, the recognition it deserves. Over the past twenty years, I have reinvented the representation of this folk art by blending my contemporary digital techniques with traditional art forms, patterns and symbols.

The students had the chance to work on these mixed media artworks with Zhang. In 2020, Kyle Grzyb completed a research assistant position with Professor; and most recently the aforementioned Logan Mueller and Zhang worked together through UWW SURFING. The program is a ten-week, mentotted summer research project where students, such as Mueller, learn continuously to improve their skills.

When asked what he learned from Zhang during UWW SURF, Mueller replied, “Definitely an understanding of Blender a little more and the online application of that. Also, the more fine art side of media arts and game development. I think she really helped me understand that because we are building our exhibit, which will be exhibited. There’s a lot of processes that I’ve really never been introduced to, and then she really helped me with the {non-digital} aspect of it. »

A person who is destined to share their craft will find a way to do so. With over 20 years of teaching experience at UWW, Zhang inspires creativity in her students while finding enthusiasm in her own art.

A self-portrait of Xiaohong Zhang
(Xiaohong Zhang)

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