In a few strokes, with the paintbrush turning and twisting on the paper, a landscape quickly takes shape.
Xiao Qun’s favorite subject is the mountains of his homeland—Jiangxi. He also paints bamboo and plum blossom.
Bamboo is often used as a symbol for positive spirits and plum blossom traditionally stands for resilience in an adverse environment.
Xiao’s life story mirrors these traits well.
Watching Xiao paint so naturally, it’s hard to imagine he has spent twenty years earning a living as a butcher.
Xiao loved to paint when he was young, but he couldn’t make a living out of it. So he gave up and began selling pork in a wet market.
In 2010, he got married. Her wife soon discovered his artistic talent and encouraged him to start painting again.
He then joined an artist program organized by Jiangxi’s Tianbei village.
Sensing the potential of cultural tourism, the picturesque Tianbei decided to bring in a group of artists and set up an exhibition hall for them to display their works on a regular basis.
While enjoying the sceneries, visitors can buy affordable art as souvenir from the painters.
Tianbei also upgraded its facilities and developed a myriad of farming projects to let visitors experience the fun of fruit picking and fishing.
People love the idea and visitors flocked in.
Xiao’s income gradually improved, giving him more confidence to invest time on painting.
His work began to draw the attention of collectors. He was also able to launch his own exhibition two years ago.
Things worked out really well.
“One of my paintings sold for 80,000 yuan. I am also discussing a project with a five-star hotel,” he told CCTV.
“I am making around 400,000 to 500,000 yuan a year now from selling paintings.”
Xiao is, however, not willing to give up on his butcher career.
In the morning, he continues to man his store and chop up pork for his customers, usually housewives in the neighborhood.
In the afternoon, he returns to his studio, puts on another hat and focuses on Chinese painting.
Other painters who joined the program also experienced breakthroughs in their careers.
Tianbei’s so called “painter village project” has become so successful that it not only benefits artists like Xiao, but also the whole community.
Leisure farming operators, local restaurants and accommodation providers all benefit from the inflow of visitors attracted to the village’s landscape and the artistic ambience.
Tianbei also set a good example by showing other local authorities that it is possible to make money by taking good care of the natural environment, not at the expense of it.
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