Expressive Watercolor Paintings Are Candid Snapshots of People Living in the Moment

Watercolor Portrait Paintins by Stephen Zhang

Ineffable in-between moments are immortalized in the graceful paintings of Stephen Zhang. The Texas-based artist uses washes of delicate colors and swift brushstrokes to capture a variety of different people in the midst of living their lives. From serving food to dancing to giving haircuts, these intimate portrayals emphasize smaller occasions that are oft-forgotten.

Originally from China, Zhang relocated to the U.S. to complete an MFA in Communication Design at the University of North Texas, where he currently works as part of the faculty. While he is versed in a variety of mediums, he prefers watercolor as his material of choice. “I have a special connection with watercolor since it bridges Eastern and Western artistic traditions,” Zhang tells My Modern Met. “When I paint, I take advantage of contradictions inherent in the medium—between complexity and simplicity, controlling and letting go, external and internal, and permanent and temporary. My painting always starts with something that moves me, and then it begins to take on its own path.”

His series of watercolor paintings is titled In the Moment, and it features snapshot-like images of people who range in ages and ethnicities. These figures are set against minimalist backgrounds typically compromising just a few washes of color, which in turn highlights the human element of these pieces. “I believe what makes us human is our inner qualities,” he continues. “Without spirit and emotion, a portrait is merely a depiction of an object. My observation is that human emotions are endlessly rich, and seldom one-dimensional. Paintings should be able to convey these complex emotions and inspire empathy. I prefer to paint people while they are in the moment and absorbed in their actions.”

Scroll down to see more exquisite paintings by Zhang, and keep up to date with what the artist is up to next by following him on Instagram.

Artist Stephen Zhang creates candid portraits of people.

Watercolor Portrait Paintins by Stephen ZhangWatercolor Portrait Paintins by Stephen ZhangWatercolor Portrait Paintins by Stephen Zhang

He captures figures living in the moment.

Watercolor Portrait Paintins by Stephen ZhangWatercolor Portrait Paintins by Stephen ZhangWatercolor Portrait Paintins by Stephen Zhang

The subjects range in age and ethnicity.

Watercolor Portrait Paintins by Stephen ZhangWatercolor Portrait Paintins by Stephen Zhang

“I prefer to paint people while they are in the moment and absorbed in their actions,” he tells My Modern Met.

Watercolor Portrait Paintins by Stephen ZhangWatercolor Portrait Paintins by Stephen ZhangWatercolor Portrait Paintins by Stephen ZhangWatercolor Portrait Paintins by Stephen ZhangWatercolor Portrait Paintins by Stephen ZhangStephen Zhang: WebsiteInstagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Stephen Zhang.

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Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. When she’s not writing, Margherita continues to develop her creative practice in sequential art.
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