Press Interviews

Overcoming barriers in a new world

By MICHAELINE DELLA FERA, Telegraph Correspondent
Published: Sunday, Jan. 30, 2005

“In Harmony with Nature” is on exhibit at the Nashua Public Library through February. An artist’s reception will be held from 2-5 p.m. today.

In 1989, when Yong Chen arrived in Nashua from Guangzhou, China, he couldn’t speak English, so his first job was in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant.

While he was washing dishes and learning to speak English, Chen had other dreams and ambitions.

Chen grew up in a village in southern China that was rich in culture and tradition. At a young age, he grew to love music and art. But Chen went off to study, and when he graduated from Foshan University, he had a degree in chemistry.

Chen’s real passion was art. He began his artistic career on his own by experimenting in different media and styles, from classical to impressionistic and post impressionism. Finally, Chen realized his first love was watercolors.

Now an accomplished artist, Chen’s collection of his most recent watercolor paintings, “In Harmony with Nature,” is on display at the Nashua Public Library through February.

In China, Chen taught high school. While working in the restaurant kitchen, he received encouragement from the owner, who told him, “You shouldn’t be here.” So Chen went back to college.

Chen graduated after only one year of study from Bunker Hill Community College with an associate’s degree in graphic design. Realizing he wasn’t quite satisfied, Chen went to the Massachusetts College of Art, where he eventually received a bachelor’s degree in illustrations.

While at the Massachusetts College of Art, Chen landed his first job illustrating a children’s book for publisher Little Brown.

“The publishers said they ‘loved my warm style of painting and that my painting depicted love,’ ” Chen says.

From there, Chen went on to paint portraits of 20 representatives and senators in the Statehouse.

After graduation, Chen stayed on at his alma mater as a teacher of watercolor painting and illustrations. He was still illustrating children’s books during this time, but now for Harper Collins.

Chen recently embarked on a new venture. He and a partner have established a Web site of professional artists and teachers to promote fine arts and art education. The site,, provides an opportunity for art lovers to browse an artist’s work without leaving the comfort of their home.

“People may browse by category, artist, price range or even medium,” Chen says.

World Gallery Online even offers an online classroom with classes in watercolor, acrylic or oil painting.