Sent from Shanghai: Free Acrylic Brush Set

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Acrylic brush set header

This week’s free brush set was created by Yang Shen, a member of the Autodesk Shanghai team who hails from the beautiful small town of Suzhou, China. He is known for creating traditional style paintings on a digital platform and made this brush set for those looking to expand their library of traditional brushes in SketchBook Pro. We had a chance to pick Yang Shen’s brain about his style of art, his background, and his influences. Read on to learn more and don’t forget to download the free Shanghai Acrylic Brush Set. Double click the .skbrushes file to install.

acrylics purple vase painting process

How did you get started with art?

I was probably influenced by my mom from when she taught painting and music at an elementary school. My earliest memory of painting was in grade two when my teacher took senior students to a garage to paint a bike. Because my classmates and I were not able to draw well at that time, the teacher asked us to take off our shoes and draw them in the classroom. That was my first artwork, and my painting life started from that day. From there, I attended a school for the elderly every weekend for six years learning to sketch and color and even to learn about traditional art. Take calligraphy for instance; the understanding of calligraphy impacts me a lot when using and thinking about fonts.

Before joining Autodesk, I used to be a digital artist for games and participated in projects for advertising, toys, commercial illustration, film, and TV. With production experience in different industries, I am now a QA Analyst at Autodesk. I started using SketchBook on iPod Touch and iPhone 3G in 2010. I then drew a lot on iPad 1, enough to do live demos for exhibitions and commercial activities. I got to know the SketchBook team when they held their first local activity in China. After that, I kept working on mobile devices and attended every SketchBook event that I could. I got involved in SketchBook’s development by sharing my painting experience and usability testing for new features and officially joined the big family as a result.

headshot drawing process

“Art imitating life”

People say “art imitates life,” and everybody’s life is unique. The things people see, hear, read, and feel are all different. This doesn’t only apply to artists. Each one of us expresses emotions in a different way. Brushes, lines, and colors are the channels that artists use to express themselves, and we need time to express ourselves. But feelings can slip away in an instant. Therefore, I choose the quickest way of capturing a touching moment — photography. I’ve taken many pictures to immortalize moments in my life. We hold the hidden feelings connected to our own photographs that may appear as plain images to others. To me, my paintings are only finished when the feelings I’ve put into it have been reborn in a different way. Only then is art really imitating life.

succulent drawing process adding layers of acrylic paint

Acrylics vs. watercolours

In traditional painting, acrylics and watercolour are diametrically opposed when it comes to the process and ways of thinking. Acrylics is stacked layers, starting from the dark zone and then adding highlights. On the other hand, watercolour is to get the sfumato effect from the white paper; transparent and pure. Personally, I enjoy both styles of painting. I believe that when using software it isn’t enough to simulate the look of the painting style. The process and way of thinking are important as well. It is efficient and clean making digital paintings compared to the traditional process of using messy materials, but following the same process of creating the art will help traditional artists draw on digital platforms. The feeling of working the old way needs to still be there even when using software to draw or paint.

acrylics-beach-process drawing painting


Who are your main influences?

So many good artists have influenced my growth. I have two great teachers. The first is Ahua. He is a famous conceptual artist involved in a lot of big games and film projects. Another is Zhuzhu, a very well-known commercial illustrator artist. I gained a lot of knowledge and truths about life from them. The points I’ve learned from them required a certain amount of time to digest and absorb. I still have a long way to go to develop my own painting skills and style.

More from Yang Shen

If you’d like to see more work from Yang Shen, take a look at his DeviantArt page. Being able to share and install these weekly free brush sets in the desktop app is one of the features for SketchBook subscribers. If you’re using the latest desktop version of SketchBook, simply double click on the .skbrushes file, and it will automatically install. Check out this article for all the details about brushes and legacy versions. If you haven’t tried the subscription, you can download a free trial and unlock Pro membership for 15 days (no credit card required).