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Bend, But Never Break : A Life in Two Worlds

FEBRUARY 1, 2013
It has been a while since I have done an editorial illustration commission but I was really inspired by this story that Art Director John Kehe sent on the life of Ping Fu. This piece ran yesterday in The Christian Science Moniter Book Review for Ping's new book "Bend, but Never Break : A Story of Two Worlds" Ping's overcoming of hardships is remarkable. She was a child soldier, a factory worker, and a political prisoner in the time of the Chinese Revolution. Seperated from her family at eight, beaten and raped for the crime of being born into a well-educated family and then deported with barely enough money for a plane ticket to a bewildering new home in the States seems unimaginable. Courageously and fearless, she started over, without family or friends, working as a maid, waitress, and student. Ping Fu's flip side life reveals her rise as a pioneering software programmer, an innovator, a CEO, and Inc. magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year. She has even met and advised the president of the United States.

When I first read the review, I immediately had this image come to mind by Picasso.

While it speaks to resiliance, it lacked in energy and strength of the human spirit which is what this story speaks to.  Intellectually it works, but John really wanted me to capture this dynamic story of strength.  Sometimes we just get attached to wanting to use inspiration too much so I submitted 4 more sketches. John redirected me back to reference to a passage where Ping made an analogy about bamboo: “Bamboo is flexible, bending with the wind but never breaking, capable of adapting to any circumstance. It suggests resilience, meaning that we have the ability to bounce back even from the most difficult times. . . . Your ability to thrive depends, in the end, on your attitude to your life circumstances. Take everything in stride with grace, putting forth energy when it is needed, yet always staying calm inwardly.”
—Ping Fu’s “Shanghai Papa”
 Because the piece ran fairly small I decided to do only one color and keep it iconic.  

On another note, I did this bamboo forest years ago as a gift for a Japanese professor who is a collegue of my husbands and had invited George to come speak in Japan.  We arrived and were shocked, realizing we had forgotten to pack any customary personal gifts to give our host.  So I did this little painting in our hotel room to give him. 
It was good to look back at how I carved the lines in the bamboo...it had been a while since I had drawn bamboo, which is more difficult to draw than it seems.  I wanted to make sure it did not look like it was breaking so kept the lines long through the trunk.