This painting is inspired by my recent trip to China. Growing up there I always had poor health and would cough up a lot of phlegm, and every time I went back I would bring a smog mask. This time I forgot to pack mine, so the first few days back I thought I could just tough it out. I ended up developing a fever, coughing none stop, and my lungs burned so much.
As a child I didn't even notice the pain because I was so used to it, but now I couldn't even survive a few days. My SO who went with me also developed headaches and fever. Luckily we got masks a few days later and recovered. During the trip, we also visited the Giant Panda Breeding Center in Chengdu, and the area was covered in plants and bamboo. The better air quality was so noticeably better that I wish I could have just covered my mouth with those plants.
After coming back to the US, I had art block and repainted this idea many times. Initially I wanted to add the city and other people in the background, but it didn't work with the composition. I ended up scrapping everything 5 times before using Zemotion 's beautiful photos as a reference point to finish this. I still like my old idea of showing the city covered in smog, so maybe I'll go back and paint that as well sometime.
It's been a bittersweet experience visiting my homeland again after so many years. So much has improved yet so much has worsened. I hope one day the smog will clear and the censorship will lighten, but unfortunately I don't see that happening very soon.