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Security guard wins offer from top art academy

By Feng Zhiwei in Changsha | China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-31 07:46

Walking from the east gate of the Central Academy of Fine Arts to its main studio takes less than 30 minutes, but for Li Cheng, a former campus security guard at the academy, the journey has taken almost a decade.

The 28-year-old recently received an official offer from the academy in Beijing, nearly 10 years after his first failed application at the country's top arts academy in 2008.

During his time as a security guard at the east gate, starting in 2012, he sketched workmates on the night shift in a silent hallway. When it came to the day shift, he would memorize English vocabulary.

Li was born in a small mountainous village in Hunan province. At age 4, he started scrawling bananas and watermelons with charcoal under the guidance of his mother, who nurtured his passion for painting.

Upon entering middle school, Li was able to continue painting thanks to his art teacher, Peng Dezhi.

"It is Peng who persuaded my parents to allow me to pursue my passion for painting," Li said.

Peng told him about the Central Academy of Fine Arts, the most coveted art school in China. He applied for the first time in 2008, but was rejected due to his poor academic performance.

Li then took on a variety of jobs to make a living, from a food delivery courier and a substitute art teacher in Changsha, capital of Hunan province, to a factory worker in Shenzhen, Guangdong province.

However, he got a chance to visit the academy in 2012 and decided that he would never give up his dream of studying there.

"I was so thrilled to visit the academy. I thought to myself, 'I must study in this divine place,'" he said.

Li applied for a job at the academy and began working as a security guard at the east gate. He started painting again and picked up his brush whenever he took a break. His artwork was seen by some students, who encouraged him to pursue his passion.

Li signed up for a training course at a small studio near the campus and went there every day after work. But successive failures in academic performance in 2013 and 2014 left Li feeling his dream was unachievable.

However, in 2016, he tried out for a fourth time, starting his academic courses from scratch. Eventually, his hard work paid off. He passed the professional test at the academy, ranking eighth nationwide.

"Sitting with classmates 10 years my junior makes me feel like I am recapturing my youth," he said.

Wang Keju contributed to this story.

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