What message is the painting your are working on, Ode to Fraternity, trying to deliver? On the 10 metre by two metre canvas, state leaders from 190 countries and more than 300 celebrities from around the world are promoting friendship, peace and love for humanity. The leaders are playing the most beautiful piece in the world, each with a different musical instrument in his hands. United States President Bill Clinton is playing the saxophone, British Prime Minister Tony Blair is playing the guitar and Chinese President Jiang Zemin is playing the piano. Celebrities are dancing behind them, and the background features landmarks of various cities. Ode to Fraternity can be seen as my open letter to the world. Love, friendship and peace are everyone's dream in the millennium. We live in the same world, but because of historical, ethnical and religious problems, there are wars and battles every day. Such news makes me uncomfortable and unhappy. As an artist, I can express my wishes via my paintings. When did you discover your talent for oil painting? I did my first drawing on sand when I was five years old. At nine, I earned money by drawing Gods of the Door for neighbours. Then I did watercolour and wash drawings and completed my first oil painting at the age of 15. After that, I focused on oil paintings. I love the rich texture and volume of oil paintings. Every painting has a story to tell. The different layers of colour and texture give the painting life. Can you describe your style of painting? I appreciate different styles of painting, including German, French, Italian and Russian. But I love Russian paintings most not only because of the a close relationship between China and Russia after the Cultural Revolu tion, but also because they are detailed, lively and realistic. Paintings can be as powerful as words. I can see how the Russians lived in the 1960s and the hardships they faced from Russian paintings. It is always a good idea to learn from others' strengths, but you will never be a great painter unless you add new elements. What inspires your creativ ity? Travel helps a lot. I visit the art museums and galleries in every city. Art reflects the customs and culture of a place. Inspiration is an accumulation of personal experience. It is hard to say how it works, but independent thinking is crucial. I dream and imagine a lot. Some parents may scold their children for daydreaming. My advice would be not to suppress their thinking. Many big inventions started off as a crazy idea. It all depends on whether the idea can be further developed. Most of your paintings' themes are optimistic and en couraging. Is that a reflection of your character? I draw different subjects, such as plants, landscape, portraits, legend and history, but I tend to produce splendid paintings with a historical background because they are the pieces that can be passed on to the next generation. I have experienced the hardships of the Cultural Revolution, but I am a fighter. I will fight any obstacles in my way and I do not fall easily. What is the philosophy be hind thematic epic paintings? The world is filled with sadness and problems, but we should not magnify the problems. On the contrary, we should do something encouraging. As an artist, I can do nothing to change the world, but I can do something to cheer people up. I did do some paintings about wars, but most of my work presents truth, goodness and beauty of mankind, which give people hope. Do you feel any pressure painting portraits of well- known people, such as the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, Chief Secretary for Administra tion Anson Chan Fang On-sang, property tycoon Li Ka-shing and superstar Jackie Chan? Yes, I do, as the paintings will be seen by many people and must look exactly like the real person. But, of course, there will be some artistic modifications. Some people have accused you of painting for political rea sons. What is your comment? I disagree. We live in a political environment. We cannot hide ourselves from political events unless we move back to a primitive society. I don't see any problem with recording historical moments with my brushes. Is the handover of Hong Kong worth painting? Is the Macau handover worth painting? If the answer is 'yes', then I am doing the right thing. Festive Evening is hanging in the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall and Long Live The People is on display in the main hall on the Rostrum of Tiananmen Square. Your SAR handover painting, Festive Day, has set a record price paid for a Chinese painting. What is your greatest achievement so far? And what are your goals? Every piece of work is an achievement, and every new creation is a challenge to me. But I tend to work on epic paintings because they have historical value. As for my goals, I want to set up an art college to cultivate young painters, but it won't be in the SAR because of the high costs. Although China has a strong cultural heritage, it is sad that there are few renowned painters from China. I would like to cultivate the next generation of painters. But I won't put all my effort into achieving this goal at present because it will distract me from my work. Besides, I am planning to start a 100-metre long masterpiece depicting the construction process of the Imperial Palace of the Qing Dynasty, which will reflect the wisdom, scientific knowledge and creativity of the ancient Chinese. Your wife, Li Liu Ruimei, is a former dance lecturer at Guangxi Arts College. And your daughter, Cathy Liu Haomei, studies visual arts at Boston University. Do they support you? Yes, they do. Family support is important. Without it, I would not have remained in the field and produced so many beautiful pieces. Art is very subjective so sometimes we have arguments, but we always work things out in the end. My wife and daughter have very good artistic sense and we always exchange opinions and advice. Name: Liu Yuyi Birthplace: Sichuan, China Age: 61 Occupation: Oil painter The success of oil painter Professor Liu Yuyi is a result of his dili gence and intelligence. Brought up in Nanjing, Liu studied at a sec ondary school affiliated with the Central Art Academy of Beijing. He then worked as a vice-director and assistant lecturer at Guangxi Art College. The Liu family moved to Hong Kong in 1991. Difficult times during the Cultural Revolution made Liu a strong and unyielding character. His SAR handover painting, Festive Day, depicting Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, President Jiang Zemin and former leader Deng Xiaoping, sold for a record $23 million. Other masterpieces include Yuntian, Festive Evening, Song of the Goddess Nuwa and the latest Ode to Fraternity - A Millennial Symphonic Poem For Mankind.