Hi all, I am Susiliany, a stay home mom from Singapore (follow my blog here – Brushes and Papers). For years, my sister had been bugging me to pick up something meaningful that could fill my days, as my little girl was growing up. So I was very glad that I heeded her advice and picked up Chinese painting years ago.
I grew up in poor family, studying art and becoming an artist was not a good prospect in my parents’ eyes. Hence, becoming an artist has only been a dream since I was young. Chinese painting has captivated me the first time I laid eyes on it. With a few brush strokes, Chinese painting artists are able to create beautiful paintings.
The art supplies used in Chinese painting – brush, paper, ink and ink stone – are known as:
“The Four Treasures”
- Brushes: usually made of animals hair such as sheep/goats, rabbits, weasels, horses or mixed of those hair etc.
- Paper: Xuan or Rice, which is not necessarily made from rice, it usually made from rice straws and the bark fibre of wing celtis trees or sandal wood, mulberry and bamboo pulp. The paper is not stretched as it would be in the case of Western painting.
- Ink stick: good ink is made out of fine pine soot and a small proportion of natural glue. It is compact and dried – there is no air between the soot and the glue; its texture is homogeneous and the surface feels smooth. The ink is made by grinding the stick against an ink stone with some water. You can vary the thickness of the ink by reducing or increasing the amount of water, and the intensity and duration of the grinding process.
- Ink stone: The ink stone is usually smooth flat surface stone with small well to catch the ink. Grind only the amount of ink you need. If you leave excess ink out to dry, you’ll have a problem removing it from the ink stone later on.
Black is considered a colour, and it is up to the skill of the artist to bring out the subtle nuances in the tonality and shades, and create the impression of variances in colour. If colour is used, the intention is not to replicate the subject exactly, but to convey the emotions and mood of the subject. Each brush stroke the artist makes must be perfect as no corrections are allowed. In comparison, corrections and overpainting are normal aspects of Western watercolour painting techniques.
Many start learning Chinese painting with only black and white. As we progress, we use watercolour too. Traditional Chinese watercolours are mineral and vegetable pigments, premixed with some kind of binder, mostly animal glue. They are used in the same way as the Western watercolours by adding some water and after painting it fixes perfectly on the rice paper.
Beginners in Chinese ink painting usually use bamboo as a subject. Because of its simple structure, bamboo is deemed an easy subject to paint: however the fact of the matter is that executing it correctly is much more difficult! Bamboo is also popular as a subject matter because it is one of the “four gentlemen” (subjects that represent the four seasons) that form the basis of all Chinese brush painting styles. The “four gentlemen” are : plum (winter), orchid (spring), bamboo (summer) and chrysanthemum (autumn).
I have been practicing and recording my daily progress for years now. You are welcome to visit my blog and thank you!