What I love most about creativity is how one thing always leads to another, so there’s never an end to all there is to learn, to do, and to explore.
Right now I’m embarking on yet another new creative adventure, one that follows a very logical pattern of progression. It begins with Inktober, and even though the challenge doesn’t open until October 1, my little Inktober journey has already started, and it’s taken me all the way to the other side of the world.
From Inktober, you see, I decided to be bold and try using dip pens this year. So what if the results have been less than spectacular so far? That’s beside the point, and of course those new nibs and holders required ink, so I not only bought a fresh bottle of India ink, I also learned about making my own ink.
My little jar of mixed berry ink wouldn’t work with my dip pens, but no problema. I grabbed a pointy little watercolor brush and started painting, and that, in turn led me to the ancient art of Chinese Brush Painting.
I don’t have the proper tools for the art, so I’m still using my homemade berry ink and watercolor brush. I do have a little Chinese Brush Art kit on its way to me now, and I know I’ll have fun learning to use the ink stone and the mixing bowls.
My first attempt — above — was fun, and actually a bit more difficult than I thought it would be. Those are supposed to be stalks of bamboo, in case you can’t tell. Keeping the brush straight proved to be a challenge. Only a few of my leaves came out the way they’re supposed to look, but that’s all right. I enjoyed the movements involved.
Chinese brush art is very much about rhythm and movement. A text from the 11th century tells us that there are six essential qualities in painting:
- To display brushstroke power with good brushwork control
- To possess sturdy simplicity with refinement of true talent
- To possess delicacy of skill with vigor of execution
- To exhibit originality, even to the point of eccentricity, without violating the principles or essence of things
- In rendering space by leaving the silk or paper untouched, to be able nevertheless to convey nuances of tone
- On the flatness of the picture plane, to achieve depth and space
I’ve always loved looking at Chinese art, and I hope to learn to recreate some of the traditional symbols. Bamboo represents the summer season and the ability to bend without breaking. It is one of the “Four Gentlemen” in Chinese brush painting, along with orchid, plum, and chrysanthemum.
Everything is different with Chinese brush art. Instead of our cotton-fiber paper, Chinese brush art is usually done on rice paper or silk. The brushes are more pointed, and they’re held differently. Ink is made with the inkstone, and there’s a spiritual quality in the minimalist style.
I have a lot to learn, so I’m not yet able to share much of the history behind the art. If you’re interested in reading more, you might want to visit the Chinese Painting topic at China Online Museum.
Have you done any Chinese brush art? I’d love to hear from those of you who have tried this delicate painting.