Traditional Chinese painting, nowadays known as guó huà (国画), ‘national’ or ‘native painting’, is considered as one of the oldest continuous artistic traditions in the world. One does not become a master in Chinese painting that easily. It is a technically demanding art-form, requiring a lot of patience, concentration, great skills and years of training.
From time to time, we grab brush and ink together with our students and try to master the art of Chinese painting ourselves. Have a look at our Upcoming Events page to see when the next painting class is scheduled.
We will not bother you with the long history of this fine art. To have a basic understanding, all you have to know is that starting from the Period of the Warring States (475-221 BC), artists no longer just painted patterns and designs (like zigzags, spirals, dots etc), but they started representing the world around them in their paintings. Landscapes are the highest form of Chinese painting. The time from the Five Dynasties period to the Northern Song Period (907-1127) is known as the “Great Age of Chinese Landscape”.
Basically, the only things you need to create a traditional Chinese art painting are the following: brush, ink, water and paper or silk. That’s all? Well, that apart from real art-skills and a dose of practice and concentration and you are good to go!
You can easily buy prepared inks, but it is more fun to make the ink yourself by grinding the ink-stick over an ink-stone and adding a few drops of water until the desired concentration is made.
As for brushes, there are different kinds, depending on the hairs used to make the brush. It can be goat, cattle, wolf, sheep, deer or rabbit to name a few.
Essentially, it requires the same techniques as calligraphy: brush and ink on paper or silk. The emphasis in Chinese painting lies on motion; the motion of the brush. There are two main techniques:
1. Gōngbǐ (工筆): ‘meticulous’, court style. It is the realist technique of Chinese painting, very refined. First you draw fine lines representing the object, afterwards you fill it up with washes of ink and color.
2. Shuǐmò (水墨): ‘ink’. It is the interpretive and freely expressive style. Also called xiěyì (寫意 ): sketching thoughts. This style mostly only uses black ink in different concentrations and is considered as the earliest form of expressionistic art.
‘Simplicity dominates’ or ‘Less is more’! The essence of this mastery lies not only in representing the outer appearance of a subject, but also in capturing its inner essence: its energy, life force, spirit. In this matter, Chinese masters regard color as distraction. Does this sound wacko to you? Just look at a Chinese painting, not just watching but really observing the brush strokes, the different concentrations of the black ink and you will get it!
Hereunder you can see some of the masterpieces our students made during our Chinese Painting Class. We don’t do that bad of a job, don’t you think?
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