Tag Archives: #chinesebrushpainting

Experimenting with Materials (1) – Rice Paper

I did a watercolor painting on pre-matted rice paper (xuan paper) before, and I tried it again recently with different paints:

After Feiniaogongzuoshi, 12 x 12 in.
Crazy Hair Day, 8 x 8 in, June 2020
Kaydee, 8 x 8 in, June 2020
Nikki, 8 x 8, Jun 2020

A few notes:

  • The paper I used is something like this, but I bought it from China and it was a lot cheaper.
  • The first two paintings were done with Chinese paints that commonly used for brush painting on rice paper. The brand is Marie, and it’s available on Amazon.
  • “Kaydee” is done in sumi ink, a cheap one from Daiso.
  • “Nikki” is in western watercolor.
  • The Chinese colors are a lot more opaque and hold better on rice paper, which is very absorbent.
  • The western watercolor dries very light and very flat. I went back multiple times trying to enhance the value. When the paper is wet, the pigment swims away to wherever with a blink of eye.
  • There’s no lifting with rice paper after it’s dry. You can pat it with a tissue paper and lift some pigment, but you can’t get rid of edges that way.
  • Sumi ink is the most staining of all.
  • I absolutely don’t know how to apply the skills involved in the first painting (the rooster one) to the later ones.

Stay Home Doing Art

Based on my very limited survey, this is how people around me spend their time nowadays: cooking; shopping online for groceries; cleaning and reorganizing their homes; zoom meetings. I have my fair share of cooking and shopping everyday, and decided to do some house keeping for a change. And these are the thing I dug out:

Sorry for the weird shadows in the pictures. Obviously the person who took the photos for me also wanted to sign the paintings with his shadows. To some extend, this is a Chinese tradition among art collectors. In some old Chinese pieces, if you see many seals filling in the empty spaces, many of them are not belong to the artist, but the collectors (a way to say “this is mine!”).

Most of the paintings above are done by copying old masters. This is the way of learning traditional Chinese painting through time. In some of these pieces, I combined elements from different paintings and I remember the teacher was quite surprised by that “Oh, you started creating already!” Composing your own piece usually follows years after years of copying, and it’s not a common thing for beginners. Since Chinese paintings are usually signed and dated with Chinese calligraphy, that’s another thing you are supposed to practice for years by copying masters.

Staying home is a good time to copy and study old masters. This is probably the most efficient way of improving skills, but if you only do that for longer period of time, the side effect might be daunting your creativity. Strike a balance.

I know the title “Stay Home Doing Art” is a bit misleading this time. It is actually stay home digging out art. Hope next time I could post “doing art” for real.

Color Studies (2) – Monochromatic

Of the three components of color, hue, value and saturation, I personally find value the most difficult. Colors are attractive and distracting, and it could be difficult to discern values accurately from all the colors in front of us. Monochromatic painting is a great way to train your eyes this way.

In traditional Chinese brush paintings, many of which are monochromatic, it’s the value changes through the control of water that create the art. I took a few lessons of Chinese brush painting one summer, and lessons were mainly copying old masters. This is one of the paintings I copied:

After Qi Baishi, ink on Xuan paper, summer 2018

Monochromatic is a good strategy when time is limited. In life painting, it saves the trouble of finding the right skin color and allows me to focus on value and shape.

Woman, ink on watercolor paper, 9 x 12 in, 2018

In landscape scene with overwhelming branches and leaves, monochromatic approach simplifies the view. This plein air was done in burnt sienna. I included some of the visitors I had during the painting – out of proportion, I know, but a lot of fun.

Fox and Caterpillar at West Valley, acrylic on canvas board, 16 x 20 in, 2018

More than often, monochromatic painting is used as underpainting. It serves as a value map, but also allow some color strategies. (I found this post by Mitchel Albala very helpful.)

Another approach is to do a monochromatic underpainting, and glaze over it with transparent colors, often times many layers. For acrylic, that means adding quite some medium to the color. My selfie is done this way – dozens of layers. I have to admit, I doubt I will ever use this method again. Too tedious.

Selfie, acrylic on canvas board, 16×20 in , 2018

I think in theory it could be done with watercolor too, for watercolor is transparent in nature. Even the opaque ones, with enough water, become transparent to some extent. From what I heard, to glaze in watercolor, the key is to wait for the underpainting or the previous layer really really dry, bone dry. Maybe someday I will try it.