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The Six Canons of Chinese Brush Painting

In the 5th Century A.D., Hsieh Ho wrote the "Six Canons of Painting" which form the basis of all Chinese Brush Painting to this very day. They are:

1. "Circulation of the Ch'i": (Breath, Spirit, Vital Force of Heaven) - producing "movement of life". This is in the heart of the artist.

2. "Brush Stroke Creates Structure": This is referred to as the bone structure of the painting. The stronger the brush work, the stronger the painting. Character is produced by a combination of strong and lighter strokes, thick and thin, wet and dry.

3. "According to the Object, Draw its Form": Draw the object as you see it! In order to do this, it is very important first to understand the form of the object! This will produce a work that is not necessarily totally realistic but as you "see" it. Thus, the more you study the object to be painted, the better you will paint it.

4. "According to the Nature of the Object Apply Color": Black is considered a color and the range of shadings it is capable of in the hands of a master painter creates an impression of colors. If color is used, it is always true to the subject matter.

5. "Organize Compositions With the Elements in Their Proper Place.": Space is used in Chinese Brush Painting the same way objects are used. Space becomes an integral part of the composition.

6. "In copying, seek to pass on the essence of the master's brush & methods": To the Chinese, copying is considered most essential and only when the student fully learns the time honored techniques, can he branch out into areas of individual creativity.

Painting With Joyous Freedom!

After the Han Dynasty (207-A.D. 220) collapsed, a civilized, poetic drunkenness was embraced. The group of poets named the 'Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove' were the epitome of a romanticized image of the tipsy Chinese scholar who painted and created poetry by moonlight.

This literati was interested in transformation, expression and virtuosity. In their desire to escape the disastrous world they saw around them, they sought self cultivation. Their world view, based on a wish to live morally and truthfully, caused them to create an esthetic of tension between the unbalanced and the balanced. Everything then had a place but actually it was never quite fitting. The child-like qualities of intuitive knowledge and great capacity were most valued.

How do we get there? Carpe diem!

You already know the Six Canons of Hsieh Ho. Next the 'Eight Canons of Nan Rae'.

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