Honorable Ancestor of Oriental Brush Painting
Carrying the 'written idea' further, Gentlemen Scholars in China developed what is now known as the literati tradition. These men of culture and high position looked down on the palace painting style of perfect flowers, insects and animals which we considered vulgar since professional artist were paid for them. The scholar-gentry felt to be truly educated one should not only master calligraphy but also write poets and create expressive paintings as the mood struck them.
This tradition was firmly established in the Yuan Dynasty, 1280-1368, and highly respected in the Ming Period, 1368-1644. Gentlemen Scholars continued expressing joyous amateurism in their spontaneous painting. Their minds were open to new ideas since all true learning is play, and play has no judgment and is non-judgmental. So liberating was this method that it is still highly prized today.
The more spontaneously you paint, the more expression will be conveyed in your work giving your painting style, your style, making your paintings uniquely yours. This style is the touch and flourish you bring to your work and it eminates from your full life experience. It bring your C'hi, life force, to empower your brush.
While it is important to follow rules and principals during the early learning period, it is important to not be overly concerned with this and forget to just let go and paint with abandon.
Some highlights of the many complex aspects of the work of Ink Painting are:
Brush Strokes: the variety of Brush Strokes has been developed and studied since approximately the 5th century in China and the 9th century in Japan. It was the Chinese who articulated, defined and codified the technique of Ink Painting Strokes but the Japanese later
made significant contributions of their own. Both cultures have enjoyed a long exchange and suffusion of artistic and spiritual values. And now, of course, the West has the historic opportunity to synthesize and further benefit from and develop the Asian Way. The synthesis of
cultures in the East has proceeded apace from earliest dynasties.
Mutual 'suffusion of cultures and ideas' is a profound and important process. It permeates Oriental Brush Painting!
"Brush Movement!": "Brush Movement" is a cardinal element in Ink Painting. The nature and various unique properties of Ink lend readily to reflecting the movement of Brush which becomes an esthetic element in achieving artistic integrity in
Chinese Brush. To showcase the all-important 'Movement of the Brush', correction of the original Brush Stroke by the artist is neither attempted nor permitted. It would betray crudity and clumsiness to do so; and would diminish the straightforward honesty of the artistic
effort. It would seriously detract from the desired simplicity which is one of the hallmarks of Ink Painting.
"Bone Work!": Bone Work is a linear or vertical movement of the Brush tip! It suffuses your Ink Painting with strength and muscle! In fact, an Ink Painting without such Bone Work or "Line" would seem weak and diffuse, not strong at all! These Vertical Strokes - in combination with both Wipe and Dot Strokes - are executed in a free and spontaneous manner. If they are 'contrived or labored', they lose these light and airy elements of freedom and spontaneity. Crude or clumsy Ink Painting could not authentically be considered Chinese or Asian.
To achieve this freedom, this spontaneity and boldness, remember that the emphasis in Ink Painting is on the Idea: visualize, conceive a clear idea of each element of your painting before you touch Brush to Paper! To do this, you need to exercise much thought and devote
yourself. to much practice. This is the Way of the Chinese Brush Painter who brings to bear mind and soul, artistic motivation and the bold expression of inner beauty, to create an art work that is unique to the artist alone.
This approach, this freedom and boldness and thought, enables the artist to achieve nuance and poetic allusion -- while relying on artistic intuition to enhance Brush technique and increasing skills.
The monochromatic is subtle in its tonalities and gradations. As each dramatic line or wipe of the Brush is placed on Paper, mass and space suddenly appear! This is achieved through sublime subtlety and restraint -- an artistic economy of motion that artfully omits certain
detail and specifics and adroitly leaves much to the viewer's imagination! In fact, the artist and the observer form a synergy, an esthetic and spiritual 'partnership' - for the observer brings as much to the painting as the artist!
Uses of the Wet & Dry Brush: For elegance of expression, both a wet and dry Brush are used in this subtle and delicate form of Ink Painting. Exciting dots and splashes and dabs of Ink transform the most ordinary Subjects (like the Four Gentlemen!) into cosmic artistic
European art lovers would enjoy knowing that this same concept of dots and splashes or dabs was later copied and widely employed by the impressionists, and later by the Abstract Expressionists!
An opposite school of painting was seen from the 10th -19th centuries. Emphasis was on great control - by the strictly proper use of very small brush strokes! This style was called "Gongb' -- developed to allow the artist to express (via detail) the innermost
life of the objects.
Bamboo is primarily a Chinese subject. It did not gain popularity in Japan and other countries until centuries later! Ink Bamboo reigned supreme with the llth century Chinese literati. Their compositions were not necessarily realistic. But the manner of painting each element of Bamboo was strictly prescribed: it is still followed today, without major exception. However, bizarre techniques have been seen, most notably during the T'ang Dynasty (618-906) - and these "unusual' methods are normally acceptable if the wielding of the Brush is strong and sure.
Although the Bamboo should be the easiest leaf to paint by virtue of its simple shape, it is the most difficult to execute correctly. Much practice is required to form the leaves properly and to maintain a spontaneous and pleasing composition.
In painting the Bamboo Leaves, the new tender ones are seen growing upward. This tendency is modified by the direction of the wind or weight of the rain. Because the leaves are very long and thin, they all must appear to be blowing in the same direction to maintain the harmony
of the painting.