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Making Art

An Intro to Chinese Brush Painting: Part I



"Many Chinese brush paintings lack backgrounds, which can detract from the simplicity of the intended focus. Instead the subjects often are set against the white of the paper, providing artists with the freedom to alter the shapes and frames of their paintings." -Chinese Brush Painting

Tackling Chinese brush painting was embarking on entirely new territory for me, but the kit gave me everything I needed to get started. One of the most unique parts about this art technique is the use of the ink stick and ink stone. To use, you place a small amount of water on the stone and grind the stick against it, releasing the ink. More water produces lighter ink. The black ink can be used in combination with watercolor paints to produce stunning and soft artwork.

Chinese brush painting tools

Photo by Heather Linder

This was also my first time using Chinese brushes, which take some practice to get used to. Similar to calligraphy pens, Chinese brushes must be held at the proper angle to achieve desired strokes. The result produced is so distinctive.

One of my favorite examples from the book is the peach blossoms and fisherman painting by Helen Tse. Her beautifully blended colors and soft, warm palate are truly something to aspire to. It looks like she's mastered the craft. And though my attempts were nowhere near as lovely, they still were enjoyable and challenging to work on. It felt like using an entirely different side of my brain.

learn chinese brush painting 2

Image excerpted from the Chinese Brush Painting Kit

I've read that Chinese brush painting is meant to be more of a symbolic representation of the imagery rather than a literal duplication. Artists always work from memory and rarely paint full plants or trees, but rather parts to represent the whole. I love the deeper meaning behind each piece of artwork, and it's something I always try to keep in mind. It's easy to make painting about the mechanics, but the finished product is often about so much more.

learn chinese brush painting

Image via Shutterstock

What new art techniques are you trying out?


Heather Linder

Heather is a journalist and writer living in Chicago with her composer husband and art-loving puppy, Lancelot. She's on an endless quest for the city's best coffee and is endlessly inspired by Chicago's magnificent skyline. Heather is a bookworm, aspiring chef, and NPR fanatic. She's in the process of teaching her beagle to use a French press and overcoming her fear of DIY.



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White is not a mere absence of color; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black.

G.K. Chesterton

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