Chinese brush painting- session 1: cracking my brush and making marks

Despite the glorious sunshine, today I’ve been in a real funk. To cast away my Monday blues I headed for my paints and brushes to distract my mind and feed the spirit; so to speak!

20140519-202353.jpg I picked up some Chinese brushes in China and my sis bought me ‘how to’ book by Jane Dwight. Once I had located some watercolours (I’m not that advanced to be grinding ink) and some watercolour paper, I flipped open my manual.

20140519-202607.jpg I had read it, well flicked, through it before but somehow missed the first steps. Discard the plastic tops as replacing them will encourage mould to grow on damp hairs and ‘crack the brush’ – basically dip the brush into cold water for half-an-hour and bend the hairs so they are free of starch.

20140519-202717.jpg While patiently waiting for my brushes to get wet so I can crack them, I’m reading through the initial top tips.

20140519-202757.jpg 1: Now, did you know a Chinese artist has three types of brush holds? Upright, 45 degree and horizontal hold. Apparently a high grip achieves better results, which feels really strange as I am used to gripping the brush like a pencil. If, you can grasp the brush just above mid point you should be ok.

2: Loading the brush – it is not just a case of dipping it in the ink. A Chinese brush holds more water than it’s Western counterparts, so the ink has to carefully added. Yep, this is sounding difficult! it looks like a dip and roll towards you technique and pulling the hairs across the edge of your palette to get rid of excess ink.

3: Mark making – lines – to get some practice with your new brushes, it is recommended to use newspaper and start with lines; using the three different holds and with varying amounts of ink on the brush. I am typing away here, while all I really want to be doing is hot ring out my brush! 10 mins to go… I also need to try pull and push strokes.

4: Next i’ll be onto dots (technique used to paint leaves) nail head stroke and tiger’s whiskers – this looks like my favourite.

5: To complete the first lesson, she suggests experimenting with bone strokes and texture marks.

Tick, tock, tick, tock; my brushes have been submerged and I’m going to start practicing – let’s see how the theory works in practice.





By all accounts it looks like this is going to be a labour of love. As they say, the Great Wall of China wasn’t built in a day! Until next time x


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