Our ‘Umbrella’ Challenge

During 2020 it became more and more obvious that we were not going to be able to run workshops for our Leicestershire Chinese Brush Painters (LCBP) group. After a deal of thought Paul devised a Google Meet challenge for the group on a fortnightly basis to keep us linked together and provide a focus for our painting practice.

Chinese Umbrellas - C Seaton 2020
Chinese Umbrellas – Claire Seaton 2020

I thought it may be of interest to look at the results of one of these challenges. Anyone in the group can suggest the topic for the next challenge and subjects have been wide-ranging. At first glance, not all have been popular but, my word, have they produced some excellent work and different takes on subjects. We have all used different and varied stimuli, including Google images and Pinterest, as well as our own reference books, photographs and local observation. I must admit the topic of ‘Umbrellas’ was not immediately attractive to me but I decided to try and find an example I could work from. I eventually found a few from Chinese folk art sources (see below) and tried to paint them in a different style.  I painted the above picture in haste and on a very rainy, miserable day!! I think my energies are evident…

Below is the example of Chinese Folk Art I used for my first painting above:

Chinese Umbrellas folk art
Chinese Umbrellas folk art

When the actual Google Meet session took place I was amazed at how differently the individuals in the group had interpreted the topic. There were paintings of collections of decorative umbrellas as seen from below, there were figures of elegant women and rotund monks carrying umbrellas/parasols and there were even bats, whose structure of their wings echoed the structure of the spokes of an umbrella!

Bats in the Moon - Paul Maslowski 2020
Bats in the Moon – Paul Maslowski 2020

Another member of the group extended this topic into the next one and produced a field of pumpkin tops looking very much like umbrellas! Sue decided to paint a wealth of different umbrellas which were all for sale:

Umbrella Seller - Sue Phipps 2020
Umbrella Seller – Sue Phipps 2020

I became so engrossed with this subject and the potential for use of shapes, colours and patterns that I recently painted another more detailed version shown here:

Chinese Umbrellas 2 - Claire Seaton 2020
Chinese Umbrellas 2 – Claire Seaton 2020

We have found the sharing of our work and research has urged us on to painting out of our comfort zones and it really has challenged us.

Thus, we found yet again that a topic which did not initially inspire some of us, turned out to be one of the most stimulating. This was not the only subject which has led us to greater things.

Please feel free to use any of these examples to copy or extend and we hope you will experience the same thirst for further exploration of this topic as we did.

Happy New Year!

Claire Seaton

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