Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?

Sir Mortimer Wheeler - Animal Vegetable Mineral - BBC TV
Sir Mortimer Wheeler – Animal Vegetable Mineral – BBC TV

This challenge was given to us by Pat in Norfolk and a very interesting one it was, too. After a certain amount of nostalgic reminiscing about the (very) ancient radio show on the wireless, one could literally hear the cogs turning as people realised what a lot of scope this gave us. The results were amazing and far-ranging.

Crabs Vegetables and Pot - Pat Jones 2021
Crabs Vegetables and Pot – Pat Jones 2021

Pat gave us a painting of crabs, taro and a colander in a style very reminiscent of Qi Baishi. I really liked the composition and monochrome look of this.

Rabbit Turnip and Blue Green Leaves - Sue Smith 2021
Rabbit Turnip and Blue Green Leaves – Sue Smith 2021

Sue Smith went for a rabbit, beetroot and mineral green/blue leaves which mirrored the upright ears of the rabbit. This picture made us all smile and the twist with using mineral colours was appreciated!

Dogs Grass Bowl and Ball - Kim Ashburner 2021
Dogs Grass Bowl and Ball – Kim Ashburner 2021

After wanting to do a painting of her two ‘granddogs’, Sully and Buzz, for quite a while, Kim used this opportunity to paint them at play and has really captured their characters. She included their bowls and grass for the remaining elements. Again I love the use of ink only.

Duck Reeds and Water - Reg Robinson 2021
Duck Reeds and Water – Reg Robinson 2021

Reg used this challenge to produce a lovely painting of a tufted duck, a bulrush plant and water. Another good composition and great calligraphy.

Squirrels and Inkstone - Claire Seaton 2021
Squirrels and Inkstone – Claire Seaton 2021

My own effort, after rejecting the idea of a plate of fish and chips, came to me following a workshop on the works of Xu Gu by Shuhua Jin. I realised that this example of his work contained all three elements: squirrels, bamboo brushes and inkstone.

From all this variety we decided that we liked a challenge with so much scope!

I hope this inspires you to have a go!


Great September weekend at Knuston

We had a very safe and productive weekend course at Knuston Hall last weekend 25th to 27th September. There were six on the course including the tutor and every detail had been thought about to make it as Covid-19 safe as possible. We had loads of space and were excellently looked after by the lovely staff.

The work produced was outstanding and everyone was really happy to be painting together in a group again. Everyone went home with lovely memories of the weekend.

Chinese Brush Painting Course at Knuston Hall-Sept 25th – 27th 2020

Just announced. A weekend CBP course has been planned for September 25th to 27th 2020 as the Hall gets the go-ahead to re-open at the beginning of September. 

If you are interested in joining us on this course , telephone  on 01604 362 200 or e-mail using

I look forward to seeing you all there. Woo hoo!

Of course, all possible care and measures will be taken to keep everyone safe and well.

Best wishes

Claire Seaton


Goldfinch – tips and techniques

Goldfinch by Claire Seaton
Goldfinch by Claire Seaton

Here are two of my studies of a goldfinch painted about 4 years apart. There are parts of both which I like but I prefer the more recent one. Different times, different styles. I shall describe the steps for painting the second study.

  1. Always with a finch, any finch, begin with the beak.Use very dry black ink. It is a stubby beak for cracking seeds with a downward facing hook at the end.
  2. Then paint in the position of the eye. Do not worry if this disappears as the stage 3 is painted. With this dry black ink paint the lines of the wings and tail.
  3. With a slightly wetter black ink paint in the plumage around the beak, at the back of the head and on the wings.
  4. Add the bright red plumage on the head and the bright yellow flash on the lower wing.
  5. Add the brown plumage on the back and body with as few strokes as possible. Add a few light grey strokes to suggest body shape.
  6. Finally, add legs and feet and the eye. If you want, add the background of a teasel for context.


Painting a Lucky Carp – tips and techniques

Rainbow Koi Carp by Claire Seaton

This is my version of a Japanese Koi Carp. A fish which is regarded as lucky in China and Japan as a symbol of abundance. The key to painting this is the bold black first stroke down its back.

  1. With very dry, very black ink and a big brush paint the curved line down the spine. Start at the mouth with a point , bring the brush gradually down onto its belly whilst continuing in a thick line, curving it back towards the tail. With luck and a little judgement you may tail (!) off into flying white.
  2. Paint the line of the belly in the same manner making sure you break the line to finish the line of the underside of the tail.
  3. A similarly thick line should be painted for the mouth.
  4. Add the eye, the fins and the flowing tail in dry black and dark grey.
  5. Than add the scales, try not to be too regular.
  6. Add wet shades of grey and orange to the body in an irregular pattern. Use these same colours for the fins and tail.
  7. Finally paint the water weeds. Add calligraphy and seal.


Grape hyacinths and butterfly – tips and techniques

Grape hyacinths and butterfly – Claire Seaton 2019

I know that amongst gardeners there is a debate about these flowers being plants or weeds. All I know is last year they produced a glorious display in many gardens. Hence I tried to capture the beautiful blue colour which gets paler towards the top of each flower.

  1. Load a medium brush with a bright blue and tip with indigo. Lay the brush tip downwards, on the paper starting with the bottom layer of each flower, working towards the top. The shade of the paint should naturally become paler as you work upwards.
  2. Paint further florets going into the distance getting paler and more indistinct. Remember avoid four of anything and odd numbers are favoured apart from eight which is very lucky.
  3. Mix a dark blue/green colour tipped with dark red for the stems. Paint from the flower downwards.
  4. Use a bright spring green and paint a very narrow orchid-leaf stroke for the leaves.
  5. Add a tiny coronet of white dots on the flowers at the bottom of each stroke to give the impression of the bell-like structures(optional).
  6. Add the detailed butterfly.


Tai Chi Painter – tips and techniques

Now, if you are anything like my Knuston students you will not like painting figures. This example contains so much chi it is exciting to paint. Energy flows through the folds of clothing to the end of the fingers and toes. . . and beyond.

  1. Before you start, mix at least 3 shades of dark, medium and light grey. With dry black ink and a fine-pointed wolf brush paint in the details of the face and hair.
  2. With a very dark and wet grey, enjoy the strokes of the clothes showing the pose of the painter.
  3. Use a medium/light grey to paint in outlines of arm and hands.
  4. Paint large sweeps of light grey ink to depict the flows of energy.
  5. Add skin colour, paintbrush, inkstones and other details.
  6. Finish painting with calligraphy and seal.


Painting loquats – in the style of Qi Baishi

Loquats by Claire Seaton 2019

My version of this painting is slightly more restrained than Qi Baishi’s but it will still make you smile!

Start this painting with very wet dark grey leaves and leave them to dry a little while you paint the yellow and orange berries in one stroke leaving a space for the spot of light. Remember the contrast of dense/sparse when painting the clusters of berries.

Paint the veins on the leaves before they dry.

Then paint in the branches to the leaves in dry black ink and the small stalks in the clusters in dark brown.

Finish the painting with four small black dots on each berry.


Spring basket – painting tips

Paint the orchid shoots first in bright spring greens.

Then paint in the basket and handle in very dry black ink, leaving spaces for the branches and plum blossoms.

The branches should be painted in a very wet dark grey leaving space for the plum blossoms to be painted in black ink outline style.

Textures and nodes can be added to the branches as they dry.

Add shades of light/dark red (crimson) to blossoms.

Complete painting with your calligraphy and seal.


Painting Lychees

Spring fruit by Claire Seaton 2020

Start with very dry, very dark ink to paint the branches at the top and the basic outlines of the leaves.

Whilst you are waiting for these lines to dry, load a large brush with very wet gamboge and tip with indigo.

Fill the outlines of the leaves with this wet combination. Allow to dry slightly and in the meantime mix a very bright red to paint in the lychees.

Go back over the main central veins of the leaves with wet, black ink.

With a split brush paint the hairs on the lychees in a dark red colour.

Finish your painting with calligraphy, your name and date and a seal.