CBP Challenge 5: Still Life

We recently completed our fifth Chinese Brush Painting challenge. The main subject of the challenge was a Still Life. The extra element was fruit this time. As usual, the idea of the challenge was to interpret that title in any way that we saw fit.

The idea with this one was very simple (which is always good) which was simply that we had not painted a challenge still life thus far…

As usual there were some wonderful paintings on all sorts of subjects from harvests to bowls of fruit and this one lent itself to lots of paintings produced!

With this challenge I did not produce a sketch as I had an idea I have been wanting to paint for some time. Qi Baishi is probably one of the most recognised artists for his still life pictures (especially as some of them are not entirely still…) and there are a number of paintings which are fascinating studies in Chinese Calligraphy. One in particular is a bowl of cherries on a bamboo stand. This painting can be seen in part 2 of Qi Baishi’s life story which is linked on this blog post.

I chose to emulate this painting with the strong strokes of the bamboo stand as the central feature. Each of the strokes must be completed in one stroke in order to get the energy and immediacy required. Additionally, the strokes must start strong and solid with ink and either end up dry at the end, or show the ink run out and the water in the heel of the brush, take over. The Autumnal twist was that instead of a bowl of cherries it would be a bowl of acorns, which, of course, had attracted a particular guest…

Seizing the opportunity - Paul Maslowski 2019
Seizing the opportunity – Paul Maslowski 2019

The Calligraphy is my now familiar date and signature with the addition of Opportunity in the top right corner.

If you would like to see the above painting in more detail, please visit my Portfolio.

It was great to see this time that Claire went her own way and rather than working from a Qi Baishi she composed a fabulous painting as you will see below:

Honesty - Still Life - Claire Seaton 2020
Honesty – Still Life – Claire Seaton 2020

There are 3 elements to the Calligraphy which work really well together. The first is the notable poem in the top right, “When the Autumn wind blows, and the new wine is produced, it is time to look at my flowers”. The next is Claire’s name on the vase, which incidentally was made by her. Finally note the date which is Autumn 2020 on the left hand side of the vase.

For some of Claire’s other challenge inspirations please see our Double Happiness Studio MH Facebook page.

We really would to include challenge work other than our own. If you have produced a painting for this one and would be happy to share do please let us know and we will post it up here with any comments you wish to add…

We hope this inspires you to paint some wonderful pictures. If you feel so drawn, again, please let me know and I will post up images here even if they are a departure from the original inspiration. You can always comment in your own words below. Just click on Leave a comment.

Happy painting,

Paul

CBP Challenge 4: Waterfall & People

We recently completed our fourth Chinese Brush Painting challenge. The main subject of the challenge was a Waterfall. However, as has become a habit, an extra element, people, were added. Of course, as usual, the idea of the challenge was to interpret that title in any way that students saw fit.

Reg had found a wonderful Northern Song Dynasty painting by Qu Ding (active ca1023 – ca1056) on the Met Museum website called Summer Mountains and this was the original inspiration for the challenge:

Summer Landscape - Qu Ding ca1050 46x706cm
Summer Landscape – Qu Ding ca1050 46x706cm

There were some excellent paintings of Waterfalls produced, however, it is fair to say that most people had only completed one final painting for the challenge, this time.

Claire decided to use the idea of a Waterfall to start her off rather than use the above painting. This meant that the idea ended up going in a different direction to the Song Dynasty start. After plenty of research Claire found a contemporary Chinese artists work that she has been looking at for some time now, Wu Guanzhong. This meant that the final composition was much more contemporary in nature:

Waterfall after Wu Guanzhong - Claire Seaton 2020
Waterfall after Wu Guanzhong – Claire Seaton 2020

For some of Claire’s other challenge inspirations please see our Double Happiness Studio MH Facebook page.

I do love a Song Dynasty landscape so decided to have a go at a section of Qu Ding’s original. I should have just stuck with the original but wanted to add my own twist which has increased the time taken to get to the final result…

I started with a rough sketch to plan out the composition and then, carefully started on the outline of the Waterfall. The secret is to make sure that the brush is wetted to make a fine point and then dried out as much as possible. Most especially the heel of the brush:

Stubborn Ox in the Lofty Mountains after Qu Ding - Paul Maslowski 2020
Stubborn Ox in the Lofty Mountains after Qu Ding – Paul Maslowski 2020

The man walking and the Stubborn Ox are my additions as the next Chinese Year will be the Year of the Ox.

There are 2 parts to the Calligraphy, one is the date, the other is my signature. The seal is of my original Landscape seal, Tranquillity. The Calligraphy is a little hidden in the Northern Song literati style.

If you would like to see the above painting in more detail, please visit my Landscape Portfolio.

We would love to include some of the other challenge work so if you have produced a painting for this one and would be happy to share do please let us know and we will post it up here…

I hope this inspires you to paint some wonderful pictures. If you feel so drawn, again, please let me know and I will post up images here. You can always comment in your own words below. Just click on Leave a comment.

Happy painting,

Paul

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 enquiries@knustonhall.org.uk

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

 

Qi Baishi part 3

1863 – 1957

Taken from an original article by Wu Hsiao-ting

Part 1 and Part 2 of this article are featured in the blog posts linked.

Chen Shizeng (1876-1923) played an important part in Qi Baishi’s life, not only because he inspired Qi to pursue his own style, but also because he introduced his works to the international art community. In 1922, Chen was invited to show his paintings at a Sino-Japanese exhibition held in Japan. He took Qi’s paintings along with him. Qi, who never thought that foreigners would take an interest in his paintings, did not think much of the exhibition. Yet unexpectedly, his paintings received a warm response from the Japanese. The several paintings that were displayed were all sold out. Some French people who went to the exhibition were also attracted to his works. They chose two of his paintings and brought them back to Paris for another exhibition. Again his works won the praise of Europeans.

The exhibition in Japan could surely be said to be the most crucial turning point in Qi’s painting career. Qi became famous overnight. After the exhibition, it grew easier and easier for him to sell his paintings. It became almost a must for foreigners who visited Beijing to buy his works, and the arty people in the city also considered it a fashion to own one or two of his pieces.

After he had achieved fame, he still worked diligently. Continuing to develop his technique and style throughout the 1930s and 40s, a time of political turmoil and upheaval in China, he was elevated to the status of a national icon in 1953 when the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China conferred on him the accolade of “People’s Artist.”

The allure of his paintings

So, why do Qi Baishi’s paintings enjoy such popularity and high appraisal? “I think it is mainly because of his creativity,” said He Huai-shuo, a famous painter and art critic. “His paintings, which vividly communicate an earthly charm, brought new life to the ordinarily lofty Chinese style of painting.”

Willow and Cow - Qi Baishi 1937 85x37cm
Willow and Cow – Qi Baishi 1937 85x37cm

Qi liked to depict prawns, frogs, cows, chickens, brooms, farm tools, insects, rats, vegetables – subjects which traditional Chinese painters either ignored or disdained to paint. In spite of the ordinary nature of his subjects, his paintings succeeded in being extraordinarily beguiling and captivating. Be it tadpoles or wildflowers, his subjects have a fresh immediacy that never fails to rivet the attention of the viewer. Almost all the touching images he portrayed in his paintings were inspired by his early life in the countryside. Although he came from a poverty-stricken farming family and encountered many people who looked down upon him because of his humble origin, he was never ashamed of his background. He cherished the poverty and toil he went through and turned his childhood experiences into subjects that enriched his paintings.

Qi said that he would not paint anything without having first come to know his subject. In order to improve his technique of painting prawns and insects, he once raised some at home and closely observed their movements. It was said that the locusts he painted in his early years were so lifelike that when the pictures were thrown to the ground, chickens would rush forward to peck them. Even though he could produce extremely realistic looking paintings, realism was not what he pursued. He said that the beauty of a painting lies between likeness and unlikeness: “Too much likeness verges on shallowness, while too much unlikeness makes a painting look unconvincing.”

The Butterfly - Qi Baishi
The Butterfly – Qi Baishi

Qi Baishi died in 1957, at the mature age of ninety-five. In addition to his paintings, he also left behind a large number of seal carvings. His rise from carpenter to internationally acclaimed painter became a legend among the Chinese people. He achieved a success and fame that few of his contemporaries could match. He Huai-shuo, the modern Taiwanese critic and artist, said that Qi Baishi could be counted as the only Chinese master painter in the twentieth century whose paintings appealed to both refined and popular tastes. His talent shone through the scenes he depicted – not grandiose or pompous, but all uncommonly, wonderfully tempting.

I hope you enjoyed this biography of Qi Baishi and will take a look at his work anew. Please do post back with any paintings inspired by his work as we genuinely do enjoy what people come up with from a specific starting point.

Happy painting

Paul

Qi Baishi part 2

1863 – 1957

Taken from an original article by Wu Hsiao-ting

Part 1 of this article is featured in the blog post linked.

The guidance of his teachers

Although he was completely self-taught, the pictures Qi produced won enthusiastic admiration from his clients. But even the most talented of people need the guidance of a good teacher at some point. If he wanted to scale new heights, it was impossible for him to rely wholly on his own efforts.

Sending a child to school - Qi Baishi c1930 33x27cm
Sending a child to school – Qi Baishi c1930 33x27cm

When he was twenty-seven, the chance came. One day when he was carving wood at the home of a rich intellectual called Hu Tzu-Cho, he was summoned to see the great man. Hu, who was also a good artist, had seen Qi’s paintings. He appreciated Qi’s talent and offered to teach him painting for free. Qi gladly accepted his kind offer. Under Hu’s tutelage, Qi mastered the fine-line gongbi painting technique, a style akin to Western realism with meticulous brushwork and close attention to detail. Because Qi was not well educated, Hu also introduced him to Chen Shao-fan, a teacher of Chinese classics. Through the guidance of Hu and Chen, Qi was able to refine and improve himself by studying books and paintings by ancient scholars and famous artists. He also expanded his circle of acquaintances and got to know many men of letters and people of refined tastes.

Of course not all the people Qi came across treated him with such politeness and high regard. Some of his clients who commissioned him to paint asked him not to sign his name on his works because they thought that he, being lowborn and unknown, was not worthy enough to do so. This was extremely painful to him, but in order to make a living, he had to take all the insults. He knew very well that if he wanted to disentangle himself from such predicaments, he had to work harder to demonstrate his worth and abilities.

Rat Peanuts and Persimmon - Qi Baishi 1950
Rat Peanuts and Persimmon – Qi Baishi 1950

A little story that Qi once told showed how determined he was to improve his art. As many people know, Qi was not only famous for his paintings but also for his seal cutting. In order to master the skill, he once went to ask for advice from a top-notch seal cutter. The seal cutter showed disdain for him and said to him with a sneer, “If you drink the water in my hookah (an oriental water-cooled pipe), I will teach you everything I know.” The water in a hookah is used to filter the nicotine from tobacco, and so it is stinking, pungent and bitter. But without the least bit of hesitation, Qi took the seal cutter’s hookah from him and drank the water from it. Impressed by his firm resolve, the seal cutter did in fact teach Qi everything he knew. Thus, Qi was exceptionally good at turning difficulties and obstacles in his life into positive forces that motivated him to go further.

The expansion of his scope

Before he reached forty, Qi never travelled far from Xiangtan County, his birthplace. His friends advised him that if he wanted to make further improvements in his art, he should step out into the big world. The significance of travel for an artist was perhaps best articulated by Dong Qichang (1555-1636, famous calligrapher, painter and art critic), who commented that a painter must “read ten thousand volumes and travel ten thousand miles” to be able to convey the spirit and vibrancy of nature through a painting. At the invitation of his friends, Qi then left his home many times to wander around famous mountains, lakes and rivers throughout the country.

Cherries - Qi Baishi 1951 100x34cm
Cherries – Qi Baishi 1951 100x34cm

The excursions broadened his horizons and increased his confidence. The majestic and grandiose scenery he saw and the people he met inspired him to imbue a new spirit into his paintings. The most significant change was the shift of his painting style from a realistic to a more spiritual expression – from fine, detailed brushwork to spontaneous, freehand brushwork characterized by vivid expression and bold outline. It was obvious he was changing from a folk artist who put more emphasis on the technical aspect of art to a more mature member of the literati, one who could create works of art which were more profound and scholarly.

Even though he was greatly improving himself as an artist, Qi was still groping for an individual idiom that would make him stand out as a maestro. That would not happen until he had met Chen Shizeng (1876-1923).

Appreciating an inkstone - Qi Baishi 1920s 50x33cm
Appreciating an inkstone – Qi Baishi 1920s 50x33cm

Qi moved to Beijing in 1917, when he was fifty-five, to avoid the harassment and extortion of bandits and local bullies, who had grown greatly in number because of the unstable political situation at that time. In Beijing he made the acquaintance of Chen, who came from a distinguished family and was a renowned painter, poet and seal carver. He showed a great interest in Qi’s paintings and seal carvings. He told Qi his paintings were great, but that he had not reached the realm of perfection. At that time Qi was greatly influenced by the style of the famous monk-painter, Bada Shanren [Zhu Da] (1626-1705). Chen advised Qi to create his own style instead of following in the footsteps of the great painting masters before him.

Qi took his words to heart. Actually his paintings were not popular in Beijing at that time. Even though they were cheaper by fifty percent than the paintings produced by other artists, still few people commissioned him to paint, and he made a living out of his seal carvings. Chen’s advice inspired him to be creative in his own way. From 1919 to 1928, he gradually developed his own style, a style that combined traditional free-hand brushwork with folk-art technique. He drew on the strength of his early training as a craftsman and his education in classical Chinese painting and literature in his latter years and fused them into a fresh, unique style that would capture the hearts of many.

Candlestick and Insect - detail - Qi Baishi
Candlestick and Insect – detail – Qi Baishi

The final part of Qi Baishi’s biography is published in Part 3

CBP Challenge 3: Lotus & Dragonfly

We recently completed our third Chinese Brush Painting challenge. The main subject of the challenge was Lotus. However, for most of our number that was not enough and (as is definitely becoming a habit) Dragonflies/ Damselflies were added. Of course, as usual, the idea of the challenge was to interpret that title in any way people saw fit.

There were some absolutely wonderful paintings of Lotus leaves and flowers produced and most people had completed more than one painting for the challenge.

I have been thinking about the artist Qi Baishi (1863 – 1957) a lot recently and especially because of this challenge. Qi Baishi is one of Claire’s favourite artists and we have been studying his work for many years now.

For some of Claire’s challenge inspirations please see our Double Happiness Studio MH Facebook page.

I was drawn to using something of his as the basis for my challenge piece. Qi Baishi’s detailed Dragonflies, and other insects, have fascinated me ever since I saw them and I believe I have wanted to paint one for over 20 years. Part of me thought it was not possible to paint them freehand and they must have been made with some kind of camera obscura but I will leave you to judge what you think from my piece which is freehand on single xuan paper…

I made a rough sketch to plan out the composition and then, very carefully started on the Dragonfly. The secret is to make sure that the brush is wetted to make a fine point and then dried out as much as possible. Most especially the heel of the brush. Once the detail was completed the Lotus seed pod, and especially its stem, had to be completed in dark wet ink in order to provide the contrast required:

If you would like to see the above painting in more detail, please visit my Portfolio.

There are 3 parts to the Calligraphy, one is the date, another my signature and the one at the top is literally saying ‘in the style of Baishi’ with an attempt at his later Calligraphic style. The seal is of our studio, Double Happiness.

We would love to include some of the other challenge work so if you have produced a painting for this one and would be happy to share do please let us know and we will post it up here…

I hope this inspires you to paint some wonderful pictures. If you feel so drawn, again, please let me know and I will post up images here. You can always comment in your own words below. Just click on Leave a comment.

Claire will be posting up a challenge painting very soon so please watch this space…

Happy painting,

Paul

Qi Baishi part 1

1863 – 1957

Taken from an original article by Wu Hsiao-ting

Qi Baishi painting - Photo
Qi Baishi painting – Photo

In 1863, a boy was born into a destitute peasant family in Xiangtan County, Hunan Province. Nobody could have known that this country boy would grow into such a great painter that even Pablo Picasso would one day say, “I dare not go to China, because there is a Qi Baishi there.”

Picasso lavished this praise on Qi when Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), visited him in Paris in 1956. Picasso also took a pile of Chinese ink paintings he had created in imitation of Qi’s artistic style.

What is the charm of Qi’s paintings that captured the imagination of the Western art master as well as many art lovers around the world? How did a poor farmer’s son, who started out as a carpenter, become a highly venerated maestro? Qi’s story is enlightening not only to aspiring artists, but also to all those who want to make something of their lives.

A huge monument to him now stands in Qi Baishi Park in Xiangtan, Hunan Province, China.

Cicada on maple - Qi Baishi
Cicada on maple – Qi Baishi

Born into the wrong family

Qi was the first child of his family. He had six brothers and three sisters. His family owned only a small piece of land that produced far from enough to feed them, so his grandfather and father had to do odd jobs here and there to scrape out a living.

It would have been impossible for him to go to school were it not for his maternal grandfather, who ran a small private school not far from the boy’s home. Without having to pay any tuition, Qi happily went to school when he was eight.

His grandfather taught the students to write by copying Chinese characters in a copybook. Sometimes when Qi got tired of the monotonous copying work, he would begin to draw. His drawings of things he saw in his daily life – an old man fishing, flowers, frogs, or cows – fascinated his classmates, who came one after another to ask for his vivid creations. Not long afterwards, when his grandfather found out what he had been doing, he scolded the boy for wasting precious paper on meaningless doodling. After that, Qi could only draw secretly on rough wrapping paper.

The Autumn came. The poor harvest that year aggravated the already poor financial situation of the family. Qi had no choice but to quit school and stay at home to help chop firewood, plant vegetables, and graze cattle. Although his schooling ended prematurely, he did not put his books aside. He always carried a book with him to study whenever he went to the mountains to graze cattle. Afraid that he would pay too much attention to reading and neglect his duties, his grandmother reproached him, “Can you keep your stomach full with your pen and book? Our family needs food, not paintings… Alas! It’s a pity that you were born into the wrong family.”

Crabs, Shrimp and Fish - Qi Baishi
Crabs, Shrimp and Fish – Qi Baishi

Because Qi had been fragile since he was born, his family knew that it was out of the question for him to become a farmer. When he reached fifteen, his father apprenticed him to a carpenter, Chi Chang-ling, in the hope that he could at least learn “something useful” to help provide for the family. One day when Qi and his master were returning home from work, they met three men on the road carrying wooden boxes and sacks containing saws, drills and the like. Looking at the tools, Qi knew that these men must be carpenters too. To his surprise, his master smiled and greeted them with a high degree of respect, while the three men, haughty and arrogant, barely paid any attention to him. After they had walked away, Qi asked his master, “We are carpenters and they are carpenters too, so why did you behave so respectfully towards them?” The master answered with a serious tone, “What do you know? We make big furniture, which requires little skill, while they produce refined woodwork with intricate carving skills. Unless you are really smart, it is impossible to learn their artistry. Although we are all in the same line of work, we are much lower than they in terms of social rank. That’s why I show such reverence for them.” After hearing what his master said, Qi secretly made a resolution: “I don’t believe I can’t do what they can. One day I will become a woodcarver too.”

After learning carpentry for a year, Qi fulfilled his dream. Carpentry is a physically demanding job – young Qi often found it hard to carry heavy timber and erect large wooden frameworks. Worried that the strenuous work would worsen his delicate health, his family agreed to let him learn to become a woodcarver. Chou Chih-mei, a famous local woodcarver, accepted him as his pupil. Chou was a patient and enthusiastic teacher, and he taught Qi everything he knew. He soon found to his delight that his student was both diligent and talented. After a three year apprenticeship, Qi not only mastered the craft, but even surpassed his master in skill. In addition to the regular carving patterns and designs often seen at that time, he created many new designs which gained great popularity among his clients.

One day at the home of one of his clients, Qi came upon a book on painting which demonstrated how to complete a painting from beginning to end and contained a comprehensive series of flowers, rocks, figures and other motifs. Elated at finding this invaluable treasure, he industriously copied and recopied the whole series. The book initiated him into the world of Chinese ink painting and imbued in him a rudimentary knowledge of brush technique and composition. From then on, he diligently practiced painting in his spare time. His clients eventually found out that he could paint too, and they asked him to paint for them. That was how he began to create paintings, mostly of folk deities and portraits, for his clients. At that time, he only took painting as a means to supplement his meagre income as a woodcarver. Little did he know that he would one day be lauded as “the first great master of the Chinese art world in 300 years.”

Li Tieh-kuai - detail - Qi Baishi 1927 106x32cm
Li Tieh-kuai – detail – Qi Baishi 1927 106x32cm

More of Qi Baishi’s biography is published in Part 2, click the link to find out more…

Radicals and pigs

We are very lucky to have a wonderful painting by Jane Dwight of two pigs in our sitting room. It may seem a strange subject to have up on the wall but we both loved the painting when we first saw it and bought it without a second thought. I often sit and look at it – there is something powerful in the strokes and the composition that is sublime.

In contrast, I found a painting from 13 years ago which I had forgotten about:

Boar in the snow by Paul Maslowski 2007
Boar in the snow by Paul Maslowski 2007

I have also recently been asked twice about pigs so thought I would put some thoughts down in a blog post to try and answer some of the queries.

I wanted to start by looking at the Calligraphy for Boar. So why is the Calligraphy for Boar on our Zodiac Animals page so different from what Google or other translation engines throw up?

First of all, I think it is worth reminding ourselves that like all languages, Chinese is in the process of evolving. This means that there will always be many ways of writing words and phrases especially when slang terms are involved. However, some of these will become the accepted way of doing things…

The characters in the Zodiac are pretty much set so when looking at the Boar, this is represented by the character shǐ:

Chinese Calligraphy - Hog swine shi3
Chinese Calligraphy – Hog swine shi3

However, if you look up Boar or Pig on Google you will get zhū:

Chinese Calligraphy - Boar Pig Hog zhu1
Chinese Calligraphy – Boar Pig Hog zhu1

What you will notice is the left part of the character which is the radical for four-legged animal, which is a very big part of the Zodiac character…

It is worth noting that if you write either character on your painting it is perfectly acceptable but should you write the former character it links more closely to the Zodiac and provides a better link to Chinese culture.

Having said that, should you wish to write piglet there are many ways of writing this. The most literal would probably be little pig i.e. xiǎo zhū and this would be fine. However, if you wrote the following this would be more what parents may affectionately say to their children in China:

Chinese Calligraphy - Piglet zhu1 zhu1
Chinese Calligraphy – Piglet zhu1 zhu1

Literally pig pig this is piglet (zhū zhū).

Piglets by Claire Seaton 2019

Having said all the above, please don’t assume that the Chinese characters are set throughout the Chinese world. If in doubt, and you are able to ask a Chinese person, ask. What is there to lose?

The best thing to say is that should you not have access to Chinese speakers and writers please write something. It is always best to have a go and Chinese readers will appreciate the effort. Some of the best conversations I have had about paintings have been because my Calligraphy was either completely incorrect or almost there. If it is almost there people want to find out what was meant and are usually happy to offer solutions or say how much they enjoy the contrast…

Here’s hoping this inspires you to take another look at pigs, or other animals in the Chinese Zodiac. If you do have pigs you have painted either previously with us, or because of this post, please get in touch as we would love to see them.

Have fun with your painting and Calligraphy,

Paul

CBP Challenge 2: Pine trees & Hares/Rabbits

Some of us recently completed our second Chinese Brush Painting challenge. The main subject of the challenge was Pine trees. However, for most of our number that was not enough and (as appears to be becoming a habit) Hares/Rabbits were added. Of course, the idea of the challenge was to interpret that title in any way people saw fit.

Again, there were some absolutely fabulous paintings produced and most people had painted more than one in order to get closer to what they wanted.

Reminder: a previous blog post on this site dealt with a workshop we held looking at Spring Hares if you would like to see some in detail.

As some of you will already be aware from her daily facebook post, Claire painted a Hare with the moon as you will see below. Should you wish to write the Calligraphy for moon, or month, please see our Dating paintings page:

Hare and the Bright Moon - Claire Seaton 2020
Hare and the Bright Moon – Claire Seaton 2020

For more of Claire’s challenge inspirations please see our Double Happiness Studio MH Facebook page.

I have been thinking about the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368) and decided that I wanted to use a Yuan Dynasty artist’s work as the inspiration for my piece. I have been studying the work of Zhao Mengfu (1254 – 1322) for some time now and was drawn to using something of his as the basis for my piece. I made a very rough sketch to plan out the composition and then, quite frankly, got stuck in to see if I could produce anything approaching the sublime nature of some of his tree and rock studies. My concentration had been on the pine – the idea being to show it growing around the main rock – but once I had managed to get that down I really wanted to bring it upto date by adding my Spring Hares, as you will see below:

Double Happiness - Hare Pine Mountain after Zhao Mengfu - Paul Maslowski 2020
Double Happiness – Hare Pine Mountain after Zhao Mengfu – Paul Maslowski 2020

If you would like to see the above painting in more detail, please visit my Landscape Portfolio.

We would love to include some of the other challenge work so if you have produced a painting for this one and would be happy to share please let us know and we will post it up here…

You may wish to include the Calligraphy for Pine (sōng) in your painting:

Chinese Calligraphy - Pine - song1
Chinese Calligraphy – Pine – song1

You may wish to include the Calligraphy for Hare (tù) in your painting. This can be found on our Zodiac Animals Calligraphy page.

I hope this inspires you to paint some wonderful pictures. If you feel so drawn, again, please let me know and I will post up images here. You can always comment in your own words below. Just click on Leave a comment.

Happy painting,

Paul

CBP Challenge 1: Pigeons (& Peonies)

Some of us recently completed our first Chinese Brush Painting challenge. The main subject of the challenge was Pigeons (or Doves). However, for some of our number that was not enough and Peonies were added. Although the idea of the challenge was to interpret that title in any way people saw fit.

There were some absolutely wonderful paintings produced and most people had painted more than one in order to get closer to what they wanted.

A reminder that a previous blog post on this site dealt with how to produce the Calligraphy for Bird and Pigeon, or dove (gē).

As some of you will already be aware from her daily facebook post, Claire painted a Pigeon from the garden:

Pigeon by Claire Seaton 2020
Pigeon by Claire Seaton 2020

For more of Claire’s challenge inspirations please see our Double Happiness Studio MH Facebook page.

I decided that I needed to carry out a number of pigeon studies so completed some very rough studies in order to get the arrangement of features. It was noted that Claire and I had different ways of producing the beak in order to create different characters.

My eventual painting has 10 pigeons in groups of 1, 2, 3 and 4:

Pigeons after Wu Zuoren by Paul Maslowski 2020
Pigeons after Wu Zuoren by Paul Maslowski 2020

If you would like to see the above painting in more detail, please visit my Birds Portfolio.

Now, I would like to include some of the other challenge work so if you have produced a painting for this one and would be happy to share please let me know and I will post it up here…

I hope this inspires you to paint some wonderful pictures. If you feel so drawn, again, please let me know and I will post up images here. You can always comment in your own words below. Just click on Leave a comment.

Happy painting,

Paul

Be bold

This week I thought it useful to remind us all to be bold when painting. In this time when we have not been able to meet up physically to paint there is a temptation over time to become tentative with our painting, especially in the execution of our brush strokes. Don’t give in to this – be bold!

I have, therefore, taken as my subject, figure painting. Especially as this is an area where we tend to get very worried about proportion and placing of features…

Back in the 10th century, Shi Ke produced these wonderful paintings, one of which I am concentrating on today. Hopefully you can see that the energy of key strokes is infectious and, of course, must be performed without doubt and with no room for titivation. There is real freedom in just letting the strokes fall where they do…

2 Chan Patriarchs harmonising their minds - detail - Shi Ke 10th C 35x64cm
2 Chan Patriarchs harmonising their minds – detail – Shi Ke 10th C 35 x 64cm

I took these paintings as the subject of a workshop back in 2014 after having seen them at the fabulous exhibition of Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from 700 – 1900 at the V&A in London.

There are many ways to start and I think, rather than thinking of a tiger, I started with looking at rocks and how to paint them…

Rope stroke mountain
Rope stroke mountain

I then added a figure to the rock. However, I thought it useful to consider that if you want to work freely you may wish to go for it with the figure and then add the rock, or another feature, to the picture afterward…

Man Mountain 1 by Paul Maslowski 2014
Man Mountain 1 by Paul Maslowski 2014

There now follow a couple of variations of the finished composition of the Man Mountain under the moon…

Man Mountain 2 by Paul Maslowski 2014
Man Mountain 2 by Paul Maslowski 2014
Man Mountain 3 by Paul Maslowski 2014
Man Mountain 3 by Paul Maslowski 2014

This reminder is just as much for me as anyone as I have been deliberating over one detail or another in a painting which has lead to a reduction in energy.

I know that we do not all have as much time for painting in the Summer but this is the ideal time for big, bold and loose paintings with lots of flow…

Happy painting

Paul

Calligraphy – Bird

I was practicing some Chinese Calligraphy, this weekend, for a picture, and it occurred to me that although I have spoken a lot about Traditional and Simplified characters I may not have given any example on this website, other than numbers when putting the date on your paintings.

I, therefore, thought I would post up the Calligraphy for bird (niǎo) and then use this radical to form a type of bird – a pigeon, or dove (gē).

The Calligraphy for bird (niǎo) is shown below in both Traditional on the left and Simplified regular Script (kǎi shū) on the right:

Chinese Calligraphy - Bird - niao3 traditional/simplified
Chinese Calligraphy – Bird – niao3 traditional/simplified

I have also spoken a lot about the importance of stroke order when writing in Chinese. One thing I may not have made clear is that sometimes the stroke order for Traditional characters is different to that when writing Simplified characters. Below is the stroke order for the character, bird (niǎo):

Chinese Calligraphy - Bird - niao3 traditional/simplified strokes
Chinese Calligraphy – Bird – niao3 traditional/simplified with stroke order

This character shows clearly the difference between Traditional and Simplified characters. The Traditional character is slower to write and is formed of 11 strokes. The Simplified character is much faster to write being formed of less than half that number.

The next step is to use this radical to write a specific bird. This character is called a radical because it forms part of the character of all birds.

Below is the character for pigeon or dove (gē). Note the difference again between Traditional and Simplified characters and the use of the bird (niǎo) radical:

Chinese Calligraphy - Pigeon/Dove - ge1 traditional/simplified
Chinese Calligraphy – Pigeon/Dove – ge1 traditional/simplified

However, please note that, as often happens, the part of the character which turns bird (niǎo) into pigeon/dove (gē) is identical in both Traditional and Simplified versions, it is merely the radical which is different.

For more information on choosing when to use Traditional or Simplified characters on your paintings please take a look at our Dating paintings page.

If you would like to see some of my Bird paintings, please visit my Birds Portfolio.

Happy practicing,

Paul