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


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 and Simplified regular Script (kǎi shū), reading from left to 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.

Happy practicing,


Ox and boy…

As I am sure some of you are aware I have been reviewing past activity. However, not all of my introspection has been about the past.

This weekend I thought it important that we look to the future especially in this confused time. Next year will be the Year of the Ox which will, no doubt, be a different year to this Rat one…

I started thinking about this picture when I taught Oxen a couple of years back. I started with something of an outline of an ox which I completed and added a boy to as per a Chinese contemporary artist’s work. I decided to take a photo of the piece so that you can see the first stage of this painting in case you wanted to have a go with an outline of the same subject or one of the elements:

Ox and boy 1 - outline - Paul Maslowski 2018
Ox and boy 1 – outline – Paul Maslowski 2018

What you are looking for in the outline, ideally, is as many calligraphic strokes as possible and with a variety of thicknesses as well as variation in wet and dry.

Having placed the outline of the image, I added levels of grey until the shading was as I wanted it for the painting.

Once this was completed I added various colours without ‘colouring in’. It is important that Chinese brush paintings include spontaneous strokes even when the outline is well defined. It is also important that the outline be disregarded on occasion as the energy of the painting asserts itself. In other words, do not worry if the wash spreads beyond the line. Again, ideally, we are actually looking for this to occur in a skillful way:

Ox and boy 2 - coloured in - Paul Maslowski 2018
Ox and boy 2 – coloured in – Paul Maslowski 2018

I will add the rest of the composition as it arises. However, right now I am going to stop here in order to let you have a go in preparation for next year.

Should you choose to take up the challenge please do let me know as I would love to see what you do next…

Happy painting



I should have been teaching a Chan (Zen) group today so as this cannot happen now I thought I would post up some Meditation inspired paintings to inspire you to think minimally, maybe…

The first is a very simple construction concentrating on space. The idea here is to produce the image with as few strokes as possible. For anyone who has tried to convey facial features with the minimum number of strokes you know how hard it can be to get it right. However, it is something worth persisting with so I would encourage you to play…

The best friend in the cold by Paul Maslowski 2011
The best friend in the cold by Paul Maslowski 2011

The second is an image I have painted over and over again to try and get closer to the feeling of simply sitting. This one is from about 15 years ago now and is an inspiration from a wonderful painting by Qi Baishi:

Dharma after Qi Baishi by Paul Maslowski
Dharma after Qi Baishi by Paul Maslowski

The third painting is one I came up with after regular bouts of sitting in Buddhist meditation halls in Taiwan during the early 2000’s and is a reminder of the tranquility of those wonderful spaces which were full of lanterns, pillars and peaceful people:

A still life by Paul Maslowski 2005
A still life by Paul Maslowski 2005

Do let me know if this reminds you of particular works or if you have been similarly inspired by sitting in meditation, practicing Qigong, Tai chi or any other oriental art for that matter.

Happy painting.


The Rooster turns…

It’s definitely been an interesting week in lockdown! I, therefore, thought I would post this Bank Holiday as I continue working my way through half-finished paintings.

This time I was looking at more work from 2014 and came across a Rooster which I had painted. I don’t think I painted this one for a demo but rather think I may have painted it in the afternoon of a workshop. I liked the painting but wanted to complete it. There was also something about the Rooster’s tail which needed work although I liked the original painting:

The Rooster starts to turn by Paul Maslowski 2014
The Rooster starts to turn by Paul Maslowski 2014

Back in 2014 I had added 3 bamboo stalks which I now added leaves to. The main reason for adding the bamboo into the picture is to bring in the qualities of the noble gentleman which the Rooster should represent.

This Rooster wants to be a wise and upstanding member of the community and this is enhanced by adding strong bamboo. This means that among other things the strokes must be strong and performed without any doubt. Any wavering or trepidation will immediately show and reflect poorly on the leadership qualities of this Rooster.

The tail of the Rooster was not bad but it was short and I felt that this needed work as a strong leader needs a strong and colourful tail. Again, the strokes of the feathers must be painted in one swift stroke.

I also added the suggestion of pine for longevity as I’m sure we all want our Rooster’s to live long happy lives…

Once I’d put the ground in, the Calligraphy and seal finished it off.

I hope you approve of the finished picture. Any questions or comments will be gratefully received.

Keep well, keep safe and Happy Painting,


PS Mike Garbett has kindly replied with his Roosters post below. Thank you for sharing, Mike:

Kings of the rock by Mike Garbett
Kings of the rock by Mike Garbett

Group Peacocks

In looking back at work over the last 18 years, since I started teaching back in 2002, I have been reminded how many beautiful paintings have been produced. And, this is the ones that we know about!!!

It seems very clear that, at this time, we should celebrate all of the people and paintings that we have worked with over the years.

I am drawn, once again, to the Group work that we have done in many groups, and in particular today, the Peacocks…

Below is a wonderful piece completed by the LTCBP Group in Oadby on a fabulous Saturday workshop:

2014-10 LTCBP Group Peacock - Photo by Mike
2014-10 LTCBP Group Peacock – Photo by Mike

Now, this is not the only time that we have worked on Peacocks and I am also sure that Groups do not always get the chance to compare notes. It, therefore, is appropriate to show this Group Peacock completed on another lovely sunny day:

2015 East Midlands cbp Group Peacock
2015 East Midlands cbp Group Peacock

The inspiration for this painting came from a not-so-silent walk in the Peak District at Birchover near Winster:

Winster Peacock inspiration - photo by Paul
Birchover Peacock inspiration – photo by Paul

This is a small selection of Group work and I would like to put some more up on the blog in due course.

You must have fond memories of Group work that you have participated in over the years with us. Do please post up or drop us an email as we would love to recall great painting times with great painting groups.

We have posted previously about the Group Rat painted in the University of Leicester Botanic Gardens which you may enjoy if you haven’t seen before…

Thank you and happy painting,


Waiting for his master

I started this week by looking through my Animals portfolio. In this I found a demonstration piece that I think was done for a workshop in February 2018. This was nothing to do with animals as I have it down as a ‘back to basics with Trees’ workshop…

2 islands by Paul Maslowski 2018
2 islands by Paul Maslowski 2018

It was a quick demonstration of a couple of bare trees on two very small islands. From that start I have added shading to the trees and the islands as well as to the water. This is, therefore, a mix of traditional and contemporary:

Waiting for his master - detail - by Paul Maslowski 2018
Waiting for his master – detail – by Paul Maslowski 2018

I have also added a distant lake edge as well as the fisherman. Again, this was a challenge piece to take a demo and turn it into a composition. I could have stopped here, and although this tells us a certain tale, I wanted to expand a bit more of the story which led to a title change…

Waiting for his master by Paul Maslowski 2018
Waiting for his master by Paul Maslowski 2018

I started by adding the dog in the bottom right hand corner which gave a diagonal composition.

It then seemed the right thing to add land so that the dog was waiting on the shore for his master. This seemed a bit bare so some darker details were added to key the front of the painting. It still seemed bare so as this is definitely a winter painting some dying water reeds were added in.

There was a lot of white in the whole picture so it became clear that I needed to do something about the sky as I did not want to add any detail to the far shore. I don’t think it is particularly clear in the photo but the sky was swiftly filled with a blue-grey wash.

Last to go in was the Calligraphy. First, the year, 2018 followed by my signature with a space for our studio seal…

I appreciate you may have some totally different compositions from the tree island start which I would love to see. If you have stayed with a landscape it would be great to see what you have done…

Happy painting


Two Cormorants…

This week I wanted to take a painting I had painted for a workshop demonstration and add a minimal amount of elements around it in order to complete a composition. This was purely so that I could see how quickly I could go from demo piece to composition…

I have been looking through my Birds portfolio and spotted one of my Cormorants paintings which I had painted for a University of Leicester workshop:

2 cormorants by Paul Maslowski 2018
2 cormorants by Paul Maslowski 2018

As those who attended the workshop at the Botanic Gardens back in 2018 will hopefully remember I had painted this pair of Cormorants, the land and the reedy grasses above.

I had painted this at the bottom of a large piece of grass paper so there was at least the same amount of space above the top of the head of the Cormorant on the land as below it.

From this start I decided to add the land spit on the right, above the line of the top cormorant’s head. This then meant I could add the spit of land on the left further up the page along with the distant mountains.

The final part was a little thought that I wanted to add a man fishing as the birds were not…

Once done, I then added the Calligraphy: my name followed by a Double Happiness seal alongside the year, 2018 followed by a fu seal.

All in all, probably about 15 minutes painting (mostly Calligraphy practice) for a finished picture.

Let me know what you have finished very simply that takes a picture from a draft, sketch, element to a finished composition. I would love to hear what you’ve been able to do when you’ve been pushed for time but wanted to paint!

Best wishes


2014 LTCBP Book

With this weekend starting with VE Day there has been a lot of reflecting on past glories. This has reminded me how grateful I am that we are so lucky to be socially isolating in such relative luxury compared to a lot of the worlds’ peoples.

Looking back I was reminded that in 2014 we were incredibly lucky that Mike Garbett took on a project for the LTCBP Group. Over the course of that year he gathered work from the group and produced a wonderful book, from which I reproduce a few images below:

2014 LTCBP Book cover
2014 LTCBP Book cover c/o Mike Garbett

It is a fabulous record of work created by our students, some of whom are no longer with us…

2014 LTCBP Book Lotus pages
2014 LTCBP Book Lotus pages c/o Mike Garbett

Thank you to everyone in the LTCBP Group who contributed to this record and to Mike for bringing it all together.

Keep well and Happy painting,


Beautiful Wisteria

Claire & I were on our exercise walk earlier and saw so much beautiful Wisteria out that it reminded us of the fabulous workshop we were incredibly lucky to have, back in May 2018, with Jane Dwight.

Unfortunately this year we won’t get to see the Botanic Gardens Wisteria so I thought I’d post up a photo of that workshop when the Wisteria was just peaking:

LTCBP with Jane Dwight and Botanic Gardens Wisteria
LTCBP group with Jane Dwight and Wisteria in the University of Leicester Botanic Gardens c/o Mike

Jane lead a fantastic workshop and left us with some fabulous memories which are captured here c/o Mike Garbett:

Jane Dwight's Wisteria painting styles
Jane Dwight’s Wisteria painting styles c/o Mike

Happy memories of a wonderful workshop with an excellent artist who is sadly missed.

Again, if you are inspired please feel free to share your inspirations.

Happy painting,


Flight over Norfolk

I have been thinking about VE day and we are very lucky in Market Harborough to have just had the Red arrows fly over. We have also seen the news that white-tailed sea eagles have been seen over Norfolk this week.

With these things in mind I have been looking back through my Birds portfolio. I realised I had painted a white-tailed sea eagle after a workshop with William Cai who painted the wonderful still life from which I painted the below. Eagles are one of my favourite painting subjects:

2 season pin an - Paul Maslowski 2015
2 season pin an – 2 season peace still life – Paul Maslowski 2015

No amendments today as I finished this painting back in 2015. However, the good people of Norfolk may appreciate the following sea eagle detail:

2 season pin an - eagle detail - Paul Maslowski 2015
2 season pin an – 2 season peace still life – eagle detail – Paul Maslowski 2015

It must have been a wonderful sight to see them in the wild and it is a shame we can’t be there. However, I have been lucky enough to see them in captivity hence the painting.

Best wishes to all,


Patient Endurance

As mentioned in my post from yesterday I have been looking at, and painting in, various styles this week.

Today’s painting is a return to Landscape to try and express something of the time we are living in, hence the title…

Again, it’s new shoots from old growth in that the painting started out as a demonstration at Beauchamp College I believe. However, it was never ‘completed’ so this was my chance. Some of you may remember a discussion on paper and how some people believe certain papers are ‘rubbish’.

My contention was that you can paint on any paper beautifully as long as you adapt your style to the paper and understand your medium.

The painting was of two pine trees, an owl and a rock on the cheapest wallpaper you could acquire…

Patient Endurance by Paul Maslowski 2012
Patient Endurance (Pines and stone by lake) by Paul Maslowski 2012

I have added the following to bring this to a completed composition:

  • More ink detail on the less detailed pine
  • Much more contrast into the roots of the pines and on the edge of the land
  • More contrast in the rocks
  • A contrasting ground
  • Grasses
  • Distant mountains and light mist
  • A fisherman in a boat
  • Calligraphy: Cantonese – Two thousand and twelve year, my signature and the title, Patient Endurance

I hope that the takeaway from this is that if you treat your paper with respect you can obtain any result you desire. Remember, paper is one of the Four Treasures of the studio…

I hope you enjoy this painting and it inspires you to paint. Please do post back if it has the desired effect as we would love to see your work.

Best wishes,