Character and Techniques
One of the important
to the evolution of the distinctive style of traditional Chinese
has been the close relationship between the materials
used and their influence on artistic forms
First, there is the
brush. Though similar to the brush used for watercolor
painting in the West, it has a finer tip suitable for dealing with a
range of subjects and for producing the variations in line required by
different styles. Since the materials used for calligraphy
and painting are essentially the same, developments in
styles and techniques can also be used in painting.
Techniques and Strokes
The ancients used the
pi yu mo(to have brush, to have ink). These show
the significance of the meaning for the two terms pi(brush)
The brush techniques so much
in Chinese painting include not only line
but also the stylized expressions of shade
texture (cunfa) and the dotting
used mainly to differentiate trees and plants and also for simple
The brush strokes give the
and beauty and depict the subject's outward and inner
At the same time, they reveal the individuality and style of the
Hsieh chao pi: Crab claw brush, large and
Hua jan pi: brush for painting flowers
Lan yu chu pi: brush for painting orchids
T’u hao pi: rabbit's hair brush
Hu ying pi: Hunan sheep's hair brush
is the ink.
Ink has been used in calligraphy and painting
for over two thousand years. When the ink cake is ground on the
stone slab with fresh water, ink of various consistencies can be
depending on the amount of water used. Thick ink is very deep and
glossy when applied to paper or silk.
Thin ink appears lively and translucent. As a result, in ink-and-wash
paintings it is possible to use ink alone to create a rhythmic
between brightness and darkness, and density and lightness, and to
an impression of the subject's texture, weight and coloring.
Third, there is
Chinese painting may be done either on Chinese paper or silk.
The original paper(around 100 AD.)was made from many different
including pulp, old fishing nets and bark. Modern paper is often
machine made. It is classed in degrees of weight and amount of
used. The paper is very absorbent and the amount of size in it
dictate the quantity of ink used for strokes on the paper. Different
produce different results; some are rough and absorb ink quickly like a
sponge, others have a smooth surface which resists ink. Chinese
is usually known as rice paper in English.
Before painting on silk, the silk should be treated with alum and glue
before use. This method makes silk less absorbent than
Brushstroke is best shown on paper. Because of this reason and the
variety of texture and finish, paper quickly became favored by artists
Fourth, there are the colors.
There are differences in the use of color between Chinese painting and
modern western painting. Chinese painting aim is not to express
various shades of color of the subject in relation to a fixed source of
light, but to express the characteristics of
For example, the adding of traces of brown or
green to rocks, trees,
leaves, grass and moss in a painting is used to reinforce the feeling
a particular season or state of the weather.
and space. Since the creative requirements of
painting do not demand strict adherence to
or to a particular angle of view or source of light, the
has complete freedom in terms of artistic conception, structural
and method of expression. To give prominence to the main subject,
it is quite permissible to omit the
entirely and simply leave it blank. At the same time,
since the sizes and shapes of the spaces in the painting are different,
the very absence of content can itself create
rhythm and variety. Sometimes the variety and balance
created in this way is further enriched by the addition of inscriptions
in the empty space.
Chinese landscape painters’ aim is
to depict the familiar mountains and rivers of China from the
of nature as a whole and on the basis of their understanding of the
of nature. In artistic conception and structural composition,
landscape paintings create the impression that the scene is viewed from
high in the air, as if seen through the eyes of a bird.
With flower-and-bird paintings,
a single flower hangs as if suspended in space, or the flowers and
of different seasons appear together. Explained by one of the
painters, Wang Fu(1362-1416), as “likeness
through unlikeness” and Qi Baishi(1863-1957) as “subtlety
of a good painting lies in its being alike and yet unlike the subject”
Chinese painters attach great importance to reality, science, space and
time and yet manage to disregard them at the same time. The laws
of these things must come second to the requirements of artistic
and should not become shackles that bind artistic expression.
Calligraphy on Chinese Paintings
One of the distinctive
of Chinese painting is the use of inscriptions
in poetry of calligraphy and of special seals as part of
painting itself. This was a major contribution made by scholar
Its significance lies in its ability to express
the theme and artistic conception of the painting more
and deeply while, at the same time, giving great
insight into the artist's individuality, emotions and views
on art and life. In ink-and-wash paintings, the
red seal adds a final touch of beauty.
When preparing the inscription and seal, therefore, the Chinese
in addition to considering their content, has always given great
to the placement, length and dimensions of
inscription and the position of
seal on the painting.
The simplest inscription consists of the artist's name and the
Sometimes the inscription could include the occasion for the painting
the name of the person for whom the painting was done. It could
about the subject and style of the painting. Quite often the artist
include a piece of poetry or a literary allusion. These are all
by the artist's own seal.
The seals can be carved in stone. It can contain
a name, poetical
saying, a design or symbol which has a connection with the
The seals are pressed into a pot or tin of cinnebar paste, a scarlet
color, and are impressed onto the painting. The paste contains
oxide, ground silk and oils. It required a careful stamp as it is
permanent. When using red seal on a monochrome painting, it is
to be "adding the eye to the dragon".