Ink Painting

Materials

Brushes New October 14th, 2009
Getting a good brush is one of the harder tasks unless you have a teacher who gets you one or you buy online from somebody like OAS. I'm sure many of us on this list have some 'turkey' brushes. I use mine for mixing ink or rough drybrushing.

I would recommend something like this, very similar to what my first teacher sold me.
From OAS (See links below):
H4b: Large Deer Wolf Brush
Tip Dimensions: 1/4" x 1-1/4"
List Price: $12.00

Paper New October 14th, 2009
You can practice on newsprint to start out with. I've always found the double Xuan(Shuen) papers too heavy. The paper I used to start out with was much lighter. Single shuen is what I think I would use, you can mail order it from OAS. They also have sampler packs.

Any medium weight sized paper should work, but it is what you're used to. I would recommend shopping around for paper, once you find something you like, buy LOTS! Like 100 large sheets or more. Then you can experiment and control at least one variable. OAS has OK paper as well as others on this list. Depend on your location. Those in China should be able to get bulk packs easily unless you are really in the sticks.

I would also recommend rice paper over newsprint, but some people have trouble getting hold of supplies. Another dodge for practicing calligraphy is to use paper towels, the industrial style is better.

Ink New October 14th, 2009

These are two images of bottled ink that can be wet mounted and are of reasonable quality. The ink in the rectangular bottle is very dark and slightly shiny and is perfect for calligraphy that requires slow and precise strokes like seal styles. It also is good for drybrushing highlights on paintings. The second ink is an excellent all around ink and can be used for painting and calligraphy.

That ink will serve you well, unless you want your work to last for three or four generations. "Liquid ink will smell like fish after a few decades or so."

That might depend on handling. I've handled older paintings done with bottled ink and I don't smell this. Might depend on the brand. However grinding the ink is meditative and my first teacher had us do it to calm down before starting to
paint. Fresh ink also gives the smoothest gradation of gray tones.

Colors
Watercolors, what to use? I use Marie's all the time, it's cheap and of reasonable quality. I find burnt sienna, indigo and vermilion the most useful colors. I have also used chips and other bits from Oriental stores and the like with less success. You can also use the Holbein's water colors from Japan, I and my teachers use them, paintings using these colors can be mounted. Some of Holbein's greens and metallics are especially nice. You can also use the Japanese dry colors that come in little ceramic plates, a bit expensive but once again, some colors are unique and attractive. Sets of Japanese pan watercolors from Yasumoto, they are convenient for traveling or field trips, my friend was searched at Shanghai Airport because she had so many tubes!

In the case of Holbein, better art stores will have it or you can mail order it, good description here:
http://www.dickblick.com/products/holbein-artists-watercolors/

The ceramic dishes are labeled "Auspicious" in Chinese characters and I believe they are imported by Yasutomo (cheap friend!) Some art stores will carry them, but I don't buy a lot of these.

I have bought Maries in SF Chinatown and in Shanghai.

I had been wondering about the chips colours. Do they run when they get wet again, for mounting? And do you simply put a drop of water in, and stir? And can you revive them after they have dried again? So what is it you don´t like about them?
They do seem to run a bit after mounting, I'm not sure if I was using them correctly or not or if I had an off batch. Since my color needs are easily met with the tubes or dishes, I stopped using them.

There is a traditional Chinese white water color, I believe it's white lead. It eventually fades to a lead gray or even black. Several of my friends and teachers use titanium white instead. Winsor Newton or Holbein are good colors and some use white gouche as as well. I'm not sure what Marie's Chinese White actually contains.

I have used some white recently on a gold board I painted as a special effect. This is Winsor Newton white.

Basic Techniques

Playing with ink and showing different tones New October 14th, 2009
My first teacher made that the first lesson if I remember correctly, that was many years ago, so it might have been one of the other basics. But it was an early one.

Some bottled inks and inksticks will look better than others but I haven't seen any of these that won't allow a full range of tones. I've only used 4-5 brands of bottled ink though, so maybe there is some really crummy stuff out there that's not really ink or it's ink leftovers. Also cheap paper may have issues as well, it will be more difficult to control the tones on very thin paper.

1. For beginners if possible get one of those ceramic mixing dishes with multiple wells, don't bother with the plastic ones, they never can be cleaned again once used. Barring that get 6 very small white ceramic saucers.
2. Put your ink, bottled or ground in one well #1.
3. Put some water in well #2, from #1 add some ink, probably about 30% ink for this mixture? It's not a precise thing, play around!
4. Put some water in well #3, from #2 add some diluted ink.
5. Repeat....

When testing, try to get about the same amount of mixture in the brush each time and brush at about the same speed each time. Let dry and examine.

Try them out, you will find that as they dry, they will lighten up as they dry. The tones you thought were hopelessly dark will now be pleasant greys. This degree of change is HIGHLY DEPENDENT ON THE PAPER. This is a good reason to by large batches of paper, so you know how things will come out. For example I have some fairly thin unsized paper that I bought a batch of that shows the ink very well, I do not paint very heavy tones on it, it does not lighten up that much. On the other hand OAS's double shuan paper is a thirsty beast and requires lots of strong ink to make an impression.

Later after mastering this basic technique, you can mix your ink up on the fly in a large ceramic bowl, knowing ahead of time just by looking how dark it will be. I rarely premix up ink anymore, I just put different amounts of ink and water in the brush and have at it. This mixing of ink in the brush was like the second trick I learned, used for bamboo trunks!

Ink, water, paper and the brush. A difficult combination to master for sure compared to western watercolors which are more forgiving IMHO.

Copying the mastersOne reason to copy is for teaching purposes. This is the method used to teach basic brushwork and effects. This is by far the most common teaching method for West Asian painting since the Japanese and Koreans do this as well. Until the mid 19th century, the same applies to Europe. There is no 'right' to be original. If you are unschooled and paint your own way, some people might like it, otherwise how did all the modern artists become popular?

It's only been in the past 40 years or so that artists in the the West decided that careful learning of skills was unimportant, While I don't like Pollack's work for example, he did have a real background in drawing and art so it was a deliberate decision on his part to paint this way and not lack of mastery of technique. Many of his followers afterwards decided all that boring studying and learning was really not required, so they skipped it. They can only paint things that require virtually no training because they have none. Having suffered under a couple of teachers like this, it's one of the main reasons I have stayed with Chinese brush painting. Though in all fairness, there apparently are still a few traditional art programs left and real art skills are still taught to graphic designers.

Chinese Painting In Four Seasons by Leslie Tseng Tseng Yu ****
Published by Prentice-Hall Inc. ©1981 ISBN 0-13-133025-X 185 well illustrated pages
Covers the basic brush strokes, Bamboo, Chrysanthemum, Plum Blossom and Orchid in great detail with a large number of excellent examples. Once you have mastered these brush strokes, you are ready for Jean Long's book. This is the next best thing to having a live teacher to show you the basics.
Possible sources: ABE Books or inter-library loan

Advanced Techniques

The Techniques of Chinese Painting by Wu Yangmu ****
One of the best books on Chinese landscape painting that I have found. Covers all of the details and the major historic styles of landscape painting. Excellent illustrations, about 192 pages. It has a brief section on birds and flowers, but there are better books for this. If I was to recommend one book for learning traditional landscape painting, this would be it.
Possible sources: ABE Books, etc.

Oriental Painting Course: A Structured, Practical Guide to the Painting Skills and Techniques of China and the Far East by Nan, Wang, Jia; Xiaoli, Cai ***
This books is broken into 24 lessons ans is very well illustrated. While I don't think this book would be a good choice for a rank beginner, it would make a great supplementary volume to something like Chinese Painting In Four Seasons. It has some excellent illustrations dealing with basic lessons like ink and water and bamboo, it also has a large number of modern Chinese works. I especially recommend this volume to Western style water color painters that want to incorporate some of the Asian brush painting ideas into their works. Possible sources: ABE Books, etc.

Chinese Painting Techniques, a Complete Course by Jean Long ***
Published by Studio Vista/Cassel London ©1994 ISBN 0-289-80114-1 224 well illustrated pages
This is a compilation of some of her earlier works and the title states it all!  It covers the basic brush strokes like the rest of the books though there are other books that are better for those. It also covers Chinese color painting in great detail. Loading brushes with multiple colors, landscape details, the works. Also, common color mistakes are covered along with some remedies. The last portion of the book deals with practical Chinese painting, color symbolism, color washing and other very advanced color methods. There is also a brief section on composition that is all too brief.
If you have mastered the basics of Sumi-E or Chinese painting this is the book for you.
Possible source: ABE Books or inter-library loan

The Art of Sumi-E by Shozo Sato ***
Published by Kodansha International Ltd. ©1994 ISBN 0-87011-570-7 332 well illustrated pages
This book complements Jean Long's book very well. The first section covers the history and composition of Asian brush paintings illustrated by classic paintings. Many less advanced books leave out the theory, which is fine for beginners but a pain if you're trying to understand the Chinese and Japanese compositions. Of special interest is the coverage of some of the Japanese wet brush techniques such as Nijimi and Tarashikomi. Also covered are some basics in fair detail and extracts from the Mustard Seed Garden Book, originally published in 1679 and still considered a classic for Chinese Painting.
Jean Long's books give you the details, this book gives you the plan!
Possible source: ABE Books or inter-library loan

The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting Ed. Mai-mai Sze ***
Published by Princeton University Press ©1963 various editions roughly 600 well illustrated pages
The Mustard Seed Garden Book, originally published in 1679 and still considered a classic source for Chinese Painting. Covers many of the different painting schools at the time and has scads of details especially for landscapes. It comes in several sizes of paperback and hardcover, try to get one of the larger versions.
Possible source: ABE Books or inter-library loan

Mi Fu : style and the art of calligraphy in Northern Song China / Peter Charles Sturman

Mi Fu and the Classical Tradition of Chinese Calligraphy by Lothar Ledderose

Mi Fu on Ink-stones by Fu Mi, Robert Hans van Gulik

Instructors

Pei-Jen (Paul) Hau, ASACA member  ASACA
Pacific Art League of Palo Alto, 668 Ramona St., Palo Alto, CA 94301
(650) 321-3891
My current painting instructor, generally teaches during fall, winter and summer. If you live in the Bay Area, I highly recommend attending his classes for advanced students. If you're a beginner, I recommend:

Chun Hui Yu, ASACA member  ASACA Yu, Chun-Hui - Painting & Calligraphy
Pacific Art League of California and various locations, teaches beginning ink painting and calligraphy. My current calligraphy instructor.

Marie Hu, ASACA member  ASACA
Teaches calligraphy at the Chinese Community Center located in Cubberly, Room 1-14, 3000 Middlefield, Palo Alto, CA,. Thursdays 4-6.

Ryuko Kokuzo - sumi-e instructor - My first instructor, I highly recommend attending her classes. Lately I've received e-mail that she no longer teaches in LA at the Long Beach Buddhist Church but has moved to Hawaii with her husband. Perhaps some students of painting in Hawaii will send some further information.

Nan Hai Art Gallery - This gallery shows a variety of Chinese artists and arts, Sandra Wong also gives painting classes.
510 Broadway, Suite 300, Millbrae, CA 94030
Nan Hai Co.

Chin Fung Tong Art Gallery - Bai Ru Wu, artist, gives lessons, sells some supplies and paintings, including some famous painters.
38 Waverly Place, San Francisco, CA
(415) 398-2286

Amy Da-Peng King, ASACA member, teaches in various locations Amy Da-Peng King's Brush Painting Circle

I have no experience with the following teachers:
Ichen Art Studio - Teacher in Silicon Valley

 

Colleges and Academies

Chinese Academy of Art - great programs for foreign students They teach traditional Chinese art as well as western art.

Suppliers

Kinokuniya Bookstore, San Francisco - Has a stationary annex with paper and brushes.

New Unique Co - Brushes, paper, ink, silk borders, chops, the works.
A very comprehensive selection of books.
838 Grant Ave,
Mezzanine floor (Second floor)
San Francisco
(415) 251-9288

Galleries

 

Mounting and Framing

Kee Fung Ng Gallery - Supplies and may do silk mounting.
757 Grant Ave. San Francisco, CA
(415) 434-1814
I have not done business with them.

Long Sung Tong Art Gallery - Teresa Tao proprietor.
2293 S. El Camino Real
San Mateo, CA 94403
(650) 574-3389
Framing, mounting, scrolls and seals. The mounting looks very good as well as the scrolls. I have several made up which are illustrated above. Also silk borders for conventional frames available. I recommend her.

Nice n Right - Lucas Wong proprietor. High quality mounting and framing. I recommend him.
San Jose, CA
(408) 246-9119

Chinese Art Gallery  New March 18th, 2009
Charles Chai
14786 Washington Ave
San Leandro CA, 94578
510 357-5383
510 368-3370
One of my teachers has him do all of her mounting, so that's a good place to go.

He's in Shanghai often, he has a shop there:
Charles Chai
No. 34 Lane 274
Taikang Road
Shanghai, 200025
Phone 13661722399 or 01186-21-54656939

 

Yong Bao Zhai - Handicraft and Fine Arts Center
275 Castro Street
Mountain View, CA 94041
(650) 969-5816
This is not be correct. They moved a while back and I do not have their current address.

 

Some of my poor efforts

Latest, maybe not greatest New October 14th, 2009

This is not splash painting. Process follows normal practice.
1. Draw the outlines. Use dry ink on these boards and wait longer before next step. They take long to dry than paper.
2. Apply standard colors.
3. Add dots.
4. White wash.
5. Touchups
6. Calligraphy and seals applied.

River  Snow

Seals - Winter, HorseDeer (Idiot)

The poem is by Liu Zongyuan "RIVER-SNOW" 柳宗元 江雪

Calligraphy is oracle bone script 甲骨文.

A hundred mountains and no bird,
A thousand paths without a footprint;
A little boat, a bamboo cloak,
An old man fishing in the cold river-snow.

千山鳥飛絕, 萬徑人蹤滅。
孤舟簑笠翁, 獨釣寒江雪。


More recent efforts Pre-2009

My older works Pre-2007

Links

Ichiyo Art Center: Ikebana, Japanese Paper, Rubber Stamps
The Japanese Paper Place - washi for sale
Oriental Art Supply (OAS): High Quality Supplies for the Brush Painter

Artists and Museums
Eri Takase Artworks - Japanese calligraphy
Sumie-World - Ritsuo Sugiyama

 

General Arts and Culture

Asian Arts
Chinese Characters - Genealogy, Dictionary, Readings
Home of 300 Tang Poems
Wei Ming Magazine
Chinese Links - many art and literature links
Classical Chinese Poetry - China the Beautiful
Tang Chinese poems - not just from the 300 Tang Poems
A Visual Sourcebook for Chinese Civilization