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How to learn Chinese brush painting

There is no doubt that traditional Chinese art is one of the most beautiful forms of art that exists. When it comes to having a go at Chinese brush painting yourself however, there are several considerations to take into account. The essential thing about this art form is the way in which the materials used can have a major impact on the results. Here, we will look at the five most important factors in Chinese artwork.

The brushes

Firstly, there are the Chinese brushes. While these are not in reality much different from the watercolour brushes used in the West, they tend to have finer tips which are ideal for creating the variants of line so essential to Chinese paintings.

Brush techniques

The brush techniques so much stressed in Chinese arts embrace not just simple line drawing but also the formalised expressions of shadow and surface as well as the dotting methods employed largely for simple embellishment. The brush strokes provide the picture with both rhythm and beauty as well as capturing the subject's exterior and inner characteristics. In addition, they ultimately expose the nature of the artist themselves. So, it is important to experiment here and find your own technique.

Ink painting

Next, there is the ink. For over two millennia, ink has been the mainstay of China arts. Ink of different strengths can be made up using varying degrees of added water. While thicker ink is extremely deep and shiny when applied to paper or silk, thinner ink tends to create a more dynamic and lustrous effect. Therefore, it is possible to create intricate paintings by using ink alone.

The surface

Chinese paper Chinese paper (often known as rice paper) comes in various different textures and grains. Naturally, different paper will create diverse effects. The rougher paper will tend to absorb the ink quicker, while the smoother paper will tend to resist absorption. Silk painting Silk is much less absorbent. However, the silk needs to be treated with alum and glue before it can be used. Due to this and because brushstroke tends to be best presented on paper, paper is the preferred medium for most Chinese artists.


Finally, we have colour. The aim of traditional Chinese painting is essentially to express the individualities of the various subjects. Therefore, adding touches of brown or green to rocks, trees, leaves, grass and moss is done in order to strengthen the sensation of a specific season or environment.

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