As I wrote a bit earlier in my posts about my Chinese Painting Class, there is a challenge to start painting a subject when the knowledge that is gained by practice and by painting has slid by the wayside.  In an effort to stop feeling frustrated and stressed out by the process, I decided to play.  Play is part of growing up – and part of any art or skill acquisition – a  way to try, explore, experiment, learn.  I forget this way too much!


The subject was peonies.  I have done a few good ones.  This is what I did that led to tears.  To put it politely, it sucks.

Becoming very frustrated, I decided to practice some strokes in classical subjects which are the foundation for Asian painting: bamboo, orchid, chrysanthemum, plum.

Some memory returns, but the brush is far too wet.

Break the Rules

Rules exist to be broken. Many sumi painters paint traditional subjects, which are beautiful in variety and subtlety. Others move into areas far beyond the traditional expressions, meeting either excitement or criticism. The beauty of ink is its immediacy, and how it lends itself to spontaneous expression. However, this element of spontaneity comes with practice and experience, and without either, the dilettante remains such. The artist combines the repeated practice, the knowledge, the experience with the moment. All artists are dilettantes and students at times, and other times, they move into that time and space when it all comes together in a moment of mastery.

Next Steps . . .

Given these thoughts, I let it go.

Absorbent xuan paper – washes – diluted ink – pure ink – pure pigment – mixed pigment – water – no water.  Playing with paper, ink, paint is a form of reacqaintance with old friends.  Not having a goal, just going somewhere, and letting it lead you into itself.

I am not an abstract painter, but I am not a realistic one, either.  I prefer suggestion.  Purely abstract adventures are rather frightening – nothing recognizable on which to get a toehold – only a plummeting in, down, out – moving with the moment.

First one done, very timid.  I realize just how much I’ve forgotten!  One thing that is very important to remember is that the color of Chinese paint becomes a lot light – mucho mucho! – when it dries.

These next few, I diluted the paint and ink considerably less. I sprayed the paper in some areas, applied ink and then painted over it, flicked the paint, pushed and smooshed and let the ink or color bleed in.

I rather like the above two paintings.

Continuing along the same path, I remembered that I have some acrylic paints, Golden Fluid Acrylics, which are a dilute paint (not less pigment, just thinner, like cream) and some others with sparkly effects. This painting is ink and dilute acrylic. Unfortunately, the sparkles don’t show up in the photo, but they do add a nice quality to the finished picture below. I’m actually rather pleased with this one. It makes me think of looking up into an oak tree, seeing the leaves against a bright sun.

And finally, this. I think this is my favorite. Unfortunately, the photo is not the best. This one was a bit more planned, with colors more carefully considered, warms and cools placed in some specific areas. Splatters, too, and drips were done with more conscious thought. Not all of it was planned out. Ink was added before, during, and after the colors. The paper was sprayed at various times. The point of this painting was to try to incorporate what I learned from all the above, and work to see if my thoughts would produce specific results.  Did it work?  Yes and no.


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