More on chinese painting

What is Chinese painting?

The six principles of Chinese painting as established by Xie He, a writer, art historian and critic in 5th century China are as follows:

  1. Spirit Resonance, or vitality: the overall energy of a work of art. Xie He said that without Spirit Resonance, there was no need to look further.
  2. Bone Method, or the way of using the brush. This refers not only to texture and brush stroke, but to the close link between handwriting and personality. In his day, the art of calligraphy was inseparable from painting.
  3. Correspondence to the Object, or the depicting of form, which would include shape and line.
  4. Suitability to Type, or the application of color, including layers, value and tone.
  5. Division and Planning, or placing and arrangement, corresponding to composition, space and depth.
  6. Transmission by Copying, or the copying of models, not only from life but also the works of antiquity.

Chinese Painting Materials

Traditional Far Eastern Art methods share many common principles as well as aesthetic aspects that many artists around the world wish to try and emulate, or take samples of when creating original contemporary work. Chinese painting and Japanese painting techniques tend to have very simple compositions. The whole picture surface is not always covered, and in some instances eastern artists are known to only paint the part of the subject that interested them, and disregard what is thought to be superfluous i.e. it is more common in far eastern art for backgrounds to remain blank. Eastern art is known to be highly meticulous and detailed as well as very gestural, simple and understated. If you visit a Shinto shrine in Japan you will find the interior decorated with creatures such as dragons, where every scale has been painstakingly rendered. However it is just as common to find Chinese and Japanese screens decorated with bamboo motifs made up of just 1 or 2 simple brush strokes, made with a long haired goat brush. At Jackson’s Art Supplies we offer a wide variety of different painting materials that will help you explore the fascinating and fun world of Chinese and Japanese painting.

Chinese and Japanese Painting Brushes

In this section you will find a number of different brushes and pens that replicate the tools used by ancient Far Eastern craftsmen. Here is a brief guide to inform you of what they all do.

Bamboo Pens

Bamboo pens are used in Chinese calligraphy and can also be very expressive drawing tools. They are made of dried bamboo stems and designed to be dipped into ink. They do not carry much liquid so you will find you need to dip quite often! It is difficult to create consistent, long flowing lines with a bamboo pen – they are much better for staccato marks, ticks, and for building up textures with short dry marks. The flat ended bamboo pen will produce broad square marks, and we also sell pointed bamboo pens for fine lines. As well as regular bamboo pens we also sell a bamboo brush pen – double ended with a round pointed goat hair brush on the other end, which creates gentle flowing lines and carries a lot more ink – the diversity of the marks that can be achieved collectively with this tool is impressively vast.

Chinese Sable Brushes

Chinese sable brushes are very simple – the handle does not taper and is a cylinder of plastic, at the end protrudes a cone of sable hair that tapers to a very fine point. This can achieve the finest of lines, but with more pressure can also achieve broader marks. The leaves of bamboo are commonly described by applying an amount of pressure with the brush and then lifting the brush off in a quick , ‘tick’ movement, which will enable you to make the leaf shape that tapers to a fine point itself. These brushes are best used with ink or watercolour paint.

Other Natural Hair brushes

In addition to the fine sable brushes, we also sell Chinese painting brushes made of goat hair.. Goat is a less expensive hair but still possesses good liquid holding capacity, and is soft enough to achieve nice even washes. We also have some Chinese goat and sable mix brushes.

Chinese Painting Sets

Our Chinese painting sets comprise of 3 brushes each – one with 3 large goat hair brushes, one with 5 x large mixed hair brushes (goat and weasel) and 3x large weasel brushes. These brushes have a good belly for holding a good quantity of paint or ink, and taper to a point for achieving fine lines.

Unbranded Chinese Painting Materials

In this section you will find a number of materials imported direct from Chinese manufacturers so that prices can be kept low, but the quality is maintained to a high standard. Here’s a summary of what we have in this section:

Chinese Painting Box Sets

We have 2 box sets that offer enough equipment for you to start practising Chinese painting techniques; these sets would make beautiful gifts as well. Both sets are contained within a pretty fabric covered box (one rectangular and one fan shaped). In the rectangular box you will find:

  • A round pointed brush which is well suited to very fine detail as well as having the liquid holding capacity for broader strokes and washes.
  • A soap stone – which, in Chinese and Japanese painting tradition, should be carved so that it can be used as a ‘name seal’, a stamped signature on your work which acts as a mark of authorship and authenticity.
  • An Ink Stick – which can be ground down in the mixing stone with a little water to make Indian or Chinese ink – by holding the ink stone and forcing it down into the mixing stone and moving in a circular motion whilst adding a little water from time to time, you will make your own ink with which to paint.
  • A pot of stamp ink – to use with your carved soapstone seal
  • A mixing stone – this is a very smooth black stone slab that is designed to be used to grind the ink stone on to in order to make a water based ink with which to paint.

The fan shaped box set contains:

  • Four bamboo brushes
  • Porcelain pot of red ink for your traditional name seal (dip the carved soapstone into the red ink well)
  • Unengraved soapstone
  • Black Ink Stick
  • Ink Stone
  • Porcelain Water Dish and mini water spoon – This water dish is designed to be used with the ink grinding process, use the mini spoon to add a little water from time to time as you grind the ink stick on the mixing stone.
  • Porcelain Brush rest big enough for 2 brushes

Ink Sticks

We sell ink sticks individually as well as in the set. There are black ink sticks but also a set of 5 coloured ink sticks – white, red, green, blue and yellow. These work in the same way as the black ink sticks – add a little water gradually as you grind the stick into a grinding stone to make a waterbased ink with which to paint.

Ink Stone

Our high quality ink stones are available individually as well as part of the Chinese painting sets.

Chinese brush stand

Chinese brushes tend to be made with a little string loop at the end of the handle. The loops can be used to hang your Chinese brushes from the stand. This helps to prolong the life of your Chinese brushes because it ensures that the hairs keep their shape once cleaned and shaped with your hands, and it allows any excess moisture to run out of the head of the brush. This stops the moisture causing any rot/deterioration in the brush head over time. The brush stand is also very useful during the painting process as it allows you to identify and select your brushes quickly and easily.

Chinese Papers

We sell paper scrolls which are usually used for Chinese calligraphy, hung lengthways so that script can be written vertically in the traditional way. We also sell packs of rice paper sheets – rice paper is semi opaque and very absorbent. It allows ink to bleed through its fibres which can create interesting effects. It is best suited to minimalistic painting techniques – images made with a few gestural and expressive marks.

Chinese Roll Up Brush Mat

The roll up brush matt is made of natural straw-like fibres which absorb any moisture from wet brushes and prevents rotting. It has gaps between the fibres which allow the moisture to eventually evaporate into the atmosphere. The brush rolls are a lightweight and practical way of transporting and protecting your brushes when they are not being used.

Sennelier Chinese Indian Ink

Sennelier ink is ideal for Chinese and Japanese calligraphy techniques as well as traditional Chinese painting. If you would rather not have to grind your ink stick this is ink is ready to use and will save you time.

Kuretake Bimoji Fude Pens

Kuretake Bimoji Fude Pens are designed to look and feel like traditional Japanese and Chinese paint brushes. These pens are felt tipped brush pens, and enable you to replicate the kinds of marks you can make with a traditional Chinese painting brush

Hahnemuhle Sumi E Japanese Ink Paper Pad

Another very absorbent paper that is suited to free style, expressive yet minimal Japanese painting techniques. Sumi-e painting originated from 5th century Chinese calligraphy techniques.