Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The T'ao of the Brush

Shots from my studio. Chinese ink (and sometimes color) on mulberry paper or rice paper or bamboo paper...

The five main subjects in Chinese Ink & Brush Art are bamboo, chrysanthemum, mountain orchid and plum blossoms. Each of these represents five characteristics of noble people:

Bamboo--upright character, bravery and grace, sometimes leaning and swaying in the wind, but not breaking

Chrysanthemum--endurance, as they are the last to bloom in summer

Mountain Orchid--far-reaching fragrance that wafts in the air from the tiny bloom in the crag of a rock

Plum Blossoms--courage in the face of late snow

The Brush Artist's indespensible "friends" are her ink, brush and paper. A cute little water dropper that her eternal friend gave to her on her first birthday in Korea doesn't hurt, nor do the granite name stamps given to her by another very lovely, much-loved "Korean mommy." I had these stamps for more than 20 years before I discovered one was broken! Does that little piece look like a piece of my broken heart?

I have much affinity for my brushes and the darling black frog peeking out from under a lily pad carved into my inkstone

Grinding the ink on the stone takes some time to get just right, and it's time spent contemplating mood, ideas, and absence of thought.

This is a very hefty slate inkstone and the ink stick is made of soot, tungsten and ox hide glue. If I left the ink stick standing on the stone, it would adhere when it dries. But I don't do that. That's a very unserious thing for a serious brush artist to do!

Another very important piece of equipment is the futon there in the background. Painting can be hard work and rest is not only necessary, it's a good time to reflect. Dream about misty mountains.

This is a detail of a tree I did for my brother and his wife. Swallows, that like geese, mate for life, to represent the Spring of their lives; Summer mushrooms and chrysanthemums; Fall colors on the bark; and finally, the pine tree promising longevity and signifying, also, of course, Winter. The name of the painting is "Couple."

Poppies for my sister because it's the right color for her right now. But you might like this story:

Poppies represent the loyalty and faith between lovers. According to Chinese legend, a beautiful and courageous woman, Lady Yee, was married to Hsiang Yu, a warrior with Herculean strength. When Hsiang led his troops into battle, Lady Yee chose to follow him and stood by his side in every battle.
During a long and arduous war, Hsiang's army was surrounded and defeat was imminent. Lady Yee tried to boost his spirits by dancing with his sword. The petals of the poppy flower reflect her spirit as she dances in the wind with the sword. When this attempt failed, Lady Yee committed suicide. A cluster of poppies sprang in full bloom from her gravesite.

I'm teaching a class on this subject at Ogden Blue in April.


Trish said...

Do I have to take that camera away from you?

Trish said...

I love your paintings,and now that I have a bit of history on them,I love them even more.
'Specially The Poppy!