"Life isn't long enough to do all you could accomplish. And what a privilege even to be alive. In spite of all the pollutions and horrors, how beautiful this world is.
Supposing you only saw the stars once every year. Think what you would think. The wonder of it!"--Tasha Tudor

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Chinese Brush Painting With Susan

A couple of days after the tragic loss of Bridget and her puppies during her c-section, my friend and artist/film maker extraordinaire Susan Jacob called to say that she was going to come over to have a 'studio play date' to help pull me out of sobbing in my dark room and pajamas. I resisted her efforts for a few days, but a real friend knows when to keep nudging. Sue finally said, 'that's it, I'm coming over, and I'm bringing stuff to play with.' She and her mom, Linda (a talented artist as well) came over on Friday. Linda brought her laptop and worked on some of her graphics for her original jewelry designs. And what a bag of tricks Sue brought! She has been studying traditional Chinese brush painting for quite some time. I have never tried it and Sue is a fantastic teacher. I love learning something from someone who loves what they are doing.

As soon as she set up everything I realized why she wanted to come and share this with me. The tools of this craft are gorgeous. I loved looking at them all. The first thing we did was to make ink. Even my daughter sat with us to do this. This intricately painted black stone is what makes the ink. You use a tiny bit of water and in smooth circular specific motions ("wax on, wax off, Daniel San...") you 'grind' the ink bar on to an ink stone for a very long time and it makes the ink. I can't tell you how much I loved this part. It was very soothing, relaxing, and really loosens up your arm for this kind of painting. Art therapy is good. Really good. The scent of the ink was heavenly. Sue said that ink recipes are closely guarded secrets that have come down through generations and each one incorporates certain herbs and 'medicines' into each unique formula. I did recognize patchouli in this one because my son always buys some for me at the Renaissance fair. You need to be aware of your posture, your hand, your arm and wrist and your breathing when you make ink. It is awesome.

Chinese brush painting takes years and years to master. There is no 'print making' in this artform. If they want more than one of the same painting, by the time they may want to duplicate it, they have mastered it and can reproduce it. You can't go back to correct anything, everything is done with one stroke. How it is when you lay the ink on to the paper with your brush is how it will stay. You have to leave it alone. It is what it is. I had to retrain my brain to think about what I was doing. As it dries, it slightly changes, getting lighter, revealing more characteristics of your stroke. You have to leave it alone and let it be. It is very freeing. I'm sure there are many life lessons to be learned from this.

Learning my strokes

Gloves must be worn to handle this red cinnabar seal oil, as it is poisonous.

Nosey Stella and Sue with one of my favorite paintings. Sue had made this one a few years ago and its been hanging on my wall. We realized that she hadn't signed it, so she signed it and sealed it with her name in Chinese, which she had translated from the master artist who has taught her this ancient art.

John brought us pizza and salad and beer and wine when he came home from work, which we were SO ready for by the time he got there. (Thanks, honey xo xo)

You can find Sue's contact info at http://www.ambershift.com/ . She will be creating more awesome Corgi and other Chinese brush paintings. Be sure to check out the amazing jewelry she and her mom create which can be found in their Etsy shop which can also be found at that link. One of my favorite pieces from them is their 'dogs rule' cartouche, an enameled piece written in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. I know that Linda is working on more fantastic pieces for this collection which is already on its second casting. I'm saving up for one of their Celtic Corgi necklaces too. (hint hint, John....)

Have a happy day, my lovelies! (I apologize in advance that you will not be able to get the Kung Fu Fighting song out of your head today :) !!) xo xo -Cat ♥


Corgin it! said...

Hey what looks like a very funtastic time. seeing the pics gives me a better understanding of what yu were talking about. I would love to try that for sure someday. nice backgrund music haha

Jenna Z said...

What a good friend to offer that kind of healing, wonderful experience! That corgi painting is just gorgeous!!

Bumpkin Hill said...

Dearest Cathy, first of all I am so very vry sorry to hear of your loss. I am so glad you have such good friends to be there for you. I tried chinese painting once, it is really a very relaxing at, but totally different way of looking at painting isn't it! I loved it and that Corgi painting is breathtaking. Big hugs, Catherine xx

Amanda Makepeace said...

What fun and such a beautiful end result! I've added this to the EBSQ Friday Five.

Natalie said...

Wow, that corgi painting is so unique! Love it. We linked to you over on the Rookery Ramblings blog, hope that's ok! Thanks :-)