Learning Chinese Painting by Johanna N.L.

This week we had a guest speaker present for our Chinese culture class. He talked with us about the differences between Chinese and Western style painting. For example Chinese paintings focus more on landscapes, while the main focus of Western paintings is people. One of the reasons for this fundamental difference may be the fact that the materials they use are different as well. In Western paintings artists use oils and canvas, while in China, the tradition has always been to use ink and rice paper. This difference in materials changes the flow and style of the painting.

A painting in China is considered beautiful if it’s abstract and balanced, where a Western style painting is beautiful with a lot of detail and realism. In Europe and America it’s considered astounding if an artist can replicate an image almost exactly, but in China it’s considered beautiful if you add your own interpretation to an image and it flows in a natural way. The goal of the artist while composing a Chinese painting is to be relaxed and let the materials work with him or her; however, in the Western style the artist forces the brush to work with him or her to create the image desired.

After the lecture we got to try painting for ourselves. We painted orchids, beginning with a more simple, practice orchid, and then moving onto a more challenging piece. It was amazing to see that this talent that looks so easy, and these paintings—even ones that look so simple—actually require a tremendous amount of skill and practice.

All in all it was an enriching experience and I definitely would like to continue to learn more about traditional Chinese painting.

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