A Beginner's Guide to Chinese Brush Painting -- a Crafty Sundays Review


Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review. All opinions are my own.

March is National Craft Month and I have been lacking on sharing my crafts. Last year Hazel's art teacher had her class experiment with Chinese brush painting. She brought home a beautiful scroll of painted bamboo. We have it hanging in our living room. Then when we went get her art supplies this year the art store had Chinese brushes and ink. We decided to try our own at home. I asked Tuttle Publishing to send me this book so I would have some guidance. Hazel decided not to join me. The book is A Beginner's Guide to Chinese Brush Painting by Caroline Self and Susan Self. 

From the Publisher:

A Beginner's Guide to Chinese Brush Painting teaches this ancient art form in an easy-to-understand way--no prior experience necessary!

As one of the oldest continuous artistic traditions in the world, Chinese brush painting has been used for thousands of years to create images that harness the imagination, and capture the inner spirit of a subject--be it an animal, landscape or tree. All you need for this simple, but beautiful, art form is black watercolor paint, white paper, a brush and some creativity!

An introduction tells you about the history of brush painting, and also gives tips for holding your brush, achieving different shades and collecting your materials. After that, the book takes you step-by-step through more than 35 hands-on activities--including basic strokes, putting them together to create an object or scene, the importance of leaving open space and even writing some Chinese calligraphy.

With the help of this book, artists of all ages can learn to paint:
  • Bamboo stalks, branches and leaf clusters
  • A knotted pine tree and its delicate needles
  • A snail with a spiral shell and little body peeking out from underneath
  • A waterfall gliding down the side of a mountain
  • And much more!

You'll find that this activity will help you learn to center your mind and thoughts, and your masterpieces will be inspiring decorations or great gifts for friends and family. Get started learning this ""soft martial art!""

From Me:

The book goes through how to use the book, a bit of history of Chinese painting, principles of brush painting, getting started, and then the tutorials begin. I honestly wish I had gotten the book before I bought my supplies. They suggest using tempura paint to learn before actually using the ink since the ink stains (hands, clothes, tables, etc.). I also discovered I needed a smaller brush than the two I bought. Mine were not working for the details. The book begins with setting up.

The book has you use four paint bowls to get different gradients. After mixing my paint (with water) I did a gradient test.

Then the book goes through the different hand positions as different strokes. There are many lessons to practice both holding the brush properly as well as the motions of the brush for the different strokes. 

After practicing the book begins a lesson on calligraphy. The book suggests creating a grid to practice the calligraphy. I made one on the computer which you can download if you would like. I discovered my brush strokes were not great with the calligraphy. I am thinking it may be the size of the brush.

I moved on from the calligraphy. The next chapter was orchids. I was very excited for these projects. I found it took a lot of practice to get somewhat decent pictures. 

I kept practicing but didn't get all the strokes quite right. They got better as I went though.

I definitely need to practice with the curves as well as the pressure. I also want to look for smaller brushes for the details. 

After the orchids come the bamboo chapter. Again I found I needed to practice some before getting the strokes correct.

I found the tutorials easy to follow and loved how the book goes step by step and gives tips throughout. It is well written, and the projects are very classic Chinese painting subjects. After the bamboo there are chapters on painting pines (Chinese pines), insects and birds, as well as painting landscapes. The book also shares a chapter on mounting your paintings. Mine are not quite ready for mounting, but with more practice they will be.

When I showed Hazel my paintings, she thought they looked good. I am happy with them considering I worked for an hour to an hour and a half total including all my practice. I will practice some more and see if I can paint a masterpiece! I hope you will check out the book!