Today I'm pretty excited to share this month's guest with you. When I asked Connie about sharing here on the blog, I had no idea that we lived in the same state and that we both have ties to Springfield. It was an awesome surprise! How we came to get to know each other felt like such serendipity. Hopefully one day we'll be able to sit down and chat over coffee and maybe even bring our supplies along to work side-by-side.
Crystal: I love your project! Tell me how it came about?
Connie: I stumbled upon your year of creative habits blog in an article online. For several days, I read through your blog, marveled at your drawings and paintings, and was inspired to follow your lead and attempt to paint daily. Chinese Brush Painting was a natural beginning point for me.
I was commissioned to do a large 5’ x 2’ Chinese Brush Painting (also called Sumi-e) several years ago, titled: Bald Vulture. At the time, I was not familiar with Chinese Brush Painting at all, so I researched its history, and watched YouTube videos for instruction. I fell in love with its simplicity. Each brush stroke is purposeful in which much can be conveyed. Every stroke is a defining move that produces a portion of the painting that is neither improved upon nor corrected. In Western painting, including watercolor, corrections and over-painting are a part of the technique. With Chinese Brush Painting, from the first to last stroke, the artist must 'get it right'.
Chinese Brush Painting is meant to be more than a representation of an object; it is also a symbolic expression. This is why a full plant is never painted, but rather a few blossoms which will represent the plant in it's entirety, and, in fact, all of life - a TAO principle. It becomes a symbolic expression of a subject to rice paper. What isn’t painted, including the negative space of the composition is just as significant as its painted portion. This is a concept I use daily as a graphic designer. Everything should have a meaning and belong, or else omit it. Even my font choice is significant. There is no room for showing off with bells and whistles or fluff. Simplicity is beautiful and elegant, and what I strive for in graphic design, as well as my paintings. Often what looks easy, is in fact the most difficult to master.
Some of my Chinese Brush Paintings I’ve chalked up for experience, and nothing more. In my quest of painting daily, I’m sometimes forced to post some that I’m frustrated and not pleased with. Surprisingly, some of these paintings have received much fanfare. I’ve certainly learned that art is subjective, and to never discount a piece that I am unhappy with.
My advice for anyone wanting to learn Chinese Brush Painting; start out practicing. Play with your brushes, and the strokes they achieve. Play with the amount of water to add to the ink to achieve the desired greys. Be easy on yourself and have fun. In the Chinese culture, a painter meditates, then enters into his/her painting with a grateful, peaceful heart.
This link sums up Chinese Brush Painting, from its history, technique, materials, and calligraphy. You may also contact me at connie@saltandlight-studios if you have any questions or advice.
Crystal: I'm curious about the Chinese characters that you add to each one....are they related to the image? What does it say!?
Connie: Great question. I’m surprised that only a handful of people have asked me this. Yes, the Chinese characters are just as significant as the painting itself, and I always relate the characters to the image.
Calligraphy is the highest art form to the Chinese and one that I need much improvement on! It’s considered the art form from which all other Chinese art forms evolved. My characters are recognizable, but some lack the beauty and fluid movement of a calligraphy master.
The simplest inscription consists of the artist's name and maybe the date. Sometimes the inscription could include the occasion for the painting and the name of the person for whom the painting was done. It could be about the subject and style of the painting. Quite often the artist might include a piece of poetry or a literary allusion. These are all followed by the artist's own seal. I ordered my artist seal, also called a chop, from China, and is one of my prized possessions. My inscriptions are based on words that correspond to my painting’s subject. Often the characters represent love, peace, virtue, freedom, honesty, luck, longevity, prosperity, God, tranquility and happiness. I am at the mercy of not knowing the language, and the internet from which I find the characters that I use.For example, my painting titled Owl Love, includes the Chinese character for love. My painting titled Koi, includes the Chinese character for tranquility, which water always gives me. A good number of my paintings that are perhaps more complex with content or color that I want to keep simple, I only include my artist seal. The pop of red color that the seal gives to the piece is a virtue of Chinese Brush Painting that I use to increase interest and help the eye flow through the composition. For example, in my painting titled Bald Vulture, I made the vulture’s eye red, to complement my artist chop, which works well with its large size format.
I have printed resources of characters which I found online, and refer to when starting a Chinese Brush Painting.
Crystal: What's your routine for getting it done each day?
Connie: Making time to paint daily has proved itself to be a challenge. For years I’ve neglected painting, to fully dedicate myself to parenthood, my graphic design business, and recent marriage. Within the last year, getting back to painting was nagging me, even waking me up at night. I came to the realization that I must start painting regularly again. Thus the motivation for painting daily.
As far as my routine, I have none. My clients come first, especially if I have a looming deadline or urgent matter to resolve. If I’m free to paint in the morning, then I do so, but most of the time I paint in the evening. This works well in that I have time to think about my next painting throughout the day. I created two workspaces in my studio. One houses my computer, and is where I work. The other is where I paint. Dividing these spaces up helps me to focus on the task at hand. I’ve also found the app on your blog, Daily Habit List to be very helpful. I’m a list maker, and find gratitude in crossing off my creative daily goal. (I also use the app for exercise, drinking 3 liters of water, meditation, and taking my vitamins daily.)
I would recommend committing time to a daily habit/talent/hobby. It can truly be life changing. Thank you for your inspiration, Crystal, and for interviewing me for your blog!
Crystal: Your most welcome and thank you Connie for sharing here! You can follow Connie on...