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Chinese Watercolor Painting – “China: Its History and Culture” – Morton, W. Scott

April 2nd, 2011 · No Comments · Art, China, Criticism, Culture

Where oil paints are employed, it is possible to paint out a portion of the canvas and redo it in a new version. But with ink and watercolors the stroke once drawn is beyond recall and cannot be altered. The Chinese artist in calligraphy or painting—and the two are considered virtually one—must thus practice again and again, until he has acquired such control over his brush that in the final work he can move with confidence and without error or quiver. For purposes of practice there are stereotyped ways of painting leaves, rocks, grass, bamboos, mountains, pine trees, birds, and hosts of other single items, listed and schematized in the Chinese manner. But once the technique is mastered, the genius of the artist can take off in freedom and in his own personal style. This “takeoff” the Chinese critics compare to the flight of a dragon rising into the clouds. The artist’s state of mind is of the utmost importance in attaining this end. He is, as a rule, not painting the portrait of any actual scene. He will visit the mountains and streams and soak himself in the scenery. Then, returning to his study, laying out his brushes, ink, and paper on a clean desk and clearing and composing his own spirit, he will, when the moment is ripe, put down on paper with sure and rapid strokes the ideal composition which exists already in his mind. When the dragon flight has been achieved, then the words of a seventeenth-century critic may be true: “The best method is that which has never been a method.”

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