Archive for category Author: Qu Lei Lei
“Simple Art of” is always a hostage to fortune because it risks reducing something that’s really quite complex to a mere formula, or of looking as though it’s missed the point completely. However, in this case, there’s a let-out because, of course, one of the main elements of Chinese painting is simplicity.
Chinese painting has long held a fascination for Westerners and it is this element of simplification that holds the greatest attraction. In its purest form, of course, every brushstroke carries a philosophical significance and forms and colours can often be reduced almost to abstraction.
Qu Lei Lei learnt calligraphy from his parents, but has lived in Britain since 1981 and adapts the Chinese style subtly for Western eyes, producing just slightly more realistic forms and slightly more subtle colours that sit comfortably with our expectations and palettes. This is a project-based book, so the 15 demonstrations are fairly short and beginners might find themselves wanting a little more detail. I’d suggest, however, that this something for those who already have a little experience in the field and are looking to expand the creative possibilities of the style rather than learn the most basic techniques. This is an attractive and delightful book that offers a great deal without ever labouring anything.
At first glance, you’d be forgiven for not recognising what an important book this is. Presented as a series of projects that can be completed by the amateur working at home, it has the outward appearance of a relatively superficial pictorial guide. There’s so much more to it than that, however.
Qu Lei Lei has written many books on the practice of Chinese art. Born in China, he came to the UK after the Cultural Revolution in 1981 and writes from both the Oriental and Western perspective, having both an understanding of the culture as well as the ability to describe it in a way that is immediately comprehensible to the general reader. As a result, this is a much more authoritative book than you might first think.
Oriental art forms have long held a fascination for us in the West, as witness the huge success of the Terracotta Warriors exhibition. Even coming to this book as a non-calligrapher, therefore, I find myself drawn to the history and culture behind the letterforms and Qu Lei Lei explains what the various scripts represent and how they were originally used, as well as demonstrating ways to write them. Yes, the book does indeed take the form of 16 projects, as well as a guide to materials and a series of technical exercises, and you will certainly be able to create a wide variety of artefacts as well as learning about the background to what you are doing. Qu features five major scripts and explains the background to each and their specific uses within this ancient and highly developed culture.
Between them, the author and the publisher have co-operated to produce a book that is both beautiful to look at and also remarkably comprehensive within the scope of its coverage as well as being clear and authoritative. It’s a considerable achievement.
CICO Books 2007
When this landed on the mat, I nearly choked on my Cornflakes. I have a diagnosed allergy to any book that has the word ‘Tao’ in the title and isn’t about Chinese philosophy. Actually, I tend to come out in spots even when that is what they’re about, but I’m too old and too cynical to be a new-ager.
However, this is by Qu Lei Lei, who has produced some very good books in the past, so I felt it could be worth a second glance and, my word, it is. According to the press release that came with it, “The Tao of Sketching explains Taoist symbolism revealing the spirituality of Chinese Sketching and how to create ‘chi’ or the essence of living energy in a sketch, showing how you can use it as a powerful means to self-development”.
Pass. The. Sick. Bag. Alice.
The truth, of course, is that there’s a lot of philosophy in Chinese art and it gets down to the point where individual brushstrokes matter. The other truth is that this gives it a simplicity that is enormously attractive and that a lot of western artists like to study and emulate its techniques without necessarily buying into the whole mindset behind it.
Put simply – and the whole point of this is that it is put simply – this is probably the best book on sketching ever. Bar none. No, don’t even bother because I’m not going to listen to you. All that stuff about creating the living essence?, well, isn’t that pretty much the heart of sketching? Get the broad outline down quickly, work from life, don’t fiddle about with details, the sonnet is a moment’s monument, etc, etc. This is packed with illustrations, but there’s one in particular I keep coming back to. It’s a panda eating bamboo and thing is that you can sense the pandaness of it. It’s not just a picture, it really is alive and has depth and substance. Oh, OK, ‘chi’. You see, there’s just no other word for it There’s another one (this is in the 30-45 minute section) of an elephant coming down a bustling, colourful, market street and it really is, you can see it swaying through the throng, feel its sheer bulk, even hear the chatter of the market sellers. I tell you, none of this stuff is two dimensional, it’s scary.
There’s a link below. Click it. Buy this book. Do it now. You can’t afford not to.
First published 2006
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