Archive for category Medium: Chinese Painting

Chinese Watercolour Techniques for exquisite flowers || Lian Quan Zhen

This is Lian Zhen’s third book on Chinese painting and follows his excellent and successful introductory guide and a volume on animals. In both of these, he demonstrated a fluid style that combines Oriental painting techniques with more Western ideas of composition that gives his work an instant appeal and combines a simplicity of approach with more extensive use of colour and the inclusion of more detail than you would get in traditional Chinese painting.

Having told you what went before, it probably won’t come as a surprise that this latest title provides more of the same. However it is, if anything, even better than its predecessors. Flower painting lends itself to a simplified approach and the use of colour, rather than line, to produce the finished result. The flowers throughout are things you’re likely to recognise and there are some very full step by step demonstrations that explain clearly the methods used. This isn’t botanical illustration by any means and the first impression in almost all cases is of a riot of colour. However, this impressionism isn’t extreme and the book stands well as a general guide to flower painting and not just a specialised Oriental one. It’s a visual feast that follows up with some excellent instruction and one which won’t, I think, disappoint anyone.

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Chinese Landscapes Made Easy || Rebecca Yue

I’m always suspicious of books that claim to be “made easy”. All too often, it means that they’re either nothing of the sort or that they trivialise what can be quite a complex subject and miss the point of it entirely. The more honest form of words would be “made accessible for the non-specialist”, but that’s not something that’s going to sell a lot of books, so maybe we can extend the olive-branch of understanding and stop being so damn picky.

This is, in fact, Rebecca Yue’s third book for Batsford and she has previously tackled both Chinese Flower Painting and Chinese Calligraphy and when a publisher commissions number three, you can be fairly sure they’ve found an author who sells.

What this book is, is a very well presented and accessible (see?) guide to most of the aspects of Chinese landscape painting, but written from a distinctly Western perspective – Avebury stone circle à la chinoiserie anyone? – so you get the usual mountains, trees, leaves, water etc as well as the simplification that’s essential to the philosophical approach that’s at the heart of all Oriental art. Actually, it’s at this point that the book does start to get a little unstuck. There are two related things at the heart of Chinese painting: simplification and the carefully-considered brush stroke. The application of paint or ink is not just a means of getting the medium onto the paper: it becomes an essential part of the image, and hence the composition, itself. However, when you look at the finished results here, there’s, I think, a slight over-complication that leads to a certain messiness. The brush strokes are there, but there are a lot of them, perhaps too many, and they seem to stand out, obscuring the image rather than defining it. In a true Western style, the brushwork wouldn’t be immediately visible in quite the same way, it wouldn’t draw the eye to itself and start to detract from the overall image.

If this bothers you, you may not be able to get to grips with what is otherwise a useful and helpful book. If not, then this is an excellent primer for anyone who wants explore the Chinese style of painting without having to buy into the whole philosophy thing or learn a completely new way of painting. It’s a substantial book (176 pages) and Rebecca covers a great deal of ground with her demonstrations clearly laid out and annotated with brush strokes and colours. There’s also a handy guide to materials including a wide range of brushes and their care and the different types of specialist paper available.

The popularity of Rebecca’s previous two books suggests she speaks to a lot of people, so there’s a good chance you’ll find this book helpful too, in spite of my slight reservations above.

First published 2007
£14.99

http://rcm-uk.amazon.co.uk/e/cm?t=artbookreview-21&o=2&p=8&l=as1&asins=0713490470&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

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Chinese Flower Painting Made Easy || Rebecca Yue

The phrase “made easy” in a book title should always be a sign to be wary. It usually means either exactly the opposite or that the subject is being treated at a superficial level suitable for those who only want to skim the surface. Even as beginners’ guides, such books are rarely suitable for someone who has a serious interest that they want to pursue further.

It’s therefore nice to be able to recommend something that breaks this mould. No, this isn’t a book that will teach you flower painting in a few days; indeed, it’s one that will repay a fair amount of study but, if you’re new to this style of painting, it’ll take you quite a long way. Covering flower and foliage types as well as colours and brushwork, the book is set out as a series of one- or two-page demonstrations with plenty of information in the form of extended captions that are straightforward to follow and form a more or less natural progression. Each one also links in to others, which are cross-referenced. Although this can lead to quite a lot of jumping around pages, it keeps the basic structure simple, which is the main aim of the book.

Flower painting and the Chinese style were in many ways made for each other. The unfussy, slightly loose style and simple colours of Chinese painting match the need for an interpretive approach to flower painting where the main requirement is not for a detailed botanical record.

Brushstrokes are important in Chinese painting and a whole leaf, petal or stem will often be handled in a single one. The book is therefore structured round them, with a whole chapter devoted to each of the seven main ones, a variety of flower and foliage types being demonstrated using each.

This is a book whose scope and depth are perhaps belied by its title. At 160 pages, it also represents good value for the amount of information provided.

Year published: 2004
List price: £14.99

http://rcm-uk.amazon.co.uk/e/cm?t=artbookreview-21&o=2&p=8&l=as1&asins=1843401428&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000ff&bc1=000000&bg1=ffffff&f=ifr

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