A Collection of Chinese Sketches By Ancient Well-Known Artists (1997), was compiled by a family friend, Yu Tong Ho. He distributed photocopies to a handful of people when he was planning to teach a course in Chinese painting. The course never came to fruition, and sadly, he is no longer with us, but I kept the copy given to me, and I’d like to use it to develop a sense for how to compose in a similar style with particular attention on how to use the negative space.
I chose a sketch I could immediately appreciate, which helps me focus on what I should have and what is not necessary in my own version.
There are four things I can see : the individual gestures of each of the thicker leaves, the gestures of the thinner leaves, the direction or composition of the thicker leaves as it moves across the page and how the thinner leaves kind of support the composition of the thicker leaves. The thinner leaves offer another layer which gives a sense of depth, as well as lead you out into the distance, which contrasts with how the thicker leaves make your gaze want to focus on them and to stay in that general area.
The video that accompanied this post has been deleted.*
I begin the video by warming up and getting a sense for what it feels like to use a Chinese paint brush and how much paint/ink is suitable for the surface I’m using, etc. I don’t have a name for the ink (my apologies), as it was also given to me, but the brush I bought from amazon, and the paper is just newspaper print.
Please keep in mind, I have only one other experience painting in this style. It was a course with a professional painter who was invited to teach a handful of people from the Chinese community, and it was while I was in high school. She taught us how to paint bamboo and leaves, and the only technique I remember is that going from one end of a section of bamboo to another is one motion. The thickness varies only by how much pressure you apply, letting the hairs flay out more, then less and then more again.
Below is my first attempt at copying the above sketch…
… and my second.
* Made a few rookie mistakes, like filming with my phone and without a tripod, filming with my particular kind of phone which produced a blurry video and letting a pop song play in the background (Birdy’s “Terrible Love). No worries, though. In my next post, I include another video with me copying a similar Chinese sketch/painting. I also hope to post many more videos on YouTube with me sketching to my heart’s content.