Time to incorporate painting?

When I started learning calligraphy, the class was a combination painting and calligraphy class. In class I focused on the calligraphy, but would learn some painting here and there. I was not particularly interested in painting because I’m not very good at drawing. I did start some abstract painting. I felt more comfortable than trying to paint or recreate tangible objects.

I recently decided to paint some plum blossoms for a piece for winter solstice. I had not painted plum blossoms before. I used brush pens to paint the flowers and branches. I think the piece turned out pretty good. The proportion of words to the painting could be better, but the focus was supposed to be the words, not the plum blossoms. It took a couple of tries before I got the color mixture I wanted for the flowers. But in the end, I think it reflected what I wanted to paint.

It later occurred to me that I actually liked painting the plum blossoms. The painting and calligraphy would look much better on mulberry paper instead of western watercolor paper. Watercolor would create a better effect compared to markers. The piece would look better if I actually painted it the way it was supposed to be in the Chinese style. I liked the simplicity of a single type of flower. Perhaps abstract watercolor was becoming too abstract and experimental. A single branch felt grounded and stable.

My conclusion was that perhaps it is time to start painting in addition to calligraphy. When I started calligraphy, some family members kept on suggesting that I also paint. In the Chinese tradition, a painter must know calligraphy because the basic painting strokes are calligraphy strokes. However, a calligrapher does not necessarily need to know how to paint. After more than five years of calligraphy, maybe it is time to start flower painting. Maybe I have built up enough technique for it?


6 thoughts on “Time to incorporate painting?

  1. On the same wavelength as ever, I see! Absolutely something I’ve wanted to do but obviously my plate is too full for now.
    Isn’t there an idea in China of the refined master knowing 3 of a number of certain pursuits like painting, calligraphy, and medicine? I can’t remember the name for it…

    1. Nice! It’s always funny how certain things creep up and turns into the next must-do.

      There’s the idea of the four arts of a Chinese scholar. The arts are: 琴 or 古琴,the zither; 棋 or 圍棋,the game of go; 書 or 書法,calligraphy; and 畫,painting. I suppose attempting two out of four isn’t bad. :)

  2. I was given a set of “Chinese” brushes last year and I have used them to paint in Indian inks and with watered-down acrylics (I paint in acrylics for my usual art work). Just for fun, nothing big expected. I was astounded at how the brushes gave my strokes thin and thick body and how my little sketches took on a personality so different from pen and ink and regular paintbrushes. I was hooked. I say go for the painting and enjoy it. I like what you have done here a lot.

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