Chinese Brush Painting

Chinese brush painting has its origin in China over 6,000 years ago. Early on, Chinese brush painting was limited to lacquer ware and pottery and later evolved into paintings on murals. In general, there are three main categories of Chinese brush painting:

  • Figure paintings
  • Landscape paintings
  • Flower and bird paintings

The Chinese used a similar brush for their paintings as is used for watercolor paintings today in the West. Despite the fact that calligraphy and painting are present in Chinese brush paintings, separate brushes are used for each discipline. A brush technique called "cunfa" is used for expressions of shade and color, while "dianfa" is a dotting method used for plants, trees and other simple objects.

The ink used in Chinese brush paintings is formed by adding water to a caked mixture for a desired consistency. This paint is then added to either silk or paper. Early on, Chinese paper (today known in the West as "rice paper") was made from the barks of trees. However, today paper is processed from machines in most cases. This has the advantage of allowing the brush strokes to be seen better in Chinese brush paintings.

The primary objective in Chinese brush paintings is to express the characteristics of the subject instead of expressing shades in a realistic way. This allows the artist of a painting more freedom to use the compositional space than in Western paintings. In essence, this means Chinese brush paintings can possess objects hanging in mid air, pair up related objects and even do away with the background entirely. Some people may not like or understand the intention of Chinese brush paintings, however their success over the last several thousand years cannot be argued.