The beautiful city of Yangshuo in China’s Guangxi province (near Guilin) is famed for its strange-shaped karst mountains and serene rivers. Known as the “heavenly hometown of travel on earth” this scenic region has long been an inspiration for artists. In this story, I share my personal experience of a Chinese brush painting lesson.
On my last trip to China, I got the chance to relax after hectic days in Beijing and Xi’an, and to spend an afternoon with a local teacher, learning how to do Chinese painting. If you would also like to create graceful artwork on delicate rice paper, there are plenty of teachers offering Chinese brush painting lessons in popular cities in China.
Learning Chinese Brush Painting in Yangshuo
My artistic travel buddy was desperate to give Chinese painting a try, but I have zero painting skills, so my expectation level (and enthusiasm) were rock bottom when I walked into the class.
I needn’t have worried though as the teacher was super patient, informative and fun, and our private Chinese painting lesson was perfectly tailored to suit our (very) different artistic skill levels.
Chinese Brush Painting Lessons: How to paint bamboo
First, we learned how to hold the brush properly, how to load it with paint, and then how to paint bamboo. Very slowly, I built up confidence in how to use the Chinese painting brushes and was beyond thrilled that I’d produced something resembling bamboo stalks!
The pace of the lesson was perfect – unhurried and with plenty of opportunity to practice (over and over again).
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Chinese Brush Painting Lessons: How to paint leaves
The next step was learning how to make the right shapes for bamboo leaves. After more practice, we were ready to slowly start building up our bamboo pictures, with leaves adorning the bamboo stalks we’d created earlier.
As my confidence grew, I started to see some real results. There was lots of encouragement and plenty of laughter – painting was never so much fun at school, where I’d always felt like a total klutz in art classes.
Maybe it was the environment, or maybe it was the delicious cup of Chinese tea I sipped as I worked, but soon I relaxed and started to enjoy myself.
Chinese Brush Painting Lessons: Painting flowers
My favourite part of the painting lesson was when we learned how to create delicate pink cherry blossom! It was a delicate balancing act to get just the right amount of water to avoid making a soggy pink mess at this stage! But the results were so pretty.
As we practised, we also learned about the history of Chinese art and our teacher shared a little about Chinese culture too. Before long, our 2-hour lesson was over, and it was time add the final touch to our paintings.
Chinese Brush Painting Lessons: How to seal Chinese Paintings
Have you ever noticed that Chinese paintings bear a little red mark, like a wax seal? This mark, known as the Chinese chop, is used to sign documents, artwork, and other paperwork.
How is the Chinese chop made?
An identification mark is carved into the bottom of a small item of decorative sculpture formed from soft stone.
How do you use a Chinese seal or name chop?
- Tap the stamp gently into the ink. Don’t press it down, as this will flood the concave gaps with ink, leaving a stamp that blots and is difficult to clean
- Hold the paper steady and press with a circular motion
- Lift straight up
5 things I learned from Chinese brush painting lessons
- A new skill
- How to make something unique and pretty
- A little bit about Chinese culture
- The history of how documents are signed and “sealed” in China
- How to slow down and relax during a busy schedule
I never thought I’d be able to do Chinese painting, but I walked away feeling thoroughly refreshed and I’d definitely recommend this activity.