Spring Newsletter 2021

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In this Issue:

Chinese Brush Painting Mastery Step 5
Moisture Control Tricks
Looking Ahead to Spring
All About Narcissus
How to Get Unstuck as an Artist
Introducing New Tube Colors!
Embracing Technology as an Artist
YouTube Channel and Grass Orchid

Chinese Brush Painting Mastery Step 5: Following the Path to a Finished Composition

by Evan Yeh

Mechanics of Mastery

While there is no magical elixir for instantly becoming a master brush painter, there is a set of skills necessary for becoming a master. The Mechanics of Mastery series was designed to help each one of you develop your own skills so that you can be confident in your own painting! Whether you are just beginning or a seasoned artist, we believe that you can derive benefit from these steps!

In previous newsletters, we covered Steps 1-4 in the Mechanics of Mastery Series. If you missed the previous newsletters, you can read Steps 1-4 on our website: https://orientalartsupply.com/blogs/news/the-mechanics-of-mastery

Step 5: Following the Path to a Finished Composition

Quite possibly one of the biggest differences in mindset between Western and Eastern cultures shows itself in watercolor painting. There is an unpredictability to spontaneous style Chinese Painting that an Eastern mindset embraces. I remember being in my father’s Brush Painting classes and hearing him repeat the mantra “Do the stroke, whatever happens, happens.” Another one of my earliest memories of my father painting was watching him demonstrate a horse painting at the County Fair. As a large group of people looked on, he proceeded to paint the eyes of the horse. As he did this, he offered “I always start with the eyes of the horse. The eyes will tell me what the horse wants to do.”

These two examples show a mindset that is releasing expectations and willingly following a changing path with confidence and excitement even while being unsure of the way the path will wind or the final destination.

Quite often the hardest thing to resist for a painter with training in Western painting is to resist trying to “correct” a stroke that they judge as a mistake. Raw shuen (Xuan) paper used for spontaneous style Chinese Painting is very “honest” paper. If you judge a stroke as a mistake and try to fix it, this will be obvious. My father never says the word mistake, instead he offers the phrase “Happy Accident.”

The key to successful spontaneous style Chinese Painting is to see each stroke as it happens (reserving judgement), and then making the best choice for the next stroke. I see many artists develop a habit of stopping a painting after they make a “mistake,” crumpling it up and starting over. The problem with this tendency is that you will never develop the essential skill of recovering from an unexpected stroke. This is a skill that all master painters possess. So many of my Father’s best paintings are filled with unexpected strokes or “happy accidents.” This is one of the most exciting aspects of spontaneous style Chinese Painting. Once you learn to embrace the unexpected you can proceed joyously down the path to a rare combination of feelings: the feeling of mastery combined with the excitement of the unexpected.

Ning Yeh shared his family tradition with artists in Beijing during his 2010 American Artists’ Dream Journey Tour. Starting with the eyes of the horse, Ning Yeh picks the next best stroke based on his previous strokes, whether or not it was what he originally intended.

Practical Tips to Remember

  • There are different types of practice. As critical as it is to practice strokes and elements to build confidence, it is equally as important to practice finishing compositions. When you are doing this type of practice, always complete a painting. No matter what goes wrong, don’t waste the opportunity to practice the skill of reacting to the unexpected by making the next best choice.
  • Suspend the judgment of your analytic mind while you are painting. There will be plenty of time to evaluate and judge after the painting is complete. Instead, develop the habit of reacting to the unexpected with delight and positive expectations. Rather than saying “darn it, I didn’t mean to do that,” instead say, “how interesting, what should I do next?”
  • Allow your mind to think out of the box of your original expectations. Ink drips can be turned into butterflies or bees. Water spills can become mist or clouds. I’ve seen master artists leave these types of things on framed paintings as signposts of spontaneity.
  • Expectations are not bad, they just need to be applied with an open mind and long term thinking. Over time positive expectation can be a very powerful creative tool.

(Above) Evan and Jashin painting collaboratively.

Collaborative painting is when the two artists work together on a piece of artwork, alternating strokes or groups of strokes. It teaches the important lesson of releasing your expectations, focusing on what is already on the paper, and taking the next best step.

Release yourself from your own expectations and experience the joy and freedom it allows.

Practice Shuen (Xuan)

Our Practice Shuen offers an easier time with moisture control, especially for beginners, while still producing color variation well. If a masterpiece should happen by accident, then Practice Shuen can be mounted and framed for final presentation beautifully!

9 1/4” x 13 1/4” - 48 Sheets

P03B: Practice Shuen - $9.50

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13 1/4” x 18” - 48 Sheets

P03BL: Large Practice Shuen - $25

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Vintage Double Shuen AO

Called Double Shuen due to its thickness, this paper is a very thick single shuen. It is a handmade paper that is pulled with an amount of paper pulp slightly thinner than a double shuen. It’s smooth to work with and provides an easier time with moisture sensitivity than our other single shuen. Shows color well and doesn’t inhibit the artist’s brush movement.

18” x 27” - 12 Sheets

P24A: Vintage Double Shuen AO - $11

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Moisture Control Tricks

by Evan Yeh

Moisture control is one of the skills necessary for successful Chinese Brush Painting. For those of you looking for exercises to develop greater moisture control skill, take a look at Step 2 in Mechanics of Mastery: Master the Moisture.

Although in the long term it is best to build skill and confidence with loading the brush and painting decisively to avoid unwanted bleeding, there can be some tricks that can help reduce frustration for those starting out.

Use Better Paper

  • Our Practice Roll, compared to other machine made rice papers, is more friendly for beginners in the way that it handles moisture.
  • If you’ve tried the OAS Practice Roll and want even more help with moisture control, try our Premium Jade Plate Double Shuen (Xuan) or Vintage Double Shuen (Xuan) AO. Both these papers have good moisture control qualities especially for raw paper. The Premium Jade Plate Double Shuen (Xuan) has both better moisture control and better color display while the Vintage Double Shuen AO is excellent for the price.
  • Semi-sized paper is even more moisture resistant than thicker raw papers. Partially treating the paper with an alum-coating/sizing makes the paper more resistant to moisture.

Other Techniques, Tricks, and Tips

  • Paint more decisive strokes with more time in between each stroke. Most painters struggling with moisture would do better to do each stroke faster and decisively while pausing longer in between strokes. Doing strokes too close together can cause excess moisture in each stroke to invade the other compounding your bleeding problems.
  • Use glue water to add more moisture control to critical strokes without affecting the rest of the painting. Take a water soluble glue like Liberty Glue and dilute a drop of glue in some water. Then load the glue water on your brush first and then your ink and color.
  • If you paint a stroke and suspect it is too wet, you can quickly press a clean paper towel on top of the stroke to soak up the extra moisture.

What’s the Difference Between Shuen and Xuan?

These are different spellings for the same type of paper.

Hanyu Pinyin is the romanization of Chinese characters - in other words, Pinyin is the system used to convert the Chinese character’s sounds into the Roman alphabet. Each letter of the alphabet corresponds to a sound in Chinese, but it doesn’t always have the same phonetics as English. For example, in pinyin, the letter “X” is pronounced like “Sh.” Thus the spelling “Xuan” is the Pinyin and “Shuen” is a more English-friendly spelling.

Practice Roll

This is a great paper for someone who is new to OAS to start with. It is inexpensive, consistent from batch to batch and will give both you and OAS a common reference point when talking about papers.

P03A: Practice Roll 12” - $8
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P03: Practice Roll 18” - $12
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Liberty Glue

A water soluble glue that mixes with water to aid beginners with moisture sensitive papers.

GL: Liberty Glue - $2

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Premium Jade Plate

Double-ply shuen (xuan) paper, Ideal for flowers, bird and animal painting and even low moisture landscapes.

P27: 10 Full Sheets - $45

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Looking Ahead to Spring

by Evan Yeh

Looking Ahead to Spring

We have been reminded by recent events that most of the country is very much experiencing the cold of winter, but some artists are looking ahead to the Spring.

Savvy artists are always practicing ahead of the season. This way, by the time the season actually comes around and the public is ready to express the season, the artist is already practiced and will many times have finished works to show resulting from the earlier practice.

Time to Practice the Significant Peony

Now is a great time to think about Peony. Peony blooms in the late Spring and stays relevant into the summer. Starting to work on Peony now will give you plenty of time to practice and finish some paintings which you can have ready to share by the time Peony fever hits the public at large.

Peony is an iconic and deeply symbolic flower in Chinese culture. It is considered the "King of Flowers" and its majestic beauty is symbolic of feminine beauty and material wealth and status. The flower is celebrated with a huge festival in the city of Luoyang every year in mid April.

Semi-Sized Shuen (Xuan) Paper

This paper combines the smooth feeling of raw shuen (xuan) with the moisture control of semi-sized paper.

10 Full Sheets (27” x 54”)

P38: 10 Sheets of Semi-Sized Shuen (Xuan) - $25

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Single Shuen (Xuan) Paper

This paper offers a smooth surface for experienced artists who demand the utmost fluidity and swiftness in their strokes. It offers the most vivid color display and stroke variation but is quite sensitive to moisture.

P10: 10 Full Sheets - $28

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Peony - Gong-bi Style Lesson

Ling Chi and Ja-shin collaborated to make a fine line lesson that is both beautiful and easy to follow.

WSF0001 Gong Bi “Fine Line”: Peony - $8.50

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All About Narcissus!

Narcissus in Two Styles - Gift Lesson for a Limited Time!

In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a hunter known for his good looks. He spurned all his lovers, eventually falling in love with his own reflection. After his death, a flower, named after the renowned hunter, sprung up in his place. Others believe that the narcissus/daffodil is a symbol of the budding of hidden talents.

Perhaps you have some hidden gifts of your own! This two-in-one lesson is perfect for developing your talents and testing out new waters. If you always paint in hsieh-i style, this will give you a chance to try out gong-bi style of painting. If you prefer sticking to gong-bi, this will encourage you to try out the hsieh-i style of painting! This step-by-step, stroke-by-stroke lesson is perfect for beginners and advanced artists alike! This lesson includes an outline of the gong-bi narcissus for tracing.

GLS058: Narcissus Lesson - $9.95 (Free with qualifying purchases for a limited time! Discount will automatically apply to orders over $50.)

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Painting the Narcissus Book

This book by Chen Wen-Ching includes step-by-step guides on painting many different styles of narcissus. Perfect for those wanting to dive deeper into flower painting!Instructions and material use are in English and Chinese. Contextual stories only in Chinese

80 pages
Q063: Painting the Narcissus - $30 add to cart  more info

Limited Stock - Full Lotus Brush

The Full Lotus Brush makes it easy to paint branches or strokes with consistent widths instead of the wide-thin-wide-thin lines. You don’t have to worry about hold-ing your brush down with just the right amount of pressure - this brush will do the work for you!

Tip Dimensions: 2” x 9/16”
Type: Combination
CSP04: Full Lotus Brush - $39

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Limited Stock - Twig Brushes

Not only can the brushes be used for gong-bi and hsieh-i styles of painting, but it is the perfect brush for adding those last few strokes to your paintings!

Tip Dimensions: 7/8” x 5/16”
HSP10 Twig Brush - $15
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Tip Dimensions (Big): 1” x 1/2”
HSP10B Big Twig Brush - $22

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Narcissus on the a river bank painting by Chen Wen-Ching featured in her book Painting the Narcissus

How to Get Unstuck as an Artist

by Evan Yeh

The Feeling of Being Stuck

Many of us who have engaged in artistic pursuits know the feeling of being stuck. Things do not flow, nothing is achieved easily, and the energy feels stagnant and stale. What is going on when this is happening? Most importantly, how does one most effectively work through it?

What is Really Happening When You Feel Stuck

There is a famous philosopher, Heraclitus, who is best known for his quote “Life is flux,” or in other translations “Nothing is certain in life but change.” If Heraclitus is correct, how is it possible to even feel stuck? The answer is surprisingly simple.

We each have the power to create our own life experience dynamically and precisely. We do this by directing our minds to focus positively on the things that we want to experience in our life. When we get “stuck” what is actually happening is that our mind is creating the same experience over and over again because we are continuing to focus in the same way. Focusing on the feeling of being stuck causes the mind to create new but identical experiences. This happens over and over again until we direct our minds to focus in a different way.

How to Get Unstuck

Oftentimes, realizing that you are creating your own experience with your thoughts and your points of focus is enough to get unstuck. If you feel stuck, the most important thing you can do is change your point of focus. Rather than working on the same problem in the same way, just stop and go for a walk in the woods. Often changing the subject in your mind will be enough to start things flowing in a pleasing way.

When you feel stuck as an artist, pause for a moment and examine your thoughts. Oftentimes, you will notice a repeating loop of negative thoughts that reinforce all the reasons why you believe you are stuck. Instead of thinking, “Why do I feel so uninspired?” think, “I love it when inspiration is flowing.” If such a pivot feels so big that your mind rejects it, try something softer like “even though I am feeling uninspired now, I know that what I want, is to feel inspired. I am looking forward to the time when I feel inspired again!”

Help From Your OAS Family

As a practical note, for those of us who practice Chinese Brush Painting, we, your OAS Family, know what it is like to feel stuck. Sometimes we suspect that many of our customers feel stuck at relatively early parts of their Chinese Brush Painting journey. To alleviate this we have begun to publish a Mechanics of Mastery Process which breaks down the skills that make joyful Brush Painting possible. (To read the full series on Mechanics of Mastery: Steps 1-5, go to Mechanics of Mastery

We are here to help! Whether it be directing you to better suited tools or instruction, offering practical tips for increasing your confidence, or just offering some notes of encouragement, we are here to help! We want you to free yourself from the bonds of stagnation and once again flow down the wonderful river of Chinese Brush Painting!

To read the full article, visit the blog post: How to Get Unstuck as an Artist

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Introducing New "Bright Light" Watercolor Tubes!

We’re very excited to introduce this new line of tube colors!

Here at OAS, we wanted to find a set of colors that is not only excellent quality, but also affordable.

Regarding quality, we wanted the colors to be colorfast when artists go to wet-mount their work(meaning they won’t bleed).

We also understood that it can be frustrating if you only need one tube and have to purchase the entire set again. That’s why we’ve made these colors available as individual tubes as well as sets!

Lastly, these colors can be used for Chinese Brush Painting as well as Western paintings. The palette of colors offers versatility to suit your needs!

Individual Tubes - $2 - more info

CS10-108: Bright Light 108 Flowers Set - 9 Colors - $14.99 

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CS10: Bright Light Original Set - 15 Colors (with Introductory Discount) - $24 

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Mayee Futterman's setup for her live-on-line classes, where she is able to teach students from around the world!

Embracing Technology as an Artist

by Evan Yeh

I've been involved in producing many types of art projects over the last 30 years. If there is one common thread that crosses all the experiences in all the different art forms that I've been involved in, it is the effect of technology on the production, promotion, and even the definition of what it means to be an artist.

Every industry I've been involved in underwent the same transformation process. At first, everyone dismissed the technology. Then they marginalized it as being inferior to the older, more expensive ways. Finally every serious artist I knew was eventually faced with a choice: embrace technology or risk being made irrelevant by technology's transformation of their art form.

Fine Art is the Last Holdout

Fine Art is one of the last holdouts, stubbornly resisting being changed by technology. Asian art, in particular, revels in being an ancient art form and still adopts very old tools like handmade brushes, paper and ink.

What has changed even in fine art is the way that art is promoted and appreciated by audiences. With the advent and dominance of social media, the process of promoting oneself as an artist has been made available to anyone who is willing to embrace the technology and apply some patience and persistence over time to expose their art and find their audience.

Technology is Supposed to Empower

For those of us who dislike technology, it is important to realize that in every case the purpose of technology is to empower an individual person to have a greater impact on the world around them. In large part it is successful. Music artists like Beck and Billie Eilish recorded platinum selling albums on relatively inexpensive home equipment. YouTube is redefining stardom more democratically as tens of thousands of content makers are building audiences in the millions and earning comfortable livings doing all kinds of artistic activities.

Not Just Art But Everything

Avoiding technology not only limits you as an artist but also can make you a kind of second class citizen. The internet is such an efficient means of distribution that it is being used to distribute all kinds of things in a way that is supposed to be fair and efficient. Unfortunately for those of us who hold ourselves away from computers, this puts us at the end of the line.

Some Practical Tips

  • If you are someone who has yet to embrace technology, start by examining and softening your attitudes. Instead of saying, "I hate computers" say, "I've found computers difficult to understand in the past, but my mind is open to how they may be used to make my life better."
  • Realize that computers are a skill that can be learned like any other skill and as time goes on, computers are actually getting easier and easier to use.
  • If you are unfamiliar with Apple products, visit an Apple store. They have an army of people willing to demystify their iPhones, iPads, and computers.
  • Use computers and devices like smart phones and tablets as a way to connect with kids and grandkids. When you are visiting with kids or grandkids ask them to show you something on their device.
  • Take a class. Senior Centers are amazing resources. City planners have been preparing for the baby boomer generation for decades and have built places called Senior Centers which offer free classes on computers.
  • Have fun with the process of all learning including technology. Life is so much easier if you think of it as a game. Mistakes just mean that you are learning! Always remember to enjoy the process and to keep telling yourself that you can do anything that you focus on!

Read the full article here

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Oriental Art Supply - YouTube Channel

We have had our YouTube channel for a very long time (almost as long as YouTube has existed) but not until recently were we actively posting content. We now post a new tutorial weekly, featuring them every Wednesday on our social media pages. This is a great way to explore painting instructions at no cost to you - no DVDs or paid subscriptions necessary! Go to our YouTube page and click “Subscribe” to receive notifications when we post new, free content!

Grass Orchid is the Gentleman of the Spring

In the tutorial featured above, Ling Chi covers the basics needed to complete your own Grass Orchid Painting. The four fundamental subjects of Chinese Brush Painting are frequently referred to as the Four Gentlemen. They are grass orchid, bamboo, chrysanthemum, and plum. Grass Orchid is the gentleman of the Spring. These subjects teach the basic strokes that are needed to paint the rest of the subjects in brush painting.

Common Materials

In the YouTube tutorials, Ling Chi usually uses similar tools and materials so that you can follow along without having to purchase new materials every time we publish a new tutorial. Some of the commonly used materials include the following: Ideal Companion - Set of 12 Colors, Best Bottle Ink, Twig Brush, and OAS Flow Brush.

CS03: Ideal Companion Set 12 - $9.99 more info
HSP10: Twig Brush- $15 more info
I04: Best Bottle Ink - $15 more info
C2C: OAS Flow Brush - $18 more info

Fundamentals of Chinese Flower Painting by Su-sing Chow

Designed to build a firm understanding of the fundamental methods for rendering the Orchid. Artist Chow Su-sing teaches in a step-by-step, illustrative manner, detailing traditional painting techniques.

63 pages, Chinese/English
M002: Volume 2: Orchid - $15

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Chinese Brush Painting: An Instructional Guide by Ning Yeh

Ning Yeh’s Instructional Guide includes an entire chapter dedicated to painting Orchid, providing clear directions for each stroke. Perfect for beginners and a great review for more experienced painters!

BK01: An Instructional Guide - $24.50

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Thank you so much for reading our newsletter! Let us know if you have any questions or comments!


1 comment

Peter Millward

Peter Millward

I am a member of the English Chinese Brush Painters Society. We are linked to you through our webpages www.cbps.co.uk etc via links on our pages. We hear about what you do and have links to all your Chapters. This is very inspiring to learn about what you do and your shows and exhibitions. Long may this continue and I find your materials lists very interesting and wonder if materials ordered through you would make it safely to England?k

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