Lesson #1 for Any Artist

Rose Painting by Lu Cheng-yuan from his book To Paint in Ling-nan Style 1: Theories, Flowers, Vegetables. See a video book review of the entire book.

Among the Many Lessons to Learn in Your Chinese Brush Painting Journey, Do Not Forget the Most Important Lesson of All

If we were sitting in a room and I asked you what was the first / most important lesson for a Chinese Brush Painter what would you say?

Moisture control? Confident brush strokes? Color loading and blending? Composition balance? Reacting gracefully to the unexpected?

These are all wonderful things to learn, but the first and most important lesson is much more simple and fundamental? And this lesson is (drum roll please...): Learn how to enjoy your own painting.

Need More Convincing?

I can hear you saying, "wait a second, isn't that just the proverbial 'don't forget to have fun' advice?"

Well, in a nutshell, yes, it is. If you were following that advice already, feel free to ignore this email. But many of us are not following that advice. We are gritting our teeth and sighing with frustration as we paint each stroke. Some of us are struggling to find a feeling of enjoyment when we paint.

For those of you who are in this boat, let's step back and realize some fundamental things that may be helpful. First and foremost, in many ways enjoyment is the purpose of life. Everything you want to be, do or have is because you believe it will make you feel better. And the best way you can feel is to be joyful. So the end goal of everything should really be enjoyment! You want to be skilled at painting because you think it will be more enjoyable.

Avoid the Dissatisfaction Trap

This seems simple enough but there is one easy trap to fall into. If you are already dissatisfied with your current skill level to the point that it is affecting your ability to enjoy painting, then you should realize that as your skill level inevitably increases, so will your desire to be even better. This means once you arrive at the skill level you wish you had now, your desire will expand and you will automatically want to be even better.

This is not a bad thing. This is really the process of life. You make a desire, you fulfill that desire and you automatically make another desire. When approached with patience and confidence, this process can be quite enjoyable. But if you choose to be frustrated in the gap of time that it takes for you to become the painter that you want to be, this can start an endless cycle of effort and dissatisfaction. The secret is to take the time to enjoy the painter that you are, even as you strive to become the painter that you want to be.

Practical Tips

  • Realize that enjoyment and improvement can go hand in hand. In fact, cultivating the love of what you are doing is one of the best things you can do. You engage in a process of constant and never ending joyful improvement. Not only does it give you fuel to take the action necessary to improve but it also gives you inspiration to improve more quickly with less struggle.
  • If tackling a specific subject or technique is causing you frustration, just take a quality OAS Brush and paint simple strokes on Magic Paper or with Ink on Practice Paper. Focus on the sensual pleasure as you stroke your brush against the paper without the burden of expecting anything specific. Remember this feeling of enjoyment and then redirect yourself back to more specific work.
  • Understand that frustration or dissatisfaction only slows improvement. Even if you are used to using that feeling to motivate you towards action, the same action with a more joyful attitude will yield much better results.
  • Realize how many times you have focused on a desire and seen it fulfilled in your life. The successful process of creating the simplest things in the past share everything in common with you fulfilling your current desires as an artist. The difference is with simple things you are used to having patience, belief and faith. Choose to have those with your painting and see the results over time!

Free Rose Lesson with Any Purchase of $50+
The Rose lesson booklet features two simple compositions. One in a fine line or gong-bi style, the other in a spontaneous or Hsieh-I style. Either is perfect for a small painting to give to a loved one or to put on a hand painted card.

To receive this lesson as a free gift, just add items to your cart totaling $50 or more and then add the lesson to your cart. The cart will automatically give you the lesson as a free gift with purchase. Alternatively you can add the lesson to your cart first as a reminder and the minute that you add enough additional items to qualify for a free lesson, the lesson will be automatically awarded as a free gift with purchase.

You can also browse our growing library of gift lessons and choose a different lesson following the same directions above.

Artist improvement

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