Simplicity Of Brush Painting: Handling A Double Edged Sword

Simple bamboo painting on new Semi-sized Shuen Paper

The Initial Attraction

Many of us were initially attracted to Chinese Brush Painting or Sumi-e by its elegant simplicity.

We remembered being affected by it and feeling compelled. Finally the interest built up enough that we decided to try it! Should be fun right?

The Panic

So here we are ready to try Chinese Brush Painting for the first time. Maybe we are using a video on YouTube, maybe we are taking a class. We're using a brush we borrowed or purchased from our teacher or maybe we got a kit as a gift from someone who went to China or perhaps we did some research and purchased something from the internet.

We paint our first stroke and then the panic hits us. "This looked so easy when I was watching it, but I can't seem to do it." Our strokes are shaky, our paper is bleeding uncontrollably, our brush does not come to a point. We feel like giving up. What initially intrigued us now seems to be laughing at us.

A Dramatization

Maybe this is overly dramatic. Maybe we are one of the lucky ones and just dived in, and good or bad started enjoying ourselves. Purchased reliable materials with good support from OAS and are happily progressing on our way to mastery. If this is you, then gleefully ignore this email and proceed along your chosen path with joy and encouragement.

But if you relate to this story in any way, then we have some words of encouragement for you.

Start with Quality Supplies

Realize that one of the reasons why we started OAS was because when Ning Yeh first started teaching people in the U.S., he realized that the quality of materials that were generally available were an obstacle to people having a positive experience learning Chinese Brush Painting.

He not only wanted acceptable quality, but actually a combination of superior quality and support that could bridge the gap between the invariable lack of skill of a beginning student and the joy that an experienced painter feels when painting. Master painters can make almost any materials work. The newer you are the more superior quality materials coupled with clear instruction help you experience the joy of Chinese Brush Painting immediately providing potent fuel to power your learning experience.

Your Part

Quality supplies and support from OAS and your teacher are only part of a successful equation. The second part is just a little patience and wisdom on the part of a student. The simplicity of Brush Painting cuts both ways. If an art form has only a few fundamental skills, it is like a mirror. There is no place to hide but to look at yourself, accept yourself wherever you are starting and begin the journey to building the handful of skills that an experienced brush painter possesses. You can do it! Just take it one step at a time.

If you can persistent beyond the initial panic of "this is so simple, but I can't do it," then the simplicity of Brush Painting is still an asset. As a creative person, I often look for art forms that have as little specific methodology as possible. After all, if I have something inside of me that I want to express, the last thing I want is to have to learn pages and page of techniques to begin expressing.

Much better to select Chinese Brush Painting and get started with brush, ink and rice paper.

Practical Advice

  • Start with quality core materials from OAS. Make sure you have the four brushes that are in our Premium Artist Brush Set or Pre-Series Brush Set. Try some core, beginner friendly OAS papers like Practice Roll or Premium Jade Plate Double Shuen or Pi Paper to find a good initial paper for you to develop your skill.
  • Take a class. During the Pandemic highly sought after teachers who previously only taught in person classes to local students are now teaching online. Try Mayee Futterman's very popular Live-On-Line classes or contact OAS for a teacher recommendation.
  • Rediscover how to learn. Many of us who are learning brush painting as an adult have not been "students" for a very long time. Part of successfully learning Chinese Brush Painting will be about rediscovering the joy of being a student and the personal process of learning anything new. The key is the understanding and the faith that neutral focus over time produces mastery.
  • Neutral focus is merely pointing your attention to a subject with a calm, open mind. If you are unable to focus, try closing your eyes briefly and only focus on what you are hearing. 5 seconds of this can help you return to the present moment with a calm mind that is ready to listen and focus.
  • If you want to work on your own, paint your way through Ning Yeh's "blue book" Chinese Brush Painting, An Instructional Guide. Make notes of any areas of struggle in this study and contact OAS for additional assistance.

Special Offer

Note: This offer was originally for our email list subscribers. If you made a qualifying purchase but on not our our email list, contact OAS for the special link.

Buy any of OAS' new semi-sized papers and receive a special link to a secret page that has a gallery of inspiration work for both papers and a special 17+ minute video lesson by Ning Yeh on the Secret Krinkle Technique for painting rock and landscape textures.

The page has been built and we'll be sending out the secret link to everyone who qualified, tomorrow at 5PM PST. 

Qualifying Products include:

P37 New Tea Colored Mulberry Paper 10 Sheets (17" x 31.5") $15

P37 New Semi-sized Shuen Paper 10 Sheets (27" x 54") $20

PA37-38 New Summer 2020 Semi-sized Paper Duo 5 Cut Sheets Semi-sized Shuen (17.25" x 27") + 5 Sheets Tea Colored Mulberry Paper $15


Simple landscape with secret krinkle technique on Semi-sized Shuen Paper


Simple landscape on Tea Colored Mulberry Paper

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