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Asian Brush Painting: A Traditional Art Form
Corinne Windrim
12/24/2004



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Kathy Sung, a Professional Asian Brush Painter and Teacher, says it is like ‘meditation.’ Asian brush painting is a unique art form that reflects the beauty and style of ancient Asian culture, which is more than 6000 years old. The paintings, usually depicting nature and uncomplicated scenery, have a profound methodology behind them.

Mrs. Sung says that in preparation of Asian brush painting, the artist clears and cleans their mind. It requires becoming focused and entering concentration. When she teaches there is no speaking because it distracts the students from the process. The focus, concentration and purified mind is said to make the painting more vibrant and full of life. Conversely an unfocused, cluttered mind is said to lead to more mistakes such as making ‘dirty’ colors or putting too much water on the brush, damaging the thin, delicate rice paper

Asian Brush painting differs in style and content to it’s western counterpart. The paintings are usually based around themes or ideas that the artist wants to express. The subjects in the paintings are symbolic figures, which portray deeper meanings. The purpose is to bring life and essence out of each subject in the painting. Everything that is chosen in the painting from color, brush effects, layout of the painting and the subject(s), reflect the inner meaning and message the artist wishes to express. On usage of color, Jack Liang wrote in Qi: The Journal of Traditional Eastern Health & Fitness, “In Western painting, color is based on scientific optical theory. However, Chinese painting uses color to express emotion, projecting, for instance, warmth and aggressiveness in contrast to cold, calm and sadness.”

The materials used include the unique bamboo paintbrushes that have animal hair bristles. The brushes come in all sizes and several kinds of animal hair are used. Each kind of brush gives a distinct brush stroke and texture to the painting. The brushes have wide based bristles that narrow to a point at the tip of the brush. “One stroke can make a leaf.” says Mrs. Sung while talking about brush strokes. Using the brush heavily, lightly, slowly and quickly makes a variety of effects on the paper. The paintings are done on silk or rice paper, are never drawn before hand and are not copied directly from an exterior scene.

Mrs. Sung says that this form of painting is very good to teach children because it requires more focus and body discipline. She says the paintings don’t usually take long to make but the techniques are taught for 2-3 months before the student makes a picture. The preparation, part of the intrinsic process, begins by making ink with water, an ink block and ink stone. The artist rubs the ink block on the ink stone and after the ink is made watercolors are mixed. Mary Love, a Saskatchewan playwright and student of Mrs. Sung says, “I actually think they help me with my writing.” “Kathy’s taught me patience and sometimes a writer needs patience, if things aren’t going right you have to stick with the characters and work on the problem.” Ms. Love takes lessons with her daughter Jasmine who is 12 years old.

Kathy Sung was a professor at the Hong lk University in Seoul Korea for over 15 years and has authored workbooks for Brush Painting students. Since her arrival in Canada she continues to paint and has taught students of all ages. One of her projects has included art instruction for public school students through the “Learning through the Arts Program” that was created in Ontario in 1999.

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