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Chinese Watercolour: Chrysanthemums
Chrysanthemum, the Autumn Gentleman
This is the fourth Chinese Gentleman or Noble that we have discussed. It is the Chrysanthemum and it is the flower that represents Autumn. We have already seen the plum blossom for Winter, the orchid for Spring and the bamboo for Summer.
As with the other Gentlemen, the chrysanthemum is also connected with Chinese symbolism. Each of the Gentlemen are associated with high ideals of moral behaviour and the chrysanthemum reminds us of courage. This is one of the last plants to flower before the winter, so it needs courage and sturdiness to stand up to the cold winds and even the early snow. The flower shows defiance of difficult conditions and is triumphant in the face of adversity, displaying its blooms in all their glory.
For painting the chrysanthemum, you can use a variety of watercolour paints, but traditionally it is done simply, using just the ink stick and a tube of yellow to produce the colour.
Step 1: The Petals
To paint the petals you will only need a medium sized brush and yellow watercolour paint. I chose Cadmium which is rather bright. You may prefer to make them a shade of russet.
- Mix the paint with a little water, but then empty the brush a little so that it is not too heavily charged or it may smudge.
- First decide in your mind's eye just where you want to place the stem and flowers.
- When you have decided, place the base of the brush where the base of the first petal is to be and roll it slightly to make the petal a little wide. In the example, only half of each flower is showing, so the petals are all on the top part of the flower, but you can choose how you want to site your flowers and how many you wish to put in your painting. The base of the brush makes the centre of the flower.
- Paint some more flowers and add a bud or two, if you wish.
Step 2: The Leaves
Firstly, make sure you know where you want to place the leaves.
- If you are using the ink stick, add a little water to the ink stone and rub the stick on the stone to produce the black ink. In a palette (a tin lid or a throw-away plastic picnic plate will do), mix the ink with a little of the yellow to make a dark green.
- The process here is similar to the way that you made the petals. Lightly press the base of the medium-sized brush near where you will form the stem, but this time you need to roll the brush further to make the shape of the leaves as they are bigger than the petals.
- Make some of the leaves larger and make others smaller, especially near the top of the stem.
Step 3: The Stem and Petal Outline
Add a little more yellow to make the stem slightly paler than the leaves.
- Draw in the stem, curving it, so that it looks attractive.
- Making the paint even paler, and being sure to keep the brush not too wet, outline the petals. As the chrysanthemum petals are often curved, show this with an extra line on some of the petals.
- With a finer brush and a darker colour, mark in the veins on the leaves and add a few small leaves as well.
Step 4: The Flower Centres
- Using the black ink, create the flower centres.
- Check that you have completed all that you need to have done.
Your painting is now ready for framing and would make a lovely gift. If you want it to look really authentic, ask an Asian framer to put it on a scroll.
You could even make a set of the four Gentlemen if you have four matching frames.
Notice the painting below. The placement of the flowers and leaves is slightly different, the whole of one flower is visible, the leaves are smaller and more yellow has been used. For the leaves, part of the brush has been charged with the dark green and part with yellow. This makes an interesting effect, as most leaves are not the same colour all over.
Chinese watercolour painting can be a lovely hobby as it is so creative. The materials that are needed are not very expensive, either, and this is a boon if you make a mistake and need to start over again.