Chinese Watercolour Techniques for Painting Bamboo
Bamboo is Number One
Asian art is very popular, especially Chinese art. If you want to learn how, bamboo is usually considered to be Number One, the first thing to paint when learning to follow Chinese watercolour techniques. The traditional way to paint is to use an ink block, also known as Chinese ink cake, and this needs to be patiently rubbed on the special painter's stone slab that has a small well one side to hold the water.
Did you know that bamboo has great significance for Chinese people? It is a symbol for success, prosperity and protection from evil.
Believe it or not: Bamboo is actually giant grass. It is the world's largest member of the grass family and grows to its full height in one season. That makes it the fastest growing plant in the world!
Supplies Needed for Watercolour Painting
If you choose to paint in this way, you will need a roll of rice paper, a jar for water, the stone slab and ink cake, an old blanket ironed flat to rest the paper on, and a couple of Chinese brushes. Extras include a special small spoon for adding water to the stone slab and a brush rest.
Painting Bamboo Stems
You may want to tear or cut small pieces of the paper so that you can practice the stems or stalks. Chinese watercolour techniques involve brush painting and learning to draw using the brush. There are no guide-lines, you just picture in your mind where you want to place the stems, or other images, and then draw them with the paint.
Make sure you have made enough paint. Do not overload the brush but keep it fairly dry as little bits missing enhance the appearance of the painting. Sometimes it helps to practise in the air, just above the paper until you have visualised how you want it to look. Then draw the brush up the page from the bottom, stopping at intervals to begin to form the sections of the bamboo. Try several times until it looks the way you envisage. Notice that in the image shown here that too much paint was used. Less is better.
The Section Markers
These stylised bamboo section markers, sometimes known as knots, should stand out, so you need to rub the ink block a little more to make the paint darker.
For these markers, you may need to use a finer brush than the one you used for the stems, and you will need to have it charged with a little more paint, too. Again, practice painting the knots until you are confident with them.
The Bamboo Twigs and Leaves
The darker ink is best for the twigs and leaves, although when you have practised a little, you may want to enhance your final painting with some paler twigs or leaves in the background.
The Twigs: Begin the twigs at the base of a section and sweep them out in the direction you want them to go, making small breaks as you go.
The Leaves: Begin the leaves at the twig and sweep them out to be a little wider, then peter off to a point.
As with most parts of a bamboo painting, if you paint a leaf or two crossing over each other, this is good. Crossed-over leaves are a symbol of tranquility.
The Completed Painting
When you are satisfied that you have learned how to paint each part of the bamboo, it is time to prepare another, probably larger, piece of paper, and put all these parts together.
Symbolism: If you choose to paint a certain number of stems, you may be interested in the symbolism for Chinese people. Warning: do not paint four stalks together, as that is unlucky and stands for death.
Two stalks stand for a long marriage, three for wishing happiness, five for good health, six for harmony, and eight for prosperity.
Have fun and enjoy the serenity of painting the Chinese way. Celebrate the finished masterpiece by having a meal that includes bamboo. Whether it is rice cooked in bamboo, bamboo shoots or in some other form, it is all delicious!
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