About Chinese Brush Painting

Dating back many thousands of years, with its roots in the brush strokes of Chinese Calligraphy, Chinese Brush Painting (“guohua”   国 画 ) is one of the oldest continuous artistic traditions in the world.

Chinese painters use a traditional brush dipped into black ink, or colour on special paper or silk. Subjects include flowers, birds, animals, mountains and rivers. The painter aims to capture the life and spirit of the subject, making it live through the brush of the painter and the eyes of the viewer.

There are two main styles of traditional Chinese Painting: meticulous and free brush. The meticulous style, “gong bi” ( 工 笔 ) is very detailed and naturalistic. Paintings are calm and elegant, realistic but expressing the harmony of nature as a principle. This style uses outline and blended washes.

Examples of the Meticulous style
Red irise by Cai Xiaoli
Red irise by Cai Xiaoli
Peony by Cai Xiaoli
Peony by Cai Xiaoli
Blue irises by Cai Xiaoli
Blue irises by Cai Xiaoli

The painting style of the literati is called free brush or freestyle, actually “xie yi” meaning to write an idea ( 写 意). This style is simple and spontaneous, and uses a wide range of brush strokes to represent the subject.

Examples of the Literati style
Cai Xiaoli Fan
Cai Xiaoli Fan
Qu Leilei Bamboo
Qu Leilei Bamboo
Joseph Lo
Joseph Lo

See our Gallery, for examples of Chinese Painting by our members.

Chinese painting materials are readily available in the UK and are not expensive. Look here for details on materials, including the “Four Treasures”: special brushes and paper, ink and ink stones.

Here is a list of some books on Chinese Painting, art and history.

Lectures on Chinese Painting by Professor James Cahill.

Wikipedia has much information on Chinese Painting and famous Chinese artists.

Learn about the Lingnan school of Chinese Brush Painting.  More on painting and calligraphy.