Picture the process

“The form of the mountains, distant and imposing; the brushstrokes are simple and sparse (山形雄且邃,笔画简而疏)...” – Mei Yaochen (梅尧臣) (11021060 AD)

I have what one might call an idiosyncrasy, or plainly a bad habit.

    Whilst it is conventional for ink painters to have one or more mixing-dishes to thin out gradations, I always work with multiple shades on the same white dish. This is frankly a trait borne out of practicality and laziness; a grinding stone is of course more traditional, but I find that the white porcelain surface makes it easier to measure tone, even of so-called “thick ink” (which is really not any one thing), not to say intermediate tones. Also, washing too many receptacles is a hassle.

    Another quirk perhaps worth mentioning. I never use a blotting cloth, which forces me to find a way to dry out the bristles on the ink-dish itself or on the paper where it can be incorporated as part of the painting process (for instance, as a precursor to clouds or receding mountains).

    A brush, a bowl of water, a sheet of paper secured with a horizontal weight and a few drops of ink, segmented away on the same white dish use I use for mixing. All spread out on a black felt mat to keep the floor from staining. The endless utility of basic objects, pared down to their essentials.

    Wet your brush, dry some of it on the edge of the bowl and empty the remaining shadow of a trickle into the corner of the dish. Then, just start where the ink tells you, all regard for the rigid stages of trees first, then rocks, background and features tossed away with a playful but respectful abandon. The entropy of broken and gathered bristles, wet and dry, and the whims of gradation usually make it quite clear what the next stroke should be. And perhaps more important to this genre of painting than any individual stroke or technique, where space should be left undisturbed.

    Perhaps it could be said that this is in the exact same spirit of the landscapes that proceed therefrom; “I’m not painting a landscape, I just mention a pine here and hint at a cliff there and the water and sky, rain and mist paint themselves”.

“Mention one, know three (举一明三)…”

    Finish by signing and affixing a seal.

And finally, the mounted work

The Eight Views of Xiao and Xiang《潇湘八景图》 (2016)