Integrating Techniques and Culture to Create Fascinating Watercolor Paintings

If you think you’ve exhausted the possibilities of painting a specific subject, such as flowers, then think again. Chances are you’ve not yet experimented with Chinese watercolor painting–a style that is beautiful to behold, and when taught by Lian Quan Zhen, is a low-pressure activity that is about the journey as well as the results. Keep reading and you’ll see what I mean. The following excerpt is from his book, Chinese Landscape Painting Techniques for Watercolor.

Lotus by Lian Quan Zhen

Lotus (Chinese ink and color on mature Shuan paper, 14×18) by Lian Quan Zhen

“For years, I’ve studied with both Chinese painting and watercolor masters and have attempted to blend Eastern and Western art theories and techniques in my own work. The results of these integrations are intriguing and sometimes even amusing. Many of the paintings you’ll see in this book are difficult to identify as either Chinese or watercolor. The difference is not important to me as long as they capture the essence of the flowers.

“Few Chinese paintings in this book were created in a strictly traditional manner, though I do demonstrate ancient Chinese theories and basic techniques. Hundreds of years ago, a famous Chinese painting master said, ‘Brush and ink should follow the change of time.’ I take his word seriously in my art creation endeavors. As a result, my paintings have developed some distinctive characteristics. Specifically, the Chinese paintings are full of vibrant colors (which is more typical of Western painting) and the watercolor paintings have evocative white space (which is more typical of Chinese painting).

“I have loved painting since I was a little boy, but I never expected to become a full-time artist. My breakthrough came in the early 1990s, after I had been living in the U.S. for nearly ten years. I think I achieved my dream because I was able to observe and learn from many masters and techniques that were not available in China when I lived there. More importantly, I gave myself a lot of freedom in painting. I didn’t want to simply copy objects or rely on one master’s methods. Sometimes I joke with my students in the U.S., saying that Chinese artists paint freely because they seek the freedom that rarely exists in their traditional society. By contrast, some American artists paint too tightly, perhaps because they enjoy so much freedom in their lives.

Orchids by Lian Quan Zhen

Orchids (Chinese ink and color on mature Shuan paper, 22×16) by Lian Quan Zhen

“Painting should be a happy experience, not a pressured activity. No artist can paint a masterpiece every time he paints.” ~Lian Quan Zhen

What I love about Zhen’s books is that they go beyond painting techniques by incorporating a cultural education. Art is universal, and I think it’s important to learn about it from a global perspective, in order to better understand our own art, culture, and selves.

If you’d like to learn more from this artist, check out North Light Shop’s Chinese Watercolor Painting Collection, which includes three of Zhen’s books (one paperback, two digital), three bamboo brushes, and a sample set of paper. This kit is only available here, and there is a limited number. It’s a great opportunity to dive into Chinese watercolor painting, so that, in Zhen’s own words, “you can learn a lot, have fun, and be happy.”

Joyfully,
Cherie

Cherie Haas, online editor**Click here to subscribe to the Artists Network newsletter for inspiration, instruction, and more!

And, don’t miss this additional article about Lian Quan Zhen, Chinese Watercolor Painting: It’s a Small World | Eastern Art Meets Western Art, where you can learn five differences between the two styles!

 

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