And on the other hand...

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Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Mountains are High

...and the emperor is far away.

Another class doing brush work that isn't exactly my style, but trying to work nice with my new teacher, a very kind and serious Korean nun.  Before she arrived in the studio, I was attempting a copy of a painting by Wu Zuoren, a 20th-century Chinese painter, trained in classical western watercolor and oil techniques in Europe in the '20s and '30s, but who returned to traditional Chinese styles.  He is well known for his paintings of camels and yaks, not common objects of (or subjects in?) brush painting, but he was attracted to them after spending time in Mongolia and Xinjiang. I love these. I own two paintings of WZ-style camels -- I assume they are copies.  One is very bad, I bought it on eBay from a seller in Shanghai, I could have done it; but the other, acquired at a silent auction at a local Chinese culture event,  is pretty good.  Perhaps I have a hidden genuine gem in my collection.
Genuine Wu Zuoren or copy? Nimen zhidao ma?
I was about to try to approximate the brush strokes of a couple of Wu Zuoren's eagles flying over an abstract landscape when my teacher arrived.  She didn't smack my fingers with her brush, but she did tell me to put the book away, and not to copy.  (Never mind that copying masters is a traditional Chinese training technique.)  "You can do that at home, but not here.  I want you to develop your own style. No copying."

So, based on her textbook (not the Mustard Seed Garden Manual, or any of the other fine Chinese landscape guides I have), I produced some rocks, below, choosing my own washes, but deferring to her technique for depicting water.

Rocks and Water
She seemed satisfied and then said, "Now paint this."  Copy this?  I wasn't sure what "this" was, apart from some abstract mountains in the background.   There were no brush strokes I could identify to mimic, like in Wu Zuoren's paintings,  and it occurs to me now that it looked more like a Willem de Kooning piece than a traditional brush painting.
Teacher's Landscape
Since she had advised me not to copy, I decided to interpret what I thought I saw in my own way, also with reference to her own textbook.  My piece includes a funny little guy entering from the left, a fisherman developed to cover an unfortunate ink blot left by a careless brush:
My Interpretation
I felt very humble and bad, really, as she occasionally hovered behind me and I was pretty much ignoring everything in her painting.  I turned my finished piece in as a class assignment, and then mentioned to her that I was enjoying a Korean drama, Painter of the Wind, very very loosely based on the lives of the 18th century Korean artists, Kim Hong-do and Shin Yun-bok.  (Regarding this, see Tao 61 Yin post.)

"Ah, Kim Hong-do," she said.  "So you are interested in this have background.  How long have you been studying?"  I told her about my experiences over the past three years with a traditional Chinese bird and flower painter and visiting Chinese museums and studying the history of that tradition.  

Then she photographed me with my interpretation of her painting.  Perhaps I'll turn up on her blog as a troublesome student.
Pesky student.  Wu Zuoren copy? Zhidao ma? Lousy paper!


Brandon said...

The paper was bad, but that eagle still looks pretty bad ass. Learning is fun, eh? Hope your teacher gives you a break.

baroness radon said...

Unlike the rest of the class, I'm not in it for credits, just fun, which probably makes me a troublemaker. Thanks for looking. I'm gonna try the eagle again, on better paper.

sybil law said...

Well I like your paintings, so that matters more. Well, according to me, anyway. :)

baroness radon said...

I don't know what she's gonna say when my book on how to draw camels arrives from Shanghai....
Thanks again, as usual, for appreciating my humble efforts.