Sunday, 12 September 2010

Shanghai Inspiration

Junk in Hong Kong
Original Watercolour from an old collection whilst living in Asia.
From our recent move many boxes still remain unpacked. Even those containing art from my travels and art supplies from all the locations we have lived abroad. I have yet to  find my Chinese materials of beautiful raw pigment stones, my collection of Chinese brushes with bamboo handles or the incredible Chinese paper and  antique silk which I used to paint on.

My mentor in Hong Kong came from Shanghai. For many years as an art student she was only allowed to wash the brushes of the masters who she admired. I remember her telling me  how very lucky she was to be able to do so. She studied and learned from the very best of artists in their field. What she instilled in me is far more valuable than simply creating paintings. She  placed in my soul  the determination to really see what I wished to create long before my brush even touched the paper. Before I met her my work was wooden. There was no life or feeling in each new painting with perfectly flat washes. At that time I only painted with the knowledge of a European artists style. Flat skies with pale backgrounds and slightly darker foregrounds. All the traditional English rules flew out of the window the minute she taught me her techniques. They now seemed dull, predictable and boring.

During her many lessons she would often hit the back of my hand with a bamboo stick should I even dare hold my brush in the wrong way. The discipline of  learning how and where to handle a brush became absolutely vital in my work and my results today are due to this magical  artists way of teaching.

I don't hit anyone in my class sessions, nor do I ever tell  an artist what they are doing is wrong because I do believe genuinely there is no right or wrong in how we work. But there is an artist in each of us that truly wants to create in a style that suits us. My Chinese mentor helped me find mine.

I am unpacking more than  boxes. I am  looking at each memory as a treasured part of my life and feeling blessed to do so. But how I have changed and how the years have led me to a point where I am so excited each time I pick up my brush.It is this excitement I want so badly to share in my workshops and demonstrations.

As I close my blog today I look at the painting of a junk I  created whilst living in Hong Kong years ago. I understand that we can only get better if we have a starting point to improve on.  I meet so many people with no confidence in their own ability because they put so much pressure on their shoulders to achieve. Giving up or feeling one will never be able to paint is a feeling that destroys the ability to improve. 

Having bad paintings to  look at and see why or how we wish to make them better is a fantastic gift.  So never look at a result that didn't thrill you as a negative. See it for what it is, a positive to learn from because we learn more from  paintings we don't like than from those we do!

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might.
                                                                                - Ecclesiastes 9:10



Susan Roux said...

What a beautiful and inspiring post! I even sent part of it to a student of mine who is struggling at the moment. I felt your ending was something she should hear... Thanks.

Your mentor sounds wonderful. I really like the feeling and colors in your painting. The sails are awesome.

Lindsey said...

thanks for that Jean - your words hit the very spot today!

Cristina Dalla Valentina said...

Thank you for your words, they are so encouraging for us beginners! I feel better when I think that, as you say, "there is no right or wrong in how we work. But there is an artist in each of us that truly wants to create in a style that suits us". So I can live with joy the whole process of growth that awaits me!

D.D said...

Thank you for sharing your experience & opinion. It’s very encouraging.