Chinese Trees & Bamboo Painting
Chinese Trees & Bamboo Painting
Trees can soften a scene and mark the seasons with color, shape, and amount of growth. They can also indicate weather and conditions. In order to facilitate this, different shape and styles are used for the foliage of many tree types, such as pine, maple, willow, round-leafed, fine-leafed, single-leafed, and multilobed leafed trees etc. Used either in outline or as solid strokes, these patterns can suggest delicate or robust growth. Likewise, the trunks and branches also help to show the character of the trees. The amount of detail, such as marking on the trunk of a pine tree, for instance, will depend on the size of that tree in the landscape. Pay attention to the attitude of the various trees: some are stiff and upright, others are soft and drooping. There strokes also have particular names: "crab's claw." "feather ," "pepper dots," "rice dots." and "bowed-head dots" are just a few.
The bamboo grows as high as a tree and belongs to the same family as grass. Its stems – hard, straight and hollow – are always pointing upwards. Its leaves are green at all seasons and beautiful under all conditions – struggling beneath the winter snow or swaying with the storm, under the moon or in the sun.
Although bamboo is distributed throughout the sub tropical and mild temperate zones, the heaviest concentration and largest number of species is to be found in South-East Asia. There are about 1,000 species of bamboo, some growing to heights of between 100 and 120 feet and having stems up to 12 inches in diameter.
Bamboo has always played a key role in Chinese culture and art and has helped generally to shape the country's life style. Poets and painters are inspired by bamboo's beauty and strength, Sh Shih said, 'I would rather eat no meat than live without bamboo. The lack of meat will make me thin, but the lack of bamboo will make me vulgar.' During the Southern and Northern Dynasties, a group of seven men of letters were known as the Seven Wise Men of the Bamboo Grove, so wisdom came to be associated with bamboo. As the bamboo grows upright, weathering all conditions, so it came to represent the perfect gentleman who always remains loyal. Wen Cheng-ming wrote:
A pure person is like a tall bamboo; A thin bamboo is like a noble man.
If any one subject area could be said to epitomize Chinese Painting and in particular shades of black, then it would certainly be bamboo. The structure of bamboo is allied in many ways to the strokes required in Chinese writing. When painting there can be no hesitation as brush meets paper, since the power that propels the brush to action comes entirely from within. Tranquility combined with confident brush control is needed to achieve a successful bamboo painting.
Because of the popularity of the subject matter, a great deal has been written about bamboo painting. The following is a compact version of the principles involved in this specific area of Chinese brush painting, where composition, brush control and ink stones are all essential elements of a successful bamboo painting.