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An Ongoing Art Journey In China

At Owen I enjoy discovering the world along with my students, through reading, games, and art. When I am not teaching, I relish learning for the sake of my own personal development. My hobbies include but are not limited to listening to music, playing sports, and making art. In the social media platforms, YouTube and Instagram, I particularly enjoy following artists that inspire me. It is amazing to see the hands-on and technological skill people have to make art. I lean more towards doing art with my hands, and that’s why I prefer fine arts, such as drawing, painting and sculpting. From now on I would like my blogs to be identified with art content more than anything else. You may now refer my blogs as the ones of, “that American guy from Chongqing, who writes about art.”

I’ve learned art on my own. I’ve spent hundreds of hours in bookstores. I’ve also learned art with friends. I’ve also paid thousands and thousands of dollars to learn art through online courses, private classes and even university. I took two art classes in university, but I never imagined I would continue to pursue art the way I do nowadays. I paint 2 traditional forms of Chinese art; 写意 (Xieyi) and 工笔 (Gongbi); Freehand Traditional Chinese Painting and Fine Line Chinese Painting. I am also studying an apprenticeship with a Chinese Tattoo master. In later blogs I want to share with all of you how I managed to find so many connections in the art industry. But for today’s blog I want to give everyone a simple introduction to the foundation that makes up my experiences with Chinese art. I will briefly explain 5 forms of Chinese art that I have come in contact with. Bear in mind that Chinese art is by no means limited to these 5 forms. In fact, Chinese art is very broad and diverse. Through Chinese history there have existed hundreds of forms of Chinese art, from wall art to weapon engineering to festival fireworks to papercutting. I will stick to 5 forms of Chinese because I can speak about them from my firsthand experience, not only from textbooks and online articles.

Chinese Calligraphy (书法;shufa), Traditional Chinese Painting(写意;xieyi), Fine Line Chinese Painting(工笔;gongbi), Chinese Ceramics (中国陶瓷;zhongguotaoci), Chinese Painting Tattoos(中国纹身;zhongguowenshen)These 5 Chinese art forms have interested me the most in the last few years. If you are serious about learning Chinese painting, I recommend one to not skip Chinese calligraphy. Although there are hundreds if not thousands of Chinese text fonts, the techniques for wielding the brush are fundamental. Take a look at the Chinese word 永(yong), meaning “forever.” Every stroke of this Chinese character has a specific order. Every stroke has a specific movement too. My preferred way of learning this art form is by watching video. First on memorizes the stroke order, then one replicates every individual stroke movement as shown by the calligraphy master. Chinese Calligraphy is brandished everywhere in China; communities, stores, restaurants, landmarks, and more. Chinese Calligraphy is a great way to improve one’s Chinese language skills too. I highly encourage everyone to try it.

Traditional Chinese Painting, also known as 写意, is the easiest way to acclimate with the field of Chinese painting. The reason I say this is because Xieyi translates roughly to “freehand writing images.” On the other hand, Gongbi style one generally traces designs from master artist’s or creates one’s own design before tracing. I highly encourage Xieyi for beginners. Xieyi is extremely beginner friendly. So much so that it is child-friendly too. Many of my current and former students practice Xieyi as early at 5 years old. Xieyi is a watercolor-based form of painting, so acquiring the skill of water and pigment control is essential. But unlike Gongbi which requires great precision and careful application of ink, Xieyi allows one to apply very bold strokes. I started learning Xieyi by myself with a few simple subject matters; mainly painting bamboo and pandas.

The next two forms of Chinese art we will talk about today are Chinese ceramics and Chinese art tattooing. As I mentioned in my earlier blogs, I am residing in the great city of Chongqing. In the west side of the city we have a famous landmark called 磁器口; Ciqikou. The Chinese word Ciqi means porcelain; chinaware. It just so happens that Ciqikou is an old port town, particularly famous for the exporting of porcelain. Although the invention of porcelain did not start in Chongqing, the art form has been practiced by many artists throughout the province. These days Ciqikou welcomes tourists within China and abroad to learn about the industrious process of creating porcelain art. You can try it yourself when you come to Ciqikou.

When we talk about Chinese culture and art, we think about its rich and long history. Chinese art is not limited to the past. The future of China hasn’t looked better than now with the embracing of technology and an openness to external trade and influence. China has also embraced the tattoo industry. Not only can you find a multitude amount of tattoo parlors around the city, not only can you find thousands of young people sporting a tattoo on their shoulder or back, what is amazing to see is how China is fostering its own style of tattooing. American style tattoos and Japanese style tattoos are world renown. But you may have never heard of a style of Chinese tattooing that has been slowly evolving within the last 10 years. That is all for now, my art friends. In later blogs I hope that my readers and I go more in depth with the Chinese art forms I just mentioned. I hope you can all join me along my art expedition through Chongqing and all around China.

If you have any questions about OWEN Education or Chongqing, feel free to contact me

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