All posts by John Gray

Sunday Group Update – April

In April we were revising bamboo and plum blossom – with added birds. Li Jia explained that it was necessary to revise the 4 gentlemen annually to ensure you were getting into no bad habits and I we hadn’t done this for a number of years as a group. So – we had a go and these are some of the results

Sue Jones

Malcolm Gowlett

Karen Gowlett

Jean Gray

Bernard Taylor- Ballantine

Marion Dearlove


AGM Update – March

17 members attended the AGM today and we had a lively meeting.

We have agreed to have a free for members lunch at our August Sunday meeting in memory of Joyce Levermore – so, no painting that day but we are expecting lots of good food, good conversation and enjoyment. Attendees will be expected to bring at least one picture to decorate the event.

People brought pictures to decorate the room at the AGM today

Final display of Qian Xuan landscapes

Members pictures


Sunday Group Update – February

We met on a rather chilly grey day and compared where those who remembered to bring their Xian Xuan landscapes had got to. It was a rather magnificent attempt all round. This is what we have at the moment.

It was generally agreed that tackling something that you had never tried before had been challenging but fun and it was agreed that we would look for another Artist’s work that offered the same opportunities. 

This month we were looking at the work of Ming Dynasty artists – including both formal paintings and sketches by Shen Zhou, Wen Zhenming, Wu Wei and Da Jin. All of the examples are works in progress. 

In the Ming Dynasty a ruling Chinese Emperor was restored to power and with this change came a return to Confucianism and the re-establishment of Court art and court artists. This now gave China two art streams that developed in parallel – the Court / Professional artists and the literati / scholar artists. The Ming court – currently also referred to as the Bling court because of its devotion to gold and decoration – was a major supporter and sponsor of professional artists and attempts were made to re-establish the artistic and cultural supremacy of China’s past, specifically the style of the Song. There was a big move towards figure painting (including erotic) and flower and bird painting where extensive colour and decoration were possible. Literati art declined without court support, however, the Wu school, founded by  Shen Zhou, flourished during the Ming and maintained the newer landscape traditions. There was still no dry brush lines for texture – everything is a line. 


Sunday Group Update – December

This month we had a look at Qian Xuan’s interpretation of blue green landscape which he worked on during the Yuan Dynasty when art supplies were a bit sparse.

Qian Xuan (1235-1305) started as an aspiring scholar-official during the rule of the Southern Song (960–1279). However, he had difficulty climbing the ranks of officialdom. Then, when the Mongol-founded Yuan Dynasty took over the southern regions of China in 1276, he gave up on the idea of a career in civil administration and devoted himself to painting. He became noted as a “fur and feathers” painter but was also known for landscapes that hinted at a longing for a return of native Chinese rule. He mixed Song realism with an archaic Tang style. Some examples can be seen here 

Replicating his Mountain Hermitage – which is a long hand scroll – is no simple task is a short class!

It appears that:

  • There are no dry brush texture lines – all mountain texture is created with line work.
  • The ink outline are done first – mountains, bridge, buildings and tree trunks and branches and pine needles
  • The furthest mountains are outlined in very light ink, Burnt sienna and light ink is added to base of the mountains and banks of the river
  • Mineral green and mineral blue are added to the landscape – very light on the furthest mountains
  • Ink and indigo wash is added to the pine trees to create foliage
  • Mixed green – indigo and gamboge is added to the deciduous tree to create foliage
  • Some indigo lines or mineral blue 2 lines are added to represent shading on the mineral blue mountains
  • Some mixed green or mineral green 2 lines are added to represent shading on the mineral green mountains
  • Burnt sienna and ink is used to colour the buildings
  • Some ink leaves are added to the deciduous trees
  • Ink dots are added to the landscape for emphasis – not too many and effectively grouped.

Nothing was finished, but everyone made a good start on laying out the image and will work on finishing it over the next month or so. If we have any finished version they will be on display in future updates.

Qian Xuan Mountain Hermitage

Marion Dearlove investigating how Mountain Hermitage was painted



Sunday 4th November – creating backgrounds with Qu Leilei

 In November, we had another exciting and informative day with Qu Leilei. This was another techniques—not subjects—class.

Leilei brought a number of examples of backgrounds with him and demonstrated how to create them for our own use and then offered advice on how to use them or further enhance them. There will be an article on techniques in the January newsletter.

Leilei and example backgrounds

Verdigris Bronze background

Cool background

Warm Stone background


Click on our Facebook Link on the right of this post to view some more wonderful Chinese brush paintings submitted by the Facebook members.

Sunday Group Update October

We had a wonderful afternoon in the sunshine looking at the work of Huang Yong Yu (who is in his 94 year). He has a very unique style. We had to really look at the pictures and try to work out how he painted his flowers. The conclusion is – backgrounds go on first and then when they are almost dry the flowers are added. The flowers make use of lots of thick paint mixed with mineral colour to hold them on the surface of the backgrounds. Everyone painted a background first and then painted an owl or a crane whilst the backgrounds were drying. Sadly, not many of the flower paintings were finished but they are all works in progress!

Bianca Degan – one on the finished flowers

Sarah Turner

Audrey Andrews

Jean Gray

Mitsuko Ohno

Marion Dearlove


September Sunday Group Update

This month we had a look at Autumn Flowers and fruits by a number of artists including Li Kuchan – not known for his flower painting better known for large birds, Chao Shaoang, Xu Gu, Qian Xuan, Eric Ng,  Qi Baishi, Qu Leilei (in the style of Wu Chang Shou) and Wu Chang Shou himself.

It was a warm and sunny day and everyone had fun painting together on the paper of their choice.

Love and best wishes Marion x


Sarah Turner

Ayako Kassouf

Audrey Humphrey – work in Progress

Jean Gray

Anna Lau

Bianca Degan

Marion Dearlove


Sunday Group August

It was a very hot day and the select few had fun painting Yuan Dynasty Landscapes.

You will remember that at this time, many scholars who would have been government officials were disenfranchised by the Mongol invaders and found themselves with time on their hands. They also had a shortage of art supplies so had to be inventive or make do. So, lots of very nice ink work and a move away from gong bi and the over colourful Song style. We looked at the work of Ni Zan, Wu Zhen, Huang Guangwang, Zhao Mengfu and Fang Congyi

Huang Gongwang (1269–1354), rejected the landscape conventions of his era, but he is now regarded as one of the great painters who most decisively altered the course of landscape painting by creating models that would have a profound effect literati  landscapists of later centuries. One of Huang Gongwang’s strongest methods was his technique of using very dry brush strokes together with light ink washes with wide strokes that blend together to build up his landscape paintings. You will note that every stroke is written – there is no side brush scrubbing going on during this period.

Fang Congyi (1302-1393) was a native of Guixi, Jiangxi Province. In his youth he studied and became a Daoist priest, joining the Zhengyi Dao sect at his local temple. After the death of his principal instructor in the early 1340s, Fang travelled along the Yangtze River to the capital Khanbaliq, now Beijing. It was there that he began painting. He obtained a patron and produced a number of fine works based on his travels. He primarily painted landscapes.

Ni Zan (1301–1374) was a Chinese painter during the Yuan and early Ming periods. Along with Huang Gongwang, Wu Zhen, and Wang Meng, he is considered to be one of the Four Masters of the Yuan Dynasty. Ni Zan’s landscapes tend to be ink-monochrome paintings of widely separated riverbanks rendered in sketch brushwork and foreground trees silhouetted against the expanse of water. His sparse landscapes never included people and defy many traditional concepts of Chinese painting. Ni Zan consciously used his art as a medium of self-expression. In 1364, he said “I use bamboo painting to write out the exhilaration in my breast, that is all. Why should I worry whether it shows likeness or not?”

Wu Zhen (1280-1354) was a native of Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province. His work tended less toward naturalism (i.e. painting exactly what the eye sees) and more toward abstraction, focusing on dynamic balance of elements, and personifying nature. The lines in his painting are smooth, curved and flowing primarily aiming to create a work focused on balance.

Zhao Mengfu (1254–1322), was a descendant of the Song Dynasty’s imperial family and was Kublai Khan’s first minister and is still considered a traitor by the Chinese.

He was also a scholar, economist, painter and calligrapher. Because he was a vey fine calligrapher, his works display an amazing variety of brush strokes using dry and wet lines to crate the textures he was seeking to achieve. He is believed to be the first person to explain in his calligraphy on a painting why he was painting it rather than adding a poem. His early work is typical Song but his later work is very innovative.

All of these artists had very distinctive styles and their work is known to have influenced future literati landscape artists post Ming. In the Ming it was considered a crime to copy Yuan dynasty work and you could be put to death for it!

Mitsuko Ohno

Sarah Turner

Bianca Degan

Anna Lau

Jean Gray 

Maron Dearlove 


July Sunday Group Update

We had a look a wide range of flowers in different styles by a collection of different artists. Strangely enough, everyone selected lotus for their paintings!

I apologise – I don’t remember which picture belongs to which artist but we had some interesting results.