Nandina, Another Watercolour Stilllife with Essence of Traditional Chinese Painting Features, Mar 2018

Nandina plays an important role in traditional Chinese culture, especially when it comes to interior decoration, literature and painting. Personally, I think any plant grows mature in winter would be a symbol of ‘keep efforting in hard condition’ in traditional Chinese culture; therefore, I am not going to research its true meaning and position in our culture correctly. But regardless, Nandina is still common to be a decoration in city planning these days. As a matter of fact, it does look rather charming in winter, when all leaves are gone, gardens look pale and empty, Nandina will be the only red colour you can see.

Most research in this project is featured in traditional Chinese painting that suitable for combing with the contemporary watercolour style. As I mentioned before, when it is about plants, personally I would divide watercolour into two styles: English and Russian.

Traditional Chinese painting is mostly about shaping out characteristics of objects without superfluous brush works. So in this case, I suppose colour, and basic shaping would be sufficient for this project; therefore I am not looking into hyper-realistic Russian style of reproducing plants.

Men are liars. Remember that. That is why I still found the classic technique in Russian plant watercolour – a dizzy dye of green colour with a hint of red. Then the simplism composition of traditional Chinese painting, as well as its colour use. Then the emotional method of English watercolour. That divided nine pictures of this project in three parts.

The first one, the traditional Chinese part. For as fewer brushworks as possible and the massive use of ink style, I used the special ink that I mentioned in the earlier blog before – which obtains an abundant amount of colour, but unable to blend to strokes into one. I put a little red colour in as well, for highlighting the crucial part of the image. It actually is also a technique in traditional Chinese painting as well. Like, dye the most essential part with colour in a mono-colour picture.

Nandina 01

Ink on paper, A5, Mar 2018

Nandina 02

Ink on paper, A5, Mar 2018

Nandina 03

Ink on paper, A5, Mar 2018

Now the second part, adding 1/4 cup of realism in.

Nandina 04

Watercolour on paper, A5, Mar 2018

Nandina 05

Watercolour on paper, A5, Mar 2018

Nandina 06

Watercolour on paper, A5, Mar 2018

And the final part. Here are some utilisations of my self-made colour. I used an English brand gold calligraphy ink as the foundation, then mixed some basic material of making solid watercolour cubes, some mineral dust to make it shinier – mostly came from what I can find in a fluorite mine near my grandparent’s hometown – hopefully one day in this process my technique could grant me the ability to craft some mineral colour luminous.

Nandina 07

Various materials on paper, A5, Mar 2018

Nandina 08

Various materials on paper, A5, Mar 2018

Nandina 09

Various materials on paper, A5, Mar 2018

Personally speaking, I might share a bit more fond to Nandina when compared with people with the same age – gardening is something prevalent in elderly people in China. When I was a kid, my father used to took me to work. There were some beautiful Nandina grew in the garden outside. So most of my childhood I would sneak out of my father’s office, and strangely, hidden in the garden to observe and sketch Nandina. I was very impressed by the complexity of its floristic structure. This preference actually reflected in my aesthetic standard as well, most of my paintings contain a large amount of details and a highlight of the principal object with a minor amount of bright colour.

Honestly speaking, I did not expect an appreciation to the structure of a plant could influence my artistic life so much. Actually, I did not even come out this conclusion before I think it through. I used to rip off all fruits of Nandina I picked in the garden to see its structure more clearly.

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About cechenpaints

An artist, painter, illustrator based in London.