Lian Zhen Workshop

I spent days this past week at a wonderful workshop at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck– Lian Zhen’s East Meets West Chinese Painting and Watercolor workshop. I learned a lot, had a great time, and came away very much encouraged about my art and motivated to move forward with it.

Monday we learned about Chinese spontaneous style painting and we painted sunflowers, using Chinese colors and ink on raw Shuan paper, which is very thin and about as absorbent as paper towels.

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Sunflowers- Chinese painting colors and ink on rice paper

The second day we learned how to do Chinese detail style painting. We painted an angel fish with a complex background, using Chinese colors and ink. I still have more to do on the background of this painting. This is on mature Shuan paper– rice paper that’s been treated with alum to be less absorbent. It is very thin and a little sparkly on the side we used.

Angel fish- Chinese colors and ink on rice paper

On Wednesday we painted a rooster, using watercolors on cold pressed watercolor paper. That felt like coming home to me after painting on the rice paper, even though some of the painting technique was a little new to me. We only used three colors for this: Antwerp Blue, Pyrrol Red, and Hansa Yellow Light.

Rooster and chicks- watercolor

On Wednesday afternoon Lian demonstrated how to mount rice paper paintings on 90# watercolor paper so that they can be matted and framed. I’m looking forward to trying that soon.

Thursday and Friday we worked on a large, complex watercolor using a pouring and splattering approach– very new for me. The subject was also new to me– a sailboat complete with lots of rigging, as well as a complicated dock in the background. It took me quite a while just to figure out what was what in the photo. I still need to do finishing touches on my painting, but I am fairly happy with how it’s coming along. At any rate, it is a learning piece, and I am very happy with all that I have learned in the process of doing it.

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After masking light areas and splattering paint on Thursday
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Boat painting work in progress

On Thursday I finished the masking stage of the boat painting a little while before lunch, so I decided to try painting Rowan on watercolor paper but using Chinese paints. I used a photo I had on my cell phone and tried to paint quickly, as we had done for the rooster. I didn’t end up staying as loose as I was intending, but I am happy with how it turned out.

Rowan- Chinese paints on watercolor paper

On Thursday evening there was an exhibition by many of the many workshops happening at Omega. We all hung our paintings on the wall, and four of us did demos for the audience. Two painted a sunflower painting and two of us painted a rooster on rice paper using Chinese paints and ink. We painted it in under ten minutes, while Lian explained what we were doing and then conducted a fake auction, pretending to auction off the rooster. It went for $1,000!

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I don’t always paint barefoot– we had to take our shoes off in that room!

It was altogether a challenging and inspiring workshop, and I’m looking forward to putting the skills I acquired into practice, both in paintings of the sort we did in workshop, as well as incorporating some of these techniques into other work I do.

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