A Look at Chinese Brush Painting

Chinese Brush Painting has returned! Don’t miss your chance to sign up for the remaining 3 Friday sessions on Sept. 22nd, Sept. 29th, and Oct. 6th from 10am-12pm in-person at the LEC! This beginner’s course welcomes artists of all levels.


Chinese brush painting is believed to be one of the oldest artistic traditions in the world, first emerging in early BCE. Brush painting and calligraphy have been highly valued art forms in Chinese culture, especially throughout history. In the 13th century in particular, simple paintings of single flowers, fruits, or birds became very popular subjects—establishing the loose, simplistic style and nature-based themes we associate with Chinese brush painting today.


Chinese brush painting is similar in style and technique to calligraphy. It is known for using delicate, refined brushstrokes that are highly expressive and spontaneous. It is typically done with a brush dipped in black ink or other water-based pigments. Most commonly, brush paintings are monochrome or mostly monochrome with eye-catching pops of color. In addition, brush paintings were traditionally painted on rice paper or silk.

The expressive brushstroke style is known for capturing the inner spirit or essence of a subject as opposed to a highly realistic rendering. In Chinese culture, a single ink brushstroke was thought capable of conveying the vitality and spiritual essence of the subject. Artists aspired to capture the qi, or life force, of the subject through brush painting. As a result, Chinese brush painting is more than a physical representation of an object—it is also a symbolic expression.

Subjects & Meanings

Chinese brush paintings are often calm and elegant, expressing the harmony and beauty of nature as a principle. Artists would often go into nature and intently study and contemplate their subject before returning to their studio with a “mind image.” Without a preliminary sketch, artists relied on a mental picture while painting their subject, hoping to capture its spiritual essence in the spontaneous freehand process.

Depicting nature is a key aspect of Chinese brush painting. Common subjects include: bamboo, flowers, trees, plants, animals, birds, and other simple scenes from nature.

Sign up for Chinese Brush Painting here!

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