Friday, March 6, 2009



President, Shirley Knollman, introduced our guest artist, Jean Vance. Jean teaches at the Middletown Art Center and the Fitton Center and is an adjunct professor at Miami University and the University of Cincinnati. Jean has an MA and a MFA from Bowling Green University. She works mainly in watercolors, doing portraits and abstract expressions of nature, but has had an interest in Oriental Brush Painting since she was a child. In 1982, Jean travelled to China with the Ohio Trade Fair, the only woman in the group except for an interpreter. There was so much interest in her program that the show had to be shut down for two days. At that time, there were many art students who wanted her to get them to the US, and many people wanted to ask questions about her art.

During her trip, Jean visited the art “factories” where Chinese art students learn by copying the masters. The traditional elements of bamboo, pine, and plum blossom are called “the three gentlemen,” and it is common in the factories for a student to spend more than three years painting just one of those elements and mastering that before being allowed to move on to the next element!
Jean gave us some information about the materials used in Oriental Brush Painting, letting us know that the American term “rice paper” really means nothing. What we call rice paper doesn’t mean paper from rice and it has nothing to do with China. The Chinese invented paper and the paper used in traditional Chinese Brush Painting is called xuan (shoo-aahn), which is so thin and absorbent that you can only put down only one stroke and never go over that stroke again.

Part of the technique in brush paintings is the preparation: the grinding of the inkstick on the stone in a specific way; the focusing and calming of your mind; the visualizing of the painting before the first stroke is put on paper. The paraphernalia used is beautiful in its own way: a wonderful variety of brushes made from sheep, goat, ox, horse hair or even chicken feathers; the way the brushes are hung from silk ropes suspended brush down from a lovely holder; the thick, red wax for the signature chops; and the chips of pure color. The beauty of the stroke is also as important as what it is conveying.

Traditional Chinese brush paintings use only black and white. You grind your ink and use three values of black for your painting. The ink stone is lacquer-based ink so when it dries, it cannot be reconstituted by adding water. You need to thoroughly clean your supplies when you are done so no ink remains on your palette or in your brushes. Jean had Deb Ward come up and grind the ink today. Jean told Deb to calm her mind, think of nothing but grinding the inkstone in the water, making 10 circles to the left, then touching the water, then 10 circles to the right, then picking up more water, as she created fresh ink to be used in today’s demo. It was a meditative style of preparation before painting.

The traditional Chinese brushes are natural hair brushes that maintain their shape once they are bent to the paper. There is no springing back into a shape after the brush leaves the paper – something you have to get used to and use to your advantage in brush painting. As Deb ground fresh ink, Jean showed us how to create the “teardrop stroke,” the “nail stroke,” and the “bamboo stroke,” always holding her brush vertically as she lightly touched ink to paper. Jean painted a wild iris, and she incorporated the drybrush technique called “flying white” when she painted bamboo. She reminded us that once the stroke is down, it is done – no do-overs in this style of painting. If you don’t like what you’ve got, you get a new piece of paper and start over.

The type of painting Jean was doing was called “mah-goo.” It uses no outlines or drawing, just the brushstrokes to define everything. You must remember that you are not painting the thing, but the essence of the thing.

Jean showed us the technique to put in a background wash – which is done on the back side of the painting. In the hanging painting of the mountain scene in the photo below (far left), the blue water and sky both were painted on the back side of the painting after the ink had dried. The color was from Chinese chip colors, actual chips of pure pigment.

Some of the chip colors, like rattan yellow (made from the sap of the rattan tree), date back thousands of years. Jean said the tube paints you get for Chinese painting are like gouache paints. Jean buys her supplies direct from friends in China, but she says you can get Marie brand colors from art suppliers in the US. However, Jean stressed that Chinese brushes you buy here are not really Chinese, and the Sumi ink you buy here is not the same as the Chinese ink sticks. These ink sticks are as beautifully created and decorated as everything else in Chinese brush painting.
Traditionally, paintings were framed by putting them on a scroll that was mounted on silk. Using wheat paste, you glue the back of the finished painting and you do this pasting over red felt so you can see where you’ve missed the stroke. Putting paper on top of the pasted painting, you then place it on a smooth surface and paste around the edges to seal it in. To dry it, you blow on the edges, thereby adding your breath to the painting. There is much symbolism in the red felt and the blowing of your breath to dry the paste.

When you have finished your painting and you want to add your signature or something else, you take a chop – a carved block with your name or a statement carved into it by a master carver – and you add your chop in red wax. Most artists have their own personalized chop and sign their paintings with it. Jean has ones carved that say, “Essential thoughts go deeper,” and “Don’t step on any little thing,” which she often places in her paintings. The chop shouldn’t be put just anywhere but where it is most pleasing and where it balances the whole painting. Calligraphy can go right over the painting to add to the piece and calligraphy is as much a revered art as brush painting.

Critique Session

Jean Vance kindly agreed to facilitate the critiques today. Jean talked about the importance of values and edges, as well as using darks without timidity, and using shadows to define shapes in your painting. She talked about color harmony and how to get a smooth sky color without brushstrokes. We got to see paintings by Ginny Hall, Marilyn Bishop, Janet Vennemeyer, Jan Hay, and Ron Beecher, just to name a few. There were a lot of paintings to critique, maybe because we hadn’t met since December.

After Program Paint-Along

Jean stayed after the meeting to teach more techniques of Chinese brush painting to members who wanted to stay. She had beautiful supplies she shared and even had some inexpensive brushes for sale. Jean definitely embodied the beauty and grace of Chinese brush painting in her demonstration and in her gracious sharing of her materials today.

Administration Reports

The meetings for January and February were cancelled due to the winter weather, so Shirley wished us all a belated Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Happy Valentine’s Day! Her quote today was from the singer, Will.I.Am:

“When inspiration calls, don’t send her to voice mail!”

Mary Jane Noe (Membership) introduced our four guests: Sue Hill was invited by Carol Rekow. Sue has taken lessons from Ken Landon Buck and Marlene Steele and has been painting in watercolor for 7-8 years.
Terri Miller has been painting in watercolor for only 8 months and is mostly self-taught.
Alice Buse is returning to watercolor after an absence of 10 years.
Marilyn Arn was invited by Vicki Shepherd and is mostly doing drawings in graphite, although she has an interest in watercolor.

Carol Rekow (Treasurer) reported our current balance is $8,497.23. Dues should be coming in and should be sent to our new Treasurer, Alice Fossett. Alice’s address is in the membership directory, and you should mail your check with the reminder/information form that was mailed out a few months ago. Dues must be paid before you can be in the Spring Evergreen Show.

Shirley passed around a sign-up sheet for those who are willing to lead a critique session. You do not have to be a teacher to volunteer.

Evergreen Spring Show

Deb Ward reported on the status of the show. Mary Jane Noe will be in charge of hanging the show and she needs 3 more volunteers to help out that day (April 23). Other members will be present April 23rd to help register your paintings and collect the $10 fee for the show.

The postcards are finished, and Deb will distribute them next month. You may take as many as you want, no limit per member. Evergreen staff chose paintings by Joyce Friedeman and Tamara Adams to grace the front of the postcard this year.

This is our seventh year showing at Evergreen, so we have a theme of “The Seven Year Itch” for this spring show. Try to incorporate seven into your painting – either the number 7 or 7 elements (flowers, trees, people, etc.) into your painting. Also, Evergreen has asked that you keep your prices down to around $150 for your paintings, if possible. Smaller, less expensive paintings are more likely to sell. And remember, Evergreen does not take any commission. Information sheets were on the back table for members to pick up on their way out.

This year, Evergreen wants to have extra events to generate interest. They are having John Ruthven give a lecture on May 1st at 7 pm. The cost is $10 each to hear Mr. Ruthven speak, and he is donating the money to our scholarship fund! Our own Sam Hollingsworth is donating his time to give a talk on watercolor on May 17th at 2 pm. And Evergreen would like some of our people on the weekend to give demos as they sit the show. There is a sign-up sheet for weekend demonstrations.

Other Art Shows

Stephen Blackburn is coming to Cincinnati May 15-16 to give a workshop on his pouring technique. Information sheets were on the back table for those interested, or contact Deb Ward for more information.

The Southeastern Indiana Art Guild is having a show April 25-May 2 in Aurora, Indiana. You may contact Mary Moore for more information about the show.

The Queen City Art Club’s show is still running at the Mapleknoll Retirement Center through March and they are having a dinner meeting at Clover Nook Country Club on March 13th at 6:30 pm. The guest artist will be Karen Hebenstreit and she will demo a pastel painting.

Howard Krauss reminded members to check with the Cincinnati Council of Aging if they are interested in participating in any of their shows. Howard also informed us that Arlington Memorial Gardens in Cincinnati has facilities for art shows. Howard has several of his paintings there now. Just call them to discuss your interest and when you may have a show there.

If you are still interested in the Tom Lynch workshop coming later this year, contact Howard. There are still spots open for it.

Sam Hollingsworth is one of five artists having a show at the Collectors Art Group Gallery in Cincinnati. Sam has seven pieces in the show. The artist reception is Friday evening, March 6. Postcards were on the back table, or call Sam for more information.

The Women’s Art Club is hosting a proper English tea on March 28th from 3-5 pm with the funds going to the club for future expenses. You will be able to see the new gallery if you come to the tea. Postcards were passed around.

The Cincinnati Art Club is hosting an acrylic workshop and a Frederick Graff workshop. Fliers were on the back table or contact Kay Worz for information.


Bonnie Rupe gave a short scholarship report. Planning is continuing on this and Bonnie will have this wrapped up by the May meeting and will have more to report next month.

DVD Library

Marilyn Bishop announced that we have two new DVDs for our library. The new DVDs feature artists Nicholas Simmons and Arleta Pech. All DVDs are available for members to check out by signing and dating the green library log in the kitchen cabinet. Please sign things out for one month only so others have a chance to see these programs.

Installation of New Leadership

Shirley had a lovely installation ceremony for the new members of the leadership committee. Talking about how each color of the rainbow brings its own beauty to the whole of the rainbow, she presented each person with a flower and thanked Mary Jane Noe and Carol Rekow for their past service as Membership Chair and Treasurer. She then welcomed the new Membership Co-Chairs, Deb Ward and Jane Hittinger; and the new Treasurer, Alice Fossett. Two more people in the audience received flowers for being the lucky ones sitting behind chairs with rainbow stickers:-)