When Ink and Paper Marry Each Other

Art Gallery

Aradhana shows her Chinese brush paintings.

I have always painted and made things, often very time-consuming, but a time came in my life when I wanted a simpler, more direct way of painting. I stumbled upon this method known as Chinese Brush Painting and I find it a very enchanting way to paint.

Before one can do a painting that you enjoy looking at, one has to acquire some technique. I likened it to learning a musical instrument. The approach is very different from Western painting; even the brush is held differently in the hand, so one has to learn this first. Chinese painting is more spontaneous; you can’t work at it as you can with Western painting.

All the equipment is hand-made in China from natural materials, and is all very beautiful. The brush is made from some kind of animal hair, wolf or sheep, with a bamboo handle; they have been making brushes like this in China for thousands of years so there is a lot of expertise in each brush; the paper is thin and can be made of grass, cotton, mulberry or other fibres; the ink is made from glue, and soot from pine-wood.

Traditionally the ink is made in a stick form and scented with patchouli, but the precise recipe is kept a closely guarded secret by the Chinese ink-makers! The ink, brush and paper have a great affinity for each other and are a delight to work with, the ink and the paper seem to marry each other when you put ink to paper.

Once you have put ink on paper, its there, you can’t budge it, unlike oil paint or water-colour.

To begin with one has to practice a lot, painting the same thing over and over again; when I first painted bamboo, it looked like a bunch of bananas – but with practice it started to look like bamboo.

Before beginning to paint one grinds the ink. You put a few drops of water on an ink-stone, and holding the ink-stick, grinding it in a circular motion in the water; this is a little centring meditation and prepares one to paint.

I find painting in this method very “Zen”: you sit holding the brush loaded with ink, looking at an empty sheet of paper, with alertness…allow the mind to clear…then when the “chi” feels right, you jump in. The ink soaks into the paper and what you have done is done, you can’t remove or change it. Then you breathe, relax, and continue in the same way; you have to do every stroke with alertness or you’ll blow it.

If I can convey just a little bit of the beauty of Nature through my paintings, I shall be more than happy.

The mountain, a march;
The river, a march;
The uplands and over the Yu Kuan Pass I go.
Countless lamps in the tented darkness glow.
A night-watch of wind,
A night-watch of snow –
And a clamor that shatters my sleepless home-sick heart.
I know a garden where it is not so.

– Nalan Xingde


AradhanaYoga Aradhana took sannyas in the first London centre, in 1973, met Osho in Woodlands, participated in the Gujarat centre Samarpan and the Medina commune in England. She visited the Ranch for the celebrations and Pune 2 for many winters. She now lives creatively on a hill on the edge of Brighton, almost in the South Downs National Park, enjoying nature, meditating and painting.

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