3. Brush and Ink

What you need:

(See the materials page for places to get this stuff)

  • Chinese calligraphy brush, medium size, goat hair (or similar)
  • Chinese liquid ink.
  • Paper. Ideally this should be a sized or semi-sized Chinese paper. It’s possible to work with un-sized papers, but the ink will bleed and spread as fast as you put it down. Sized or semi-sized papers allow for much more control when working slowly.

    If you can’t get hold of Chinese paper, you can use inkjet printer paper, tissue paper, watercolour paper, or newsprint. These papers aren’t absorbent so the ink will tend to sit on the top of the paper. This creates a very different kind of line. A near equivalent in terms of absorbency is lining paper. It can be bought on large rolls from art shops. Experiment with a few different paper types and see what you like.

    If you can get it though, sized or semi-sized Chinese paper is by far the best I think, and will be used in many following exercises. You can find links to purchase these papers online on the materials page.

  • Kitchen roll for blotting the brush.
  • A small pot or saucer for your ink, and one for some water.

How to do it:

Prepare your drawing tool

Dip the brush in a bowl of water then stroke off the excess on a paper towel. Now dip the brush into the ink, fully loading the brush. Blot off any excess on a paper towel.

Start drawing

Take a few deep, relaxing breaths.

Here’s a demonstration of how to hold the brush. It takes a little practice by itself, and will feel unfamiliar at first. But persevere. After a while, it will come to feel natural.

  1. Dip your brush in the water to wet it, then blot most of the water off on a sheet of kitchen roll folded over. How much you need to blot off will depend on the absorbency of the paper you’re using. If the paper  is very absorbent, blot most of it off.Now dip your brush in the ink. Don’t just dip the tip, load the brush up fully. Blot the excess of on the kitchen roll. The first few times you do this exercise, you might want to try a few practice strokes on a spare piece of paper first to get the feel of it.
  2. Now place your brush on the paper. Let it rest under its own weight, don’t press down. It will naturally spread a little.
  3. Drag the brush slowly towards you, trying to keep your wrist loose but not flexing. Pull from your shoulder.
  4. Breath in as you pull. When you inward breath is complete, lift the brush.
  5. You’ll see that the brush has dragged over to one side. If you don’t need to reload it, rotate it through 180 degrees, and place it on the paper again ready for the upstroke.
  6. If you need to reload the brush at any point, as you undoubtedly will if you’re using mulberry bark paper, do so at the end of a stroke and continue as normal. Breath, obviously, whilst you do it, don’t try to hold your breath till you get the brush back to the paper 🙂
  7. Continue until you’ve filled the paper.