This tutorial covers the following topics:

  1. A study of ‘Fǔ pī’ (axe-chop) ts’un (斧劈皴) in a painting of Xia Gui (夏圭)
  2. Introduction to different types of liquid ink, Chinese ink stick and ink stones

1. A study of ‘Fǔ pī’ (axe-chop) ts’un’ (斧劈皴) in a painting of Xia Gui (夏圭)

A special type of tsun (皴) called ‘Fǔ pi’ (axe-chop) ts’un (斧劈皴) is the feature of this painting. The rocks are shaded with many axe-chop brush strokes of various sizes, tone, wetness and dryness. The leaves of the trees are also drawn with similar brush strokes. This is the style of Xia Gui (夏圭)(c 1180– c 1230).

Xia Gui also called Yuyu (禹玉), was a Chinese landscape artist of the Song Dynasty (宋朝). Xia was a native of Qiantang (錢塘人) (today Hangzhou 杭州). During the reign of Emperor Ningzong (宋寧宗) (1195 – 1124) he received the prestigious Golden Belt (被賜金帶) and was promoted to the rank of Painter-in-Attendance. Beside this, very little is known about his life. His most familiar style involves creating a composition in which only a small part of the scenery is revealed, the rest being concealed in mist. A few of his masterpieces survive. Xia is famous for his rich and energetic ‘axe-chop’ ts’un.

Xia continued the tradition of Li Tang (李唐), further simplifying the earlier Song style to achieve a more immediate, striking effect. Together with Ma Yuan (馬遠), he founded the so-called Ma-Xia (馬夏) school, one of the most important of the period. Xia has great influence on a few famous artists, including the Japanese master Sesshū Tōyō (雪舟等楊).

The most well-known of Xia’s work is the 9 meter long scroll Pure and Remote View of Streams and Hills (溪山清遠), ink on paper. This work is incomplete, missing a final section which bore the artist’s signature. Extremely subtle, graded ink washes and overlapping brushstrokes created complex atmospheric effects of mist, sky, and infinity.

streams-hills
Pure and Remote View of Streams and Mountains. The full scroll measures 46.5 × 889.1 cm.

 

We study this section of the long scroll. This little section contain all the magnificent 'axe-chop' ts'un.
We study this section of the long scroll. This little section contains all the magnificent ‘axe-chop’ ts’un.

 

The painting can be copied in a few stages.

 Stage 1

We start the painting by sketching the rocks and putting in some ‘axe-chop’ ts’un in light grey tone. The ‘axe-chop’ is executed from the top to the bottom using a stiffer brush like weasel hair brush (黃鼠狼豪).

Stage 1
Stage 1

 

Stage 2

Progressively add darker ink until the desired tone is achieved.

Stage 2
Stage 2

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stage 3

More detailed are added. Some parts are shaded darker to give more three dimensional impressions.

Stage 3
Stage 3 The finished work with the inscription of the date (3 days after Qing Ming Festival of 2015 乙未清明後三日), my name 燿漢 and a small red seal of my surname 蕭)

 

More sections of Xia’s works for your study :

466

 

455

 

456

 

Further readings :

http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%A4%8F%E5%9C%AD (view long scroll)

http://www.chinaonlinemuseum.com/painting-xia-gui.php

http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%A4%8F%E5%9C%AD

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xia_Gui

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sessh%C5%AB_T%C5%8Dy%C5%8D

 

2.  Introduction to different types of liquid ink, Chinese ink stick and ink stones

Liquid ink is ready to use. It is good for calligraphy especially large quantities are needed. It saves the troubles of grinding an ink stick on an ink stone.

From the left: 玄宗墨液 made by 墨運堂, a famous Japanese brand, 'Yúntóu yàn' (云头艳) made by 'Yi De Ge' ( 一得閣), a famous Chinese brand, regular 'Yi De Ge Mò Zhī ' ( 一得閣墨汁).
From the left: 玄宗墨液 made by 墨運堂, a famous Japanese brand, ‘Yúntóu yàn’ (云头艳) made by ‘Yi De Ge’ ( 一得閣), a famous Chinese brand, regular ‘Yi De Ge Mò Zhī ‘ ( 一得閣墨汁).

 

Inksticks (墨) are made mainly of soot and animal glue, with other ingredients such as incense or medicinal scents added as preservatives or for aesthetics. Fine inksticks give high quality ink which can also be diluted to a whole spectrum of grey tones. Once the fresh ink dried on paper or silk, it will stay on the medium permanently.

Soot is produced by anoxic burning of oils such as ‘tung oil’ (桐油),  pine wood (松木) or charcoal.

Image from the 15th-century technical document Tiangong Kaiwu (天工開物) detailing how pinewood is burned in a furnace at one end and its soot collected at the other
The drawing shows pine wood is burned in a furnace at one end and its soot collected at the other. (from Wikipedia)

 

The ingredients are mixed together in precise proportions into a dough and then kneaded until the dough is smooth and even. The dough is then cut and pressed into a mould and slowly dried.

Ink sticks often have various inscriptions and images for decoration.

 

Top view (from the left): 'Tiě zhāi wēng' (鐵齋翁), 'Huángshān sōng yān' (黃山松煙), 'Dà hǎo shān shuǐ' (大好山水), 'Jìn sōng zhī fēng' (勁松迎風)
Top view (from the left): ‘Tiě zhāi wēng’ (鐵齋翁), ‘Huángshān sōng yān’ (黃山松煙), ‘Dà hǎo shān shuǐ’ (大好山水), ‘Jìn sōng ying fēng’ (勁松迎風)

 

Back view (from the left): 'Tiě zhāi wēng' (鐵齋翁), 'Huángshān sōng yān' (黃山松煙), 'Dà hǎo shān shuǐ' (大好山水), 'Jìn sōng zhī fēng' (勁松迎風)
Back view (from the left): ‘Tiě zhāi wēng’ (鐵齋翁), ‘Huángshān sōng yān’ (黃山松煙), ‘Dà hǎo shān shuǐ’ (大好山水), ‘Jìn sōng ying fēng’ (勁松迎風)

 

An ink stone (硯, yàn) is a stone mortar for the grinding and keeping ink.

Ink stones of different shapes. Most artists prefer using the round one as the ink can accumulate in the middle.
Ink stones of different shapes. Most artists prefer using the round one as the ink can accumulate in the middle.

 

Apply some water onto the ink stone. Gradually grind the ink in a circular motion with the end flat on the surface to produce ink.

Grind the ink in a circular motion with the end flat on the surface
Grind the ink in a circular motion with the end flat on the surface.

 

Keep on grinding until the ink is thick and dark enough, showing some ripples. The thickness of the ink can be tested using a brush and rice paper.

When the ink is thick enough, ripples can be seen on the surface of the ink stone, while the grinding is still in a circular motion.
When the ink is thick enough, ripples can be seen on the surface of the ink stone, while the grinding is still in a circular motion.

 

In addition to black ink, there are ink sticks of different colours ranging from red to blue.

'Wǔ cǎi mò' ink sticks of 5 colours (五彩墨), side 1
‘Wǔ cǎi mò’ ink sticks of 5 colours (五彩墨), side 1

 

'Wǔ cǎi mò' ink sticks of 5 colours (五彩墨), side 2
‘Wǔ cǎi mò’ ink sticks of 5 colours (五彩墨), side 2

 

Coloured ink sticks are mostly used for calligraphy. The red ink may contain cinnabar, which is poisonous. Great care has to be taken in its usage.

 

Further readings :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inkstone

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inkstick

 

 

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