How can I describe the experience of mounting art painted on xuan paper? With many adjectives – difficult, time consuming, technical, tense (constantly alert that every step, every second may go wrong), stressful (when the thin fragile paper rips or wrinkles and there goes hours of dedicated work down the drain), back aching, exhausting (even though I was standing still most of the time). This is certainly not a peaceful and calming part of chinese brush painting…not for me! If you were a fly on the wall, you would occasionally hear a few expletives, groans and moans…amidst the soothing music of Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Simon & Garfunkel and the like to keep me relaxed. I am spending these few days mounting my art for the Original Art Sale (14-16 October, Vodafone Event Centre, Manukau)) and they are due for submission next week.
I should perhaps explain the term “mounting” which is totally different when used in the world of chinese painting. Mounting is to glue a piece of backing paper – usually xuan paper – to the piece of completed art. This process seals the paint, sizes, stretches and strengthens the paper and acts as a preservative. It takes away the wrinkles/creases and makes the colours “pop”. After mounting, the painting is ready for framing. The mounting process cannot be skipped unfortunately. I have been looking into alternative and easier ways of mounting..so far unsuccessfully. But that’s another blog.
Here are a few photos of what I did. I’ve simplified the process very much in my comments. If you’re interested to watch a complete mounting process with the full explanation, there are great youtube videos online. I’m happy to send you a link – just ask.
Mise en place 🙂 make the wheat starch paste, paper towel, backing paper, water spray bottle, dry & wet mounting brushes, rulers, blade cutter, lots of newspapers, pencil, backing board, non-porous base board.
Turn the painting face down. Lightly spray with water to relax the wrinkles. Brush the starch paste over the whole piece – stretch and smooth it completely.
The backing paper is applied to the art very carefully & slowly using the dry mounting brush
Lay newspaper on top and firmly brush all over to soak up the heavy water content. I change the newspaper at least a dozen times.
With a smaller brush, apply the starch paste to the edges of the backing paper only. This allows us to glue the edges to a backing board.
The whole piece is very gently lifted at the top corners. The next step is where everything can go oh so wrong. With one hand also holding the dry mounting brush, walk over to the backing board and stick the painting to the board using the brush on the edges only. At the same time, you have to re-lift the painting if any creases appear. Before I completely seal all the edges, I insert a straw into one gap left and blow air between the painting & the board – to prevent it from sticking to the board.
After 24 hours of drying, I cut the painting away from the backing board. Voila, c’est fini!
This is the first piece I tested on…naturally a small A4 size. When I started on the exhibition pieces, which are A2 (594 x 420mm), the difficulty and problems magnified greatly along with the angst especially when I have to lift the whole wet painting to stick to the backing board (bigger = heavier = more fragile = more fiddly = tears & tears). I can’t imagine how I am going to do it if I ever get the crazy idea in my head to paint a much larger piece!
I have been working on a new piece of art this week, using chinese paint/ink, brushes and techniques on 300gsm cold-pressed watercolour paper. It has been quite different and challenging as cold-pressed paper is not absorbent while the traditionally-used raw xuan paper very much is. This produced different effects. It was also awkward painting an A2 size piece on my little art table, with the occasional nosiness of my cats jumping up to see what I was up and why I was ignoring them! I will have to try to re-organise my art table some how and get a large piece of board on top.
Here are three photos to give you an idea what it looked like at different stages:
NB. The colour tones in Stage 2 are a better representation of the actual colours (excluding the tree).
Looking at it, this piece is not complete yet. I thought it was! Looking at Stage 2 and 3 together, this is still very much work in progress. I might let it marinade (on me) for a while.
Still thinking of a name for this piece…Red Bridge Retreat? ….The Thinking Man?….any suggestions?
Salut! I’ve just spent two weeks designing a logo and watermark for my site. With little experience in desktop publishing or availability of professional software (what was that about a struggling artist?), I used what was available to me. It felt like a never-ending task.
I meditated long and hard on what a logo should represent. It might seem easy but it’s probably one of the hardest things to not over-complicate, so many things that you think your brand should have. I found the best concise advice in these points:
1) Distill your message to its essence. Take as long as you need. 2) Design simply. 3) Simpler than that.
The essence of my logo. After having chucked the whole kitchen sink into it, it suddenly hit me that what represents me is my name and my chinese chop…not a piece/portion of my art..or a paint brush or lots of bold colours. After umpteen attempts, these were some of the later ones I considered (:O|:
My sister Jenny thought the bottom left was too strong and the bottom middle looked russian. My boss Denise felt the latter was too corporate and it didn’t represent my brand. All these feedback helped me to get onto a better path. I present to you my final logo.
Essence of my logo: “Ensō Connie”
The ensō circle expresses a moment when the mind is free to let the body create. This perfectly represents when I am painting. I have applied layers of ensō to reflect the complexity of my art; they may look simple but I would paint layer upon layer to create a look.
The ensō faces right to represent my name – the initial C. I like the imperfections on the left; it betrays the frustrations, the scrunched-up pieces of art, the moments when I am struggling for inspiration.
The names given to me by my parents. Within the ensō is the chop of my chinese name that I stamp onto my work. A circle within a circle. Lastly and certainly the main component of my essence, my name.
Does it work? Do you think it reflects the essence of my work? Did I manage to keep it simple?
How incredibly difficult it is to write a blog?! I stare at the screen, my fingers ready to type some meaningful, witty thoughts. Time passes, the brain goes numb…my eyes glaze over…I am suspended in time till my stiff back pulls out out of the hazy daze. A few days later, I’m still at the same juncture.
I’ll try not to rave too much but this is a big moment for me. I’m especially delighted to have my website go live. It’s exciting and unnerving to put my art (i.e. myself) out there, but something pulls me to share it with the world. The site’s not perfect and I’m sure there’ll be errors abound in the setup. Please shout out when you come across broken links or incorrect information or if something just doesn’t look right – be it the layout, colour scheme, structure, logo. I’ll review it when I have more time after the AUT Original Art Sale Exhibition on 14-16 October 2016. I want to express my grateful thanks to my sister, Jenny, for taking the time to go through the site and giving me valuable feedback.
Of course, I’d love to hear from you about my art. I promise I’ll try to accept all comments given in good faith with dignity and humility…as much as any artist can about their creations! Art is subjective – there is no wrong or right on how my art may make you feel. I’d rather it fills you with strong emotions (good or bad) than “meh”.