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Floral composition – painting techniques from Mustard Seed Garden

Cover Photo: 秋海棠图页 Autumn Begonia, painted by (to be confirmed).

Different from our other posts on Mustard Seed Garden tutorial, this post helps to paint three completed paintings. From this post, we want to show you how to use various techniques we have learned so far to paint a complete painting. Still, we quote the nice video tutorial by Chinese artist Wu Peng 吴蓬. In this tutorial, he exemplifies how to paint peony, cat, rabbit, osmanthus blossoms, winter blossoms, camellia, and daffodils.

Painting Techniques to Review

  1. brush sketch, or Gouxian 勾线 in Chinese: weasel hair regular script brush S, 0903ws, or a top quality Gouxian brush is Rabbit Hair brush ZiHao. Try not to rest your hand rest on table when you draw fine lines of the painting. This is difficult to start and needs a lot of practice. However, once you master this technique. Want to paint Chinese painting well? Then practice this skill every day because it is an essential and not-easy-to-master technique for Chinese paintings.
  2. 力透纸背 literally it means ‘strength goes through the paper’. When talking about painting or calligraphy, it actually means that you have to control the brush well enough to pass your strength via brush to the paper and this technique helps the line to be powerful and beautiful. For example, when painting animal claws, we are always asked to do a sketch with brush and black ink. The sketch is small but it could make people feel the claws are vivid and strong. Of course, good quality paper will also help reach such effects. This technique is very important for calligraphers.
  3. 墨分五彩 Five Colours of Black Ink, see how see how Chinese artist Wang ZiRang talks about ‘five colours of ink’ 墨分五彩. French artist Eric Marié also made some very good suggestion on how to learn this important Chinese painting technique: five grades of ink.
  4. Chinese painting/ Sumi E Colour Mixing: inkston has published a Chinese colours chart. Please refer to our article ‘Chinese Painting/ Sumi E Colour Mixing Chart‘ to review.


colour inksticks

Although you might want to be creative on making colours for your painting, there are some basic information we would like to share with you on how we make colours for Chinese paintings.

Flower Petals: observing closely, you will easily notice that the root of petal has sort of greenish colour than other parts of the petal. To make this colour, a common practice is to use light black ink mixed with a little bit green. This green is normally got by mixing Malachite Green and Gamboge Yellow.

Stamen is usually painted with colours which are made by mixing Gamboge Yellow with Ochre Brown, or sometimes we can also add a little bit black ink to it.

Flower leaves are mostly painted with Indigo and red colour. A big brush such as 0200WsWl brush or 0901WsWl big size White Cloud brush is a very useful tool to paint flower leaves. When painting leaves, make sure the brush can hold a lot of water. If the brush is getting dry, do not worry. Just slow down and this will also help create a very unique nice effect.

And when painting flower, we would also recommend you to always prepare these 2 colours: Carthamin Safflower Rouge Red, and Cinnabar Red.


When you learn to make brush sketches, you might find it extremely useful to keep some weasel hair brushes and small size combination hair brushes. So far, we have found that almost all the flower/ bird paintings have been using these brushes repeatedly and we think it is useful to keep a set of these brushes at hand: 0901WsWl, 0902WsWl, 0903WsWl, 0200WsWl, 0903Ws, or Inkston Pure Weasel Hair brush set is a very good option too.


xuan paper – roll of 10 large sheets

The easiest way is to go for Inkston Extra Fine Flower/ Bird Xuan paper, or  Inkston Expert Flower/ Bird Xuan Paper. Of course, for professionals, please you can also consider using Inkston Perfect Series Xuan Papers which are very similar to Red Star Professional Xuan Papers. For some very special effects you need, you can refer to our Inkston special handmade mulberry papers.


Mustard Seed Garden Video tutorial by Chinese artist Wu Peng 吴蓬, who was born in 1941 and currently researcher of Shanghai Calligraphy and Painting Institute. He is especially famous for calligraphy (Oracle) and flower paintings.

【芥子园画谱技法讲座】 27(三)花卉翎毛(7 8)花卉组合


Related pictures from the Mustard Seed Garden book volume 3.



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