materials needed for the class

Materials needed for the Chinese traditional brush painting class


There are four “treasures” 文房四寶: 筆墨紙硯one can always find in a scholar’s painting studio:


1) Brushes

These are Chinese brushes for painting and calligraphy, and are different from brushes for water color or oil paintings.  There are two types of brushes: brown-haired brushes made of horse mane and wolf hair, and white-haired brushes made of rabbit or lamb wool. The brown-haired brushes are stiff, hold less water, and are good for painting tree branches, rocks, mountains, and the legs and feet of large birds. The white-haired brushes are soft, hold more water, and are good for flower pedals, remote mountain tops, clouds and water.  The book stores in Chinatown sell these brushes. Try to buy both types in different sizes, and bring as many as you can.


2) Ink

Traditionally, one has to grind the ink stick on the ink stone to produce the ink, using a balanced force in a steady and continuous circular motion.  When it is ready, a special ink fragrance will be released.  While preparing the ink, one also prepares himself to concentrate and compose the painting he is going to paint.  Nowadays, rather than take the time to grind the ink stick on the ink stone, instead commercially prepared bottled ink is used.  However, although the time required is reduced, the mental preparation should not be compromised. In our class, bottled ink is provided.


3) Paper

Chinese rice paper, not Sumi paper, is used.  There is a rough side and a smooth side to the rice paper.  Always use the smooth side.  In our class, rice paper is also provided.


4) Ink stone

It is not necessary to bring this to class if it is too much trouble.


In addition, you will need:

1) Box of Chinese water colors

The Chinatown bookstores have this for sale. There are also online stores for artistic grade water colors that one can order.  There are five basic colors: red, yellow, orange, indigo blue, and brown.  We also use Chinese white a lot.

2) Mixing plate

Any arts supply store will have a white plastic or ceramic (china) mixing plate.

3) Holders for colors

We use a holder to contain watercolor paints squeezed from the tubes.  If the paint dries, just add clean water to it.  For this purpose, we have received six-well tissue culture dishes from parents who work at laboratories as a donation, and try to provide one to each student for free.  They are the best color holders one can find.  Otherwise, stores that sell sewing materials have boxes with divided squares that can also be used.  Make sure the dividers are well built so no color will leak into adjacent wells.

4) Water containers

We have also received water containers for washing brushes as a donation from biochemical laboratories.  Otherwise, you can bring in a clean plastic jar for this purpose.


We collect a $10 materials fee from each student at the beginning of each semester for rice paper and ink.  Sometimes, if we still have money saved from the previous semester, than we will collect only $5 from returning students.  If anyone would like to purchase rice paper, we sell it at cost for $1.50 per large sheet of paper.


These materials are tools that can help you to create your piece of artwork.  While they are essential, they are not the only “materials” that you need.   More importantly, there are mental and spiritual elements that are also required.   The following are some of these elements, not in any order.  Let us learn together.


Willingness to accept criticism

Open-mindedness to learn new things

Appreciation for what nature brings

Observation of the precious small things that surround us

The ability to move mountains, grow a forest, or create a waterfall in a short time without much effort

Instant satisfaction

Frustration as a part of the normal process

Improvement with practice

The luxury of starting over without much sacrifice, as compared to in other work

There is always room for improvement, as nothing is perfect.