The Chinese Brush Painting Class

Yesterday was the class I’d looked forward to for two months: Chinese Brush Painting. It was all day from 9am to 5pm with a 30min lunch break.

I had bought a Chinese Brush Painting kit on sale at B&N a few months earlier and tried it on my own and got absolutely nowhere – now was the time for me to pack up my wishes in my old kit bag and learn, learn, learn.

The class was held on Campus in the Humanities bldg. Many of you know this building, I of course did not! My son dropped me off and I looked for “the directory” that all big buildings have. Wrong. No directory that I could find so I began my quest for room 7618. The building is split into two halves. I chose the wrong half to start in and wandered around the floor looking for my number, or for someone to assist me. The building was “closed” on the weekend, so no classes were in session with warm bodies to answer questions. It was the experience of everyone’s sometime nightmare – walking down long cement corridors, seeing closed and locked doors, and smelling of cement. I’m not sure if the University is abandoning the building, but it looked like it was long-suffering in oversight. Taggers had covered every space in the elevators, walls were punched in or covered with plastic, and the always-present concrete dust. I soon realized all the rooms were number in the 2200s to 2400s, so I retraced my steps to the place where I’d come in.

It’s time to mention that I am not young and sprightly anymore, can’t walk very far and ambulate with the help of a cane. These long concrete hallways were not helping my arthritis one bit.

Just as I was coming into the main area, I saw a young woman carrying a box that looked like it could contain Chinese Brush Painting (CBP) supplies, and I quickly opened the door, scooted to the next set of doors in the other half of the building and yelled – “Miss, are you taking the CBP class?” A few seconds later she came back around the corner saying she was, and I thought “hallaluja,” I’m saved from 8 hours of wandering this building (my son was picking me up at 5 and it was only 8:45 am.

She walked with me and what a trip that was: We first went in the side to the right, where we took an elevator (filled with messages to lovers, goodbyes to the school and tagging) up to the 7th floor, got out and went back through the opening to the other side of the building, the one I’d been wandering in on 2nd floor earlier. From there we walked down three corridors, each the length of the building – I swear we walked in a circle! Finally with me out of breath and panting hard, we arrived at an open door, Room 7618 and voilla, art class.

Usually this much activity would be enough to put me into the chair for a two-hour nap, but my day was just beginning. The first exercise we did was learning how to paint bamboo – brush on side, pressure on tip, slide over and up, over and up, until we had the facsimile of a stalk of bamboo. Mine looked like black paint period. Next we learned how to make bamboo leaves. Hold the brush close to the end, begin at the top, press, pull down and release with a snap, leaving the bottom of the leaf pointed. We made three of these at a time with the helpful hint that we should think of birds flying. I neglected to mention we had made these leaves with our paint lightened to a gray shade – now we were to make these leaves in a darker shade of black, the same way: press, pull down, snap – now the leaves looked shadowed and realistic in the CBP sort of way. Needless to say, mine were just black blobs, mostly the same color. Now we got to connect the leaves to our bamboo stalk. This connection took place at the joint of the bamboo and, where I always was able to make graceful cured lines in my doodling, these again were blobs of black paint connecting black painted leaves to the black painted sticks with bumps on them.

It was lunchtime, thank God! I didn’t dare go out of the building – if I really found my way out, I’d never find my way back in. There were two other people who stayed – one being the woman who had helped me originally, so I didn’t appear too much of a wuss. I ate my yogurt and cheese and crackers and tried to practice the moves we’d learned in the morning with little improvement. Now we began again – fortunately lunch hadn’t been until 1:15 so the hours remaining were fewer than the four and a half I’d tried to prepare for.

The afternoon progressed similarly to the morning – this time we made an angel fish and a horse, taped them to the wall and talked about them. There were eight people in the class – six were out and out artists who could make a horse look like a horse in spite of the blobbing of paint – most of them had taken the class before anyway and knew a bit about “press, pull down, and snap.” My poor horse resembled a down and out swaybacked nag with a huge head and tiny little legs and hoofs going the wrong way. Most of the others had painted a real rendition of a horse. By this time, I realized I was a one-timer at CBP and gritted my teeth for the rest of this tortured afternoon. Surprise, apparently the horse was the ultimate object; we could now leave (at 3:15 pm) or stay and practice our strokes. Is there any question of what I did?

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Published in: Uncategorized on July 19, 2009 at 4:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

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