J u n  1 4 ,  2 0 2 0  -  J o n a t h a n   C o r r i g a n
With a brush in hand, every flick of the wrist from inkwell to page is meticulously chosen. Each line, bringing to life a creature not previously existed. I have often found the process of using traditional mediums in ink to be almost euphoric. This experience is very specific to the use of a brush in hand and a bottle of ink. This process is nothing new as traditional calligraphy painting involves, essentially, the same techniques with a brush dipped in ink or darkened pigment. The subject of a painting is painted onto a variety of papers, silks, or fabrics. Ancient in nature, this technique was made popular by the skilled Chinese painters of the early five dynasties.
Two examples demonstrate the versatility of ink painting. Gongbi (工筆), meaning "meticulous", uses highly detailed brushstrokes that delimit details precisely. It is often highly colored and usually depicts figural or narrative subjects. Its beginnings started during the Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) and was often practiced by artists working for the royal court or in independent workshops. Gongbi is a realist technique and exemplifies the versatility of ink painting. To oppose the structure of Gongbi, another example of brush inking is the loose, expression focused, literati style which flourished throughout the Five Dynasties to the Ming Dynasty (1368 -1644). Literati monk-scholars such as Shen Zhou, Dong Qichang, and Mi Fu painted with techniques that changed the landscape for artwork. These Literati artists were also proficient in poetry, thus each of their paintings were associated with a poem that gave more context to the depicted scene.​​​​​​​
The tools these Chinese artists used are still applicable today, and although they may not be exactly the same, the results are uncanny. The creative journey I underwent to discover new techniques from studying artists of old proved helpful and gave my work a new spark of life which it previously lacked. The ink filled pages of Along the Path were some of the first examples of the inspiration and insight I gained through my studies. Using bamboo brushes, a bottle of ink, and an inkwell, forced me to fully immerse myself into the world of ink and brush. This medium, though nothing new, still applies fundamental art principles which unite the old with the new. I found it immensely relaxing to pick up a brush and with a few flicks of the wrist, create pieces that were spontaneous expressions of what I felt. Translating emotion and energy to the page in a way unlike anything before.  ​​​​​​​
Intentionality is the key to using brush and ink. One chance is given to make a line or a shape. If ink drips or splashes in a way that is not satisfactory you must start over or find ways to cope with your mistakes. In a lot of ways this exercised not only a steady hand but a sharp mind too. Picturing the image in your head first became a necessary skill to develop. Understanding where lines overlapped and where they didn't was half the battle to mastering the art of creating from imagination in addition to reference. If you are not intentional with the ink, or are too stuck on a particular vision for the piece, you will be disappointed with the result. Using this medium also teaches you to be comfortable with different results. Staying more open to however the piece looked in the end is one way to success for painting with ink and brush. Adaptability is a necessary trait to hold
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