Notebook, 1993-

Preface - Way - Principle - Idea - Method - Synthesis - References

[Wong, Wucius. The Tao of Chinese Landscape Painting, Principles & Methods. New York: Design Press. 1991.]



The primary aim of this book is to introduce Western readers to the Oriental way of observing, understanding, and communing with nature, and of expressing one's ideas and emotions through forms inspired by nature, resulting in a landscape painting. This may suggest an academic approach, with concentration on traditional artistic thinking and historical developments in ancient Chinese landscape painting. My intention, however, is to tackle the subject from a contemporary viewpoint, emphasizing to some extent pictorial concepts and practical aspects of the painting process. In this way the book may be of interest not just to people with an inclination towards Oriental art or to those studying Chinese painting, but also to artists working with landscape themes, or experimenting with brush and ink on paper, who wish to widen their explorations.

As a practicing landscape painter, I have employed Chinese painting techniques for many years, finding my path in and out of the tradition. I have also written several books on the fundamentals of design, searching for underlying visual principles and new possibilities. This particular background perhaps enables me to take a fresh approach and avoid the pitfalls of echoing and summarizing views of others, producing just another manual of Chinese painting.

It is, of course, not unusual for a Chinese painter to produce a painting manual to convey his ideas and experiences. Chinese painters, over a period of no less than fifteen centuries, have established definite methods that all beginning artists are expected to learn and practice prior to any creative departures. Painting manuals contain this information, and the best known of such manuals is the Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting, dating back to about 1679, and an important source of inspiration for this book.

Brought up in a bicultural environment, I understand very well the wide cultural gap existing between the East and the West and the difficulties in bridging that gap. Specific aesthetic values pertaining to Chinese views of life and the universe, for instance, require considerable elucidation. Thus this book starts with Part One, under the heading Way, which examines aspects of Chinese philosophy concerning these values. This leads to Part Two, under the heading Principle, which focuses on the language of Chinese landscape vision and forms the core of the book. Part Three, under the heading idea, discusses the general conception of a painting. Part Four, under the heading Method, introduces brush and ink techniques. Part Five, under the heading Synthesis, features finished paintings explained with reference to earlier parts of the text. . . .

This book, whatever its limitations, contains as much information as the pages allow. It should be self-sufficient for sustaining reading and browsing pleasure with no demand for prior knowledge of Oriental culture on the part of the reader. For almost a decade I have cherished it in my mind, and it is only now, in my seclusion, away from teaching and other duties and devoting myself to painting most of the time, that I am able to realize it. In gathering materials and sorting them, in preparing the diagrams and illustrations, in graphic design and word processing, my wife Pansy has provided invaluable assistance. Her contribution exceeds any verbal acknowledgment of gratitude. It is to her that this book is dedicated. W.W.

Part One: Way




Part Two: Principle





Part Three: Idea




Part Four: Method




Part Five: Synthesis





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