6 Canons of Chinese Painting

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The Six Canons

The techniques of Chinese Painting have been codified. The most notable codification was formulated in the 5th Century A.D. by the venerated master, Hsieh Ho. He wrote the "Six Canons of Painting" which form the basis of all Chinese Brush Painting. Although there are different criteria for Chinese painting nowadays, most of them are based on the Six Canons.
1. Circulation of the Ch'i (Breath, Spirit, Vital Force of Heaven) - producing "movement of life". This is in the heart of the artist.

2. Characterizing the object through proper strokes This is referred to as the bone structure of the painting. The stronger the brush work, the stronger the painting. Character is produced by a combination of strong and lighter strokes, thick and thin, wet and dry.

3. Fidelity to the object in portraying form Chinese painters strive to draw the object as they see it. In order to do this, it is very important first to understand the form of the object! This will produce a work that is not necessarily totally realistic as you observe it. Therefore, the more you study the object to be painted, the better you will paint it.

4. Conformity to kind in applying colors Black is considered a color and, in the painter's hands, the range of shadings is capable of creating an impression of many other colors. If color is used, it is always true to the subject matter. This is different from Western art which focuses on colors influenced by lights.

5. Proper planning in placing of elements Space is used in Chinese painting the same way objects are used. Space becomes an integral part of the composition.

6. In copying, seek to pass on the essence of the master's brush & methods To the Chinese, copying is considered most essential. Only when the student fully learns the time-honored techniques, can he or she branch out into areas of individual creativity.

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