Apr 2, 2010

Guest Artist of the Month Sue Hulen


Sue Hulen

Sue paints beautiful Asian paintings; her work is so graceful and delicate like her spirit. She is a very kind, loving artist and I am happy to feature her as The Artist of the Month.


Asian Iris


Asian Poppy

Winter Berry


Young Bamboo

Sue was born and raised in Michigan and moved to Missouri in 1985. She now resides in Kansas MO. Sue has been married 23 years to a wonderful and supportive man. They share their home with five beautiful cats which are their “babies”
Sue lost her son in 1990, to help her through the nightmare of that loss she started to learn the art of lettering. She still does her lettering but now she also enjoys painting. She began painting Asian art in 2007, saying the “it helps me stay centered, it is a wonderful stress buster”
She got interested in painting when a friend who introduced her to Dynasty Artist brushes. Her desire was to somehow, incorporate her painting with her lettering. Then another friend sent her a Chinese brush painting “station” and from the moment the inkstick rubbed across the grinding stone, she was hooked on Asian painting. She has also found that Linda Lover’s books have helped her tremendously to learn how to paint decorative art.
For her masterpieces, Sue uses watercolors, Chinese watercolors, and Bristol board. However, she does use rice paper, but has found the it‘s so absorbent that it‘s extremely difficult to use.” I‘ve never used any other surface, as yet, other than paper products,”

Right now, she is painting floral paintings perfecting her technique. In the future, her goal is to paint a large Asian painting of wisterias with birds and butterflies.

When asked where she got her inspirations from she said “The Lord.”

Here is Sue's own words:


I call this East Meets West because I am not as orthodox in my techniques as are other Chinese brush-painting artists. Putting my own personality into my work is not only enjoyable, but also important to me.

I began as a calligrapher and after years of being a lettering artist I wanted to incorporate painting into my work. A friend of mine, Robyne, knew I was wanting to learn to paint and sent me a few Dynasty artists brushes. I didn’t know how to paint, but sure loved working with the brushes in my own inexperienced way.

After a short time had passed, I met a lady who has since become a very dear friend of mine. Her books and her instruction kept me going and although I was learning (and still am) decorative painting at the time I was playing a bit with Asian art, nothing serious. Then, she sent me a Chinese brush painting ‘work station.’ It had an ink stick, paints, and grinding stone inside the book. From the moment, I started grinding the ink on the grinding stone I fell in love with Asian art.

While grinding the ink stick, I felt such peace. It was as if I was in harmony with the ink stone and ink stick. I can get lost in the peace I feel. It’s the same feeling when I’m painting. It’s what I call artistic meditation. Being one with the art and mindful of nothing else but what I’m doing at that moment. Peaceful, meditative, music is always playing in the background. It’s so soothing. The Chinese have a saying that I think is beautiful:
“From head, to arm, to hand, to brush, to paper.”
Isn’t that beautiful? It’s so true. Painting, no matter what the genre, is created that way. They also have a saying:

If you aim to dispense with method, learn method

If you aim at facility, work hard

If you aim for simplicity, master complexity

~~ Lu Ch’ai, Master of Ch’ing Tsai T’ang, 17th century

Chinese brush painting is more than painting an object. There’s also much symbolism. For example the Four Gentlemen (the four seasons):

1. Plum blossom-symbol of winter-hope, faith and underlying love.

2. Orchid-symbol of spring-modest, beauty, and purity.

3. Bamboo-symbol of summer-gentle strength.

4 Chrysanthemum-Autumn-courage.

That’s so beautiful. There’s a lot of spirituality in Chinese brush painting and the masters who have given us so much beauty. Staying on the subject of “symbolism” if you look at my orchid painting you will notice the three orchids. They are placed in a specific way. The tallest orchid symbolizes the “master.” The middle orchid symbolizes “guest,” and the shortest orchid symbolizes “servant.” On my Young Bamboo painting, you will see a Kanji symbol on the bottom right of the painting. That is the Kanji symbol for “Peace.” I entitled it “Peace” because the young bamboo looks so at peace and makes me feel at peace when I look at it. Bamboo is very difficult, but a challenge. I love to challenge myself and bamboo is a perfect subject for that.
The four Treasures are: (Believe me these are all treasures)

1. Brush

2. Ink/ink stick

3. Grinding stone

4. Paper

As for the grinding stone the reservoir for the water is called the ocean and the flat part of the stone (where you grind the ink sticks) is called the land. The black ink sticks produce a beautifully rich black ink. There are many different colored ink sticks that are all just beautiful. When you grind your ink, first put water in the reservoir. Then dip the bottom of the ink stick (either end is fine) in the water (ocean) and the begin grinding the ink on the flat part of the stone (land). Go in a circular motion. I like to go slow. You can reverse direction if you want at any time. You know when the ink is ready when you see bubbles or when it begins to give a noticeable odor. Ink sticks are made from pine soot and you will notice the odor. Watercolors may also have an unusual odor compared to say acrylics. The ink is permanent, so when you use it be sure not get it on anything you don’t want permanently stained.

When using rice paper you will need to have a piece of flannel or old towel under the painting you are working on as the inks or watercolors will go through the rice paper and onto your art table. Rice paper is extremely thin. Be careful not to tear it while working on it. Tear your rice paper. Don’t cut it to size. The paper will pucker as it absorbs the watercolors or inks. Not to worry, the wrinkles can be removed while mounting.

Rice paper is extremely absorbent and takes a long time to get used to. The effects of the watercolor on the rice paper are fabulous, but much of the time, I use Bristol board or other types of paper. Mounting the rice paper painting takes years to learn and can be pretty pricey to have someone experienced do it for you. You can make your own paste and learn how to mount it yourself if you are a patient person. I am not that patient, I’m afraid.

The watercolors used for Chinese brush painting are called Chinese watercolors. There is a difference between traditional watercolors and Chinese watercolors. For one, the colors are different. In addition, the binding glue material is different. There are two types of source material in Chinese watercolors. One material is plant/vegetable using natural dyes and it is transparent. The other source material is mineral/stone type materials and it is opaque.

There are many brushes to choose from, but three brushes are pretty much used by all Chinese brush painters. One is the Happy Dot, one is the Best Detail and the other is the Orchid Bamboo brush (in different sizes.) There are also brushes for Chinese calligraphy. The brushes are generally broken down into three categories: hard, soft and combination (or flow brush). Oriental Art Supply (OAS) in California carries a lot of these supplies and is so helpful and so patient. Its family owned and they are so kind and so mannerly.
Two of the styles of Chinese brush painting are:

Gongbi-Detailed style and limited palette.

Xieyi-is more whimsical and colorful.

Sumi-e is another form of brush painting. It’s Japanese and uses different shades of black ink or colored ink. The light and dark shades are striking and takes much practice to know where to place the light and where to place the different shades of darker ink. Sumi-e is one of my favorite forms of brush painting. It can be tricky, but is a lot of fun at the same time. You can grind the ink on the grinding stone or you can purchase a liquid sumi-e ink. It’s a very rich black as well. I prefer to grind my ink as I enjoy the peaceful feeling I get when I’m grinding.
These are the five categories of Chinese painting:
1. Shan Shui-Landscapes-water,mountain, sky.

2. Ren Wu-figure painting-primarily people.

3. Quin Shou-animals-birds and insects.

4. Hua Hui-flowers- and blossoms.

5. Hua Niao-Combination of flowers and birds.

There are so many wonderful books about Chinese brush painting. Purchase the beginner books as they will be the one’s most helpful to you if you are just starting out. The Chinese Brush Painting Bible. by Jane Dwight is a pretty good beginners book. She illustrates her subjects quite well. As you mature in your painting ability and have gained confidence you can go on to a wonderful and just beautiful book entitled The C’hi of the Brush by Nan Rae. Her work is just gorgeous.

Please give Chinese brush painting a try sometime. From the moment, my brush touches the paper my spirit smiles. I wish I could explain in words how it makes me feel. Artistic meditation is the best way to describe it. It feels like nothing else. Maybe the inks, brushes and papers have a spirit all their own. That feeling of being “one” with the painting is just delicious and absolutely freeing. I cannot thank my dear friend, Linda Lover, enough for introducing me to this beautiful genre of art. Decorative painting is a love of mine as well, but brush painting has captured my soul.

In my iris, painting you can see the pretty blues and lavenders. To get that look I used Sharon Teal Coray’s glazes. I layered it a bit and also used the Chinese watercolors. The mixed mediums look so nice together. The glazes work fantastic for any genre of art. They’re nothing short of a treat to use.

Happy painting, no matter what genre of art you prefer. An artist’s brush that’s moving is a happy brush. I hope you’ve learned some things about Chinese brush painting that you hadn’t known before. Please don’t be intimidated by this genre of art.
If you have any questions or comments just email me. I’m extremely proud to be in Purple Palette Artists Magazine as the Artist of the Month. This truly is the finest and most informative online Magazine out here. Thank you Sharon for inviting me. It’s a real privilege for me.

Sue Hulen

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