Chinese Brush Painting Classes Singapore

The Philosophy of Chinese Brush Painting

Chinese Brush Painting is an art form that started thousands of years ago. It refers to the application of paint on rice paper or also called Xuan Paper (宣纸). Wood barks with formulas that contain rice (later also on mulberry) to absorb then release the ink makes up the rice paper.

The art of Chinese Brush Painting typically embodies philosophical concepts. Like many other Chinese traditions, the art classifies into a variety of styles concerning, subject, and technique.

It is very easy to discern a Chinese brush painting from its western counterparts – whenever you see black ink on paper, you can almost be certain that it is one. However, they also vary. Visually, some are strictly black and white while some are colorful. Thematically, some artist paints a quiet scene while others depict a story, which might have a side poem. Style-wise, some can be purely pictorial perfection, but others are more focused on their symbolic values.

The purpose of Chinese brush painting is to pursue an ephemeral state of mind relentlessly. Whether it is a flower, architecture, a range of mountains, or an insect, all common subjects. Pictorial values only exist when contents strike a balance and reach simplicity with the entire painting.


Western paintings sometimes boast precision and accurate space relation. Chinese paintings, on the other hand, pay a lot more attention to the overall surroundings in the works. Many Chinese painters are also outstanding calligraphers for it is mandatory that they master control over the paint brush, and possess remarkable command over the paper. Usually, a central image, one or more poems (albeit not always) and the artist’s seal can be found on a Chinese brush painting.

Throughout the course of history, a variety of factors has impacted Chinese art. For example, temples and religious murals (which often entailed a Zen taste) became reappearing objects after the introduction of Buddhism to China in the 1st century. Fast forward a century later; the Song Dynasty saw the initiation of literati paintings which emphasized the cultivation of the artist, as opposed to secular works by craftsmen being commissioned by the imperial court. In addition to style, different techniques are used to create works.

Styles and Techniques

Gongbi (工笔)is the strict discipline that produces life-like content, which can be further broken down into baimiao (白描) meaning ‘ink only’ and chongcai (重彩) meaning ‘with color pigments’ layered on top of ink. Xieyi (写意), on the other hand, pays more attention to ambiance, with the artist often adding poetry to the composite picture.

Artist from the Song and Qing Dynasties

Some famous brush painting masters include Fan Kuan (范寬) from the Song Dynasty period, whose take on mountains are so impressive that he made it to Life Magazine’s “100 People Who Made the Millennium” list. Shi Tao (石涛) from the Qing Dynasty period, was pioneering in capturing nature; and Qi Baishi (齊白石) whose work spanned the Qing Dynasty to the modern period, was a prolific genius whose whimsical objects traveled from the figurative to the abstract.

Contemporary Chinese Art

Contemporary Chinese painting divides into roughly two categories – antique, which inherits earlier practice, and new or modern literati. Contemporary Chinese art is an evolving force pushing the limits and possibilities of traditional ink paintings.

Artists that belong to the contemporary literati are two-fold. Some artists integrate Western concepts of art and see brush and ink only as their media; and, there are those who follow traditional training but are playful with experiments. Some well-established present-time artists include Zhang Yu (张羽), who appeals to ink and his fingerprint for his works; Xu Bing (徐冰), who deconstructs Chinese characters and re-assemble them into paintings and even videos; and Liu Guosong (刘国松), whose refreshingly brisk interpretation of landscape leaves a print-like impression. With an incredible diversity of style and ideology behind, it is safe to say that Chinese brush painting is and perhaps has never been a regular art form.

Perhaps an essential idea about Chinese brush painting is that there are no definite borders between paradigms. A xieyi piece could be carried out by court artists or an ordinary citizen. Landscapes are sometimes figurative with refined details, yet other times finished with symbolic and bold strokes. To put it another way, critique and acknowledgment of each work recognizing its unique context and expressions are vital. Because after all, that is what Chinese Brush Painting is all about.

Chinese Brush Painting Classes

Heartroom Gallery has the privilege of having Chew Choon instructing our Chinese Brush Painting Classes. Chew Choon originally from Penang, graduated from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore 1975. Majoring in Western Art and Chinese Brush Painting.

Chew Choon is a well-known Wildlife Artist. His first trip to Africa was in 1987 after which he held his first one-man exhibition of wildlife paintings at the National Museum Art Gallery in 1989. Since then he has been showing in Singapore, Japan, France and received awards from the London-based Wildlife Society Exhibition in 1991, Whaletail International Wildlife Exhibition Gold Award in Kenya, Africa and a Hon’ble mention by Philip Morris in Singapore in 1994. His last one-man show was at Chong Er Zhai Gallery in Guangzhou, China in 2006.

Other Art Classes are also available at the Heartroom Gallery. Contact us to find out more.

Chinese Brush Painting Colored Bird

About our Classes

Our Chinese Painting Classes are taught by master artist Mr. Chew Choon. He has been teaching for decades and has developed his own syllabus that takes students from beginners to advanced levels. As part of Heartroom Gallery, the goal of the class is for everyone to enjoy the art while learning the required techniques.

Mountain Scenery Chinese Brush Painting
Chinese Brush Painting Classes - Purple Flowers


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