It is quite common for a Chinese painter to say that he is "writing a painting." Technically speaking, the painter handles the brush and manipulates the ink no differently from a calligrapher.

In addition to the calligraphic nature of the technique,Chinese painting often includes an inscription-usually a short poem or a brief essay-that forms an integral part of the whole composition. Such a composition must be carefully thought out in advance, then executed swiftly and spontaneously. For there is no way to erase the ink once it has been laid down. Moreover, since the final aesthetic product comes together at a particular moment in time, it always contains within itself unrepeatable reflections of that specific context.

The first two essentials of good Chinese calligraphy and painting are: a simulation of life in the strokes and a dynamic equilibrium in the design. Since Chinese paintings are far less detailed than most Western paintings, the equilibrium of line and space has to be very carefully considered. All that is not vital to the onlooker's comprehension is eliminated. Or, perhaps it would be truer to say everything that is not essential to the artist's vision. For a Chinese painting is essentially subjective. The aim is not to depict an object as it might be analyzed scientifically, but as it is seen through the lens of an individual mind. Drastic simplification is always effected. A few simple and carefully selected strokes are used to convey the essentials of the form. As in calligraphy, the essential nature of an object is depicted, leaving out the detail.


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