Monday, October 13, 2008


It's not often one get's the privilege of being with a true living legend. On Saturday, after class, Charles and I went to a benefit at the beautiful Villa di Fontani for 'Brushstrokes in Hollywood', a feature documentary film about Tyrus Wong. For some of you that name is certainly familiar as several class members went to Tyrus' exhibit at the Chinese American Museum (within the El Pueblo Plaza in downtown L.A.) a couple of years ago.
Tyrus did the concept art for the animated feature Bambi which earned him a 2001 Disney Legend Award and his Chinese Brush paintings take your breath away.

The cutest thing he does in fly his handmade kites...swallows, butterflies, panda bears, centipedes and more on the Santa Monica beach. At 98 Tyrus is without equal and an inspiration to everyone.

You'll be delighted to hear that Tyrus is Lisa See's uncle. If you are the one in a million who hasn't read any of her amazing books check out 'Peony in Love' as well as 'Snow Flower and the Secret Fan'. For the best history of Chinese Americans in California, 'On Gold Mountain' will totally captivate you and for a really great mystery read 'Dragon Bones'.

For more information about Tyrus Wong go to
For more information about Lisa See go to

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I thought today that if we learned any more, we could possibly all explode with joy. We started off with Tom's presenting our three artists with their completed scrolls. Beautiful Beverly had an advance peek at my blog but it was even more exciting to actually see her scroll up close and personal. Tom explained that the material used at the top of the scroll represents Heaven and covers a larger area, while the bottom material represents earth and of course is smaller.

We then heard about Confucianism is a moral code of conduct which teaches individuals a set of proper behavior within the family in particular and society in general. Also, Taoism, being connected to nature and learning how to live in harmony. Interestingly, it also deals with fantasy and dreams. The Tao is 'the path is the Way'...the the world runs. So, the 'process' is as important as the end result.

Today's calligraphy was 'THE GREAT PATH HAS NO DOOR'. The symbols we used to create this were: 1. great or large, 2. path or way, 3. without or nothing and finally, 4. door.

It's important to remember that the void is as important as the calligraphy and the spacing should be spontaneous and done by intuition....always remembering that you can't have freedom without a framework of discipline.

On to Calligraphy and the beauty of it being that you can't control it (especially when you use a Soft brush). You're one with the brush and never do the same thing twice.

Tom explained the artistry involved in seal carving.

Showing us (Denise and Donald here) how our work can be improved and giving us a grand A+ when we nail it. It's so helpful as Tom uses Red Ink over our Black.


Our Master Calligraphy teacher, Shantien 'Tom' Chow recommended a new translation of Lao Tzu's 'Tao Te Ching'. He said, "This is one of the latest, and possibly one of the best translations, originally credited to Lao Tzu's teachings, with commentary. Interesting reading and with beautiful photographs."
Tao Te Ching a New Translation and Commentary
by Ralph Alan Dale
published by Barnes and Noble Publishing

Well, I immediately went on line to and discovered they were out of stock. What to do? Dear Judith Nelson who is as much of a bookafile as I am (if not more) sent me to Barnes and Nobles website which, if I stopped to think a bit, I would have noticed that they are the publishers. A big duh there! Eureka ... book ordered and the harmony of Heaven and earth is restored.


Yes, it's true. On Monday we took Amtrak to San Juan Capistrano to lunch with out dear friends, Maj. Gen. Ray Cole and his lovely wife Gwen. Charles had asked me how I met the Cole's and I said,

"hmmmmm, I was flying back from Paris stopping to see Mom in Chicago and the Coles just finished their adventure in Africa and were stopping in Chicago to see one of their children. "
Isn't that grand? A friendship forged in the isles of American Airlines that has just gotten more dear thru the years.

I know you're wondering, and the answer is no, we didn't see any swallows as they fly to the Mission in March.


We were delighted to hear that Charles Jr. was flying in from Houston for an 'Investment Seminar'. The bonus round was that we'd take a day off just like that!

Since Charles was staying in Santa Monica, we went to 'Anisette' a new French brasserie that is so delightful. I think you could order anything and it would be dreamy. They have a wonderful Zinc bar that has been imported from France and it was just like being in Paris. Heaven!!!

Next, after being fortified with more fat than I consume in a year, it was off to the Getty for the Bernini exhibit which my dear Charles had been wanting to see.

Do I feel hunger pangs? Well then, it's time to drive to Venice and eat at Joe's which is definitely not of the 'Six Pack Joe's' variety. If you don't mind taking out a small loan, it's one of the best places to eat in L.A.

We came home tired but very happy and terribly stuffed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Last month, three people in the Calligraphy class gave their dynamic calligraphy to Shantien 'Tom' Chow, our Master Teacher, to have their work mounted onto Chinese scrolls. Saturday's class was priviledged to see the results which are staggering. Tom said that he would hold up any of the pieces to work done by long time students of the art and I would have to agree.
  • First we see Denise's elegant work which roughly translates to "The moon lights the path of the birds".

Next, Melanie's calligraphy which conveys the strength in the word "Roots".

Finally, Beverly Hynds work which is filled with Ch'i. Tom explained to us that you capture in a moment the essence of your being. It's akin to 'Splash Ink' Chinese Brush painting where the spirit evoked is more important than a literal likeness of an object. In other words, the depiction of a flower does not have to be botanically correct in order to have great Ch'i!
Beverly's caligraphy (last pic) can mean 'Spirit' as in religion or 'Spirit' as in a human quality.


There is no avoiding the pull of the internet, the blogs, the YouTube imaginings. It's as if we're all 'On the Road' with Jack Kerouac each in our own world of meanderings. When we tell someone to 'get a life' it might be a bit difficult when you're dragged into other people's 24/7.

I've come to realize two foundational principals, there are no accidents and everyone has a purpose. More and more I'm desiring everyone to come into a full realization of their purpose as we all find our way on this little jewel of a planet.

For me, as a professional 'Western style artist', I stumbled into Chinese Brush Painting after a trip in 1980 to Monet's home/garden. Seeing all of his collection of Japanese woodblock prints was an ahh haa moment for me and when I returned to the States I started painting in the Chinese manner and never looked back. The first year was extremely painful for me as I felt that I should be able to master the technique since I was a 'trained' artist. Not a chance ... that just gets in your way.

Now, after teaching close to 3,000 students and having my book 'The Ch'i of the Brush' published by Watson Guptill, I can say that every one of my students does better their first day than I did my first year! Why? Because I insist that they leave their critical parent outside and just enjoy the journey, respecting the work that they do. I never let anyone throw anything away because that just ingrains frustration and defeat.

We really only begin to learn when we stop and figure out how to 'save' a painting. It works every time.I am so proud of my students, their receptivity and eagerness to express themselves is a continuing blessing for me.So, back to finding your purpose. Perhaps it starts with realizing 'it's not about me'. It so easy to want our needs met and to filter everything thru this attitude. When we realize that we're here to be of benefit to every life that we touch the universe really provides the ways and means.

The best part is that it's really exciting to not have yourself on your mind all the time!I'm re-reading a wonderful book about authenticity and in my next meandering I'll tell you about it. In the meantime I'd love to hear about your journey and am here to answer any and all questions about Chinese Brush Painting.