As with so many of the traditional subjects in Chinese Brush Painting (CBP), bamboo has a host of conventions associated with it. Several of them have to do with what colors you use and how.
Diana Kan in The How and Why of Chinese Brush Painting notes that a painting of red bamboo can be placed in your home to ward off an evil spirit. That would only seem to work if you used Vermilion (and not crimson) as your “red”, as per the convention.
To obtain the right shade of “purple” in order to paint purple (aka black) bamboo—the canes are indeed purple but the leaves are green—you mix equal portions of ink with crimson red. Purple bamboo is a variety used for making flutes.
Depicting red or purple bamboo in compositions is another subject relegated to the back pages of bamboo instruction books or the last minutes of a workshop/demo. Likewise, until now, such paintings have only received my ‘last minute’ attention. The subject somehow seemed fitting for a last minute post for the year 2018.
With Christmas in the air, and lots of red decorations about, I sat down to paint with shades of red on my mind. Some time ago I had ordered the four-color sampler package of red chips from an online CBP supply house. The four colors in the sampler are:
- CC04 Red
- CC08 Dark Red
- CC06 Crimson
- CC10 Rouge
I have had Vermilion (CC05) chips in my stash for years, using it mostly for flesh tones. (CAUTION: not all color chips will be exactly the SAME; the widest variation in tones shows up in my Burnt Sienna chips. Thankfully one can mix in red or blue tones to achieve the desired shades.)
My ‘last minute’ colored bamboo studies:
The red bamboo leaves on the left sheet were painted with crimson (the last row is thinned out and mixed with a bit of ink). Those on the right sheet were painted with Vermilion, the conventional shade for any Red Bamboo composition.
In a recent workshop artist Nenagh Molson showed us some color variations for bamboo painting that are occasionally used. I tried a ‘freestyle purple stalk with freestyle green leaves’, and then ‘freestyle with ink outline for a purple and black combination.
With holiday celebrations cutting into my painting time, and new books providing new inspirations, the colored bamboo didn’t progress to full compositions. I am still working on satisfactory clustering of leaves in outline style from earlier this month–much more challenging than traditional freestyle in monochrome ink studies. Bamboo studies could indeed fill a lifetime!