If it were true that humans undergo a complete body cell change every seven years, then I should be a different person today than I was when I began my exploration of Chinese brush painting (CBP) back in 2008. I am indeed a changed person, and some of it has been a result of brush painting.

I can draw better. By the simple feat of more practice on the same subjects, the connections between my eye, brain, hand and brush are all much improved. And happily one of my favorite subjects (the horse) emerges from my brush quite consistently. I can also see where other artists sometimes misrepresent proper footwork. And the repertoire keeps growing.

I can calm stressed-out feelings. Sitting at an art table with my paraphernalia set out in their proper places, white paper invitingly rolled out, and ink stick grinding around and around—cares and woes diminish and sometimes vanish completely. Brush painting is indeed a very Zen thing to do. Mindfulness comes with the territory.

I’ve learned many things, and made new friends. Blogging about my journey through this particular creative outlet has pushed me to ask more questions, seek more information, and try more new things. Animal husbandry, plant physiology and ancient Chinese secrets are all expanding my horizons. My art library has gone from one small shelf to four larger ones. I am part of two wonderful inspiring and encouraging art groups: the Studio of Harmonious Endeavors and the Monterey Club Chinese Brush Painters. We share our successes, and laugh at our goof-ups. Fun is abundant.

Yet to accept my Chinese zodiac assignment (the Rat), I have nothing but admiration and respect for the great body of knowledge associated with brush painting. I will at least be a cheerful rat if others take enjoyment from my passionate pursuit of this art form. Paint on!

Respectfully yours,

Reluctant Rat (2015)



16 Responses to About

  1. Peter Blyth says:

    Arlene Davey is my sumi-e pal from Oak Bay and she told me of your Magnolia demonstration.
    I’d like to send you a photo of my sumi-e Magnolia with Susan Frame of Minneapolis MN USA.

  2. Sue says:

    Love your blog.

  3. siewgim says:

    I just started taking chinese brush painting lessons so it is great to see your blog. Thank you. I am still in the very early stages so I have a very long way to go.

  4. Carmen says:

    Gracias por este magnífico blog. soy fan absoluto desde este momento.
    Excelente trabajo!

    Thanks for this great blog. I am absolute fan from now.
    Excellent job!


  5. Susan says:

    Are there archived blog entries available that are prior to 2012? Fascinating reading! Wonderful examples and explanations. Thank you so much!

    • barbmek says:

      Hi Susan:
      Sorry, no previous material. Whereas I’ve been exploring this challenging art form for several years, it is only a bit more than a year since I took to blogging about it. Glad you enjoy it. The process of sifting through materials and working on examples in order to prepare a posting has proven to be most rewarding.
      Reluctant Rat

  6. Nan Rae says:

    Dear ‘Reluctant Rat’: What a lovely piece you wrote on Suma the Elephant and what a kind and glowing comment about my work…how I do thank you. You sound absolutely delightful & I’d love to stay in touch and would be delighted to send you a copy of my book ‘The Ch’i of the Brush’. You can write to me at nanrae@nanrae.com I wish you a wonderful journey & great success. Nan Rae

    • Dear Nan Rae:
      I humbly thank you for your kind words. I am indeed enjoying my time exploring Chinese Brush painting, and am tremendously indebted to all those who have ever put ink to paper. The body of work is amazing. I am also very fortunate to have discovered two supportive and fun art groups, complete with talented mentors and a growing library at one of them. We share a lot of laughs and good times as we play with ink and paper. A number of us do own your lovely book, so perhaps a gift to our library instead could be discussed?
      Reluctant Rat (Barb)

  7. Neil says:

    Enjoyed your blog post about painting sumo wrestlers. Not sure if you are still painting sumo wrestlers, but you can watch Brodi’s current tournament here – http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi_basho.aspx?r=12234&b=201509

    • Thanks for the tip! While not painting sumo wrestlers at the moment, I do love figure painting and they generate a lot of interest at our annual show, so will get back to them again and again. Go for it, Brodi!

  8. Miles says:

    Hello RR,

    My name is Miles and I am a writer. I love the watercolor of the hen looking at her chick on this page. I wrote a poem about a hen and I would love to have your picture compliment my poem on my blog. It is not for profit and I would give you full credit beneath. Let me know your thoughts! You can contact me at, miles@milesgriffis.com
    Thanks for your time and consideration-


  9. Daria Chernova says:

    Thank your very much for sharing all your studies with us. The blog is just amazing and helps me a lot in my own attempts of chinese painting.

    • Daria:
      I’m happy to share what I discover! My own art has progressed only because others have passed on their knowledge so I guess the blog is about ‘paying it forward’. ‘What goes around comes around’ is what my grandmother used to say. Thanks to the Internet such sharing simply goes into a much bigger world. Happy painting!
      The Rat

  10. Hello Reluctant Rat….I have just found and started reading your blog. I thought I saw somewhere you are in Victoria (Australia)? My hope is to start blogging soon too, but do have a website. My journey started in S. Korea and had two beautiful mentors while I lived there. I am now slowly continuing my brush and hanji journey back in Australia. I’ll keep following your journey too.

    • Lovely website! Yes, Victoria is now my home, but it is Victoria in British Columbia, Canada where we have quite a large Chinese brush painting community largely because of the influence of a handful of accomplished artists who have taught here for years. Groups, whether actual or virtual, are so helpful to artists. I am also part of numerous groups on Facebook; have you found your way to those?

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