Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Chinese Brush Painting: Painting Plum Blossoms

This beautiful example of Plum Blossom brush painting was found at MHSArt2 
Chinese brush painting is one of the Three Perfections (along with calligraphy and poetry). We have explored painting bamboo, and the girls wanted to continue our exploration of brush painting (rather than our perfection of it) with plum blossoms. They were drawn by the beauty of plum blossoms, and their depiction in brush painting. 

To learn more about Chinese brush painting read our post hereFor a step by step tutorial to paint bamboo, read this post (further down the page).You can see our process and finished orchids here, and chrysanthemum here.

Photo Credit: Temaki
The plum blossom is the national flower of China. The trunk of the tree is gnarled and cracked, and in late winter, blossoms appear before the leaves. The delicate blossoms have five petals and range from white to red.

Plum blossoms bloom in late winter, therefore they are considered one of the Three Friends of Winter (along with bamboo and pine); they are also considered on of the Four Gentlemen (along with bamboo, chrysanthemums and orchids). Plum blossoms represent the kind of gentleman who can create beauty and fine things in the face of adversity. 

Elle's Plum Blossoms

Unlike with the bamboo brush painting, the plum blossoms were done without instruction or tutorial. The girls looked at other paintings in the various books we had, and did their best, practicing with many sheets of paper. 

The girls took the time to get a feel for their brushes, and make various tones of brown for the branches. They wanted the branches to look gnarled with knots, going in different directions. It helps to do a bit of a zig zag with your brush to make the trunk.

The blossoms can be painted with a brush, but they can also be painted with your fingers. Both Pea and Elle decided to paint the blossoms with their fingers.

Once the petals are painted, add some stamens. Pea outlined her petals with a contrasting color.

We now have two of our four gentlemen painted. Once we complete all four, we will put them in album leaves, and learn about landscape painting.

Pea's completed Plum Blossom painting

Elle's final Plum Blossom painting


We looked through many books about Chinese brush painting over the year, but there are two we kept coming back to, using for instruction or inspiration. 

Disclosure: the following are affiliate links

Chinese Brush Painting: A Hands-On Introduction to the Traditional Art by Caroline Self
This was by far the most instructive book for children (or in my case, beginners) that we came across. Should we decide to delve deeper, and truly practice brush painting, this is the book we will use. It discusses briefly the history, principles and methodology of brush paintings, and includes 35 activities with clear instructions. 

The Chinese Brush Painting Bible: Over 200 Motifs with Step by Step Illustrated Instructions (Artist's Bibles) by Jane Dwight
Since we weren't perfecting brush painting, this book was great for inspiration and basic ideas of how to paint the images. This book is more useful for someone who already knows the basics, or in our case, don't take them too seriously. It contains over 200 motifs with great tips for including color. 


  1. Wow - this is very beautiful. Your girls are talented painters!

    1. Thank you! I'll let them know you said so :)

  2. I agree, they are so beautiful. I particularly like the signature seal at the bottom. Putting them to great use! Seriously, you can come home school my children any day!!

    1. Thanks! The girls love art, so this part is easy :)

  3. Those are beautiful. I am going to try this at home

    1. I would love to see your results if you do!

  4. I love your blog! I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award: http://toddlefast.blogspot.com/2013/07/versatile-blogger-award.html. I hope you'll accept it!


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