International friendship blossoms in peony painting

Updated: 2016-02-01 17:54

By Song Wei in Nottingham(

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International friendship blossoms in peony painting

Jiang Hongsheng paints a peony at his studio at Nottingham Lakeside Arts, Jan 28, 2016. [Photo by Song Wei/]

A Chinese artist's work opens doors for traditional Chinese culture to reach the world

Jiang Hongsheng claims he has "a secret that can make people fall for traditional Chinese art at the very first sight".

This genial, bright-eyed man in a black jacket says his job is to "unravel the richness of Chinese art through brush painting", and he can do it in just two hours of painting a peony.

"The peony is the Chinese national flower, an important emblem symbolizing happiness, peace and good wishes," Jiang explains.

The artist, 49, who is fluent in English, arrived in the UK at the invitation of the University of Nottingham on January 11 as part of Chinese New Year celebrations.

We met at his studio, where he holds workshops, on the first floor of Nottingham Lakeside Arts, and 30 of his masterpieces are displayed on the ground floor.

Jiang's approach to the brush painting class is highly unorthodox. He spends just 15 minutes to introduce the art form and to demonstrate how to paint peonies, then three fourths of the time is given to the first-time students to paint their own.

"Here come my two secrets," he winked, about to reveal the secrets that help first timers finish a peony painting within one hour of learning.

First are the "three steps" - from getting the right amount of water on the brushes to blending colors and doing simple strokes and dabs, summarized by Jiang from his years of teaching. The steps are an excellent walkthrough for first time learners.

Secondly, Jiang always uses concise but enchanting Chinese cultural elements, such as poems and anecdotes, to inspire students' inner creativity.

"It sounds uniquely Chinese , but somehow it could trigger their imagination and they are able to find something similar in their own culture," he said.

"It's like 'give me a fulcrum, I shall move the world'", he said with a big smile, "I have just found the fulcrum in my students."

After a few sheets of practice paper, students are ready to do their final work on a 100-meter-long piece of Xuan paper on which traditional Chinese paintings are usually done.

Jiang said he came up with the idea of letting first-time students paint peonies on the 100-meter scroll just a couple of days ago.

"Each bloom is delicate and delightful," Jiang said while looking at the half-done scroll.

"Some suggested the scroll be exhibited at museums like the British Museum when it's finished. It would be such an honor," he said.

The British students, ranging from primary school kids to retirees, have broken the record by finishing the painting of peonies within one hour of learning, according to Jiang. He said it usually takes his students a couple of classes to practice until the final work is done.

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