I have been asked what is that ink circle that you draw? What does it represent? It is called Enso and represents the way of Zen as a circle of emptiness and form, void and fullness.

The Enso 円相 is born from emptiness. However its center is full of potency and infinite possibility. One dip of ink, one fluid brush stroke, I experience the profound changes and limitless possibilities. As the brush trails off into nothingness, leaving an open circle, it is also the acceptance of imperfection as it is.

Oi Yee Tai




Sit and Watch the Rising Clouds


Artist: Tai Oi Yee
Website: oystudio.com

This is the latest painting in my ink “Flow” series. It is inspired by an ancient Chinese poem by Wang Wei (699-759). The two phrases I have written on the painting is from the poem: 行到水窮處,坐看雲起時 “Having reached the water’s edge and there is no more path, just sit and watch the rising clouds”. When faced with adversity and feeling that there is no way out, I often think of these two phrases, then just take a breath and see things in a different light. There is always light at the end of the tunnel and rising clouds at the water’s edge.


Year of the Rooster


2017 is the Year of the Rooster. The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, and the start of the year is based on the cycles of the moon, and this year it falls on Saturday, January 28, 2017. The Chinese zodiac assigns an animal to each year in a repeating twelve-year cycle, and this year is the Year of the Rooster. People born in these years are born under the sign of the Rooster: 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017.


The Seal I carved for the New Year


I bought a seal carving stand a couple years ago but haven’t done much with it. Just carved a fish seal and decided to make one for the Year of the Rooster/Chicken


Chinese Calligraphy for Year of the Rooster

evolutionWhile I am on the subject of Chinese calligraphy, here’s some info.
Chinese writing dates back to over 5000 years ago. Chinese characters evolved from pictographs to more abstract ideograms to the modern-day character, which bears a slight resemblance to its pictographic origins. The characters are divided into 3 main categories : pictographs , ideograms , phonograms.

Since 2017 is the Year of the Rooster/Chicken, I will show you the progression. “Chicken/rooster” 雞 is a pictograph. You can see the evolution of the character with my calligraphy on the left: from the pictorial seal script (the first one at the top) to the modern day character (the second one) and also in my grass style( the third one).

On the right is my interpretation of the origin of the word. From the pictorial seal script, I turned it back into a design of a chicken.


Heart Sutra Calligraphy 心經

Starting the new year with some peace and tranquility. Even though I am not Buddhist, I find writing the Heart Sutra very calming.

The Heart Sutra (The Heart of the Perfection of Understanding) 心經 , is one of the most important Buddhist scriptures. One of the more well known verses is: “form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form…” 



Toronto Zoo selling my Limited Edition Prints


The Toronto Zoo is now selling my framed Limited Edition Prints at their gift shop. These special prints are custom designed with the names of the Toronto pandas Da Mao, Er Shun, Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue. Do visit the zoo if you have time
Artist: Tai Oi Yee
Website: http://www.oystudio.com


Panda Decals

Just received these wonderful decals of my panda art for my tablet. The decals were custom made by iCDecal & Signs Toronto.

Artist: Tai Oi Yee                                                                                                 Website: oystudio.com


Another Scroll Collected By The Toronto Zoo

Here is the other panda painting of mine which is now hanging outside the boardroom of the Toronto Zoo.

It is titled ” Happiness Is Getting Along “, inspired by the Chinese saying  樂也融融.  I created 5 pandas representing the 5 continents, symbolizing the ethnic mix in Toronto. Each panda is in a different pose but all having fun.  The message behind the painting is that this world would be a much happier place if we can all accept our differences and get along in harmony. happinesstai

Title: Happiness Is Getting Along

Artist: Tai Oi Yee

Website: oystudio.com

Panda Prints Commissioned by the Toronto Zoo

A pair of baby pandas were born in Toronto, and there was a public vote being held for their names. The Toronto Zoo commissioned me to produce three hundred custom signed limited edition prints as gifts for the guests at the VIP Event on March 7, 2016 (today) introducing the panda cubs and revealing their names.
I signed a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement with the zoo not to release any info until the event which was held earlier today. The VIP guests included the Canadian Prime Minister, Chinese Ambassador, Ontario Premier, Toronto Mayor and more…


Artwork by : Tai Oi Yee 戴愛兒
Title: Good Things Come In Pairs 好事成双
Website: http://oystudio.com
Here is my print with the names of the panda cubs, Jia Panpan 加盼盼 and Jia Yueyue 加悦悦 , and the note that the zoo asked me to write about the inspiration behind the artwork. The original painting is sitting behind the desk of the zoo’s CEO.

在多倫多出生的熊貓寶寶名字的公眾投票已完成。 多倫多動物園委託我特製三百幅簽名限量版印畫,訂購作為禮物送給今天公佈熊貓名字活動的貴賓。嘉賓包括加拿大總理,中國駐美國大使,安大略省省長,多倫多市長…

Received the letter of appreciation from John Tracogna, CEO of the Toronto Zoo.




See news about the pandas



Where to buy Chinese Calligraphy and Sumi-e supplies

I am based in Toronto, Canada where Chinese calligraphy and painting supplies are available but not the best nor the cheapest. I have been asked by my art followers where I get my supplies and if I can recommend some place where they can buy them too.




Here’s a small corner of my art studio. The antique chest has been with my family for a long time, and we brought it with us when we moved from Hong Kong decades ago.  I bought a lot of supplies when I was travelling in China and Taiwan. I did buy some brushes here in Toronto, but they are almost double the price. I love seals, and I had them custom carved in China as well as here in Toronto. I actually carved one myself, and my scroll mounting teacher carved a couple for me too.

When I visited China last year, I made a special trip to Xiling Seal Art Society 西泠印社 on Lonely Hill Island in the middle of West Lake in Hangzhou to buy the original 西泠印泥 (Xiling Vermillion Seal Mud in a Ceramic Pot ). Got some brushes there too. They also displayed the seals of famous painters like Qi Baishi, Pan Tianshou etc.



Then while visiting Taiwan, I bought calligraphy brushes and painting supplies at the 100 year old Lam Sam Yik shop. They made the largest brush in Taiwan seen in the photo below, but to my surprise, they also sell makeup brushes now…I guess fewer people buy calligraphy and painting brushes nowadays so they have to branch into a new business…people not only are not interested in calligraphy now, with the widespread use of smart phones and computers, they can’t even spell or write : (


Since my art followers cannot travel to Hong Kong, Taiwan, China or Japan to get them, I have now compiled a list here of some reasonably priced supplies you can get at Amazon. They are good enough for beginners to give it a try and not waste a lot of money if you end up not pursuing it. Actually the quality is not bad, just not ultra-professional, so even intermediate users will find them satisfactory.

See List of My Recommended Sumi-e and Calligraphy Supplies

I will update this list as I see more suitable supplies. I have bought suminigashi inks on this list from Amazon.  If you can read Chinese, you can also try buying direct from China via Taobao where I bought my seal carving supplies. The supplies are cheaper but the shipping is more expensive. But if you can’t read Chinese, it gets confusing.

If you are not sure what the painting supplies are comprised of, you can read my article about The Four Treasures of Chinese Ink Wash Painting (文房四寶)



Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

2016 is the Year of The Monkey






International Chinese Calligraphy and Painting Exhibition

I got the scrolls back from the ICCPS international exhibition in China, together with the exhibition book, the award I got and a set of brushes.

This painting won the Anshan Youth Activity Centre Award

My paintings were exhibited at the Anshan City Pulic Cultural Centre in Liaoning, China.


The Fifth ICCPS International Exhibition in China is held by the International Chinese Calligraphy and Ink Painters’ Society. Oi Yee is one of the invited artists and her paintings were exhibited along with art from master sumi-e painters from China, Japan, United States, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, Croatia and Argentina.



Pumpkin Fun

Pumpkin Fun by Tai Oi Yee

Pumpkin Fun 南瓜樂 (sumi-e by Tai Oi Yee)
Gearing up for Halloween. Just thought I’d give it a fusion twist and paint the pumpkins with Chinese ink and colour on rice paper.


Dry Brush On Rice Paper

Finally had time to try out some new techniques…In this new series, instead of my usual ink and wash technique, I used the dry brush and ink splatter methods…they work great on rice paper!
“Chance To Survive”

Chinese Ink on Rice Paper

Chinese Ink on Rice Paper

“Dancing Crane”

Dancing Crane

Dancing Crane

Ready For The Moment 蓄勢待發

Just finished a new painting. The Chinese title 蓄勢待發 (be ready for the right moment) is a quote from Romance Of The Three Kingdoms, one of the Four Great Chinese Classical Novels

Tai Oi Yee painting


Turning 2D Painting Into 3D Art

Did you know that you can turn your 2D painting into 3D art?

Others have commented that some of my sumi-e is quite stylized, so I decided to turn my ink painting into 3D art and try it in jewellery design. I have discovered an app that turns 2D into 3D, and that transforms my painting into 3D models which can then turned into pendants, rings etc.

I drew the design with Chinese ink and brush, and voilà…here is my zen pendent . It is available in different materials like 14 kt plated gold, stainless steel, acrylic etc., but I like it in raw silver best.

Zen Pendant – Fish and Lily Pad in Raw Silver by Oi Yee Tai   


I also used my grass calligraphy for the Chinese word “love”, and turned it into this polished silver pendant:

Love Calligraphy Pendant – in Polished Silver by Oi Yee Tai   


If you are interested in turning your 2d art into 3d objects like what I have done at this shop, then try this free app and have fun.

With the advance of 3D printing, the opportunities are limitless.


Heaven and Earth, and One Lone Gull 天地一沙鷗

Heaven and Eart, and One Lone Gull

This is inspired by the ancient poem from the Tang Dynasty by Du Fu with the phrases “What am I like here and there wandering, one lone gull between heaven and earth hovering” 飄飄何所似 天地一沙鷗

This is part of my Flow series. Heaven and earth is created with free flowing ink on water. The Chinese characters on the top right are “heaven and earth and one lone sand gull”


Sailed Past Ten Thousand Hills 輕舟已過萬重山

“Sailed Past Ten Thousand Hills”



This is a more abstract piece of my “Flow” series. The landscape is created with free flowing ink on water. I added a tiny boat with a Chinese brush. It is inspired by the Tang dynasty poem by Li Bai. The calligraphy on the painting is a phrase from that poem, “The skiff has sailed past ten thousand hills”


Against All Odds 排除萬難

This is the first of my “Flow” series. The waves are created by free flowing ink on water. In an attempt to achieve balance between nature and man 天人合一, I have created the “Flow” series in which I combine the use of free flowing ink on water with my Chinese brush painting. Go with the natural flow, that’s the way to go

Chinese Ink Painting by Tai Oi Yee

“Against All Odds” 排除萬難


Traditional Scroll Mounting


Paintings on rice paper can be mounted onto silk scrolls using either the wet mount method or dry mount method.

Wet mounting is all done by hand the traditional way. It dates back to the Han dynasty (Around 200 B.C.).  It is a dying art which requires superb skills, years of experience. Dry mounting is the shortcut and cheap way which uses silicon adhesive.

Differences between wet and dry mounting:

Traditional wet mounting method is all done by hand and uses flour paste as the glue. It embodies the spirit of Chinese art, and requires superb workmanship. On the other hand, dry mounting uses silicon paper as the adhesive and uses either a mounting machine or a hot iron during the process.

Wet mounted paintings can be remounted in the future, but not so with dry mounted artwork. Wet mount is also more environmentally friend than dry mount.

Very often folds and creases appear in dry mounted scrolls due to carelessness or machine malfunction, and these errors cannot be corrected and the paintings are thus ruined.

All famous masters’ works and expensive paintings are wet mounted.

Different styles:

The most common forms are  vertical wall scroll and  horizontal wall scroll. Vertical scrolls are more convenient for hanging, but the horizontal scrolls are more suitable for sumi-e with a western feel.

There are different hanging scroll styles:

  • 一色裱, one color mount
  • 二色裱, two color mount
  • 三色裱, three color mount
  • 宣和裱 or 宋式裱,, Xuanhe style/ Song style
  • 中堂裱, large hall painting style

The picture below shows the three colour mount (三色裱)
Three Colour Mount of Dragon Calligraphy by Tai Oi Yee

The styles below are Xuanhe style/ Sung style done with decorative ribbons known as wind ribbons 風帶 or scare swallows 驚燕. The ribbons used to be free flowing in the Sung Dynasty (between 960 and 1279), and the purpose was to scare the swallows from resting at the top of the painting and soiling it.

The style has later evolved to fixed ribbons for decorative purposes as shown below. The one on the right is Xuah He style wit the wind ribbons.



I have been getting enquiries from different countries about scroll mounters that I can recommend. I am based in Toronto, so I cannot really provide any, but I have found these on the internet if the info is helpful to you:

If you have a precious Chinese scroll painting that needs restoration, here are some resources I have found online:



Impermanence 諸行無常


I did this custom calligraphy, 諸行無常 (impermanence), at the special request of a musician who grew up in Japan but has moved to the United States. I guess this has special meaning to him. It is part of the Buddhist quote: 諸行無常 諸漏皆苦 諸法無我 涅磐寂静.

These are the Four Seals of Dharma , the four notions about the world which form the basis of all Buddhist teachings:
諸行無常 – All phenomena are transient – impermanence
諸法無我 – All phenomena are empty and selfless
諸漏皆苦 – All emotions are ultimately painful
涅磐寂静- Nirvana is true peace

This is the feedback he left for me:
“I asked her to create a specific four-character Chinese proverb, which she quickly produced within a day or two after I ordered and promptly posted to me.

Having grown up in Japan, I spent many hours in calligraphy classes. I know that her work only took minutes to create, but I know that this is the result of decades of intense training. The result is intensely beautiful. Her brush technique is impeccable, her expression is elegant, there is a subtle strength and grounding that I can feel through her brushstrokes. She is a superb artist.”  

Thank you, S. Ichiro, for such encouraging words and your support!



Western and Chinese Art: Masters and Classics

I am now taking an interesting online course offered by Edx.org in collaboration with Tsinghua University:

Western and Chinese Art: Masters and Classics

EdX offers MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) from the world’s best universities and organizations. Online courses from MITx, HarvardX, BerkeleyX, Tsinghua and many other universities can be taken here. Many of them are free.

Western and Chinese Art: Masters and Classics:
From da Vinci to Zhang Xu, Wu Daozi and Warhol, explore immortal works of Western and Chinese art and gain an appreciation of culture, history and civilization.

What you’ll learn in this course:

  • Major works of Chinese and Western art, the artists, and aesthetic theories
  • How art can be used to analyze current events, traditions, culture, and society
  • How to compare China and the West and tradition and modernity through art

If you are interested in Chinese and Western art, it is still not too late to enrol in this online course. It’s free and you can learn on your own schedule, why not?