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
Artist: Tai Oi Yee
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.
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 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
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.
Title: Happiness Is Getting Along
Artist: Tai Oi Yee
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
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.
Received the letter of appreciation from John Tracogna, CEO of the Toronto Zoo.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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”
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”
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”
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
“Against All Odds” 排除萬難
Ink wash painting (sumi-e) uses Chinese ink on Xuan paper. Different tones and shades are achieved by varying the ink density and brush pressure. It is not simply to reproduce the appearance of the subject, but to capture its soul. Sumi-e is the timeless unison of the true self and the universe. When I paint, I follow my heart and go with the flow.
Sumi-e is the expression of the mind and spirit of the artist through the Four Treasures (文房四寶) .
The Four Treasures are:
- Brush (筆): The ink brush is usually made of goat, rabbit, or yellow weasel hair. The textures are soft, hard or mixed depending on the artist’s use.
- Ink (墨) : Ink sticks are made of soot mixed with animal glue, and sometimes aromatic or medicinal powders.
- Paper (紙) : It is not just any kind of paper. It is thin mulberry bark paper (Xuan paper from China and Washi paper from Japan). It is also generically called “rice paper” in the west though rice is not one of the ingredients. It is highly absorbent and unforgiving. The brushstrokes have to be fluid and fast, and mistakes cannot be masked like on watercolour paper.
- Inkstone (硯) : The inkstone is used for grinding the ink stick with water. The four famous inkstones are Duan, She, Tao and Chengni.
I will discuss each treasure in more details in future blog posts.
Sumi-e is inkwash brush painting originating from China over a thousand years ago, and embraced enthusiastically in Japan, Korea and now internationally. The name sumi-e literally means water+ink+painting 水墨畫.
Different names are used in different cultures:
- Chinese in Mandarin is shui-mo hua and in Cantonese is Sui Mak Wa (水墨畫)
- Japanese sumi-e (墨絵) or suibokuga (水墨画)
- Korean sumukhwa (수묵화)
You will find that I use the term ink wash painting, sumi-e, and sumi painting interchangeably here in this blog. But sometimes it is easier to use the shortest word sumi-e when typing.
Ink wash painting uses Chinese ink on Xuan paper. Different tones and shades are achieved by varying the ink density and brush pressure. It is not simply to reproduce the appearance of the subject, but to capture its soul.
When I paint, I follow my heart and go with the flow.