THREE hours seemed too long, when informed that the workshop on Chinese painting that will follow the opening of the Chinese painting exhibit of the Chan Lim Family of Artists and Students at SM Lanang Premier last October 13. It wasn't.
The more than 200 children and adults who flocked at the mall atrium to attend the free workshop (complete with free paints, brushes, and paper) organized by the Chan Lim group led by its patriarch Jose Chan Lim and the Davao Dynamic Youth led by Benito Mesina were not ready to leave the venue yet as the clock struck 7 p.m. But sorry, that's all folks.
There's something about Chinese painting that frees your spirit. First, as Dr. Alex Chan Lim points out, in Chinese painting you do not sketch. You compose in your head and make imaginary lines using your fingers. After figuring out in your head where you will put the components of your painting on your paper, then you whip out your Chinese brush in deliberate strokes that you cannot paint over should you make a mistake.
But, again, as Dr. Alex said in the painting demonstration just last Friday, October 26, at the close of the exhibit, the viewer will not know if he made a mistake and he’s not going to say so as well.
During the workshop and the demo, painting seems so easy. Not until you hold the brush yourself and try to make the same strokes. Not.
An hour passed unnoticed as the bamboo culms (the main branch) still didn’t look anywhere near a bamboo despite repeated demonstrations.
My columnist Nina and I were struggling with our brushes as we could only manage some plump lines nowhere near an impression of a bamboo when no less than the Chan Lim himself, Jose the patriarch, trundles by, grabs a brush, dips this in Chinese ink and with flattened strokes shows how it should be done. "Push, push, push!" he said. Push, push, push, we did, and voila! We got our culms.
Another hour was gobbled up by our piteous attempts to draw bamboo leaves. Don’t laugh. Bamboo leaves may look so easy to paint, considering that they are nothing but thick pointy lines going up or down (young leaves point up, old leaves point down). Not.
The last hour was gobbled up learning the rhythm of rolling the brush to make multi-colored flower petals.
The workshop ended before we could perfect anything. But that’s how it is, Dr. Alex assured us. It takes long hours of practice to become familiar with the strokes. Except that, no one in Davao is teaching Chinese painting and so the exploration ends. Actually, the Chan Lim Family are the only ones who are regularly teaching Chinese painting in the Philippines and the workshop and demo were the first in Mindanao. (They maintain a gallery and hold weekend lessons in Pasig.
But persistence does bear fruit.
The pest that I am, I appeared again, all agog for the two-hour demo painting last Friday at the closing day of the exhibit and now I’m getting online help. Hohoho! As of Friday night, after 14 sheets of mimeographing paper, I finally got the feet of how wet a Chinese brush should be and how thick the paint to make Chinese painting looking strokes. After four more sheets, I finally was able to make consistent pointy leaves that now go with the “push, push, push” of the culms.