Blue Flower painting

Having returned from Jingdezhen, I feel inspired to do more painting on my pottery pieces. More specifically, I would like to do more qinghua painting.

Qinghua refers to the traditional Chinese “blue and white” painting technique that involves the application of cobalt pigment to white porcelain. The Chinese characters for qinghua (青花) translate directly to “blue flower.”

This type of ceramic decoration is still widely practiced in Jingdezhen, so it was amazing to have the opportunity to attend a qinghua painting workshop in the city that has produced more blue and white porcelain pieces than any other in the world. A local artisan with over twenty years of painting experience spent a couple hours with us, demonstrating and explaining the technique.

We were first shown how to prep the green ware pieces for paint application by dusting them and brushing on tea (any tea will do). Then we were taught how to mix the paint to the right consistency, adding a type of gum to the cobalt pigment in order to facilitate a smooth and continuous stroke. The next step was learning how to hold and use two different types of brushes — a small, fine-tipped one to make thin lines, and a bigger “chicken head” brush to fill in larger areas. Lastly, we were taught how to fix mistakes — scratch it off, smooth it over, and start again. We finally got to work on the porcelain green ware that was provided for us to practice on.

Here is one of the pieces I painted prior to glazing and firing. As you can see, the paint is a dark grayish color here.

qinghua before

During the workshop, I learned that qinghua painting requires patience and a steady hand. The pigment can easily smudge with too much handling. Having made some mistakes on my pieces, I didn’t have high hopes for the final product. But I had to wait for a couple of days before I got to see it. After we had completed our pieces, they were sent to the “glaze man” (a person in charge solely of applying glaze to ceramics) before being fired in a public kiln.

When we finally went to pick up the finished pieces, I was pleasantly surprised. I have to say that the pieces turned out better than I expected. They’re not great — the brush strokes are terribly uneven and inconsistent — but the deep blue of the cobalt is so beautiful on its own against the white porcelain. (Note: you can see how thin and translucent the porcelain is as the cobalt on the outside of the vessel is visible.)

qinghua after

I picked up a couple small canisters of qinghua paint to bring home with me, so I’m gonna be trying this technique over the next little while!

CATEGORIES: In the Studio, Insider


May 25, 2012

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: In the Studio: Weather Spoons | blue bean studio

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