Ava Jarvis Art
Ink and Watercolor Artist
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Art Process Blog

Ava blogs about the art process, art tips, and general art musings.

Fundamentals from the Mustard Seed Garden: An Introduction

The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting is the seminal work on traditional Chinese painting—that is, the practice of the art of painting, rather than just being a spectator. It’s compiled from many manuscripts from master artists, passed down over thousands of years, and the compilation itself was worked on by multiple masters and artists before its translation to English in the middle of the 20th century by Mai-mai Sze.

You can view a relatively large chunk (over 30 pages) for a sample over at Amazon. I recommend it for all artists, because it adds a little something extra I feel is missing from a lot of Western art texts in the modern day—I mean, besides the artistic viewpoint of another culture, which is quite valuable in and of itself.

For myself, art isn’t just another hobby or even a career opportunity I’m quite happy to pursue, even this near to middle age. It feels spiritual. I’m of the Jinja Shinto faith, and art, at its highest points of practice, connects me with nature and living things, and that’s very fulfilling. This perhaps explains why I’m entranced even by art exercises the bore others, or subjects that others find exceedingly trite.

Art also drains me of my spiritual energy, but I feel it’s spent in the cause of making the world better—to channel what some may consider the divine into this, our physical world.

Over the next few Wednesdays I’ll discuss a large part of the chapter "The Fundamentals of Painting." Interestingly, not all of the principles I’ll cover are purely positive—some are criticized by others in the original work itself. Having a plethora of voices through the ages discussing art in this asynchronous manner is fascinating in and of itself.