Curriculum Reviews, Homeschooling

Teaching Chinese Brush Painting in your Homeschool

Mandarin Chinese has been a foundational part of Aveline’s educational experience for years. In fact, six out of seven days of the week involve some sort of Chinese learning, and she’s spent spent every Saturday at Chinese school for the past 9 years. (Josiah, her faithful chauffeur, is a saint. And Aveline is incredibly devoted and focused, because she’s the only one in our family who speaks Chinese.)

[Disclosure of Material Connections: I received a complimentary Chinese Brush Painting kit from Timberdoodle in exchange for writing and publishing this post. All opinions — and photographs! ;) — are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.]

Learn the technical art of Chinese Brush Painting

If you live near a big city, you’re likely able to find a local Chinese brush painting class. Go for it! There’s nothing like the richness of a tangible experience. But for many in more rural areas, specialized in-person lessons simply aren’t accessible, and certainly not for a total of $26.75 for ten project sessions.

A Chinese Brush Painting box set like this gives you access to the ancient craft of Chinese brush painting, no matter where you are located. Plus you get to keep all the supplies, and you have the added bonus of moving at your own pace, sans time pressure.

Teach your kids Chinese Brush Painting with this easy, all-in-one craft kit

The kit shown here is included in Timberdoodle’s eighth grade homeschool curriculum kit, but is also available for individual purchase. Many Timberdoodle products are suitable for a wide range of ages, but I think middle school and up is an appropriate placement for this kit. (Aveline is in 6th grade.)

Unlike a lot of art projects which are focused on the process of creating, Chinese brush painting, by nature, places a lot of emphasis on technique. This approach causes the Chinese Brush Painting kit to stand out amidst a sea of other watercolor kits which are little more than pre-packaged paint. A small spiral-bound step-by-step instruction book is included, so your student can learn this distinctive method.

What else is included in Timberdoodle’s Chinese Brush Painting kit?

Along with the instruction book, your student will also find

  • 8 tubes of vivid watercolor paint,
  • 2 brushes,
  • 1 ink stone,
  • 1 ink stick, and
  • specialized paper

You may have noticed there’s no tube of black paint. This is because one of the distinctive features of Chinese brush painting — apart from the technique — lies in the ink stick and ink stone.

In the first lesson, students are instructed to grind the ink stick against the gently sloping hollow of the ink stone. The stick and stone are sort of like a miniature mortar and pestle, except the stick itself wears down to release ink powder. Artists then drop water onto the powder to create black ink, varying the intensity of the color by controlling the amount of water added.

Aveline loved this part!

What art projects can kids create with the Chinese Brush Painting Kit?

The projects in this kit begin by laying the foundations for this art, and continue wioth various paintings, advancing in complexity. Your artists will learn

  • how to grind the ink stone and create black ink,
  • how to layer and load a brush with multiple colors, and
  • how to paint with the 4 basic brush strokes (downward, side, line, and fan).

After progressing through the introductory lessons, kids will move on to painting

  • a ladybug,
  • a bumblebee,
  • tulips,
  • a tree frog,
  • penguins,
  • a seahorse,
  • a squirrel,
  • an angel fish,
  • a panda with bamboo,
  • and finally, an elaborately-detailed multicolor rooster.

Each painting is specifically chosen in order to teach an additional technique of Chinese brush painting. (Painting sheer bumblebee wings, for instance, teaches kids to use watercolor to create the illusion of translucence.)

The spiral-bound instruction book — which is glossy, so you can wipe off splashes of paint or water — includes clear full-color photographs of each step. This makes it easy for kids to follow along.

You can even scan the included QR code to watch a YouTube tutorial of a brush artist walking you through the first two projects. This will be helpful especially if this is your first exposure to Chinese brush painting and the unique way a traditional brush artist holds the brush.

There are ten tutorials in the instruction book. Since artists working through this kit are learning technique and mastering skills, they’ll be able to continue on painting once they’ve completed the book.

Each project can be painted over and over, since the fluid nature of Chinese brush painting lends itself well to repetition.

A quick sidebar: if you’re hoping to accomplish some Chinese language learning at the same time, you’re better off focusing on just the painting aspects. (It is, after all, a painting kit.) Aveline’s keen eye pointed out a few errors which, while they don’t affect the artistic function of the set, seemed incongruent in a kit marketed as a Chinese Brush Painting kit. A few examples: the pinyin provided for tree frog in the book is shù wā, but the characters shown in the book are actually qīng wā. Seahorse should be hǎi mǎ, but it’s is incorrectly written in the book as hǎ mǎ, which is even pronounced differently. And on the rooster project page, the pinyin is written as gōn gjī, when it should be gōng jī. Although English speakers won’t even notice these, they’ll stand out as typos to any Chinese speaker. The degree to which you’ll even care about this will vary, of course, just as the degree to which English typos bother you will vary. But I thought it was relevant to point out since it is Chinese brush painting.

All in all, Timberdoodle’s Chinese Brush Painting kit is a great homeschool art enrichment option!

If your student already enjoys art and is confident in her artistic abilities, Chinese Brush Painting‘s technical approach which will delight and enchant. And if your learner is more hesitant about creating art, then art enrichment that’s more open-ended, such as My Year in Art, might be a better fit.

Timberdoodle has a LOTS of art enrichment ideas for your homeschool — dozens more than I can link here.

What does art look like at your house?

P.S. The NEW Timberdoodle homeschool catalog will be released in late April 2023! Are you on the mailing list?


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