Chinese brush painting with Barbara Stumph

Barbara's fan painting of a Chinese bird and roses in traditional Gong Bi style

We kicked off the new year with Barbara Stumph, our guest artist for our January meeting. Barbara shared her work with Chinese brush painting.

First she summarized Chinese art history, along with information from renowned painter and writer, Mai Mai Sze. She discussed the symbolism of the lotus flower, which leads us to realize we can all overcome adversity. She also explained why classical ink painters of China create such gorgeous calligraphy, as they believe handwriting is a reflection of high moral character. She quoted “a Chinese painting must be read.”

The subjects of Chinese brush paintings usually convey the season. Bamboo for winter, lotus for summer, chrysanthemum for fall, and plum blossoms for spring. The signature is often a poem that reveals the mood of the artist, the location depicted, a poetic reference to a classic piece of literature, or maybe a reference to an admired artist. The seal is another art form to decorate the painting.

Barbara said that artists like to play with opposites in this art form, such as male/female, light/dark, dense/sparse, front/back, or the yin/yang symbol. The result is to create a sense of harmony in the composition if all of these forces are in balance. White space in Chinese ink gives the painting space to breathe and the viewer a chance to use his or her imagination.

Plum Blossoms for Courage in Spring

Barbara decided to study Chinese ink herself in the 1970s, instead of taking visitors on docent tours of the Asian Art Collection in San Francisco, because she loves the smell of the handmade ink, the feel of the brush, the absorbent rice paper, and the challenge of learning to find The Way (Tao) in her own art. She is learning how to focus her inner spirit in her work so she is not merely copying a master, but developing her own style.

Single Lotus

Barbara studied Intensive Mandarin and Related Studies at the East West Center in 1965-66 at the University of Hawaii. She just returned from a month of all-day classes in Landscape, Calligraphy, Figures, and Bird/Flower painting lessons at the Hang Zhou Art Academy at West Lake, an hour south of Shanghai.

Plein air painting tips

plein air painting tips
Carol Husslein
Plan your locations before heading out to paint - maybe even spend a day scouting out locations and noting them. This will certainly save you time on riding around looking for an ideal spot to paint.

Check weather reports. You may have to paint out of your car or find a cozy awning or overhang to stand under.

Don’t paint alone - take a friend!

Prepare a plein air kit. Have a folding easel, folding chair, and a selection of art supplies easily accessible. Also bring water, insect repellent, sunscreen and a hat.

Consider the size of your painting. Small is more manageable and can be completed or near-completed during one outing.

Minimize your supplies. Consider how much weight you are going to have to carry, and then re-evaluate what you pack in your kit.

Use a disposable palette or wax paper for covering your palette.

Try to pick a good spot with shade from the sun and protection from the wind. You can even paint plein air in your own backyard, which may actually be a good place to begin, if this is your first time.

Don’t paint everything in the composition. Sometimes there may be things that seem like they do not belong. Have a central focus to the scene, and discard extraneous objects. Try to focus on what is in front of you rather than what you imagine.

The painting does not have to be completed outdoors. If you feel more comfortable in a studio without the distractions, feel free to finish it there. This certainly opens up the possibility of creating several plein air studies and finishing them while in your studio.

If you decide to further work on the painting in your studio, take several photographs for reference.

Click here for details on our plein air painting days - join us!

Thanks to CAA member and past president, Carol Husslein for these valuable tips! Some of this information was also xcerpted from

Our new logo!

Congratulations to Lisa Fulmer - her logo design received the most votes in our member contest, so it is now officially the new logo of the Concord Art Association. Lisa wins a one-year membership for winning the contest. Lots of great logo ideas were submitted - our sincerest thanks to all the members who entered!

Our Artists of the Year and a year-end art critique

For our December meeting, members shared their latest work and asked for suggestions on areas they found challenging or weren't completely happy with. It was a great discussion and friendly critique session - we all learned a lot!

We also announced our Artists of the Year - the members who had the most votes for their work in our monthly mini art shows throughout the year - congratulations!

1st place – Carol Husslein
2nd  place – Cathy McNutt
3rd place – Betty McBride

Mount Diablo by Julie Litz – watercolor plein air
She started with a light pencil sketch, then did pen and ink to lightly define the outlines, then painted over that. This is a view from Rossmoor.

Grapes and Vines by Lou Ann Styles – watercolor
She saw this picture in an old art book at a bookstore. She used a salt technique for texture at the bottom.

Good Fortune and Joy by Carol Husslein – watercolor 
She’s always taken photos of the red lanterns in Chinatown, they symbolize the title. From a sketch, she masked the lanterns with liquid frisket compound to make it easier to paint the background.

Michigan Avenue by Bobbe Anderson- acrylic
This is the bronze (yes, it's really that green!) lion statue in front of the Art Institute in Chicago that she painted from a photo - she grew up in Chicago and took a few classes at AI, so this painting has sentimental value.

Chris – by Mary Frances Crabtree - pencil study sketch for gouache 
This is her grandson resting after a hike at Tuolumne Prairie.

Recordimos a Los Muertos by Betty McBride – collage
This means "remembering the dead." She assembled broken pieces of Mexican pottery with tissue paper and decoupage.