In order to achieve perfection the artist must have first spent time in contemplation of the theme to be painted. According to a famous 11th century Chinese landscape painter, Kuo Hsi, "An artist should identify himself with the landscape and watch it until its significance is revealed to him."
Historically, inspired by Taoism, the love of nature has been inherent within the very soul of the Chinese artist. In times gone by many of the most respected artists would withdraw into some secluded spot where they devoted themselves to the study of philosophy, poetry, painting and calligraphy.
The Six principles of Chinese painting were established by Xie He, a writer, art historian and critic in 6th century China. He is most famous for his "Six points to consider when judging a painting" (绘画六法, Pinyin: Huìhuà Liùfǎ), taken from the preface to his book "The Record of the Classification of Old Painters" (古画品录; Pinyin: Gǔhuà Pǐnlù). Keep in mind that this was written circa 550 CE and refers to "old" and "ancient" practices. The six elements that define a painting are:
1- "Spirit Resonance," or vitality, and seems to translate to the nervous energy transmitted from the artist into the work. The overall energy of a work of art. Xie He said that without Spirit Resonance, there was no need to look further.
2- "Bone Method," or the the way of using the brush. This refers not only to texture and brush stroke, but to the close link between handwriting and personality. In his day, the art of calligraphy was inseparable from painting.
3- "Correspondence to the Object," or the depicting of form, which would include shape and line.
4- "Suitability to Type," or the application of color, including layers, value and tone.
5- "Division and Planning," or placing and arrangement, corresponding to composition, space and depth.
6- "Transmission by Copying," or the copying of models, not only from life but also the works of antiquity.
Whether meant as critical principles for the buyer of art or as an exhortation to painters, these principles are timeless, and should have more attention paid to them today.
The recognition given to a master is the greater the more he reveals himself as a custodian of the past.
The overall effect of the gentle and peaceful art of Chinese brush painting, which are sometimes known as voiceless poems, should be one of freshness and spontaneity. The qualities sought are vitality of spirit, intensity of realization and freshness of perception. Such is the nature of the painting materials that before setting brush to paper the artist must hold a well conceived draft in the mind's eye, as once the painting is started it is not normally possible to alter a wrong stroke.
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