09.1: Fong Chung-Ray’s Advice
This week I was determined to focus on composition, color, and control, so I went to ask Fong Chung-Ray for his advice.
Meeting Fong Chung-Ray (馮鍾睿)
As I walked into Fong Chung-Ray’s studio holding all of my recent artwork, Fong Chung-Ray saw me and said “Ahhh. 作业???” (That means homework). I don’t know it was hilarious to me. Anyways.
The first thing we did was go over my homework. I knew there were many mistakes in my work, but I was curious what he would say. As he looked over my works, he kept a constant smile, and then said “好玩 (haowan, meaning fun!).” It was clear he was having fun advising a beginner artist. After all, he loves art.
The first comments he made were about composition. He illustrated with his hands where he would have continued paintings, how he would have changed the composition to achieve balance, and what direction he wanted his audience to follow. Fong Chung-Ray talked of choosing where to write your signature and stamp your seal. He mentions that even in pieces where there’s a lot of white space, there is still a balance to the composition that brings a sense of peace.
I then asked about controlling the spread of lighter grays and blending in colors. Fong Chung-Ray proceeded to take out the largest roll of xuan paper I have ever seen and then flawlessly rip out a section. Regarding the technique, he basically said and showed “just do it” but what struck me was the zero hesitation to dip a calligraphy brush into acrylic paint. It was a small revelation learning that acrylic paint can act like ink, and also witnessing the courage to “just do it.” However, a bigger surprise came.
Making A Brush
He pulled out a big piece of palm tree bark that he had tied up into a brush, and asked me to try using this. I heard of Fong Chung-Ray using mino (straw cape) as a brush in his early days, and now I got to use a similar product in-person! After a few strokes, I returned the brush to my advisor and he then generously offered to gift me some palm tree barks to make my own brushes (he had a pile lying around). When I went home I tied a bark up with rubber bands and practiced using it on xuan paper. There is definitely a skill ceiling in using this thing. Here is an example of what I did.
No other tool would have been able to achieve such effects.
境界 (Jingjie) – Having The Right Mindset
Perhaps the most impactful advice Fong Chung-Ray gave was about 境界, a Buddhist term for an enlightened mind that has transcended earthly values. Fong Chung-Ray said before he picks up his brush or starts a piece, he strives to achieve this state of inner peace. It is this way he is able to translate his expression into an abstract painting.
I don’t think I will be able to right now achieve 境界, the mental realm of Buddhist sutras, but I believe this was good life advice. Before setting yourself on a task, first calm and prepare yourself to fully focus.
After my visit to Fong Chung-Ray, I went on to finish a 28x79cm 山水 (shanshui) painting with slight abstraction. This time I incorporated colors and it is a vertical piece!
Make sure to check out the next blog. Peace!