Like many things in China, there is a great deal of symbolism attached to this humble plant.  Even before I went to China, I chose to have bamboo in my Dorset garden – being careful to choose a clump forming variety and avoid the ones that spread all over the place! In Beijing I noticed that bamboo was resolutely holding its own against the onslaught of urban development. It wasn’t going to be defeated!

And this is precisely what the Chinese love about bamboo: its resilience and strength, yet also its flexibility; it can bend but it will not break!  Looking back over China’s history, until recently the people have had to endure many centuries of war, poverty and hardship. No wonder then that this plant is prized so much.  To the Chinese it represents many desirable character traits: moral integrity, resistance, and loyalty.  It’s tall, straight stem symbolises honour and an upright character, which is simple and straightforward. Its deep roots stand for resoluteness and resilience.  The hollow interior of the stem also has symbolic significance, because there is wisdom in emptiness – the hollowness reminds us to empty our minds of prejudice and fear, and it encourages us to be modest.

So I knew quite early on after my return from China at the end of September 2015 that I wanted to create a collagraph print of bamboo, but first I decided to paint it using my traditional Chinese black ink and Chinese brushes I bought whilst in Beijing – my thanks goes to Maggie at the Hutong School for providing me with a shopping list in Chinese that I dutifully handed over in the art shop!  Maggie taught us some basics of Chinese painting in one of the many extra-curricular activities organised by the school …

When I got home to Dorset, I followed bamboo painting tutorials on Youtube: I learnt how to do the bone stroke for the stem, and how to hold the brush vertically to get the pointed end on the leaves.

I wanted to retain the unique characteristics of the Chinese brush painting in my final print, so I traced my own brush paintings directly onto the long strips of mount board that would become my printing plates. I drew some apartment buildings using two-point perspective – something I am not terribly familiar with, but it’s amazing what you can teach yourself when you need to!  I built up the blocks with collaged strips of textured paper, PVA glue for a white background, knife scoring to give definition and clear lines, tearing away to provide the darker tones ….

5 finished collagraph blocks, coated with shellac varnish.

Here is the final print!

Urban Sprawl

So there you have it!  The story behind the creation of one of my more complicated collagraph prints.







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