The Dance of the Brush is the official web site of Jean Shen - renowned Chinese artist, calligrapher, writer and teacher. Now living in San Diego California, Jean learned the art of brush painting and calligraphy from Chinese masters in Asia. She likens brush painting to archery - while purity of line is the goal, the dance is the key to capturing the essence of life on paper. An exponent of both traditional and modern styles, Jean has held major exhibitions in both the US and Asia.
Believing that anyone can learn the art of Chinese brush, Jean brings a unique philosophy to her teaching. She has a master’s degree in education from the Claremont Graduate School and University Center, and was the first to introduce courses in Chinese brush painting to educational programs in San Diego colleges and universities.
After years of experience, Jean has developed her own curriculum which emphasizes the path of self-discovery through mastery of the dance of the brush. While this is very different from her own more traditional path, Jean sees the results in her students who range across diverse ages and backgrounds. She continues to develop her own style of painting and teaching.
For Jean Shen's prophetic art, please see her other web site, Invitation to His Garden.
I really like to share about who I am as a teacher and what is my goal in sharing the dance of the brush with you. First of all, I desire that the classes are a blessing to everyone, including myself, which means that I keep a watching eye out for the atmosphere of the room - that it is conducive to the emerging of creativity and joy.
I see myself coming alongside you to help you discover who you are and how you actually function as an artist or a budding artist. What is your language as a brush dancer? What is your strength and weaknesses. Do you paint boldly? Do you paint with humor? Does it take a long time before your hand gets in touch with your mind in figuring out how to do a certain stroke or subject? What makes you tense up and shut down at critical time of your brush movements? What makes you suddenly "see" and "feel" and move forward? What releases you into majestic flying strokes or sweetly flowing movements from your heart? Bottom line - I am asking, "Who are you as a creative person?"
What I see happening in my classes is that you are becoming (as it is a process) more and more who you are born to be as a brush painter/dancer. I am taking you past techniques and methods and how-to's and performance to where hopefully you experience true creativity and joy. No one can manufacture creativity or force it to show up. But we are all born with it. Children are full of it. They grow up being such creative people unless they have been shut down or denied their creativity.
That is my goal as a teacher - to be there to gently cultivate and affirm, or for some, to reaffirm and identify the treasures that is in each of you so that the fullness of creativity and joy can manifest in your paintings. What joy when your painting shows uniquely who you are in the way you see and feel and dance out ink and colors and brushstrokes! Moreover, what joy when your painting vibrates with life even as you catch the life force of a leaf, an insect, a cat, a bird, even a mountain, through your brush painting/dancing!
As time passes and I grow as a teacher of this ancient yet modern (relevant) art called Chinese brush painting and calligraphy, I am appreciating more and more how this art form can benefit all my students. See yourself with a bamboo brush in your hand, moving your arm up and down at times, at other times moving only your fingers in tiny motion, and still at other times, moving your shoulder as you do a mighty brush movement - Whoosh! In your minds eye see yourself transformed into a warrior, shooting out arrows and at other times switched to a dancer, moving your body like a blade of grass blowing in the wind. Can you imagine how doing this art form emboldens you and gives you such skill as your eye-hand-heart connection gets stronger and more harmonious? What a lovely concept!
I love teaching this art form to you. It is both challenging and intriguing. To walk this path out with each of you I hope to be patient, kind, joyful, hopeful, and wise. I must teach you how to dance out flowers and trees, mountains and sea and animals big and small to the point where you have captured not just the look but also the life force of that blade of grass, that bee buzzing in the air, that eagle in the sky, through this dancing art. And also, I must help you to develop your very own painting style in doing Chinese brush painting. Wow! A daunting task but well worth the effort - for you and for me! However, I say, No rush. No push. Let it be a delightful journey, something you can grow old with and it still gives you pleasure -
My last thought for today - Creativity must be handled with care and the classroom must be a beautiful place of releasing your creativity that is like a child at play. Intangible as it is, creativity and joy has been showing up in my classes for many, many years.
In my teaching, I talk a lot about how we are to paint with our body and emotion, beside our minds, and how there is inherent in our way of painting a connection to dance and to sound. This happens when you have crossed over from mere technique to the spirit of it. That is why I call it "The Dance of the Brush." It is a way of painting that takes patient disciplined learning so as to equip you to cross over to painting with great freedom and vitality. When you do so you can hear music accompanying your brush strokes; you can feel yourself leaping into the air, dancing out a leaf pulsating in the wind. At times when you hold a huge brush as you dance out a single calligraphic image - the energy that rises up and bursts forth from you and shows up on a piece of paper is something to behold and to treasure! (See another website below that shows such powerful calligraphic images.)
We do paint all kinds of Chinese painting - detail paintings of flowers and butterflies, free style paintings of ocean waves crashing over rocks, boneless paintings of blobby birds and panda bears, fusion of east and west paintings. All kinds of line that call up all kinds of rhythm in your body. Some only from your fingers and some so broad your shoulders are brought into play as if the brush is the tennis racket. Moreover, you have watched me many times that when I am demonstrating I would be so taken with the rhythm coursing through my body and feeling it build up to that of a wild mustang galloping at top speed, that a sound would burst forth from me spontaneously. I laugh and you laugh. We all know you have just witnessed something so bold and so freeing happen in the classroom. I want to say that those high moments when the body, mind and emotions come together as one and lines emanate from the brush in my hand to the paper - those lines are a visual song. It is music. It is dance.