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Figure Painting with Baoxing Zhang - March 12th, 2005

Figures are one of the most challenging aspects of sumi-e painting. Baoxing Zhang returned for a second workshop in 2005 to focus on the figure, and in particular the face and the hands.

The first figure Baoxing painted was a girl lying on the ground with her head in her hands staring at a frog. He began by sketching the girl and frog in charcoal and then added his first strokes with black ink to create her face, hands and legs.

Sketch of figure of girl studying frog 

Baoxing then added blue ink for her dress and green ink for the frog. With a dry brush, he added grass.

Grass added to picture with dry brush

A few more broad strokes added the ground and some rocks.

Ground and rocks added last with a few broad strokes

A monk was also drawn at this time using the reverse approach: starting with a few broad strokes to create the body and then adding the face, hands and feet. Afterwards, calligraphy was added which said that the monk was drunk but not on wine.

Monk drawn body first and hands, face and feet afterward

Participants then tried to paint some of their own figures with Baoxing offering suggestions as he observed their work. Baoxing had brought many pictures of figures, including children, young men and women, and old people, so those attending the workshop had lots of examples to guide them.

In the second half of the workshop, Baoxing painted a traditional ghost fighter figure. The ghost fighter was a rugged old man who appeared in an emperor's dream. Upon appearing, the emperor was cured of an illness. The ghost fighter had driven away the emperor's demons. Baoxing again began by sketching the face. The dry brush was used to add whiskers.

Sketching the face and using the dry brush for whiskers 

The clothes were added after the face. Since the ghost fighter had saved the emperor, he was entitled to wear red, the colour of the royal family.

Clothes, hat and sword added 

Finally, Baoxing added the skin colour. Older figures use a darker shade of skin tone. Baoxing mixed yellow and orange to get the colour and offered this tip: paint the colour on your own skin to see if it is close to a real skin tone.

Adding the flesh tone to the face 

Some finishing touches were added to highlight the ghost fighter's sword and some background. The small figure on the left shoulder of the ghost fighter is a demon.

Several pictures on the wall showed other figures to those at the workshop.

Hanging figure paintings

A collection of children, women and men figures were also on display on a table including a series of musicians.

Paintings of children, women and men