Chinese Calligraphy Technique and Learning – Advanced Brush Techniques


Concealed Tip Technique Brush Movement in Chinese Brush Painting

One will quickly notice when viewing works, especially those executed in Zhuan Shu, Li Shu and Kai Shu, that the ends of many strokes do not expose the fine tip of the Brush used. This strategy for creating strong, forceful and contained strokes is usually due to use of a Concealed Tip. Concealed Tip is a technical term used to describe a very specific way of moving the brush on the page so as to strengthen certain strokes and ensure good Bone Structure within each Stroke. Concealed Tips are often used for the primary strokes of a character, and may be combined with Exposed Tips to create movement and contrast.

In essence, a Concealed Tip is achieved by compensating for each major movement of the Brush by beginning and ending Strokes in the opposite direction to the primary movement. At the beginning of a Horizontal Stroke, for instance, we begin with a short, roughly circular counter-clockwise movement before setting off to the right. When we reach the end of the stroke, we likewise bend the tip back under the stroke before we lift off the page in order to conceal the end of the stroke. While this technique is not obvious to the novice viewer, it is an excellent tactic for creating solid, graceful lines.

Exposed Tip Technique Brush Movement in Chinese Brush Painting

An Exposed Tip is just another way of saying that the initial press or final lift of a stroke is clearly visible. Pairing a Concealed Tip and a Exposed Tip together will result in lines that have a very clear axis of motion. For instance, the Right Upward Stroke often has a very pronounced Exposed Tip at its end. The viewer will be able to see clearly the motion of the Brush. Likewise, the Vertical Needle has an Exposed Tip that is not quite as severe: there will be a clear thinning of the stroke at the bottom, but it will usually be more rounded than that of a Right Upward Stroke.

Turning Technique Brush Movement in Chinese Brush Painting

The Turning Brush is another common strategy for creating movement and contrast. One can consider the Turning Brush technique to lie somewhere between the Exposed Tip and the Concealed Tip. One the one hand, like the Exposed Tip, the points at which the Brush meets and leaves the page will be visible. However, like in the Concealed Tip, these points will be on the primary axis of movement. As you can see from the picture provided, the Turning Brush stroke may have the appearance of hastiness or accidentally revealing what is supposed to be concealed. However, the lines are clearly expressive of the movement of the Brush, and the basic structure of the stroke remains strong. Executing a good Turning Brush stroke takes a great deal of confidence. The initial attack and final lift must be relatively fast, but the stroke must not be too rushed. Although the result will appear to be accidental, the proper effect takes a great deal of planning and practice to achieve.