I paint in the style of the Southern school of Chinese painting, also known as "painting without bones". This refers to the spontaneous nature of the brushwork, contrasting with the Northern School which employs outline and flat color.  Paintings of the Northern School are more detailed and are often more drawn than painted, while the traditions of the Southern School derive from the literati, the scholars, and their works of calligraphy.  In China, calligraphy is considered an art form; and in the Mandarin language, there is no word for "painting" as such.  The Chinese would say that I "wrote" these pictures.  The brushstrokes used in painting grew directly from those employed in the writing of calligraphy,  and the calligraphy which is written on the paintings is considered part of the composition.

The paintings exhibited here represent four traditional subjects  of Chinese painting: plum blossom, orchid, bamboo, and chrysanthemum.  Known simply in China as, Mei-Lan-Chu-Tzu. My paintings are executed  spontaneously,  capturing the moment, much like dance or music.  The Chinese consider painting a performing art,and the ink marks on the rice paper, traces of the performance.

This approach to painting allows no overpainting, and very minimal planning of the design or composition.  Once the formation of the actual brushstrokes has been mastered (in degrees) through practice, Chinese brush painting requires what I call "controlled abandon". In the process of painting, I am guided more by the brushstrokes just made than by the idea of the brushstrokes I am about to make.  This allows spontaneity to be an element of each painting.  Success relies in part on my getting out of the way and allowing the painting to happen.  Under the best of circumstances, each collection of brushstrokes becomes a painting with a freshness and life of its own.

These paintings are a record of my practice of the art and discipline of Chinese Brush Painting.  I hope you will enjoy the varied moods these exercises depict.


Michael Kopald








This image is typical of the calligraphy which I write on my paintings.  The first two characters are the classic way to write: In the Year of the Rat (2008).  The following two characters are the season, in this case, Spring Months.  The last three are my Chinese name: Ko Pwa Deh, a phonetic translation of my English family name.

Each of the two red seals is called a "chop", and is considered my proper signature.  Even though I have written my name on the painting using  a brush, the painting is not considiered signed until I add my chop(s).  Each is a carved piece of stone, and the impression is made using a sticky, oily red ink.  The characters on the chop are an older form of writing known as "seal style".
 I have several chops and each of them may be used as my signature.
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