The Art of ABC: Chinese Brush Paintings for all ages
Tasha Bonfanti Balsom
Reviewed by Cayden (age 4) and Max (age 2) Aures and Mom for Reader Views (10/08)
“The Art of ABC: Chinese Brush Paintings for all ages” is an alphabet book where each letter of the alphabet is illustrated through a painting of an object or animal beginning with that letter. For instance, for “A” there is a painting of an alligator and for “I” there is ivy.
Cayden: “What is Chinese brush painting?”
Honestly I did not know the answer to his question so I did a little research online and this is what I found at a site called Nan Rae:
“The single most astonishing fact about Chinese Brush Painting is that each brush stroke is a defining move that produces a portion of the painting that is neither improved upon nor corrected. No sketch is prepared and no model is used; the artist paints with rapid, mentally constructed strokes transporting a ‘mind image’ to mulberry paper.
From first to last stroke, the artist must ‘get it right’ while in Western watercolor corrections and overpainting are a part of the technique.
Chinese Brush Painting is meant to be more than a representation of an object; it is also a symbolic expression. This is why a full plant is never painted, but rather a few blossoms which will represent the plant in its entirety, and, in fact, all of life – a TAO principle. Rather than looking at the subject as you paint, you bringing it forth from your mind and heart and becoming part of nature.”
While most of this explanation was lost on a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, the fact that the full object or animal wasn’t completed for some reason became extremely important to them and as we went through the book they had to point out specific instances illustrating this point.
Max: “Horse no face!”
Cayden: “His legs don’t look like they are all there either, but that is how it is supposed to be.”
Cayden: “My favorite painting was the dragonfly, but I didn’t like the egg that much because it looked kind of funny. It didn’t really look like an egg. I liked this book and learned some new words. Max did too. He knows that N is for newt now!”
I thought that “The Art of ABC” by Tasha Bonfanti Balsom was a very unique alphabet book. I learned about an art form that I never knew existed and found it to be very interesting. The only thing that I question is the Amazon list price of $24.75 for a children’s paperback book. In my opinion that is a little on the steep side.