Dan Chen, Watercolor on Silk

Mar 7, 2017

Dan Chen is teaching a class in the classic Chinese technique of watercolor on silk
Credit Sandy Brown Jensen

Viz City producer Terry Way interviewing artist Dan Chen in the artist's eclectic studio. Large watercolor on silk paintings by Chen may be seen in the background.
Credit Sandy Brown Jensen

Ann Korn, one of Dan Chen's students in the watercolor on silk class, speaks eloquently in this edition of Viz City about the inspiration she receives from studying Eastern ways of painting.
Credit Sandy Brown Jensen

Show: Viz City

Subject: Dan Chen and his Chinese Watercolor on Silk Class

Date of Interview: Friday, Feb. 7, 2017

Date of Broadcast: Feb. 8th, 2017

Script: Sandy Brown Jensen

Sound: Terry Way


<<ambi: night frogs outside Dan’s studio>>

The big Doug firs silhouetted against the streetlights on Bailey Hill Road look like a Chinese watercolor on silk. Outside, the first chorus of frogs sings through the light rain. Inside, the old Grange Hall is a brightly lit art studio jumbled with all the magical objects of artist Dan Chen’s whimsical genius. He recently completed a commission for seven very large bronze sculptures, but now he is teaching a class in something completely different--Chinese watercolor on silk.

<<CHEN: 1:06--1:26  Chinese watercolor actually has three components--one is plant based and the other is mineral based, so some of them are translucent, and some of them are opaque.>>

Dan takes us over to his drafting table to let us see and feel the stiff, treated silk

<<ambi: rustling silk>>

And then he shows us how the sumi ink is created by rubbing a stick of ink on a special stone

<<ambi: Sumi stone rubbing>>

Chen explains that the history of Chinese painting on silk comes from a court tradition as only wealthy people could afford silk. The reds were obtained from flowers and the greens from mineral mines like turquoise, and China White from oyster shells.

<<CHEN: 3:30--4:19  Watercolor on silk--I started it--this is one of those really patient testing techniques because it takes many layers and really precise drawing underneath. I started  when I was about 16-17  when I first started tackling watercolor on silk. It took me about four months to get one piece done.

5:02 Modern day people don’t have the patience, and everyone wants instant gratification. First of all, the medium is so wonderful, and you can’t use any other Western medium to achieve the effect. So I thought it would be fun to continue to give the eastern views to western art. >>

Anne Korn is one of Chen’s students and speaks about her most profound artistic insights while working with Dan.

<<KORN: 7:03-7:23 The beauty of line and the legitimacy. In my Western education, we were taught absolutely not to make outlines. And so this contradicts everything I was taught, to make these hard, black outlines but the effect is just stunning.

3:32--8:01 Because we’re using sumi ink, you have this very black, consistent kind of line that outlines everything then you fill in with your watercolors. It’s very vibrant. It’s very different from western art, and it has a beautiful feel.>>

Dan Chen and his students will have a  student show over at the Pacific Rim Art gallery 160 E Broadway on the  first Friday of March. This has been Viz City, Terry Way and Sandy Brown Jensen, Co-producers.