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Mustard seed garden guide - what is it, and why do I use it?


Old mustard seed book.

The Mustard Seed Garden Handbook is a printed textbook of Chinese paintings created during the early Qing Dynasty. Many famous Chinese painters, such as Qi Baishi or Han Meilin - a friend of Stanisław Tworzydło from his studies at the Central Academy of Arts and Design in Beijing - started drawing lessons from this textbook.


A bit of history and complicated names, i.e., how the mustard seed textbook was created.


The idea came from Shen Xinyou - son-in-law of the famous playwright Li Yu. His residence was known as Jieziyuan or the Mustard Seed Garden. Why was he the one who dealt with this topic? It seems pretty obvious - he had the teaching materials of the late Ming painter Li Liufang, which were of great value. He commissioned them to be put together and expanded with new topics. It was taken care of by Wáng Gài, Wáng Shi, Wáng Niè and Zhū Shēng (I said there would be difficult names :)). This is how a landscape painting textbook was created. The first part of the mustard seed garden was published in 1679. Li Yu, as a publisher, wrote a preface to it. The following sentence stuck in my mind in particular: "I have loved landscape painting all my life. It was a pleasure to look at other people's works because I cannot paint myself." Beautiful, isn't it?


As I mentioned, this textbook is the primary source of learning for students at the Central Academy of Arts and Design in Beijing. During the first class, they have to choose any sketch and use it to create an image. Does every grain end up on good soil? :) When I started my ceramic adventure, I bought an English version of the textbook. This is what I use when I study with Mr. Stanisław.


The idea of ​​a mustard seed textbook


Four volumes of the book are available to students Four volumes of the book are available to students of the Center for Decorative and Applied Arts in Warsaw

The sketches in the textbook are grains. They are the basis for practicing any painting technique. Together, they constitute a collection of drawings by outstanding artists created for the next generations. The idea of ​​this work is to reveal and develop talent in people. The book's task is to show a given person the way to become an artist. It stimulates thinking and looking for answers to difficult questions - "can I become an artist? do I want to be one? Am I ready for this?".

The future artist has thoughts in his head that are created in pictures, which can be easily found in the textbook.

There are different categories: people, landscapes, animals, trees, flowers, etc. Once you have chosen your thought-sketch, that is, this seed, you can breathe life into it and give it your hidden meaning. If the seed finds good ground and can produce talent, then outstanding work. Does this always happen? Certainly not. But remember that talent is often discovered over time. Intensive work and training stimulate areas of creativity that we have no idea about at the beginning.


Own mustard seed garden


This copy is my of the book in English.

During the summer open -air in Ponurzyca, each student receives a briefcase labeled "Mustard seed garden." It is here that he collects sketches, i.e., beginnings, reflections.

The idea is to capture a moment and make a sketch quickly without having the final concept of the project in mind. For what is this done? Let's think about it :) Lack of predetermined expectations for a given job makes us create with joy. We do what we feel - here and now. We are not looking to the future; and we are in the present. Often, these sketches will lie and lie and may lie like this for years until their time comes at the end. And someone makes them live. On their basis, unique works have a chance to be created.

The masters share the mustard seeds with their students, which significantly facilitates the creative process for future artists. Once they have a thought ready, they can follow it and develop it. Such ready-made mustard seeds are beneficial. My initial steps in learning cobalt painting were not easy. In the beginning, we do not plan to create a creation from A to Z. First, we have to master a given technique to perfection, and if not to perfection, then at least to the level where we feel excellent. Then it's time to create your sketches.

This way of learning allows you to focus more on what is most important at the moment. There is a stage of improving the technique, and if perfecting it can be done based on sketches of outstanding artists, why not take advantage of it? Then it will be time for your ideas. Remember that good technique is essential to presenting a beautiful thought.


An example is the outstanding Chinese artist Han Meilin, who started his adventure by learning mustard seeds from a textbook. Today, he moves into his art world, creating phenomenal works and sharing them with people at his exhibitions. I believe the mustard seed textbook is the beginning, also my beginning. :)



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