Chrysanthemum is also known as 菊花 (jü hua) in Chinese. It is one of the four great flora that have a special place in Chinese culture. 梅蘭竹菊 (mei lan zhu jü) is often said in one breadth, and the phrase refers to the plum blossom, orchid, bamboo and chrysanthemum.
Chrysanthemum stands for purity and defiant reclusiveness. It is said that Confucius had once suggested that chrysanthemums can be used as an object for meditation.
This week, I paint 菊 for the first time.
I really like teacher’s style. He emphasises light, lets his brush strokes show, and mixes colours direct on the brush and paper without blending. He also encourages the use of colourful shadows and creative composition, always reminding me not to just paint what I see exactly as that lacks creativity.
You have to learn to play with different colours, he said. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Don’t box yourself up.
I have to learn to let go. It’s not so easy letting go. It is safer to have rules, structure and steps.
Maybe I should follow Confucius’ advise and meditate on chrysanthemums. Who knows, I may be able to free the shackles from my mind and paint really pretty flowers some day!