When I begin to think about who the featured artist for the next issue of the magazine might be, I am often spoiled for choice. Perhaps due to the ABC Arts Trail’s popularity we have drawn these oft-shy creative creatures out of hiding, or maybe we just have an impressive number of artistic people in the Broxtowe borough. It certainly feels that way.

The artist for the spring issue literally popped up in my newsfeed via a Canalside Heritage Centre post promoting an exhibition. She was also going to be sharing her talents with others by demonstrating the ancient art of Chinese brush painting, as part of their program of activities to commemorate the Chinese New Year.

The brush paintings themselves drew my attention but as I peered at my screen that gloomy February morning, I also realised that I had met Stephanie before, many years ago at a fundraising event for a local charity.

 

The information on the Heritage Centre’s website told me that,

“Stephanie became a Chinese brush painter for therapy after a stroke in 2003. She was very lucky to be taught by a famous Artist Jane Dwight, followed by high level artists Maggie Cross, Pauline Cherrett, Kaili Fu and the Master Que Lei Lei.”

And then I remembered! She was sitting at a table close to my stall and I was intrigued by her painting process. I stood watchfully, as she painted flowers and birds in elegant strokes with bright coloured inks. She was happy to chat to me and demonstrate her patience.

In her email Stephanie asserts that the painting technique is easier to see than describe but I do recall being mesmerised by her fluid actions as I watched an image take shape. A flower can be produced with just a few judicious strokes of the tapered natural hair brush dipped in ink. There is little room for error, and an art to how you hold the brush, that determines your success.

 

 “The simplicity is the joy and therapy of Chinese painting.”

As is the tradition for this particular artform, she takes inspiration from nature and had a stunning selection of hand painted greetings cards for sale. I chose three and bought one of her beautiful bookmarks for myself too.

When I contacted Stephanie to arrange a meet up to pick up where we left off, this was scuppered at least twice before the article deadline and we resorted to email communications for a few weeks. Initially she was preoccupied with the exhibition and demonstrations, then I developed tonsillitis which banished me to the bedroom to watch Netflix and sleep a great deal.

Stephanie tells me that she secured her A level in art from Bramcote Hills Grammar School but her plans to study graphic art at Sunderland University were ended prematurely. This was due to the low number of students enrolled onto the course.

 

“I haven’t got any further qualifications; I was just lucky to be taught by excellent artists.”

Her ideas don’t usually start in a sketchbook. Instead, she starts by experimenting with some cards or bookmarks and those that she likes she moves on to paintings. She creates her commissions this way too, painting a selection of cards that she will send to the customer for them to choose whichever they prefer.

She sources a variety of special types of papers for her artwork, and specific ones are used for particular pieces. Her favourites include Chinese paper, gold and silver flecked paper in different colours and mulberry paper which is really strong and contains mulberry flakes. Cicada paper is a traditional rice paper that stops running or bleeding and is often used for more meticulous paintings.

“Red paper with gold flecks is often used for Chinese calligraphy, particularly in the Chinese New Year. Black paper which is great for painting white flowers or white birds and animals.”

The featured piece of Stephanie’s artwork was painted from a photograph but she often paints the flowers in her garden. We chose this particular painting as we felt the technique used really give life to the blue tits in flight. This small and mighty bird is renowned for its colourful plumage and beautiful singing, but they are feisty birds and the males can often be seen fighting, as I am told they are in this image. Blue Tits are just about to reach the end of their nesting season, so we should see them out and about soon.

 

Stephanie really appreciated the opportunity to exhibit her artwork at the Canalside. It was a last-minute arrangement but well-publicised and the demonstrations were well-attended on both weekends. “That is the best part for me, encouraging people to experience Chinese painting. If they would like to learn, I can at least give them information.”

“We had a lovely relaxing time watching and listening to artist Stephanie Morris create wonderful Chinese brush paintings. Soooo therapeutic!”

(Marysia Zipser)

She is available to deliver demonstrations for art groups, charities or WIs who might be interested in learning this mindful art practice. She is prepared to be generous with her time as long as organisers show their support by allowing her to set up a stall with her cards and bookmarks.

We hope to be catching up with Stephanie again at the ABC Art Trail in September. If her application is successful, she will be sharing her expert painterly skills with us again then.

All Stephanie’s work is original and is signed by her Chinese Seal. Contact her on stephanie.g.morris32@gmail.com or visit her Facebook page.

DU